Sunday, February 5, 2017

Always buy the whole chicken.

I often hear people say that healthy, whole food is expensive and hard to come by.  I will be the first to admit that it is- if you haven't been trained on how to do it right.

When we were first married and I was learning to cook my freezer always had boneless, skinless chicken breasts in it.  They got used all the time.  Now you are likely to find a small bag of frozen chicken used exclusively for when I have no leftover steak, pork roast or other goodie to put Georgia's arthritis meds in.  The actual meat we eat (when we eat chicken) comes from whole chickens.

Consider this: a fryer chicken at Costco is less than $7 when bought in packs of 2.  I can take that $7 chicken and roast if for 90 minutes if I have time.  Or I can throw it in my crock pot before work, add some potatoes and veggies around it and have dinner ready when I come home.  I cut out the breast and white meat for Sky and I, give the wings, drumsticks and skin to Alex and Dusty.  Everyone is happy.  Dinner #1.

For meal # 2 I take all the remaining meat.  With it I make soup, shredded BBQ chicken for sandwiches, chicken nachos or chicken stir fry.  Yeah, it's leftovers- but they are repurposed so nobody complains.  *note that this method used to cover two  meals.  Now that we have a teenage boy and a preteen boy in the house, it doesn't stretch quite as far as it used to.

After all the meat is  pulled off the fun begins.  I put all the bones, cartlidge, onions stuffed in the cavity and a few spices together to make broth.  Today the broth is being made in my Dutch oven on the stove, because it is rainy and we are home and I have more time.  Typically I use the crock pot overnight and give myself a few extra minutes before work to portion it out when I wake up.  I usually come out with 3 quart sized mason jars worth of stock- it used to be 4 but I prefer the stock be more condensed.  We use the stock in everything.  Especially rice!  Rice is inexpensive and easy to make but really can be boring.  With homemade chicken broth it tastes awesome!  We also use the broth for soup, stir fry...pretty much any savory recipe that calls for water gets broth instead.  Sure, I could use store bought broth- but it is expensive and high in sodium.  And I can absolutely promise it does not taste as good.

So there you go.  Buy the whole chicken.  Rather than spending $6 for chicken breasts for 4 people, spend $7 for a chicken that will provide you with 2-3 dinners and enough broth to make another 2 week's worth of inexpensive meals taste sooooo much better.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I want to give back. Where do I begin?

As the holiday season approaches and we as a society enter a time where gratitude is on our minds, I'd like to give you something to think about. Did you know that each and every day volunteer organizations are meeting the needs of our community in a quiet but vital undercurrent? These organizations serve food, provide companionship, give transportation, care for animals, assist school kids, coach sports teams, provide medical assitance...the list goes on and on. While many of these organizations have limited numbers paid staff, most would not run without those vital people who are willing to give up an hour, a day, a week of their time. The cost to society if these needs were not met would be great on all levels.

 You probably knew this already. I find that people often do recognize the importance of volunteering and the critical role volunteers play in our communities. The trouble they run in to is knowing where to start. And that is where I believe I can help.

 See, volunteering should work for everyone. It can be hard to find the extra time in our schedules to work for free. Believe me, I get it! So think of it like an exercise class. Me personally? I'm not in to running. No offense to those of you who are; but if you see me running you should assume a dinosaur is chasing me because it will never be my go-to activity. At the same time, I love yoga. I can find time in my schedule to hit the mat now and then- because I love it. It fits.

 A volunteer job is the same way. If dogs scare you and traffic gives you anxiety you probably won't be able to pencil in volunteer time at an animal rescue or a Meals On Wheels route for long. Most likely you will start with a great enthusiasm for making the world a better place but that will taper off as your work schedule gets busy and your family needs increase. On the other hand, if you love reading and choose to volunteer at your local library, those hours you committed to the job can become your respite from a hectic schedule.

Now the question is this: how do you know what will be a good fit? If you haven't volunteered before or don't know what opportunities are available, where do you start?
For that, I give you this advice: think about 4 people in your life who have helped you form your worldview. These doesn't need to be mentors or people you have spent long hours with. Though loved ones and mentors certainly can be your inspiration, also think of people who have formed your "postcard" memories. A stranger who lent you a blanket or umbrella during a particularly rainy soccer game; a lady down the street who gave you tips on gardening when you were young; a veteran whose experience gave you glimpse in to what it really takes to live in "the land of the free". Once you have those influential people and moments in mind, consider what they all have in common. Were you grateful to be warm and dry? Glad of the companionship or happy to know more about growing food? Humbled by the experience of a soldier or moved by the need for more advocacy? The answers to these questions will tell you where to begin your volunteer search.

 For me one of those postcard moments was a childhood friend named Frank. I was 4 years old and lived across the cul-de-sac from an apartment building that housed senior citizens. Frank was a senior who acted as caregiver for his ailing wife. I don't remember what Frank looked like. I think he was tall, but at 4 years old everyone seemed tall to me. All I remember is that he would meet me at the mailbox with a smile and ask me how my day was. I loved talking to Frank. He was an adult that I wasn't related to who valued me as a person. He also lent me baking supplies when my mom was short for a recipe and I wanted cookies. And he made me a quilt that is still in my family's possession to this day.

 Fast forward 30 years. Today I manage two Meals On Wheels People sites. People often ask me what my motivation is in doing this work. Frank remains a big part of that motivation. Frank made me feel validated when I was younger. I'd like to make people Frank's age feel validated now. At the same time my work with Meals On Wheels has made me really appreciate food safety- so when it comes my turn to volunteer for a sports team, I am totally on it with the snack shack. I even enjoy it. Heck, I'll do it an extra time or two. But ask me to count plays and I will probably have a hard time making that work.

  The world has many helpers and yet there is never a shortage in need. Filling those needs can seem overwhelming. So as you approach the holidays with thoughts of gratitude and giving back, consider this: you can't fill all those needs. You can, however, fill the needs that you were called to fill. Start there and the whole world will be better (yours included).

Know how you want to help? Here are some links to get you started.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

It's more than "no means no".

This week I came across the letter written by Brock Turner's father to the courts, pleading for leniency in sentencing.  Like so many others I was upset and disgusted by it in such a way that I found myself speechless and struggling to put words to my feelings.  I read opinion pieces by others and Facebook statuses from friends.  While I agreed with many of them- nothing summed up my specific thoughts.
This morning the words just formed.  I've been chewing on them all day to determine wether or not to share them.  But I think I have to, because I think I bring a perspective to this that others may not have the experience to  see.
As the mother of a teenage son, I have had the "rape is not ok" talk.  I'm quite proud of myself for getting over my aversion of talking birds and bees enough to say this rather explicitly and with no loopholes.  I also don't believe this was a one time conversation. This is a conversation I will repeat though out the years.  It's a conversation that will begin with the little dude soon as well.

What bothered me most about the Brock Turner case was reading the letter written by his victim.  Specifically when she writes that she still isn't sure that he knows he did anything wrong, even now.

Warning: this post gets pretty personal from here on out.

I don't often think of myself as a rape survivor.  Not that I don't feel I belong in the category, but more that after many years and lots of healing I no longer feel that it defines me in the way it once did.  If this post is a shock to you, it isn't because I didn't find you worthy of sharing with- it's because for a long time it was private, and then I had to face it, and when I did face it,  it healed in a way that allowed me to move on enough to not talk about much.  
My rapist was a kid very much like Brock Turner.  Hard working parents, solid family, good in school, well accomplished in his chosen sport, on track to get a scholarship from a school that I knew I'd probably never even get accepted in.  All of his teachers would have said he was exemplary.  His parents were justifiably proud of his accomplishments.  I certainly think everyone assumed  he knew right from wrong.
Here's the thing: the one part that still haunts me almost 20 years later is that in most cases he DID know right from wrong.  And to this day I don't know if he knows he was wrong.  I often wonder if I ran in to him at the store would he shy away, knowing the years of damage he caused me and not wanting to make a scene?  Or would he approach it like a meeting with any high school girlfriend and be shocked when I struggled to keep my composure while getting away as fast as I could?
This probably seems crazy, right?  How could he not know? In a day and age where you can find awesome YouTube videos about consent and victims are speaking out more than ever- and coming from the place on an empowered 30something and not the teen who struggled with feelings of inadequacy at most turns- it seems crazy. But the truth is, he may not have known because I didn't know.
It was a really confusing time.  I had reluctantly but with full consent given this boy a special part of me.  The first time, and all the emotions that came with it.  But after that first time I felt regret.  I knew I couldn't magically take back my virginity but I figured God would at least appreciate if I didn't continue making the same choices.  So I decided not to do it again.  Since I was sure this boy loved and respected me I was sure he would understand.
That night I went to his house like I had many times but when I got there he was home alone.  I was immediately nervous because, like most girls had learned, it isn't a good idea to put yourself at risk by being home alone with a boy who you don't want to have sex with.  I honestly don't remember much beyond my initial feeling that this wasn't a good idea and later staring up at the ceiling, crying, saying "I don't want to" in a quiet voice with no power behind it because I didn't feel empowered at all.  I do remember that afterwards I was in so much pain that he gave me a pill of some sort and I lay on his couch in a daze worrying that I would be out too late and get in trouble.  On my way home it started snowing lightly and I was scared because I didn't know how to drive in the snow.  When I got home my mom was upset because I was out too late and she was worried I wouldn't get home safely.
I never saw him again because he went out of state for a tournament over the winter break and found someone new.  When he called to break up with me he was surprised at how hostile I was.  For that matter, I was surprised at how hostile I was.  I was sick and angry in so many ways.  That something special had been lost, that I allowed it to be lost, that I gave it to someone who would dump me over the phone on Christmas Eve and that I still wasn't feeling ok about the last time I saw him.  
He went to a school far away so I never had to see him again.  We both worked as lifeguards but there are lots of pools and I simply made sure he wasn't on staff before taking hours at a new pool. It wasn't unusual for teens to date and break up and not want to work together so nobody really questioned it.
In the spring I met a guy who I fell for.  I had a panic attack while we were kissing that made it obvious there was a reason, so I ended up telling him about the last time I'd had sex and how awful it was.  And he said "that's rape".  And I swear to you, it was like a lightbulb went off.  I had never put those words to it.  Instead I had berated myself for thinking that the tears and the obvious lack of enjoyment and feeble cries of "I don't want to" were enough to get the message across.  I had been thinking that because I never got up and shouted "NO!", and because I had already done it consentually, and because I had placed myself in the position to be alone with him, it was my fault.  And here was someone else saying with actual matter of factness that I was raped.  
It changed my life.  I didn't immediately get past the hurt, but I had words for it.  And I had acknowledgement that it wasn't all my fault.
And that's why Brock Turner sticks out to me.  Because not only does he not seem to realize what he did but his father also comes across as not getting it.  And since he was basically the golden child, and she wasn't screaming "I don't consent" at the top of her lungs, they seem stunned that he is labeled as a rapist.  After all, he just made one bad decision.
And that's why I am sharing this.  Because it hit me this morning that as the mother of sons I have a big job to do.  I have to be sure they know rape isn't ok.  And I have to make sure they know that rape sometimes looks like it does in the movies, where a girl is running in horror as a monster chases her down the alley before ripping her clothes off.  And sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes it looks a lot quieter.  A lot less violent.  But it still leaves a victim with years of turmoil that feels like water too deep to stand in.  And sometimes rapists don't look like the big, bulky guy leering in the shadows but the guy who everyone thinks is going places.  And that just because the voice is quieter or the act is one of selfishness rather than outright malice, it still isn't ok.  
I don't really know how to end this post.  I guess I'll just end it by saying that I respect the hell out of Brock Turner's victim, and wish her healing and strength.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

10 things we got right about Disneyworld

Before we went to DisneyWorld, I spent lots of time researching what to do and where to go while at Disney.  Some of these tips I learned really made our trip better!  Some tips I didn't follow and I should have- those will be mentioned in another post.  Here are 10 things that I feel really made a positive difference for us:

1) Following Disney Dining (and other fan sites) on Facebook.  This is a fan page that posts different tips and tricks every day.  For the year leading up to our trip it became my morning routine to grab coffee and read the morning article before the kids woke up.  Actually, now I'm not really sure what to do with myself when I wake up.  Maybe plan for the next trip?

2)  Getting up early.  I kept reading the "don't sleep in" advice and cringing.  For us, getting to the park at 8am (morning Magic Hours opening) is the equivalent of hopping on a roller coaster at 5am.  And I wouldn't really consider us morning people.  BUT I have to say that after the first day we were totally sold.  The difference between the park at 9:30 and the park at noon is honestly enough to make the experience.

3)  Pulling the kids out of school to go on the off season.  Look, I get that this can be controversial.  I understand people may think we are irresponsible.  Heck, my family is full of teachers and education has always been a big deal around here.  My kids will have a lot of work to do to catch up, for sure.  But I just can't believe that it wasn't worth it.  They may not have learned math on the trip, but they learned a lot about themselves and we learned a lot about us as a family.  Could we have done it in the summer?  Yes.  But, that would have been really hard on my work schedule.  And the longest wait time we faced was 70 minutes- which had actually been miscalculated.  We stepped on the ride 40 minutes after getting in line.  Most of our wait times were 15-25 minutes.

4)  Staying at a Disney resort.  Granted, we didn't stay at the right resort for us (more on that in another post).  However- even without really liking the resort we stayed at, we got some big advantages out of the deal.  Extra Magic Hours are awesome.  We kept walking on to rides that are super popular.  Magic Bands are really cool.  It really is like wearing a magic bracelet that holds the keys to your happiness.  Disney Transportation was great!  There are some areas I saw for improvement, but ultimately not having to drive and park in an unfamiliar place was fantastic.  Having a park hopper option every day provided us with great freedom.  Since our kids are old enough to kind of "go with the flow", I loved the idea of being able to go wherever we felt like going.  Also, did I mention how valuable the Extra Magic Hours are?

5)  Utilizing Amazon Prime, Disney's willingness to accept packages on guests' behalf and Florida's wonky sales tax laws.  We are simply not meant to be eating junk food on a regular basis, and one of our vacation pitfalls in the past has been not keeping a healthy diet while we travel.  It costs too much, it makes us feel yucky, and it makes us homesick.  So before we arrived at our resort I had some of our go-to snacks and breakfast foods shipped to the resort.  It was much less expensive than buying similar items at Disney and kept us well fueled.  Not having to buy constant snacks for growing boys meant that when we DID eat out, we had more money for the food we really wanted.  Bonus: when Dusty realized that his golf shoes were sitting at home, we ordered some Nike golf shoes for under $60, used Prime to get them before his golf day and simply picked them up from the front desk when they called to notify us that a package had arrived.  Have you seen golf shoe prices in Resort Pro Shops?  Let's just say that would have taken a chunk out of our t-shirt budget!

6)  Making water a priority.  Before we left for the parks I made every member of the family drink a glass of water (I had bought 6 gallons of bottled water and a few lemons when we arrived).  Every day we all had Nalgene bottles filled with lemon water when we left.  I've got to be honest- I couldn't drink the tap water there.  But when we were at sit down restaurants with good filters they were happy to fill our bottles or give us to go cups at the end of the meal.  Between those things and being willing to spend money on bottled water at the parks if we ran out, it kept us feeling happy and healthy while walking an average of 8 miles a day.  The *one* day that my 9 year old didn't bring his water bottle, he almost missed out on the Magic Kingdom the following day due to a headache and generally feeling yucky.  After re-hydrating we realized he was just dried out and we went on to have one of our very best days of the trip.

7)  Making dining reservations ahead of time!  And signing up for Disney Dining Buddy for the reservation we could not get.  Most of our dining reservations were made about 1 1/2 months in advance.  In retrospect, we should have made them 3 months in advance because some of the more popular reservations are SUPER hard to get.  I was very disappointed to miss out on Be Our Guest, so I paid a total of $24 ($8/ea for 3 different slots to watch) to a service that notified me when a reservation came available.  On the Saturday that we were at Disneyworld I got a text that there was an opening at Be Our Guest for lunchtime Monday.  Getting in a restaurant I really wanted to see, when I didn't think it was possible, seriously made my trip more magical.

8)  Staying late a few nights.  Look, we opened the parks every day so by 7pm we were exhausted.  The nights we stayed until close, Dusty and I looked at each other around 8pm and wondered if we should just throw in the towel and get on a bus or boat home.  But then, the fireworks started at 9 and it was obvious that staying was a good choice.  Having older kids it may seem like "eh, they've seen fireworks before"- but no, your local 4th of July show isn't the same.  Disney isn't just in the fireworks business, they are in the magic business.  And it doesn't matter how old you are, they are magic.  Bonus: when you come home on Disney transportation after the fireworks, you ride with a whole bus full of excited and happy kids who are right in the middle of a childhood dream.  It was adorable and inspiring, and in general everyone was in a better mood at 9:45 than they were at 7.

9)  Buying the picture package.  This is the thing I came closest to not doing.  I *almost* made the mistake of not buying the Memory Maker package, but a more experienced friend encouraged me to do so.  I am SO HAPPY with this purchase!  Here it is, September, and I am aching to make Christmas cards because I have some awesome and professional photos.  I didn't have to carry a camera around and the quality is good enough to hang up on the wall.  Plus, I'll be honest that I am terrible at talking to strangers.  I am just not comfortable asking someone I don't know to shoot a candid of my family.  I paid $170 for this, but when you calculate how long we were there it was less than $30/day.  It was also less expensive than a photo package from a local photographer, and I don't think we will need to do that for a couple years now!

10)  Not being TOO frugal.  Sure, there were ways that I wanted to save money.  There were also some ways that I didn't.  In the end I didn't pre-buy t-shirts and light sabers.  I let the boys pay Disney prices and choose the ones they wanted.  We brought snacks into the park but made sure to stop for some of the really good ones I'd read about (the turkey legs are awesome!).  They both got yet another baseball cap, and they probably didn't need them.  But the things we spent money on that we really didn't have to were certainly things that we will remember.  And although I used the word "no" a few times, that wasn't my go-to answer and I'm pretty sure the kids won't remember hearing it much while we were on vacation.  At home I feel like I say "no" all the time.  It was nice to let up a bit at the happiest place on earth!


We are just home from our biggest family vacation ever!  It is currently 6:12 in the morning and I have already had 1 1/2 cups of coffee, played referee to brother wars over ridiculous things and considered doing laundry (I'm still on the fence with that one).  This is for three reasons: 1) we are still on Florida time. 2) We are still on "wake up early because we want to get to the park before everyone else!" time. 3) We all fell asleep around 2pm yesterday and confused our animals by basically sleeping through the night.  Speaking of our animals, Cubby (the cat) doubled in size on our trip.  We all kinda walked in and did a double take!  Georgia briefly wagged her tail to see me and then gave me a look that clearly said "you have some explaining to do", and Max was...Max.  As usual.

For the record, I knew I would hate this ride.  But I did it anyhow because the 9 year old wanted to.  The boys loved it.  I didn't die, so...

Here are 10 of my favorite things from our trip:

-The boys were so busy having fun that they didn't really argue after 9am.  The arguing literally started as we walked through the door at home, though, so don't worry- they were not, in fact, replaced by aliens.

-Both boys dropped the "too cool big kid" thing.  I have to say that both Disneyworld and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter seemed to intentionally reach out to Skyler to help him drop the tween attitude and reluctance to be a kid.  At Animal Kindom we took photos with the characters from Up and Russell grabbed Sky's hand and walked him down the street.  This sent all of us, Sky included, into fits of giggles.  It also led to lots of other guests looking at us and wondering what was going on- which led to more giggles because we had no idea.  At Olivander's Wand Shop Skyler was chosen to be the wizard who was chosen by a wand, complete with books flying off the shelves and magical lighting when the right wand was found.  This is exactly what we were hoping for on this trip and I am so very grateful for the little pause in almost-a-teenager attitude.
Sky's wand is hazel with dragon heartstring in the center.

-Alex grew up.  We don't know how, exactly.  It is one of those childhood things you can't really put a finger on.  I remember it happened with Sky the first year he went to summer camp.  All the sudden you just realize- wow, something changed!  Sometime during the trip, he just shed his "little boy" demeanor.  It is kind of sad, but at the same time it is rewarding to see the person he is growing in to.
We saw the Blue Man Group at Universal Studios.  Alex loved it, and loved the band that played with them- both for their love of music and their shared passion for neon colors.

-Family pictures!  Pictures that may have still been posed, but at least the smiles and excitement were completely genuine.  I can't wait to make Christmas cards this year!
Our family at Epcot.  Sky age 12, Alex age 9.

-The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I totally geeked out and I am not even a little bit ashamed.  I could have wandered around for a week, just looking at all the small details.

-Be Our Guest restaurant.  Getting to eat lunch in the middle of one of my favorite childhood movies was magical.  The fact that all the males I had with me completely went along with it so that I could feel like a little girl again was even more awesome.  At The Grey Stuff?  Amazing.  They weren't kidding!

-Being the only girl in the group.  One thing I love about being the mom of only boys, now that the boys are too old to go in the women's restroom?  3 minute breaks from parenting every couple hours.  :-)

-Roller Coasters (seriously!).  Everyone who knows me will probably be surprised to read this.  Normally I avoid thrill rides.  But at 9 & 12, I knew going in that I was going to have to do this.  I didn't want to be the parent who didn't participate, so I took some Calm Spirit tea pills and some nausea meds and decided to join in.  Turns out the Tower of Terror was one of my favorite rides, the Dragon Challenges were fun and scary but ultimately fun won out, and I'm glad I rode the Rockin' Roller Coaster...twice.  However, you will never see me step foot on the Rockit Roller Coaster at Universal ever again.  Once was enough, thankyouverymuch.  At least I can say I tried it!

-The safari ride at Animal Kingdom.  Actually, just Animal Kingdom in general.  The whole place was an amazing mix of a really good zoo (and seeing as The Oregon Zoo is my home zoo, my standard is pretty high) and fun amusement park.  Loved it!

-Having fun as a family.  What can beat that?  It was just honestly a really, really fun time.  Even the stuff that wasn't perfect (there are some things I would have done differently after all is said and done) was completely overshadowed by AWESOME.
This was taken on our first day- it was the first ride we did, as soon as Extra Magic Hours began.  It was 8:10 am there.  When we all got queasy we realized we had pretty much just done the Tower of Terror at 5:10am because we hadn't yet adjusted to the time difference.  After the first day, we started mornings with lower-key rides.

I loved Disney.  I thought this would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but I gotta say...maybe we will have to return.  I hear Harry Potter is coming to California soon, and once that happens I don't know that we would fly across the country, but I don't think we are done with theme parks yet.  

I am so very grateful for this awesome family experience.  And now, back to real life!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My house is a disaster and I might be losing my mind.

I'm having trouble even looking at my living room.  And the table my family used to eat at every night?  It's buried under mail to be sorted and end-of-the-school-year papers that I haven't looked through.  I feel like my children having clean underwear should earn me a gold medal, and I haven't worn any work clothes that need to be ironed in at least a month.  Why?


Juggling work and family has always been a careful balance, as any working parent knows.  During baseball season- when each kid has 3-5 obligations each week, and never in the same place but always at the same time- the balance...doesn't balance.  Aside from my house taking a hit, my desk at work is piled with papers I really need to get to and I seriously need to start planning my next fundraiser, someday.  My Type A work personality has turned in to a Type ADD personality (in related news, I am seriously thinking of asking my doctor if Sky's ADD comes from me).  I'm a mess.

BUT...look at these faces.  Seriously.  Just look at them.

Sky, waiting to take the field.

Alex, moments after earning the coolest hat ever (the hat that comes with being chosen for the All Star team).

Skyler is taking his meds every day without reminders, not arguing about bedtime and- when school was in session- making sure he got his homework done so coach didn't bench him.  His confidence has increased and his work ethic has become admirable.  Alex is literally standing in the middle of the living room right now, working on his swing.  He never stops playing baseball.  The child talks to his coach in his sleep (seriously).

I have read countless articles bemoaning the over scheduling of children these days and the dangers of hyper-competitive sports at a young age.  Those concerns are on my radar, I promise.  But what I am learning is that some kids thrive on this stuff.  While I remember standing on the ball field wishing this game would get over already as a kid, Alex mopes around the house on "rest days" feeling like this is the most boring day ever.  He can relate anything at all to life at the ball park.  The lens he sees the world through is round and has red stitching through it.

And it isn't just about entertainment.  It's about life lessons.  A week ago, Skyler didn't want to go to practice.  He told me he was burnt out and didn't sign up for such a long season or so many practices.  His allergies were bad and he wanted to stay on the couch.  Though I felt bad for him, I told him it wasn't happening.  He made a commitment to his team, and he'd better get in the car because Coach doesn't like when he is late.  Practice is happening, dude.  Two days ago I watched him stop a runner at 3rd base, when another run could very well have meant the game for us.  On the way home, he felt awesome about his contributions against a really tough opponent.  He knew his teammates depended on him and couldn't wait to continue on in the tournament.  You know, with all the ups and downs Sky has gone through in life, I'd argue with anyone at all over the merits of that catch the other day.  It was totally worth the time, the money and the feeling that life is completely overwhelming right now.  

Today we are off to the District Championship game.  Sky's team plays a tough team for the title, and Alex will spend a few hours on the sidelines playing a mock game with all the younger siblings who want to be just like brother.  We will be super hot and tired of driving 3 hours a day for the 3rd day in a row, and we will probably bemoan the awful feeling we get after eating fast food for dinner.  But seriously?  I just wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why I talk smack about my kid on social media.

I adore Skyler.  Nothing he could ever do will make me love him less, though I don't always like his behavior.  I believe that he knows he isn't perfect, and I see a desire in him to keep making progress on this whole growing up bit.  And I admit that he may be mad at me if he knew how much I post about him.  At this point I am hoping that by the time he has his own tween he will forgive me.

But I'm not sharing this stuff for him.  I'm sharing it because of all the challenges we have faced with ADHD/ODD, the hardest to deal with is how isolating it can feel.  When all you see on social media and at the park is happy, well behaved kids with excellent, calm parents- it hurts.  That is nobody's fault.  I LOVE seeing pictures of your adorable children.  I love reading about the funny things they say and do.  I am happy for your family successes and I post these things, too.  Please don't take this as me asking you not to post about the award your kid got or your child's delicious Santa picture.

But you know who else I appreciate?  The mom who posts that perhaps today-in-parenting isn't going so well.  The parent who posted that her kid had a meltdown in the grocery store and the dad whose daughter thinks he "just doesn't get it".  The adult children who mention that they appreciate their parents putting up with them because, well, sometimes they were hard to put up with.

There are parenting books on how to handle tantrums, dedicated teachers who come up with creative success strategies and wonderful therapists who help families work through power struggles.  There are many struggles that come along with a child who has extra challenges (or any kid, for that matter), and thankfully many tools to deal with these things exist.  But that doesn't mean it isn't isolating.  That is doesn't make you question your parenting or even your sanity now and then.

I know I'm not the only parent who, when asked "how is the school year going?" at a PTA meeting has to quickly think- should I really say, or will I get that "yikes, sorry I asked" look?  I'm not the only parent who has skipped a company party because I fear that a tantrum could leave my childless colleagues seeing me in a different light.  I'm not the only parent who has debated over medication vs. therapy vs. yet another parenting strategy vs. giving up and drinking wine.  But for awhile it sure felt like it.  And that made this whole situation so much harder.  What's more, since I felt isolated and was afraid to be honest about the hardships, nobody was there to tell me that it's ok and that I am NOT an awful parent who just isn't getting this mommy gig right.  So in addition to my kid's behaviors beating me up emotionally, I added a whole ton of self blame on it until I was almost drowning.  If I drown, what happens to Skyler?

And guess what got me through?  The mom who admitted on Facebook that her son's ADHD was bringing her to the point of exhaustion.  Because she was willing to admit that maybe the smiling family photo doesn't tell the whole story, but I could tell that she is a great mom and her kid will make it out of childhood just fine.

I don't want other parents to struggle but the truth is that they will.  And if they remember that time I posted that a call from the teacher completely derailed my day...maybe when they get that call, they will skip the feeling-like-a-failure stage and go straight to the figure-this-out phase.

I love my child so much.  He is incredibly empathetic and creative and funny.  I am convinced that eventually the ADHD will be a help to him- the kid doesn't need coffee to go all out, all day long!  But he isn't perfect.  And he doesn't think he is, and I don't think he is.  If I did we would just skip all this hard stuff and wish him luck in adulthood.

I am sharing it on social media because as necessary as this parenting job is, it is HARD.  And I have come to realize that admitting that isn't weakness or negative or overly dramatic- it's just real.  I will not add to it by contributing to society's habit of posting the good stuff and not talking about the hard stuff.

So I post that my kid got a referral.  Or a few.  And I post that I followed his little butt around school and check in with the teachers, even though it means eyerolls and proclamations of "you are ruining my life!".  Some parents won't understand why I post what I do.  But honestly?  I'm not posting for those parents.  I'm posting for the parent who will hopefully someday feel comfortable reaching out because they remember the time that my status admitted that from time to time my awesome kid is a pain in the butt.  Because you aren't alone, and you shouldn't feel like it.