Feb 22


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And three days later, I’m without words once again.

The thing about Tegan is that when she was born, she brought what we didn’t even know was missing from our family. We were so happy with the three boys. Our family was lovely and wonderful and joyous… but it just wasn’t complete. And her presence was so strong and so sparkly that we heard from her even before she was conceived.

“Hey, what about me?!”

And like the proverbial missing technicolor piece of the puzzle, she completed the family. With more personality, more shine, more LIFE than I’ve ever seen squeezed into one tiny person.

Welcoming Tegan to our family was everything we never knew we always wanted.

And on her 7th birthday, I thank her too. For her love, for her energy, for her beautiful beautiful heart. I don’t know how we ever got so lucky. We love you Tegan, more than you’ll ever ever know.


Feb 19



Today Spencer turns eighteen.  Every year on the kids’ birthdays, I write a special post about them, or make a list about why they’re awesome, or write them a public letter.  This year though, I’m at a loss.

What can I possibly say that would do him, and this moment, justice?  What can I say to the one who first made me a mom, at the ripe-old age of 23.  The one who first laid my heart open and exposed those parts that were somehow simultaneously more tender and strong than anything I’d ever imagined.  The one who truly taught me what it meant to love somebody unconditionally.  The one who taught me who I am, and who I want to be.

I love you so much, Spencer.

And all I can say on this day, as we celebrate your 18th year (EIGHTEEN YEARS!!) is thank you.

Thank you for choosing me to be your mom.  Thank you for giving me the privilege of being able to call you my son.  Thank you for eighteen years of fun and laughter and learning and love. Mostly, thank you for being so unabashedly, spectacularly, perfectly YOU.


Feb 17

Q & A – My Child Calls Me Mean


Photo credit: Mindaugas Danys

Chelsea asks:

How can I move past my children calling me, “mean”?  I’ve stopped yelling, and I’m working to be a more gentle parent.  But my four year old gets very aggressive when he’s excited or disappointed or angry, and he lashes out at me.

First, awesome job on quitting the yelling!  It takes work to break old, ingrained habits, especially when they’ve become the default response in stressful/frustrating situations, so moving beyond that is a big hurdle in and of itself.

Your son’s lashing out could very well be a subconscious reaction to your new style of parenting, especially if these changes are recent (Ie:  Mom’s not yelling anymore.  This is new. Will THIS make her yell?  What if I say THAT?)  He could be adjusting to the new normal, testing out the safe boundaries, and assuring himself that yes, you’re still going to be calm and patient even when he’s not being calm and patient back.  As time passes, he will become more confident in your relationship, and more comfortable with the fact that he doesn’t need to resort to lashing out in order to be heard.


It could simply be due to personality, and/or a normal developmental stage.  Even the most mild-mannered of my children went through a stage at around 3 or 4 years where they were more angry, argumentative, and prone to things like eye-rolling and disapproval with me in general.  That age is a huge age for asserting independence and autonomy, and for figuring out who they are both within the family, and separate from Mom and Dad.  They’re not babies anymore, but they’re not yet big kids either.  One minute they want to be cuddled and rocked to sleep, and the next they want to run across the street with the “big kids.”  Their feelings are big, and often confusing or scary, and they need a safe place to let them out.  It’s hard to be a kid sometimes.

So how do you handle it, in either case?

In short:  Patience, understanding, and consistency.

Even though it may feel personal, it’s not.  It’s not about you at all (unless you really are being mean :)).  It’s about your child and his big feelings.  What he needs when he lashes out at you is to feel safe and heard.  When he yells at you or calls you mean, first take a breath (or a few) so that you can answer calmly.  Sometimes when the moment is especially heated, I’ll deliberately lower my voice to just above a whisper.  It ensures that I’m not yelling, and it helps both my child and myself calm down, as well as work to start diffusing the overall situation.

Some people will tell you to ignore it when your child says something negative/unkind to you, but I’m not a fan of ignoring children…. especially during a moment when what they’re needing is connection!  It’s also not particularly helpful in terms of learning about resolving conflicts, standing up for themselves, or working through issues in their relationships.  I think that your children need to know that you’re “all in”, even when they’re being unkind.

Once you’re able to answer calmly, you can let him know that you’re there to help, and that you’re not going anywhere:

Child –  ”YOU’RE SO MEAN!”

Mom –  ”I’m sorry you feel that way.  You sound really angry.  What do you need me to do to help you?”

Sometimes, a calm conversation is enough.  Sometimes, the child really is just that angry, and needs to run around or punch a pillow or go outside and yell.  If it’s not anger, but disappointment or excitement instead; the same principles hold true.  The goal is to work with - not against – your child, to help him find safe and appropriate outlets for expressing his feelings.

If there aren’t extenuating circumstances, it really will get better with time, patience, and love. And if it helps for commiseration sake, my child who most resembled yours at age 4, is now the most laid-back, calm, and tender-hearted teen you’d ever hope to meet.


Feb 11

DIY: Homemade Face Wash

I LOVE a project.  Few things make me happier in life than creating something with my hands.  I love that moment of inspiration when I think of, or read about, an interesting idea.  I love gathering up my supplies.  Love the trial and error.  Love the feeling of pride in a finished product.

Lately I’ve been able to get in touch with that side of myself again.  For a long time, I’d deliberately put it on a back burner. Now that the kids are a bit older (at seven, Tegan of course still wants and needs me to play with her, but she also wants and needs her time away to Skype with Friends or play Minecraft with her brothers) I’m finding myself with a little bit of new time. And it’s lovely.

This past weekend’s quick little project was homemade face wash, and I love it so much that I had to share.  I’d been looking for something new – I can only use the same thing for so long before my skin freaks out on me – and I didn’t feel like researching and shopping and spending the money on something only to find out that I didn’t like it.  So… I Googled.   I was looking for an oil-based recipe, because I’ve heard great things about them, and there were a LOT to choose from.  I ultimately ended up going with this one because it 1) got great reviews 2) was super simple, and 3) contained ingredients I already had around the house.  It took about 5 minutes to make.


Homemade Face Wash (recipe by Dr Axe)

1 cup coconut oil

1 TB baking soda

5 drops lavender essential oil

5 drops frankincense essential oil

5 drops lemon essential oil

Melt the coconut oil in a pan over low heat.  Let it cool for a minute or two, and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Store it in a glass container.  The baking soda settles at the bottom, so you do need to give it a stir before you use it.  I started keeping a spoon for that purpose in my bathroom vanity.  :)  A little bit goes a long, so you can just put some on your fingertips, massage it all over your face, and remove with a warm washcloth.

I LOVE this face wash!  I’ve been using it for five nights now (usually ample time for me to know if my skin is going to get angry at me for trying something new, and/or even break out in a rash of some variety), and it is just wonderful.  No skin freak-outs.  It feels clean and smooth and super soft and moisturized.  Love it.  The original recipe said that you may need to adjust your ingredients a bit to make it right for your skin…. but for me it was perfect as written.

Try it, you’ll love it.


Feb 09


There’s a scene in the movie, Mean Girls, that’s been on a continuous loop in my head (Mean Girls, by the way, is a movie you should immediately watch when you’re done reading this. One of the most ridiculous and quotable cult classics ever). In this one scene, the guidance counselor is doing a team-building exercise with all the girls in the school, and they’re taking turns getting up onto the stage in the gym, apologizing publicly for something, then trust-falling into the arms of the crowd below. This one girl gets up, in tears, and says:

“I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school… I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy…”

Someone yells from behind the crowd, “She doesn’t even go to this school!”

And when asked if she does attend, the girl responds through her tears,

“No…. I just have a lot of feelings…”


It’s of course played to be funny, and it was funny… but it also kind of breaks my heart a little. Because I AM the girl with all the feelings. Mike and I will often joke that one of the things that makes our marriage work is that we’re opposite but complimentary extremes in so many ways.

He has no feelings. I have ALL the feelings. Sometimes Often Pretty much all the time, I walk through life as one big, weeping, bleeding feeling.    And often my grasp on not drowning on said feelings is… tenuous.

It’s a great paradox to me as a writer, because so very much of who I am comes from that same, raw, tender spot in my heart.  The part of me that makes me creative, that allows me to share, that enables me to use words to paint pictures is the same part that makes me so, so sensitive to the fallout.  The same part that makes sharing so painful and vulnerable in the first place.  Sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair that I seem to so badly need to share myself in some way, and at the same time have such difficulty dealing with what comes along with it.

I want to pull down my blog (along with my personal online presence) at least once a week.  I know when I’m headed for protective, breakdown mode when that desire starts to get more frequent.  Lately, I’ve been wanting to do it approximately 17 times a day.  I’ve not been in a good place emotionally, and coupled with not sleeping, the simplest of negative online interactions are making me unravel.

Yesterday I was the recipient of some unkindness from someone I went to church with about a hundred years ago.  I entered into a highly charged topic of discussion on Facebook, against my better judgement, and was rewarded by having my parenting decisions and my intelligence attacked and disparaged.  The parenting attacks get me the most, because it is so very, very personal.  It’s my life’s work.  My heart.  My soul.  I’ve been a parent for 18 years, and I’m a good parent.  And coming from a fellow Christian?  Those tend to be the conversations that sting the most, because 1) I am still carrying a lot of hurt and damage from my church upbringing, and interactions like that just rip off the barely formed scab, so I’m basically walking around as an open wound that never gets the chance to heal, and 2) I still have the silly notion that we’re supposed to be… I don’t know…. nice to each other.

It just about undid me.

And when I got up this morning, after another night of tossing and turning and not having slept, and sat down at my computer to write a new post… there was nothing there.  Nothing helpful or positive or witty anyway.  Just brokenness and fatigue.  Someone once told me, one of the last times I shared a similar post, that perhaps a personal journal would be a more appropriate place for such thoughts.  Well I have a journal.  It’s a veritable uncensored stream of emotions and crazy.  But this blog is journal-like too, in that it’s streaming from the same personal, tender place.  It’s just a “tone down the crazy in case my mom reads it” (even though she doesn’t) version.

So why am I sharing?  In equal parts for myself – it’s cathartic for my weary soul to transfer it from my head to the screen – and for you, too.  I think it’s only fair that if  I share the happy and the upbeat and the positive, that I should also share the positively broken open.

I’m not going anywhere.  I’m still here.  Still writing.  Still reading your comments.

I’m just a little fragile.  And I’m the girl with all the feelings.  So if you’ve been waiting for just the right time to start following the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” right now would be great.

And if you held your arms up and caught me when I trust-falled off the stage, that would be great too.


Feb 05

“I Feel Like All They Do Is Sit In Front of a Screen”

Photo credit:  Michael Cramer

Photo credit: Michael Cramer

A few days ago, I got a message from a new unschooling mom   She had concerns about one of the most common things that trips up new unschoolers:  ”screen time.”  This is a portion of that message, along with my response.


About 6/7 months ago we lifted all restrictions on screen time, in the past the kids were allowed to watch up to two hours of TV and that was about all the screen time they got. Now that they are not limited I feel like all they do is sit in front of a screen. It’s not just tv (or shows) but also games and such. I guess my problem is that they seem to have lost All other interests. I keep waiting for them to tire of it all but it doesn’t seem to be happening. More often than not they don’t want to leave the house to do activities. I offer them many choices and opportunities to do other things but they just don’t seem interested. I guess more than anything it makes me feel like a shitty parent for not being able to engage my children and truthfully, I miss them!! I freaked out a bit yesterday about the whole thing and took all screens away and we had a great day! They did things I haven’t seen them do in months and they enjoyed themselves. I want to help them be able to find some sort of balance, but I just don’t know how.

A few different things really stood out to me in your question.  First, you only lifted your restrictions a few months ago, and it is so very, very normal for kids to “binge” on something that was previously limited.  They don’t know when/if you’re going to take it away again. And if you (to use your words) freak out and take them away for a day here and there, it’s sort of like starting the process all over again.  So their intense interest may still just be trying to get the most out of it in case you take it away again.  Second, even though you’re technically allowing them to use those things as much as you want, you’re still carrying a lot of “baggage”, for lack of a better word, about them doing so. You’re waiting for them to tire of it, you’re wanting them to do something else, you feel like a shitty parent. That comes through as resentment, even if it’s unintentional.

It’s great to offer different things, keep the lines of communication open, make suggestions, etc.  The problem comes in when you’re emotionally invested in the other options, instead of truly meeting them wherever they are – which in this case, sounds to be pretty darn happy watching TV and playing games.  :)  When you say that you want them to find balance, you’re referring to what *your* version of balance looks like, ie: less screens, and their personal balance might be something very different from yours.  And it might not be!  But they’ll have a hard time finding it when they’re getting the message that what they’re choosing to do is somehow less valuable than what mom would choose for them to do.

My advice?  Make peace with the screens.  Recognize the joy and learning that they’re getting from them.  Find out what they’re enjoying.  Enjoy it *with* them.  Stay close by so they can share with you.  Watch their shows with them.  Play their games with them. Bring them yummy snacks.  Chances are, they *will* get their fill, and start taking you up on some of your other suggestions (once they feel more confident that their TV shows/games/computer will still be there for them when they want them) But in the meantime, how much nicer will it be – for you AND for them – to appreciate where they’re at and what they’re learning and what they’re finding enjoyable, instead of stressing out about it and wishing they were doing something else with their time?  Don’t feel like a bad parent!  Instead, use that feeling as an impetus to connect with them where they’re at.

They will be okay.  And so will you.  Give it time, and lots and lots and patience.


Feb 04

Q and A – How Do I Move To Gentle Parenting?

On YouTube with an answer to another parenting question:

If you have children and have been spanking and using rewards and punishments their whole lives, how do you start to make the needed connections to be a gentle parent?

I answer this question, and share my own favorite piece of parenting advice I’ve ever heard. Plus, another cameo appearance by my cat.  :-)



Feb 03

That Time When I Got the Sex Talk Right


I’ve really struggled when it comes to talking to my kids about sex.

I mean, I’ve always been open, and honest.  I’ve always used the correct terminology for body parts.  I’ve always let the kids know that they can come to me with questions.  But talking about sex makes me….. nervous. Uncomfortable.

The boys never really came right out and asked me “where babies come from”.  And when they did ask questions heading in that direction, I (and I’m not proud of it) gave into my own discomfort, gave the least amount of information as possible, and carefully tiptoed around the issue until they were satisfied.

And then came my daughter.  My wonderfully curious and outspoken and to-the-point daughter who taught me how to be a mother all over again.  There is no tiptoeing around Tegan (almost 7 at the time of this writing).

So when she asked me, “How do women get pregnant?” this morning, I knew that she wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than a real, direct answer.  I knew that she deserved that real, direct answer.  I also knew that she was asking exactly what it sounded like she was asking, so I wouldn’t get an “out” this time.

So, I plunged ahead, discomfort be damned.

“Well, from sex.  Do you know what sex is?”

She screamed and covered her ears.

I waited.  If screaming and ear-covering were indicators of going in the right direction, I was golden.

Then she separated her fingers like someone not wanting to (but wanting to) peek at a scary scene in a horror movie. But with her ears.  ”Tell me.”

“Do you want to know?  You’re covering your ears.”

“They’re not ON my ears.  They’re around my ears.  Tell me.”

And so I told her.  I told her that the man has something called sperm and that it fertilizes the egg in the woman when they come together.  I gave her more specifics when she asked, “But HOW do they come together?”  I explained how everything fit together, and I told her it was something that grown-ups did when they loved each other.  She wanted to know who had sex, and why they had sex, and where they had sex, and finally… she was satisfied.  She’d kept her fingers around her ears the entire time, just to be safe, and then simply said.  ”Okay. That is really weird.”   And I thought that was the end of it, until her big brother walked into the room and she excitedly announced,

“Spencer, me and Mommy are talking about SEX!  It involves penises and vaginas!!”

She is EXTREMELY pleased with her new-found information, which makes me feel like just maybe I did the whole sex-talk-thing right this time (after four tries).  It also makes me wonder who might be the next recipient of her “it involves penises and vaginas” proclamations in the future.

If it’s you – or your child – I’m sorry.  And, you’re welcome.


Feb 02

Food, Freedom, and Why I Stopped Using the Phrase, “Clean Eating”

cupcakesI love food.  And when I say, “I love food,” I mean I really love food.  I love food so much I spent 500 hours officially studying it so I could earn a nutritional consulting certificate.  And I completely loved, like geeked-out-loved, the nutrition portion of yoga teacher training (talking about food while we ate delicious, fresh, catered vegan meals every day??? I would take the training all over again just for the food.)  I love planning food, love making food, love eating food.  I love learning about it, reading about it and watching documentaries about it.

And even with all that love, society’s current obsession with food – with eating a certain way, with its tightly held controls and its attempts to shame everyone who doesn’t eat the “right” way –  is freaking me the heck out.

And I get it.  I was vegan for around 7 years.  I’ve eaten Paleo.  I’ve done the Zone diet.  The South Beach diet.  I’ve eating 90% raw.  I’ve done juice fasts, and cleanses, and drank nothing but lemon water with cayenne pepper for 10 days.  I could tell you all the science behind all of them, and I was proud, and I was self-righteous, and it makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

And now?  This is the food philosophy that I want to pass on to my kids:

I want them to see me eat food that nourishes me… in body, mind, and spirit.  I want them to see me eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.  I want them to recognize that food is a fuel, yes, but that it’s also fun and interesting and to be enjoyed.  I want them to understand that the way an individual eats should be a fluid, changing thing, and that sometimes needs are best met with a yummy salad, and sometimes with a warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie.

I want them to know that the act and art of eating is also highly personal, and not something that should be controlled or micromanaged by another person, even if that person is a well-meaning parent.  I watch again and again as parents create food struggles, force their kids to clean their plate, make rules like “no dessert unless they eat x number of bites of broccoli first”, or refuse to buy certain foods because they’re not “healthy” enough.  I can’t imagine it’s a super good thing for your relationship with your child, but it’s also a pretty surefire way to guarantee they’ll have an unhealthy relationship with food in the future.

Food isn’t supposed to be a battle!  It’s not supposed to be about control, or stress, or pressure, or categorizing things into “good foods” and “bad foods.”

In our house, if someone wants ice cream, we’ll go get some.  If someone wants cookies, I’ll bake them.  If someone wants chips, we’ll pick up a bag.  If someone wants Milk Duds (cough::me::cough) or Hot Tamales or Red Vines or Dr Pepper, we’ll walk to the dollar store. None of those things are regular, everyday staples in our pantry though.  They don’t need to be. The stores are there if someone has a craving.  Every time we go to the grocery store, everyone is always welcome to add whatever request they’d like.  Tegan, who loves her sweets, will often be the one to request ice cream, although it’s just as often berries or watermelon or some other sort of sweet fruit. Everett’s pick – every week – was dill pickles, so it finally became a standing order.  Other than those few things? Their response when asked is “The normal stuff is fine” 99% of the time.  For us, “normal” generally consists of whole foods, meals cooked from scratch, fresh fruits and veggies, and very little packaged stuff.

I used to say we ate “clean,” but that’s a phrase I just can’t get behind anymore.  That one silly word, when used to describe food, has become so rife with judgment it makes me cringe.  What does “clean” eating even mean? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.  I asked it not too long ago on a Facebook group and someone responded:  No processed food, no sugar, no white flour, no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors.  And sure, those are all things you probably don’t want to eat a ton of – for various reasons – but is it helpful to think of them, and/or the people who them, as dirty?   I know many people who work hard to put food on the table for their kids, and their budgets (or taste buds) dictate that they round out the meal with inexpensive things like packaged ramen noodles.   Do we sit, and point fingers, and say, “Ooooh, that’s… unclean!”?

It kind of makes me feel like we’re living in the Old Testament.

And unfortunately, sitting and pointing fingers is exactly what some people are doing.  I had to hide someone on my Facebook feed because her version of advocating for “clean eating” included chastising parents for poisoning their kids by letting them have candy.

Yes, candy has sugar.  And depending on what kind it is, it also likely has chemicals and coloring and preservatives.  I’m pretty sure we all know that.   Shaming parents and pointing fingers and using strong words like “poison” isn’t going to change it.  The way we talk about food matters.

I saw a recipe the other day for a “sinless brownie”.  Sinless.  As opposed to the other brownies that go around stealing from people and cheating on their wives?

Even the word “healthy” is loaded.  What does healthy mean?  (Again, rhetorical)  Ask a vegetarian, a Paleo advocate, and a person with celiac disease that question, and you’ll get three very different answers.  Different people respond to food in different ways.  Some people have allergies.  Some people have sensitivities.  Some people feel sick if they eat dairy.  Some people can practically live on dairy.  Information is a great thing!  I love to learn about, and share about, nutrition.  But the information is constantly changing.   There are many many schools of thought.  If one thing is true about nutrition it’s that you can’t approach it as if there were hard and fast rules.   There’s not.  There are no better teachers than our own bodies.

So I eat food that makes me feel good, whatever that may mean for that day, or that moment. Yes, I do buy simple foods, and many organic foods.  Yes, I cook from scratch.  Yes, I eat lots of whole foods, and fruits, and veggies, and nuts, and seeds.

And I say YES to cookies.  And YES to baking.  And YES to ice cream.  And YES to chips.

Sometimes I miss the mark, and don’t feel so great physically (she says as she sips her peppermint tea to help settle a stomach that’s a little cranky about some Superbowl choices) but I absolutely refuse to give food the power to make me feel bad mentally or emotionally.  It’s not “bad” to indulge in some heavy Mexican food or a cupcake or a margarita or three.  Hate is bad. Prejudice is bad.  This is just food.  And if you listen to your body, and trust your body, it tells you everything you need to know, every time.

We’re missing the mark if we wrap food up with shame.  Food should be enjoyed!  And I whole-heartedly believe (as a person, as a nutritional consultant, and as a mother) that the stress, the fear, and the guilt you assign to certain foods is going to be far far more harmful to your bodies than whatever’s in the treat you deem so horrible.

I look at my kids, who have much healthier relationships with food than I ever had as a child (particularly as a teenager) and I see people who understand what food’s supposed to be.  I see people who trust their bodies to tell them when they’re hungry, when they’re full, and what makes them feel nourished.  I see people who enjoy a wide variety of food….. both in its simplest form, and its most complicated.  I see people who love to try new foods, and aren’t afraid of something just because it’s different.  I see people who accept food for what it is, and don’t feel the need to drench it in negative sounding labels.

Mostly I see people I can learn from.  People who are strong and healthy…. people without any weird food hangups, without any weird body issues or any weird guilt issues.  People who own and embrace their own food choices.

Even when they’re not “clean.”



Jan 29

Unschooling Q & A

Answering a few more questions today, this time all about unschooling!

Is there ever a place for curriculum in the early years, or at all?

How do you handle extreme criticism from family about unschooling?

I’m unschooling in a strict state.  How do I make sure they learn everything they need for the tests?

Got more questions for me?  Send ‘em here.


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