Tag Archives: parenting

Waiting For SuperMom…

I’ve been waiting for the time to be right, hoping that I would know with unequivocal clarity.  Hoping that I would make it,  to be the best mom ever for my babes.  To be the Supermom that they deserve.   At the end of each day I sit, hoping that the next one will be better.  I  mistakes constantly. I pray that my children are strong enough not to be scarred by me, since I know that there is no way around them being hurt.  I’m just not perfect.
I fold laundry at 2am, I do dished a 4am ever so quietly, hoping not to wake the locals.   Then I sleep till 10am because I pushed too hard  and my body isn’t what it used to be.  So I feed them whatever I can get my hands on, and don’t make dinner until the last minute so the kitchen is a mess. Because I have to make everything from scratch. We have  various food allergies and housing upheaval. I have fibromyalgia, a herniated disk, a para-esophageal hernia that is going to require major surgery in a few weeks… A whole pot of crazy going on.

I spend my days trying to school them.  I love these days, but they don’t feel like enough for them, around my health and other needs. Each and every day I wonder if school would be better.   Not that I feel like a failure, but the thought is just always there. I am very aware that there are ways that school would NOT be successful, but then I worry about my inability to hold to structure and how it is affecting them.
My children are brilliant, and inspiring! Says-every-mom-ever. And I mean it!  They amaze me even more than they concern me. We are in a season of complete upheaval with construction on our home, changing our family budget, and getting health stuff taken care of.
One big change for our family happened about a month ago when we did send one of the babes back to school.  Over December we thought and prayed a lot about it.  It basically came down to this. Lucas needs clear structure and routine.  I am not very successful at either.  Lucas needs a full evaluation for insurance to pay for his therapy needs for Asperger Syndrome.  Insurance does not cover the evaluation which is anywhere between $2500 and $5000.  In public school he can be evaluated for free and provided the structure and support he needs.  Sounds like the perfect answer!!
It was still hard. So, so hard.  Lucas is the one I always keep with me. Mostly because he’s so much for other people to handle.  So dropping him off for others to care was overwhelming.  The school staff spent several hours over  2 weeks with us, in preparation for bringing Lucas in. They were wonderful.  We went over his need for support in the bathroom, and talked about his Sensory Processing Disorder. Because of his SPD, he is likely to be in pullups until he is 10-12.  The created a special plan and routine for him, based on what we suggested, with supervised bathroom visits and help with accidents. Their attention to detail for his needs was such a relief.  In his 504 plan for special needs, they also allowed him to have his chew necklace, wiggle seat and fidget toys.
Lucas has been there for a month now, and he is thriving. For the first time!  I can say he is thriving!! We still pick him up every Tuesday and take him to his OT appointments and he is in the middle of the evaluation process. In spite of my fears, it was absolutely what he needed.
Things come up with each of our children where we have to re-evaluate what we do.   We have to look at their needs. We put them above ours, and even above our ideals. We shift those ideals, as each process with our children changes the shape of our parenting; changes the priorities we thought we knew were “utmost” ten years ago.

I absolutely, despise the question “How do you do it all?”  Actually, even more than I despise the movie. The question is lame. No one really wants an answer. What they really mean is that you just have too much, way more than they would ever want. And it implies that they really have a clear preference for their own life.  Well, touche.  I prefer mine.
The truth is that NONE of  us do it all.  We choose in the moment, we grow with their needs. We stretch the muscle of our heart, the tissues of our brains… and they both ache and quake through the process.  We don’t do it all. Ever.  No one does.  Wed on’t have to.  We just have to do today.

I caught myself waiting again.  Waiting for something that will never happen. Something that doesn’t exist.  There is no Supermom.  I will never be her, and neither will you.  We have no cape and no need for one.  Who we are is who we are meant to be, and it is what our children need.   I mean, Edna said it and I agree.

Join me in putting the cape envy away.  Let’s put down our list of expectation. Of what we would look like if we were Supermoms.

The next few months look like climbing Mount Everest to me, and I don’t know how to do it. I just know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this sweet family of mine will make it to the other side… regardless of my lack of cape.


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Filed under All Posts, Family, homeschooling, Inner Sessions, Motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

Over Sensed- My Experience and Opinion on Diagnosing SPDs (Sensory Processing Disorders)

There is a lot of confusion out there about Sensory Processing or Sensory Integration Disorders. It seems that every child has it, if they don’t sit still and act perfectly. If they get overstimulated and have meltdowns, it’s because they clearly have a disorder. Right?

Ok, stop. Don’t get your hopes too high about the post. The bottom line is that I am going to share my experience and opinion.  And I’m totally aware that the latter may be flawed and convoluted, but it is my opinion and thoughts as of right now.

In a culture has become increasingly fast pasted and overstimulating I don’t know one person who doesn’t get overstimulated and thus overwhelmed.  It’s become the new “American Way”.   In trying to make life bigger and better we’ve made it louder, brighter to an extreme that is affecting us all. Food is bigger, kids shows are CRAZY, entertainment consumes more of our time than it ever has before.  Yeah. We’re all living the life, alright.

Everyone has experiences like this at some point being overstimulated. Some more than others.  So we have a range.  We have the average American, who, based on their lifestyle choices, is going to experience Sensory Overload in varying levels of frequency.  As many of you know, I dream of going off the grid to minimize my frequency of this, but don’t see it happening for many years.  But you do it, I do it, your next door neighbor does, too.

Just because your child does not behave perfectly, does not mean they have a disorder or that something is wrong.  You don’t have to panic about this. It means they are a child.  Just because we as adults can relate to the panic, frustration and feeling of being overwhelmed that comes with an SPD, doesn’t mean that we have one. You’ll be ok. Promise. I feel like if we look around and pay attention, we will find that we as a country are experiencing Sensory OVERLOAD.  And we ourselves are the disorder. Because out lifestyles are…out of order.

So I do agree with those who  have said it doesn’t always mean you need a label.  But sometimes, you so. And when you do, it sucks.

No matter what you do, you get judgement coming from both ends. You get those who look at you like you are a mess and not normal. They get frustrated by the inconvenience of your needs because they’re different. They don’t know how to handle  you. Then the next day you’ll run into the friend who thinks that all of it is a crock.  All of it is just labeling and making excuses for varying levels of what is really normal.   You’re a wimp, or a bad mom for accepting the diagnosis. You’re selfish for allowing your child to be labeled. You just want to use it as an excuse to make you look better, or to get pity. But your kid is fine, and you’re the problem.

I have actually experienced this. I have people who were a pretty regular part of my life a few years ago who now don’t even communicate with my family anymore.  Because of the two reasons above. Either it’s just too hard to deal with the issues when they don’t know how. Or it’s just too shameful that I dare to admit my child has them.

But let me explain something that you may not have known.  I don’t just speak from experience as a mom. I speak from experience as a child.

I always had a hard time listening, and dealt with so much frustration as a child and even more as a teen.  Because, you know, as a teen everyone assumed that it was because I was CHOOSING not to listen, right?  Darn rebel.  You would think that it may have tipped someone off that as a preschooler I could only sing harmony to any song.  In chorus at 10 years old, I struggled to start learning to hear the melody of a tune, because all I heard was the abstract tones of the harmony.  To this day, I almost always sing harmony. To everything.
When I started college at 17, I had my first real classroom experiences and the frustration was over the top. I quickly became fed up and went to get my ears checked by a specialist.   I was diagnosed with CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder) a way before the  diagnosis of ADHD, ADD, Autism and Aspergers were so common.
Let me explain it for you the best I can. Some people have a neurological disorder where they have loss of depth perception visually, right? They bump into things, can’t tell how far away something is. Well, I have the auditory version. I often can’t distinguish sounds from one another. They blend together and I can’t tell which are close and which are far. When the number of sounds get to a certain number, or volume, my ears short out. That’s what I call it, anyway.  Take your hands and cover your ears tight. Now take them off and on rapidly.  That’s what it feels/sounds like. Not fun.
I often can’t find my cell phone because I can’t tell which direction the ringing is coming from.  I’ve been known to post on Facebook asking someone to call me repeatedly until I answer. Then I stand in the middle of my house trying to figure out the direction the ring is coming from, sometimes needing as many as 10 calls. So glad I have good friends who helped me out with that! As soon as my kids were old enough, I taught them to find my phone for me.  I’m not even kidding.  That was SUCH a relief!

That’s why I recognized that Lucas’ issue went beyond just “being a little slower”.  It was the frustration and signs of being in pain and confused.  And, as anyone who has read me knows, the poop.  So Lucas has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and a Vestibular Processing Disorder. He craves and makes extra sounds, because the vibrations the sound make in his head soothe him.  When he is frustrated, little repetitive noises are one of his main sources of comfort. Sometimes they are NOT so little, as he was doing Chewbaca calls in a perfect repetitive rhythm for 2 hours yesterday morning before I could redirect him to making a quiet lip-pursing noise.  That’s one of my lifesavers of balancing my auditory needs with his  sensory/vibration needs. It’s a great trick learned from a friend who has an older son with Aspergers.  Let them make a noise, but  help redirect them to one that you can agree works for both of you.

So where am I going with this?  Oh, right. Sharing this video and rambling a bit first. That was the plan.

This is a phenomenal example of what it can feel like.   But be aware that MOST people wherever you range from being busy and experiencing Sensory Overload to those who have a diagnosis of Sensory Integration or Processing Disorder.  We could all use to think through what our nervous systems need…

And I have no clever ending for this post. But thankfully, I have the video to share. The End.

This video was shared by a friend on Facebook and got my brain turning, so that’s why I wrote this rambling for your reading pleasure.  The source was HERE on NPR.  It’s a great read. Check it out.

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Toy Free Summer Challenge- Details of The Purge

Today is June 1st and yesterday we purged the house of toys to start our summer off right, with the Toy Free Summer Challenge.

Now, to be fair, this is  not as much of a stretch for us as it would be for most families.  We don’t have many to pull out.  We have a huge chest of dress up cloths, both genders, that are all very creative and the kids play pretend constantly with.  Three trashbags full that are now in the attic.  We had two trashbags of animals which are mostly horses and zoo/wildlife/farm animals or puppets.  The last trashbag was a conglomerate of trucks, trains, baby dolls, matchbox cars and miscellaneous toys.  I took away their gazillions of “special” blankets and sleeping bags that end up everywhere.  This sounds like a lot to me, but I know that it’s not for a typical family of 4.  We’re already very minimalistic.

For electronics, all leapsters, speak and spell and electronic dictionary(  all rarely touched anyway) are in a box in my closet.  We canceled Netflix and unplugged the Wii to be used only when we all agree that we should play together one of the 3-4 games we have on it.

So, it doesn’t really sound like we did much. Hmmm… On this screen it looks pretty ho-hum.  But I should share that I also took away a good bit of their clothes. With 4 children in one room, drawer and closet space is as tight as last year’s swimsuit when I reintroduced it to my thighs a few weeks ago.  Something had to give….I bought a new suit, by the way.
The girls are in a “we love dresses” phase. Cool. I can go with that. So I left them each one pair of shorts and one pair of jeans. Selah has 3 skirts and tops but other than that….Dresses they have.  One lovely piece of clothing that can be worn anywhere. It doesn’t have to be matched to another piece that’s disappeared into thin air and causes us all to be late to something. It’s one piece. Perfection.
The boys were a little different. But they each had several pairs of cut offs and shorts that they still love to wear but look painfully tight to me.  I mean, why would these little guys want to suck in to button their bottoms? Their mother has to do that often enough and hates it!  For some reason anything that is loose gets rejected as too big to wear, especially by Lucas, my guy with SPD.  So they tried on every. single. pair and we discussed how shorts SHOULD fit and which we could agree on keeping.   So now, between the boys and girls I have 3 trashbags of clothes to go to two dear friends who can use them.  We can appreciate them on their children when we see them.

I also broke down and went through my  own clothomg.  Admitting that I’m not going to lose enough to fit into half of them is a bummer, especially if I’m not actively *trying* like my doctors want me to be… I mean, I’d love to! If they want to come babysit my children…. Oh wait, no volunteers?  That’s what I thought… I’ll work on it..for realz. Just have to get life to a routine and consistency that flows.  The stress is just as bad for my health as the 60lbs is. I promise.

Here is what we kept:
The Castle (which I’m still debating about putting up)
Bikes and Scateboards
Gardening Equipment
Board and card games
Craft Supplies
School Supplies
Books, Books and more Books

Each child got to choose one extra thing to keep. Selah wanted her camera. Jake wanted his microscope.  Lucas asked for puzzles, Irie wanted two American Girl Dolls who would be devastated to be separated from each other. I agreed on the second doll, but only with the outfits they were actually wearing. NO extra doll clothes!

So, the big question is… What will they play with all summer?  

I can’t tell you how many facebook statuses I’ve seen, bemoaning the summer with the kids, or stating that mom is already counting down the days until they go back to school.  As a homeschooler, I know that I’m already used to having my kids with me all of the time.  I guess I assumed that traditional-schooling parents would crave that time with their kids? Look forward to it? I know that many of you do.  But I’m also aware that if your kids are at school all day, they’re used to being told what to do all day long and constant activity.
Here are a few ideas on how you can facilitate your child’s re-connection with self directed play without taking their self out of it:

Don’t listen when they say they’re bored. Really, don’t. It’s not your responsibility. You don’t need to entertain them. You don’t need to fix it.  Just be quiet.  More on the “B” word later.

Offer suggestions when you see them looking, not when their whining.  Help them along the way when they ARE along the way of thinking and trying, not when they’re moping and down.  Look for their efforts and meet them.  It’s like a donation-match from the company for that 5k you ran.  You get the idea. Don’t fix it for them. Just be there with them.

Lead by example. get off your own bumm and do something!  You can’t sit on the phone, text all day or play FB games and send them outside. Plant something.  build, bake, create…JUST DO IT!

Admit when you’re bored, too. Relate. Show them that boredom is ok. It’s a part of life.  But if you’re going to be bored go do it on a quilt basking in the sun and staring at the clouds moving by, not staring at the 4 walls around you or this computer screen.

Because, believe it or not, 8 children CAN be entertained by one shovel and a large rock in the back yard.


Today, while they play without toys, I’ve been going through books and my craft/sewing stuff.  I suppose Mama should get rid of some toys, too.  We’re in this together.


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The Toy Free Summer Challenge- How to Jumpstart Imagination

At the moment it’s a gorgeous, sunny afternoon in Midtown Atlanta.  The windows are open and the fans are spinning with the sweet, peaceful drone that’s hypnotized me since I was a child.  To my left is a lovely iced coffee with stevia and coconut cream that Selah (9) made for me after she  folded a load of laundry.  The children’s bedroom is basically immaculate.  The TV is off and there is no one asking for batteries or chargers or to talk on the phone. In front of me are  my four children, a 4th grader, 2nd grader, kindergartener and 3 year old, all playing contentedly with a pile of construction paper and one pair of scissors. Yes, I mean together. Yes, I mean without fighting. No, they don’t have anything battery operated involved, especially with letters like DS, Xbox, Wii, I(enter your choice of pad, phone, touch)… It’s a moment of bliss. Something to be documented.  And it’s all because we made a commitment together as a family yesterday. We’re spending the summer without toys!!

Wait, let me explain,
Last week I had a moment where I lost my cool with the kids and threatened to take all of their toys away and give them to goodwill.  I say threatened because it was one of the few times that I really didn’t expect to go through with it all the way.  The poor crew was already in one room with 2 sets of bunks and hardly any toys…. Anyway, the story… Poor Selah and Jake asked me to go ahead and do it!  Now, if I were assuming adult motivations in my children, which we all often do, I would have gotten more angry. I would have yelled at them to not talk back, treated them poorly for the defiance they were clearly showing. Instead, I looked in their eyes and didn’t assume it was just defiance. Instead I asked them why they would say that and if it’s really how they feel.  To my surprise they were as serious as I was! They weren’t trying to trap me or call my bluff. They both agreed they would rather go without toys than have the constant stress and pressure of picking them up. So we sat down and talked about what that would mean for all of us. Lucas got involved. They all got excited… The idea of  the Toy Free Summer Challenge was born.
Also, we have been in a rut, so to speak, and I know other families get in them, too.  They play the same thing, they do the same thing and they fight over the same thing.  For our family, it’s always creative, but for yours it may not be. I’ve had friend ask me how I get my kids to play together. I’ll share some other tips on that later.  But for a lot of people, joining in the Toy Free Summer Challenge could really help jump start imaginations that have been going dormant amid a world of Ipad, Itouch… well, key word being I, I, I…right?  Let’s help them snap out of it!!  Get your kids creating!!

The goal is to get rid of anything that  creates mess, causes solidarity, destroys any community in your family and wreaks general  havoc in the house, so we can enjoy our moments better. Here are the rules for our family. Yours may be different.


  1. Things that are messy and doesn’t get put away on a regular basis.
  2. Anything that causes strife and gets fought over instead of shared and played with together.
  3. Things that don’t get played with, or we are tired of, but still takes up space.
  4. Anything that drives someone else in the family nuts.
  5. Anything that steals our peace, space or happy moments. (by fighting, excluding, hoarding…)
  6. Anything that makes noise, causes hyper-focus and ignoring of parents and/or siblings
  7. Extra blankets, cuddlies, stuffed animals, lovies… things that we can live without but cause clutter.
  8. Movies, handheld games, zone-out material other than books


  1. Games that require multiple players
  2. Smiles
  3. Things that require creativity, instead of direct it
  4. Hugs
  5. Things that we work with together on a regular basis without conflict.
  7. Smiles
  8. Things that have been consistently cared for and put away. (legos!)

So, it’s a work in progress, as anything like this is, but in this case it is the brainchild of a little boy and girl.  We’ll give them some time to perfect the process, shall we?

Feel free to do your own version of the Toy Free Summer Challenge and tell us about it!!  We’re so excited about creating this concept for a stress-free summer outside the box, by boxing things up!!!

Clear it out and find the space to move and breath, together…


Filed under Candid Kid-versations, Family, Purging Clutter, Uncategorized

Retreat, Before You Move Forward

retreat- {ree treet}
vb 1. to treat  again
 2. to withdraw or retire in the face of or from action with an enemy, either due to defeat or in order to adopt a more favourable position.
3. an asylum, as for the insane.
4. a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.

Many of us seek retreat.  An escape, an out, a pause or intermission on the regular ticking of the clock as our days march on ahead, dragging us with them.  Whether it’s a women’s retreat, a couple’s retreat, a solo retreat.    Looking on dictionary.com these are a few of  the definitions offered for the word retreat, and in my 3 days away from my family and home, I found all of them to be true.

Most of the responses to my plans for a retreat seemed based on an assumption of the first definition. That I owed it to myself and needed the escape.  It’s true that we need to keep balance, and we have to care for ourselves to care for others. But let us get something straight.
We don’t deserve time off.
Never in history were mothers promised  a break. Nowhere is it written  that mothers we are entitled to a full nights sleep . It’s not that we can’t have them and that they can’t be needed or wonderful.  But we are not owed them and we can endure the cadence of our days without them.   It’s the mindset that we deserve them and are owed anything that is damaging, not the taking them when the opportunity arises.

But yes, I was being treated, for my birthday to 3 very quiet days away.  Which is so not me. Completely unheard of… ((as half my readers snicker at the idea of ME being silent for more than 5 minutes…)
It started a few years ago, in a fit of tears and exhaustion.  With a 5, 3 and 1 year old and suffering from 24/7 nausea with my 4th, one day I told my husband I needed a break.  My birthday was a few months away and he valiantly offered that I should get a few friends and go have a girls weekend like other moms seem to do.  The offer threw me off guard.  I’m not the kind of woman that goes to girls night out on the town, not to mention weekends away. I’d never done anything like that!!   It sounded like the perfect answer, logically… except that I couldn’t do it.  So then I shocked my poor husband right back.  My immediate response was No! That isn’t it at all!  I knew there was something deeper that I needed. I longed for seclusion, silence and peace; time alone to reconnect with the beauty in life, and my Maker.  I know… it surprised me, too.

I decided that I wanted to go on a silent retreat. I googled and found the nearest options to Atlanta, but knew that it wasn’t time. Leaving my babes was too much work. So for the past 3+ years I have been lying in wait until the time was right for me to fall back.  Last year I tried. I knew that there was a women’s silent retreat right around my birthday and hoped to go. As the time grew closer I knew it wouldn’t work.  Eden wasn’t sleeping through the night (yes, almost 2 years old then) and was still nursing.   She just wasn’t ready for 3 nights away from me not to mention that Lucas was still not fully potty trained.  I would have spent the whole time nerve wracked over giving my dear husband such a long coldhearted dose of my reality.
This year when the new retreat calendar went up, the December retreat actually started ON my birthday. I knew it was my time. So I reserved my spot and blocked off my calendar.  I was going to be alone and silent.

It was a wickedly crazy day, full of ironic twists of fate that made it the most un-birthday-like day possible.  All four of my children behaved like rotten, wild hyenas.   They trashed my house and I didn’t even get time for breakfast, which is traditionally served to me in bed on my birthday but somehow was forgotten.   They wailed and moaned all morning as the poor heating and air guys tried to work around the drama to install the new HVAC.  We locked my keys in the house and I missed my own birthday lunch with my mom.   It went on and on, baffling me at every step. Craziest. Day. Ever.
When I finally arrived at the retreat house I was shaking from low blood sugar and traumatized by the 1+ hour in suburbian traffic that my  intown sensibilities were completely unaccustomed to. This is where definition #3 above comes in.  I was really feeling ready to be admitted for observation…sedation even sounded nice.

But I knew the truth.  I knew that I was facing an attack on my time and my spirit.  When I looked back over my day I was amazed that I even made it there. And I knew that definition #2 was a reality and very much played out in my life that day.  There I sat, with a glass of wine in my hand trying to relax; retreating from the fray, certainly ready to adopt a more favorable position.

That first night was rough. I had to really adjust and slough off some tension to be able to dig into myself and accept the peace and quiet.  I was so wired that I couldn’t sleep so I read the entire book, Letters To Malcolm by C. S. Lewis before the sun rose.

I spent the next three days in peace, slumber, beauty, reading, nature, prayer, strength, meditation, sunlight, confession, quiet, solitude ,tears, awe, dancing, pain, laughter, love, and growth…most definitely growth.  The nuns who lead the retreat were amazing and in those few days they impacted me as much as any other spiritual mentor I’ve had my entire life.  Amazing women.

So, in the end my retreat was what it should be, And that would be definition #4. It brought me back to my beginning.  A retirement.  An exercising of the spiritual muscles that atrophied from lack of use. To where He meets me;  where He waits, patiently, to give all good things.  The retreat gave me the chance to chose again. To chose my family and  my life.  My man and my children. My home and my God. All that he has for me, all of the unknown.

All photos in this post were taken by me while on retreat. Here is a slideshow with a few more.  If you are looking for a silent retreat, I absolutely recommend  Ignatius House in Atlanta.

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Happy New Year!!! Wait..Huh?

New Year? That is, like, sooooo three weeks ago!  Yes,yes. I know this. But, you see, in our home the exchanging of one year for another happens dead center of a whirlwind.  Every. Single. Year. Five of our six birthdays, several other family birthdays and celebrations, the 12 days of Christmas (because we celebrate for the long haul here)….  For the last several years the whole New-Year-lost-in-the-shuffle has frustrated me.  It’s not possible amid the throws  of  festivities and obligatory celebration for me to stop and center myself.  I’ve not been successful at even CONSIDERING resolution of anything other than survival.
So this year I decided to postpone our family’s turn over to the new, intentionally holding it off to be more purposeful in my actions.  The idea hit me in the fall and I was excited to see if I could make it work.  I wanted to see how it would affect my motivation and focus on the changes that I want for myself and my family.
It occurred to me in October that one of my main goals, one of the things most important to me, is to return to the blogosphere. And this time I want to be intentional about it.  A few years ago my blog was pretty hopping. I was writing consistently and had a good number of readers.  I got so much out of sharing, and was constantly encouraged by how others had found my vulnerability helpful in their own day.
Life changed and time became scarce after #4 was born.   I backed off of blogging and moved to Facebook, thinking that I would find the ease of short status updates to be a relief .  I’ve really regretted it ever since. So, I’m coming back home to the blog and going to be a distant visitor on Facebook.  I’ve tried to come back several times and not been able to remain consistent. This time, I’ve worked on blog posts since October and lined them up so that I won’t go silent! I’ve typed my heat out many nights and hope that you all enjoy the telling of my days.

The rest of the world is three weeks into the year and I’m sure  the newness of it has worn off. Resolutions that were exciting have turned to struggles or even feelings of failure.

I invite you to start over again with me. Make tomorrow morning your beginning.  Stop what you’re doing right now. Celebrate the end of this day and look with excitement toward the dawning of a new one.

Because life is amazing. It is beautiful. And it is new every morning.

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How I Learned to Say Vagina From My Three-Year-Old: Something every parent should know

It’s amazing how many challenges come with parenting.  Before you have kids you think about the to-spank-or-not-to-spank debate and if you’ll stay at home or not.  After you have them you have to think about things like, well, vaginas and penises.  Actually, I wonder how many of you knew that it’s vaginae…

Well, there ya go. Learned something new? Let’s continue.

I grew up in a family where sex was not talked about.  Our bodies were not talked about.  There was this general air of “You’ll know…” and a book that was handed to you when you turned twelve.  About a month after receiving the book my mom would one day ask, “Now do you have any questions?”  Ummm, no. And that was that.
I started my sex education from a little boy in first grade who, while hiding with me in the back of my parents 12 passenger van, told me that if he kissed me with his tongue in my mouth it would make a baby. Interesting….
The subject of s-e-x is really no big deal in my family now. You might even say that it comes up too often over a big plate of Shipwrecks at family dinners. My parents changed and grew over the years as all of us will, and do. So I think my younger siblings got a completely different experience.  But still, I think that many of those in my ‘generation of parents’ had that experience of sex not being talked about and it really does affect how we look at our bodies and their sexual functions on a deep level. And it affects how we look at our children and our ability to teach them about their selves.
Travis and I had thought the whole thing through and decided how we were going the subject of private parts. We remembered the shame and confusion that a ‘Hush, hush!” approach had caused both of us and many of our friends.  We also weren’t naive enough to think that we could just raise our perfect little angels until they were 12 and THEN  have ‘The Talk”. Ok, seriously.  How many of you really didn’t know about sex until them.  Most of us knew just enough to be overconfident, confused, embarrassed but completely convinced that we were way past needing to talk to Mom and Dad about it.  Just enough to be dangerous.  While our parents were relieved to not have to spell out the details, many kids suffered from not having a real understanding and respect of their bodies. And many of us went on to ask all our questions from the kids who ‘knew’. Not so good.

It intrigues me how many parents don’t get the concept of shame that is almost always attached to these words.  We say things like “I just don’t think it’s right to hear that word out of a 3 year old’s mouth.” We teach our children cute little words like peter and who-ha thinking that we are keeping them sweet an innocent until it’s ‘time’ for them to learn the truth. Which is what, how to say vagina and penis? Do you have a problem hearing your child say ear?  I have a seriously uncanny phobia about feet. I didn’t teach my children to call their feet’ trotters’ so that I would feel more comfortable with what came out of their mouths.  I know a few people who do double duty, teaching their kids cute words AND the anatomical terms.  I guess that’s better. One friend has her daughter call it her ‘ninny’ which is absolutely adorable. I’m not gonna lie about it.  But I wonder if that is really helping or not either.  Aren’t you then maybe teaching them that their parts have these names that we don’t even say because it’s not appropriate, so we’ll say cute things instead, ok?  Don’t get me wrong. Part of me completely wishes that I could be ok with that approach. But my goal isn’t to get through the younger years of my kids being uninhibited with what they say to who, without them saying vagina in public. My hope is to someday have completely confident, secure adults who know who they are and have a safe, respectful and appropriate view of what their bodies are made for.  While a 3 year old doesn’t care what you teach them to call their vagina, when she’s 10 and aware of what her friends are saying there is an underlying awareness of not being ok to talk about it to mom and dad. I mean, I wasn’t even supposed to say the words….

Teaching Selah to use the appropriate words for her body seemed so simple, but I really did struggle with it at first.  I didn’t even realize how much shame I,myself,  had attached to the words.  I cringed and blushed the first few times I heard the word ‘vagina’ in her sweet little 2 year old voice. I had to cautiously work through my response and it was hard to do.  The more I went through the process, the more I was thankful that we were teaching our children to respect their bodies and be comfortable from the beginner. I had no idea what I would get out of the process.  My own shame and discomfort evaporated little by little as I watched my daughter in complete innocence grow more confident and secure with her body parts at 3 than I was at 30.  They’re there. They’re important and have a purpose. She learned an appropriate respect and boundaries without there ever being an issue of ‘don’t say that’!
And here’s the thing.  I am forever in awe and thankful for following what I felt was God’s gentle prompting to teach my children their bodies. Period.

I was completely unaware of the potential consequences of disguising body parts with play words, until the day that Selah told us that someone had touched hers. It something that every parent fears and prays that they never, ever, ever have to hear.  I’m just not even going to go into the extent of pain and crushing that can happen to your heart in 5 words from a precious, tiny child. She was 3 year old. It’s debilitating to face not being there in a moment when your child needs your protection.  I may share that someday, but not today.
We’re not the kind of parents who were going to brush over these things and ‘hope that she’ll forget’.  We went through the appropriate measures of reporting the incident to the police so our baby girl could get the counseling and support she needed to work through this. Waiting. Is. Not. An. Option. Even if you’re having a baby that week. It’s just NOT.
To make the report we had to take Selah to the Child Protection Agency so she could make an official  police statement.  It was….hard.  It was after Selah gave her statement that I realized how huge it is to teach your children their bodies.  The woman who interviewed Selah thanked me for teaching our daughter about her body, and was amazed at how secure and confident she was in talking about it.   Apparently one of the biggest problems that they deal with is the ‘play words’ that run rampant though our childrens’ vocabularies.   If she interviews a child who uses play words, they are not considered able to give a clear statement and it can be a very damaging setback in prosecuting their abuser. On the other hand, if you try to ‘fix’ it and teach them the real words after the fact then it is considered leading a witness.  As if the trauma of the situation isn’t bad enough for these children, imagine the helplessness of knowing that teaching them one word, the real word, could make of break the case against someone.  Our situation was different and we did not press charges for very specific, well thought out reasons.

Selah is fine. She’s about the most confident, secure seven year old you will meet.  We’re fine. We’re thankful for what we learned, even if we would never had wanted the experience for her or us.  This one is heavy today, and I know that.  But seriously, if you haven’t already… Tell. Them. About. Their. Bodies.

Edited to add: This is not meant to be a bummer of a post, but I do believe that good can come from circumstances that just aren’t.  I’m thankful and want to share with other parents what we learned through the experience. That whole God used it for good thing, ya know?

Amen. 🙂


Filed under History, Inner Sessions, Motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized