The Real Reason I Celebrate Half-Birthdays

The Real Reason I Celebrate Half-Birthdays

Usually it’s cupcakes for breakfast, sometimes there’s a gift, a few times we’ve thrown in lunch and a movie, but we always celebrate.

If you ask me why, I’ll talk about how I only have the one kid so it’s easy to double the birthday celebration. I’ll mention my cousin, who had her baby that day, so the date was already marked. It was an easy habit to jump into – a little half-birthday celebration.

Plus kids love to count the halves, don’t they? And the quarters.

But those aren’t the reasons, not really.

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I Suck At Parenting And Other Reasons I Homeschool (Feat. Andy Dwyer)

I Suck At Parenting And Other Reasons I Homeschool (Feat. Andy Dwyer)

We are homeschooling this year and by "we" I mean me.  We're doing school at the hizzouse and saying weird things like "hizzouse."  After half a year, I think it's safe to say it's going splendidly - at least 20x better than our attempt at public Kindergarten.  I meant to share a bit about why I'm homeschooling The B BEFORE we started the school year, but, alas, I did not.  I'm doing it today, and feeling a bit saucy, so you're welcome (or I'm sorry).

1. I Suck At Parenting

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SANTA IS CREEPY. THERE I SAID IT.

SANTA IS CREEPY.  THERE I SAID IT.

We don't do Santa.  No centuries-old fat guy sneaks into our house to bring presents.  So far, the only downside to this is the amount of times I have to remind my child, who definitely received my know-it-all-gene, it is NOT his job to tell other children the truth about Santa.

Important disclaimer: You do you.  I don't believe anyone is evil or stupid or any other terrible adjective for doing Santa. The purpose of this essay is not to criticize the Santa myth, but to explain why I don't do it and encourage those who think/feel similarly. Santa is fun and you should keep on keeping on with your Santa-loving self. 

I decided to skip Santa just before my son's second Christmas, around the same time I realized the only reason I would perpetuate the myth was because

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On How Shoes Are Dumb, Home Education, and Challenging “Normal”

Have you ever stopped and thought about why we wear shoes?  What are the actual benefits?  And if the benefits are only felt part of the time, why do we wear shoes the majority of the time?  And how did the wearing of shoes morph into a cultural mode of expression so intense that we wear certain shoes to the detriment of our feet and spine?  

One of my favorite podcasts – Freakonomics Radio - recently did an episode exploring the sometimes ridiculousness of wearing shoes. (Download it here.  Also, subscribe because the whole show is fantastic)

There are things which become “normal” in any culture, but which, upon reflection, are wholly irrational.  I wonder how many norms of our culture will be reviewed by puzzled future historians. “They surgically altered their feet to fit certain shoes?” they’ll say, “But, why?”

In our culture, it is normal to spend a day’s wages on the right pair of shoes.  It is normal to wear spine-damaging heels daily.  “Normal” does not always make sense.  “Normal” is not always rational.  In fact, “normal” ebbs and flows with culture, and in a culture like ours – driven in large part by $$$$ - “normal” is sometimes driven, dictated, or manipulated into being by those who would profit.

Sometimes, maybe even most times, “normal” should be left alone - there are benefits to going with the flow of culture.  If you decide shoes are not for you, you’re going to run into some problems getting groceries.   Wearing the wrong shoes to an interview might cost you a job, or a mate.  Stupid?  Maybe, but it’s also reality.

It doesn’t hurt though to examine why we do certain things – to challenge “normal.”  The minimalist movement does this and I am a big fan (Why do I have 20 sets of silverware?  No good reason?  Okay let’s chuck a few.)  The lifestyle design movement does this too (Why am I working 40 hours a week?  Is there a better way to use some of this time? How can I adjust my lifestyle to need less money and keep more time?)

Right now, I’m interested in challenging “normal” education.  Not your kid’s education – that’s your business – but for my own kid.  We’re about to enter homeschool and I’ve been thinking about what it means to “educate.”  Normal education sends a kid to school – public or private – or it homeschools based on a curriculum closely mimicking what is taught in traditional schools. 

Just like shoes, education is informed by society and differs widely among cultures.  In approaching how to educate my 6 year old, I’m trying to step back – WAY back.   I’m trying to ignore the way our culture educates and focus on what I think the purpose of education is: prepare a child for life.   If I could ignore what I know about “normal” education, and I was simply faced with preparing a child for life, how would I educate him?  It’s a pretty freaking important question, so I’m taking my time working toward an answer. I’ll let you know how it turns out. 

What generally unchallenged culture norm is weird to you?  I bet my fellow Myers-Briggs INTs have a list. 

Dear Kid: What To Do When I Screw You Up

Dear Kid,

I really like you.  You are seriously, absolutely, positively, my most favorite part of this earthly existence.  But I'm going to mess you up.  I don't know how and I don't know when or how often (otherwise, duh, I wouldn't), but it will happen.  Something I do or say or teach you will clash and conflict with your unique little person.  Some of my bad habits will rub off on you before I'm able to correct them in myself.  I will get mad and say things I don't mean and they will stick with you for years.  All or some of this will happen, and you will carry this junk into adulthood.
 

I'm really sorry about that.

 

No excuses, I'm sorry.  But here's the thing - the second you appeared on this planet as a puffed-up, wide-eyed babe, my chances of screwing up a kid shot to 100%.  As a human, I had no chance of perfectly parenting you for 18 years.  We are 1/3 of the way there (sniff sniff) and I've already blown it a bunch.  

I'm sorry for all of the ways I have failed and for all of the ways I will fail.  But I am not sorry for trying.  The harder I try, the more I recognize where I fall short - it is the suckiest of balancing acts.  At the end of every day, especially those days where I blow it, I have to decide I am doing my best and I'll keep getting better.  I have to decide to trust in God to have you - I have to make peace with parenting you imperfectly.

This is what you will have to do too - make peace.  Or it is what I hope you will do.  I wasted some years down a "wah wah - whoa is me - why is everyone mean -why did I get the short end - whiny baby" road.  Maybe I needed to be there for a bit.  Maybe you will need it too.  Just don't stay there.

The sum of your life, your experiences, and your level of contentedness is not correlated to what happens to you.  All of the ways I screw up raising you will not determine the direction of your life.  Your reactions will determine this - how you choose to respond, how you choose to focus your thoughts, how you choose to relate to others.  

My actions might result in obstacles you have to overcome.  BUT you will have to choose whether to wallow in misery over the obstacle and be angry and bitter toward me/life in general OR work to overcome the obstacle and let it make you stronger.  You may have to choose to unlearn things I taught you.  You may have to confront me on things and I promise - if I'm living - I will do whatever I can to help you work through whatever comes up.

I will take full responsibility for my mistakes where I make them, but how you respond and react to them is on you. 

During these eighteen years, I hope I at least teach you this much:  

It doesn't matter how I, or anyone else in your life, may have failed you.  Our screw-ups might explain your screw-ups, but this explanation does not double as an excuse.  

YOU are responsible for YOU. You will screw stuff up just like I did - differently, but screw-ups just the same. Every time you do, you will have a choice - shirk responsibilities and blame others OR pick yourself up, learn something, and grow.  

Do the latter.

Love you <3 <3 <3  

 

Spring Break Road Trip: An Honest Account

The B and I took a nearly two week road trip for Spring Break this year.  I shared some highlights on social media (of course), but there is more to life than the highlight reel.

Enjoy the whole picture!

Day 1


Stuck in mud because I am dumb.

Day 1 take 2

Still stuck in mud.

Day 1 take 3

Step-dad gets backhoe and frees us from mud.  Six year old gets to ride in backhoe. Six year old is happy. 

Free in time to leave on first leg of journey.  5 minutes out, steering wheel begins shaking uncontrollably.  Begin traveling at 15 miles/hour with hazards.  Call Mom to see what might give steering wheel tremors.  She says something with the tires, gives directions to Les Schwab.

Luckily, still have studded tires on because procrastination. Regular tires conveniently loaded in car for an exchange somewhere along our way.

Also lucky, Les Schwab has WiFi and vending machines.  Six Year old is happy.

3 hours later we are dumping studded tires in storage, Moana soundtrack is blaring, and we are out.

Entering freeway, child in back informs me he needs a bathroom. 
 

Day 2

Wake up at Great-Grandma and Grandpa’s in Renton WA.  Meant to spend 3 days, but whittled down to 1 to stay on schedule.

Love my dumb phone, but about to spend summer in home with no WiFi.  Decided to get smart phone before trip for assistance in road trip success. Did not get phone before trip because procrastination.

Get smart phone with Great-Grandma.  Leave old dumb phone with Great-Grandma and Grandpa because Great-Grandpa needs new one, although he’s not sure phone is dumb enough (has slide-out key pad for texting.)

Head south toward Vancouver.  Moana soundtrack still blasting.  Notice B lip -synching.  Hold new smartphone up and take continuous video.  Capture much gold, such as this.  Beginning to like smart phone.

Day 3

Visit with Vancouver Aunt and Cousins. They are awesome. 

Aunt has cat.  Tells B to leave cat alone because cat openly hostile to humans.  B does not leave cat alone.  Did not receive injury from cat despite repeated efforts.

Aunt gives B stack of CDs for the road.  My least favorites so far: Madagascar soundtrack, Alvin and the Chipmunks soundtrack. 

Ella Enchanted soundtrack gets big thumbs up. 

B’s favorites: see my least favorites.

Vancouver Cousin is 9 days my senior.  He has Daughter 6 months B’s senior.  Both were born at 11:18pm on the 13th, 6 months apart.  This means back-to-back pictures are mandated, as they were for their parents.  Children clearly thrilled with this requirement. 

Day 4

I want to share video below.  B doesn’t want to share it.  Consider doing it without permission.  Instead resort to bribery.  Buy child movie (Sing) thus subjecting adults at all future stops to a viewing.

Leave Vancouver for Salem.  B yells at Siri every time she gives directions.  His insults become increasingly volatile, from “stop telling us what to do!” to “you disgust me lady!”

Arrive in Salem.  This is about the time Dr. B Jekyll becomes Mr. B Hyde.  Open defiance, disrespect, and sass ensue.  Family impressed with parenting skills. 

Day 5

Aunt in Salem buys chickens. She lets B get one.  B gives her a dollar to buy his.  He names chicken Robert.  When informed chicken is female, he renames her Carisa (Cah-rees-ah) and corrects everyone who mispronounces name. 

Visit to Great-Grandparents haven’t seen in years.  While there, B announces he wants to leave, exits front door, gets in car, refuses to come out.    Grateful I will see Grandparents in a couple months sans six year old.  Will look forward to compliments on parenting skills.

Aunt and Uncle buy us pizza at pizza place.  Uncle plays arcade games with B.  B is happy.

Aunt and Uncle give tips on iPhone.  Change voice of Siri to male with Australian accent.  B is amenable to this.  Names man “Cameron.” 

We all watch Sing.

Day 6

Salem Aunt generously takes us shopping for upcoming wedding.  B picks out dresses like pro and freely gives opinions, including distaste for anything showing too much skin in chest region. 

Cameron (Siri) gives directions from Salem to Wildlife Safari in Winston.  I obtain pensive glamour shots of as many beasts as possible.

B feeds an emu.

Stop at Red Robin on way to hotel in Medford. Grateful for gluten-free buns.

Discover a downside to traveling alone with a child.  Child needs to use facilities.  Takes longer than expected.  Wait staff begins clearing procedures.  Child perturbed about disappearance of menu full of activities he spent 10 minutes diligently completing. 

Spend night at hotel in Medford.  Work couple of hours from laptop then foolishly fall asleep with B still watching Disney channel.  B does not fall asleep with T.V. I believe it is a biological impossibility.  I wake at 2 a.m., realize blunder, and scramble for remote, silencing Jessie.

“It’s okay mom,” says B, “If I stay up late I’ll sleep longer in the car.  You need sleep ‘cause you have to drive but not me.”

Spoiler: He did not sleep more in the car.

Day 7

What should have been five-hour trip to Napa somehow turns into eight.  Not saying it’s monster’s fault, but did just refer to him as monster. Draw your own conclusions. 

There is wine at the end of the tunnel.

Great visit with family.  B has great visit with the chocolate lab.

Day 8

Ferry to San Francisco with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, and soon-to-be-Uncle.  Exploratorium is the coolest.  Must return.  

Lunch at Coquetta.  Amazing food and amazing service.  Six year old unimpressed with spending hours in restaurant, but gives high praise to food and enjoys fancy drink with mint sprig.

Incident occurs in which B accuses soon-to-be-Uncle of stealing two quarters.  Mr. B Hyde is mad and fixated on this point.  Imagine a high voice demanding “Gimme my quarters!” followed by undeterred physical pestering on the street, waiting for ferry, on ferry, leaving ferry, in car. 

Catch the end of Zags winning Final Four game (Go Zags!) on the radio. Spend evening drinking wine outside, watching Ducks lose ( :( ).

Day 9

Grandma and Grandpa put together killer Sunday brunch at Napa home.  Ate my weight.  Needed nap. 

Borrowed basketball from B’s soon-to-be-Uncle.  Grandpa takes me and B to play.  Grandpa wears sandals, one of which breaks when trying to fish ball out of mud for second time 

Grandpa knows of hoop not next to muddy ravine.

At other hoop, now shoeless, Grandpa discovers new court is flood damaged and covered in tiny chunks of dislodged asphalt, perfect for massaging bare feet. B does not notice dilemma, insists Grandpa chase and guard him because “that’s how you play ball.” 

B’s FG% decreases significantly with introduction of 10-foot hoop. 

Day 10

Relax with book near pool in what feels like summer.  B wears out chocolate lab. 

 

Drive to beautiful park with Grandpa and chocolate lab.  B holds leash and swings it around screaming “yah yah yah!”  Chocolate lab does not seem to mind.

Hike up hill with gorgeous views of valley.  B enjoys fresh air until trips on leash and skins leg. This is somewhat traumatic. Claims of being unable to walk erupt.  Crying occurs (so does walking).

B’s Aunt calls.  He inquires if soon-to-be-Uncle has his quarters.

We all watch Sing.

Day 11

Prepare for trip home. 

Grandma suggests B write thank you note to soon-to-be-Uncle for lending of basketball.   Grandma provides thank you note. B complies in B fashion.

Aunt comes over for dinner.  B throws epic tantrum.  Grandma offers me more wine.

Day 12

Leave Napa before sunrise in hopes of hours of sleeping B.  B wakes when placed in car seat.  Does not sleep.

Give up hopes of fun car ride with music and car games.  Exchange for kid in back with iPad and headphones.  Mom in front with podcasts. 

Get to hotel in Bend.  I suggest shower, pizza, and T.V.  B really wants a burger.  Find place with gluten-free bun.  Cameron (Siri) gives directions.  B has apparently tired of Cameron and insults him.  Cameron ceases giving us verbal directions.  I have no idea how to resolve this.

Gluten-free bun place turns out to be meatless.  Buy child plant-based burger and fries in hopes he will not notice.  Child notices.

Back to hotel room, we order pizza. 

Day 13

Amazing views on winding highways, stimulating podcasts, and barely a peep from the child in the back glued to some addictive building block game, blissfully unaware it will be deleted immediately upon arrival.

All in all, a fantastic vacation

 

 

Parenting My World Changer, And Why I Don't Have All The Answers

I would have been the jerk mom who looked down her nose at you for your inability to properly raise your kid - and by "properly" you know I mean the way I do it.

Except I gave birth to The B.

I would have had all the answers and all of the suggestions.  If you would just . . . He only needs . . . You should  . . . Well you cant . . .

Except I parent The B.

I would have raised my eyebrows at you in the store and maybe even gossiped about you later.

Except I shop with The B.

I would have said "Oh I get it.  I totally understand.  My kid can be hard too.  But when he . . . I just . . ."

Except I am charged with disciplining The B.

I don't know about your kid.  I don't know his quirks.  I don't know his particular issues.  I might offer suggestions - things I've heard, things I've tried, maybe even things we've had success with - BUT slap me hard in the face if I EVER sound like I think I could parent your kid better than you do.  

God gave your kid to you.  I can't see you once a week, or see one incident in a public place, and assume I know what you deal with 24/7 and how you should address it.  

I know this, because I am mom to The B.

I also know this - some of our kids' most challenging traits will become their biggest assets.  With the right heart, The B's persistence, his wit, his strong will, his quick mind, his ability to know what buttons to push on any given person, his boldness, his incessant inquisitiveness - these will be assets.

These traits will make him a world changer - something he's already planning to be.

The B wrote on his Beach Boys CD insert - not even mad. &nbsp;By "Wee can thang the wrold" he of course meant "We can change the world."

The B wrote on his Beach Boys CD insert - not even mad.  By "Wee can thang the wrold" he of course meant "We can change the world."

I parent one of the most challenging kids I've ever met.  I know many are harder, and The B has days where he's a breeze and a joy.  But ours is not a smooth journey.  Some days I find my only hope in the idea I might at least influence him to be a benevolent dictator when he takes over the world.

But EVERY day I thank God for this particular kid.  

He has taught me I don't have all the answers.  And I'm starting to be okay with that.

Why My Kid is Late to School

We're nearly 100 days into Kindergarten and The B has been late nearly as often as he has been absent (which is a lot). I have plenty of talents, but getting somewhere at the same time, every day, five days per week is SOOOOOO hard for me.  If it's easy for you - congratulations - I'm happy for you, I am.  It is terribly difficult for me.  

I have a plan for avoiding these shenanigans next year (hallelujah!) For now though, I have compiled a short list of some of the reasons we have been late this year.  Enjoy.

  • His pants have slightly damp pockets because they didn't dry properly.  They are his only clean sweats.  Jeans are not an acceptable option. (This is also why he is wearing slightly damp pants.)

 

  • He hid one of his boots and pretended he couldn't find it.

 

  • A morning snuggle session ran a little long.

 

  • I turned the wrong way (twice).

 

  • He didn't like the snack I packed and removed it from his backpack. I put it back.  He took it out.  I put it back.  (This is also why he does not have a snack.)

 

  • He refused to wear boots despite the foot+ of snow on the ground.  Arguments ensued.
  • He couldn't find clean sweat pants. (This is also why he is wearing pajama pants.)

 

  • He doesn't want to go at all and it took me 10 minutes to find the right bribe and/or consequence to convince him it's in his best interest.

 

  • He saw what I packed him for lunch and requested all but one item be removed.  Arguments ensued.

 

  • His inner Cheetah (his words not mine) which was the bane of my existence last night, has turned into an inner Sloth (again, his words).

 

  • There were 10 minutes worth of interesting things to observe/touch/discuss between the house and the car.  

 

  • He had to poop.  

MORE FROM STEVIE ON PARENTING (CLICK HERE)