Fear, dignity and Brittany Maynard

I cried for poor Brittany Maynard, a woman whose life will not be lived as she dreamed that it would be. I cried for her husband and friends, her parents. The people who will miss her every day for the rest of their own lives. Her story makes me feel fragile, all too human. So, maybe I cried for myself as well.

There have been quite a few things opined about her situation. Some champion her decision, others are borderline hostile toward her. One conservative blogger at The Federalist went so far as to say that she was selfish and misinterpreted the word “dignity” when she applied it to her own situation. His point was that a person is dignified, not the state of their body. He even felt that she robbed her family of the chance to care for her as she died. He himself had helped care for his dying father for a few weeks, and he treasured that time.

Still others penned articles in support of her decision, and she has become the “death with dignity” poster girl. She could have died in her own home instead of moving into her parents’ Oregon home where physician-assisted death is legal. I can’t help but wonder if she became part of this movement to give some meaning to what life she had left.

But so much of this rhetoric has ignored what I see so plainly. Here lies a woman who made a decision about her own body.

In this country, we celebrate the individuals, the mavericks that blaze their own trails. We Continue reading

My Top 10 Mom Cheats

ecardI have a sweet friend who just had her second baby. And, like so many others, she has gone back to work. As I have some experience in this realm, I wanted to offer her words of hope and encouragement.

Here they are: “I know you are tired. So very, very tired. But all you have to do is hold on until that baby is 5. Everything changes at 5.”

 You may ask, “Um, wait? What kind of encouragement is that?” Five years is a long time. A very looooooooong time. I didn’t want to give her false hope. I am a real mommy. I am a tired mommy. And there are a lot of days when I am a really tired mommy. I am also a mommy who adheres (mostly) to the path of least resistance. So I thought maybe I should put together my Top 10 cheats for surviving babies, going back to work after a baby and/or having a newborn and a toddler at the same time:

1. Sunglasses are your friend

Get them big, get them dark. They’ll hide your tears and bags under your eyes and provide essential cover for your bloodshot eyes when you squint into the blinding West Texas sun on your way to and from work. My penchant for wearing shades all the time earned me the moniker Hollywood when I went back to work after the birth of my son.

2. Always keep a go-bag in the car (both cars if your partner also drives)

Instead of guns, ham radios, knives, duct tape and pliers, though, I have a more family-friendly version. If you are nursing, carry a neutral-colored blazer or extra shirt and some nursing pads. If you’re gonna experience leakage, it will be minutes before a board meeting or fancy luncheon (don’t ask).

You should also keep an extra diaper or two, an old onesie, a blanket, a bottle of water, baby wipes, bleach wipes, paper towels and a packet of formula. Now, you can finish that first-lunch-out at Jorge’s with a clean and happy baby instead of a naked and screaming one. You will also survive projectile vomitus on car rides and buttsplosions halfway through grocery trips. The go-bag is in addition to the diaper bag. Mine was always empty when an emergency struck.

3. Dry shampoo is a lifesaver

Master a messy bun and a five-minute makeup face, too. An extra swipe of mascara, earrings and a great lipgloss go a long way. On the days when The Hubs was gone and I just couldn’t muster energy for two baby baths, I may have been known to wet wipe a kid all over, followed by scented baby lotion and maybe a tad bit of baby powder inside their diapers. And they lived.

4. Master the oven

An oven is not really made for cooking when you have a newborn. It is for shoving dirty dishes into when the doorbell rings and you have surprise company. Bonus if you have a double oven.

5. Master the dishwasher

Too tired or sore to unload that dishwasher but need to sterilize some bottles and sippy cups? Just cram them into that hole the coffee mugs left and then re-run the whole load.

6. If they don’t carry it at Walgreens or CVS, you don’t really need it.

And yes, your family can live on Lunchables, milk, corn nuts and SlimFast.

7. With food, help can come where you least expect it

Did you know that you can take your casserole dishes to Carino’s and they will bake food in them?

You can have a great meal that looks like you cooked it. This is helpful if you host a dinner party or your in-laws are coming. H-E-B also has all the sides for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Not that I have emptied those into my own dishes and heated them and passed the off as my own.

8. Going to the grocery with two kids is terrible

I will not lie. Don’t be afraid to throw a box of Cheez-Its at your kid or take her to see the lobsters or sing songs. Do whatever it takes to get through the trip. Suckers also work great as do smart phones.

9. Down time is your time

Say you have an extra 20 minutes and think, “Oh, I should vacuum, or call my mom or put all this laundry up while the baby sleeps.” Don’t. Go lie down; rest while you can. And don’t feel bad about it.

10. Be happy

Happy moms have happy kids, even if there are dirty floors and a bunch of dirty plates in the oven. I promise.

I would love to hear your survival tips and advice. Join the conversation here on the blog or on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Whew! I passed Little Son’s kinder class visit

melBefore school started, I wrote a column asking parents to please support teachers. This week, I had to put my money where my mouth was because Little Son begged me to come participate in “Tell Us About Your Job” at his school.

Of course, I naturally tried to foist it off onto Nurse Hubs.

“But Daddy’s job is so much more interesting!”

Nurse Hubs wasn’t having any of it, though. I suggested that it would be a great way to introduce a whole new generation to HealthSouth Hospital and rehab care.

“You could bring them swag! Give them all Band-Aids!” But apparently, not a lot of kindergarteners come in for rehabilitation after hip or knee replacement surgery. And they don’t even allow small children onto the hospital floor, so he wasn’t buying it.

“What am I supposed to say to a bunch of 5-year-olds?” he asked.

And it seemed really important to Parksalot that I come, so I caved. But I wondered the same thing The Hubs did. What am I supposed to say to a bunch of 5-year-olds? I mean, I don’t even like large groups of kids. Especially kids I don’t know. I talked about it with my son. I tried to explain to him that a lot of what I do in my column and on my blog site is talk about being a mom. Then, warming to my subject and hearing angels on high, I continued. “The point of my work is that I want other moms to know they aren’t alone. That we are all out there, trying to navigate mommyhood, life and womanhood, trying to raise healthy and happy kids without completely losing ourselves and our minds in the process.” Continue reading

Mother-Son Fishing Trip? There’s a First Time for Everything.

Fly fishing in the Miracle Mile in Colorado.
Fishermom Kathy Harris and her son fly fishing the Miracle Mile in Colorado.

My 7-year-old son is interested in fishing. Interested as in obsessed. When he’s not fishing, he’s talking about fishing. When he’s not talking about fishing, he’s reading about fishing. When he’s not reading about fishing, he’s practicing fishing.

I grew up fishing in Texas — land of river cats and big bass. And I loved it, too. For my 10th birthday, I remember getting a new rod and reel and being over the moon, even though my girlie-girlfriends at the time all wanted Barbies. (I liked those, too, by the way. A Fishing Barbie would’ve been perfect.)

But my son’s quest for fishing knowledge and his enthusiasm has now far surpassed mine. He’s even into fly fishing now, which is an art form and not something easily mastered. But he’s trying, and living in Colorado gives him ample opportunity to learn.

Last fall, he’d read in a magazine about an area in Wyoming called the “Miracle Mile,” where there are supposedly 4,000 trout per mile. His version of heaven. Continue reading

Let’s Get Oily

What are essential oils? These highly concentrated oils provide the essence of a plant’s flavor and smell, and can be very useful around the house. Information and photo from www.motherearthliving.com
What are essential oils? These highly concentrated oils provide the essence of a plant’s flavor and smell, and can be very useful around the house. Information and photo from www.motherearthliving.com

Essential Oils. What the hell are those? A bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Plexus for hippies! Definitely not for me! Don’t even talk to me about it. I can’t deal with another barrage of crap being virtually slung at me in the form of Facebook posts, emails and invitations to join secret groups!

That’s when I saw it. The proverbial carrot. Dangling in front of me in the form of a Facebook post from a friend talking about her kid who was sick with strep… and how she diffused some oil stuff and it kept the other two from getting it. That was a miracle. When one of her kids was sick the other two went down faster than the Titanic. That was the rule. What was this miracle potion that kept Things 2 and 3 from getting the dreaded strep bug? I needed more info. What’s this? Another delicious carrot. A friend used lavender to get her unruly child to sleep soundly. And another who diffused something called “peace and calming” during the dreaded late-afternoon witching hour (come on, don’t deny it, we all know what it is) and her kids actually behaved like normal, happy human beings. She even made it until their bedtime without busting into the wine. ANOTHER miracle! Now I was intrigued. Continue reading

How I (sorta) tried to save a butterfly, but didn’t

Diana Fritillary butterfly
Diana Fritillary butterfly

Imagine our surprise last week when we wheeled into the driveway and piled out of the car for the after-school dash. Backpacks, check. Water bottles, check. Morning warm milk cups, not stinky yet – score! Shoes, socks, purse, check. Phone, check. Piggy and Bunny, check. Things 1 and 2, check and check.

Run, run, run! Only have about 45 minutes to get it all inside, put it away, change Baby Girl for dance, refill her water bottle and pack car snacks.

“Whoa, Mom! Mom! Mommmmm!”

“What? Don’t drop my phone, why have you stopped? Come on, Son!”

“But look!”

“Look at what? We don’t have time … .”

And there it was.

This huge, beautiful black and blue butterfly, trapped on the ground somehow. It couldn’t fly, only sadly flap its little wings in a desperate attempt at lift-off.

Little Son was instantly moved to nurture it. And by nurture it, I mean pick it up very gently and thrust it to me for closer inspection. But I don’t do bugs. Even the pretty ones. Yes, it was beautiful, but when it touched me with its long fuzzythick black feet I nearly wretched. Holy cow, that was AWFUL.

I stifled a scream and fought the rising bile.

Continue reading

Graduation Speech

(From teacher Mary Stotts’ graduation speech tor her pre-k class in May 2014.)

Parents,

This a great day!  The end of one great adventure and the beginning of another, a 13-year adventure which seems like a long time, but will be very short.  It will seem like only a few days and you will turn around and it will be time for high school graduation.

I have just two pieces of advice: One, as our beginning song says: “Let Them Be Little.”  They will grow up enough, learning will come as they grow.  Don’t get caught up in the comparison and competition of the parenting game.  Let your child be who they are and just be a kid.

Two:  The most important lessons you can teach your children are lessons of character. Continue reading

THANK YOU teachers!

Mrs. Rendi and Mrs. Mary with Bodacious.
Mrs. Rendi and Mrs. Mary with Bodacious.

It’s that time of year again. My Pinterest feed is overflowing with suggestions for classroom decorating tips, reading readiness exercises, cute and comfortable workday outfit ideas, low carb lunch suggestions, and easy ponytail and bun tricks for busy morning hair. That’s right – it’s time for my teacher friends to head back into the classroom!

Dear friends and to the thousands of you in the trenches: please let me be the first one to say thank you! Thank you! Thank you SO much! I do not know what I would do without you!

I lack the patience and the smarts to homeschool, so I really need you. In a big way. And there are other reasons I could never be a teacher. I like kids, but I don’t like big groups of kids. Especially kids I don’t know. They’re always needy. And sticky. And snotty. Seriously. Why are all kids snotty?

So I think it is amazing that there are people who actually want to teach children, especially children that they have no familial interest in.

Continue reading

Like father, like daughter

I am my father’s daughter.

No statement could make me more proud. I adored him, and he was my favorite person in the whole world. My life was shattered when he died and I haven’t quite been the same since. That was 19 years ago, more than half of my life.

My dad
My dad, Tim, and I, relaxing poolside. As most great salesmen do, he loved to play golf , and his favorite cookies were Oreos.

As I get older, I realize that he left little pieces of himself behind. Lots of little pieces. In me. In my children. My son Little A has my dad’s amazing crystal blue eyes. I have the same desire to constantly hug my children and tell them I love them. This habit of my dad’s used to drive me insane, but now I would give anything for one more bear hug. His absence makes me want to grab my children and never let them go. I want them to know how much I love them – always. It is my mission to make them understand.

My dad was also a really funny guy. He was caring and loving, but super funny. He was the dad who would walk into my bathroom as I was curling my bangs (yes, I just said curling my bangs) and say casually, “Did you know that xx% of ninth-graders are sexually active?” and then stare at me dramatically to see my reaction. He wasn’t going to let me get away with anything and I knew it. This is probably why I was too terrified to kiss a boy until I was 15. Continue reading

Old lady shorts, cords and undies

My sporty knit shorts from LandsEnd.com
My sporty knit shorts from LandsEnd.com

When the Hubs and I got married, we went to London and Ireland for our honeymoon. We packed light. I brought a skirt, some shorts, t-shirts, a bunch of impractical shoes and two pairs of pants, one of which was a faboosh pair of hot pink knit capris. I loved those pants. They were so soft and comfortable. So comfy in fact, that they doubled as pajama pants. Pretty smart packing, huh? But the Hubs HATED them, and he literally groaned every time I wore them out and about. I was finally hounded into trashing them.

I have some tactile issues and prefer to be comfortable over fashionable. I don’t know what it is, but ever since I was a kid, I have hated certain clothes. Specifically, clothes with big “cords” or big seams inside. The year my mother forced me to wear a velvet, long-sleeved shirt for school pictures is still stuck in my head. I was miserable. One, the flip side of velvet just feels wrong. And the cords in those sleeves were monstrous, making my skin crawl every time I moved. Mine was red. My brother in a matching velvet shirt of blue. What can I say, it was the ’70’s.

I also hate denim. Just the word – “denummmmm.” Yuk. Talk about cords! And the way the waistband of jeans feels against my skin, chafe chafe chafe. So I embrace it every few years or so when leggings, jeggings and even stirrup pants roll around!

Plastic headbands or the elastic ring ones for workouts? Impossible to wear! They make my head throb. Bathing suits with foam cups, panty hose and shiny underwear – creepy and cannot do it. No way, no how. And this will be way more than you want to know about me, but I wear my underwear inside out, so the cords are on the outside. My friends make serious fun of me, and keep telling me thong panties would solve all my problems. I don’t think they understand my issue with seams – how could a piece of elastic or string there be less … offensive? Continue reading