Category Archives: Parenting

Rejection roller coaster: the mother-daughter edition

Being an artist is hard. Banish the self-doubt and self-sabotage inherent in all of us and you still have subjective judgments that rule the arts. This past month felt like someone holding a giant magnifying glass above me, concentrating the rays of sunlight into a laser beam of backyard destruction on a pitiful and insignificant ant, me. Of course there are reasons for this that I could go into and bore you with the details of.

I could. But I won’t.

That kind of dwelling on the details doesn’t allow for the wide-angle lens of life I glimpsed because of them. Which is the point.

The basics are: I went to a writer’s conference that showed me exactly where I am within the professional realm of writing and publishing. It isn’t where I want to be. I learned a lot. I was mostly happy, but also sad at the end of the trip. Objectively, nothing earth-shattering was uncovered while there. I’m in school still, I have to split what free time I have with my writing, and because of that, my writing is progressing at a fucking snail’s pace. Nothing I can do with that but be patient and persevere, knowing all the time I devote to finishing my degree I will get to spend writing when it’s over. Think of the solid habits I’ll have, too!

Big Sister is a beautiful almost-adult now. She auditioned for a dance company that she wanted so badly. Surviving the first cut – further than she’d come last year – bittersweet when she got cut in the second round. Lots of tears and self-doubt at our place and this mom feeling helpless to take the pain and disappointment from her.

Here’s where that wide-angle lens comes in.

I know exactly how she feels. Putting yourself and your work out in the world. Judges (agents, editors, readers in my case) making assessments on what feels like your personal worth based on your artistic expression and execution. Feeling like you’re not good enough in the face of apparent failure. Wanting to quit.

I found myself telling her she should not quit dance unless she felt in her soul that she didn’t want to dance anymore. Because wanting to dance, and the joy it brings her, is the only thing that matters. Not whether or not she got cut from the company. Not that someone else subjectively didn’t think she fit. Her technique was judged and found wanting, but only in someone else’s opinion. She is still a beautiful dancer. Dance makes her happy. It’s all that matters.

As I talked to her, my own words echoed back at me about my writing. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t got anyone to represent me. Nor that I found holes in my plot the size of Texas. That my technique is different than others does not invalidate it. The ridiculous amount of time it’s taking me to finish this latest novel. In the end, those things are all subjective measures. What matters is the joy writing brings to me when I’m doing it.

That is enough.

It is all that matters.

In life, in love, in dance… in writing… the only thing that matters is the joy it brings you. If it doesn’t then, by all means, quit. But if quitting will kill the joy that set you on the path in the first place, ask yourself why you and that nugget of joy that sings to your soul is not enough to sustain you.

Consider that it IS enough. Everything else is subjective and doesn’t have to define you, or your joy. What you and your situation look like through the lens of society is not the truth for you. Persist. Find and then cling to the joy. Let it sustain you through the darkness and the doubt.

It will always be enough.

Learning to Say No: The Aftermath

It isn’t often I do a follow-up post but this one is much warranted. Back in August, I decided it was time to start saying No to things. If you didn’t catch the original post, you can find it HERE. (Go ahead, go read it. You’ll want the background so you’re caught up with my epiphany.)

It was a crazy time where I’d said yes so much I had boxed myself in with no free time. Every night of the week – every week – was jam packed. More often than not, I wasn’t at home with my family. I was feeling the pressure. More acutely my family was feeling the strain, even while rooting for my success. In a somewhat rare moment of clarity I stepped back and took stock. I prioritized my obligations. I started saying No.

No Smoking Sign

What lessons did I learn? First and foremost was the reality that I either have time to volunteer in a writing organization or write, but not both. It is somewhat of a catch twenty-two for me. So many opportunities came from my time organizing and leading but in the end my writing had suffered. In a chain of events outside of my control, the organization was dissolved and I found myself with an extra chunk of time back. A chunk that I hadn’t realized was as big as it had become.

My production of words on the page exploded. Writing was fun again instead of something I was always too tired for and forcing myself to do. I finished revisions and sold another story with all that free time. I still belong to several writing organizations and I attend meetings somewhat regularly but I’ve stopped volunteering for leadership roles that require more than that. Even when others have asked me to step forward, I’ve graciously refused. In the long run, the time writing will pay off far more than the satisfaction of leadership. Especially when you can never please all the people all the time. Of course my inner overachiever is still struggling with this – especially when I have been approached – but I’m holding strongly to this stance for the time being.

It feels good to protect my precious writing time.

What about all the time spent away from my family? My day job has added a travel requirement to support system conversions over the next twelve to eighteen months. The hours I spend at the office every week has increased as well. I spent two weeks away from home in late October and it was much easier on the entire family because I’d been spending more time with them in the months leading up to it. It was still hard. In retrospect it would have been far more difficult if I hadn’t made changes beforehand.

I realize that my children are growing faster than I can keep up with and I’ll never have this time with them again. My oldest is four years away from college and adulthood. My baby is in Kindergarten and learning to read. At this rate, I’ll blink and she’ll be dating. Earlier this week Baby Sister begged me to come home early so we could decorate the Christmas tree. When I found myself with an afternoon free of meetings, I did it. I’ll never forget her screams of joy when I walked in or her cries of “you came home early”. I tried not to dwell on the fact that her shock and joy were more of an indication of how often I’m not able to do that and embraced the happiness of those stolen couple of hours together. No, the time away from my family I’d been spending doing things like Rock Opera rehearsals and Board Meetings that, while they gave me great personal satisfaction and exposure to opportunities and potential fans, wasn’t worth the time away from my family.

One of my closest friends shared an epiphany she had recently after she funneled a lot of energy and money into an endeavor that didn’t yield her the results she was after. Her words have stuck with me. Paraphrased, she said she was done acting like she was further down the path than where she really was. I likened it to my tendency of trying to fit in with, and do all the same things (like be on panels at writing conferences) that all my more successful writing friends are doing. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and feel bad that you don’t have all the same successes. One of my best writing buddies had three books release this year from three different publishers. I finally asked him how many novels he had finished and how long he’d been writing. His response: twelve completed novels over ten years. It was then that I knew that I hadn’t put in the same effort so it was ludicrous to expect the same kind of success. Instead, I need to do the work and hope I find similar success when I get caught up to where he is on the path.

I’m working on my third novel. One that feels different. Important maybe. A story so compelling and unique I hope it would stand out from the crowd. Something that’s never happened before is also happening: the characters won’t let me rest until I’ve told their story. I like to think that I cleared out the clutter of my life enough to find this particular tale. I only hope I can do it – and the characters who sprung fully-formed into my head – the justice it deserves.

I’m sure there are still lessons to be learned in the world of saying no. But so far I’m loving the rewards!

Living vs. Surviving

Survival is one of those instinctual things. Most people find a way to do it every day without thinking about it. Some are more resilient than others and some take more effort to grab at the bootstraps before pulling themselves up by them. My most recent epiphany is that there is a difference between living and merely surviving day to day. Sometimes, you don’t realize you’ve slipped into survival mode and assume you’re still in the land of the living.

For safety reasons, I’ve been intentionally quiet in the public domain about how for years Hubby has worked a night shift job. Eight years, in fact. The first four years it was only every other month, which made it seem far less invasive on our everyday living arrangements. Shift work being what it is, we’d get completely fed up with being ships crossing twice a day to hand off parenting responsibilities. Usually right about that time he’d rotate and get a month of reprieve on the day shift. Four years ago, when the economy took a downward plunge for the entire country, his company had layoffs. We felt lucky – even grateful – at the time. Even though he had the least seniority, they chose to keep him on. But part of that meant there wasn’t an extra day shift to switch off the schedule with and he had to be on dedicated night shift. Six PM to six AM, four days a week.

We had a baby, but we had an amazing nanny with a flexible schedule which made it easy to roll with the punches. We had an older kid with a full dance card, pun intended, but we could still manage. I took on the role of single parent during the week and was grateful that Daddy was home all afternoon for quality one-on-one time with the kids after he woke up. We all had to figure out how to be extremely quiet inside the house at all hours of the day because “Daddy is sleeping”. As the years wore on, slowly our nerves started fraying. We didn’t notice, it was just how life was. And one day we knew it would get better. It had to.


We combated the separation of schedules by setting aside one night a week devoted, without fail, to family night. Vacations became about reconnecting with each other rather than just relaxing and seeing new places. Night shift and the accompanied sleep deprivation ate away at all the normalcy of life as we knew it. Did you know there are studies about nurses who work the night shift that prove it takes years off of your life? As you might expect, the stress of attempting to maintain a normal life started to eat away at both of us. One day, I realized this wasn’t a life we were living but one we were merely surviving; and immediately started planning for a way out.

Planning, after all, is what I do.

Those plans have paid off with a switch to day shift and a new job. The results were immediate in the level of happiness and relief that washed over the entire family. Having Daddy home at night, instead of kissing him goodbye just as Mommy got home from work, is so much better for the girls. Getting to sleep at the same time all week long without one of us either having to stay up super late or go to bed super early is a novelty I didn’t realize I’d taken so for granted before. A full night of sleep, at night, when the rest of the world is asleep, and your body is programmed to do it, makes a huge difference for health and happiness that I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of surviving instead of living. Even me, the girl who is so focused on making every day count, found myself there. Another cautionary tale about how important it is to stop once in a while and take stock of your life. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”

Kids, unscripted

I took a couple of weeks off from everything for a family vacation in paradise. Trying to get back into the swing of things after a Hawaiian vacation that ended in a nasty cold has been challenging. Yesterday, I saw something fun going around in Facebook land and thought it would be an entertaining glimpse into my life. My children did not disappoint…

Instructions were this: WITHOUT any prompting, ask your child these questions and write down EXACTLY what they say. It is a great way to find out what they really think. I asked both of them alone so they couldn’t be influenced by the other person’s answers. It was funny what they got right, what they had no clue about and what they were completely wrong about. Enjoy!

Baby Sister, 5

  1. What is something Mom always says to you? Um… that I’m cute
  2. What makes mom happy? Um…when she is sick I always hug her and make her feel better
  3. What makes mom sad? Um.. I don’t know
  4. How does your mom make you laugh? Tickling me!
  5. What was your mom like as a child? I don’t know
  6. How old is your mom? 43?
  7. What is her favorite thing to do? Um… I don’t know
  8. How tall is your mom? I don’t know
  9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? Work
  10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? For your kid
  11. What is your mom really good at? Yoga
  12. What is your mom not very good at? Um… watering trees
  13. What does your mom do for a job? Writer
  14. What is your mom’s favorite food? Bananas
  15. What makes you proud of your mom? When she does stuff I want her to do
  16. If your mom were a character, who would she be? Um.. Snow White or Ariel
  17. What do you and your mom do together? Um… go to the park?
  18. How are you and your mom the same? We have the same skin
  19. How are you and your mom different? We have different hair!
  20. How do you know your mom loves you? Because she always tells me!
  21. What does your mom like most about your dad? They married (giggles)
  22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? I don’t know – where is your favorite place to go?
  23. How old was your mom when she had you? I don’t know!

Big Sister, 13

1. What is something Mom always says to you? Clean your room
2. What makes mom happy? Getting good grades
3. What makes mom sad? Not getting good grades (chuckle)
4. How does your mom make you laugh? Telling me I’m a stinker bear
5. What was your mom like as a child? Um… aggressive.
6. How old is your mom? 43
7. What is her favorite thing to do? Write
8. How tall is your mom? 5’ 3”
9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? Write
10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? Writing
11. What is your mom really good at? Writing
12. What is your mom not very good at? Um.. dancing
13. What does your mom do for a job? Works in IT
14. What is your mom’s favorite food? Pasta
15. What makes you proud of your mom? That she believes in me
16. If your mom were a character, who would she be? Ariel
17. What do you and your mom do together? Sing in the car
18. How are you and your mom the same? We both have thick hair
19. How are you and your mom different? Hmm… hmmm… how are we different. (taps chin) We are different because I got to dance when I was younger and she didn’t.
20. How do you know your mom loves you? She tells me every day.
21. What does your mom like most about your dad? His attitude
22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? Hawaii
23. How old was your mom when she had you? 30

So while Big Sister accurately knew my day job, Baby Sister only knows the job she sees me doing at home. I asked them why they both thought I would be Ariel because that surprised me. Big Sister said it was because I was determined, Baby Sister said it was because I had red hair. I guess they are both right. Surprising moments included when Big Sister knew that I was aggressive as a child and that I had always wanted to dance when I was younger. She must have been paying attention a lot more often than I think. I think it is a personal victory that I have embraced celebrating my age number ticking up every year when they both knew exactly how old I am. I have no idea why Baby Sister thinks I’m not any good at watering trees but I love that to her “I don’t know” is a valid answer to any question. I hope she never loses that. Very favorite answer from both of them? Knowing that they both know how much I love them because I tell them. Every. Day. On tap as we head into summer? More trips to the park and singing in the car together.

Parenting Win, a Year Later

Remember last year when I admitted to being a mean mom?

In case you don’t, here’s an excerpt from the original post:

I’ve always been a mean mom. I believe that my kids need to know that there are consequences to their actions and that life isn’t fair. Otherwise, how will they grow to be well-adjusted adults? As a result, I have very well-behaved kids. I’m not always mean, but when the situation calls for it, I have no trouble rising to the occasion. I yell, I spank, I ground, I punish whenever necessary. But this week I’m having to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do under the ‘mean mom’ banner.

You can read the entire article HERE… In a nutshell, Big Sister had to take a year off from doing the thing she loves the most in life because she couldn’t keep her grades up.

Here we are, a year later. Time to register for dance team try-outs and assess if she is able to go back to her passion or has to hang up her dance shoes for good, or only wear them at home.

How did this very painful lesson turn out? I’m happy to report that she will be at try-outs this year. Not only that, I am the proud owner of a sticker proclaiming to all, from my bumper, that my child is on the Honor Roll. The Honor Roll. She’d have been on High Honor Roll last term but for one B+. Incredible, really.

Had you told me a year ago that I’d be the parent of a teenager who was on the Honor Roll while I was grappling with imposing one of the harshest punishments in the history of parenting, I would have laughed and said you were crazy. Instead, it is life that is crazy with all the surprises and unforeseen possibilities that await us. Don’t give up, fellow mean mommies – success is possible!


Labels in Genre Fiction, An Argument

This topic has been on my mind for a while and cemented when I was at a writing conference a couple of weeks ago. One of the panelists asked a really great question: What makes a book considered horror? Many thoughtful answers from the audience were given and lots of people nodded their heads in agreement. Then he gave us the *real* answer: because that’s the shelf they put it on at the book store. It was an answer I hadn’t considered before. Every story written, especially in genre fiction, is classified as one thing and marketed that way. But any good book better have many different elements or it risks falling flat with readers. It’s a safe bet that a crime story has some elements of horror. So do many fantasy novels as well as contemporary ones. And what about romance? Every story could use a sprinkle of it.

That was the ah-ha moment for me about book labels. I have always struggled with them, especially when people ask what market I am writing for. What’s the difference between Young Adult and New Adult? Or Middle Grade and Juvenile? Fantasy can be Epic or Urban but isn’t it all just Fantasy? Even Science Fiction can be space opera or hard science. It can be overwhelming when all you want is a good book you’ll enjoy. Bottom line, the only thing that makes a book Young Adult is because that’s the shelf we find it on at the book store. It’s been a while since I’ve relied on the library to acquire reading material but I’m pretty sure there’s only three main sections: Children, Fiction and Non-Fiction.

With this realization, I no longer find it necessary to defend or criticize anyone’s choice in a book because it is considered Young Adult. I’m not even sure how it has became such a heated debate among people but it is, in every circle of friends I have who are readers. I hate to admit it, but I’m guilty of uttering the words “I don’t read Young Adult”. Even though I devoured the “Twilight” series when it was new and couldn’t wait to get the last one on release day. (Writing that sentence makes me feel like an alcoholic admitting I might have a problem.) Say what you will about the writing, but the story was fresh and new at the time and well told. I wasn’t the only person at the time sleep-deprived because we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the story until the wee hours of the morning. So why, in the later years when they were making the silly movies that barely did the books justice, did I feel slightly ashamed to have liked reading them? Because the series had been labeled as Young Adult and now every adult who liked it felt a twinge of something. As an adult, the label Young Adult tells us “you’re too old to enjoy this”. Shame on all of us who bought into it! Stories are stories and should appeal to you based on how you feel during and after reading it. Nothing more.

The other side of the coin is also true. Why should we limit what kids read by dumbing down fiction or skipping the real life elements just because those parts might make us uncomfortable if kids read them? I cut my teeth on hard core science fiction and horror with L. Ron Hubbard and Stephen King long before I was out of elementary school. I stole my mom’s smutty romance novels almost as early. The Adult and Horror labels they would all fall under now scream at kids “you aren’t allowed to read me yet”. As a parent I even bought into the inherent censorship that comes with these labels, much to my chagrin. I wonder if I went to the school library today if I’d even find those kinds of titles on the shelf? I know I’m going to find out!

Call me a crazy mom but I’m going to let my teen, who has just discovered how much she loves books, to read anything she wants to try. Because where would I be as a reader, and as a person, if my parents had limited my options back in my own formative years based on ridiculous labels? Do I hope she will take advice from me on whether I think she will like it and allow me to covertly keep her as innocent as I can for as long as possible? Of course. But I’m also not naive because I was thirteen once, too.

I understand the need for classifying books so readers have a general idea of what they are getting based on the shelf they are sold from. But let’s get beyond the labels meaning anything more than that. Every story will not appeal to every reader, and every book could be classified different ways. Just find a good one you love and read it proudly! I promise to stop judging fellow readers based on what they like to read and instead rejoice that there are enough readers in the world to keep all of us aspiring authors motivated to create and publish more stories to enjoy.

Life without judgement

It has been almost two years since my brush with death changed everything about how I live my life. The difference in myself was very stark this past weekend at the annual family reunion with my mom’s extended family. All the cousins who were my best friends growing up – and still are – plus their spouses and kids all gather at a resort with a water park and spend the weekend playing in the sun together. It is always a blast and I always have a fabulous time but usually it is accompanied with lots of internal stress and dialogue about having to be in a bathing suit around others who are more “-er” than me… younger, thinner, prettier. You get the picture.

This year was different. This year I never once looked in the mirror with a critical eye – or at all come to think about it. Nor did I constantly look for strategic ways of sitting so I looked better (as if that way even exists since your body is your body regardless of how you sit). I just had fun with my kids without a care in the world. No cover-up included!

We spent hours – literally – walking back up the hill and the stairs to the top of the water slides, all the adults taking turns sliding with all the different kids – my own, my nieces and nephews and my cousin’s kids whatever they would be called in the genealogical sense. Several times I thought with gratitude about how far I’d come in a year – from being physically incapable of it to rocking all the cardio without losing my breath in the process.

It made me think about all the people I’d ever compared myself to in the past to make myself feel better and wonder what things they could say they had overcome to just be where they were. Kind of humbling when you think about it…

A month ago I had my yoga world rocked to the very foundation. Weeks later, I’m still discovering things in my practice that are transforming and growing from that one ah-ha moment when I realized that I don’t use my entire foot for anything. It occurred to me this morning, while my 147 pound yoga instructor sat on my sacrum to illustrate how to stretch my straddle deeper, that if you’d told me three years ago that yoga could still be fresh and new every week that I wouldn’t have believed a word. And that the old Terra might have given up after that ah-ha moment because the inner voice would have convinced me that I was no good at yoga. Instead I’ve left all expectations of everything at the door and find joy in the newness of re-learning every pose differently. As I always say, yoga is a journey not a destination. I’m consciously having to take my own advice not to judge myself against anything – including myself from four weeks ago when I never used my heels. Now I know how people can practice yoga for a lifetime and I love how every trip to the mat brings new insights about myself – all because I leave the judgement out of it.

The biggest hope I have is that my girls will see me just as their mom and remember only how much fun they had doing things with me. I already know they don’t see me as I see myself. Once I called myself fat and my oldest looked at me funny and said “you’re not fat, Mom.” Which stopped me in my tracks. If you haven’t read this article about When Your Mother Says She’s Fat , or watched this ad about doing things “like a girl”, check them out. They both helped me see where I was my own worst enemy in putting myself down because I didn’t measure up in the areas society focuses on.

In the grand scheme of things it is more important to live every moment regardless of how we feel about ourselves – especially when faced with the reality that every day might be your last. If you wait to enjoy life until you’ve lost that last 20 pounds (or fill in the blank with your own demons) it might be too late to make the memories you are putting off. Your kids could be too old, you could be too old, or the opportunities could have passed you by. Make every moment of every day count, no matter what. And leave the judgement out of it!

Being The Mean Mom

I’ve always been a mean mom. I believe that my kids need to know that there are consequences to their actions and that life isn’t fair. Otherwise, how will they grow to be well-adjusted adults? As a result, I have very well-behaved kids. I’m not always mean, but when the situation calls for it, I have no trouble rising to the occasion. I yell, I spank, I ground, I punish whenever necessary. But this week I’m having to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do under the ‘mean mom’ banner.

Big Sister has been dancing since she was three, competitively since she was five. She’s really good and she really, really loves it. Which is why when she failed her first class, I threatened that if she didn’t get her grades under control she wouldn’t be able to dance anymore. Certainly it would hit home at her core and instill just how important her school work was. Right? That was about this time last year at the end of fifth grade when she got her last report card and her first ‘NI’ grade. Because dance team try-outs happen at the end of the school year, it came with a “last-chance” since we were already contractually obligated for this year’s dance team by then. Unfortunately, she must not have thought I was serious… because she has consistently failed to turn in her homework all year and has failed, literally, at least one class each semester – sometimes more than one. Now I’m faced with the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do: not let her try out for a team next year.

I found out yesterday that even though she’s known for months, she hasn’t told any of her friends on the team because she is so sad. And every time I think about not getting to see her do something she has such passion for and is so good at, I want to cry. But I refuse to give in. (Plus Hubby adamantly won’t let me even if I had a moment of weakness. Not that I’ve had that many of them…) She’s heading into Junior High and, if she couldn’t find the balance between school and extra-curricular activities this year while still in elementary school, she has little chance of doing so when she’s thrust into the insanity of seven different classes and seven different teachers with homework every night. Instead of enrolling her in summer dance classes, I’m enrolling her in a summer reading program to teach her study skills – because god knows she hasn’t listened to anything I’ve tried to teach or instill in her the past couple of years.

Being a parent sure sucks sometimes. I watch my friends struggle with kids who don’t know what they love yet or have decided that video games are all they want to do and I know I’m not alone in these kinds of struggles. But it doesn’t make it any easier. Clearly Big Sister would rather dance than do homework but if she can’t graduate high school or college, I’ve failed in my duties as a parent. It frightens me to think I only have six more short years in which to influence her actions and help her figure out how to be an adult and then, whether either of us are ready or not, she will be an adult.

Here’s hoping this is only a year break that proves to her how important it is to keep up on her homework so she can return to the thing that I always knew would keep her out of trouble when she gets to high school. I can’t fathom if that plan backfires on me. I wish this kid had come with an owner’s manual because I could sure use one!

The Perspective and Importance of A Moment

Today I gained the perspective of a forty-two year old. Because I now AM a forty-two year old. It is funny to look back on my late thirties when I started to refuse to acknowledge birthdays and dread that the age number kept getting bigger and what it all meant that I was ‘getting old’. Everything shifted when faced with my own mortality but nothing quite so much as this little thing. When the alternative to getting older is being dead, you start to wonder which is really the worst thing that could happen.

An old friend I haven’t seen in years – but thanks to the wonders of Facebook get to talk to and interact with – said today that my face hadn’t changed since we worked together twenty years ago. It was the nicest thing and proves that aging doesn’t have to be a horrible process. Could it be that happiness and joy are the magical facial cream everyone has been looking for to achieve younger looking skin? Could embracing your life and appreciating everything and everyone in it with open arms and without judgement lead to a younger and glowing countenance? Or was he just flattering me?

I’ve been internalizing a lot these last couple of weeks of yoga training, thinking a lot about being present in every moment and every situation. Things like noticing when Baby Sister gets whiny and I get frustrated and realize I have my focus so fractured between multiple things that I ‘think’ need my attention. The reality is that she is the one thing that needs my attention (usually) the very most in that moment. Thirty seconds of eye contact and direct engaged conversation are usually enough for her to restore harmony in herself and run off to sing and play with her babies leaving me to finish all the other unimportant but pressing things I’ve got going on. What if that’s what everyone needs once in a while? What if life were really that easy? What if it is more about being fully present with someone rather than posing for a selfie over and over until you get it just right?

Have you noticed that there are no longer any bad candid pictures out there? Thanks to the wonders of technology you can immediately see what that “snapshot” is going to look like and decide to accept or re-do until you get it just right. And once you capture it just right, there’s always editing software to remove blemishes and brighten the colors and whatever else you think wasn’t perfect about the authentic moment the lens captured. What kind of a legacy are we leaving for our children when they look back and only get to see what we deemed were the ‘best’ photos of us instead of the ‘real’ photos of us? Are we all taking life way too seriously or taking ourselves out of the real moments to capture the perfect portrayal of the same moment for the benefit of everyone else? What if all that matters is being happy and not all the stuff we surround ourselves with?

These are the things I’m thinking about on the second birthday that I might not have ever had. Ultimately I hope I can be the kind of person that ages gracefully and who people look at and wonder “why is she so happy?” regardless of how many wrinkles are on my face or how high the number next to my age gets. I’ll tell you, forty two never felt so wonderful!

The Lost Art of Organization

One of the keys to being an overachiever is being able to juggle a million responsibilities and commitments. After not having the energy or the drive to keep up with my life for a couple of months while I was recovering, I’ll never take this skill for granted. This week I’ve attempted – again – to instill this skill in Big Sister.

At eleven, she is failing miserably to keep up and meet commitments. She dances three nights a week and fifth grade homework is far more brutal than any year prior. She – again – is missing so many assignments that with two weeks looming before the end of the semester she’s in danger of failing fifth grade. Even with the looming threat motivation of knowing if she can’t keep her grades up she doesn’t get to keep dancing competitively, she struggles.

This must be one of those parenting lesson things because I’m at a loss. How can my kid – MY kid – not get it? She has a planner provided by the school and part of her grade this year is based on how much she uses it. Yet days go by that it doesn’t even make it home, let alone have notes in it to remind her of what she needs to do. Worse, I’d been lulled into happily believing everything was under control. After all we nipped this in the bud last semester and she’s been getting her math finished at school so there’s much less to do at night. Imagine my distress when I checked her online grade book – just to be sure – to find nineteen missing assignments. NINETEEN. Half of them math.

In true analytical style, I took a step back from the yelling mommy ledge and wondered if there was something bigger at play. Using a planner effectively assumes there is a foundation of organization already in place. And as much as it pains me to admit it, my kid is not organized. Her room looks like a tornado unless I’ve been mean mom and locked her in it for days and told her she can’t play with BFF until it’s clean. And then it only lasts for a couple of hours. Partly I blame myself and my OCD where until I got pregnant with Baby Sister I cleaned up after her and when the mess in her room got too big for me to handle I helped her by telling her where everything went. It was very hard for me to admit that I have anything to do with this issue but there it is. The queen of organization never taught it to her kid. *sigh*

So, we had a great talk – she cried a lot and I yelled less – and I explained the nuances of being organized. Where you have to find your own system of keeping track of things and your own little tricks to remind yourself to use your system until it gets ingrained. Reinforced by the knowledge that homework never goes away and as much as she cries and says ‘I wish there wasn’t such a thing as homework’ now is the best time to figure out how you’re going to manage it. Six words I fear I don’t say enough really hit home to her: ‘I know you can do it.’ I’m sure there’s a whole series of posts I could do on how I’m motivated to action by the exact opposite of my kid but that’s for another day.

Amazingly, I think at least part of it sunk in. I just looked up and saw her checking off a missing assignment on the list in the front of her binder after she filed it in the folder she’s decided is where completed work goes. Of course she’s been at the homework for two and a half hours with only two assignments completed because I have to keep reminding her that she’s supposed to be doing homework and not daydreaming/complaining/chatting/eating. But I’ll celebrate the baby steps and try to overlook the rest. This parenthood thing is hard!