You Had a Birthday, Shout Hooray!


First, if you get the reference in the title today, you might be a Mormon. (Do other denominations sing that little birthday ditty? I have no idea.)

My son is going to turn 11 in just a few days. We do birthdays understated here. For my husband, it’s a step up because he was raised in a family that didn’t even always acknowledge birthdays. He has several siblings with birthdays close to him, and he was an ADULT before he ever had his own birthday cake. (In a fit of cosmic irony, him and I have birthdays a day apart. Ha ha ha!) In my family, they were celebrated faithfully, but we didn’t do anything big. When my oldest son turned 3 (18 years ago if you want to do the math) I did a “big” birthday party for him. You know, where I had a snack spread and goodie bags (I think?) and invited all his friends (aka about a dozen cousins) to help us celebrate. I don’t remember consciously deciding to never do it again at that point, but, um, I never have. Yes, you read that right. I have never again thrown a party for any of my other kids.

I can just hear the shocked gasps. My kids don’t get parties??! No bounce houses or party bags? No pile of dollar store gifts from their friends? Yea, no. I think at some point after that first trial run, I realized that doing that forever for multiple kids wasn’t sustainable, and I voted no. My kids enjoy going to other people’s birthday parties. (In fact, I think my youngest son was supposed to go to his friends’ yesterday, but I didn’t get home until late, I didn’t have all the info, and my day had already devolved beyond recognition. So sorry he missed it!) Honestly, I don’t think it even occurs to my kids to care one way or another. We always have cake and ice cream and a few modest gifts with our immediate family. If they happen to have a friend playing over that day, I’ll let them stay for dinner and cake. But, I don’t want to track down people to give invitations to or make a presentable cake (I suck at this. For real. A Kindergartner could decorate a cake better than me.) or spend a lot of money. I know this is incredibly #notpinterestworthy , but we’re seriously all so much happier without the stress.

Actually, it’s not entirely true to say that none of my kids has ever had a friend party – just that I haven’t planned or thrown it. My oldest daughters are 19 and 17, and they started planning their own parties when they were in their early teens. This works fantastic for me. They got to have everything how and when they wanted, and all I had to do was pay for a few snacks and provide a few rides. We were all happy with this arrangement.

Lest you think that I’m just too lazy to do cool things for my kids, I’ve sewn for, oh, 20 years? I taught myself when my oldest was a baby. There was a good ten years when I had 1-4 kids that I sewed every. single. item of clothing that we all wore, down to our undies. They had completely custom wardrobes – think things that go for $50- an outfit in Etsy shops today. I have also homeschooled my kids since, well, my oldest was 3. I’m with them all the time. So, I certainly do things for my kids, it’s just not extravagant birthday parties. (Why I feel like I have to put in this disclaimer… Because we moms judge each other? :/ )

I’m a people watcher, I guess you could say. One thing I’ve noticed is that kids almost always take their cue from the adults around them. Children that have helicopter parents tend to experience more fear, in my experience. Parents that have guilt about some specific lack tend to have kids that feel deprived about it. The truth is that my kids aren’t any more scarred by the lack of parties than yours are by being forced to wear clothes from Walmart and Target. I think kids find what’s normal to them, well, normal. And, there’s no need to feel mom guilt if your normal is different than your neighbors. Trust me, you don’t want to be subjected to my pathetic lack of finesse at birthdays anyway.

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Being Busy Doesn’t Make Me Better


It’s a quarter after 8, and I really should be getting up and in the shower because I have a million things to do today. If I don’t write something, though, there won’t be a blog post for tomorrow. I should stop and do school with my three youngest kids, or I’ll have to text my daughter later and beg her to help me out. (I did. She did.) Monday is my therapy day, and I drive an hour and a half to see someone who has the experience to navigate my complicated life. I still have “homework” to finish for my session. I’m also leaving early today to have lunch with a friend. Last week, I didn’t get home until after 5, and I totally stiffed my sister for our evening walk because I just plain forgot to show up. (Don’t worry, she’d done the same just the week before, so I actually made her feel better about that. Ha ha!)

Busy seems to be the buzzword of my generation. It’s almost worn as a badge of honor to be frazzled and worn out and running around constantly. I know that there are people that actually thrive on that level of activity and can’t stand to have nothing to do. I’m not that person. I like lazy days and low stress and open schedules, so I’m glad that Mondays are the exception for me. I honestly don’t think that running all the time would make me more productive. Don’t get me wrong, I can spend hours playing Gardenscapes on my phone and basically just sitting on my behind. But, I have enough quiet head space that I can also decide on a whim to whip up five shirts in a weekend or make three batches of soap in an afternoon or actually get my laundry done. When I was a younger mom, I tried this housecleaning system (Fly Lady? Is that still a thing?) where I had a schedule of things to do and areas to focus on every day/week/month. I. Hated. It. It was torture to be tethered to such structure all the time, so I quit and went back to cleaning what I wanted when I felt like it. (The standards of cleanliness were about the same.)

Being an “older mom” offers me a luxury that I don’t remember having when my bigs were little – I’m comfortable in my own skin. I appreciate my strengths and don’t try to be what other people may expect. Instead of looking around me and seeing a sea of busy and feeling lacking, I am more than content to float on my little island of quiet and mellow and relaxed. It’s true that I do drop balls, but so do my busier friends. We all do, so it’s silly to look at your neighbors and try to be them. Just do you. You’re beautiful and wonderful and worthy, and you have your unique way of moving in the world. Going against your personal tide just means you have to row harder for the same yardage that you could get easier if you went with your flow. If I’ve learned one thing that helps me to be moderately successful with my kids, my home, my marriage or anything else, it’s that perfection is overrated, and good is good enough.

P.S. I did not make it to the track today. No, I didn’t forgot. My kids often accuse me of “doing nothing.” Well, being gone all day, I couldn’t “do nothing,” and I came home to my house completely trashed because the majority of my kids did actually nothing while I was gone. Yea for busy Mondays!!

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Some Things are Best Kept to Yourself


I am not a fiction writer. I mean, I can tell you what good novel writing is – I’m a great editor, but do not ask me to invent characters and plot and believable dialogue. It’s just not my forte. Luckily, I have kids, and truth is SO much better/funnier/more interesting than fiction. Times seven sources, I have stories in spades, but this one really takes the cake. (Seriously, I was laughing until I cried.)

I’ve dropped the ball on a lot of things in all our drama this year, like our insurance paperwork. Heh. Once I finally pulled myself together enough to start picking things back up, all my kids were (over)due for dental appointments. I took the two that had visible issues first who happened to be my 5-year-old and not quite 11-year-old boys. (My 11-year-old had a tooth coming in that was blocked by a spacer and had lost a filling -again, and the 5-year-old had a chipped front tooth from when he had gotten a zipper pull stuck between his front teeth. My husband had to clip it with wire cutters and back it out. I’m legitimately amazed that he accomplished it with such minor damage to the tooth. Impressive, right there. I wish I would have been home to see it, actually.) They both got checkups, follow-up appointments because we’re not awesome enough to be a no-cavities family and, of course, a new toothbrush, toothpaste and floss. That night when we were doing our pretty hit-and-miss bedtime “routine”, I reminded both my boys to please throw away their old toothbrushes so there wasn’t crap cluttering up the drawer. AND, THEN I TRUSTED THEM TO DO IT. This was a mistake – kind of rookie mistake, actually. I should totally know better. Ha!

Fast forward to five days later, and I realized just how much I had miscalculated how wrong this could go. Oh, but, I was about to learn. Upon sending my two youngest upstairs to hopefully brush their teeth well enough to not end up with dentures at 30, I checked on my little boy who had been a little slow “putting on his pajamas” that turned out to be a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt. (You guys are going to seriously think that I make this stuff up for dramatic effect. I assure you, I do not.) As he picked through the bathroom drawer to decide which of the half-squished toothpaste tubes with missing lids he preferred, I asked him where his old toothbrush was. Picking up a few possibilities, I asked him if this was his old one that needed to be thrown away. He assured me that, nope, it wasn’t. This is how the conversation progressed:

Me -“Which one is your old one? Did you throw it away already?”

5-year-old – “Oh, no. I gave them…”

Me, in my head – “You GAVE them to… Oh, please, no. Tell me you did not.”

Me – “You gave them to…?”

5-year-old – “I had my green one like this and the other blue one. I gave them to [my friend]!

I’m not going to lie. I literally burst out laughing out loud until I was crying. (Noooooooo! WHY would you DO THAT?! Ha ha ha ha ha!) Like, I could not stop. And, then I proceeded to tell on him to my 17-year-old daughter and her boyfriend and my 19-year-old daughter and my husband as I was doubled up almost peeing myself. He was confused and miffed as to why this was not the BEST. GIFT. EVER. to give to your friend.  He finally just outright told me to stop laughing at him. (Because, I raise them assertive! All chiefs and no Indians is actually how I describe our family dynamic to people.)

Then, being a responsible and nice neighbor and an all-around decent person, I texted my son’s friend’s mom and gave her a head’s up that my beloved child had gifted her unsuspecting 4-year-old with his used toothbrushes. I almost want to screenshot our conversation, but I won’t out her without her permission as the parent of the child who accepted used toothbrushes. (You’re welcome.) I’ll just sum it up as a brief description of what my son told me, a heartfelt apology for his grossness and a lot of laughing-with-tears emojis.

Seriously, guys, THIS IS MY REAL LIFE. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.


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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 know this drill. 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.

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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.

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