Dogs Are Like Practice Kids


Sadly, I am not a pet person. I spend a good deal of my time and energy herding seven people that I grew in my own belly and that, in theory, can be counted on for the occasional Mother’s Day card in thanks. I just don’t have anything left for a fur-baby. (Sorry, that probably means I suck, but, alas.) I do like chickens. They’re the pet that poops breakfast, right? Chickens are pretty low-key and easy to care for, are incredibly resilient and provide theoretically-free food, so we have chickens in our little rural subdivision.

We also have a dog. (That’s not actually our dog. He looks similar, but if I had to actually take a photo of our actual dog and upload it, these blogs would sit in the queue waiting for you for-pretty-much-ever. Stock photos for the win.) He’s a small house dog, though I’m unsure how that happened. We’ve never had a house pet in our lives until Hamilton joined our family. He’s a year old now and still poops in way too many places he shouldn’t and probably has undiagnosed doggy anxiety. (Can you give Prozac to a puppy? Asking for a friend.) He’s both endearing and a little sh*t. Though I try to stay out of it, I’ve decided that having a dog is good practice for having kids. I mean, not for me. I parent in my sleep. Literally. He’s my 17-year-old daughter’s dog, in theory, but he gifts these lessons to all my kids. (Lucky them!) He spent months as a puppy keeping my daughter up at night because he refused to be crate trained and would cry for hours on end. She finally gave up and now he sleeps with various of my children depending on his and their mood.

He also, apparently, hates taking medicine. This is a trait he comes by naturally in our family gene pool. My 7-year-old daughter has an unbelievable gag reflex. She used to make herself throw up in the carseat on the way to the grocery store or church (I avoided the scenario whenever I could), and she had to be sedated in the hospital for her dental appointments until she was around six because they couldn’t even clean her teeth properly without her threatening to hurl. Good times.

So, today, our 10-lb house dog came home from his morning romp limping and squealing. There was no blood or broken skin and nothing looked broken, but Hammy was clearly hurting. We think he maybe pulled something running for his life from a larger neighbor dog. (Poor baby. I even felt bad.) Apparently, doggy pain pills are a thing, (I honestly had no idea.) so relief was at hand. Except…we had to convince him to swallow the stupid thing. He’s small and you dose by weight, so my two oldest daughters were wrangling a crying doggy while trying to convince him that the piece of salmon on their finger did not, actually, contain a foreign object that was slightly larger than a sesame seed. (If you’ve ever tried to hide a course of antibiotics in yogurt or juice, you know the drill here.) After listening to them from the other room for about ten minutes, I walked in to find Hamilton laying on his mommy’s chest with her smiling in victory, exclaiming that they had achieved success! Until, as I turned to go, he spit. out. the. pill. on. her. shirt. (Ha ha ha ha!)

After the third, fourth or tenth try, Hamilton finally actually swallowed the stupid thing and will, hopefully, sleep a bit sounder tonight so his owie can heal. They had to change tactics to get it down, but they finally did. You know what worked? Ice cream. He swallowed his pain pill with a bite of ice cream. See what I’m saying? Dogs are like practice kids. Case closed.

Our Babies Are Counting on Us


There’s been a few things in the news lately that have caught my eye. On the national stage, I’ve been following the abuse scandal involving the Catholic church in Philadelphia. Just last week, it came out that the coverup went all the way to the top of the organization and Pope Francis likely knew and did nothing. On a more local level, Sam Young of Protect LDS Children was just called to a disciplinary council because he won’t give up his fight to change the intrusive interview policies in the LDS church. For those that don’t understand the implications of this, Bishop Young is slated for excommunication. For pleading with the church to please stop asking kids sexually explicit questions. Isn’t this common sense?

If you come from my Facebook page, you have probably noticed that my posts lean heavy toward abuse advocacy and education. I honestly sometimes feel like everything I post these days is controversial. The irony is that I spent three decades trying not to tell my story and desperately wanting to protect the people in my family that it would and did hurt when it went public in early 2018. The battle that we fought this year with our own small and pretty obscure church was not what we expected. Frankly, we were naive. We did ultimately win what we felt was a victory though we paid a pretty high price for having my perpetrator removed from his ecclesiastical position. We’re still trying to recover from seeing things behind the curtain that we can never unsee. Speaking out, especially against institutional constructs that hold power, is incredibly difficult and risky. Our identities are wrapped up in these relationships and, in many ways, it feels like a spiritual divorce.

I still struggle to know what to say about these situations. I have such big emotions about things that I have so little power to change. As moms, it’s devastating to see how at-risk our children are in spaces that should be safe – that we expect to be safe. In the culture of Mormonism, there is a cliche saying that reads, “The people make mistakes, but The Church is true!” My experiences have led me to a completely opposite conclusion, “The Church is a mess, but the people are good!” Coming to a place where you understand power structures and their priorities can be both heartbreaking and eye-opening. I know we all like to think that these things aren’t or can’t be happening in our own back yard, but, sadly, they probably are. People that use positions of power to abuse children will hide wherever there is a cubby for them. This isn’t just a Catholic problem or a Mormon problem or a Protestant problem or even a religious problem; this is a human problem.

While I have mixed feelings about the politicization of the #metoo movement (Though it’s statistically rare, I think women who falsely accuse should be subject to prosecution,) our ability to speak up is so, so important. As parents, we’re responsible to protect our children. We’re the front lines and the big guns. Handing that power and responsibility over to an institution, any institution, is a grave mistake in my opinion and experience. If you belong to a church that offers you spiritual and community support, that is wonderful. But, do not make the mistake of overlooking red flags and questionable circumstances because it happens at church with people that you identify as inherently trustworthy. And, if your church punishes or censures you for being concerned, please run, don’t walk right out the door.

Though the road to it has been deeply painful, this knowing has been a gift to my family. My creeper meter, so to speak, is highly tuned, and I have used it to protect my kids from people and situations that were unsafe. I can’t go back and change my history; my #metoo story is an integral part of who I am – it impacts my marriage, my parenting and my relationship with faith, and there are days that this is incredibly hard. Still, I have a voice and a perspective that can be used to help people, and I feel a deep responsibility to use my story for good. I’m determined that my own children will experience the world in a safer way than I did. While I’m under no illusions that my tiny effort will change the tide of this issue, maybe all of us mama bears together can do just that. Stand up; speak out; say no; make a difference. Our babies are counting on it.

Lessons Learned From Park Day


Today is the last park day of summer 2018. The local public school started last week, but we homeschool moms like to pretend that we are free for a week or two longer. (Ha! We’re never free.) My sister and I (she’s the one that is actually a good teacher and knows what she’s doing) have been doing park day for a LONG time. I think we started when our 21-year-olds were probably 3? You learn a lot by watching moms at the park.

I’m what you would call a “free-range mom.” I’ve been this way for about as long as I’ve had kids. It’s just easier and more natural for me to be hands-off and low-stress. I can’t imagine the energy it takes to be a helicopter parent, and the kids don’t seem to be happier. Less is more is a win-win, right there. Still, I vaguely remember what it was like to be a young mom with ideals, schedules and clean laundry. My sister-in-law occasionally reminds me how I used to keep a journal of when, what and how much my oldest ate, slept and pooped. I honestly didn’t remember this.

Contrast that with one of our first park days last summer. We live in a tiny, rural town with a podunk city park. The bathrooms are abysmal, and they don’t always have them open right when our summer break starts. That’s always fun considering that we tend to stay all afternoon. Last summer, my youngest was about 3 1/2, and we were still new to potty training. (I bought my oldest a potty chair for his second birthday. That was dumb, and once I finally got him to stop peeing his pants well past 4, I never attempted it again. Changing diapers is vastly superior to dancing that jig for 2+years, but I digress.) He had to pee and rather than load up the kids and drive 5 miles home to the potty, I sent him to the bushes to do his business. Being 3, he dribbled a bit on the front of his pants. I spent maybe 15 seconds debating whether I would be a totally crappy mom if I didn’t go home and change him, ultimately deciding that maybe, yes, but it just wasn’t worth the hassle. It would dry in 15 minutes, and there was no reason to ruin our outing for appearances. I sent him back to his friends, and we had a lovely afternoon.

Moms judge. It’s a mark of insecurity to want to hold up our choices and ways as superior to others because, heaven knows, we feel anything but better most of the time. It’s natural, but it’s not nice. Parenting isn’t us against them. As a pretty experienced mom, though, it’s always interesting to watch this play out on the playground. I can always tell the moms that haven’t learned this lesson yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not laughing at or mocking them in my head. It’s mostly a quiet and gentle acknowledgement that the lessons will come, and they will come out kinder and more understanding of the mess of motherhood.

I don’t remember getting any sly looks the day that I let my kid play in slightly peed pants, but we’re always checking for the disapproval, aren’t we? While I’m aware, it doesn’t offend me anymore. There’s a luxury to gaining confidence and owning your own personal magic. It allows me to make space for those mothers that are awakening to the fact that we’re all imperfect and we can ultimately control pretty much nothing that our kids do or say. I know you’re doing your best. That you’ve painstakingly brushed their hair and found their shoes and picked matching clothes. So, when you mentally decide to say “screw it” when your kid pees his pants and just stay and play, there’s room on my bench for you. I’ve been there, done that and have a stash of tee-shirts that I freely share. Consider yourself initiated, just watch out for that wet spot.

I Was Just Having a Bad Day…


I’ve been a writer for a long time and a parent for even longer, but I didn’t intend to start a blog about either today, really. In fact, today started out as just another day. I had to take my 17-year-old daughter to see her foot surgeon for a follow up of her ankle surgery and go to the post office because my 21-year-old son’s college textbook was stuck in the post office lock box that wouldn’t open. When I got home, I figured I could have my 15-year-son try and determine how far behind he was on last year’s math so that he could maybe be ready to start a new book next week. (Yes, there’s a lot of kids. That’s not even quite half of them. They range from 21 to 5. And, we homeschool. Don’t worry. I’m pretty bad at it.) That’s when things went south.

My 15-year-old is my challenging child. He always has been. Okay, fine. I remember him being a very sweet baby and pleasant if determined toddler. But, by the time he hit Kindy, he was, uh, difficult? Spirited? I don’t even know. I’m trying to be positive here. That was also around the time that his little brother, number five, joined our family. I have no idea if these things are related or not. Anyways, there’s a lot of conflict that involves this particular child of mine, and he communicates poorly, so things frequently get tense and frustrating. Like today, with his math lesson. After my attempt to communicate where his progress stood and whether or not we might be ready for school next week didn’t go well, I spontaneously posted the following on my Facebook page:

I know it’s not a Pinterest-worthy sentiment, but I don’t “enjoy” motherhood. I have a particular child that I’m in active conflict with pretty much daily, and it’s been like that for probably a decade. I’m exhausted and feel like I’m doing a crappy job almost all the time. Not going to lie, some days I find it the ultimate cosmic cruelty to put people in dynamics where they’re socially and morally responsible for another person’s behavior when the actual truth is you can’t control anyone else. Feel free to leave your own confession. I clearly won’t judge. #notpinterestworthy

I’m all about being real. In fact, it’s kind of my MO, you could say. Years ago, when I still kind of felt like I knew what I was doing, I stumbled across a little book called “Confessions of a Slacker Mom,” and that book became my mothering mascot, in a way. My permission to be okay with not always being okay in this gig. So, I don’t sugar coat things, really. I feel like we don’t do each other any favors by pretending that the pristine and polished online world is where we all live. Because, I don’t. Still, even I was surprised at what a response this spur-of-the-moment post generated.

This Facebook post went live at 6:45 on a Tuesday afternoon, and I had over 50 replies by the time I went to bed at 10:00. All from moms with their own stories of living in the real world. Women that thanked me for saying out loud what they all felt and were too afraid to admit. Parenting can feel like an island of isolation and loneliness where the perfectly portrayed world around looks nothing like the life you live everyday. The real truth is that we’re all in this together. I find beauty in the mess in so many ways, and I find sisterhood in knowing that I have a tribe that lives right there with me. I don’t know all the directions I might take this blog, but I hope that the journey we walk will make you feel like someone understands and that you’re not alone. Because, you’re not. Either way, it will be therapeutic for me to write about my crazy, messy, wonderful life. It’s #notpinterestworthy, but I still love it.

Disclosure: Some of my links are affiliate links. This means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.