Monday, September 19, 2016

the one about my "bump"

I love a good compliment...both giving and receiving. Compliments are good for the soul, and we should give them freely to both our loved ones and perfect strangers.





If the compliment you are forming in your brain is something along the lines of, "You are an adorable pregnant lady," you might better stop and really think about that before you blurt it out.

Because...well...she might not actually be pregnant.

Friends, as I was exiting a store over the weekend, a woman yelled across the parking lot (at me as I was the only one in earshot), "THAT'S AN ADORABLE PREGO SHIRT!" 

My brain: "Shit."

My face: Half-assed smile over my shoulder.

My brain: "Just keep walking. She will go away."


My brain: "%&^#! I'm fat. And I thought this shirt was slimming."

My heart: Trampled. Crushed. Broken. 

Lady: Trots away proudly thinking she made my day.

I mean, I have mirrors. I know that I am not skinny by any means. I know that I carry my weight in my belly (and my arms and my face and my legs but mostly my belly). I can see how this can be confusing.

But everyone... you can't just go around assuming that every woman with some extra in the middle is pregnant. Actually, you can if you want to...but the error is when you act on that assumption. When you yell something across a parking lot or issue a well-intentioned yet incorrect congratulations. You just can't. 

Why? Because it's hurtful. 

Even if your intention was to do a good thing (and in these cases, nearly 99.9% of the intentions are good...I know this), the consequences of being wrong are far more detrimental than the benefits of being right. 

In public, we tend to rely on the easier compliments to give-- which are the ones based on the things we can see...such as physical appearance. In general, we don't know if the lady waiting in front of us in line is really intelligent or a great mother or awesome at public speaking or can bake an award-winning cheesecake, so in an attempt to connect and be kind and make conversation, we pick something easy like her hair or her lipstick or clothes or her shoes to compliment. 

Most of the time, if a woman is not pregnant (or not visibly), we don't say to perfect strangers, "Ma'am, I was just noticing here in the prescription pick-up line that your ass is on point today."

Or "Lady, I just have to tell you that your stomach is so flat. I just love it."

But once a woman is obviously pregnant (or you just assume that she is), her body is evidently eligible for public commentary.

"Your belly is so cute!"

"You just have a basketball in there, don't you!?"

"When are you due? You look like you are about to pop!"

"I got big like you when I was pregnant."

"You must be having a girl. When you have a girl, you carry wider."

"You are just all belly!"

So in the case of what happened to me most recently, all hurt feelings could have been avoided if she would have taken the part referencing my body out of the compliment and simply said yelled, "YOUR SHIRT IS ADORABLE! IT LOOKS GREAT ON YOU!"

But because she thought I was pregnant, she assumed it was perfectly fine to throw that in there, too. And the only reason she thought I was pregnant was because of my belly. I wasn't waddling around eating pork rinds dipped in peanut butter, asking for someone to time my contractions. There were no other clues.

Some of you reading this might be thinking that I should use this situation to fuel a new weight-loss ambition. That I should take it to heart and be inspired to change. That I shouldn't be upset because the lady had good intentions.

You are entitled to that opinion, but for me and most women I know, these types of situations do nothing but crush me, defeat me, and make me drive to Chick-Fil-A for a #1, large (YES I want the fries large, too), no pickles, with a side of punch me in the face.

And ya'll, I know there are worse things than being asked if I am pregnant. Pregnancy is a beautiful, wonderful thing that I have been blessed to experience multiple times. However, remember that there are many women who have suffered pregnancy loss, infertility, and other heart breaking situations that you know nothing about, and bringing it up in such a way can be extremely detrimental to any kind of healing process.

So, I decided to make a little flow chart for handy reference. Screen shot it. Save it to your phone. Pull it out whenever you are faced with the dilemma of being in the presence of a woman who might pregnant. Save yourself, and most importantly her, a lot of heartache.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

the one about the tree housE

I have debated with myself about whether or not to share this part of our lives, but I tend to be a sharer. Probably an over-sharer. And when something so big and crazy is consuming my daily thoughts, I have to put pen to to keyboard, and process everything in the best way I know how. Through writing.

Let me start from the beginning.

When my husband and his brothers were younger and still living with their parents, they would help an older man who lived down the road take care of his property. This property, in its entirety, is 55 acres of classified forest with a sprawling ranch home built in 1942 sitting somewhere in the middle of it. 

Luke would plant daffodils in a giant field for this man and help repair or build new rock walls around flower beds, among other things. Over the course of the years that Luke worked on this property, he fell in love with it.

Fast forward many years later, when Luke is in medical school and then residency...that same older man who owned the property began planting the seed that Luke should buy this property from him and raise our family there. 

My first answer was absolutely not.

My second answer was over my dead body.

My third answer was Hell no.

You catch my drift? I didn't want to live there. I am not the most outdoorsy gal. I don't enjoy extreme temperatures. I don't like bugs, snakes, spiders, etc. I can appreciate nature and all its glory, but I don't necessarily need to live out in the middle of a forrest. Not to mention the home on the property was 70+ years old. Outdated. Too small for our family. Not our style. 

I don't know what happens in our marriage, but it seems that most of the time, Luke is able to convince me of just about anything. What starts as a very firm no somehow becomes an, "If it makes you happy." I guess that is what marriage is supposed to be about. 

I was pregnant with Shiloh, sitting in a hotel lobby in Nashville, Tennesee, when Luke first called to tell me that he had gone out to speak with "Doc" (that's the name I will use here since that is what we call him and he is a retired doctor) about the property and how much he would charge us to buy it. 

I remember laughing out loud, thinking there was no way that we could ever afford it or that we would ever want to spend that kind of money on a bunch of trees and a house that would surely need a complete and total gutting. 

That was two years ago.

We tabled the discussion until after I had given birth to Shiloh. I was finally able to make a visit to the house and the property, and I guess, somehow, I fell in love with it, too.

The sound of silence is an incredible thing when you live in a world of chaos. The way you feel so small standing among the giant trees that have been there for years and years. I could picture my children playing in the woods, running in the field of daffodils their papa planted. I knew then that Luke's dream had become my own, and that we had to make this happen somehow for us and for our girls.

It's not that we hadn't been looking for homes in other parts of Delaware County. We certainly had been. We would spend our Sundays going on drives and spotting houses, coffee in hand, wondering if we could see ourselves starting our forever there. We cruised neighborhoods, country roads, and everything in between. We found plenty of beautiful homes, but nothing was our style. 

There was one home, however, that was our "dream home." A home we said we had to at least go in and walk through if it ever came up for sale. Luke excitedly texted me one day in April of 2015 that the home was for sale. It was miles out of our price range, but we decided to take a look anyway. As we walked through this stunning home, we realized that even if we could make the money work, we still didn't feel attached to the overall style of the home and thus couldn't see ourselves living there. The realtor did tell us who the builder was and said how his homes were wonderful and we should look him up if we ever think of building. We logged this builder's name into memory and walked away from that home, knowing what we really wanted to do.

In May of 2015, Luke signed an agreement with Doc, naming the price of the land and when we would be able to purchase it. We spent that entire winter visiting the property while Doc was at his second home in Florida. He gave us the keys so we could take contractors in and do measurements and think if ideas of how we would make this house work for us. We spent hours out there with our girls, with our family members, and eventually, with that contractor who came so highly recommended. 

We began our relationship with this person in January of 2016. He was excited to do our project. His eyes grew wide when he set foot on the property, and he expressed how much he always wanted to live on a property like this. He said he was tired of building the same type of home, and that he was ready to show Muncie something different. He gave us an estimated start date, which was October of 2016. He met us at his office. He met us out at the house. He took measurements. He recommended we get an architect on board so that we could have the house we truly wanted. So, in March of 2016, we hired our architect, Cynthia. We were thrilled to have her knowledge and expertise, and she was also excited about our project.

More meetings. More discussions. More emails. 

All the while, we felt good about having some key pieces of the puzzle in place. Contractor. Architect. And as of August of 2016, the process of buying the property began. Doc was "ready" to part with it and downsize to a condo. I use the term "ready" loosely, because he is deeply attached to the property and would probably stay there forever, but he is also excited for our family to love it for the next 50 years like he has.

We decided a while back that we did not want all 55 acres. Or maybe I should say, we did not want to pay for all 55 acres. The idea of owning 55 acres of land sounds amazing, but for the price tag, we thought we should stick to 40 acres and the house. We would be building basically a new house in the place of the old one, so we needed every last penny to go toward our actual living space, not just more trees. 

Here we sit, over 1 year past our initial agreement on price and intent to purchase, and 2 years past that initial conversation about buying the property in the first place....and we still barely have anything to show for it except for some paperwork that is working its way through the mortgage approval system. We are hoping to close on the house in September.

But, we felt confident in the people we chose to be a part of this project.

That is until yesterday.

Remember that contractor? The one who came so highly recommended? The one who was excited about this house, about doing something different, about building on property he had always wanted himself? The one who put us on his calendar back in the spring for an October start date and verified this date as little as three weeks ago?

Well, he completely backed out on us yesterday.

He called us to his office for a meeting that we thought was to hash out the bid on the project. How much he would charge us, what our next steps would be, and how to get this whole process going for October. 

We made small talk and shot the breeze about fishing and Luke's Canada trip, and then he basically said he didn't have the time to do our project...not now, not in the future, not ever. He didn't have the manpower. It wouldn't fit our budget. And that our project would end up "being a disaster."

After 8 months of communicating with this person, and being told up to three weeks ago that he was still on board and set to start in October, he drops us like we were nothing.

Now, if you know me personally, you know that I can't hold my emotions in. I cry when I am mad. I don't hide "my face" well. I speak my mind. 

And I did all of those things yesterday in that office with a man who showed the professionalism of a litter box. 

So what's the big deal? Well, the big deal is that because of this "timeline" he gave us of starting in October, we built our house purchase around that as well. Do you think we would be purchasing a house that we weren't ready to do anything with for 6 months? No. We planned to purchase the house right now because we were told the project would be starting this Fall. 

Who loves the idea of paying a mortgage on a house that will be sitting unoccupied and not under construction while we still own the house we currently live in? I don't know about you, but flushing money down the toilet isn't one of my favorite pastimes.

But who am I most angry with? 

Honestly? It's us. I am most angry with us.

We were naive. We were taking far too human of an approach with this process. We trusted this person when we had no reason to actually trust him. We believed what he told us, but we had nothing on paper. We didn't start a relationship with another builder because we were wanting to preserve the relationship we had with him. We didn't want him to puff out his chest and get defensive if we told him that we had actually been working with another contractor at the same time and decided to go with the other guy instead.

We didn't want to waste his time.

Isn't that funny? We were so concerned with wasting this person's time that we ended up just wasting our own.

So Friends, that's what you get for trying to be a good person. For trying to be honest. For trying to trust that the person who has been working with you for 3/4 of a year would not lead you down the wrong path.

We don't know what our next step will be. We have a list of other contractors we will be calling, but there is a very good chance that no one will want to take on this project this late into the year. There's an even better chance that this project will not start until Spring of 2017 and won't be finished until long past a year from now. There's also a really, really great chance that this person will find a flaming bag of poopy diapers on his front door mat, but you didn't hear that from me.

So, for now, my children will still sleep 3 to a bedroom, which they love. Our living room is still too small for a big party of people, but we make it work. We don't have 40 acres of woods to adventure through, but we have a yard and a swing set. I don't have a folding table in my laundry room, but I hate folding laundry anyway. My kitchen isn't state of the art, but I can still feed my family

In the midst of the tornado damage in Kokomo and the flooding in Louisiana and the numerous tragedies all over the world, I must remind myself of these luxuries that I still have, even in a house that I am eager to leave behind. 

Luke's brother built a home on 30+ acres of land, and they call it The Field HousE (uppercase E on the end for Ernstberger).

I'm calling ours The Tree HousE.

I cherish these photos we took in May of 2015 (taken at The Tree HousE by Kira Childers), right after we agreed to purchase this property "someday." Before all the heartache and letdown and hurry up and wait. 

I plan to continue to share our progress on the house and how this story unfolds. I hope you'll stay tuned.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The one about sticks and stones

Um, hi. I am just looking for a cool new bumper sticker.

I want it to say, "My child is an honor student pulled a stick today."

How many other parents would be interested in purchasing one?

It was inevitable. I knew it would happen sooner or later. No child is perfect, and my years in the classroom taught me that even the best and brightest will slip up and "pull a stick," "flip a card," "clip a strip," "clip down," "lose a star," or any other cute way to say, "You slipped up."

When my eyes met Noelle's after school today, she was already fighting back the tears.

"I pulled a stick today," she sputtered.

I threw my arms around her and pressed her cheek into my heart. My first thought was not anger or frustration or defensiveness.

I honestly felt relief.

You see, on the first night of school, when I was reviewing the classroom procedures packet that her teacher sent home, I felt a twinge of anxiety. It's not that I disagree with the idea. I used a similar system with both my 4th graders and my preschoolers. I just knew that my sweet, perfectionist, sensitive 6 year old would want to "end on green" each day of this school year, which is a pretty steep  goal. When, not if, she would fall short, she would surely be devastated.

So, I was relieved that we hadn't built a 174 day streak that would be broken by an ill-timed giggle or forgotten end-of-year assignment. Just shy of two weeks into 1st grade, and we are starting over tomorrow.

Of course, my heart broke for Noelle. I didn't delight in her pain, and a part of me had to fight back the Mama Bear that was trying to come out. This is uncharted territory for us. Noelle provides a lot of challenges to us as her parents, but in school she is typically 100% golden. I didn't exactly know the best way to handle this situation, and with Luke on a camping trip in Canada until next week, I was left to handle it on my own.

The offense -- talking to a friend when she wasn't supposed to be -- was minor. And not surprising. Girlfriend loves to talk! In fact, she has been struggling with passing her 1-minute math fact quizzes because she likes to stop after every problem and chat with herself about how she got the answer or admire the way she writes each digit. Getting dinged for talking was bound to happen sooner or later.

Just because I wasn't surprised doesn't mean I wasn't disappointed. Was I thrilled that she wasn't being a model student? No. Was I annoyed that she allowed something so easy to control to interrupt an otherwise fantastic start to the new school year? You bet. On the drive home, I lost myself somewhere between wanting to bring on additional consequences at home or buy her a puppy to make her feel better.

I settled on having her write a letter of apology to her teacher with a promise to do better, and a strong warning that if she pulls a stick again, she will lose TV privileges.

We went about our night the same we always do. I helped her with her homework, which included studying her spelling words and reading to me. I made dinner while the girls damn near killed each other played sweetly together. I got them to bed at a decent time (and by decent, I mean an hour earlier than normal because the Law of Mondays and Out-of-Town Husbands prevailed).

After the house was quiet, I reflected on the day's events and truly began to understand my role in all of this. As my children continue to learn and grow, they will continue to make mistakes. They will talk when they shouldn't. They will laugh when it's inappropriate. They will say bad words, tell a mean joke, and realize that many times it is simply easier to do "the wrong thing." And it will cost them. Cost them sticks. Cost them recess. Cost them TV and iPads.

It is not my job as their mama to protect them from these mistakes. It is not my job to fight their battles or question their teachers' every move, either. It is, however, my job to be there. To steadfastly be there. In all weather. In all seasons. In all triumphs and tragedies. To be consistent. To be predictable. To be firm when necessary, tough when it's called for, and maybe just a little bit rough in spots. To be cool when they run a little too hot and to be warm in the palm of their hands.

Like a stone.

Some days I am granite, all pulled-together and polished, and other days I am gravel, just a shitstorm of clutter on someone's driveway, but I am always their stone. And it will always be that way, no matter how many sticks they pull.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

the one about how she couldn't

Another school year is upon us, and I am pinching myself as I realize that it was one year ago when I was dropping my oldest child off for her first day of Kindergarten. I remember trying to swallow down the lump in my throat to the point that it physically hurt. Tears burned my eyes as I put on a brave face and smiled and waved and blew kisses and wished her well.

First Day of Kindergarten

An entire school year, and an entire summer later, and here we are....about to do this whole thing again. We have spent the past few weeks preparing for this day. Shopping for school supplies, picking out to new shoes, ordering new uniforms, and filling out paperwork...the process has been mostly enjoyable as I see how excited Noelle is to return to her beloved school.

Last Day of Kindergarten

But tonight, as I was packing the first of many, many lunches for this year, I thought to myself, "I should put a note in her lunchbox."

I didn't do this last year because...well...she couldn't read. Every now and then I might slip a post-it with a smiley face or an I Love you, but I never did a note because I knew she couldn't read.

But now she can. Now she reads.

So, with tears in my eyes, I folded up a card and tucked into her pink and purple leopard print lunch box with a sequined tie-dye heart (as you might imagine this was not the one I wanted her to pick, but I'm rollin' with it...).

It struck me just how much she couldn't do last school year, but now she can.

She couldn't write her last name, but now she's got all 11 letters of that sucker down pat.

She couldn't tie her shoes, but now she's a pro.

She couldn't remember her address or her phone number (and by that I mean my cell phone number because...home line? what's that?)...but now she recites them to a peppy little tune she created herself.

She couldn't put her head (or chin for that matter) under water in the swimming pool, and now she jumps off the diving board.

The list could just go on and on and on and on.

Children are just amazing. They learn despite the circumstances. They succeed despite the failures. They run despite the fatigue. They smile despite the fear.

We have so much to learn from our children if we would just let them teach us.

And honestly? It scares me a little to think of what she can't do right now, but will be able to do by the end of this year.

But it's a happy kind of scared. A proud kind of scared. An excited kind of scared.

I have always said that we aren't raising children, but we are raising adults, and heading off to school is just one step in that process.

So here's to Noelle, and to your child, too....and all their couldn'ts.

Friday, July 1, 2016

the one about why you shouldn't try Rodan+Fields

You might remember from a few posts ago that I am a consultant for Rodan+Fields skincare. In that post, I explained my reasoning for joining this company, and I shared my first set of before and after photos. I was nervous to put all of that out there-- not only show my skin in its naked form but to also say, in essence, "Hey, I am another person selling something!"

I am the first to shoot down most network marketing companies. My friends and family know this about me...which is why it was probably confusing as to why I would join such a company. For me, the reasons are simple. I use the products. I love the products. I want to share the products. I should make money for sharing these products. I WISH Target, Starbucks, and other businesses that I LOVE would pay me to use and share their products. But they don't. And that doesn't keep me from keeping them financially afloat each month, lemme tell ya.

So here I am, a full two months in from my starting date in April. Honestly... it has been better than I could have imagined. I don't feel pressured to sell anything. I am inspired by really strong, business-savvy women on my team, but I don't feel like a failure because my numbers don't stack up to theirs. I feel encouraged, supported, and challenged.

When I decided to leave my teaching job at the end of this year, I started to have the same feelings I felt when I left my first teaching job 3 years ago. Identity crisis. Who am I now that I am not a teacher? Money worries. Will I need to "ask" Luke for money for everything now that I am not making my own? (our marriage doesn't work like that anyway -- but the thought was there) Fear of burnout. Will I really feel happy with my days if they are spent completely with my children?

The R+F business side helps to fill these voids for me. I still feel like a human being. I set my own goals, and I challenge myself to meet them. I am supported and praised when I achieve these accomplishments. Financially, I am making more money each month than I was teaching preschool, and I am not leaving my house or my children to do it....or throwing that money back into the classroom by buying books and classroom supplies.

I have talked to many people about the R+F products. I have gotten lots of "yes," and probably more "no." So, I thought I would center this post around the top 3 reasons why people turn me down.

1. It takes too much time. / There are too many steps. // I never wash my face. /// I am too lazy at night.

This was definitely me before I finally become so sick of dealing with relentless breakouts. I totally understand. However, my mom's voice came ringing in my ears, "If you do what you've always done, you get what you've always gotten." And true confessions...I don't wash my face EVERY night or EVERY morning. I try to, but life gets in the way. Some nights, I am seriously too tired to deal with it. Thankfully, I am not layering my face with lots of makeup anymore, so if I skip a night, my face handles it just fine.

I timed myself when I used my 4-step Unblemish regimen today, and it took just under 3 minutes from start to finish. This is my face completely clean and fresh after using the products. The marks you see are freckles, sun spots, and just a few post-acne marks...but no new blemishes!

2. It is too expensive.

Again, I totally understand this thought. Yes, the R+F products are more expensive than what you can buy at Target, CVS, Walgreens, etc. But honestly? You cannot compare the R+F products to these drugstore products. You just can't. They are clinically studied, clinically proven products, developed by the same dermatologists that created Proactiv. When I used to use the cheaper stuff, I would use so much of it at once just to feel like it was working, which meant I was replacing it quicker. Did you know that R+F regimens (systems) last at least 3, sometimes 4 months? The price you pay is not a monthly fee.

When I would occasionally buy the more expensive brands at Ulta or Sephora, I was spending as much, if not more, than I spend on my R+F products, and I still never got the results I was wanting. I have tried so many brands and so many products.

And because I feel attached to all the money I have spent on these items, I tend to just keep them in a little graveyard in my bathroom. There are easily $250 worth of products in this basket that didn't work for me, and I am just hoarding them because I can't fathom pouring that money down the drain.

In hindsight, I should have just returned them when I realized I was unsatisfied, but many places only give you 30 days to return beauty products, and some of them won't take them back if they are opened. To me, 30 days isn't long enough to know if a product is going to work for you. Being honest, it wasn't until after the 30 day mark for me that I noticed my blemishes REALLY disappearing with R+F. You have to give things time to work, but you also shouldn't have to wait forever. R+F believes that if you don't see results you like by 60 days, you can return what's left of products for a full refund. Not store credit. A refund.

Let's also talk about the money I am saving by not applying 4 different layers of makeup so that I can feel confident enough to leave the house. Do I still use concealer under my eyes? Yes, some days I do. Other than that, my routine consists of a very light mineral powder, maybe a touch of bronzer, and then my eye makeup. No BB cream, no foundation, no powder foundation, nothing. Do I love makeup? Yes! Do I still love Younique? Absolutely! Do I love the feeling of a fresh, clean face on hot summer days? More than anything.

So, yeah, you might end up spending more on your skincare than the $6.99 special on Cartwheel at Target, but this is going to work for you or you are going to get your money back. I like those odds.

3. I want to do something about my skin, but just not right now.

We always think we can put things off. We always have a list of other things to buy and do before we take care of ourselves. We put the needs of our children, spouses, jobs, community, other family members, friends, pets, etc, etc, etc, above our own. We think there will be a better time in the future to invest in ourselves.

We are aging every single day. We are exposing our skin to harmful sun rays and environmental irritants. We coat our kids in sunscreen because we know it is good for them, but we forget that we still have skin to take care of, too!

For me, I wanted to show my girls that I could be confident in my own skin. I wanted to begin to reverse years of not washing my face, not protecting it from the sun, and simply thinking that the only way to feel beautiful was to be layered in makeup. It was starting to get out of hand. They would watch me apply makeup and ask, "What does that do Mama?" "What is that for Mama?" "Why are you doing that Mama?"

Ya'll know my husband is a family doctor. Well, when he was on his dermatology rotation, he was fascinated by the damage we do to our skin, and he was highly motivated to begin some sort of prescription cream because he wanted to keep his skin looking young. He is a 30-something guy's guy who likes to camp, run, play sports, and otherwise be a stinky boy. He is not vain, but he knew that he wasn't doing all that he could to prevent lines, wrinkles, and sun damage. So, rather than use the prescription stuff, he has been using the Redefine regimen, and he absolutely loves it. We both can tell a big difference in his skin, and he believes that this stuff will keep him looking young.

So, as you can tell, I really believe in these products and the company that stands behind them. If I have inspired you to try any of our regimens, Unblemish, Soothe, Redefine, or Reverse, or any of our other products, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

the one about an accident and a gorilla

Disclaimer: This is my blog. I save my most heartfelt, from the gut thoughts for this space as opposed to Facebook because I feel like if you clicked on my link and came to my "house," then you knew what you were about to get yourself into. Just like when my friends come to my real home, they know it is going to look like a bomb exploded, a tornado spun through, and a hurricane just blew over all at once. I'm not sorry that they see it like that because they knocked on my door. Same thing applies here. 

If you have read my blog for a while now, you know that I write in phases. There are times when the posts keep coming and the inspiration is plenty, and there are times when it is radio silence because my mind can't download all the thoughts that are pumping through. And that's ok. You're here now, and I have my motivation to write, since it has been a couple of weeks.

It started with a gorilla.

Yeah, you're thinking another post about the gorilla in the zoo. (see my disclaimer above) If it bothers you to read something else on the topic, let that red X button be your friend.

Let me first lay something out.

I am not an animal lover. I respect animals. I admire animals of great beauty, size, and strength. I think animals are vital to our planet, and I would never wish the intentional harm of an animal that was otherwise doing absolutely nothing wrong. I don't have pets. I don't know if I will have pets. Pets to me are something else to clean up after and feed, and we are about to capacity over here with those needs.

In other words....I don't want to see anything bad happen to an animal, but I also don't kiss animals on the mouth.

Maybe this mindset sets me apart from the large majority of people weighing in on what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend, but I am who I am.

And I am not a perfect parent.

Not even close.

I am actually a parent who is not very good about supervising her children 100% of the time.

There. I said it.

Call me crazy, but when my girls play with their cousins or friends their age, I tend to let them play. I let them go outside to our 3/4 fenced in back yard, and I let them play on our swing set while I fold laundry or prep dinner. Of course, I check in on them. I watch out the window. I listen for screams. But I don't watch them like a hawk 100% of the time.

I know the dangers of children in public places. I also know that there is one of me and three of them, and yes, there are times when my back might be turned for 2 seconds when I am loading child A into the car and children B and C are waiting their turns. I do my best to keep them safe, of course I do. But if I told you that I was able to load and unload a cart full of groceries and three children into their car seats without ever once turning my eyes, head, or back away from them, I would be a liar.

I have more stories. Some that belong to me and some that belong to my friends and family. And because this world is full of litigious spectators who think they are immune to mistakes and accidents, I am going to use the old elementary standby of "I know someone who" as I share these next moments of parenting failure.

I know someone who left their sleeping kids in the (not hot) car in the garage or driveway so that the children could get in a good nap.

I know someone who let their child walk him or herself all the way to the opposite side of the park to use the bathroom by him or herself.

I know someone who momentarily lost his or her child in a department store and had to be paged to the front to be reunited.

I know someone who thought his or her toddler was with the other parent in the backyard but was really being brought back up the front yard in the arms of a caring neighbor.

I know someone whose kids went missing at the beach for several excruciating minutes.

I know someone who didn't know he or she was being followed into the pool by his or her child and that child suddenly could no longer touch the bottom and went under.

I know someone who allowed his or her child, with a large group of other children, to run up ahead of the adults they were with at the zoo.

I honestly could go on and on. I have seen and done so many things that would be considered incompetent or risky that I lose count.

Am I proud of it? No.

Am I human? Hell yes, I am.

We lock our doors at night. We have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. They are buckled in appropriate car seats. I make them eat vegetables. They go to well-checks and get immunizations. They wear helmets when they ride their bikes or scooters. They wear life jackets on boats.

We play by the rules. We respect laws. We do our freaking best to make sure that our kids are safe, healthy, protected, and unharmed.

But we. are. human.

We turn our backs when we shouldn't. We get distracted by conversations or phone calls or thinking about what happened at work that day. We look away.

And when our most human moments don't result in an incident that becomes a national media frenzy, we are damn lucky.

In any one of those stories I shared above, I can see it as a headline of a newspaper. I can hear it as the lead in on the evening news.

When something scary happens, I use it as a learning experience. I remember how we got into that situation, and I do everything I can to make sure it never happens again. I hug my kids tighter, and I thank God that they were kept safe from harm.

And I thank God for His grace and forgiveness as I navigate these treacherous waters called parenthood.

My point in sharing all this is that I am in no position to weigh in on these parents who "allowed" their child to crawl into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo which lead to the subsequent death of Harambe, the beautiful 17 year old endangered gorilla and the traumatization of the 4 year old child.

Maybe they told the kid, "Hey, I have an idea! How about you break into this exhibit and go play with that big guy down there. He looks cuddly!"

Maybe they told the kid, "No. You may not climb that gate. No. You may not get in that bush. No. You may not touch that fence."

Maybe, just as the dad was telling the mom, "Hey, we gotta move. This kid is getting really antsy over here," the child somehow found his way into the enclosure and into harm's way.

All of these are maybes because I wasn't there. And even if I was there, I still wouldn't be qualified to say what really happened. Not my kid. Not my parenting. Not my place.

What I can say is that we have a membership to the Indianapolis Zoo. We go several times a year. Many times, I go alone with my three girls, or I meet a friend or family member with their small children. We usually look like a band of gypsies, just roaming around singing and looking for food. I know that it is very difficult to keep an eye on all of them, but we do our best. We take head counts. We run the zone defense. We zig when they zig and we zag when they zag.

But we are no better than the parents of this child who got into that enclosure. We are no better.

I have seen moms sit and drink Starbucks and chat while their kids stick their fingers in the monkey cage.

I have seen dads on their phones checking sports scores while their kids smack the glass and agitate the tigers.

I am no better than those people, either.

And neither are you.

In my opinion, what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo was a tragic accident.

But these days, accidents no longer exist. Everyone is looking for someone to blame. Blame makes us feel better.

It's not good enough to assume that we will learn from our mistakes. We have to humiliate people. We have to make sure the world knows that those people are stupid idiots and we are all better because we have never and would never do something like that.

(and don't think for a second I am saying that there's no use for a legal or justice system-- I won't engage in dialogue about that)

So, I am here to say that I feel sorry for Harambe the gorilla. I feel sorry that his life was ended due to circumstances beyond his control. I also feel sorry that he was in the zoo to begin with, but that's a different issue.

I feel sorry for Harambe's caretakers. I can't imagine how hard it has been on them.

I feel sorry for the parents. They were caught with their pants down and what might have been a near-miss for other parents has become a horrible nightmare for them. I would guess they are embarrassed. I imagine they are ashamed. They might be wondering who their real friends are and if their family will still claim them. I am sure they are relieved their child is alive, and I can bet since they were most likely admiring that gorilla that they feel really bad that he had to die.

I feel sorry for the child. He is young. He was scared and probably still is. The world has seen the video of him screaming in terror. I am sure he has physical and emotional injuries that will take quite some time (and therapy) to heal.

But mostly, I feel sorry that he has to grow up in this world where our worst moments, our mistakes, our accidents are publicized, shared, discussed, and memed for the amusement of the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

the one about standing on the other side of Kindergarten

I'm just pissed, Guys.

We are a magical 15 calendar days away from the last day of Kindergarten, and, on this day, I screwed up and apparently did not order a lunch for Noelle like I thought I had. Her school handles lunch menus a little differently, and you have to preorder the lunches you would like for the whole month, and then you need to keep track of that on your own calendar at home. We let her eat a school lunch once per week (so she can have normal food like nuggets and hot dogs). I had circled today as a school lunch day, but apparently I was hittin' the wine a little too hard the night I made the selections and messed it all up. 

Long story short, I got a phone call from the school while I was at a super rare and secret destination (cough, Target, cough). So, I whipped through the Subway drive-thru at 8:55 a.m., got her a kids meal, and dropped it off at school. 

The point to all of this is that I was really hoping for an A+ in remembering lunches for the whole year, but I ruined it with such a short time to go. 

I think, as parents, we have such high expectations for how a school year will go, and are expectations any higher than in Kindergarten? It's our child's first official school experience, and we just need the year to be full of rainbows and apples and teachers in denim vests with school bus buttons. 

We need our kids to be full of enthusiasm and excitement for school. We want them to learn to read and write and 'rithmetic. We want field trips to the fire station and Christmas concerts and very first best friends.

But...we forget. We forget that our children are human and the teachers (and parents!) are, too. The newness will wear off. The excitement will ebb and flow. There will be days when the chore of making a lunch seems equal to scrubbing a toilet. You'll forget to check the papers in the folder. You'll forget the permission slip. The teacher will stop wearing the denim vest with school bus buttons. Why, Teacher? Why?

There is no such thing as a perfect school year streak. Someone will drop the ball, and it will probably be you. You'll dream up a Pin-worthy snack and end up sending a box of Cheerios instead. You'll want to be a part of every classroom party and end up sending the plates and napkins every time. You'll no doubt make that walk of shame down the hallway to deliver the forgotten lunch or the cans for the food drive or a coat for your child because the weather man is a liar. It happens to the best of us. I hope.

Your child will make mistakes, too. She will forget to do her homework or practice reading her book. She will talk when she isn't supposed to or make a poor choice with a friend. It is all part of the process, in my opinion. We are raising adults, not children, and it's a marathon, not a sprint. Few skills are mastered in one school year, and it is important to remember that.

So, here I stand, (nearly) on the other side of Kindergarten, and I am struck by how insanely fast it went and how much my child has grown since August...physically, emotionally, academically, and spiritually (Catholic school for the win!).

Pat yourselves on the back (and pop a cork), fellow Kindergarten parents. We did it! Even if it wasn't a perfect year, we did it all the same.