This picture cost me $20.

I don’t post many pictures of my kids on social media.

It isn’t because I don’t want others to know what my kids look like or I’m trying to protect their digital footprint.

I am in a unique position when it comes to social media – I have public accounts. Anyone can look at my Facebook page, Instagram page or Twitter page. We don’t necessarily have to be “friends.” I made those public because it’s a platform to showcase my work. I’m a writer.

And to be honest, an Instagram account with pictures of my kids would be boring to everyone but me. It’s the same concept as handing someone my kid’s scrapbook – anyone can look at it and enjoy it but I am the most proud of it. Social media only shows the good memories. Happy moments. Sometimes people forget that and families appear to be perfect.

I’m not perfect.

My family is not perfect. Happy – yes, most of the time, we are. Do I patiently wait for my family to run out of clean clothes before they realize I’m retired from picking up their dirty clothes? Why yes, I do, because I’m a mean mom and evil wife.

I don’t post many pictures of my kids because I ask my kids’ permission to post pictures. Emma is eleven and Kate is eight. They both realize people they’ve never met will see the pictures. For the most part, Emma always gives me permission and Kate never does. I also never ask Kate because she rarely smiles for posed pictures. Her reason is because she “doesn’t like fake smiling” and no one needs to be in her damn business. Ok, she didn’t say damn but I know she’s thinking it.

I asked Kate to take a selfie with me at a neighborhood party this weekend.

She agreed.

I was shocked.

We took the photo.

Kate: That will be $20.

Me: What?

Kate: You heard me. I know you sold one of your books and you have a twenty dollar bill in your pocket.

Me: I’m not giving you twenty dollars to smile for a picture.

Kate: What if I let you put this picture on Instagram or Facebook?

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This picture cost me $20.

___________

Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

And don’t forget to buy my book, “But Did You Die?” 

Kate will take your money.

Henry.

I don’t want to write this.

I don’t want a lot of things but I especially don’t want to write this. I suppose when you need the right words, you turn to a writer.

That’s me. A writer.

My name is Julie. My parents are Tom and Abbie. I have three younger siblings – Jessica, Jon, and Jenna.

Jenna.

I met Jenna when I was in Kindergarten. I remember the day she was born. I remember waiting in the waiting room with my two siblings and my aunt Mary. A male nurse ran in to tell us my mom had her baby. I asked if I had a brother or a sister and he said he didn’t remember. A few hours later, my dad handed me my baby sister. I still wonder how a nurse forgets such a thing.

Jenna and I are six years apart. That’s a huge gap when you’re growing up together. Jenna started Kindergarten when I headed to middle school. Jenna was in middle school when I left the house for college. Jenna became a first time aunt to my daughter, Emma, when she was still in high school.

But then Jenna married Steven. Jenna gave birth to Evelyn four years ago. And then she gave birth to June two years ago. I was in the room during June’s birth. Jenna looked up at me with the baby crying on her chest and whispered, “Her name is June Elaine. June Bug. She’s a bug too.” Jenna and Steven named June after my nickname “bug” and Jessica’s middle name, Elaine.

The six-year gap between Jenna and me doesn’t exist anymore. Jenna, Jessica, and I became the same age when we became mothers. Aunthood and motherhood – it’s the same with my sisters and me. All three of us gave birth to Emma, Kate, Gabby, Evelyn, Savannah, June, William, and Jenna’s little boy – due in June 2017.

We never knew the name of the little boy Jenna carried.

On May 13th, 2017, a nurse knocked on the waiting room door. Our heads shot up. Our swollen, blood-shot eyes stared. The nurse seemed flustered.

“Jenna is still in the operating room. We’re doing everything we can. Steven and Henry are on the 2nd level. I will escort you to down there. We offer our deepest condolences.”

Henry.

His name was Henry. Henry Steven Flanery.

They say babies can hear outside of the womb. Henry Steven Flanery must have known us all. He knew his sister, Evelyn, and her voice of song. He knew his other sister, June, and her screams of laughter. He heard his dad, Steven, take aim and fire at a box that exploded blue powder, announcing his gender to the world of Facebook. He heard our families cheers of joy. Henry knew us and he knew our love for him. Above all, he knew his mother, Jenna, the most.

I held Henry. He was beautiful inside his mom’s womb. The ears he heard us with were his mom’s ears. I held the same ears 29 years ago, only they were my baby sister’s ears. Henry weighed 5 pounds, 1 ounce. He was 18 inches long. He looked like a sleeping newborn. I stroked his face and touched his light brown hair. He had a small dimple on his chin. I held Henry but I never met him.

Henry wasn’t in my arms. He was two flights up in the hospital with his mom. I met an angel on May 13, 2017.

After five hours of waiting, one of Jenna’s five surgeons knocked on the waiting room door. Jenna was stable but in critical condition.

During the early hours of May 13th, Jenna started to throw up. She started a giant contraction that wouldn’t let go. A doctor would know this means the placenta tore away. Usually there is bleeding with this but Jenna didn’t bleed. Her pain and condition worsened and she went to the hospital around 6 a.m. By the time Jenna was at the hospital, the doctors couldn’t find a heartbeat. Henry passed away due to placental abruption and lack of oxygen.

There are three risk factors women generally have when the placenta tears away from the uterus – the woman is on drugs, the woman has high blood pressure, or the woman suffered trauma. Jenna did not have any of these. The five surgeons could not tell us why her placenta tore away at 8 months. We will never know why.

Jenna delivered Henry with ease. She was able to hold Henry and see his face. Then she started to bleed. The blood wouldn’t stop. Doctors had to put Jenna under while they worked to save her life. The surgeon tried every trick she knew to stop the bleeding. Jenna wouldn’t stop. It was like water flowing out of a sink. Jenna lost 8 liters of blood. She lost as much blood in a non-pregnant body. Not only was Jenna losing blood from her uterus, she was also filling up with blood in her body cavity. In order to save Jenna’s life, surgeons removed her uterus. The surgeon took her uterus to a table and searched everywhere for a hole. Jenna had to have been leaking; the surgeon was determined to know where. The surgeon couldn’t find the hole. This is another answer the doctors could not give us. We don’t know why Jenna bled outside of the uterus. We will never know why.

The five surgeons told us they have never seen a hemorrhage this catastrophic in 25 years of practice.

Jenna lived.

Henry never cried that day. He wasn’t in my arms. He was saving his mom.

There’s nothing I can do for Jenna but be her sister and I will write this story for her even though I don’t want to write this.

_____________

 

Many people have asked what they can do to help. We set up a GoFundMe page for Jenna and Steven. If anything, we can relieve the financial stress with medical bills and funeral costs. If you would like to help my sister, please consider donating. 

The Flanery Family Go Fund Me

Thank you for your prayers and love as we mourn the loss of Henry and continue to support Jenna’s healing.

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The birth of Kate.

Good evening.

It’s May 7, 2017. Kate is eight years old today.

It’s story time here on the blog.

I can’t think of a better story than the birth of Kate. I’ve never written Kate’s birth story. I’m a little surprised at this because birth stories are one of those staple stories we, as parents, tell one another. Placentas, foot-long needles to the spine, a smear of poo on your baby as it slides out – I mean, there’s no filter when it comes to birth stories. No, I didn’t poo on Kate.

Before I begin the story, I will tell you I am feeling more pain now than I did eight years ago. That’s because my dumbass decided to book a dugout suite to watch the Kansas City Royals play the Cleveland Indians on the afternoon of May 6th. This normally wouldn’t be a huge deal but the group of people we joined are good storytellers and their stories always include a party bus, two stripper poles, fireball shots, and Prince’s power ballad, Pussy Control.

Back to my daughter’s day of birth –

Kate was due May 17, 2009. On the evening of May 6th, I felt contractions. I couldn’t sleep through them. Once the contractions were five minutes apart, we called my parents to pick up Emma and headed to the hospital around 2 am on May 7th.

I changed into a hospital gown and monitors were wrapped around my belly. The nurse checked my cervix and we waited.

Nurse: No change. You’re at a 3.

Me: No change?! They’re five minutes apart!

Nurse: I’ll wait another hour but if you don’t move, I might have to send you home. You are welcome to walk the hallways and see if that helps.

I walked the hallways with Scott. Another nurse pushed a baby burrito past us in a clear bassinet.

Nurse: Look at this little girl! Her daddy is a Sporting KC player!

Scott: Really? That’s cool!

I stared at the baby. And then looked at the mountain attached to me.

Me: Don’t let anyone upstage you, Kate. GET OUT.

I waddled back to my room. The nurse checked me again.

Nurse: No change. I’m sorry, Julie. I’m going to have to send you back home.

Scott: And do what?

Nurse: Come back when the contractions get stronger or if her water breaks.

Scott: If her water breaks at home, I’ll be delivering a baby at my own house. You better send me with a handbook on how to deliver a baby.

Me: SCOTT.

Nurse: You’ll be ok. It’s probably false labor.

Scott: No, you don’t understand. She’s Mexican. Last time she had a baby and her water broke, the baby just flew out of her vagina. And the doctor said she’ll be faster with this one. Get ready for us to be on the news with a highway birth.

Me: Scott, it’s fine. We’ll go.

I walked into the bathroom to change into my own clothes. I held on to the sink. The contraction took my breath away. I walked out to the nurse’s station where Scott was still arguing with the nurse. He was writing down notes on the hospital admittance form.

Scott: So I’ll take the shoelace and tie it around the umbilical cord?

Me: Oh my God. Let’s go.

Scott: This nurse is making a huge mistake. Sending us home like this when you’re clearly in labor.

Scott drove me home. The morning light was just starting to fill the sky with color. I was quiet. The contractions were intensifying.

Scott: I guess I’ll call my parents and tell them false alarm. They’re probably almost to Kansas City by now.

Me: Uh huh.

Scott: Why don’t they induce you? What kind of nurse is that?

Me: Mm.

For the next 30 minutes, Scott drove back to our home. We turned down our street. I felt liquid on my legs. I jumped out of the seat.

Me: SCOTT!

Scott: WHAT’S WRONG. WHAT.

Me: Scott. I think. I think my water broke. It’s all wet. Everything is soaked. Scott this can’t happen. Why did she break my water on our street? KATE!!

Scott: Are you sure? Are you sure your water broke?

Me: I know I didn’t pee. It’s gushing. Scott, I can’t stop it. I’m wearing your pajama pants. It’s all over my car! She’s not letting anyone upstage her.

Scott: What?

Me: Just go.

Scott turned around and floored it.

Scott: Damnit. We’re going to hit the morning rush hour traffic.

Scott started to make phone calls. I cried with the pain and the fear of my fast deliveries.

Scott: I DARE A COP TO PULL ME OVER. THIS IS THIS STUPID NURSE’S FAULT. I’M GOING TO FIND HER AND RAISE HELL.

Me: Don’t. Don’t kill us. Scott, you need to hurry.

Another 30 minutes passed and Scott pulled up to the hospital again. A nurse ran out of the emergency department with a wheel chair. I stood up out of the car. Water gushed again. I cried.

Nurse: Yep, your water broke. Let’s go. Dad, park the car and meet her in labor and delivery.

My room sat untouched since I left an hour before. Another nurse walked in.

Nurse: Yep, that’s amniotic fluid. Go change into a gown in the bathroom. If you need to, go ahead and pee too.

I sat on the toilet and peed. I wiped and looked inside the toilet. White flakes were everywhere.

Me: HEY! What is all this? Is something wrong? There’s white flakes in my pee!

The nurse walked in.

Nurse: That’s amniotic fluid. It’s normal. Nice and clear. That’s good.

Me: Oh. Hold on, another contraction. Ok. What happened to the other nurse in here?

Nurse: We had a shift change.

Me: Oh, thank God. No ass ripping.

Nurse: What?

Me: Nothing.

Nurse: I’m going to check you and if you’re far enough, we’ll call the epidural team in here.

Scott arrived. I was at a 6 and the epidural team wheeled their cart in. I finally sat in my bed, relieved I couldn’t feel anything anymore. The nurse walked in again to check me.

Nurse: Wow. You really go fast, don’t you? You’re ready to push!

Me: But I didn’t even get to close my eyes.

Nurse: I’ll call your doctor.

The hospital staff prepped the room. Lights came down out of the ceiling. Stirrups were placed in front of me.

Nurse: Bad news. Your doctor is stuck in traffic.

Scott: Are you kidding me? Can’t one of you deliver her?

Nurse: We could but legally can’t. I’ll call a doctor off the floor. Oh, honey. This baby is falling out.

Another nurse ran in and held Kate’s head. The nurse ran out of the room and ten seconds later a female doctor walked in. She put her hands up, like she was being held hostage.

Doctor: I don’t deliver babies.

Me: WHAT!

Doctor: I didn’t sign up for this. I’m not an obstetrician. I’m a D.O.

Me: You’re not a doctor? What the hell is a D.O.?

I looked at the nurse holding Kate’s head. My legs were spread as far as they could in the angry D.O.’s face.

Oh my God. She’s scared of my big vagina.

Scott: Looks like you’re delivering one now. Someone better catch my daughter or I will.

Nurse: We’ll talk you through it.

I didn’t push. Kate fell into the doctor-but-not-an-obstetrician-doctor’s hands. Kate cried. The nurse took Kate and put her on my chest.

Me: Oh, Kate.

Scott: Hi, Kate! Happy Birthday.

Me: Scott, her hair! She has blonde hair.

My real doctor ran in as the nurse helped Scott cut the cord.

Me: Oh, thank God. Don’t let that woman near me with a needle and thread.

Doctor: I’m so sorry. The traffic. I’ll finish you up. We’re going to deliver the placenta. You might have to push again.

A nurse took Kate away.

Doctor: Beautiful. Placenta looks good. I’m going to stitch you up. What’s your daughter’s name?

Me: Kate. Her name is Kate Audrey.

Scott: Hey! I won the baby football pot! It’s 5-7-9! And 8:30 am!

Me: SCOTT!

Happy birthday, Kate! May 7, 2009 at 8:27 a.m. – you never did let that other baby in the hospital upstage you. You always have the best stories.

___________

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The letter P.

You guys, I fell asleep writing this last night.

I kinda want to leave it how it is because it slowly doesn’t make any sense which is exactly how life goes. I won’t do that to you. I’m re-writing P. And now I have Q to write today too and this is the point where I regret starting this A to Z writing challenge.

I struggled with P yesterday.

P is inappropriate – penis, poop, period, puberty, pimples.

P is boring. Pregnant. Oh, hell no. Pinterest. Meh. Purple. I don’t know. Pancakes! I suck at turning pancakes. There. That’s all I have on pancakes.

I decided to go with the mother of all Ps.

The letter P.

Parenting.

Parenting is a broad subject. I mean, what are we talking about here? Helicopter parenting? Newborn parenting? Teenager parenting? Biological vs. adopted parenting? Mothers vs. fathers? Step parenting? 

I’m not an expert. I’m not an expert at anything really. Even writing – am I an expert? “NO!” shouts every English teacher. I’m definitely not an expert on kids. I have two. I only know my own experience.

Unsolicited parenting advice on the school-age years? Maybe it’s more of a heads-up.

That’s the letter P for you.

  • If you have a daughter, you will need a bonnet. No, not for cutesy pictures when she’s an infant but for school dress-up projects. I don’t know why no one ever told me this – there are times in your kid’s school life that they will need to dress up like a pilgrim, the wax museum project, or a Civil War era woman. There’s always a bonnet and long skirt involved. Start looking now. And get your son a top hat.
  • It’s totally cool that your 2nd grader doesn’t know how to tie shoe laces. I still need to teach Kate. No one from the school has said anything to me about her velcro shoes. We’re cool.
  • Opposite sex parents are heavily favored. If you lost the lottery in passing your sex gene along, the school helps make it all ok. The father-daughter dance. The mother-son Kansas City Royals game. What about the mother-daughter? I’m special too, damnit. Oh! No, I don’t want to volunteer to plan an event.
  • Summer camps are worth every penny. Sure, it’s hard to shell out $400 for a 4-day, half-day camp for two kids but it will feel like a two-week vacation. Start saving money now. These things should have been paid for in February of 2014. The kid’s summer camp is a breath of fresh air in the middle of summer. A glorious Monday through Thursday in half day solitude. Bonus! Your kids will be exhausted.
  • You’ll ugly cry on the first day of Kindergarten. You’re a newbie parent. Us older parents – we get it – it’s a sad day. I give it one year and you, too, will be toasting your kid off to first grade with a coffee in hand, a skip hop back to your car, and the biggest smile on your face that will rival your wedding day.
  • After-school activities might just kill you. Financially and emotionally. Dinners are quick. Weekends are gone. It’s fine. We’re all fine. We totally have a life. I heard some great advice from my ear doctor – what? – cherish the time in the car. It’s really the only time you have trapped in an enclosed space with your school-aged kid. Use it to talk to them and tell them, “in my day, I didn’t have iPods to play with in the car so talk to me.”
  • Don’t you worry. If you have daughters, they will talk to you. And talk. And talk. And talk. WAKE UP! She’s talking again. I don’t have sons so I don’t know if they talk as much but the rumors are they don’t. I could be wrong, maybe it’s school-aged kids in general. My kids won’t shut up. I’m rambling. I’ll stop.
  • Long division will appear in your life again. It’s complete bullshit.
  • Foreign languages start earlier. This may vary from state to state or even district to district. My kids speak Spanish. They started learning Spanish from a girl named Dora in preschool and they never stopped. They know everything I learned in middle school. Middle school teachers no hablan ingles. By high school, my kids will be fluent in yelling at me in Spanish cuss words and I’ll be giving them the blinking Dora stare.
  • By the way, it’s called middle school. If you dare drop the words “junior high” your kids will scream at you. “No one says that anymore, mom! Stop it. That’s embarrassing.”
  • Practice equality with the kids. Your kids will remember. Kids won’t have any memories from before ages 4 or 5. Only you will remember your baby’s first step or your toddler using a plunger to plunge the potty training toilet. The school-aged years are fun because not only do you remember what happened but so do your kids. If you eat lunch at school with daughter number one, daughter number two will find out by recess. She won’t confront you that day. Oh no. She’ll file that shit in her brain. She’ll confront you months later and will threaten to tell her teacher that her mom plays favorites if you don’t eat lunch with her too.
  • Practice creativity because the parent projects are heading your way. Oh, yes. You will have homework such as printing off pictures of the family at midnight or interviewing Google headquarters. The parent at-home projects are 50% of your kid’s grade. The other 50% is to show off your parent skills in the hallway. I saw that on Pinterest, nice try. 
  • Remember that lice is not a medical threat. Lice isn’t a medical threat but it will make you want to set your house on fire because an arson charge is easier to deal with. Stop scratching your head. You’re fine.
  • Get a calendar. The school calendar will become a full time job. You won’t be able to memorize anything; it’s overwhelming. You will spend at least an hour of your life per week filling in spaces. If you let go of the calendar, your crazy mom will show because your life and your kids’ lives will collapse.
  • Dress your kids in something you would wear. My point here is that you will naturally want to make your kids’ lives better than your life at that age. I will never forget the day my junior high math teacher pointed out to the class that I was wearing roman numerals all over my shirt and she was so proud. The class busted out laughing and I’m just going to die right here in that memory.
  • Get a backbone. The insults are coming. You will be called the worst mother ever by your daughter and your daughter doesn’t even know why.
  • “Hi, this is the school nurse calling…” This is how your day gets ruined. Plus a doctor’s bill.
  • You’re always exhausted. Unlike new parents, you sleep through the night undisturbed. Doesn’t matter. You will fall asleep in bed while working on your favorite hobby. Parenting – it’s like magic.

___________

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Relax.

It’s called chivalry.

A gentleman should always hold the door open for a lady.

A gentleman should offer his jacket if a lady gets cold.

Is chivalry dead? Not unless the woman kills it. I can open the door myself, thank you. 

The person that gets to the door first should hold the door open for the following person.

Regardless of gender, anyone that wants to give up their coat for a someone that is cold is simply a nice person. Or maybe they’re just hot.

It’s a new era. The 2017 etiquette for men has new rules.

One rule, really.

Flowers are always nice.

No, forget the flowers.

The one rule: never say the word relax. 

I take that back – you can say relax to the brand new mother of your child when you hand her a gift certificate to a spa. “Here, you’ve been up all night. Go relax.”

You can say it on the beach as the waves pull your lover’s feet into the ocean. “You want to grab a slice of pizza and relax on the beach?”

You can say it inside a hot tub in the mountains as you hand your lady a glass of wine. “Here, I thought this would be even more relaxing.”

Hell, I don’t care, you can say it while you load up the kids in the car on a trip to the grocery store on your own. “I’ll run to Target with the kids. Sit here and relax.”

But the second you have an angry woman in front of you – you better start agreeing with whatever nonsense she’s spitting at you. Agree and talk about it later. Trust me. You do NOT – I repeat – you DO NOT utter the word RELAX. See also CALM DOWN. If you include the arms motioning downward, they will be kicked back up.

I will light the town on fire and tell a female cop I discovered arson because I was told to RE-LAX. Oh, hell no. Where’s my torch.

This isn’t a post about Scott and me. This is a post about a little girl finding womanhood.

Scott told Kate to relax.

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This adorable photo from the Daddy/Daughter dance shows a reserved 5th grader and her father. And then there’s the 2nd grader, chugging her childhood down her throat because the same father told her to relax.

Kate wasn’t even angry at Scott when it all started. She stomped in our room that morning and showed up next to my side of the bed with her arms crossed.

Kate: I’m mad at Emma.

Me: Just cuddle with us and ignore her.

Kate: No! Mom! But Emma…

Scott: JUST RELAX, KATE.

I felt a fury ignite in my stomach. It passed.

Kate: NO, DADDY! THEN I’M NOT GOING TO THE DANCE WITH YOU TONIGHT!

Scott: Fine, I’ll go with Emma.

Kate: I don’t care. You won’t be going with ME.

Kate stomped out of the room.

Scott: What happened to her?

Me: You told her to relax when she was angry. She’s me now.

Kate felt the fire inside her at age seven. It’s the fire every woman feels when a man tells her to “relax” or “calm down.”

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I had a chat with Kate woman-to-woman. I reminded her he did get her a corsage for the evening. Flowers are always nice. And he would love to have a date on each arm for the night. She must forgive his words. 

She agreed to go to dinner and the dance with Scott.

It’s called chivalry.

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Next year, she’s flipping off the camera.

___________

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I judged a mom today.

I judged a mom today.

I did. I judged another mother.

Treat others how you want to be treated.

Don’t judge a person before you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Yeah, I know. I still did it. My jaw dropped. She probably heard my teeth slam together in an effort not to show my judgement. I didn’t confront her. I didn’t say a word. She wasn’t harming her daughter in any way I could see – other than her tween daughter will hate her in a few years and leave as soon as she’s 18.

I’m judging again. I’ll stop.

I took Emma to the orthodontist.

Some parents sit in the receptionists’ waiting area and some sit in the extra chair provided near the dental chair. I like to sit with Emma and discuss where we should play hooky before taking her back to school.

The row of dental chairs are separated by a free-standing, frosted glass window. There is no privacy. The orthodontist made her rounds. She examined the patient next to Emma.

Orthodontist: Oh! Look how nicely these are coming along.

Mom: Uh, huh. Can we take them off now?

Orthodontist: Oh, she still needs more time. We still need to fix her bite and then we’ll fine tune.

Mom: Can you take them off, please?

Orthodontist: We never hold anyone hostage with braces. But I am not recommending this. Her treatment is not complete.

Mom: Yes, I know. I would like my daughter to have an imperfect smile. You know? I don’t want her to have perfectly straight teeth. It shows character if her teeth are not perfect.

I looked at Emma. My mouth dropped. I tipped back in my chair to get a better look at the mom and daughter.

Emma: (whispers) Mom, stop!

Me: I want to see them.

Emma: How old is the girl?

Me: Your age? Maybe a little younger?

The daughter stared at her hands in her lap while her mom argued with the orthodontist.

Mom: I never wanted her teeth to be straight. I just want them almost straight.

Orthodontist: We can take them off today if this is what you and your daughter wish. Please understand that the price doesn’t change, whether you paid in full or are making payments.

Mom: Yes, I know. Please remove them.

If I thought this was best for my daughter and this was something my daughter wanted, by all means, judge me. Walk in my shoes. Write about me on your blog.

I have the feeling this wasn’t the daughter’s wish.

How long does a parent have control over how their child looks? Even if the daughter wanted straight teeth, she probably wasn’t paying for the braces herself. Braces are a luxury, in most cases. I’m not sure the daughter ever had a say at all.

A parent can somewhat control how a child looks when they’re young. A baby is a little doll you can dress up even if the doll keeps you up all night, shoots yellow poop up the back of the cute outfit you bought from Target, and rips out every hair bow you place on her head. And Emma still won’t let me style her gorgeous curls.

When does a parent cross the line? Deciding where bones should be – teeth are bones, right? Straight but not too straight teeth? 

I’m not the greatest mom. I yell at my kids in public. I’m sure I’ve put them in danger by road-raging my way to the grocery store. I rarely watch any gymnastics practice. I’m cool with making chocolate chip cookies for dinner when Scott is out of town. I show my daughter it’s ok to eavesdrop and judge others. I don’t want to have more kids because, well, I’m just done. 

Emma: Mom?

Me: Yeah, Em.

Emma: Thanks for letting me keep my braces on. I’m glad you’re not like that other mom. You’re the best.

I judged a mom today because sometimes you need a shot of adrenaline in the arm to let you know you’re doing ok.

___________

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No, thank you.

I thought I was in the clear for a few years.

Scott and I are deep into the school-age years of parenting.

It’s the years some might call the “honeymoon of parenting.” These are the years when the kids are independent enough to make their own dinner or take a shower yet aren’t old enough to roll their eyes and take off in their car.

Hm, honeymoon.

“A honeymoon is the traditional holiday taken by newlyweds to celebrate their marriage in intimacy and seclusion.”

This ain’t no honeymoon. 

This is re-living your childhood. I don’t have any memory of being an infant or toddler. I barely remember kindergarten or even life-changing events like my siblings being born. The pieces I do remember from my early childhood probably stem more from looking at pictures than the memory itself.

I couldn’t pull on my own life events to help guide me as I raised my babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Scott didn’t help either. Like every parent, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. Once Emma learned how to talk, the first thing we did was film her saying “tequila shots!”

Our daughters are in 5th grade and 2nd grade.

Without calling my kids out and embarrassing them with the details – they each tried out for two separate things they’re passionate for. They both didn’t get it and other kids did. They both got the “sorry, you’re not good enough” slip handed to them on their way out. To make it worse, they happened to receive this news on the same day.

They both came home in tears. That’s an understatement. Let me try again.

They both came home with their heart ripped out, humiliated for even thinking they were good enough, they swore every kid pointed and laughed at them, and they vowed to never pursue anything that required a try-out. I know the feeling. Whether it comes from a teacher or a peer, someone telling you you’re not good enough feels like a slap in the face.

And then the girls pulled out math homework and the world came crashing down again. We had a rough night.

The real world caught up to the two babies we have no idea how to raise. The world where everyone makes the team ended last night. Emma and Kate learned that there are kids out there better than they are. They learned about rejection.

“No, thank you” is hard to hear, even as an adult.

I told the girls they are braver than I was at their age. As a child, I didn’t even try-out for anything. If it involved a stage or drawing attention to me, I didn’t want to do it. My rejections came more from friendships. Scott’s rejections were always sports-related. Even now, I told the girls every book they read in school has a pile of authors that received rejection letters. Rejection comes with the writing territory. I expect the answer is no and often it is. But that doesn’t stop me from trying again because I have to be good if I heard one yes.

I realized the only way I handle rejection is through maturity, something both girls don’t have yet.

The girls are still hurt.

I guess the point of this post is parenting is hard. You trade sleepless nights for toddler tantrums. You trade toddler tantrums for your preschooler yelling, “tequila shots!” to the class. You trade “tequila shots” outbursts for facing rejection.

But I don’t need to tell you that.

Scott and I went to bed last night feeling worthless because our kids felt worthless. The same memories of rejection we felt as kids showed up again. Our kids are going through the part of life we remember.

I hope they come out with more courage.

___________

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You can’t always get what you want.

My child. My sweet baby, my pumpkin pie – we need to have a chat.

Sometimes in life, you can’t always get what you want.

“But if you try sometimes you just might find…you’ll get what you need. Awww yeah.”

By The Rolling Stones. Remember that.

Sorry, I got off topic with music lyrics.

I heard you took a class vote yesterday. And you weren’t too happy with how the class voted. I understand. I don’t like it when that happens either.

But that’s no reason for you to throw a tantrum. That is no reason to scream at your fellow classmates for being wrong. There’s no wrong or right answer on the class vote. Everyone had the freedom to vote for whoever they wanted. And you know what? No one knows what they’re doing. No one. It’s life.

I heard you told the class that the class is going to blow up, you hate your class, and you also told people you wouldn’t be their friend anymore. How do you think that makes your old friends feel? They made their best guess and you screamed at them. What do you think will happen if you fall on the playground and you’re really hurt? Let’s say the whole class went inside and the last person in line was your old friend and he saw what happened? Do you think he’ll help you even though you said you weren’t his friend anymore? I’m going to guess he will help you because it’s a human instinct. Or maybe he won’t. Kids can be mean. You are my child and I will not tolerate you being mean. Do you understand?

Look at me. Do you understand?

Do you want your classmates to be the same people? Ones that look the same and think the same? Yes. Exactly, like a robot. That’s pretty boring huh? It’s better when we can learn new things from others. Maybe trying another family’s dinner or teaching someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas about your Christmas tree you decorate. That’s called diversity. We all think different and we all grow up different and some grow up in mansions and some in apartments. Do you think all these people will vote the same way? Probably not, huh? And you know what? That’s ok. You’re still going to be a kind person. Right?

I know you’re very upset for your class voting the way they did. But, baby, you can’t save the world. It’s not a perfect world out there. I know you have only the best interests at heart. And I know you want certain things to be a certain way. A perfect world sounds nice. I would love to live in your perfect world. I get that you want to kick and scream. And it’s ok to have those feelings. But you can’t kick and scream at the class.

The class vote didn’t change anything about the classroom today, did it? No. The classroom is the same. I know, it might change in the future. Maybe you’ll hate it. Or you might be surprised and like it? We are one class. People have even died for this classroom. Why did they die? Well, because they wanted to protect their classmates, even the ones that didn’t vote like they did. The classroom is a team. We’re not always right and we don’t always agree but we’re still a team. A family! Yes, we’re one giant family.

A family that loves one another.

You can’t always get what you want … finish it. Come on … “but if you try sometimes you just might find…you’ll get what you need. Awww yeah.”

And who sings that? The Rolling Stones. Good job, kid.

Yeah, I know The Rolling Stones are not American. Just go with it. 

___________

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Screw you, anonymous.

I couldn’t sleep last night.

There were monsters under my bed. Ok, that’s not true. They were in my phone. Fine. More like monsters in my head only they weren’t monsters. They were people yelling at me. People named anonymous.

These people read the New York Times article, Why I Decided to Stop Writing About My Children.

I don’t know why I read the comments.

Internet rule number one: never read the comments. It takes thick skin to read what anonymous has to say.

I couldn’t sleep last night because my thin skin got a paper cut.

I read the comments because I am this article. The author admits she screwed up. She’s not writing about her kids on her blog anymore. This author’s blog is not different than the thousands of other blogs written by parents – she wrote about her children growing up for the past seven years. Parenting is and will always be a hot topic because becoming a parent is life-changing. It’s metamorphic. It’s relatable. Your life, your body, maybe even your personality can be separated into before kids and after kids.

She wrote about her son starting puberty.

“It seems an obvious line-crossing that I wrote about such an intimate detail, but I did. At the time I didn’t pause for a split second; I was more than willing to go there. I had been writing and reading extensively about parenting tweens. I knew people might be mildly shocked, but mostly interested.”

Her dad called her and said she should stop to think about respecting his grandson’s privacy. She made the decision to stop writing about her kids. Now she writes about nature and trees.

I am not the author of this New York Times article. I don’t know anything about trees. I managed to kill three of them in our backyard.

This author might as well be called a witch and burned at the stake. I’m next. The commenters, anonymous, were talking to me too –

“You’re a narcissist. This blog is all about you.”

“Your kids will hate you when they’re adults. Have fun with that.”

“You just wrote about your kids by saying you’re not going to write about them.”

“Get over yourself.”

“How would you feel if your mom wrote about your first period?”

“You have no respect for your children. You are a terrible mother for giving them no privacy.”

“These bloggers think they can call themselves writers for using their children as stories.”

“That grandpa is a hero. Hopefully, this writer listens to his advice. Shame on her.”

“I hope your kid’s friends don’t read your blog. You just caused your son to be bullied.”

Then I woke up.

I can only speak for myself.

Screw you, anonymous.

I write about my children. I tell their stories. I write down what they say for others to read. I share pictures. I use their real names. I started this blog when Kate was 6 weeks old. My first post documented Kate’s first smile – which is funny because she hates smiling for pictures now. I have been writing about Emma and Kate for 7 years. It’s the only thing they know – “my mom is a writer.” They are proud of that. They are proud of me.

My kids know I write stories about them for others to read. I think they would like their stories as adults. I would want to know what I said as a child. Everyone loves to hear stories of an early childhood they don’t remember.

My kids have never read my blog in its entirety. I’m not sure they would want to read about my bikini wax or my advice to men on how to get laid. Maybe one day, they’ll appreciate my writing as a woman. Or not. I am not the first mother to publicly write about adult topics. I do not write about Emma and Kate’s changing bodies or their drama at school. I don’t write about their insecurities. I do not write about them as much as I used to but that is just because of their ages. That is life. They are becoming independent. My life – my blog – is opening up to more than just my kids.

This little blog – yeah, it’s about me. I’m the main character. It’s my perspective on life as a mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend. I know my kids because I raised them. They are two of the funniest people I know. And they know it. I want the world to laugh with them.

If you think I’m taking away their privacy then don’t read it.

Oh, and make sure you tell Mark Zuckerberg that because, to me, a blog post about my kids is just a long caption to a photo. I wouldn’t post a picture of them naked much like I wouldn’t write about which future boyfriend makes them cry.

I can sleep tonight because I know I am doing the best I can. As for my future adult children – I hope they write. For damn sure, I hope they read and write. I hope they write stories about their crazy mother in the nursing home.

I hope they write better than I.

________

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It never rains on her birthday.

“Mom! UGH! It’s says strong thunderstorms on my birthday!”

Emma turned 10 years old on Tuesday. May 24th at 12:05 in the afternoon.

It never rains on her birthday.

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Ten is just another birthday to her. In one of those ten years – I can’t figure out which one – presents switched from princess clothes and tiaras to books and nail polish.

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She recieved more clothes than she would probably care for. But maybe that is how we raised her. I was never a mom to dress her up in dresses and bows.

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And what is 10 years to her anyway? She won’t appreciate her birthday until the privileges come with them. 16 to drive. 18 to buy a lotto ticket. 21 to buy alcohol. She’ll appreciate her birthdays when the birthdays give her wings.

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Birthdays are more meaningful to the parents, especially when the birthdays fall somewhere between the girl and the woman.

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This is not one of those open letters. This is not a post for Emma with advice on growing up. She’s 10. She won’t listen to me.

It’s just another happy birthday post.

It never rains on her birthday.

________

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