Keeping The Christmas Card Real


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You guys! I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. Over the years, the number of cards that our family receives has dwindled. I get it. I haven’t sent a card out in over ten years. So, consider this my huge THANKS for those of you that still send us some love even though you know it won’t ever be reciprocated in the form of envelope, stamp, paper, or photostock. With all the posting I do here and on my social media accounts, and with my limited funds going towards playing Santa for six kids, I just can never seem to justify spending another $50-100 on this out-dated tradition.

Please consider this my most sincere apology. I want to make your pantry door look as festive as mine (and let’s face it, my kids would look really good up there), but I just never do it. I’m sorry for being the epitomy of The Christmas Card Scrooge. Always receiving, never giving. My guilt is as unpleasant as the grinch’s termited smile.

Over the years, Christmas cards have got a bad rap — that they are only for the prideful braggers. A family member and I chuckled the other day as I mentioned how lovely their Christmas cards were on their wall. They mentioned that they were all the cards from the spouse’s side of the family because they were the only ones still playing the game of having it all together. I laughed because LG and I had the exact conversation the day before; we wondered why a large majority of our cards come from his side. This year there is literally not a single Christmas card up from my family. Is it really because my family can’t keep up? Is his family just more traditional? Do they have more money to throw around? I have a few pretty well-to-do family members. Do they have more to brag about? Surely it can’t just be that certain people buy into the picture perfection more than others. Doesn’t everyone buy into that? I got some pretty real cards this year from the hubby’s side that made me chuckle and even breathe a sigh of relief. (I’m talking to you Julie and Newell -thanks for the wandering children stories.)  I felt solidarity in the insanity we call parenting. My sister-in-law whose husband is in the Air Force has literally hundreds of cards on her wall every year. LG and I always laugh because we don’t have friends. “Is it just a military thing?” we always wonder. Or is our bare wall just evidence of our social ineptitude. Probably a little of both. Probably also, her wall is the result of her consistent Christmas card tradition.

Well, as in everything in life, I am learning to accept it is what it is. Whatever that is, I don’t really know, but I need to let the Christmas card mystery die. It’s most definitely monopolizing a little too much of my mental capacities…and let’s face it, those are already a little limited.

As I was doing the dishes last night, I constructed our real Christmas card in my mind. I thought you all might like to hear it.

LG had a midlife crisis in May. He quit his job which was promptly followed by 5 months of grueling unemployment. As least it wasn’t with a mistress. Ha. He’s finally employed again, and 2017 was the year we discovered that it only takes exactly 5 months of unemployment to make it okay that he now lives two hours away during the week. In the good news, he’s mentally healthier than he ever has been. Some therapy and anti-anxiety meds have made him happier than ever, and he’s really enjoying his work and the challenge of being a .net programmer.  He is the primary pianist at church which has been an awesome reprieve from scouting, which we aren’t really sure we want to support anymore unless they let our hetero daughters in.

AG got a great compliment from her literary theory professor. The fifteen-page paper she turned in about postcolonialism in collegiate humanitarian travel may be publish-worthy with just exactly eighty more hours of work. Yahoo! But really, I survived this year which is major bragging rights. It was a doozie. Thanks to all my friends who chipped in one-week post LG’s mid-life crisis, so that I could travel to Nicaragua on a once-in-a-lifetime collegiate humanitarian trip that I would later write about. My consensus was I loved the trip, but I definitely was guilty along with the rest of my group of postcolonialist oppression. I’ll send the paper your way if you offer up some free editing! This year I got my first passport, and I also was hired by UVU’s Art and Design Program as an administrative assistant. I can’t wait to work for my beloved university while I finish my degree. Just 40 credit hours left. My running is still hanging out in the wings waiting to be reclaimed. One of these days, I’ll wake up at 5 am to do it. Or not.

Abigail got married! Yes, you read that correctly. My first married kid did it exactly how I I didn’t want her to….at EIGHTEEN years old. However, we do love Kaleb, and after about two and a half years of courtship, it was time for them to make it facebook official. Their wedding was all the brainchild of Abigail and it was perfection from top to bottom, except for the bridal bouquet that we had to start late for. We all have ADHD, I consider only one small glitch a major victory. For my Mormon friends still waiting for their kids to go to the temple, know you aren’t alone, but learning to accept others’ choices seems to be a trend of this Christmas card, eh? Kaleb is our family body-guard and personal trainer. He’s a sensitive and loving and generous soul, and treats Abigail so well. Abigail has been working at a local vintage toystore called Blickenstaffs, and she has generously offered to provide daycare for Max twice a week when I go back to work. She may never go to college, and I am working on being okay with that. They have the cutest new puppy named Kita who is the proud owner of her own Instagram account.

Sophia is the amazing eclectic fun-loving care-free girl that she always has been. Her spirit animal is a rainbow cat that pees diet coke. After losing our cat, Kit, to a random accident where she got stuck in our fence that needs to be replaced, Sophia begged me for another. I refused. We still had Rufus and our dog, Olive, which I felt was plenty. It took only exactly 24 hours of me being out of the country for her to convince her dad to adopt the desperate cat in a box at Walmart. They wanted to name him Nic, after the place that made his adoption possible, but we settled on Charles Barkley, the best rebound cat of all time. Sophia continues to pursue her art and occasionally cares about her grades when she isn’t wasting her time on her iphone playing Sudoku or Sandbox. She is a music and technology aficionado, like her dad. She worked at her Uncle Bubba’s restaurant for five months until he fired her. True story. She didn’t deserve it, so I guess we’ll just call it being laid off. But she got an even better job the day after being fired. She now works at Utah Idaho Supply Map World. (Funny story: one hour after posting this, we read this article online. I guess Sophia will be looking for another job!) She’s enjoying dating, driving, and kissing. I asked Sophia what she would have me say about her, and her reply was, “She’s smokin’ hot and ready to mingle.” She’s only partially joking. She really is pure and meek and mild. When LG and I had a really rough summer and quit going to church for awhile (don’t judge until your marriage is in shambles and you are 43 with an above-average-energetic 3-year-old), her and Bella would go all by themselves.

Bella woke up one morning in a model’s body. We aren’t sure what exactly happened, but we blame her friends, the Lawrences, who only eat organic food. Bella is a mini-Alice, but much more gorgeous and taller. She also has way bigger feet. She gets that from her dad. She wants to be an astrophysicist — also gets her science smarts from her dad. She’s obsessed with Wonder Woman — she gets that from her feminist mother. Bella has managed to secure exactly a 4.0 for her first two terms of high-school, and she promises me she will graduate from college, so that I can feel like I actually taught one of my kids something.  A school teacher has to have at least one of her own five children graduate from college. Bella is hilarious, and she often gets roped into helping Sophia with cleaning her room as payment for free rides wherever she wants to go. Bella rocked it onto the sophomore volleyball B team, and she’s only a freshman. She rarely got playing time, but she loved making new friends. We think her new coach didn’t quite see all of her talent that her recreation coach Alice had instilled in her. She wants to play club volleyball, but she can’t afford it with her babysitting funds. Bella is a great kid. She often begs LG and I to take her and her friends to the temple at 5 am before school. She might need some sanity meds, too, like both her mom and dad. Who voluntarily goes to the temple at 5 am?

Caroline is an eighteen-year-old stuck in an eight-year-old body. She is obsessed with YouTube, probably because her parents don’t monitor her screen time as well as they should. She prefers videos about scavenger hunting, get-out-games, kid-toy-reviews, and The Pearl Dude. All of her dreams came true this summer when I found out a neighbor was selling and opening live pearls at a local street market. She became the proud owner of exactly two pearls — twins! Because of all her YouTube watching, she knew exactly which oyster to pick. She is still learning Mandarin at her Chinese-Immersion school, and she has gained a lot of independence this year walking home from school with her friends. She was baptized in July. She starts playing basketball for the first time next week. LG is so excited. She has taken a liking to reading with mom every night because we are working on the whole Battle-of-the-Books list, and she got glasses this month which have helped her significantly with her reading skills.

Maximus is a walking hurricane. He tried to tackle a complete stranger at a restaurant last week, and almost succeeded against the 6-foot-man. He was so close. Just a few years away from his NFL goals. Max loves throwing, hitting, jumping, shooting, climbing, and pretty much every other action verb. He is killing us. We get ten years older every day. We are convinced God waited to send us a boy until we were too old to hurt him. It’s true what they say: Boys are the little devils that can melt their moms hearts. One minute he smacks me across the face with a toy gun, and the next he is kissing my cheek telling me how much he loves me. I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship. He is a sweetheart that doesn’t sit still and refuses to go to nursery. Next week, he’ll be a Sunbeam at church, so I’m really looking forward to LG taking him to primary and watching him run back and forth from his class to the piano instead of clinging to my skirt while I’m trapped in a tiny room with 30 toddlers. Max really is exactly what we always wanted, but we often wonder why we wanted a boy so badly? He is more challenging than all four of his sisters put together, but he brings us all a lot of joy each time he wrestles one of our cats.

So, there you have it. Our real Christmas card. We really don’t have much to brag about, except for a new awesome son-in-law and Bella’s 4.0, but we do love each other, and like it beautifully showcases in the newest Pixar movie, Coco: family is a pretty great thing to have.

We hope you all had a Merry Christmas because so many of you made our Christmas the most remarkable we’ve ever had. Who knew 5 months of unemployment would end up with so many Christmas presents from generous friends? It almost makes us tempted to try that again next year…or not. Here’s to 2018 being the best year ever. We’re hoping that by next Christmas, Max will be able to sit through a whole movie.

Here’s a photo, in case you forgot what we look like.

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I screw up. You screw up.

Change starts with one person at a time. Steve Harvey did a fantastic job of owning his mistake and apologizing recently at the Miss Universe pageant. He even made millions of people laugh when he showed he can laugh at himself.  And his wife did a great job of showing her unconditional support. If the ripple effect takes control, then before you know it, we can all live in a better world where we support each other instead of killing each other emotionally.


On Christmas he posted this pic with the caption “Merry Easter y’all”  on his facebook and twitter. Class act!

Steve Harvey screws up. I screw up. You screw up. Everyone screws up. The screw up doesn’t matter as much as if we are able to identify it, apologize, and better ourselves.

The following is my Christmas story this year.

Here’s a screw up of mine at FedEx a few weeks back.

school of ex

You see, the clerk didn’t have the best customer service skills, and I reacted harshly when she told me I was forced to pay $5 for a shipping box because the one I brought didn’t have the FedEx logo on it. I was trying to ship back a textbook I had rented, and there was no way I was paying $5 for a box when mine would work perfectly fine. I insolently told her how I felt: I would go to UPS because I wasn’t paying $5 for a box!  Then I stormed out.

I drove home to print the shipping label as I realized after-the-initial-trip that with the preprinted label the textbook company would foot for the shipping cost. As I drove home with full intentions of taking my business to UPS I evaluated my impatience and realized what I needed to do to make it right. Maybe because I was so abrupt I didn’t allow her to explain correctly? Maybe it would actually cost $5 for the box and the shipping? I printed the label and stopped at Chickfila and bought a $5 giftcard.

When I got back to FedEx the original clerk was busy with another customer. Another employee came to help. I showed him the box and the label. He explained that FedEx could ship my shoebox, but it couldn’t guarantee its safe arrival. It did indeed cost $5 to buy the box and have it packaged by them for total assurance. I explained I didn’t want to spend $5 on a box and we evaluated my other options. I decided to go home and get a box other than a shoebox. But, yes, the first clerk had been wrong about the FedEx logo necessity. Maybe if I would have let her properly explain I would have saved myself a trip. Or maybe not because she seemed to be learning this for the first time as I did.

Before I left I went up to the original clerk and apologized explaining, “I was rude to you, I’m sorry. I got this for you, so you will know of my remorse for acting impolitely.” She said, “It was fine.” I continued, “It wasn’t fine. I jumped to conclusions and was aggressive and these are things I am trying to work on personally, so I thought if I bought you lunch it would help me remember how I should act next time.” She took the giftcard and thanked me. All three Fedex employees were staring at me in disbelief.

I went home for the right kind of box, and returned to FedEx towing along for the third time my 37 pound one-year-old who was now ready for a nap. I grabbed a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups at home for the second customer service rep. that was truly helpful, and thanked him profusely for his patience and competance as I handed him the candy and the correctly packaged book with the shipping label. While he handed me back my tracking information I realized that it had taken me all morning, but I ended up not spending a dime at FedEx.

Unless, of course, you count the gallon of gas, the $5 giftcard, and the bag of Reese’s Cups.

Lesson learned. I laughed at myself the remainder of the day, and when my husband got home from work and I told him of my whole morning spent going back and forth to FedEx he laughed too.

The thing is this….we’ve learned a lot in therapy. He gets what I was trying to do. Be a better person. He  knows that I’ve learned that I am aggressive. I’ve learned that I am abrupt, and that those behaviors are keeping me from having the relationships I want with others. I am actively trying to change my bad behaviors.  It’s hard to do. Old dogs like old bones, not new tricks.

However, we both understand, also, that no one is perfect. All we can hope for is improvement. All we can give is effort. We should be patient with ourselves and others. When we openly work on our stuff (like I did at FedEx) other people might be inspired to openly work on theirs. They may not work on their stuff because “working on stuff” has never been demonstrated. They may have never “worked  on their stuff” because everyone around them is either in denial of their own stuff or critical and not allowing room for work.

So, even though I have a great desire for altruistic behavior all of the time, my actions fall short. Often. I am no saint. But, I still can be someone else’s inspiration when I say I’m sorry. I screwed up. And so can you.

And change is a beautiful message to ponder this Christmas season.

What screw up are you ready and willing to fix?

start here

startMy hubby and I have interviews with our kids once a month. We take about an half an hour to meet with each child privately and talk to them about their personal and family concerns. We take time to express our love, remind them of their strengths, and set goals for improvement.

It’s really just our way of implementing “therapy” into their lives. We hope by working with our kids on emotional well-being now, we can give them the tools that we’ve paid a generous amount of money to professionals to teach us as adults. Hopefully this habit will also save them from repeating a lot of our heartaches. Doing this also helps us as parents to know how we need to improve. Each time the kids leave with one goal and we do too.

Besides teaching them the importace of faith and how to do their own laundry, I think this little practice is the most effective thing I’m doing as a mother. I highly recommend its implementation. I wonder if so many senseless tragedies could be avoided if all parents would invest just a little time to talk to their kids about emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological nitty-gritties. We have noticed a huge difference in our relationship with our kids after our consistent first Sunday of the month interviews.

If anything it gives the kids the chance to be acountable to themselves for self-improvement.

So, yesterday we had a pretty intense interview with one of our girls. She does not want to discuss a sensitive subject that is causing her a lot of heartache. She just totally shuts off and tunes the whole experience out. Her tender little heart can’t deal with its vulnerabilities and broken parts. After trying repeatedly to coax her out unsuccesfully we ended up just cutting the session early and encouraging her to think about things on her own so we can readdress next month.

As she exited and closed the door behind her, with discouragement and feelings of utter parent failure, I turned to my husband and said, “I think that we might have to do this every time until she realizes what closing herself off is depriving her of.” He agreed, but more than anything, we wish we could help her be strong and face herself because we know it’s essential for her peace and happiness.

This morning I read this and was reminded of my own journey in self-awareness. It’s a lot easier to address our weaknesses if we first start with the foundation that we are divine beings with divine potential.

“Satan uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying…We don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you…If we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough but our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become.”

The moral of the story, kick those fear-based lies in the butt, and start where you are. Don’t be afraid. You are not supposed to  be perfect. Yet. But, if you aren’t willing to take a honest look, you never will be.

Mom’s new year seems so old.

Two things are pressing on my mind today.

1- I need to make my new year resolutions.
2- How am I going to stay sane this year?

Maybe they can be related? Yesterday in church there were a bunch of new ladies. We were to go around the room and tell a few things about ourselves. Our name. Where we live. Our favorite treat. Our job. Our hobby.

I was all prepped to give me answers. I’m Alice Gold. I live within walking distance from the rest of you. In a two bedroom condo. With 5 kids. And a dog. I’m still blessed beyond measure. My favorite treat is whenever I don’t have to cook. (Who said treats have to be sugary anyway?) My jobs are to stay sane and to be kind, both which are greatly challenging and fulfilling. My hobbies are all in trouble this year because I have a newborn.

And then I had to leave the room to change the baby’s stinkiest diaper of all time. I decided I would change my hobby to figuring out if it is possible to change a boy diaper in under 10 baby wipes. By the time I got back to the room, they had changed the game to just telling everyone your name. (They were running out of time.) psh.


I don’t even think I made resolutions last year. I was pregnant. Totally off the hook. My goal last year was to grow a baby. I did it. I’m amazing.

My other goal was to give birth all-natural. I failed. I tried and tried. I labored for what seemed like forever and I thought I would die. I wanted to push the baby out. The doctor said I was only at a 7 and wasn’t allowed to push, yet. I felt destroyed and figured I experienced enough all-natural and that the actors in movies really don’t exaggerate. I was not being kind or staying sane. I begged my husband for the epidural and cussed out the anesthesiologist enough when he got there that he gave me the spinal dose. (You mean you didn’t give me the spinal dose on my other 4 kids? What the heck?) One contraction later…literally…the doctor examined me and said the baby was crowning. I’m blaming the lack of all-natural delivery on him, but we all know it is really my inability to relax without almost lethal doses of drugs.

I’m not gonna lie. I’ve pondered how much easier life would be to live on a constant dose of lethal drugs, or laughing gas…or marijuana. Lucky for me, I’ve never crossed that ponder to action or else I would be a drug addict, in rehab, or dead. Life was meant to hurt. Drugs rob us of the very essence of mortality…except in labor…those drugs are legit. (This paragraph is a total sidenote that I can’t bring myself to omit.)

So, this morning the high of having a newborn wore off. I almost made it 4 months. That’s pretty good if you ask me. When everyone else in the family took off to work and school, I enjoyed the silence for 5 minutes until the baby started crying out of hunger. I looked down at him and felt a little resentment. I’m 41 and still waiting for “my turn”. What I really want is to pursue my own goals, yet for the past 15 years it feels like all I’ve done is take care of babies…I stared at baby Max in the eyes and committed to continued sacrifice. I’ll get my turn eventually.

[I don’t want to turn this in to a stay-home mom vs. working mom debate as I think the choice is personal. I did however laugh a while back when I asked one of my working mom friends which would be better to take a trip to Hawaii with or without children (if you could only go once in a lifetime). She answered, “With kids. We would never go without the kids, we would just miss them too much.” I was like, “yea right, I might get that if I hadn’t committed every waking hour to my kids for 15 years. I would miss my kids after about 5 days and then I would get over it for a few more.” It’s a lot harder to miss your kids when you are always with them.]

Anyhow, the older I have gotten, the more I realize that I can be a mom and pursue my goals. I just can’t pursue them in an all-out fashion like I would prefer. I have to balance my time for me with my time for them. I tend to give them a lot more than I give me, and I hope someday I will look back on that decision with no regrets. Let’s face it, I’m not taking any career with me to the next life, but I do think God will sit me down and one of his first questions will be, “How are your kids? How is your relationship with your kids?”

So this very long post has helped me to process my two things “to do” today. Thanks for riding along. I’m going to stay sane one day at a time and not expect too much out of myself or even for myself. I’ve done it 15 years. What is five more? And, really, is it the end of the world that I’ve been writing this all day instead of doing Caroline’s homework, working on the budget, or cleaning out the stove? Nah.

My answer #2.
Here are some simple goals.

1. Don’t have another baby. Ever. Check. This should be easy. See last post entitled “I’ve been fixed.” But gosh dangit as soon as I heal up from surgery LG and I plan to die trying. 12 weeks of celibacy in a 4 month period of time is rough.
2. Write. When I can and/or feel like it. Maybe join a writing group or class?
3. Take care of myself. This will hopefully include getting back to my running upon doctor’s approval, biking some, eating healthier, and getting back down to pre-baby weight before Maximus’s first birthday. (the occasional pedicure too)
4. Take pictures. When I can and/or feel like it. Read my camera manual if I get around to it.
5. Camp and hike.
6. Love. My husband and kids, mostly.
7. Self-improve. Focusing on being kind and gracious, letting go of control, living in the moment, and being happy.
8. Self-discipline. Focusing on not wasting as much time on FB and being a better morning person, which really means getting to bed earlier.
9. Give more to God. Having daily quiet time. Look for ways to serve my fellowman.
10. Read. (I’m not making a reading goal ever again as per the advice of my therapist.)
11. Save at least $10,000 towards purchasing a home. Sacrifice.
12. Overcome my fear of physics. Watch some smart youtube videos.
13. Remember!!! My family is my greatest blessing. Ever. Make sure they know that I know.

What’s not to love?

Flawed Pony Parenting Logic and Home-schooling

2012-05-02 19.50.16Ever since reading this story and that one about the kid with the My Little Pony backpack, my mind has been reeling.

To make a longer story short, here’s the news recap hailing from North Carolina.

This 10-year-old kid was being bullied at school because of his blue fuzzy My Little Pony backpack. His mom went to the school to complain. The school counselor mentioned that the easiest solution would be for the kid to get a new backpack. The principal later called the child’s mother and told her that the child was no longer allowed to bring the backpack to school. The mom flipped out. The mom now homeschools.

I have to say that last sentence, “The mom now homeschools,” does not surprise me in the least. It seems that nowadays the homeschooling road is the most popular for a lot of unsatisfied parents. I am not here to pass judgement on homeschooling parents. In fact, I might end up homeschooling one of mine next year if she doesn’t get her school transfer. I am here however to pass judgement on flawed logic and parents who can’t be honest with themselves.

First of all, let me make two things very clear. One – I am NOT o.k. with bullying. In this instance and in every instance the bully children should have been reprimanded and disciplined. (I don’t know if they were appropriately or at all from the news stories.) However, typically bully children come from bully homes, so there is only so much a school can do to change behavior.

Secondly, I believe children should be given space to be who they want to be. You want to wear a pink tutu and your 12 and a boy? Go for it. Are you a girl who wants to play football? More power to you.

Now, to the point I really want to make that seems to be widely ignored in modern bully stories. Parents, pull your heads out….Every day, you are sending your kids off to war…..and you are not equipping them with the skills that they need.

What skills? The skills of socialization, survival, problem-solving, and leadership to name a few.

Here is some flawed logic that I have seen people use to support their choice to homeschool.

Sweeping generalizations (bad stereotyping)
All the kids at that school are mean. They are all bad kids. I’m pretty sure this is never the case.

Hasty conclusions with inadequete support (more than one personal example for validity for your argument)
In homeschooling this can look like: Well, wow, this kid was homeschooled and went to Harvard, therefore my kid can also.

Non sequitor (It does not follow)
I graduated from high school therefore I can teach my kids til they graduate. Yes, you can, but this logic is really bad.

Casual fallacy (one event merely follows the first and isn’t necessarily because of cause/effect)
My child got in trouble at school today because his teacher was in a bad mood. Is that the real reason? Or is your child honestly having behavior problems that need to be addressed? Maybe your child is causing the teacher’s foul mood and not the other way around.

Ad hominem attack (an argument that is not balanced but based solely on personal opinion)
Common core is awful therefore my kids should not be schooled with it.

Circular reasoning (the evidence and conclusion restate each other)
Schools are failing because teachers are failing.

False dichotomy or false dilemma (Either/or arguments that oversimplify complex answers to two solutions)
I can either keep my kids in a public school I am not happy with or I can homeschool. These are not the only two solutions to a complex problem.

I know of many parents who have used very bad logic as their sole foundation for homeschooling. I also know many parents who are really harming their kids by homeschooling ineffectively.

So what does this have to do with the pony kid who was bullied? I believe at the root of both homeschooling and bullying lies a much bigger problem: parents who are not honest with themselves. Parents who are failing and laying the blame on someone else.

In the case of the boy with the pony backpack, I believe the parents failed to teach their child how to be confident in his pony-touting ways. I would never send my kid off to war without the weapons he would need to fight it, and you can be sure that I also would not let my child walk into a cafeteria of potential bullies without first discussing how to defend himself in his unconventional backpack/lunchbox choices.

Likewise, I would not just believe homeschooling to be the best thing for my kids if they were having trouble in public schools. As adults, we have troubles coming at us from every direction. We can’t just hide away at home to avoid our problems. We have to face them head on. The really scary part about a larger percentage of the population homeschooling is the fact that all of the home-schooled kids first learned behaviors at home that may be the biggest culprit in them not having success at school. The solution of pulling them out of school to address the problems that are only perpetuated at home is totally counterproductive. Unless, of course, we gain awareness collectively as a family and put change in motion.

Before you feel all judged, let me give you several examples from my life as a concerned mother.

First, we had a terrible experience with public schooling at an inner-city school in Knoxville, TN where we used to live. The principal was bad. Most of the teachers were heroic. The majority of the student population was grossly neglected. The school was neglected. The playgrounds were falling apart. The school didn’t participate in field trips. EVER. Abigail’s second grade teacher was in her first year and totally ill-equipped. Frustrations were high every day. Abigail would come home crying because the teacher made the whole class miss recess again even though she never personally had bad behavior. She no longer could drink chocolate milk at lunch because the principal pulled it off the shelf with the logic that it was causing misbehaved kids to misbehave even more. Violence was taking place in the second grade. One boy threw a desk at another and broke his nose.  Forget the fact that no learning was taking place. How could it with all the other distractions? Yes, I had every right to pull Abigail out and home-school her especially after addressing our concerns with the administration to not have anything change. We didn’t pull Abigail. She survived the second grade and the next year we humbly and gratefully accepted a “No Child Left Behind” school transfer. Abigail’s new school was a haven and we all loved it. When Abigail went on her first field trip in third grade she was in seventh heaven. Abigail is now fourteen. She often talks about her experiences at her first school. They shaped her into what she is: one resilient, tough, and adaptable kid.

Do I judge any parent who pulled their kid out? No. Not at all. In fact I would applaud their courage. However, I do think that if a parent makes a choice to home-school, they better look around and have a very honest assessment of what their child is going to learn at home. When one home-schools they have to recognize that their child is now being influenced almost solely by their family. Are you going to give them all the experience they need to thrive in the real world? Are you going to be perpetuating in them bad behaviors that you just don’t want to fix: sleeping til noon, having bad hygeine, learning as little as possible, not teaching discipline, etc. If you are going to home-school, I think you should ask yourself WHY your kids are (or would) struggling in public school in the first place….the source of their trouble is more than likely YOU, not the school. The kid at Abigail’s school that was throwing desks was more than likely frustrated with his bad teacher, but the reason he threw a desk while Abigail came home crying every day was the difference of what was taught in their home. It is hard to change. Possible, but hard. You better have a really fine-tuned game plan of how you are going to change yourself and teach your children at the same time.

My other experience in still playing out. Sophia is twelve and does not want to have to attend the school in the boundary of where we just moved. She has not a single friend at this new school. We are working with the school district to get her a school transfer next year back to the junior high where her friends will be attending based on the extreme anxiety she is having over the situation. The district asked for a letter from a health-care professional. We went to the doctor last week. I explained Sophia’s anxiety and her shyness and tendency to isolate. I then said, “If we can’t get this transfer, I will probably just home-school her for a year until we move back to our old school boundary.” The doctor didn’t shy away with her response, “If you are worried about her isolating, wouldn’t home-schooling be the worst possible scenario?” She was right! Anyone who knows me, knows that I in no way am modeling shy behavior for my daughter. She came that way. I, however, as her parent, have to make decisions that will help her overcome her weaknesses instead of feed into them.

Wow, this post got long quick. I think the very hardest part of parenting is being able to get outside ourselves and our flawed personal-protecting logic to honestly assess how our weaknesses are promoting the same in our children. And even harder than the honest assessment is changing. The change has to start with us as.  Yes, this can be done, whether or  not we send our kids to public school or if we home-school, if we are teaching our kids to be bullies or our children are being bullied, but by all means, let’s make sure we are doing the hard work. We owe that to our kids.


Being the Change Sucks Sometimes

be the changeIMG_5055 So I have this friend. Well, I guess I should say that I HAD this friend as she has told me that we are no longer friends. This friend is the best friend I’ve ever had. She’s a great person. A really great person. She is kind, thoughtful, gentle, hard-working, loving, beautiful in and out, smart, a total clean freak/germaphobe, a great mom, selfless, and easy to get along with. She is extremely spiritually-minded and a great example of faith and Christianity in action. She has been there for me countless times in my life when no one else was.

She also has flaws. I won’t tell you what they all are as it isn’t necessary to the story, but I am intimate with her flaws. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” is one of her favorite quotes. The ironic thing is that she is sometimes very closed off to change. As long as I’ve known her (which is a long time) she resists change, especially in herself. For a long time I thought she didn’t need to change. I thought she was perfect and that I was the one with problems, but I’ve come to my senses and realized that I was bamboozled into believing this lie.

She needs to change. I need to change. Everyone needs to change.

The hard part about change is that when you do it, it effects other people. That is why marriage counseling is so totally awesome. It helps people change together! Changing together is miraculous.  I have seen the most significant changes over the years but none are more important then those that my husband and I have made together.

They need friend counseling. They really do. I am embarking upon the second round of no-contact with this friend in the past ten years. It’s because we don’t know how to change together. It seems we can only change apart from one another. I don’t like it, but it is the reality of our friendship.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this friendship and how to handle it. It seems I am ill-equipped. This friend is very closed off. She doesn’t like to talk about her problems. She doesn’t like to admit her weaknesses. Sometimes I wonder if she is even aware of them.

On the other hand, I am a very self-aware person. I love to talk about myself. Talking is one of the greatest ways that I learn, second only to writing. I will share anything and everything with pretty much anyone. I struggle to contain private information.

You can see how this creates a problem in our friendship. It pretty much goes like this:

me: “I am so sick of my husband.”
her: “My husband is so fantastic.”

me: “I have been so depressed.”
her: “Let me help you with your depression.”

me: “I am so sick of being poor.”
her: “We just bought a house for $50,000 less than it is worth.”

me: “How are your kids doing?”
her: “They are perfect little angels.” (As they tear each other’s eyes out in the background.)

me: “You are going to be so house poor with that huge house.”
her: “Oh but it’s so worth it.”

her: “I am so glad you guys are happy.”
me: “We are happy.”
her: Whatever she needs to say to make sure I know she is happier.

I just couldn’t take it any more. I couldn’t play the game. I knew from past experience that she doesn’t like to be called out. I also know that when I tried to change and quit complaining/over-sharing we ended up with nothing to talk about. You can see if you have two “hers” in the same conversation it won’t get very far. I didn’t know what else to do to fix it for myself. I would be miserable every time I hung up the phone. I quit taking her calls. I quit calling her. We live in different states now but if we still lived in the same state I would have avoided her physically also.

After several months she messaged me and asked me what was up. I replied,

I have avoided you and it really isn’t cool of me but I’ve been felt it necessary for my own well-being. In one simple sentence of explanation: “It’s not you, it’s me.” I’ve missed talking to you too but the peace of mind I’ve gained has outweighed the benefits of broken companionship. I haven’t been able to pinpoint my issues exactly and I haven’t wanted to hurt you so I’ve just avoided it. Not very mature of me but it is what it is. I can’t even give you a complete explanation as, like I said, I haven’t figured it out myself. The best I can give you are two things. 1 –  I feel like we have had an unequal friendship. I have shared with you too much and you’ve shared too little. 2 – I have issues with comparison/competitiveness and for some reason you put those into high gear for me and it was causing me a lot of heartache. It has been easier for me to tackle this part of me that I detest by just avoiding you. I didn’t and don’t know how to address this with you and truthfully it’s made me a lot happier to not talk to you as much. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had but our relationship is somewhat toxic for me emotionally (not because of you because of me). I feel like we lack honesty and the kind of intimacy I want from my friends and I don’t think you  will be comfortable with the change it would take to make our close friendship healthy for  me. I love you______. You are like a sister to me. I’ve missed you and I’ve prayed for you. I am the first to admit that I suck at relationships. I wish I was better at it, but being so far away and because they don’t make friend therapists I think this way is better for now.


I wasn’t trying to say goodbye, but I did give her the out. I was really saying I need more from you, and if you can’t give it then it’s probably better this way.

I didn’t hear back from her. I then got a message on Facebook from a total stranger telling me that I was an evil person who treated this friend so badly. How dare I hurt her when she has never done anything to hurt me?

I promptly told this extremely codependent random person to mind her own business and immediately texted this friend to let her know I had been reprimanded by so and so (later she told me it was her sister-in-law) and that I was sorry if I hurt her with my reply.

This friend in true to form fashion immediately gave me a lengthy explanation about how she wasn’t really gossiping about me (because she’s perfect, right?) and then informed me that we would probably just be better off without each other. I told her that whatever she wanted as fine. That was it. End of story.


So for the past couple of weeks I have been pondering on this end of friendship. I can’t help but feel like I am in high-school again. It feels so wrong. I feel like I should try and fix it.

I’ve decided that I did the right thing. I can’t change this friend. I can only change myself. I could try to keep living in her facade but it was just harming me and ultimately it was probably harming her too.

I needed more and she just couldn’t give it. She probably needs something from me that I just can’t give: like acceptance of her unreality for starters.

She’s a good person. I’m a good person. We just aren’t really good for each other and that’s o.k.

I’m moving forward. I believe I’ve been much clearer in stating my needs to her than she has with me. If she ever thinks that she can be what I need, she will know where to find me. I would love to be what she needs if she can start living in reality.

The one thing that I really wish I would have said to her and didn’t though is this reply to her telling me that she can’t just sit around being vulnerable and waiting for me to call her. I wish I would have told her this. Vulnerability is not your strong suit. You haven’t been the least bit vulnerable. Ever. If you ever want to be vulnerable, you know where to find me. I’m right here with my heart always hanging out for all to see.


I have had to really examine myself if what I am experiencing with this friend is jealousy. It is easy to become jealous when one person is always talking about how wonderful her life is and the other is a total realist. I don’t think that it’s jealousy. It’s just that I feel like I’ve finally grown past being the friend who is the one being helped. A friendship takes two people who are willing to admit that they need help. Maybe she never needs help. Maybe she is perfect? Or not because perfect people only exist in their own world. It is just really psychologically and emotionally trying for a person like me who throws all her flaws out to the world to be real with people who don’t seem to understand.

Feel Like I’m Falling

Fall has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. I love the weather, the start of a new school year, football games,  the eye-catching colors everywhere, outdoor adventuring, and of course my birthday! I turned 40 yesterday. I feel pretty good for forty. I feel better, happier, healthier, and fuller then I did at 30. I feel self-aware. I love myself. I really do. I think I am blessed to have great self-awareness and am working on giving myself more credit for the good in me while simultaneously tackling the weaknesses that hold me back.

I’m far from perfect. So far from perfect. I still get depressed from time to time. It is nothing like it used to be, but there are still dark periods that I don’t like to experience. I am trying to keep this blog as real as I can, but I am also trying to keep it positive because if I’ve learned anything in my last decade of life it’s that life is what we make of it.

So, I am a bit down today. That’s the real for you. The positive is that I know it won’t last. I will think my way out of this. I have learned not to dwell on the bad and I know that I can’t squash the negative feelings away by not acknowledging them. I have to feel through it and keep the light burning through the dark. I have to allow myself to have crappy moments. I have to give myself the space to mourn for the things that I don’t like, the things that don’t bring me happiness.


I write from my new little writing space in my teeny 3 bedroom 1,000 sq. foot basement apartment. I don’t like our new living arrangements. Not one bit. I am deeply depressed about the fact that I am forty and don’t have the securities that I’ve longed for since I can remember.  I don’t like not being able to give my kids more. I don’t like that I can’t get a moment of peace and quiet anywhere. I don’t like that the only time I will see the sun until I move is when I walk out of my home. I don’t like that I have the inconvenience of letting my dog outside at the minimum of four times a day. I don’t like that my four-year-old Caroline cried at bedtime because our new place scares her. She wakes us up all night again because she isn’t at peace. I don’t like that my fourteen-year-old cried because she misses taking the bus with her friends and my ten-year-old and newly turned twelve-year-old have to be driven and picked up from the school they used to be able to walk to and from.

I don’t like goodbyes. Today I said goodbye to many good friends that I’ve had the privilege of sharing lives with for the past two and a half years. When my Bella ran up to give her special church leader a hug today it made every part of me cry. I wish things could be different. I wish things were better. I wish money wasn’t always a constant worry. I wish that I didn’t always feel the tug between being home with my kids where I can nourish and teach and going out and getting a job where I can earn the money that could keep bad things from happening. I wish we didn’t have $800+ a month in student loan payments and I wish my husband earned the salary that all his education should have earned him.

So as you can feel here, tonight I am falling. I am surrendering to the sad because I’ve got to get through this sadness, resentment, and regrets. I can’t just power through. I have to lay my broken pieces down and then pick them back up again and once again move forward.

Tonight I am just pieces of a broken puzzle. I’ve fallen off my wall. In fact I don’t even know where  the wall can be found. I’m in a place of total unrest. I’m angry with myself, with my husband, with my God. Why do things have to be so hard? Why can’t I give my kids what they deserve? Why are we always the ones who have to make sacrifices when others just get what they want? What am I missing? What do I still need to change? I’ve worked so hard at living as frugally as possible. I have always paid my 10% tithe. I work hard. I support my husband.  I babysit other people’s children so that I can be home with my own and still pay the bills. I try my hardest to listen to God. I pray constantly. I serve other people. Why then is my life so hard? Aren’t I doing the things that are right?

If God tried to wrap his arms around me tonight I would push Him away and that is the truth. Sometimes I just get so mad that He continues to let me suffer. I know, I know, someone is out there screaming at their screen that I am selfish, I am prideful, I am stupid, I am ungrateful. And I am. Maybe tomorrow I will do better. No, not maybe. Tomorrow I will do better. Tomorrow I will continue to forge ahead. Tonight, however, I will cry myself to sleep and that’s o.k.

Soaking in the small moments {vlog}

I’ve discovered a really great blog called Momastery. Apparently I am the last one of the planet, as the author Glennon has a newly released book and 81,000 followers on facebook. I’ve added her book to my goodreads and her blog to my reader and have immensely enjoyed her honesty about motherhood and the hardships she has faced (alcoholism and bulemia).

I guess I am just kind of a lover of tragedy – the overcoming of it draws me in every time. I love rooting for the human spirit. Momastery is a place which encourages moms to be real about their every day lives – it’s a breathe of fresh air in an online mom world that seems to embrace elaboration, exaggeration, and the elusive thing we call mom perfection. Here are some of her interviews. She discusses her theory that we have to just soak in the small moments of motherhood. It was a relief for me to realize that I wasn’t the only mom on the planet that dreads much of motherhood and that I can just power through most of the hard stuff (when 3 kids are having a meltdown while you are trying to check out at Target) and focus on really soaking up the ever brief  and sporadic small moments of peace and happiness in the family.

Back in the day, it was my hero Erma Bombeck who did the same thing for honesty in motherhood. I remember reading her book about motherhood years back and crying as I read of the mother imprisoned for killing her children. She had discovered Erma Bombeck’s writings in prison and loved her humor and honesty. She wrote Bombeck a letter to tell her thanks for her honest voice about motherhood.  She lamented, “If all moms would have been honest, I would have realized I wasn’t crazy when the weight of mothering was too unbearable.”

So when the baby is teething for a second year in a row and the toddler wiped poop all over her crib and the kindergartner comes home with a naughty note for calling someone a loser and the mean man at the library tells you to shut your kids up and all of these things happen in the same day (or not) just know you are not alone in motherhood. It is this hard for everyone. If the only moment you can soak in is after the kids are asleep and you sit down with a glass of grape juice and a good book to read one page and conk out in exhaustion it’s completely normal. Don’t fret. Sometime in the next day you may get the gem when your kids are holding hands while picking dandelions while the FedEx guy delivers you a box of long-stem red roses. Soak it in. If I know one thing about motherhood it’s this: the worst moments won’t last. And this: the next moment will be even better (even if it doesn’t happen for another month or two.)