The Iliad and The Audacity of Hitting The Ground Limping

My daughter just finished reading the Iliad for homeschooling. Like just about every high school age American youth, she was not a fan.
“Mom, they literally start in the middle of the story. You have no idea what is going on and who all of these people are. There’s no context or background. Why would they make us read this?”
I’m sitting here thinking that maybe I’m a little like Homer? He told legends of gods and men, sometimes retelling from others and, like my daughter points out, the beginning had been lost and cut off.  Except really, he didn’t even know that, did he?  He told stories and others wrote them down afterward.

Goodness, I don’t want to get so busy talking that I never sit down and put the words to a page as I’ve always meant to do.  I decided that I just need to start. It had to be somewhere and it just happened to be this week.  I will add some context over time, but if it’s basically “all Greek to you,” I ask you to just hold on a little while.

Let’s backtrack a bit.

 Sunday I shared a letter about my parents and celebrating 51 years of marriage.
18,629 Days and Counting – A Letter To My Parents

On Monday I dropped you into the middle of my story and basically flashed you with a baring of my soul and view into my spiritual journey.

My Body Was Broken, But My Soul Has Turned The Corner

Then yesterday I walked you around my house, without makeup on.  Obviously, something is going on but you can’t tell what I’m getting into. Even my husband said, “Why in the world did you carry around your laptop instead of your phone, with a better camera?”

Bringing Home The Awkward

(Note: My husband is a super awesome AV consultant who designs AV systems in the millions of dollars, for techie stuff I don’t understand. He was not home when I did this video and definitely facepalmed when he saw it. He won’t be showing it off to his clients, but did laugh and watch it again. While he was appalled, he also may be my newest recruit in finding better equipment. So Awkward wasn’t a total loss, right?)

Today I’m going to give you a little insight into my goals. I know that you want some context, so I’m going to give you what I’m working toward. While details of the health stuff may come out over our time together, as I use it to share what I’ve learned, I know you do not want it all at once in a 5,000,000 word blog post. 

You are welcome.

If you are new to my blog, you should know that I blogged for many years before. I had enough readers to feel absolutely content in my reach and very successful. At one point I started something like a podcast and absolutely LOVED LOVED pouring myself out for people.  It was wonderful. I want to do that again.
I cut it off over two years ago, cold turkey in a need to focus on my family and hold boundaries. What appears right now to be out-of-nowhere is more of a jumping-back-in and not skipping a beat. At this time, the majority of my older writings are private and may be repurposed over time, but there’s a lesson in that I’ll be getting to as well. 
See? You thought vaguebooking was bad, I’m over here vagueblogging… are you still reading this?

Here are the Cliffnotes on my “Why?” of this week’s postings. Maybe it will help:

Some of My Actual Goals FYI:

1. Be active here, on my blog, because I’ve avoided it like that friend you totally dropped while busy and now your ghosting because you know it’s your own fault. I didn’t mean to!
2. Finish one of the three books that I have sitting on my hard drive (one is close!) because I want them out there for you to read. 
3. Start awkward conversations in a podcast/vlog that will get us all thinking, challenging each other, and claiming the margins on the pages of our own history, even if you need copious amounts of footnotes as I do.

I don’t want an awkward story like the Iliad, but that is what I’ve been given. I want the audacity of admitting I’m a nobody with only a few minutes here and there, but the determination of sharing that with others.

I’m inviting you into my margins!  This is as close to an Iliad as I’ll ever get.
I believe I have important things for you to hear, and I know that God’s told me to do it. That’s it. It may take a while for this to roll smoothly. 
Please consider these random spurts as a sort of jump-start to a dead battery that still has some juice, or maybe it’s more of an awkward side-hug from that friend who you just haven’t seen or heard from in years.  Yeah, awkward, but man we used to share so much together!!
Let’s get right back to THAT!!

Also, have you LIKED me on Facebook yet? Please?
Followed on Instagram?

Give me two weeks. I have a point. I do. It’s just coming out with a limp instead of hitting the ground running.

My next step?
Another awkward video from the porch! It will be on my cell phone because my husband and teenagers are probably right about it being better quality.  And safer to walk around with, I suppose.  

Real Question:
Does anyone know how to actually use MailChimp? Apparently, I’m not really good at that either, but lots of people are signing up and you should, too!

When Your Son Asks About a Hymen- How to Answer Cringy Questions

We are very serious about open honesty with our children

We get mixed responses from people on our commitment to answering all questions with simple truth.  Sometimes it happens in front of others, and we will ask them to wait until we have some time later to talk about it. Other times we just answer simply and immediately.
Several months ago, Big Sister was showing off a new dress that she had bought with Grandma. Proudly she waltzed out of the bedroom, ready to show it off for everyone’s approval, but immediately everyone in the room looked away. All were aware that something was missing and there was a short silence…
Me: Wow, Sis, that dress is cute. I love the stripes and colors. I think it is going to work fine, as long as you can commit to always wearing a bra or tank top under it.
Big Sis: Really? Why do I need a shirt under it?  I have another dress like this and I don’t wear a shirt?
Other adults:  Crickets…
Me: Well, to be honest, that dress shows me that your body is changing and your breasts are growing. It’s time for us to focus on wearing an extra layer to protect your private parts.
Big Sis: Oh no!!! I’m so sorry!!
Me: Don’t be sorry. Your body is doing exactly what it should be, and you do NOT need to apologize for growing!! It’s awesome!! We just need to be aware of it and make changes. You’ll have lots of changes like this as you get older!  But from now on, I think a bra or a tank top under clothes is a good idea because you’re at the point of needing that now. It’s not a problem, just a change. Congratulations!
Big Sis: Ok.  I like that.
Me: Good.

No big deal. Just a part of our day…

It doesn’t always go exactly so, ummm… Mary Poppins-esque and sometimes we don’t get a spoonful of sugar.

This day was a little different. As I was working on some papers the Brainiac enters..
The Brain:  Mom, I have a question. What is a Hymen?
Me: Blink…breath.
Now typically, the answer would be to go look it up in the dictionary on his own. We do that often but in THIS case, I’d rather take the matter on head first and be sure I cover the bases.
Me, finally: Well, that’s not a word I hear often. Where did you hear it?
Brain: It was in a book.
Me: Really? A book we have?
Brain: Yep.  I’ve never heard that word before.
Me: Well, ok…
I take a pause to decide on wording for my answer, because I fully intend to answer. And I intend to answer fully, because that is what we do around here.
Then I paused, thinking of one more question…
Me: Can you spell the word for me? How you saw it in the book?
The Brain: Oh yes. It was hymn.

H. Y. M. N.

Well smack my head. Wow.

Me: Oh. That word is pronounced like “him”.
Brain: Oh, ok. What does it mean?
Me: A hymn is an old song, sung mostly in churches during service for praise and worship like we do at mass.  Any other words you want to know about?
Brain: Nope. I’m good.

Yeah….. me, too.

While I was completely prepared to discuss female genitalia, I’m glad I have a little more time on that…at least to get a second cup of coffee maybe?
There’s your laugh for the day, and maybe a lesson to answer questions with questions at times, to find out what they are really asking.

1. Ya gotta Poker Face That Kid
It doesn’t matter what comes out of your mouth, your child will respond to your expression and body language first and foremost.  I don’t care if their question makes you want to throw your pashmina scarf over your head and hide in the closet with a box of chocolate, you must not show it. Responses given now at a younger age will dictate how they can predict you as a “safe place” for questions in the future. Keep it together, Mama. Eat chocolate and sob later.
2. Always start with a response of thanks.
Responding with kindness is going to set a child at ease if they have any reservations about asking you something… It also gives you a minute to think while using that poker face (see item #1).
“Hey, I’m glad you asked that.”
“Wow, that’s a great word.”
“You come up with some serious vocabulary words, kid.”
“Gee, I haven’t used the word hymen in a conversation since highschool.” Maybe not that last one…
3. Bystanders Aren’t Your Responsibility
I’m not going to lie to you.  Launching into a discussion about my daughter’s budding body in front of extended family was not exactly comfortable.  Especially since they tend to be more conservative than I am already.  However, my job is to parent my child and I felt that waiting would embarrass her later.  I know my daughter and how she analyses situations. She would wonder what others had been thinking of her dress and be embarrassed.  I am very aware that I made the family uncomfortable. That’s not my problem. (Luckily I have great family, and they were super gracious in this case!) Just as if my child were hungry and needed to nurse, I would not hesitate to feed them, sometimes a discussion needs to happen on the spot.  Your job is to zero in on your child and their needs. Let others take care of their own response.
5. Know Your Child’s Confidence Level
Be aware of the times that answering in public WILL embarrass them and respond according to the situation. Sometimes I will respond with “That’s a great question, but I’d rather talk about it later so I can give you a full answer.”  I’ll even ask them to remind me later saying that I do not want to forget it.
6. Don’t Freak Out If They Want To Know Now
If my child gets upset and wants the answer now, the worst thing that I can do is get upset and angry back. Why would they come to me again if that is the response they can expect to get? Getting on their level with eye contact, I say, “This is just not a good time or place to talk about that. I would rather do it in private. Can you trust me to wait and do this when I can focus on you all the way?”  Never have any of my children said no.

7. DO NOT Ask Where They Heard It First
Whatever you do, do not go straight into asking “Where did you hear that?”  Unless you have completely mastered #1 above and can bat your eyes and smile like June Cleaver on a sunny spring day, the little guy will become defensive.  So would you.  Even if you do ask it with kindness, you have just refused to answer the question and have turned it back on them.  The biggest part of this dance is letting your child feel validated and heard for asking.  Go with a positive statement first. It works.

7. Take Some Time To Know What They Are Really Asking
As I have illustrated above, it can be dangerous to plow ahead without assessing the situation fully.  It happens. Potato, pot-ah-toe… Libya and labia…
Here are some questions to help you “qualify” what junior is asking before you launch into human anatomy.
“That’s not a word I hear often. Can you use it in a sentence for me?”
“I’m not sure I understand what you are asking.  How did you find this word?
“I’ve heard of that before but not often. Can you spell it for me?”
“I want to be sure that I know what you mean. Can you show me what you are talking about?”
You may find that Libya is on a map, not a body…
 8. Look It Up In The Dictionary
Sometimes my brain is mush and I haven’t really got the capacity to put together the sentences required to answer articulately.  We go to the dictionary. Often. We have three different versions of dictionaries in the house. The real ones. Books. You’ve heard of them?  A thesaurus is good to have, too.  We look words up at least once a day from such conversations. Sure it takes time, but I am training my children on how to find their answers. I want them to know that the best place to find answers is with us, their parents. And also in books. This brings me to #9. The next one is huge.
9. Google Is Not A Mom’s Best Friend
It is not. Do not do it. I do not care how much easier it is to type in a word and see the definition quickly appear, complete with a list of google images. You know why? Because in 5 years when the Brainiac is entering the world of teens and a word like hymen comes up, the last place I want that boy to be putting in the random words he is hearing… is Google.  Google is the enemy to healthy parenting. It gives them an out without talking to you. It’s WORSE than them asking their friend about these things because their friends aren’t likely to bombard them with limitless amounts of porn on the spot. Or extreme opinions about anything because the internet is where the freaks come out at night, available to peruse and confuse, 24/7.  Until they are old enough to understand healthy boundaries on the internet, and that means old enough to know the reality of porn and they are ready to face extremists with great convoluted arguments on everything,  keep them coming to you for conversations that end well.
Consider purchasing something like this:
Be sure to invest in a good one that is more complete. Have that on hand as well.
10. Thank Them And Ask For More 
Let the conversation end well. Even if it is a hard one. Even if I had found myself explaining the hymen to my 8 year old, I would have done everything possible to bring it to a happy confident ending point.  I want my child to walk away relieved and thankful that he asked me instead of someone else.  I want his curiosity to be completely satisfied and I always, always ask “Do you have any more questions about that?” If the answer is no, I remind him that he can let me know as soon as any other thoughts come up and I’ll be happy to discuss it again.  Give them the confidence in you that you deserve. You are the mom.  Be the safe place that they need in this life full of awkward questions.

We get much more pointed questions at times.  I just thought I’d share about the hymen coming up today, and the other came to mind. So there you have it.  Have a great hump day.

Raise BOTH Hands if Your Hands Are Full- 7 Reasons the statement offends

I am so thankful that my last post, Raise Your Hand if Your Hands are Full has spoken to so many of you. Thank you so much for reading my post and taking a minute to comment or share.  To be honest, I felt like I was ranting and raving a bit over something that really shouldn’t be such a big deal. It shouldn’t work me up so much, right?   There are times that it doesn’t, to be sure. When it is said with a smile, or a tone that does not imply shock, or horror, or give the feeling that the person would rather have any life but yours…. The nice ones are not the norm.
I was asked by a couple of people today why this statement is so offensive to moms, when it seems so well meaning.  Over dinner with my family, fighting over who got the most delicious looking nachos, I took a step back to think through my reactions and process what the statement of “You have your hands full” implies and why it feels like a very big deal.  So the truth is that it many times is not offensive. But we all know that some-kind-percentage-that-is-alot of speech is body language and tone. THAT is what this is about.
1. A child who is often badly behaved is called “a handful”. I have 4 children. The statement of “You have your hands full.” has a pretty close correlation and it’s easy to conclude that they two go together. If I have my hands full, it sounds like my children must be a handful. They are not. They are friggin’ AWESOME!
2. I get the hands full comment at least once a week. This was the 4th time in 2 weeks. I’m sure moms of more children get it even more often. It just gets old… Like a good friend of mine who’s last name is Scheidt (pronounced Shite).  Do you really think he needs to hear someone comment on it?  AGAIN?!?!?
3. I have never had someone say it with a look or tone that implies they admire my position. I DO get comments that are wonderful and encouraging. When people complement my children or myself, it has never been with such a knee jerk statement. They typically use their own words or something about how they miss theirs, wish they had had more, etc.
4. In other instances in life where we see someone with their “hands full”, we assume that they need help. Maybe they are about to drop something. A picture of a lone woman with arms full of groceries in the rain comes to mind. They must be overloaded. And that the “full hands” certainly can’t hold anything else, so what else is there to me?  I am not overloaded. In fact I am sure we will have at least 2 more children.
5. It is always an unsolicited comment. Typically by someone who is watching you with so many kids, and then accidentally makes eye contact and can’t think of anything to say. They’re uncomfortable. They realize that they were gawking and assume that you really give a hoot about it. It’s like the southern habit of saying “Well, bless your heart.”. Which is really the same as calling someone a fool in need of pity. Well,  To quote my childhood crush, Mr. T, I pity the fool who doesn’t understand how rocking fun my life is.
6. For a busy mother who loves her life with her kids (even if she looks haggard) it gives us the same feeling that it gives a single woman when she is patronized for being alone. “You’re such a LOVELY girl. I just can’t believe some nice man has not snatched you up yet.” That single girl may love the way her life is, or she may want a man in it. Whichever way she feels, the comment just kinda sucks.  It’s not doing anything for her, and just makes the person speaking feel good about saying something.
7. Ultimately, it often unintentionally implies that this is all work. Mothering more than 2 is just so, so much that it is astonishing. The person making the statement is looking at me and what I must have to do and how much it is  to deal with.  The statement never accounts for the 4 little people standing before them, or acknowledges them as the amazing individuals that they each are. It is a comment that focuses on what appears to be overwhelming, without mention of the overwhelming wonder that each and every child is.
It never would have bothered me before I had kids, so I can understand why it doesn’t make sense to some. And maybe we as moms of more than 2 kids are too sensitive.  Every now and then someone says it with such a smile that I know they mean well. It’s rare, and those cases don’t bother me a bit. But that is not the norm, I assure you.  I don’t know many moms who take the hands full statement as a compliment. I feel like that is saying something about what it implies to us?

Raise Your Hand if Your Hands are Full

It happened for the 4,356,837 time today.  As my four (not 10, not 21, just four) children and I stood in the checkout line at Walmart with their new flip flops in cart, someone behind me decided to say it.
“Wow! You sure have your hands full!”
We moms typically don’t know whether this is a compliment or not when you hear it, until you see the body language and facial expression that accompany the much over-used line.
I turn and look to see a nice thin, tall hippy/earthy looking woman in her fifties who has the look of being happily single her whole life and terrified of kids.  Yes, I looked. No ring. Only a look of horror on her face as she took in the view of my little brood. She surely has cats.
I put on a smile, so as not to scare her and rattle of my well-rehearsed standard response.
“Well, better than empty. At least they’re full of life.”  Sweet smile…turn back around to my kids.
And then,  THEN…
“I just can’t even imagine… WHAT possessed you??”
Yes…she did.  I couldn’t make that up.
I took a deep breath to reel in my inner Madea and turned around again, using my happiest sarcastic voice…
“What possessed me? As in… demons? Do my kids look like the product of demon possession to you?  I actually have REALLY good sex with my husband. And often.  As for possession, these four are the most amazing people in my life and worth more than any other  POSSESSIONS that I have.  No demons involved in that. Thanks for asking such an interesting question.”
She started to sputter about her brother having 5 boys and it just looked like so much work….Oh, goodness.
I looked back one more time and just said. “It’s really fine. Have a great day.”
And then as it was my turn to check out, and all four were working together to unload the cart very nicely, the poor cashier smiles at me… and says…
“You sure have your hands full!”
Oh. Lord. Help. Me…. Poor innocent, unaware, little Walmart employee.
I put the smile back up and said “EVERYONE has their hands full. It’s up to you what you choose to fill them with. I choose them, every single day.”
She thought it was sweet. I didn’t look back at hippy free woman but I’m sure she had some sort of interesting response.
So in the defense of our full hands, moms, let us all remember that not having them would only give us empty hands to fill.
 Maybe with a life consuming career.   Look up the definition of consumption, will ya? I don’t want life consumed.  
How about 700 cats like this lady. Maybe just one or two cats? Or how about be a lover of dogs so you can  approach a mother at Piedmont Park  walking her adorable baby in a stroller, with the dog along, and fawn over the K9 while ignoring that there is an adorable little person right there that is actually more valuable. Oh wait, because they aren’t as important to you.
And we have pets. Well loved pets. It’s the section of the childless crowd that values their pet over small PEOPLE that get to me.

Ladies, we could have our hands full of money!! If we didn’t have them soooo full of our expensive spawn.  We are REALLY missing out.

You really don’t want to get me started on possession and the American need to fill our lives with stuff instead of… LIVES.  Because if we had more, we’d never be able to take them aaaallll to Disney!?!?

You could just have empty arms without them, and fill them with whatever man you want.  History has shown that does not lead to the most FULL-filling lifestyle.

And, mothers, let us never EVER forget the women who have empty arms not by choice.
A disdainful comment of  “You sure have your hands full.” is just as offensive toward them. Those who would give anything and everything they can get their hands on, to fill their arms with the life and love we experience every day in our children.

So, rock your full hands.  Look at them in wonder and awe… And come up with a really great standard response to be prepared for the millions of times it will be said to you if you have more than the standard two children.  Because until our society values these small people over possession, we will continue to shock them day in and day out.

For extra evidence to defend my point, here are my parents, with all 10 of us children, 8 children-in-law, and over 20 grandchildren (2 more on the way!). Do they look like they need pity?  They made huge sacrifices for us.  And I am so, so thankful for it every day.

THIS is what blessed looks like. Don’t ever doubt that.

To be fair, I have a career, I love our pets and I absolutely enjoy extra money and shopping. It’s valuing these over children, even when they’re not your own, that makes fire spew from my ears. It’s a small portion of the population, but they all seem to approach ME.
Comment with your favorite response to the remark, “You sure have your hands full.”  I could use some fresh ideas myself.
UPDATE: After being asked a few times today why the statement “You have your hands full!” is offensive, I spent some time thinking about it and wrote a follow up.
Raise BOTH Hands if Your Hands Are Full- 7 Reasons the statement offends
Like this post?  Try one of these:
Ludini Strikes- The Case of The Missing Boy (video included)
If My Life Came With an Owner’s Manual (FREE printable)
The Generation of Play Doctors (this one is intense) 

Waiting for SuperMom

I’ve been waiting for the time to be right, hoping that I would know with unequivocal clarity.  Hoping that I would make it,  to be the best mom ever for my babes. In a holding pattern, like a passenger plain hovering above the clouds and waiting for the storm to pass.  To be the Supermom that these children deserve.
At the end of each day I sit, hoping that the next one will be better.  I  mistakes constantly. I pray that my children are strong enough not to be scarred by me, since I know that there is no way around them being hurt.  I’m just not perfect.
I fold laundry at 2am, I do dished a 4am ever so quietly, hoping not to wake the locals.   Then I sleep till 10am because I pushed too hard  and my body isn’t what it used to be.  So I feed them whatever I can get my hands on, and don’t make dinner until the last minute so the kitchen is a mess. Because I have to make everything from scratch. We have  various food allergies and housing upheaval. I have fibromyalgia, a herniated disk, a para-esophageal hernia that is going to require major surgery in a few weeks… A whole pot of crazy going on.
I spend my days trying to school them.  I love these days, but they don’t feel like enough for them, around my health and other needs. Each and every day I wonder if school would be better.   Not that I feel like a failure, but the thought is just always there. I am very aware that there are ways that school would NOT be successful, but then I worry about my inability to hold to structure and how it is affecting them.
My children are brilliant, and inspiring! Says-every-mom-ever. And I mean it!  They amaze me even more than they concern me. We are in a season of complete upheaval with construction on our home, changing our family budget, and getting health stuff taken care of.
One big change for our family happened about a month ago when we did send one of the babes back to school.  Over December we thought and prayed a lot about it.  It basically came down to this. Lucas needs clear structure and routine.  I am not very successful at either.  Lucas needs a full evaluation for insurance to pay for his therapy needs for Asperger Syndrome.  Insurance does not cover the evaluation which is anywhere between $2500 and $5000.  In public school he can be evaluated for free and provided the structure and support he needs.  Sounds like the perfect answer!!
It was still hard. So, so hard.  Lucas is the one I always keep with me. Mostly because he’s so much for other people to handle.  So dropping him off for others to care was overwhelming.  The school staff spent several hours over  2 weeks with us, in preparation for bringing Lucas in. They were wonderful.  We went over his need for support in the bathroom, and talked about his Sensory Processing Disorder. Because of his SPD, he is likely to be in pullups until he is 10-12.  The created a special plan and routine for him, based on what we suggested, with supervised bathroom visits and help with accidents. Their attention to detail for his needs was such a relief.  In his 504 plan for special needs, they also allowed him to have his chew necklace, wiggle seat and fidget toys.
Lucas has been there for a month now, and he is thriving. For the first time!  I can say he is thriving!! We still pick him up every Tuesday and take him to his OT appointments and he is in the middle of the evaluation process. In spite of my fears, it was absolutely what he needed.
Things come up with each of our children where we have to re-evaluate what we do.   We have to look at their needs. We put them above ours, and even above our ideals. We shift those ideals, as each process with our children changes the shape of our parenting; changes the priorities we thought we knew were “utmost” ten years ago.
I absolutely, despise the question “How do you do it all?”  Actually, even more than I despise the movie. The question is lame. No one really wants an answer. What they really mean is that you just have too much, way more than they would ever want. And it implies that they really have a clear preference for their own life.  Well, touche.  I prefer mine.
The truth is that NONE of  us do it all.  We choose in the moment, we grow with their needs. We stretch the muscle of our heart, the tissues of our brains… and they both ache and quake through the process.  We don’t do it all. Ever.  No one does.  Wed on’t have to.  We just have to do today.
I caught myself waiting again.  Waiting for something that will never happen. Something that doesn’t exist.  There is no Supermom.  I will never be her, and neither will you.  We have no cape and no need for one.  Who we are is who we are meant to be, and it is what our children need.   I mean, Edna said it and I agree.

Join me in putting the cape envy away.  Let’s put down our list of expectations. Our  prejudice on what we would look like if we were Supermoms.
The next few months look like climbing Mount Everest to me, and I don’t know how to do it. I just know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this sweet family of mine will make it to the other side… regardless of my lack of cape.
Some Related Posts:
Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is Which Translates Into Public School 
Waiting For SuperMom

Raise Your Hand If Your Hands Are Full
The 25% Rule of Educating My Kids
Back To School, Errrr Back Home, Homeschool