Friday, January 3, 2014

The Words We Carry

Words are some of our most powerful possessions.

I've always taken to them well--I was an accurate elementary school speller, taking pride in one hundred percents on spelling tests. I have an uncanny ability to memorize song lyrics and thought I'd be perfect on the now defunct "Singing Bee" (fantastic premise, terrible show). I liked words so much, I majored in them in college, and then went and learned new words to new languages.

Every day we speak words in various tones with facial expressions that convey our messages in so many different ways. Say something a little perky and with a smile and you might just make someone's day. On the contrary, mumble and frown and just the opposite happens. Even worse, perhaps, would be ignoring someone else's words, and the message that such an event could send.

My oldest tells stories that often include the inserted, "And then guess what?" after each detail, and it gets tiring to say "What?" and maybe I do zone out, but I make sure I'm looking at him. I make sure he knows he matters, that his words matter.

My youngest will sing songs, particularly "Baa Baa Blacksheep" until you want to hand deliver all the damned wool yourself so you don't have to keep asking him if he has any.

But I sing along. Because those words matter, too.

Sometimes, we use our words and we just aren't quite sure what the impact will be. Fall on deaf ears? Imprinted on the heart? Somewhere in between?

Our own mothers felt this way, I'm sure, and now we as parents find ourselves quoting them. "My mom always used to say..."

As a teacher, I say words all day long. "Don't forget to do your homework" is always in one ear and out the other. "There's candy at the end of this activity" gets all attention focused on what my next sentence will be. (Subsequently, all I have to say is "lollipop" at my house and my kids will do whatever I ask.)

I had a student several years ago, Miranda. Not many young girls with that name, so she is easy to remember. Perhaps she holds a sweeter spot in my heart because she struggled with so many things while she was a student in my class. Junior High is rough--I would not repeat it for any amount of fame and fortune--and for today's kids, I'd say it's a whole different, more angry animal.

So in many ways, Miranda reminded me of, well, me.

We spent some mornings...and lunches...and after school minutes chatting about all that ailed her: friends and parents and fitting in and dealing with difficult things and figuring out the best ways to navigate through the age of fourteen.

I know I shared so many words with her, words that I had always hoped lit some sort of fire; words that just maybe could have been the ones that imprinted on her heart.

Two years ago Miranda was killed in a car accident.

This morning, in my mailbox, was a letter from a student I never had. Her name brought no immediate recognition, but she introduced herself as Miranda's best friend.

"You have taught me a life lesson that I will never forget," she wrote, "and it was something that you told [Miranda]. And that was that you deserve the best no matter what, don't settle for something that isn't the  best...Whether you know it or not, you changed her life, and I am so thankful that you were there for her, and me."

The words we carry within us, the ones we choose to say in any old regular way, in any old conversation, can be the words that plant seeds in hearts. And when we don't even know it, they go off and they grow.

That's the honest truth.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Sappy "Farewell"

My dad often accuses me of being too sappy in my blog posts.

Don't get me wrong; he's probably my biggest fan.

But he says, "Why do all of your posts seem to end with little tidbits that could make you misty?"

I like to write about things that make me sentimental, because if I'm being sentimental, then I've probably learned a lesson.

I've probably been forced to reflect on something that happened, in a way that I've changed, how much I've grown.

That's a lot more pensive than I think most people are.

In my yoga classes, I generally say something to the effect of, "If you're just aware of where your mind is wandering, or what parts of your body are tight and sore, or what your breath feels like, that's more than most people ever do. Even if you don't do anything with that knowledge, you are aware."

I like to be aware.

I'm a few days from thirty-three. Last year, I sent out thirty-two love notes to people in my life I felt needed to hear their value. Or maybe an apology. Or maybe just a memorable moment that would make them smile.

I recently took the Myers-Briggs personality type test and although I had had a few glasses of wine, and I have no recollection of my letters, I remember reading my summary of being a people-pleaser and putting others' happiness before mine and thinking "Bingo."

And really, I think I've always been this way.

I remember an incident in second grade where our class was too loud and we made the music teacher mad. And so our second grade teacher made us write notes of apology to the music teacher.

I can pretty much guarantee that I was not being any kind of loud, but in my note I said, "I would give my whole life away to tell you how sorry I am."

My teacher scoffed and said, "This seems rather dramatic," and dismissed me.

(We can save her ridiculous dismissal for another post.)

Well duh, it was dramatic, but I wanted to make sure that music teacher knew how sorry I was. She needed to know I was going to do what it took to make her happy.

There are some people who might argue, "If you are spending so much time making other people happy, how can you possibly be happy yourself?"


But I am.

I'm not happy all the time. I'm human and have terrible days and right now I can't breathe out of my nose and I didn't sleep well and my nose is red and owie, and I just finished two hours of junior high lunch duty.

So I'm not comfortable. It hasn't been great.

But I'm happy. Content.

Bumps in the road never darken the whole journey.

I've found myself doing mindless activities lately and being suddenly overwhelmed with extreme gratitude for the people that I have in my life; and this gratitude is the deepest and warmest love--for friends and family, colleagues, and students who have come and gone over the years.

It's a feeling of gratitude for being loved and being able to love in return.

One of my students recently said that feeling loved is like a warm sweater and a hot cup of tea on a cold day.

Yes. That. All of that. So much that.

This is probably my last post here for awhile, as I begin this new blog project adventure, and so I wanted to offer this:

I am not always present. My light is sometimes dull. And my happiness can be clouded.

But when you practice these things--good, positive things--you attract them into your life.

Like begets like.

I offer up so much gratitude for the opportunity to share my words with you in this format; for allowing me to reflect and grow in such a public fashion; for letting our paths cross; for loving and being loved.

My heart is full.

Stay in the moment. Smile. Shine.

(Now go get your kleenex, Dad.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

the honest mom project

This weekend was bad.

Really really awful terrible bad.

It was one of Will's worst weekends--regressing to the terrible threes it seemed.

And although we road tripped north to spend some time with friends (and commiserate over children's behavior over glasses of wine and gourmet home cooked food), and we totally hyped up the sleepover we were having on social media, the truth is...

...our kids were terrible.

I blame Halloween, and the candy, and the lack of sleep, and the sugar crashes that followed each eaten lollipop.

I blame Halloween so much that I threw all of my kids' candy away. Two buckets worth are now resting peacefully in our trash can.

It was, in fact, so bad, that on Saturday, Will cried more than he didn't in his waking hours. There were "My tummy hurts" followed with "I want more candy" which led to "You guys are meanies" and sobs, and hysteria, and kicking, and spitting, and throwing things like socks, and shoes, and books. Even his Peter Pan costume sword was brandished as though he were going to attack me.

At lunch, he crumpled up a piece of pizza as though it were a piece of paper and threw it angrily across the kitchen.

Seriously. Insanity.

On the bright side, as I type this, we are both sipping some apple cider (his watered down, mine spiked with rum...wait, maybe it should be the other way around...wait, I kid, mine is not spiked with rum. It's three in the afternoon on a Sunday...I went with brandy, something stronger) after spending the better part of the last hour engaging in a full-on leaf war.

I even took a rock to the head.

I snapped some pretty fantastic photos of him in a rare joyous moment of the last 48 hours, and I wanted to 'gram them in all of their happiness.


Only it'd be a lie, right? A total lie of what this weekend was really like.

For this very reason, on January 1, 2014, I'm rolling out the honest mom project.

It isn't enough to want to see change; sometimes you have to actually be that change.

I have assembled a fantastic team of writers--and even better, down-to-earth, humble, brutally honest parents.

This team, we have lofty goals. We've been brainstorming, and meeting, and having conversations, and it has all led to this one very simple, but very special project.

To be honest. To stop the mom wars. To stop competing--with each other and through our kids. To laugh and cry and give each other virtual high fives and hugs and "I've been there, too"s and to start to build a community where we celebrate and embrace and support one another in this incredible and wild and crazy journey that isn't just about our kids but about us.

I can't wait for you to see what this holds, and for you to be a part of it.

So much more to come!!!

For now, we need you.

Yes, you.

Share this project with your friends--moms, dads, parents-to-be, grandparents, anyone who takes care of kids!

Email us at And tell those you share it with to email us, too.

Introduce yourself to us. Say hello. Tell us what you want to see, need to hear. Maybe you want to be a part of this project? Let us know that, too.

As we introduce ourselves to the world on January 1, we will be pulling from the emails we receive and making a few parents verrrrrry very happy. :o)

Can't wait to meet you.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ruminations on Parenting

I ate most of my lunch with a baby spoon today, which got me thinking about what I've become really good at doing since I've had kids...thought I'd put it out here and see what else you, dear readers, can add to this list.

  • Resourcefulness: This morning I was late, the dishwasher was dirty, and all that was clean in the silverware drawer were baby spoons. I'm glad no one saw me eat lunch today. For full effect, I may have airplane-sounded a bite. 
  • Bribery: I know my kids love me, but I'll be damned if I can't get them to leave day care. I pick them up and it's like I'm dragging them to a doctor's office full of needles. "Nooooooo!!!!" is generally what I'm met with. My secret weapon is candy. I'm not ashamed to tell you my kids eat candy at least once a day. Sometimes m&ms; sometimes dum dum lollipops; Will often gets sugar-free gum; and sometimes, you know...they have all three!! 
  • Peace Making: Oh, you both want the Batman action figure? No worries...we have FOUR. And we have two super hero capes, two super hero masks, multiple dump trucks in a variety of sizes, three Batman vehicles, three copies of Green Eggs and Ham, two tambourines, two harmonicas, four maracas, two drums, and two sets of fake food and dishes for the play kitchen. Oh, you both want the ONE random yo-yo at the bottom of the toy chest that no one has played with in months? You're on your own. It's good for you.
  • Acting: I've read the superhero anthology so many times I could sing it in Italian, opera style in my sleep. For some reason, the villains always have deep voices, and I give the super heroes high-pitched voices--like they just sucked the helium from a balloon. I've decided this is an accurate portrayal. Have you read the super hero background stories? They are generally whiny little things before they become superheroes, and then in the process they are usually pumped full of so many radioactive chemicals it's a wonder they even have skin! High-pitched and whiny it is. 
  • Operating like a well-oiled machine: This would include multi-tasking. I can fold a shirt and wash a kid's hair at the same time. I can run, push a jogging stroller, unwrap a lollipop (that's right, my kids get candy when we run, too), and find Scooby-Doo on YouTube all a the same time. I can cook mac and cheese with one hand while the other holds someone, pulls someone out of a cabinet, opens juice boxes, etc. Before dinner is even served I get out all of the various options I know will be requested: ketchup, applesauce, yogurt, ranch dip. Just line 'em up. They'll be asked for when they cry out "but I don't LIKE tacos!" even though they ate them no problem last week. That's right. Tacos. Two weeks in a row. 
  • Feeling guilty: This one I'm not proud of but I feel it multiple times a day: I should have said this differently, I should not have said that, why did I react that way, I've messed him up for life, his therapist will help him through that when he's 30, why wasn't I there...
We are all doing our absolute best with our kids...with any given moment in time. We've even acquired new skills along the way, brains working in overdrive with all of the new things to think about. 

This video has been circulating lately, but I thought I'd post it here. 

Remember your talents, your newly acquired skills, the good stuff--your kids (and mine, too) so appreciate what we do.

(I hope they remember that tonight when we trick-or-treat in a monsoon.) 
Happy Halloween. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

The 973rd time

I spend a lot of time between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday evenings telling large groups of people to "let go."

In fleeting moments outside of that time slot, whether in a quick meditation, a practice of my own, or even just a deep breath out, I tell myself to "let go."

Sometimes my own intention is specific, and other times it's just a general shake off the day, the week, the stress du moment.

I usually feel better--and I hope that the people in my classes do as well--but for me, quite often, it never feels totally gone.

There's still that little nagging something; an "ugh, I wish it would just release." I can feel it clutching in the pit of my stomach, or the back of my mind, or deep in that space in my heart that lies a little bit dark and unresolved.

But I know, each time I actively let it go, that someday it will be gone.

I say in class, at least once, "Let it go, whatever 'it' is for you. You may need to release 'it' 973 more times, but eventually, it will leave you free."

When I woke up today, one of my own dark nagging emotions was not there. I tried to get upset about it and even actively sought out the "ugh" emotion--I did, in fact, really try so hard to do that. It was like looking for the wallet you know your kid dropped in the parking lot at the last store. I knew it was gone, but I still wanted to find it.

But I was free.

And instead of being sad or upset, as a lost wallet might make me, this loss...well, it made me smile.

It's not the first time this has happened, and every time it does I wonder why. I wonder what pushed it out, once and for all. Was it a particular yoga pose from a few days ago? A good night's sleep? A visit from the Sandman who told me to release it? Was it what I ate? Healing properties of sun dried tomatoes?

The truth is, there is no one magical thing anyone can tell you to do to really, truly let "it" go.

But one day, just maybe, on the 973rd time, that little-dark-nagging-unresolved space will be gone.

Who knew a Monday could feel so good?

(Added bonus: my favorite yoga poem, by Danna Faulds from "Go In and In: Poems from the Heart of Yoga.")

"Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold: the holding of plans or dreams or expectations--Let it all go. Save your strength to swim with the tide. The choice to fight what is where before you now will only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts to flee from the very energy you long for. Let go. Let it all go and flow with the grace that washes through your days whether you received it gently or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders. Take this on faith; the mind may never find the explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward nonetheless. Let go, and the wave's crest will carry you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dreams or destinations. Let it all go and find the place of rest and peace, and certain transformation."

Monday, September 23, 2013

The best we can, part 2: Fall

I wrote this crazy whiny blog post last night that I published but never posted to social media and somehow, thirteen people still found it, although twelve of those may have been spam bots from

I'm keeping it up because even though it lamely attempts to be present, happy, and bright, it's really just me whining, and I think it's important to show that I am not, in fact, present, happy, or bright all of the time.

You can read it here.

But I can also summarize.

It was all about how we did nothing memorable on a glorious fall day, and I dress my kids horribly un-trendy, and they often refuse to eat vegetables and I was tired of watching my news feed showcase only the stuff that made me feel like crap.

Because I totally compared myself to those news feed posts. And I shouldn't. But I did.


So fast forward to now, where yesterday's whine (although I wish it were wine) carried over to a case of the Monday blarghs and it's a full moon and technology messed up those dreaded SLOs and the kids were cranky and.


Now press pause.

Deep breath.

Resume play.

This moment.

I just finished my fourth chocolate chip cookie (yes, fourth!) with a cool breeze blowing on my face from that glorious fall weather while I sit and type and wait on a plumber to arrive who will allow me to take hot showers without flooding the finished basement.

And in my news feed was a post by a photographer who I don't know, but who, in a general photo of a cup of coffee said, "Expectations from others have the ability to destroy you, but only if you let them." (Follow thedefineschool on Instagram, and you can view such wisdom yourself.)

Like a good Language Arts teacher in a stream of consciousness writing assignment, I carried myself away from this desk chair and computer, and I found myself here.

At the risk of sounding like a crazy person, this tree calls to me, and has since we first moved in. We have an amazing acre of woods right out our back door, and this strong, enormous gem catches my eye every time I scan the yard.

Spring is for dragging our roots up out of the earth, dusting off, and beginning to tread lightly. Summer is for floating through air, whimsiscal and light. Winter is for hibernation, for burrowing and finding warmth.

But Fall. Fall is for letting our roots seep again. For grounding ourselves and settling into something solid and tangible and safe.

Safe from the expectations of others that we think exist--of the "What will they thinks" and the "Who even cares" and the "Why do I put myself out theres."

Fall is for the reset button; the trees shed their leaves and we watch them let go with grace and freedom.

We let go, too.

I'm letting go.

I choose to let go of my own expectations of myself as a mom, a wife, a teacher, and I certainly let go of what others' perceive to be ideal and fabulous...what is ideal for one is not for the other, and who are we to judge (ourselves or others) in saying what ideal looks like. It changes. Every day. Maybe even in each moment.

I acknowledge where I faulter and I know that no one area of my life can ever be equally as strong as the next at the same moment in time. It's this beautiful dance of give and take where we waiver one day and shine radiantly the next.

How we let go is of little importance; run, yoga, dance with wild abandonment, cry, sigh, laugh with friends, sing, scream, whine, or wine.

Shake it out, Florence and the Machine.

I'll go ahead and take all of the above, please.

Once we've cleared, we dig deep and settle in and we feel better. Free. Strong.

Even big trees bow with the wind.

What counts is that we find smiles and giggles and love in as many moments as we possibly can.

And if that means eating four chocolate chip cookies on a perfect fall day while setting my roots alongside a magical tree, then so be it.

Happy Fall.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The best we can

I feel like I do a pretty good job of telling myself that I do the best that I can when it comes to raising my kids.

When Will was a month old, and we would turn on Nick Jr. for him (okay, for us--we were so ready for kid shows...little did we know then...) there would be a spot between shows about the parent website and their slogan was, "We're not perfect; we're parents!" And it wasn't until much later in this gig that I realized how true it was.

Still...I can't help but feel like crap when, for example, today, I saw how every family under the Western Hemisphere sun was enjoying the most perfect fall Sunday afternoon EVER (according to social media), and all my kids did was go to Target and watch Finding Nemo.

Or when Will picks the t-shirt with screen print super hero characters all over it, and the other kids at the play date/school/birthday party have on their finest Polos and Gap Kids pull overs.

Or those little zingers here and there: "My little guy just LOVES vegetables!" as my kids shun peas with faux gagging noises and dramatic choking sounds.

It stings a little because I can't help but think, "I messed up."

My poor little vitamin-deprived, festival-deprived, couch potatoes.

And I know--I absolutely know--that no one posts their kids in super hero t-shirts even if they wear them the 364 other days out of the year, nor does anyone post the candy corn meltdown that may have occurred post pumpkin patch hay ride (it's not even October yet!?!), or in the throws of hot dogs for the fourth dinner in a row.

Because "no one wants to see the bad stuff."

Except me.

And probably you, too.

Give me honesty, people. Give me your good, glorious, Rock Star parenting moments, because those moments are awesome--I absolutely know. I want to like them and give you social media high fives!

But give me your human moments, too. Those are what make us feel connected.

Which is why I'm going to share the following--it's a little Rock Star, a little "Ugh I messed up somewhere."


Will has this bucket called "Our Love Bucket," that a friend from high school made several months ago. In it are photos of ten relatives, and I have had every intention of having Will pick a person at bedtime, and think good things about that person...every intention of doing this since it came in the mail...eight months ago.

Today, while cleaning up his room, I decided it was time.

So I called him in.

I explained these were all people we loved very much, and we were going to pull one person out without looking and think about all the reasons we love that person, and maybe something we would like them to experience, like a good night's sleep, or a fun day.

"So we don't call them fat or anything like that?"

#honestmommy Will is fixated on people who are overweight--only not just people, but cartoon characters, and animals on a game, and pillow pets! I was told he asked one of his preschool teachers why she had a fat belly.

There. Honesty.

After assuring him that this was not the time to dwell on the size of people, he selected Greg's dad and his friend, Mary.

"I really like Grandpa," he said. "And I hope he has a good day at work, and I hope Mary has a good day at work."

Never mind they're both retired.

"Can I do another one?"

We selected my dad.

"I really like Grandad. He's wearing a hat in this picture from his birthday party when we set off fireworks. Why did Uncle Jon like the fireworks?"


"Can I do one more?"

He picked Greg and I.

"I like my mommy and daddy. They're nice."

"Why are we nice? What kinds of things do we do that make us nice?"

"You let me have popsicles."

And fat comments and popsicle bribery aside, I rest easy.

I am doing the best that I can. And it's always always enough.