The Bubble Debate

“You can’t keep them in a bubble and shield them from everything.”

I was on a community Facebook page today, and someone mentioned the music being played around small children at a small town country fair. It included lyrics with adult content. Questionable language and sexually explicit whether direct or innuendo. The comment was made that it was a laughable concern…Because we can’t shield them from everything.

While it may be true that we can’t shield small children from “everything”, why don’t we as a society want our kids, especially our 5 and under crowd, shielded from some things?

Music is not my hill to die on. Music is a form of art and art is meant to shock people or make noise on a subject matter (although I’m hard pressed to see the art through the commercialism of modern pop and hip hop), but it’s brought up a bigger issue: is exposure to adult content at a tender age appropriate? Or let’s be real, is it appropriate at any age?

I do want my children sheltered. At least for a little while. My 5 year old does not need to know yet, what kind of world they’re inheriting. I want them to be the kind of people that make the world better and don’t buy in to a societal status quo. That status quo is not something we are striving for as a family and instilling in a new generation. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” a la Gandhi paraphrased bumper stickers, popular the world over.

It boils down to a parents choice. It’s their choice when they want to discuss sensitive or mature subjects. It’s their choice what type of language they want them exposed to. It’s their right to ask where they can request more appropriate music at an event geared toward children. And we as a society should support that choice. We should protect those children together. We should stand up for that parental choice. You go mom with a voice! Make it heard!

Maybe, just maybe, if we teach our children to support what they have been taught and encouraged to truly believe in, and stand up for what’s right, we will raise a generation with new morals that changes the world. We cannot just tell them what to do. We have to guide them to make choices.

I am not perfect. My children are not perfect. But I’ll keep them “sheltered” just a little while longer.

The Misguided Middle

Sam is our middle child. He’s 8. He’s wonderful. He’s a bit of a shit…

Truth be told he always has been. I can say this because I love him. He came into this world backwards and screaming. He screamed for months. He wouldn’t let anyone else hold him. Once he could move he followed me everywhere and he screamed if I went out of eye line.

Sam pulled my hair. Sam hit me. Sam bit me. Sam hit and bit his sister. He ate all of the time. He was a bit of a shit…

As he grew, it started to become clear that Sam did not get language. He could not understand us and he certainly couldn’t express himself. Super long story short, Sam had sensory issues that interfered with language acquisition. We worked with our local ISD and did a ton of work at home, and eventually he started communicating, but to this day, Sam is not GOOD at expressing himself.

We’ve been working super hard on behavior. We’ve tried all the things. But Sam still hits people when he gets mad or upset or hurt and this happens on the daily. We talk about how we can’t control what other people do, just how we respond to it. He makes lists of other things he can do when he’s upset (count to 10, punch a pillow, walk away and do something else, etc) and he posts them on his wall. But I still worry, that Sam is a bully.

Last week, trying to be funny, he did something so upsetting and disappointing. Renna loves to draw and she even enters contests with her favorite YouTuber Draw with Jazza. The work she’s most proud of, was an updated girl with the pearl earring drawing in her sketch book. She worked so hard on it. Sam “added on” to EVERY page in her sketch book one day…including that one.

Elliott can’t write anything but his name, Sam…get a better alibi…

We had the big talk about how hurtful that was and how disappointed I was. How he had to make amends and he owed Renna something. He also had to apologize both in person and in writing and used his own money to buy her a new book.

Truth be told, Sam is my most helpful kid. When he’s showered in love and attention he’s amazing. He unloads the dishwasher, does laundry, helps with the animals, helps with outside stuff, pulls weeds, cooks breakfast, all the things when I ask. If I can hit him with a preemptive strike to keep him busy and entertained and working, he is a joy of a child. But being in the middle in a family with 4 kids is hard.

He’s not the oldest. He doesn’t have that extra responsibility and the opportunity often to be “in charge”. He’s not the baby and he got a double hit on that one with twin younger siblings. We do our best but undivided attention is sometimes hard to come by.

He’s stuck in the misguided, misunderstood middle. And sometimes that means he’s a bit of a shit… but we’re working on it. And we love his naughty little face off. And maybe someday, with enough guidance, he’ll be able to express himself without violence and vandalism 😉

8 Tiny Eyes

My kids are growing.  They are growing too fast and it’s NOT ok with me.  I mean, I want them to grow up to be strong, happy, successful people some day, I just wish it would take longer.  As they grow, some things have become so much easier.  No more diapers, no bottles, no incessant crying for no reason, no giant diaper bags that can hold a weekend trip for two to some fancy B&B in wine country but is instead full of burp cloths that smell like sour milk and 47 pounds of baby wipes.  All of that is done.  And I can leave them unattended for a short time and they are usually all alive and not bleeding when I come back…usually.

But as they grow, the problems and the situations grow with them.  The questions, the peer pressure, and the desire to be independent.  I think I’m what you would call a free range mom.   But my husband is not a free range dad.  He will openly admit his freedom leash for the kids is very short.  Luckily for them, it’s usually me here 😉  I am not, however, ready to hand them over to social media.

My nearly 10 year old has a phone.  I know some people think that’s crazy, but it’s a tracfone and we had a legitimate emergency where she had to be in charge for a short time while the neighbor was on her way home and I realized that our lack of landlines made this interesting nowadays.  So she got a phone.  It was supposed to be for emergencies.  But she started using it to google things when we had a question we couldn’t answer without help.  Good use of a phone.  Finding pertinent info.  Then she used it to play music to dance too.  Perfectly fine.  She watched her favorite Artist/Vlogger on Youtube.  Fine.  She wanted games her friends play, but after much research I decided she couldn’t have those.  They were too open.  Too public.  She also loves to take beautiful pictures and she asked for an Instagram account.   “…hmm…well…”  I am pretty familiar with the workings of Instagram and the privacy and security.  We had a “talk” about social media safety and I locked her account down like Fort Knox and then I added the friends she was allowed to have.  She had to ask me to add or follow anyone else.

She found some old friends from her first school.  Ok.  I guess.  Which ones?  I checked her account every single day.  Then I started checking into her friends accounts from her phone and I was shocked.  Little girls posting photos they shouldn’t.  Using words they shouldn’t.  Talking about topics they shouldn’t.  And then it happened.  My kid posted something mean to someone else…It was a celebrity, not like a friend they’re picking on, but still NOT OK.  I talked to her.  I asked her to explain.  I yelled I’m sure.  I made her write a paper about responsible social media use and then I disabled her account and deleted her app.  I also took her phone for 7 days.  I do think she gets it, but she’s not getting Instagram back any time soon.

She wanted to be on the phone…like she was an addict in withdrawal and asked daily for it back.  That’s when it dawned on me, that that’s the culture and the generation we are raising.  We are raising kids who think it’s normal to spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone.  Looking at it.  Reading things.  Socializing.  Working.  Watching videos.  Heck even banking and ordering dinner.  On the phone.  Never more than 10 feet away.  Mine is 12 inches to my right as I type this.  I can see it in case it lights up.  In case someone calls (rare) or texts, or sends a Facebook message.  I can pick it up any time and get dopamine hits from the little hearts on Instagram and the Like button on Facebook.  When someone likes your photo or comment your brain releases dopamine and makes you happy.  Your serotonin levels rise.  But it’s a short burst and you need more.

8 tiny eyes are watching us.  Watching us hold on to our phones too much.  Guilty as charged.  It must be wonderful if we’re doing it right?  So they want to do it too.  They want the dopamine hit.  They want the acceptance of their peers.  And the pressure to fit in comes in to play.  8 tiny eyes blinded by blue light.

I’m working on my addiction.  I’m working on it so 8 tiny eyes want to play outside, maintain their creativity and their zest for reading and learning.  I want them to get dirty and scrape their knees.  I want them to build forts and not just on Minecraft.  Real ones.  With like sticks…  8 tiny hands.  Covered in mud.36322606_10105388121782775_2744062426549846016_n

The Elephant in the Blog

Five months ago, I wrote a blog called Why I’m NOT Leaving LuLaRoe, and I announced I’m leaving LuLaRoe this week…and then I noticed some hits on that old post, and thought I should probably drag that elephant out here and talk about it.

I reread the blog and I stand behind everything it said except one part. I no longer LOVED my job. I was doing my job, but I LOVED everything else I was doing more. The things that I loved about LuLaRoe still stand. Creating a community so that no one feels alone, gathering with women, working for myself, and being home with my family, ALL of that stands.

This morning I got up, opened the barn, and took my time with the animals and watered the garden. I read my twins a book, made bread for our lunches and the rest of the week from scratch, researched and pitched a free lance article. I washed dishes with a rag I knit myself while I watched my kids through the window picking Mulberry leaves off the tree together in the sunshine to make our own herbal teas. They discovered silk worm eggs on a leaf and we made a habitat so they can watch their lifecycle happen up close. And this is all I want. And this is what I want to do and where I’m meant to be. People will think we are weird or odd, and that’s ok. They will never understand and they don’t need to.

It’s what we’ve chosen and it feels right. We will sell some tea, and some knit wash rags, and write, and host craft classes and keep building our community. We will all learn together and share what we can through social media.

So while I may not sell LuLaRoe anymore, I still believe in the things I wrote. And I still love the brand and all my friends who still sell it, and there are exciting things coming! Did you see the tank top? Finally! I hope all my friends sell the bananas out of those clothes. I’ll be here. Writing about chickens and making tea, and being super happy with my choices while I do it.

Make your choices for you and no one else, and if they think you’re weird, it’s just because they don’t understand 🙂

I Left My Heart on the Table

I was yelling at my kids today. I’m not sure why. But there was kind of a lot of yelling. I tried to apologize and then explain to them why I was yelling. I poured my heart out about the “mental load” that many writers and bloggers have been writing on lately, the part of your mind-space reserved everyday for all of things that need to be done and all of the things you need to remind other people to do for the household or for yourself. I started asking them questions, like who knows how to empty the dishwasher? Do you know it needs to be done even if I don’t ask you? Who knows how to brush their teeth without being told? Who knows where their plate goes after breakfast without being reminded to clean it up and where to put it?

The resounding answers were that they all knew, but none of them do it without being asked. They know how to start laundry and they all have an assigned laundry day. Never once has one of them started their laundry without me telling them to start it. And this is where the mental load gets heavy. As primary parents, caregivers, whatever, it’s super exhausting to micromanage everyone’s lives. They are children, so I know I need to know when important things come up, like they’re due for the dentist and make that appointment (note to self for the 12th day in a row, call dentist) and I accept that responsibility. But why do I need to tell them to put clothes on their body every single day? Why do I need to know when they showered last and why don’t they know they need a shower? Can they not see or smell that they are dirty? Why do I need to remind them that when we go to the car for a full day of classes that someone needs to grab the backpack, the lunch, and the piano music bag?

I’d love just a brief glimpse inside their brains and what their mind is filled with on a daily basis. One of my goals as a parent,and particularly a homeschooling parent, is to teach them to be strong, independent adults with life skills. At what age do they just know that things need to be done without being told 9,000,682 times?

So there I sat at the kitchen table pouring my heart out to them. They were receptive. They smiled. They nodded. The little one told me that when I look busy she could say hey it looks like you need help, mama, can I help? And I cried because she was so sweet and she understood!

Then I walked into the other room and within 10 minutes all of that eager helpfulness was gone. Dead on the floor. The mental load was left resting on the dishes still on the table. The juice cups mocking me with sweating koolaid rings. The laundry, left unswitched in the machine. And I yelled some more.

Suddenly, I understood. I NEED A BREAK. And that’s ok. And I am saying it out loud and I’m saying it with purpose. I NEED A BREAK. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. I just need a minute with my own thoughts where I’m not the nag micromanaging everything. I tried to remember the last time I did something without them that wasn’t work, and the only thing I could come up with was the time I met a friend at target two months ago and we walked around drinking Starbucks for 2 hours. It was glorious.

I adore my kids. They’re fun and funny. They’re truly good kids. But I need a minute. Do you?

I am PT Freaking Barnum

The kids finally saw The Greatest Showman…and we’ve now seen it 632 times I think. The soundtrack has also made its way into our collection on iTunes.

Honestly, the first time the kids watched it, I was busy and I didn’t “watch”. The second time the kids watched it I think I was knitting or scrolling Facebook. The third time the kids watched it, I found myself singing along anyway. Like the words had subconsciously infiltrated my brain, but I hadn’t really thought about what the words were. All the songs are tremendous, but A Million Dreams has infected my soul and reached a place in my heart that resonates so loudly that I can’t drown it out.

‘Cause every night I lie in bed

The brightest colors fill my head

A million dreams are keeping me awake

I think of what the world could be

A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take

A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

Benj Pasik and Justin Paul climbed into my heart and stole my essence when they wrote this song. I should probably sue them…

A million dreams ARE keeping me awake! I’ve always been a dreamer, and my journey is an odd journey because it changes so much so often. I have had many jobs…many, many jobs. And they’ve all been very different. I may be 35 (I think?), but I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. But I know it has a feeling. I know I want to create something that exists in the world. Something beautiful. I don’t know if that means actual art work, or clothing art, or maybe writing. I do not know. But I want to make an impact on the world. I am P.T. freaking Barnum. Are you? Dreams! Vision! The Greatest Showman. What’s your dream? Do you have a million too?

Sidebar: Lewis has informed me many times that The Greatest Showman is not historically accurate and Barnum may not have been such a good guy. But I rarely care about “facts”. I am PT Barnum from the MOVIE. I am Hugh Jackman 😂

I resolve

It’s that time of year again.  The time when we all decide all the things we don’t like about ourselves and our lives and we decide January 1 in the dead of winter blues is the time to change them.  My name is Mary and I am an over-resolver.  I set pretty high standards for myself and generally fail within 72 hours.  Then quit.  But I’ve apparently learned nothing and I’m making too many resolutions yet again.

Yes I’d love to lose weight.  Sounds great.  Not putting that pressure on myself right now.  A diet isn’t going to do it.  What we need here is a lifestyle change and that takes a lot more time and dedication.   So phase 1: we are cooking more.  We are resolute in our efforts to learn to cook new things, and stop eating out and picking up carryout as much.  Slow Cooker Recipe suggestions welcome, because time is NOT always my friend.

We resolve to be more organized and purge the things.  I admire minimalists.  I admire the simplicity.  The ease.  I have no idea how they do it.  Things keep accumulating and a lot of them seem to remain “useful” so I have a hard time purging them.  IF they are in fact useful, the option is to organize them better so our things don’t swallow us whole.  I will accumulate more things from the container store to contain the things that are eating the house 🙂  And truly purge as much as we can.  I really want this.  So I’m hoping we can commit.

26195100_10104916233450775_1836365932_o
The cluttered desk I sit at while writing this exact blog this exact moment.  Posterity.

I resolve to paint the broken wall…It’s only been ONE YEAR.  January of 2017 a car crashed into my bedroom.  It did take a while to get the insurance check.  It did take a while to get the contractor we hired on the schedule to get it fixed.  But it has been FAR too long…and the wall is still not finished.  I never painted.  So he never put on the floor molding.  I resolve to do this ASAP.  This constant reminder of a scary night is probably not the healthiest thing I’ve ever done for my children (ha).

26235805_10104916227323055_2111921218_o

My main resolution is one of those choose a word things.  I have chosen PRESENT.  I want to be present in all the things I do.  Multi-tasking is a big fat lie.  I am incapable.  So I need to stop pretending.  I can do many things at once poorly, or I can schedule my time and be present in each task in it’s time.  I want to make an actual plan for my business, with realistic yet challenging goals, and stick to it.

I’m also giving up all my vices and bad habits and joining a gym and going vegan…

JUST KIDDING.  I will need all the caffeine and time and protein to conquer the other hurdles.  What’s your resolution?  Come prove your resolve with me 🙂