Happy Something: A Guest Post by Molly Brumfield

March 17, 2016 in Uncategorized by Beth Woolsey

This is a guest post from my friend Molly who attended the most recent Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat. I’m super excited to introduce you to Molly today and to feature this piece, which I SO understand, titled “Happy Something!” Enjoy, friends.


(Psst… the next writing retreat is in June, and there’s only a couple spots left! And there’s also a spiritual formation retreat in June. I’d love to have you come join me!)


Happy Something!
by Molly Brumfield

I don’t send Christmas cards. I don’t mail out a whimsical custom-printed collage of family photos each December, the six of us dressed in effortlessly curated and pin-worthy outfits, along with a cheerful holiday message and best wishes for the new year. I don’t write a letter on holiday themed paper updating loved ones near and far on our shining shimmering children and the recent highlights and brag-worthy happenings in our life. I don’t even send out a Dollar Store greeting card signed simply with our names.  

But if I did send Christmas cards, here’s what mine would say. And, obviously, I wouldn’t actually get around to writing it until well into March.

Merry Christmas Happy New Year’s Valentine’s St. Patrick’s Day!

As another year ends begins, I am reflecting on the last twelve fourteen and a half months filled with much joy and many blessings some super fun memories and also tons of stuff I can’t really remember, plus a lot of days that we just had to get through. Get. Through. Like countdown-til-bedtime-starting-at-10am kind of get through. So probably the primary (yes, of the many) blessings during the last year was that we did, in fact, get through. Alive and mostly well.

We were under the weather a few times deepened our friendships with the front desk staff and weekend care providers at Vancouver Clinic’s urgent care, and began what’s bound to be a beautiful relationship with Legacy’s emergency room personnel. They are both quite a bit more expensive than the rest of you, our other dear friends, but you all don’t have to take care of our bouts of strep throat and pink eye, fevers for days on end, pesky impetigo (or “Uncle Tigo” as Hannah began to refer to it on round two out of three), stomach viruses, influenza A, shattered thumb (hammering in the dark. I’m not making this up.), epididymis complications (you’re right – you don’t want to google it), and clean-ups after a metal s-hook to the ocular. It is important to note here that despite my wishes for a day in bed – just one – not a single one of these afflictions were mine. There was no free pass to nap, watch Friends on Netflix, and eat all meals alone in my room.

In the summer we spent a long weekend at Cannon Beach. The weather was beautiful. The weather was beautiful for the Oregon coast, and our northwest-grown kids legitimately swam in the ocean while most beach-goers had their sweatpants on and hoods cinched tightly around their faces. Hypothermia was probably a possibility, but I think nobody called CPS because our four appeared happy and well-fed. If memory serves me, the kids ate only the following during our beach trip: pizza, corn dogs with fries, ice cream, pizza again, candy, milkshakes, hot chocolate, sandy hot dogs, and s’mores. Yancey and I adhered strictly to the same diet, plus coffee and chai twice (or thrice) daily.

The kids are growing and changing so quickly! want snacks the entire live-long day and we continue to have to buy bigger clothes, so I assume they are growing. Claire is eight, Logan is seven, Hannah is four, and Campbell is two. Claire and Logan go to the neighborhood school my brothers and I attended, and are thriving academically and socially love their teachers and friends and school in general, except for the days they fake sick and beg to stay home. Hannah is in pre-kindergarten at a school with a fantastic outdoor classroom. I love that she gets so much opportunity to be outside do a lot of laundry. Campbell is a character! clearly the fourth of four. His penis jokes are encouraged by all siblings, and he mastered the art of unsupervised step stool-moving and –climbing to reach anything his little heart desires many, many months ago.

Yancey has continued to enjoy his work need regular chiropractic adjustments to counteract the hours and hours he spends driving to see his customers each week day. As a token of appreciation for a sales job well-done the last couple of years, his company has given him two meaningful, generous, and tasteful gifts a very large, gaudy sapphire ring and a “Heavy Hitters Club” wooden baseball bat we can hang on our wall to commemorate the reaching of a sales goal. Both are ridiculous. Kind gestures of recognition, sure, but utterly useless. The ring cannot be pawned or made into some kind of jewelry for me because his company will ask for it back each year they add more bling to it. Obviously it could be worn, but if Yancey were the kind of man who would wear it, we would probably definitely not be married.

I am blessed to be staying at home with our kids during this precious time in their lives thankful for my role as a stay at home mom and also kind of confused about what it means for me. I miss being a teacher, but, at the same time, I can’t imagine what life would look like right now if I were teaching. In the summer there are days I’m jealous that I’m not the one leaving the house by myself to work with other grown-ups all day long. As real as that feeling is, it is overshadowed by the sweet, albeit sometimes fleeting, mommy-child moments that bring me real joy. But then it’s under-shadowed by the deep yearning to stop doing dishes 19 times every single day and to break my streak of eight and a half years of changing diapers. During the past school year, I made some extra money for the family got out of bedtime duty by tutoring two evenings each week. This school year I’m doing some writing instead. Not so lucrative, but I get to wear slippers and don’t have to talk to anyone.

It has been an amazing a messy and laughter-filled year. Frighteningly fast at times, blissfully slow at others, with the steady hum of growth and change and trial and error throughout. There have been more tickle-fights than doors slammed, more stories read than tearful goodnights, more prayers said than days spent believing we can go it alone. The apologies have at least matched the offenses. Even though there are times that I stand back and look at my life and think it’s a little bit of a wreck in a mountain of ways, all I truly hope for this year is the gift to continue to live it with those I love.  

Merry Christmas with love! May the luck of the Irish be with you and yours in what’s left of 2016!


brumfieldMolly Brumfield writes and wrangles kids in the glorious pacific northwest
where she is a lover of sunshine and books,
food, family and faith,
teaching and the art of procrastination.
She writes and writes and writes, and is beginning to share and share and share.

The ONE Thing TO Say in Any Situation

February 10, 2014 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey


I posted this on Facebook last week:

At the grocery store this morning, I saw an acquaintance. We did the I Haven’t Seen You FOREVER; How ARE You?… Oh, I’m Fine. Busy, But Fine… How Are YOU? dance. 

And it’s not that it’s not true. 

And it’s not like there was time between the sour cream and the cheddar cheese sections and the breaking up of kids’ fights and the Oh Geez, I Really Wish I’d Brushed My Hair, to tell a deeper truth. 

It’s just… I was left kind of longing to sit down right there in front of the eggs and the butter, and to fold my legs criss-cross, and to draw her down beside me, and to hold her hands in mine and to invite other mamas to join us until we formed a giant circle blocking All the Dairy Products and to tell How We Are. 

To say, “My shirt is wet all over my belly because I did dishes this morning and I didn’t have time to change. BUT I DID DISHES! YAY, ME!”

And to say, “My bra underwire snapped in the car so my boobs are even more lopsided than usual. Someone tell me you didn’t notice. Lie if you must.” 

And to say, “I’m tired. And I feel so silly saying that because we’re ALL tired and I’m never NOT tired these days, but I’m so tired. So, SO tired.” 

And to say, “I don’t know how to do All of the Things.” 

And to say, “Some days I’m lost and some days I’m found, and I’m learning to be content with both because Grace, it turns out, isn’t just for when we’re found.”

I left the store mourning a little bit, that lost opportunity to say How I Am and to say, You’re Fine and You’re Busy, But What ELSE?, even though it wasn’t the time or the place. And then I remembered that THIS is the time and the place and YOU are the mamas and dads and friends and acquaintances in the circle, and it’s not an opportunity lost but an opportunity gained, and I’m still learning how to turn the one into the other. 

So I thought I’d ask, because I’d really like to know, even though I can’t solve anything except to sit here with you a while between the eggs and butter, How ARE You?

And then you responded and blew me away with your stories, your honesty and, above all, your mamaraderie … and dadaraderie … and humanaraderie… in other words, by being a community to each other.

I’ve thought a lot about you and the “how are you” question ever since. About the times we just say “fine.” And about the times we pick “busy.” And we’re not lying. Not always. Not necessarily. But I still longed for a better question to ask.

Then I read two stories – the two excerpted below – one by Carly Gelsinger and one by Carrie Cariello, and I realized… I’m not longing for a better question. Not really. I’m longing for connection. And How Are You?, it turns out, is one of the very best ways to offer it.

After all the “What NOT to Say” articles that drift around the internet (about which I’ve written here), I’m very excited to share these two stories. What TO say. 

I do hope you enjoy these as much as I did. And that you’ll answer the important question at the bottom of this post.

With Love, always,







In the weeks after Baby G was born, I went on an irrational parenting book reading spree, probably because my hormones were raging and I didn’t know how to make my baby stop crying. Somewhere in this sleep deprived, sour-milk-sheets coma I ingested bits and pieces of about a dozen baby rearing books I picked up at the library. Thus began my rude entance into the world of parenting wars. 

BabyGBefore Baby G was born, I had no idea that there were some moms who were  against the use of strollers, and a whole different camp who believe babies are taught morality by being left to cry in their crib. I had never heard of “cry it out” or “attachment parenting” or any of that stuff. I was so blissfully naive.

I learned early on that it was very important for me to subscribe to some type of parenting philosophy that would define what “type” of mom I am. 

I remember one of the first times I attended a local moms group at the park. Baby G was about three months old. There, I was barraged by a super fit, high strung 25-year-old mom who described all the things she does that make her an exceptional mom. She breastfeeds, she sleep trained her baby starting at two weeks, she only serves organic food. And more stuff I’ve chosen to forget. 

I got myself outta there ASAP, and shied away from moms groups for months. 

It’s a funny parenting culture that we live in, that when one young mom emerges from her first year of parenting and meets another one in the thick of it, she thinks to brag about her chosen method of motherhood instead of asking one simple question:

How are you?

What a powerful question for a new mom to hear. Had someone asked me, I may have started bawling and hugging that person. Now that I think of it, that’s probably why most people didn’t.

But in this strange motherhood-as-a-competitive-sport culture, we’re too busy crusading for our parenting decisions. Do we babywear? Do we sleep train? Do we feed on demand or on a schedule? Each side claims the other is detrimental to a child’s development. Each side claims the other is sure to churn out narcissists, sociopaths and adults incapable of contributing to society. 

Perhaps the combativeness and the desperation to prove the other side wrong comes from insecurity – that maybe deep down inside we’re all afraid we’re screwing up our kids. So to mask that fear, we bash others who are different from us. 

Now when I meet a new mom, I try not to enlighten her about all my parenting strategies, as wonderful as they are. 

What I do tell moms is to trust their instincts.  And ask…

How are you? 



A couple of weeks ago I connected with a social media personality who goes by the name of Autism With a Side of Fries.

Every now and again she posts thought-provoking questions for her readers to consider. I never answer them, partly because my thoughts don’t like to be provoked—they like to stay safely tucked away in my little head mulling over high-level ideas like which flavor of cake is better: vanilla or marble swirl.

But I also don’t answer because it’s really hard for me to answer a big important question in that teeny comment box Facebook provides.

On Saturday morning , I saw this on Facebook:`

“So imagine this. A parent sits down next to you and says they just found that their kid has autism. What would you tell this New to Club Spectrum member?”

Huh, I thought to myself.  What would I say?

Because of the book, I do have the opportunity to talk to a lot of parents with newly-diagnosed kiddos. My first instinct is to console, to soothe. Oh, I am so sorry to hear that!

But then it occurred to me how insulting that reaction is to the blue-eyed boy standing right next to me. It’s like saying, “Listen, I know I pretend to really like you and I tell you autism is all sorts of cool, but it isn’t. And when I hear someone else has it I feel bad for them.”

So I stopped doing that.

My second instinct is to start blabbing my fool head off about a bunch of random, disconnected ideas:

“Are you doing sign language how about ABA a lot of my friends love ABA maybe you should try ABA I hear good things about hyperbaric chambers the gluten-free diet is supposed to help look up ABA!”

Meanwhile, I don’t really know what ABA is, we don’t own a hyperbaric chamber, and every Saturday Jack eats gluten-full pancakes like it’s his job.

So, I stopped doing that too.

I thought about Autism With a Side of Fries’ question. But instead of concentrating on a good answer, my mind kept darting back to a late-summer memory.

It was about a week before school started, and I had taken Joey and Charlie shopping for new sneakers. On the way home, we stopped at TGI Fridays for lunch.

From the moment we sat down, we could hear a little boy shrieking and banging and crying from two tables away. His voice was shrill. Over and over his mother carried him out to the bench in the vestibule with a weary expression on her face. Through the glass doors I watched him relax into her shoulder, only to stiffen and screech again once they returned to the table.

I know tantrums; with five kids, I figure Joe and I have lived through at least 9,434 of them. 

But there is a difference between where are my chicken fingers and the world hurts it’s too bright and too loud and too salty and too itchy and too much too much too much.

Because if Joe and I have lived through 9,434, probably 8,922 of them have been thrown by Jack. And oh, I don’t know, maybe 3,156 of them were—and continue to be—in restaurants.

Listening to the little boy shriek reminded me that before there was kale, there were upturned dinner plates and chicken on the floor and lots and lots of screaming. Before there was sleep there were long, wakeful nights—nights when I could neither soothe the cranky infant nor silence the nagging pit in my stomach.

Sitting with Joey and Charlie in the darkened TGI Fridays, I thought about all the things I wished someone had told me about autism, back when two-year old Jack was diagnosed.

I wish someone had told me that yes, he would start to talk. And yes, we would teach him not to bolt out the door like an inmate escaping prison. And yes, eventually he would sleep through the night.

But how the old problems are simply replaced with new ones: instead of he doesn’t play with other kids, we have why won’t he stop asking all the girls in his class how many radios they have. Yes, Jack eats kale, but now he thinks we should eat kale with every single meal.

I wish someone had warned me that when Jack was in second grade, he would lock himself in the bathroom off the kitchen at 4:00 every day and sit and scream in gastrointestinal agony. How I would go in to try to help, only to discover that in his distress, he had smeared the walls and floor and sink with excrement.

How every day at 4:00 I wanted to open the front door, step outside, walk down our long driveway, and never come back.

But I didn’t. Because I came to terms with a lone truth: only I can do this. Only I can be this boy’s mother and ease the stomach cramps and wipe up the mess without shaming him.

And every day since I feel the tiniest bit more confident that I can do it. I am doing it.

I wish someone had told me how over the years, Jack’s special needs label would come to mean nothing more than that he is special. And he needs me.

It would have been nice to hear someone say that one day I would adore every single thing about my Jack-a-boo; his fleeting smile, his one-armed hugs, his robotic voice. His autism.

I wanted to say all of this to the mom in TGI Fridays last summer. I wanted to tell her I know how she feels and it will get better and tantrums are the worst. I wanted to tell her I am rooting for her.

I put my napkin down and walked over to their table. The little boy was calmer, his small face streaked with tears and ketchup.

But I didn’t say any of it. I didn’t bring up ABA or pretzels without gluten or eye contact or spectrum disorder. I simply stood awkwardly at the end of their table and asked, “How are you?” 

As I pulled into my driveway on Saturday remembering our summer lunch, I decided that’s how I would answer Autism With A Side of Fries’ thought-provoking question.  In fact, it’s what I will say from now on to any mother or father or grandmother or sister or uncle who tells me someone they love has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

How are you?


CarlyGelsingerCarly Gelsinger is a wife, mother to a 1-year-old girl and an overall mess maker. In September 2013, she stepped down from her job as a newspaper reporter to stay home with her daughter. Her blog is a result of writing during the baby’s naps when she really should be cleaning the house. She writes about rediscovering Jesus apart from her legalistic past, her chronic struggle with feeling like an oddball, and her journey toward letting go. 

You can find Carly at her her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. Carly’s story first appeared on her blog as “All These Parenting Books Are Caca.”


CarrieCarielloCarrie Cariello is a fellow mama of five and the author of What Color is Monday? How Autism Changed One Family for the Better

Carrie lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. She is a regular contributor to Autism Spectrum News and has been published in several local parenting magazines. She has a Masters in Public Administration from Rockefeller College and an MBA from Canisius College in New York. At best estimate, she and Joe have changed roughly 16,425 diapers.

You can find Carrie at her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. Carrie’s story first appeared on her blog as “What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Autism.”


So. How ARE you?
Pull up a seat here in the dairy aisle and let us know.

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

The Very Real Dangers of a Secret Chocolate Stash: A Parenting and Imperfection Post by Sarah Kooiman

January 22, 2014 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey


Good News: Greg, my dad and I had a fabulous time paddling the Imperial Wildlife Refuge section of the Colorado River this weekend and not even one of us was kicked to death by donkeys, which was more of a miracle than I thought it would be, considering that we camped every night in veritable heaps of wild burro dung. <– True story. 

Bad News: I can run away from children and the internet and cell coverage and wander into the middle of the desert, but no matter where I go on this beautiful earth, I cannot escape enormous piles of poop. Ah, well. This is, I am coming to discover, my lot, and so I shall embrace my continuing mission to accept the crap and the giant, adorable asses from which it comes. 🙂 

I will be back with you tomorrow or Friday with a new post of my own. For now, allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite email buddies, Sarah Kooiman, stasher of chocolate, briber of children, and writer behind the Arena Five blog. Oh, friends; you will LIKE Sarah because you will UNDERSTAND her. Cross my heart. I’m just thrilled to end this stellar 3-writer Parenting and Imperfection block (see Mary Beth’s beautiful post here and Stephanie’s poignant post here) with Sarah’s hilarious post: The Very Real and Necessary Dangers of a Secret Chocolate Stash.

Enjoy! And sneak a few M&M’s for me. 





The Very Real and Necessary Dangers of a Secret Chocolate Stash
by Sarah Kooiman

We all have weak moments in the parenting battle, don’t we? Those times when we are just so DONE with the whining, the stomping, and the tantrum-throwing in the middle of Target that we abandon all principles and opt instead for desperation.

Defeated, you blurt out the “T-word.” You know the one.


That’s right you darling child whom I seem to remember loving so dearly this morning as he kissed me good morning and then wiped his snot on my pajamas who now is about two seconds away from being traded to the nearest shopper in exchange for their Starbucks gift card….if you can stop acting like a lunatic so we can finish shopping for our toilet paper and votive candles in relative peace and quiet, I will give you a treat when we get home. And not like a “look it’s a carrot stick!” kind of treat, but a very real and very sugary kid-crack kind of treat.

candyIn a blink, your child who was so recently perfecting his audition for the upcoming remake of The Exorcist is suddenly trotting along next to that cart like a well-trained monkey. Feeling smug, you grab some throw pillows from the clearance end-cap and even take a pass through the shoe section for good measure, smiling ever so slightly at the woman using her “mom voice” with the little lady demanding the purple glitter flip flops.

I think we all know how this little story ends. Like all bribes, payment must be made. If you’re like me, you open up the cupboard above the stove that holds all the odds and ends you never really use – outgrown baby bottles, shattered Christmas candy canes, sugar free hot chocolate mix – and grab the Ziploc bag that contains all the leftover candy from Halloween/Valentine’s Day/Easter/Christmas or whatever candy-laced holiday passed most recently. It’s that same bag that you’ve been pilfering from when the coffee runs low, when the hormones run high, or when the day ends in –y.

What could be dangerous about handing over that mini-Snickers so you can unload your Target Treasures in peace? A precedent, my friends. A precedent has been set. Your kid is not stupid and you have inadvertently taught them that behaving like a crazy person in Target gets them a Snickers.

Well, crap. May as well skip the middle man and keep a few hidden in your purse, just in case. I can think of many days when I have behaved like a crazy person for one reason or another and found myself inexplicably drawn to the frozen balls of cookie dough shoved in the back of the freezer or perhaps to the pile of scarves in the closet under which is buried a very valuable treasure. (Note to self: Move candy stash before Husband reads this blog post.)


Then comes the awkward moment when your kid walks in unexpectedly and catches you standing in your closet wearing naught but your bra and undies with your arm wrist-deep in a party-sized bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms. Now you’re faced with a terrible conflict – do you share a couple morsels from your precious trove or do you maintain the integrity of your “secret” stash and try to argue your case by launching into some bull-crap speech about how this is “Mommy’s special candy that helps her get through the hard days.”

Great. Now I feel like a psycho AND a fat-ass.

Who are we kidding? All that’s left to do at this point is to cough up a few M&Ms, put on some yoga pants, and move the bag to a new location lest the meddling little stinkers come back looking for more.

Yes, keeping secrets is dangerous. But it’s also necessary. Don’t get careless and actually trust your family to leave your sweets alone. That’s a rookie move that will only lead to disaster. Next thing you know, you’ll see an Instagram photo from the night you left your husband in charge of things for the evening proudly displaying the incredible dinner he made for the kids using only ingredients found conveniently tucked away in the pantry:


Keep it secret. Keep it safe.


SarahKooimanSarah used to be an English teacher and a waitress and now she’s a mom who hopes to still go back to teaching someday, but in the meantime is still also a waitress most nights and weekends. She pretends to be a writer, but mostly is just tired and sarcastic, especially when the coffee runs out or someone poops their pants. Guilty of trying to cram too much stuff into every day, sometimes she recommends just blowing everything off in favor of a glass of wine and a good book….or Downton Abbey or The Walking Dead depending on the kind of day it’s been. Sarah can be found on The Huffington Post from time to time, but mostly she blogs at Arena Five about the battle she wages every day to raise her children not to be serial killers.


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

On Releasing the Way Things Should Be: A Parenting and Imperfection Post by Stephanie Gates

January 20, 2014 in But Seriously, Family by Beth Woolsey


Greg and I are still on the river, assuming, of course, we haven’t met our untimely demise or murdered each other over our tent erection differences. You can pray for us.

In the meantime, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Stephanie Gates, blogger behind A Wide Mercy, who’s sharing this space for the first time. I love Stephanie’s perspective, the words she uses and the ways she champions other mamas. I hope you do, too. 

x’s and o’s, friends… always,






On Releasing the Way Things Should Be
by Stephanie Gates

Can I tell you a secret?

I’m tired of breastfeeding.

I hesitate to admit it, even to myself. Before I get the words out, I hear the reprimand in my head. Women spend years trying to have a baby. YOU waited for years for your babies!  Remember how long you prayed for a baby to nurse? And how many new mothers work so hard to breastfeed their infants, and their bodies just won’t cooperate? You should enjoy this extra time with him!

I should. But I’m not.

I love my baby more than I can say. Nursing him this past year has been a lifeline, connecting us to one another during an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable time. I am unspeakably glad to be his mom, and for the time both nursing and bottle-feeding requires us to spend holding our  little ones. But I birthed four babies in five years. My body has been keeping another human being alive since 2006. When I began this endeavor, Barack Obama was a newbie Senator from Illinois, and the housing market was booming.  

I could have earned a PhD in growing and sustaining humans by now. I’ve been either pregnant or nurturing a baby for a long, long time.

Now I’m tired. I will always carry sweet memories of snuggling my baby in the middle of the night, or falling asleep on the couch with a newborn curled against me.  I’ve loved nursing my babies, I really have. But I’m ready to move on.

Only, my baby just won’t wean.

More importantly, he won’t sleep through the night because he still wakes up to nurse. Twice a night, at least. Every single night of his life.

He’s over a year old. He sits in his high chair, signing “eat” and downing chicken, pasta, fruits, and yogurt just like his brothers and sister. He’s old enough to throw books from the shelf and to pull his sister’s hair when she encroaches his personal space. He is at the age when a baby should naturally wean.

He should. But he just won’t.

I have cried, I have pleaded, I have prayed. I’ve complained to my husband and asked every  friend for advice. Nothing has worked. That stubborn baby refuses to give up. I tried reasoning with him, explaining he is getting to be a big boy and really doesn’t need this anymore. He didn’t buy it. I tried reasoning with God, insisting I would be a better mother if I could just please, for the love, have my body to myself again and get a decent night’s sleep. Nothing changed.

So I did the next most rational thing. I asked Google for help.

It’s been years since I turned to Google to help me parent. But last night, as I dreaded the thought of another night of sitting up with my baby to nurse him in the wee hours, I typed in “13-months-old sleep?” and “weaning over one year?” I scrolled through the results and remembered why I stopped asking Google in the first place. The first website bemoaned my selfishness, that I would even consider weaning a baby his age. They insisted it was good and natural for 13-month-olds to wake up numerous times at night to nurse. What isn’t natural, they said, is a mother who expects her baby to sleep twelve hours at a time.

Moving on.

The next site smugly declared how easy it is to get a baby to wean – and, by extension, sleep – at his age. “Within a few days, he should be happy and adjusted to his new schedule,” it said. Apparently my baby never read that article, because I’ve already tried their approach. It was a spectacular disaster. Every time I dropped a daytime feeding, he woke up once more at night. He was happy all right – happy to wait until 2 a.m. to declare his displeasure at our new arrangement. At one point he wasn’t nursing at all during the day, but woke up screaming every two hours at night. Maybe he can adjust to that change in our schedule, but I cannot.

Another site gave a list of common mistakes mothers make. Perfect! Please tell me what I’m doing wrong.  If I’m wrong, then I can fix my mistake, and if I can fix it, I can wean him. I read the list eagerly. Not a single thing applied. Not one. According to this site, I was doing all the right things for my baby.  Damn.

I sighed and closed the computer. I closed my eyes, and suddenly a thought occurred to me.

Maybe fatigue and nursing isn’t my problem.  Maybe my problem is how tightly I’m holding on to the idea of the way things should be.

Instead of changing my circumstances, maybe it is time for me to change my expectations. Maybe I need to accept where we are, and let it be okay. I am tired of breastfeeding, tired in general. I would give anything for just one night of uninterrupted sleep. But my baby needs me anyway. He’s happy and healthy. He eats and drinks well, yet he still needs to nurse often. It doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes, and it’s nowhere close to where we should be. But it’s where we are.

Maybe it’s time to ask for a different sort of help. Instead of asking God for an escape, maybe I need to ask that He will widen my capacity. Help me to be gracious to my baby in the middle of the night.  Help me to dig deep and be patient with my other children on the days when I’m especially tired. If you won’t make my life easier, God, then please help me find grace, and offer it to my family, in the middle of my exhaustion.

I am so ready to move into the next phase of life with small children. But this stage just won’t end. Maybe, instead of clutching all the shoulds, it’s time to ask for the grace to live where I am.



I am Stephanie – mom to four beautifully rambunctious little kids and wife to a guy who still makes me smile. Last spring I moved to Colorado, where I fell in love with the mountain air and the Anglican church. If you have ever abandoned religion in search of faith, ever had to leave your hometown to find your home, or ever climbed to the very tip-top of a jungle gym to rescue an overzealous toddler, come sit by me.  We’ll talk.

You can follow my story at A Wide Mercy or follow along on Facebook.  


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

On Honoring Our Inconvenient Passions: A Parenting and Imperfection Post by Mary Beth Danielson

January 17, 2014 in But Seriously, Family by Beth Woolsey


I’m leaving this morning to go on a 3-day paddling trip with my husband, my dad, and friends, several of whom I haven’t met yet. At some point in the last 6 months, Greg and I thought this would be a GREAT way to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary, despite the fact that we’ll have to erect a tent together THREE TIMES without harming ourselves or others. Our track record so far on that front is somewhere between Pathetic and Abysmal.

If you have children, you’ll understand that I’ve spent the last week busy, busy, busy and busy getting ready to go, mostly with imaging all the heinous way I’ll die, including but not limited to plane crash (both the Plane I’m In and the Freak Plane Crashing Into My Kayak options), drowning, flash flood, car crash, tent asphyxiation, and being kicking to death by a donkey because once, in an effort to assuage my fear of dying by plane crash, my father, who’s a pilot, told me that more people die annually being kicked to death by donkeys than die in airplane crashes. 


But the thing is, I want to go on this trip. I want to spend time with my dad. I want to spend time with my husband. And I want to spend time with the water and with me and with a great book. All of which are terribly inconvenient, you know, but I’m struck by the fact that this time I have while my children are small runs consecutive to the time I have while my parents are still agile runs consecutive to the time I have with Greg in our 40’s. And while I can’t do all the things all the time with all the people, I don’t want to squander this time, either. 

And so I go.

To pursue my inconvenient passions. To set aside the things that make sense so I can embrace the people and pursuits that are important.

Which is why I’m grateful for Mary Beth Danielson’s addition to our Parenting and Imperfection guest writer series today. Mary Beth writes about kayaking. And the water. And our children. And the way we live our lives. 

And I’m especially grateful for way Mary Beth honors the inconvenient passions. 

x’s and o’s,





Seventeen Minutes of Kayaking
by Mary Beth Danielson

It was late a late afternoon in March and I was sitting at my computer, quietly tapping away. My son was on the other side of the table doing his homework. For several minutes we were both silently focused on our work.

Then my son looked up. I felt his eyes on me. I tried to ignore him.


I sighed. “What?”

“When I’m done here, will you drive me to the lake so I can kayak?”

I briefly closed my eyes in that gentle, prayerful way parents know. It’s March outside. The temperature is 36 degrees and falling. Its 4:20 already, the sun will be going down soon, not that it will make much difference since the sky has been a sullen grim gray all day. 

I look at my son and I sigh so deeply my shoes move.

“If you can get the kayak onto the car, I will drive you over there.”

“You’re the best, Mom!”

Hah. I’m the best alright. Best pushover in three counties. I have no problem saying no to these kids when they ask me for new clothes, toys, and gizmos. But when they ask me to help do nutty and inconvenient things that seem connected to their very spirits, well, I figure this is why we signed up to be parents.

It took ten more minutes of Algebra, then nearly an hour of getting organized (the kayak hadn’t been out of the garage since October) before he had it tied onto our car and his equipment tied onto himself. As I stood out there on our freezing driveway at dusk, I wondered why I couldn’t have gotten one of those kids who like to hack computers. Those moms don’t have to drive their kid to a lake in March.

The lake was not cheery. I parked the car, climbed out; let my son untie the kayak while I watched sloshing, frigid, white-capped waves. I was quite surprised at how much ice still clings to the shoreline. I saw seagulls that were shivering.

Just then my husband showed up, still in his office clothes. He helped my son carry the kayak down to the lake. After that we all stood around trying to decide which sheet of ice looked most promising for kayak launching.

My husband gallantly offered to stay with our son; I instantly gave him my hat and gloves. My hat is a brown velveteen cloche — which I thought made my husband look very Dr. Zhivago. He said I better not put this in the newspaper.

They were back 45 minutes later. Our son got to paddle his kayak for about 17 minutes — and he was very, very content. A content teenager is one of earth’s most marvelous creatures.

What I loved about this whole goofy episode was this. It so clearly shows that what most of us need is simply to pursue the things that move our individual souls. We don’t necessarily need to dazzle or triumph; we just need an occasional interlude to do the thing that reminds us who we are.

I was thinking of my writing and how inconvenient this was when our kids were little. I stayed home with them, money was tight, time was tighter, and since we never seemed to get the kinds of infants or toddlers who sleep through a night, we were always exhausted.

What an inane time to try to become a writer.

We found a neighborhood teenager (actually, Michelle found us, but that’s another story) who started coming after school several times a week.

Those puny six hours per week were when I wrote. (If you want to read what I composed back then, there’s an out-of-print book called “Reinventing Home.” I’m one of the six authors.)

I barely made enough money to cover Michelle’s wages, but I got to pursue the inconvenient thing that happens to nourish my particular soul. Now that I have years of perspective on that time, I can see that those hours were quite possibly the ones that made the rest of our lives work. Those hours are also why, when a kid says he needs to kayak, well, I know about cumbersome avocations that nourish the soul.

I think we need to honor our inconvenient passions. Too many of us have bought the message that we should spend our time doing only sensible, sane, and justifiable activities.

We don’t take piano lessons because, well, why would a middle-aged person take up something that costs $15 a week and has “no future”?

We tell ourselves to not bother joining the church choir. Why make a commitment to something any international power-monger will tell you is a lame activity?

Why join an intramural volleyball team when you could be enhancing your career by learning business software programs?

Why write when it’s so hard to get published? Why carpenter splendid wooden toys for your grandchildren when plastic ones will occupy them just as well?

Why indeed.

We need to remember that the human spirit is programmed to create, to explore, to discover. We need to connect our hands, our minds, and the breezy world around us in the blessed, squirrely ways that preserve our souls. And I bet you anything that these have always been the hours from which the rest of the best of our civilizations have grown.

It’s just joy, 17 minutes at a time.



headshot of MB from LL 12-13

Mary Beth Danielson has been writing and parenting since the early 1980’s. Her kids are now young adults living good lives of their own. She currently lives in Wisconsin where she coordinates a program for the Racine County Jail that helps qualified inmates get jobs. Her website is MaryBethDanielson.com



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

Dadsaster’s 10 Things New Dads Need to Know

October 27, 2013 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

ParentingandImperfectionLogoWelcome to our guest post series on Parenting and Imperfection.

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Mark Staufer and Bryan Erwin, the hilarious and honest dads behind the weekly tell-it-like-it-is Dadsaster podcasts, to this space.

Every week, Dadsaster brings together some pretty remarkable people like The BloggessThe Honest ToddlerJim Gaffigan, Frank Caliendo and many, many more to discuss a huge range of topics, some of which even matter. To tell you the truth, I have no idea how they justify including me in the bunch, but I’m always thrilled to hide from my kids in the bathroom and take Dadsaster’s call while sitting on the floor of my shower in my nightgown because it turns out I’m ALWAYS dressed perfectly for audio.

You know, there are a lot of dads who read over here, and a lot of folks without kids, too, and you’ve taught me a critical lesson over time, which is this: anytime we are honest out loud — any time we are imperfect and beautiful and messed up and ridiculous and broken and mended — we are describing the human condition.

Not the mommy condition.

Or the parenting condition.

Just the human condition with all its gory and glory mixed up together.

And that’s exactly what Mark and Bryan understand. That this is about all of us. Their show is funny first and dad-centric, and then it’s a sneak attack of smart, witty and endearing. They walk the fine line that balances awesome humor, telling the truth and treating people’s stories well. I like them. And I know you will, too.



Dadsaster logo coffee


One of the reasons BETH has been a guest on the DADSASTER podcast more than any other mom is because she tells the truth.  Her family life is like ours — a wondrous, mystical, accident-prone, each-day-as-it-comes, warts-and-all work in progress. And she courageously spills the beans on every aspect of it.

When it came to us doing a podcast for NEW DADS — we just had to have BETH back as one of our guests. (You can find the podcast here or go to Dadsaster.com.)

In the meantime, if you’re about to become a father for the first time — here are 10 things MARK & BRYAN from Dadsaster really believe you should know.

1. No-One Ever Dies on the Drive Home from the Hospital — yes, it’ll be the most excruciating journey of your life with the delicate new cargo, and the partner-in-pain, but trust us, those other drivers are not out to get you, and you’ll all arrive home beautifully. You’ll be back to your Nascar ways soon enough.

2. Your New Reality is Crappy — poop will be a main topic of conversation from now on, and you’ll be covered in the stuff on a daily basis. As well as vomit. Oh, and breast-milk. Together they will be your new cologne — Eau de Squirt.

3. Moms Have This Intuition Thing, and So Do Dads — if either of you think something’s wrong with your little critter, trust your instincts and seek help. In the first instance, ask other parents, or your parents. Or even her parents.

4. Don’t Have Visitors — for a while, your entertaining days are over. It’s nice to have people drop-off meals, but that doesn’t mean you have to invite them in. If you do, make sure they wash their hands.

5. Sex Is Off the Menu — yup, sorry, those breasts are no longer exclusively yours. Actually, they’re exclusively someone else’s.  And the last thing she’ll probably want is a bit of slap-and-tickle. She may even be blaming you for the stretch-marks and the sore nipples. She may even slap you, sans the tickle.

6. Babies Are Not As Delicate and Fragile As You Think —  accidents can happen, but don’t freak-out. Just like you, these little critters are resilient. We’re not saying you can leave baby alone in the bath or play rough-and-tumble just yet, but remember, meanwhile in Mali, newborns are being strapped onto backs and walked across deserts to oases. With camels.

7. Your Friends Don’t Like You Anymore — your mates without kids now have absolutely nothing in common with you. You need to make new friends. Dad-friends. Reach out to them, we’re not so bad, although we do tend to smell of poop, vomit and breast-milk.

8. You’re Going To Be Tired Forever — kids are a pretty full-time occupation. When they begin sleeping through the night, you start lying awake worrying about them even more. Those dark circles are here to stay.

9. They Like Her More Than You — this is what babies do: eat, sleep, cry, poop. You’ll be in charge of the pooping, sleeping and crying equations. And baby still won’t even recognize you. But don’t give-up — you’ll be forming a powerful bond with the little critter that’ll pay dividends. One day they’ll actually look at you, smile deliciously and say those magic words, “Dad? Can I borrow the car-keys?”

10. It’s OK To Feel Overwhelmed — any parent who tells you they don’t think about killing their kid at least three times a day is lying. As a new dad, or mom, you do not need to feel guilty about these thoughts. We promise you — you’ll cope, and you’ll do an amazing job. Remember, it gets better. And then worse. And then better, and then… And then eventually, they’ll be the ones changing your diapers.


Dadsaster logo coffeeFor more parenting and fatherhood tips, humor and conversation, tune in to the weekly DADSASTER podcast with hosts Mark Staufer and Bryan Erwin.

You’ll be glad you did.

And psst… a brand new Dadsaster podcast – What New Dads Need to Know – is out today. I’m on it.

Technically, I should know what I said since I was present via phone at the time of recording, but it was a day off school and, as ALL THE CHILDREN WERE HOME needing things like toast and a referee, I hadn’t managed to army crawl my way to the coffee pot yet. Your guess is as good as mine, is what I’m saying; it’s all a blur.

But if someone (*ahem* bryan *ahem*) should make fun of my laugh after I hang up, I’d just like to point out that if these 2 guys weren’t so funny I wouldn’t laugh like an idiot the entire time.


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

Parenting for the Win

October 26, 2013 in Beth, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

I’ve been parenting for the win a lot lately, and I just thought I’d share a couple things I’m doing exceptionally well so you can follow my example and better your parenting, too.

First, I accused my teenager of acting like a 5-year-old because she didn’t want to come out of her room for, you know, the whole weekend, so I was feeling rejected, hurt and powerless, and also the tiniest bit premenstrually enraged, and that’s always the best time to accuse others. That’s when she told me she was staying in her room because she was in a bad mood and didn’t want to take it out on others “since that’s what you say to do, Mom; if you can’t be kind, take some time alone until you can.”  

photo 2 (47)Ahhhh, crap.


This is also why I say to do what I say and not what I do. Because my ideas are WAY better than my execution, man.

So there was that for the parenting win.

And then my dad-in-law with his new bum shoulder needed some help moving boxes, and we happen to have a strapping 13 year old boy with excellent shoulders, a desperate need for activity and structure, and a frequently questionable work ethic. PERFECT. So Greg hollered down the stairs, “Hey, Ian?”

“What?” Ian hollered back, ’cause we’re one of those strict don’t-yell-in-the-house families.

“Grandpa’s gotta move some boxes toda…” and Greg didn’t even get through the sentence before that kid started yelling, “NOOOOOOOO! No! No! NOOOOOOOO!” And MAN that made me mad.

Spitting mad.

Minus the spitting because I’m not much of a spitter.

But brain-whirling mad, for sure.

I had so many thoughts in my brain, in fact, that they all backed up and I couldn’t figure out which one to yell first. Like, “Oh HELL no, kid. When someone in our family needs help, we do NOT start bellowing NO.” Or, “You get your little rear in gear right now, pal. And when you’re done helping Grandpa move boxes, I’ll give you some extra work so you can practice having a decent attitude about it.” Or, “GAH! WHY CAN’T YOU STOP BEING SUCH A TOTAL BUTT NUGGET?!”

You know, brain-whirling mad.

Which is when that same kid – the kid with expressive language disorder who takes some time to get his words out – finished his “NOOOOOOOO! No! No! NOOOOOOOO!” thought with, “NO! Grandpa should not do that! I’m strong. I go help him right now!”

Mm hm.

Misjudge your kids much, Beth?


In conclusion, I hate it when my children are more mature than me. It really bites, you know?



Please feel free to join me this fine weekend and share your Parenting Wins, as well. Misery loves company. I swear.


40DaysofGraceLogoYou can see all of the 40 Days of Grace posts
here on the Five Kids blog and here on Facebook.