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A Guide to "The Children Who Raised Me"

I am humbled, excited, overwhelmed, and just plain giddy – my first book is finally complete and has been released for purchase through Austin Brothers Publishing! This journey has been freakishly long with its fair share of mountains and valleys… but in the end, I think the timing has been perfectly God-ordained.

Just in the past few days, I’ve had numerous questions asked of me that I thought would be good to address here, in a blog post. It feels almost like an online interview where I get to answer your own questions for everyone else to benefit from – except that I get time to think about each answer without getting nervous, which is my personal favorite way to do things! So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

Q: Is your book going to be available in stores or just online?

A: My book is currently released on my new publisher’s website (Austin Brothers Publishing) based out of Texas. In just a short time, the book will also be loaded onto Amazon.com, and it will be added to the Ingram Catalog, which is the largest book catalog in the country. This will allow my book to be ordered at churches, bookstores, schools, coffee shops, etc. Depending on which stores pick up my book will depend on if it will be available locally or just remain online or in catalogs.

Q: Will there be an e-book and a hardcover edition available?

A: There WILL be an e-book available by next week, actually! The price for the e-book should be around $7 and will appear on my publisher’s website. Additionally, it will be available for purchase on ITunes, Amazon, Smashwords, and all the other major electronic reading applications. As far as a hardcover addition, this will depend on how well the book sells. There is quite a hefty expense that comes along with formatting the book into a hardcover, so if a need appears to be great enough for it, I will consider that down the road!

Q: Why did you choose to use your children’s real names in the book?

A: This was a topic that I thought long and hard about. In the end, it came down to the fact that my children’s names are on my Facebook page and on my website – all of which is public domain. To change their names in the book would basically be moot and probably confusing to those who have followed along with the blog. I don’t want anyone assuming that I went out and got an entirely new slew of children running around! That would get me committed for sure!

Q: How did you choose to develop your book into the format you did with each kid having their own section instead of the traditional chapters we normally see in books?

A: Well, when I first started the book, I figured I’d go chronologically and with normal chapters that would generally appear in a memoir. However, it read very heavy – the events that occurred in our lives had great periods of time in which there was an awful lot of darkness with not a whole lot of light. So when I decided to break the book up by child, all of a sudden the reader was able to start over in the story and take a break from the gloom, see certain incidents that were specific to each child, and get more breaks with humor and joy in the midst of the heaviness. All in all, I wanted the book to feel like a meal, filled with light courses, entrees, pallet cleansers, and dessert! In the end, I wanted the reader to feel full and complete, which is what I hope I accomplished!

Q: How did you decide what personal information to keep in versus edit out?

A: This was another very tricky element in writing a memoir. There are so many factors that go into telling a story with as much accuracy as possible without over-sharing someone else’s tale. I approached each section through my eyes only, because that would be the only way to keep it accurate to what I had experienced. I am not capable of making assumptions of anyone else’s feelings or thoughts, just my own perceptions of things. And as with all personal information, I tried to tell the readers as much as I could about my own perplexing feelings and struggles. In that, I wanted to be as open and as free as my heart would allow. But when it came to the rest of my family and others involved in our story, I tried to edit out just the facts – things that I was given from CYS, agency workers, doctors, and my family members themselves.

Even so, I took the time to have my family read the book. I wanted as many editing eyes on the emotional stuff as possible. This included my older two children. Whereas I didn’t let them read the entire book (simply because it’s far too heavy for their young minds), I did read them many of the details of their own sections in the book. I allowed them the opportunity to say yes or no to certain events. If they felt even slightly uncomfortable with parts, I edited them or removed them altogether. My oldest, Cameron, asked why I talked about their behaviors so much. I explained that this was so other parents could have a better understanding of the struggles their own children face. With that simple answer, my kids gave me their blessing to tell all the goofy things they do, just so that it will help you all!

Q: How did you come up with the title, I really like it!

A: Why, thank you! I like it, too! But I cannot take credit for the title. That was all God! I was sleeping one night after a ridiculously long day of editing, and I sat straight up in bed as if I’d been awakened by a fire alarm. The only thing running through my head was the title God wanted me to use: The Children Who Raised Me. From that moment on, my editing became smooth and the book began to flow in a new direction, pointing to a main aspect that I wanted to come from this - that in a family, we are ALL a part of shaping one another. Each of us has a purpose and a place, and the adults are learning right along with the Littles. As we bring all of our broken parts to the table, we are able to use them to create a whole unit, one that looks and functions differently than any other. Again, I cannot speak to how my children feel or think, but I can attest to the fact that my children, all four of them, (and my husband) have had a significant role in raising me to become the woman God needs me to be.

Q: Who is your target audience for this book?

A: Well, the book has a great deal of content in it, so it can be used to reach a great deal of people. When I first started out, I wanted the book to be used for other parents raising children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Then, I realized that parents raising any special needs child may find what we’ve gone through as beneficial. And then I thought that families looking to foster or adopt may really want to see what often doesn’t get shared by caseworkers as they try to get children placed in homes – the dirty, raw parts of parenting someone else’s children. And THEN I found out that schools and mental health agencies were interested in the book to use as a training tool for their employees, helping them understand the complexities of attachment disorders and how to manage them differently than other disorders.

Overall, this book is for any parent, guardian, or adult that is working with children – it’s for the person who's lost a child and feels like they’ve been told that “it’s time to move on”, even though they’re not ready yet. It's for the parents struggling with infertility and weighing all the options through the emotional lenses they are wearing. It’s for the marriage that is hanging on by a thread under the weight of all that family entails. It’s for the professionals who want to do more but are bound by the legalities and insufficiencies of a broken child welfare and judicial system. This book, The Children Who Raised Me, is for anyone who is looking for Hope and needs to know that they’re not alone in their search.

Q: Are you available for speaking engagements? If so, what are the topics that you cover and your fee?

A: I AM available for speaking engagements! Despite having a tummy that HATES public speaking, the rest of me actually quite enjoys it. I have spoken at churches, schools, mental health agencies, and adoption groups so far – depending on where I speak and what they’re interested in learning, I can share about trauma issues and how it effects children and attachment, RAD, parenting, adoption and foster care issues that need to be changed in our child welfare agency, how churches and organizations can best rise up to help adoptive and foster parents… and I can even lead worship if you’re interested 😊.

But as far as a fee, I do not have a set amount. Because so many churches or groups are small, I would ask for a love offering of whatever is doable for that particular group. If I speak at an agency, I would just ask for a comparable guest speaker amount, that’s all. My goal is to bless, encourage, educate, and love on those who need it. That’s not something I am able to put a price on, and I never want to be out of anyone’s reach… trust me, I don’t think of myself highly enough for such things! But I do ask that my expenses be covered so that I can continue on in what I feel God’s leading me to do!

If you’re interested in booking me for a speaking engagement, you can email me through my Contact’s Page on the website.

Q: Are you planning on writing a second book?

A: YES! I absolutely love writing and will do it until my dying day – when a book will be coming out is still up in the air, especially since this one has taken up so much of my efforts! But definitely look for one in the future.

Q: How can I get my book signed by you?

A: This question is cracking me up! You guys, my handwriting is not really all that exciting, but apparently this is a big deal because this is the question I was asked the most! So, for those of you who really want to see my name on the inside of your book cover, then watch my MommyhoodSFS Facebook page and my website for upcoming book signings. If I’m not going to be in your area and you want to set up an engagement for me, you feel free!! Otherwise, we can find a way for you to mail me your book to be signed. Again… cracking me up right now!

 

Okay, I hope this has been helpful for everyone! In addition to the book, don’t forget that I have an online membership program that is helpful to professionals and guardians in dealing with children with special needs, attachment issues, and mental health diagnoses. Check it out on the site for further info!

Love to you all and thank you, once again, for all the support you’ve shown. I am so blessed to meet so many beautiful people through such a painful topic – God really does know how to make beauty from ashes.

Hugs and Hope,

Shivonne

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Just Another Day

               Ok, so yesterday was just an average day. And I know I should feel ashamed about this, but my toddler watched the movie “Cars” 3 times yesterday (twice back to back) while I did work from home. I made sure he was fed, changed, and safe… but otherwise, I did very little parenting for the little fella outside of helping him build a train track. This kept him occupied for all of 4 minutes before he would scream out of frustration because one of the train cars would derail, at which point I would give him a bowl of crackers and cheerfully suggest he go watch Lightening McQueen some more.

            Parenting score, right?

            So later that evening, my kids returned home from school and The Hubs helped them finish homework while I got dinner on the table and rushed my son off to youth group. Realizing I hadn’t really talked to my oldest outside of hurried dinner conversation, I casually asked him how his day at school was.

            Now, usually this would be answered with a “fine”. And good moms would then press for more information. Unfortunately, I was not feeling in the mood to be a “good” mom. I hate pressing for more information because then I usually hear about how he got in trouble for something and we have to write apology letters and call school personnel and figure out consequences… and who has the energy for that day in and day out, really?! Not this mama.

            But last night, after I ran a trillion errands and listened to the “Cars” background music while making umpteen phone calls, I asked the question, “How was your day, Cam” and was then regaled with a 15-minute monologue about his day. He spoke in speeds that could rival an auctioneer. Only his words made no sense and his stories never really came together clearly. But I was not given the chance to ask for further explanation because, well, he wouldn’t shut up long enough for me to do so. (And honestly, was I listening all that closely? Mmmmm, no.)

            I dropped him off at the church and drove home while my ears finished ringing. All I wanted to do was to go home, put my feet up, and play candy crush (on mute) so that I could unwind from the frazzled day that was not close enough to being over.

            And that’s just when the female child wanted all of the attention. ALL OF IT. She wanted to play games and paint nails and have me guess random objects she was holding behind her back (I mean, seriously, that’s desperation, right there). And all I wanted to do was zone out for the briefest of moments….

            However, just as all hope felt lost, I remembered my old faithful trick. “Taylor, I have an idea of what we can do! Do you want to practice doing hair? I’ll let you practice on me…” We hadn’t played this game in a while, mainly because I have curly hair and she has the talons of an eagle, scraping and clawing at my curls without the slightest bit of compassion. Yet I knew that if she was this desperate for a playmate, she would be gentler than usual.

            Sure enough, this child of mine sprang to attention and immediately ran for my brush and all the hair accessories she could find. And for the next hour, I sat there as she gently played with my hair, putting me into a partial coma, me barely hearing the long stream of high-pitched words emerging without stop from her lips. With each brush stroke and each careful twist of the hair, I was instantly transported into a state of complete calm.

            And then she asked if she could massage my feet….

            What is happening to my life right now?!? I could barely fathom my luck, but there she sat, rubbing my tootsies and tickling at my ankles. My body felt like putty and all I wanted to do was tell her that I was sorry for all the times I’d grounded her or scolded her for getting into my things. I was willing to forgive all wrongs and forget the past entirely. We were starting fresh in that moment, and I was going to sleep like a baby.

            My husband arrived home with my oldest from church at 8pm and it was time for everyone to brush their teeth and get ready for bed. Sadly, my time of soothing had to come to an end - but that was okay, because I was still fully relaxed...

And then the kids argued over something stupid in the bathroom and the lights were left on and clothes were left everywhere in the kitchen (why are they in the kitchen in first place? No one will ever know.) and people kept finding reasons to avoid bedtime and, wouldn’t you know it, my feeling of calm left as quickly as it had come.

            I had to do the yelling and threatening once more… I was willing to charge them their Christmas money to pay the electric bill, tape them to their beds if they got up once again, and I was all about ready to light “Cars” on fire if the toddler screamed to watch it for the fourth time that day (because honestly, 4 times is where any decent mother draws the line, right?).

            Distressed but trying to appear “normal”, I ran the idea of Ben and Jerry’s past my husband… but he wasn’t biting. “You’re not asking me to go to the store for ice cream right now, are you?” he asked.

            “Gosh no, I was just saying that if you ever feel like it, it’s on sale at Uni-Mart…” I replied hopefully.

            He didn’t take the bait, so I retreated upstairs with the toddler to watch Peppa Pig and make a blanket tent out of my bedding in an attempt to calm him enough for bed. After a half hour of suffocating under my sheets, I was able to wrangle the little guy into his crib, accompanied by his handful of matchbox cars.

            Twenty minutes later, I heard the familiar clang of a car falling out of the crib, followed by the equally familiar calls from my youngest. “Mama! Oh, Mama!! My car car fall out da bed!” I arose and retrieved his car, kissed him goodnight again, and went to watch something non-animated on the television as I tried to fall asleep. Then the clang happened again… but this time the car had fallen behind the crib. There was no way in the world that I was moving his bed at 10:30pm to pick up a toy car.

            And I told my sobbing child just that. Although that didn’t seem to stop him from yelling, “Mama, oh Mama” a million more times with increasing vigor. So, I did what all “good” parents would do… I turned up the volume on my TV, turned down the volume on the baby monitor, and I willed myself to close my eyes and wake up on a beach somewhere. (PS, I still woke up at home and next to a hairy man hogging my side of the bed.)

            It was just an average day… nothing unusual, just a day. And my house isn’t the beach, despite the January rain acting deceptively like a monsoon. But I am content with these chatty, arguing, squawking little people with all their quirks and peculiarities. I’m happy with my hairy bed-sharer. I am fulfilled at my job that makes me talk on the phone CONSTANTLY and neglect my child to the television sometimes. And I am happy being just a “good” mom. We make it work and I’m kinda proud of us for doing so.

Photo by: suckhoedoisong.vn

Photo by: suckhoedoisong.vn

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If Mom Ran For President

           The year 2016 will go down in history as one of the strangest and most controversial presidential elections of all time. I think it’s safe to say that, no matter which party you support, our country as a whole kinda looks like it’s playing a twisted game of Would You Rather…

            You remember the game from childhood, right?

            “Would you rather eat boogers dipped in gasoline or pluck out 10 nose hairs every minute for an entire day?”

           “Would you rather remove your own cornea with a rusted fork or pull off each of your fingernails with a pair of pliers?”

           “Would you rather chew on a ball of someone else’s hair for all eternity or have to dress like a member of Kiss for every formal function you’re invited to for the rest of your life?”

           Yeah, so that’s basically my take on politics… a big game of Would You Rather. So, instead of being bitter, I decided to create a new democratic party. The Mom Party.

           The Mom Party is a fantastic mix of all the other parties, minus all the stupid name-calling, lying, and cheating… because we all know our Moms would ground us for that kind of crap. And in honor of my newfound political aspirations, I decided to take a look at 20 of the most popular debates over the past several years and solve all the world’s problems, Mom Style.

           PS, for those who think women shouldn’t be allowed to run for president because we’d be “too emotional”, know that we wipe butts, don’t need a chauffeur, decipher daily lies, and sleep standing up… we don’t have time for emotions. And we’d do the job for free. Beat that.

           If Mom Ran For President – The Important Topics:

1)      Tough on Crime: Heck yeah, we’d be tough on crime! I’ve broken up more fights over senseless crap than the entire LAPD, and I don’t even get back-up, NOR do they let me carry a Taser. Ground the criminals to their rooms and don’t even let them think about asking for snack!

2)      Abortion: I firmly believe that a mother should only be allowed to kill her child after that child is born. (Too far? Too far. See Torture below.)

3)      Animal Rights: Yes. To all the animals that my children will ever see, the answer is Yes. We are practically running a zoo anyways, so every stray, missing-limbed, scraggly, flea-infested creature is basically welcome. We do not discriminate.

4)      Drug Legalization: Wait, for my kids or for me?? Ok, so for Moms, we should get coupons that reduce our co-pays for all anxiety medication. In fact, scratch that. We should get CASH BACK for taking our medications like good girls. And for our kids? After a birthday party, I would legalize Benedryl… you know, to help wean them off the hard stuff (ice cream and cake), but for recreational use, Melatonin should do the trick.

5)      Affirmative Action: I’m sorry, but there ain’t no one getting special permissions in this house over here. Whatever your race, gender, or favorite color, EVERYONE is scrubbing a toilet and taking garbage out for the same allowance, PERIOD.

6)      Homeschooling: Oh my gosh, NO! I mean, that should be left up to each individual household but, still… oh my gosh, just… No.

7)      Building a Wall: Only if we make the children build it. Heck, tire them out! Let them build it as high as they want, paint it crazy colors, and then just MAYBE they’ll sleep a solid 8 hours each night!

8)      Torture: Definition = Parenting. If they’re allowed to do it to us, shouldn’t we be allowed to do it to them? Well, I guess if we’re being presidential and all, perhaps we should limit it to only when it’s absolutely necessary… like when you have to figure out who broke the television and neither child will spill the beans.

9)      Term Limits: Yes. 18 years, MAX. Then, it’s time to help little Johnny find a house, apartment, nice van by the river, whatever. No matter how much he begs to stay and even “pay rent”… I mean, what can we do? It’s the law!

10)  Common Core: Burn it. Burn all the books, all the lesson plans, all the “studies”. Light the fire and I’ll provide the gasoline. Mothers of the world who have to help their children with homework while they cry and scream, You’re Welcome.

11)  Social Programs: Ok, so yeah… there definitely needs to be more. Like one where Moms can go to socialize with other adults and they’re not allowed to wear make-up, bring diaper bags, or talk about their children. Oh, and they can’t look good in yoga pants. BYOC (Bring Your Own Chocolate).

12)  Minimum Wage: For crying out loud, leave it where it is. I’m not raising allowances so my kids get MORE money for haphazardly taking out the trash and shoving their toys under their beds. And I’m certainly not giving them the chance to purchase even MORE toys that require batteries… because then we’d just need another social program that provides batteries in bulk to families across the globe. No raise. Problem solved.

13)  Gun Rights: My children are crazy so guns are gonna have to be limited to Nerf and Water. I will allow special permits for hunting video games if your child really feels the need to start killing things… but then again, maybe we need to go back to Social Programs on this one.

14)  Death Penalty: This should be reserved only for waking up Mom in the middle of the night for a non-emergent reason. If there’s not blood, puke, an intruder, or an asthma attack, know that you will be shanked on site.

15)  Going Green: I’ll be as organic as I can afford (I AM willing to run the country for free, if you do recall). I’ll turn off the faucet while I brush my teeth and I’ll recycle as much as I can. But just TRY to enforce kids shutting off lights when they leave a room. I dare you. We would have to increase our military spending to do so, and I’m pretty sure that the people would revolt.

16)  Free Trade: Uh, NO. It leads to Indian giving and “No Take Backs” being screamed at volumes that make my head split in half. There will be no trading, ever. Eat the sandwich that was packed by your own parents, I don’t care if it’s tuna fish on rye!

17)  Internet Censorship: This is obviously a must. There are too many crazy people out there putting crazy things on the internet just waiting for my crazy children to happen upon it. Minecraft Only, thank you very much.

18)  War on Terror: Daily. It’s called Motherhood.

19)  National Health Care: I feel it’s only humane to give Band-Aids to any child that’s bleeding, not just my own. And I will pull a sliver out of any finger, hold back the hair of any puker, and give an ice pack to any bumped noggin. But I will not give out my Epi Pen… that’s basically gold and ain’t no one affording that anymore!

20)  Changing the Constitution: I would like to add just a few amendments here, please.

A) We the people have the right to sleep for 6 hours each night…

B)  To use the restroom in peace…

C) To go to the store ALONE…

D) To shave both legs in the same shower…

E) And to pray that our children will one day rise up and call us blessed.

"As President of the United States of America, I promise to train my children to be productive citizens, I promise to hold other parents accountable when they are faltering and to lift them up when they are struggling. I promise to show love indiscriminately and, when necessary, let the punishment fit the crime. I would honor and respect each and every parent out there, knowing that they’re doing their best and that they probably just need a nap."

Because after all, shouldn’t we always want a Mom for the job?

Photo by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlwUPNS12iU

Photo by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlwUPNS12iU

 #VoteMom2016

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Redefining Greatness

           Each summer, I have high hopes of achieving greatness in motherhood. And each fall I realize that greatness is highly overrated. Sometime in August I become very okay with mediocrity and the whole “just keep them alive” method of parenting. (It’s okay to judge me if you must. I’m far too tired to care anyway.)

            I start out the summer being a “Yes” Mom. I tell the kids they can have the second popsicle, that they can use the playdough without supervision, that they can stay up late to catch fireflies. And by August I am back to my “No” Mom self, swiftly denying all access to Dad’s tools, things that require all of my batteries, nail polishes/paints/anything that stains, and all things that are sugar-based.

            I’m unsure why I feel that each June will be different than the last – that my children will have matured magically in the previous 9 months, that they won’t fight incessantly, or that they won’t suck my love for summer away once again. But each summer I test out my re-found optimism, only to realize that it doesn’t quite fit in with me and my special needs family. Because in a home filled with our specific kind of nuts, we don’t have the strength for continual optimism.

            No, in our home, we have roles that we hold tightly to – ones that don’t allow for much deviation from out callings. We have myself, The Enforcer – I’m the rule-setter, consequence-maker, and death-glarer. We have my husband, The Worker – the one that is gone all day and then gets to play with our spawn, giving him the extra title of The Fun One. Then there’s my oldest, The Bully. He’s the one that taunts, teases, and pinches the minute my back is turned. But its okay, because my next oldest is The Tattler, also known as The Instigator. She is the reporter of all things (necessary or not), the one that loves to hear her own voice, and the little shadow that begs to be pinched so she has something else to tattle about. And finally, we have The Toddler. He’s 2, he tantrums, and he’s supposed to be my “normal one”.

            Yeah, optimism is quickly replaced by realism each and every summer. But before you think we are too pessimistic for your taste, let me give you a glimpse into one particularly warm July day…

            The Toddler woke promptly at 6am, ensuring that he could start his energetic throwing of toys before the heat became too great. But hey, since he wasn’t throwing the toys at the dogs or the television, I continued to pay bills and do laundry before the Bigs woke up… which was naturally 20 minutes later. The rest of the morning was spent reminding children to do their morning routine, the very same routine they’ve been doing every day for years. I stared at their shocked faces when they were informed that yes, indeed, their underwear needed to be changed every day. For always.

            We did daily homework assignments to ensure that no one became stupid over the summer… this meant that I spent an hour arguing with The Tattler that 10 +23 does not equal 1023, all the while The Bully wailed that he couldn’t understand his story problem: “Billy had 18 apples and gave Tommy 6. Tommy then gave 3 apples to Judy. How many apples does Tommy now have?” Meanwhile, The Toddler ate all the crackers and screamed every time a commercial interrupted his Paw Patrol marathon.

            We finally finished all the assignments and my bills got paid (sort of) so we promptly got ready for The Tattler’s library program that morning. Only, where was my phone? I had it earlier while I did the banking, but where was it now? No worries… we found it a half hour later… in the refrigerator, courtesy of The Toddler.

            We were the family running into the library drenched in sweat, A) because we have no air conditioner and B) because we are incapable of attending any library program on time. I don’t know why and I no longer have the motivation to care. I handed my middle child over to the sweet ladies in charge as I avoided the irritated glances at their watches. The Bully began looking for a new book while The Toddler attached himself to a handful of cars at the train table.

            I sat anxiously, waiting for the inevitable tantrum that The Toddler throws each and every time we enter the library. It’s the place where he had his first injury (last summer, banged lip off the train table, bled all over their carpet), where we screamed bloody murder in the bathroom for ALL to hear (two summers ago, while trying not to smack his head off the toilet paper holder as I had to nurse him in the bathroom because I was asked not to nurse him in the children’s section), and where he continues to dominate all the toys because by being the baby of the family, it’s basically survival of the fittest.

            That day was no different. I watched in slow motion as my small child grabbed a toy away from a sweet little boy with Down’s Syndrome. The boy tried to get his toy back, but my child in turn hit him with the toy. It was like I was moving through jello, unable to run through the sea of scattered toys fast enough, when the other boy began to scream a high-pitched wail that was not only warranted, but appreciated (because, hey, it wasn’t my kid screaming for a change).

            I promptly grabbed up The Toddler, apologizing profusely as I handed my purse off to my oldest. I ran my now-screaming baby out to the parking lot as he hit and kicked, flapped and hollered. Outside it was a balmy 831 degrees and my child’s sweat was making it impossible to hold him as he raged. And, as I fought to control a person 1/4th my size in the public library’s parking lot, a police officer pulled up alongside me.

            “Everything okay, ma’am?” he asked with concern.

            Sweat dripping into my eyes, making my hair stick to my running make-up, I tried to smile as I responded, “Oh, of course! Just a bit of a toddler tantrum is all!” I made a slight attempt at a chuckle, but it ended up coming out as more of a maniacal laugh than anything.

            Twenty minutes and a two walks around the block, The Toddler was still being a jerk, but it was time to go in and claim my daughter from her program. It was then that I looked down and noticed that, amidst the struggle with my youngest, my wide-necked t-shirt somehow had managed to be pulled all the way down, underneath my left boob. I had talked with our local law enforcement and walked two blocks with my one of my breasts completely hanging out. (And no, I didn’t feel a breeze, thanks to my super unattractive full-coverage mom bra.)

            Defeated and repositioned, I threw my kid over my shoulder and marched through the library to claim The Tattler. The sweet librarians once again eyed me with fear because my child’s screaming was interrupting their announcements. I forced a smile and said something clever like, “Kids, what do ya do, right?” before grabbing all of my children and running-not-running for the door.

            We arrived home just in time for The Toddler to take a nap, which means that he pulled his weenie out and peed through his crib like a boss just before drifting off. But I didn’t care. The pee would still be there when he woke up and there was no way that I was going to wake him to change his sheets. So I turned the fan on him in an attempt to dry up some of the wetness, like any mediocre, realist mom would do.

            I came back down the stairs to see The Bully pinning down his sister as he wrenched her arm behind her back. Grabbing him up by the scruff and then swatting his bottom, I sent him immediately to his room. The Tattler proceeded to tell me that her brother had just pinned her on the ground and wrenched her arm behind her back. (Yes, thank you for stating the obvious. Would you care to do any other work for my eyes, like tell me the color of the walls or describe to me my own outfit?) But because I still had just a smidgen of Good Mom still in me, I refrained from the sarcasm and reminded her that I had just taken care of the issue, assessing her arm as we talked.

            It was then that I noticed the dog poop on the floor. Just because of life.

            Meanwhile, The Toddler was awakened from his nap by a mooing Bully who refused to calm himself down. Not that it mattered, because we had a church event to leave for and there was still the whole pee incident happening upstairs in the crib.

            All bodily secretions sufficiently cleaned, we managed to make it to the church on time. Naturally The Toddler proceeded to push down another baby in our church and scream at the top of his lungs when redirected. To keep the peace, I put him in the nursery's pack-n-play for a time-out. However, The Tattler proceeded to inform me that I was a bad mother for just leaving him to cry without getting him out. At that point, I gave her one of my infamous death glares, reminding her that she was insanely out of line and should probably keep her well-researched parenting advice to herself.

            The Bully sulked in the corner and refused to talk to anyone, The Tattler cried for being glared at, and The Toddler’s screams could still be heard 3 rooms away. It was then that a sweet friend of mine from out church mentioned that I should get my youngest checked for autism.

            Tears welled in my eyes, not at the thought that my son could have autism, but at the fact that I had already asked his pediatrician this very question and was assured that he was completely NOT autistic – leaving 2 options: He was either a terrible child, or I was a terrible mother. Either way, the tears were there and I did my best to hold them at bay while I made small talk and acted like everything was fine.

            We left the event early because… well, because I have kids.

            Upon arriving home, I noticed that the temperature had cooled ever so slightly, so I told the kids to play outside. And as I stepped through the grass to set my purse on the patio, my foot got stuck in a hole that one of the dogs had dug and my ankle painfully rolled until I heard a snap. Since I was in my own yard and there was no sense in holding back anymore, I cried until I couldn’t breathe.

            Terrified, The Tattler ran inside and got me every ice pack we own. The Bully attempted to keep The Toddler from crawling on me like I was a jungle gym… because normal toddlers take crying as a call for playtime, apparently?

            My husband arrived home minutes later to me sitting in the yard with ice packs surrounding my swollen ankle. He saw my puffy eyes and listened as I told him about the library and my boob, the police and the wrenching of the arm, the poop and the pee, the church and the hole. I told him that I was a bad mother, incapable of achieving greatness.

            After sending me to my room to recover, The Worker/Fun One played with the kids in the yard. I heard them laughing and following directions. No one pinched or peed on anything. No one screamed or tattled. Everyone just played. In the distance I could hear a dog vomiting, but I didn’t go downstairs to clean it up. It would inevitably still be there in the morning.

            Two weeks later, I went on vacation with my kids, my parents, my brother and my nephew. I did a lot of sleeping and a lot of unwinding. The Toddler only peed on things twice and my parents took over when The Tattler and The Bully got into it. I relinquished my crown as The Enforcer for almost 9 days and found myself laughing with my children. I even got to be The Fun One a few times!

            So, as August has begun to wind us down to those last few moments of summer, I am okay with my mediocre status. I realize that it doesn’t make me a failure to not reach greatness each summer. It’s okay to say “No” and to hide the hammer and nails and to take naps when The Toddler finally goes down for his afternoon sleep. It’s okay to reclaim my batteries and make bedtime earlier. And it’s certainly okay to be The Fun One sometimes.

           But whatever the role, whatever the situation, whatever the daily liquids I get to scrub… I can rest easy, knowing that I kept them alive for one more summer. And that, my friends, is greatness redefined.

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No More Hanky Panky EVER

            “Mom,” said my 10-year-old son from the backseat of our mini-van, “I heard really weird noises last night while I was trying to sleep.

            I was only half-listening if we’re being honest.  After all, I spend my days being informed of every bug bite, loose tooth, dream, and bodily function… it’s a miracle that I still listen at all, if you ask me.

            “Mmm hmmm…” I replied, absentmindedly.

            “It sounded like someone was having an asthma attack,” he continued.

            “Well… you’re the only one with asthma, so are you sure you weren’t just congested and hearing your own breathing?”

            “No, it wasn’t coming from my room.”

            “Maybe it was the baby monitor then.  It could’ve been echoing Wyatt’s sound machine or something.”  I was getting a little tired of guessing, but it didn’t seem we were going to stop with this game until we got to the bottom of things.

            “No… I don’t think it was that.  It was around 11 o’clock and I just couldn’t sleep.  It sounded like maybe it was coming from your room?”

            It was in the next moment that I had solved the mystery of the questionable asthma attack that occurred at 11pm the previous night.

            “Mom, it kinda sounded like this.”  With quick breaths, my son rehearsed the panting sounds he was referring to – they were the sounds of a husband and wife who had been ships passing in the night for too many weeks to count – the sound of allergy-congested people finding comfort in the arms of their significant other.

Photo by www.rawstory.com

Photo by www.rawstory.com

            As my son continued to ignorantly pant in the backseat, I contemplated driving the van into the river, because there was really no way for either of us to un-hear the sounds that we’d heard.

            My 8-year-old began to laugh.  “That’s weird, Cameron!  I wonder where the sound was coming from.”

            Flustered, I began to stumble over 1st grade words.  I mucked up the word “T.V.” as I tried to explain that perhaps the volume had been too loud.  I mispronounced “remote” as I suggested that their Dad had probably hit the increase volume button when he meant to hit the decrease volume button.  Overall, I felt dizzy and just a bit nauseous.

            But Cameron was not to be deterred.  “Well… I don’t think it was the T.V., Mom, because I heard that already before the sounds started.  It didn’t sound like T.V. noise.  It sounded like this…”  My 10-year-old proceeded to mimic the sounds for a second time.

            I quickly talked over him, saying that I had fallen asleep and who really knows what show came on once I was sleeping… it could’ve been a show where someone was crying, or perhaps someone who was afraid.  I reminded them that when people feel extreme fear, sometimes their breathing will come very quickly.  (Because obviously this was the best possible moment to review feelings and the effects they have on our bodies.  But chalk one up for Mom and finding a therapeutic moment, right?)

            For a minute, it seemed that my son was satisfied.  He looked out his window as the toddler continued to announce each car that passed with a resounding “Caaaar!”

            “But Mom, it started when Dad went upstairs, so wouldn’t he have turned off the T.V. if you were asleep?”

            Oh for crap’s sake!

            “Honey, I don’t know!  Maybe Dad changed the channel to something he wanted to watch, and there was someone crying or scared on that channel… how am I to answer all these absurd questions?  I’m supposed to be focusing on the road, here!”

            Cameron seemed deep in thought.  He quietly made the noises to himself once more in the backseat as he and his sister determined that it just couldn’t have been someone scared.  But sensing that he was on thin ice, he tried once more.  “Um, but Mom?  The noises ended when Dad went back downstairs…”

            And then I realized what I had to do.  I had no choice but to throw my husband under the bus.  “See, there you go.  The noises came from Dad.  Maybe you thought they were coming from our room, but Dad was probably just going to the bathroom.”  I felt like rejoicing, because obviously bearing down too hard doing one’s personal business can imitate deeds of an even more personal nature, can’t they?

            “Yeah… but I went to the bathroom to get a drink of water and Dad wasn’t in there.  It was definitely coming from your room,” my son replied thoughtfully.

            How exactly is my son in Special Education when his reasoning skills are this advanced?  Perhaps if he suspected his Math problems getting it on with one another, he’d pay closer attention in class!

            “Cameron. If Dad wasn’t in the bathroom, then he was obviously in our room.”

            “And he was probably crying, Cameron,” piped in the sister.  “He probably misses Isaac.”

            “Yes!  Dad was probably sad over Isaac.  So let it go, we don’t want to embarrass him for crying.”  It was the best I could do in that moment.  Taylor sat in the backseat looking heartbroken for her father, whereas Cameron still looked like he couldn’t quite swallow what I was feeding him.

            “I’ll ask Dad if he’s OK when he gets home then,” he said with resolve.

            I made two mental notes as we arrived at our destination that evening:

1)      Inform Husband to admit to being a big crybaby if asked

2)      Have Cameron’s sleeping medication increased ASAP.

           But before we finished exiting the van, Taylor asked me this endearing question.  “Mom?  Should I make Dad a card, telling him I hope he feels better?”

           “No, honey.  I think Daddy probably got it all out and he feels much better now.”

           Mental Note #3: No more hanky panky.  EVER.

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