What It’s Like to Be Away. And Always Headed Home.

Apr 15 2014

I borrowed two small, rolling suitcases from my youngest children today because their suitcases are the newest in the family and so have things like working zippers and attached wheels and retractable handles that don’t get stuck in the half-upright position, passively-aggressively recalcitrant, like the handle on my suitcase which feels it ought to be treated with more deference and less verbal abuse in its old age.

Of course, my children don’t want me to use their suitcases because I’m sure to ruin them, and, given the tattered remains of mine, I don’t completely blame them for their concern. I tried to convince them I should be able to borrow the suitcases since I paid for them originally, but the children, who are smart, and also overly mouthy like their mother, countered that giving someone a gift doesn’t imply unlimited borrowing rights or takesy-backsies in the future, a lesson I now regret teaching them as toddlers.

So I’m technically renting two kids’ suitcases for $1 each and thanking my lucky stars they haven’t yet learned to up-sell me on optional insurance or to hold my credit card for incidentals, although they’ve each demanded a certain number of gummy worm futures, so please don’t worry for them too, too much. 

Anyway, my point is I left home for four nights, from now through Easter Eve, and I feel the usual mix of bone-deep relief for an opportunity to rest, nearly uncontrollable glee at the idea of being responsible for only myself, relentless dread, knowing, as always and without merit, that something horrible will happen to my people in my absence, and pathetic and desperate longing for the family I couldn’t wait to leave. The push-me pull-you of mothering, I know. I love it. I hate it. I love it. I don’t.

Which is why I’m sitting alone at the moment in a bar in a hotel where there’s a very large, very loud conference of people named things like Emmett Hubert and Mandy Smith which I know because they’re wearing nametags peeling around the edges like the bark of the birch trees outside the bar windows, and they’re all young and trendy and wearing skinny jeans and casually holding wine glasses without spilling on anyone. None of them look as lost and as found as I feel, proof positive looks can’t be trusted.

photo (85)I’m grateful – truly – for this time away to breathe and think and read books that are bad for my mind and good for my heart and possibly draft parts of my own, but I find myself missing my kids’ terrible teeth more than I ever thought possible when I used to have only a baby and spent so much time feeling sad for the moms whose kids were already gangly and awkward. I didn’t know yet that those kids were also gorgeous and awesome.

Greg held my hand in the driveway before I left and kissed me on the mouth and bent over to whisper how much he’ll miss me, which sounded like this, “You only have a small data plan on your phone, so you have to come home in 5 days or I will cancel the hell out of that thing.” Which is how I know he loves me. 

This is Springtime and Almost Easter, full of death and life and empty tombs in the in-between time when the contents have gone missing and haven’t yet been found. It’s the season of long nights growing shorter, and, after longer than we’d prefer, resurrection and rebirth which, it turns out, we must repeat over and over and over again. And so I’m away, on the lookout for rebirth and also, somehow, at the same time, always, always, always headed home. 

On Falling Down on the Job. Just Utterly.

Apr 12 2014

Convo with a Friend:

“Let’s talk about your 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects series, Beth. It’s HORRIBLE. I hate it. Or YOU. I haven’t done a single 15 minute project! You’re supposed to make me feel better about myself and now I walk around my house looking at all the crap and feeling worse. WORSE. Because EVEN BETH is cleaning her house. Really, Beth? Every day with the 40 days? EVERY DAY? I thought you were my people, but YOU’RE NOT MY PEOPLE.” 

“Um… did you read through the projects, Erinn?” 

“No. NO! Of course not. I already feel like I should be doing the things I’m not doing! I’m not going to read through everything I’m failing to do.”

“Well, not to imply that I know what you can and can’t do right now or to impose my super, awesome ideas on you, but you might want to check out the list, because there are options like Make Guacamole and Sit in the Sun, and Don’t Burn Down the House, and Fall Down on the Job, Just Utterly – which is on there twice - so I feel like there’s something on there that might work for you.”

You know. Just saying.

……….

It’s Saturday, so it’s time for:
5 Kids Reruns

5KidsHand180x1805 Kids Reruns Here on the Blog:

New Post. Our Secret Weapon for the Zombie Apocalypse

New Post. Basic Rules of Flying. “Becoming a parent is like jungle flying. There’s preparation. There’s planning. There’s checking equipment. There’s second-guessing and am-I-crazying? And then there’s actually launching. Straight out. Straight up. Holding fast to courage and stupidity in equal measure and taking off into the unknown. Hoping to stay in the middle of the air. Praying bad things don’t happen past the edges.” 

New Post. On the Importance of Being Weird and the Super Heroes in Our Midst. “Here we are, chugging away in the middle of it all, scraping dried, gummy ketchup off our cupboards, or ignoring it altogether, our capes in tatters and our super powers well masked under our secret, mundane indentities. So secret sometimes even we forget we’re super. But we are. We are.” 

New Post. When I Stopped Hating My Husband for Loving Me. This one shows you the fissures in my heart. And maybe a few that are healing.

New Page: DONATE. On why I don’t accept traditional donations and a way we might help others in this community.

FB.socialmedia5 Kids Reruns on the 5 Kids Facebook Page:

A new entry in the Things I Think Are Obvious But Are Not Obvious And Therefore Must Be Said Aloud category.

My children tell me they have standards. I’m trying to be open to that idea, but I admit I’m grieving a little because I thought we were all on the same No Standards page.

Our priorities in this country are not right. NOT RIGHT.

We played I Spy with the things I found under a living room chair:

photo 1 (69)And I TOTALLY ate those Tic Tacs.

And we lit our lawnmower on fire. ‘Cause, you know, all the cool kids are doing it.

photo 3 (52)

Some Favorites Pulled From the Archives:

We Do Train Wrecks Here: Because this is the most important thing we do here. We do magic and mess. And tragedy and triumph. And chaos and compassion. And sacred and scarred. And weird and wonderful. And WELCOME.

Tricky Dick: Not a Story About Nixon: Sometimes kids Say Things, and sometimes parents have No Idea What to Do About That, because sometimes those things are Tricky Dick or, you know, calling Clifford the Big Red Dog by his other name: Bull****. All I’m saying is, WE HAVE TO STICK TOGETHER IN THE MADNESS, momrades. There’s no other way.

5KidsHand180x1805 Kids Reruns on the Internets:

New Post on The Huffington Post: 30 Totally Rotten Things Parents Do That Are RUINING Their Kids’ Lives

New Interview on Huffington Post Live: 30 Rotten (Hilarious) Ways Parents Are SO Unfair

And the Grand Prize Winner in the 5 Kids Family and Imperfection Writing Contest, Jen Hulfish, is featured today as a Mamapedia Voice with her awesome piece, Between Our Naked Toes. Congratulations, Jen! 

RSS.socialmediaDon’t Miss a Thing

You are the driving force behind the 5 Kids blog. This space is about community; finding each other, finding ourselves, waving to each other in the dark until the dawn comes, and always – always – about Love. 

Stay connected. You can subscribe via RSS, Email, Facebook and Twitter.

When I Stopped Hating My Husband for Loving Me

Apr 10 2014

In my 40 year history as a human, I’ve disliked a lot of people for loving me, but none of them as much as I detested my husband.

I just spent a lot of time wondering, subconciously, mostly, but sometimes at the front of my brain, how he could be so stupid.

So dim-witted.

So stubbornly blind to my physical flaws and to my pettiness and my meanness and my rage.

So consistently unrevolted by me. 

Because the things to hate about me were legion, and I once could have filled pages enumerating them.

The way my unconfined breasts rest on the bulge of my belly.

The way the insides of my thighs rub together.

The scars and the scars and the scars and the scars.

The size of my backside and the way it shifts and moves like ripples in the water.

My nearly uncontrollable anger that came from the shame of hating myself.

I could have gone on like that forever.

Some days, it felt like I did.

But somewhere along the way, I made a conscious decision to stop hating my husband for loving me.

I’m pretty sure it was right around the time I made the conscious decision to start loving myself.

And it was horrible. Hard. And I was sure sometimes I couldn’t do it. 

Because it’s almost impossible to shut down the firehose of loathing.

To throw a wrench on that valve.

To pull and pull and pull until my muscles shook with the effort, and to find at the end of the day that I’ve staunched but a fraction of the infinite flow.

And to sleep and to rise and to tackle the valve again.

And again.

And again.

For days and weeks and months and years.

To tackle the valve, weak and weary, and some days not at all, just sitting at the curb and letting it go. 

But one day, I realized the trickle was less. And when he grazed the side of my breast with his hand and pulled me, tentatively, into another hug I was likely to reject, I leaned in instead of away, and for seconds, I accepted comfort before I made an excuse that I was tired. That I was in the middle of something. That dinner needed to be made or a kid’s butt wiped or anything… anything else but stand there being loved. 

For seconds, one day, I hugged him back.

And the next day, I shied away.

And the next, I hugged him a few seconds more.

And so we’ve ebbed and flowed through new days and new months and new years. Each one, truly, better than the last. Not perfect. Not finished. But better.

I’m learning to love myself these days and to love my husband for loving me. And it turns out, with Love comes freedom, and we are reborn. 

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On the Importance of Being Weird and the Super Heroes in Our Midst

Apr 9 2014

Listen. There’s no way to put this gently. I’ve been around and around and around it, trying to find the better way, but the truth is, my neighbor’s a weirdo.

A weird weirdo who’s weird.

She’s nice, YES. Definitely nice. I mean, unless you get her started on politics or unequal modesty rules for girls, in which case she will take you down. But still, nice. Which is why she’s never had my children arrested for indecent exposure, no matter how many times my little guys have stood utterly nekked on the high playhouse platform overlooking her yard and waved hello. With all their body parts.

Also, she hands me wine over the back fence, so there’s very little I wouldn’t do for this woman.

But I am telling you; she is odd.

Yesterday, because it was her birthday and because she’s weird, Monica dressed up as Wonder Woman for high school pick-up, which is where I saw her and started yelling, “YES! YEEEESSSSSS! YES, YES, YES!” and clapping and woohooing and jumping up and down because I’m loud, of course, but also because – can we all just agree? – BEING WONDER WOMAN IS AWESOME. 

I forced my high schooler to take a picture of us, which she promised to do if I stopped yelling and Monica stopped high-kicking.

photo 1 (70)

So we promised, but it turns out we lied because I whooped again, like, 5 seconds later, and Monica high kicked the heck out of the Karate Kid Crane.

photo 2 (76)

But the best part came later, because of course I posted the pictures on Facebook, and of course I said, “You made my day, you weirdo.”

And Monica, because she understands that’s a compliment of the highest order as far as I’m concerned said back, “Weird is good! I love it when other adults can see my invisible jet, too!”

And you know what?

I can.

can see Monica’s invisible jet.

Her invisible super power.

Her wild and weird love of her neighbors who push the edge of wilder and weirder all the time.

Her choice to make us more important than our weeds which creep under her fence or our mess which creeps around it or our nakedness which creeps over it or our volume which is just everywhere.

Her belief that handing a glass of wine over the fence on a rough day is more important than asking why we built our playhouse RIGHT NEXT to their fence and have never managed to paint it like we promised.

Her belief that I have super powers, too, and that one of them is seeing hers and yours and all of ours.

Because, make no mistake, we are, every last one of us, wild and weird and full to the brim of super powers, whether we wear our Wonder Woman or Superman costumes in public or not.

And I know – believe me, I know – that’s hard to swallow some days. That the wild is good. That the weird is a path to freedom. That the super powers are there at all. Because everything is falling apart around us. Our lawnmowers are on fire. Our dishwashers don’t work, neither the machines nor the human kind. Our clothes are coming unraveled in public. Our relationships are strong and in shambles depending on the hour of the day. 

And the messes; the messes are just everywhere! 

And here we are, chugging away in the middle of it all, scraping dried, gummy ketchup off our cupboards, or ignoring it altogether, our capes in tatters and our super powers well masked under our secret, mundane indentities. So secret sometimes even we forget we’re super.

But we are.

We are.

We’re super because we’re chugging away in the middle of it all. And we’re super when we fall flat on our faces and can’t chug another second.

The super isn’t predicated on the doing, you see. It’s predicated on the being, and, more specifically, on being ourselves. On finding out who we are. And then living into the fiercest, truest, deepest versions of ourselves we can be, which is a mess, of course, and divine. It’s who we are. It’s what we’re here to be. Messy. And divine. And WONDERful.

And on the lookout for each other’s invisible jets.

 

Read more about being a super hero here:
The Evolution of My Cape

Basic Rules of Flying –My Messy Beautiful

Apr 6 2014

We sat at the wedding, my husband and I, paying sporadic attention to the ceremony while my folding chair rested catawampus on the grass, one leg oozing into the soft earth, threatening to collapse and dump me like Bambi on the ice. I played with the pop-up veins on the back of Greg’s hand while I leaned into his side to keep myself steady, waiting for his response to my comment, ill-advised and ill-timed.

“You’re not serious,” Greg said just a little too loudly over the strains of the violin.

I was serious.

I wanted another baby.

“You can’t be serious,” Greg said, and I knew why.

Our family plate was already full to overflowing with the three kids we had by way of adoption, two with special needs. Add our recently resurrected marriage, my history of unsuccessful pregnancies, and an iron-clad agreement forged in the fires of Small Child Hell to have absolutely No More Kids lest we abandon them all and run shrieking to Mexico with its long, blissful beaches and blessed, mind-numbing tequila, and I didn’t blame Greg for his alarm.

Marital and young kid aftershocks still hit us from time to time, and our emotional footing was occasionally unsteady as we warily watched our home and each other for fissures or cracks.

But we were mostly safe. Mostly stable. Mostly sure of our foundation. And, since mostly is as good a guarantee as any in this life, I was ready to roll the dice. Ready to play big. Ready to gamble that we wouldn’t burst if we stretched ourselves again to add one more new person to our mix.

I admit I tend to jump before looking for a place to land. Whereas Greg’s a thinker. A processor. A long-term contemplator. He needs some solid lead-time to get out ahead of an idea, watch it from all angles, probe it for weak spots, make mathematical projections, test its speed and velocity, and analyze for theological implications. All that before deciding, “probably not.” Playing Scrabble with him is a total nightmare.

A wise woman and a thoughtful wife doesn’t just spring the idea of Kid Number 4 on a guy like that. I knew he needed time. I knew he needed reassurance. I knew he needed to amortize the cost of our potential, future dairy liability. Nevertheless, I needed to grow a baby, and, wedding processional or no, I was at that moment incapable of keeping it to myself.

Are you serious?” Greg asked, this time a question that needed an answer.

“Yes,” I whispered, although my throat caught on the s.

My chair was sinking fast. My heart was sinking faster. I knew when I blurted it out that it was a mistake. I’d approached it all wrong, like ten years of marriage, three years of therapy and seven years of kids had taught me nothing about the man sitting next to me.

I froze. Utterly still. Already trying in my heart to forgive Greg for crushing this one-more-baby dream. Trying to put myself in his shoes. Trying to shove the hurt of his imminent, incredulous guffaw deep, deep down. Already working internally to raise my heart’s defenses so I could find my breath and a way forward without damaging either of us.

“OK,” Greg whispered back.

That’s all.

No wondering or wandering. Just “OK” whispered in the summer sun with no roof overhead to capture it while it floated up into the sky.

“OK?” 

“OK,” he said, eyes straight ahead like mine, watching the wedding and not seeing it at all.

“Like, ‘OK OK?’  Or, ‘OK, I heard you?’”

I wasn’t sure yet that I understood, and it was suddenly, desperately important that I be sure.

“OK OK,” Greg said, and he squeezed my hand too hard.

“OK,” I said.

I extracted my hand and picked up my chair, moving it just off-kilter to find firmer ground which is, after all, where firmer ground is usually found.

OK OK; my whole world inside one word, repeated.

One more baby if we could manage to make one. One more little person in our house. Just one more to make a grand total of four kids, all of them our very own, and the maximum we could possibly handle.

Fifteen months later, our twins were born.

……….

Dad5I’m the daughter of a pilot.

My dad’s flying career was varied, perhaps messy, as a Marine pilot, then a missionary jungle pilot, then an airline pilot, but my parents taught me by example to follow my heart, even when it leads into the wilderness with no clear exit strategy. There, struggling in the jungles of our own making, we find ourselves. And if ever there was a jungle I created, a wilderness to try my strength and reveal my failings, becoming a mother was it.

My dad’s love of flying taught me some practical lessons. 

Dad’s Basic Rules of Flying:

  1. Try to stay in the middle of the air.
  2. Do not run past the edges of it.
  3. The edges of the air can be recognized as ground, sea, and interstellar space.

As Dad likes to say, bad things can happen past the edges of the air.

Now it seems to me that Dad’s Basic Flying Rules are a lot like the basic rules of life.

Against all odds, and despite the fact that we hurtle along in figurative tin cans, held aloft by invisible forces our physics and Sunday School teachers insist are real, we work very hard to stay, somehow, in the middle of life and not go too near the edges. We know, those of us who’ve lived at the margins, pushing ourselves, our friends, our marriages, and our kids too far – or being pushed there without our consent – that bad things can happen when we run out of air. We know, because we’ve seen the crashes and dealt with the aftermath and picked up the pieces and somehow figured out how to launch ourselves again, hoping, this time, we’ll stay where we need to be.

But.

Oh, but.

But the takeoffs and the landings, right? The takeoffs and the landings of life happen always, necessarily right there at the edges. From the ground and back to it, all the new chapters in life must be launched or concluded.

Some landings are perfect, and they touch on artistry, so seemingly effortless and light.

Some landings are bumpy and leave us breathless with fear, exhilaration, and a tiny bit of whiplash.

Some landings crash and burn. And the takeoffs can, too.

Every airliner crossing an ocean has a Critical Point, or perhaps several, written into the flight plan, and every bush pilot has what we laymen call a Point of No Return beyond which he is committed to a course of action, because there are places in the jungle where there are no do-overs. No go-arounds. No chances to execute a touch-and-go or to get it right the second time.

In the jungle, with air strips carved crookedly into the sides of mountains or sitting precariously at the edges of cliffs, the pilot’s choices past the Point of No Return become land or crash.

Soar or plunge.

Do or die.

That’s all.

……….

Becoming a parent is like jungle flying. There’s preparation. There’s planning. There’s checking equipment. There’s second-guessing and am-I-crazying? And then there’s actually launching.

Straight out. Straight up. Holding fast to courage and stupidity in equal measure and taking off into the unknown. Hoping to stay in the middle of the air. Praying bad things don’t happen past the edges.

This is the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done. This is incredible. This is awful. I am going to die. I just shit my pants.

And there comes a time when we blow past all the Critical Points and wave adios to the Points of No Return. When we’re committed. Locked in. Engaged. And the only path left is to fly through to our destination and hope – dear God — we don’t crash.

That’s when we find ourselves focused on the flight. Determined. Because passing the Points of No Return causes all our training, all our knowledge, and all our strength to come to bear, even if we fear our training, knowledge and strength are woefully inadequate. Everything we’ve learned becomes distilled. Our purpose becomes survival. There is simply no room for anything else.

We have to do or die, and rely on our Jedi training. Like Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

………

I didn’t know once upon a time, like I know now, that the advent of each kid meant more than just one Point of No Return. Or that passing the Critical Points, over and over, would come with the extraordinary blessing of release. Of letting go.

As the days and weeks and years passed, I began to realize – and name – which extraneous things didn’t matter anymore. I was, frankly, willing to sacrifice all my former expectations to make our survival possible, and, perhaps, to win us a way to thrive. Everything I thought I knew about pursuing a worthwhile, fulfilling life was up for grabs, and nothing was too small for critical examination. If it might make my flight fail, if it might make us crash, I tossed it, and I was surprised at what landed on the jungle floor.

I learned in that place of letting go what wiser, more joyful mamas already knew in their bones: I learned when we redefine perfection, happiness, control, wholeness, and balance – when we embrace our flaws, discover grace, and enter the wild – we find, somehow, a path to the illusive Village where there’s beauty in the broken and dancing to the rhythm of life.

And that, it turns out, is what this story – this life – is all about.

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……….

messy-beautiful-450b

This post is part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project, a blog link-up for the paperback release of New York Times Bestselling memoir, Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Melton of Momastery.

Glennon said to write a “short essay.” I’m very, very bad at following directions.
It’s not you, Glennon; it’s me.

You can play, too! To join the link-up, click here.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the column to your left, full of links to readers’ favorites.

Announcing: Ad Scholarships and Our Secret Weapon for the Zombie Apocalypse

Apr 5 2014

There’s a kid who’s a year younger than my 7 year old twins, and my boys idolize him. I mean, the sun rises and sets on this kid, and if there’s anyone they could be like, it’s him. Because, dude, this kid has the coolest – the COOLEST – thing in world. 

A prosthetic eye.

Do you know what this means?

This means Hudson can pop his eye out of the socket and play kickball with it or marbles. You know, theoretically… and if his mom isn’t watching… and if he didn’t already misplace his eye, which I hear happens from time to time.

When the zombie apocolypse happens, Cai and Cael have plans to groom Hudson as humanity’s secret weapon, because, assuming he can be trained to drool, groan and drag one foot, he can walk right into the pack of zombies and not get eaten before he has a chance to wipe them out. As soon as the zombies get suspicious, he just has to squeeze that eye out, and they’ll be all, “Oh! I guess we didn’t smell brains, after all,” ’cause, let’s be honest, zombies aren’t all that smart. 

Of course, my kids don’t know that Hudson had cancer - retinoblastoma, a tumor that forms in the retina and grows – and so had to have his eye removed a week before he turned two. They’ve never asked. They just know Hudson is rad and that he has, in their firm opinion, a moral obligation to be a zombie for Halloween. We probably need to work on their sensitivity. Or maybe we don’t; I’m not really sure they’re wrong.

But for Hudson’s mama? Oy vey. 

Two days before I turned 2, a dog used his teeth to rearrange my face. Two reconstructive surgeries, two plastic surgeries and one oral surgery later, my face is reassembled. Mostly. As in, my nose is made partly from my ear, and doctors say I should have more work done to erase the scars that run from my nose through my lips and under my chin, but meh. I just don’t care enough to go under the knife again. Because my childhood was good. And my dating life was fun. And I made friends. And my husband won’t quit pinching my ass if I make the mistake of walking in front of him on the way up the stairs.

I’m OK with wearing scars on the outside; it’s what I do. It’s who I am.

But for my mama? Oy vey.

Like Sue, Hudson’s mama, says, “Hudson took it like a champ while I was a wreck.”

And yes. Of course. Of course Sue was a wreck. The mamas always are.

Because walking a child through cancer is tough on the mama heart, and watching him lose an eye to beat it? Something we want no mama or child to have to endure, no matter how TOTALLY COOL prosthetic eyes are. 

And her son’s cancer isn’t the only tough road Sue’s walked. Frankly, life gave her a real crappy hand to play there for a while, and I don’t know how many times Sue pulled the covers over her head, wanting it all to just stop, but I’m gonna make a wild guess and go with a lot. A lot of times. And probably a lot of sitting in the dark.

I asked Sue to share a tiny blurb about herself. Just a little get-to-know-you bit because I want you meet Sue so you’ll know where we’re headed.

Sue wrote, “I’m a missionary kid, a solo parent to 3 littles, and a Jill-of-several-trades who has finally found HOME. I lived in SE Asia from 7 years old until graduating high school. As a missionary kid, there’s an understanding that when you go back to your home country, you will never fully belong. I definitely lived into that reality for many years, and it wasn’t until we landed here in this little Oregon town in 2009 that things started to be different in a really powerful way. It felt a bit like God was having a good chuckle, saying “See, you thought you were just clumping around like a mismatched sock, but I was leading you here all along. Sneaky, huh?”

“My little tribe has been through some very rough waters these past few years and we would not have made it through without the love of this quirky, flawed and totally amazing community. My work week is a patchwork of cleaning, biscotti baking, babysitting and creating knit and crochet items. This chaotic assortment of things allows me some flexibility to be as present a parent as possible for my 9, 6 and 2 year old, which I am very thankful to be able to do in this season of life.”

I found it remarkable that when I asked Sue to share about herself, she shared about feeling like  a mifit and finding her place, and more about the importance of a weird, imperfect and deeply engaged community – and about belonging – than about tragedy. Because hello! Yes. YES. We all so desperately need each other.

I’ve thought about Sue a lot over the past few years, just like I’ve thought about a lot of your stories, and I’ve done what anyone in my situation would do: sat here feeling overwhelmed and a little hopeless.

Helpful, right? That’s me!

But I had an idea recently, and I’ve kicked it around for a while, examining it and fine-tuning it, and I’m excited to announce it to you today, because I think together we might be able to provide a little help. A little practical assistance to Sue and to other mamas and dads and people in need. And it’s not a great thing. It’s just a small thing. But like Mother Teresa said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” 

This is the small thing I’d like to do together. As partners in a weird, imperfect and deeply engaged community.

Announcing: Ad Scholarships on the 5 Kids Blog

Many of you have offered over the years to support this website and my writing with donations, and despite the sincerity and kindness of your offers, I’ve turned you all down. It’s not that I’m opposed to websites that support their inherent costs with donations; I completely understand their desire to keep their space ad-free. It’s just that I’d rather use my space to provide low-cost ads to the people who need it most – home-based businesses, writers and artists. It’s HARD to find affordable ad space, and these are the people whose efforts I want to support. 

But no matter how low the cost of advertising here is, there are many people who still can’t afford it – often the people who need the ad space the most.

Today, I’m inviting you to participate in funding ad scholarships. Your contribution of any size will support the costs of running this site while allowing me to provide discounted or free ad space to people who need it.

SueAnd, of course, I’m very pleased to let you know Sue will receive our first 5 Kids Ad Scholarship. After this, ad scholarship recipients will be anonymous, but I’m grateful to Sue for allowing me to use her story here today. 

Sue owns and operates Sweet Evie Knits, where she sells her gorgeous knitted and crocheted creations. “Yarn weaves its way into the crazy chaos of life with 3 kids. Whether pacing all night with a fussy baby, watching my kids play at the park, waiting at appointments or watching a movie in the evening, my fingers usually have yarn running through them.” 

SweetEvieKnitsLegwarmers2You can see Sue’s work on the Sweet Evie Knits Facebook page or at her Etsy shop. The Etsy shop is light on merchandise right now because Sue just finished displaying her work at a church; now that she has everything back, we’ll see updates to her site in a few days. 

To Donate to Ad Scholarships on the 5 Kids Blog: Send any amount to fivekidsisalotofkids@gmail.com via PayPal with “Ad Scholarship” in the memo line.

To Request an Ad Scholarship: Send an email to me at fivekidsisalotofkids@gmail.com with “Request for Ad Scholarship” in the subject line. Include:

  1. “Request for Ad Scholarship” in the subject line
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  5. the scholarship amount you’re requesting (a percentage or dollar amount, up to $30 which is the cost of a one-month ad)

All scholarships will be awarded on a one-month basis. Once approved for an ad scholarship, I’ll send further instructions, you’ll be placed on a first come / first served wait list, and your ad will be placed as funds become available. All requests for ad scholarships are anonymous and scholarship ads will appear on the blog the same as paid ads. 

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It’s Saturday, so it’s time for our new feature:
5 Kids Reruns

FB.socialmediaHere’s What Happened This Week on the 5 Kids Facebook Page:

I discovered my kid’s been using my earplugs as nose bullets; turns out, he’s kind of a butt.

We played fill-in-the-blank, and a chorus of congested weedwackers won.

My parents celebrated 43 years of not killing each other, not even once.

And I decided it’s foolish to continue to buy toothpaste when there’s another, obvious solution. Not baking soda; this is WAY more economical. 

Some Favorites Pulled From the Archives:

An Open Letter to New Mamas: For all the mamas (and dads and fellow humans) who are lonely and isolated and wondering where that illusive Village is. This is why so many of us who hang out here at the 5 Kids blog wave to each other in the dark.

On Not Doing All the Things: In honor of all of us who are plugging away and still Not Doing All the Things

This Is My Body, Sacred and Scarred: Because I’m feeling a little uncertain today, a little caved in on myself, a little small, but choosing to be brave anyway. This is to all of us, because we are, every last one, sacred and scarred.

5KidsHand180x180Here’s What Happened This Week Here on the Blog:

New Post. A Call to the Edge: Dedicated to every one of us who’s living a life different than the one we planned. Than the one we imagined. And who felt, at first, a little lost, navigating our way from the Way Things Should Be to a Life That Is Free.

New Post. I Dream Dreams. HELP. “I dreamed the other night that Greg grew very tall – perhaps 6’4″ or 6’6″ or something – which, obviously, enraged me.”

New Post. Abby made a special picture to show me how I look in the morning. She isn’t wrong.

We wrapped up the Family and Imperfection Writing Contest Features. Our 5 winners and 2 runners-up are:

Winner: Between My Naked Toes by Jen Hulfish of This Life Unconventional
Winner: Who Are You? by Lora Lyon of My Camo Kids
Winner: Foster Mother by Dawn Reed
Winner: All I Have to Do Today by Jenny Roth
Winner: On Doing It All, Not on My Own by Mandy Smith of Smith Silliness
Honorable Mention: Enough by Michelle Ruth Frindell of Maple Leaf Kitchen
Honorable Mention
: When Imperfection Looks More Like Love by Dominique Dobson of Entertaining Morsels

Our compiled list of 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects is up to date! This is a miracle.

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You are the driving force behind the 5 Kids blog. This space is about community; finding each other, finding ourselves, waving to each other in the dark until the dawn comes, and always – always – about Love. 

Stay connected. You can subscribe via RSS, Email, Facebook and Twitter. (Psst… I suck at Twitter.)

When Imperfection Looks More Like Love: A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest Runner-Up by Dominique Dobson

Apr 4 2014


A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest
Honorable Mention

When Imperfection Looks More Like Love
by Dominique Dobson

I feel like I’m in rehab. I have spent the last 16 years convincing everyone, myself included, that my husband and I lived a near-flawless life. Oh, we struggled with the standard first world problems… “Frontier can’t get out fast enough to repair our Fios,” “Dance and soccer have practice at the same time,” “I don’t want to do Thanksgiving with your mom – she always burns the turkey.” But as far as those around us knew (and as far as I did, for many years), our relationship was idyllic. It never occurred to me that the bumps in our road were any bigger or different than those of any couple around us – those bumps were just something you don’t share with friends and family. You keep them hidden away in the dark and put on a shining face for those around you.

And then came the day. The day my husband called my son a fucking idiot. He’d been under strain, so when he’d previously referred to our son as a moron, or a loser like his dad (yes, my husband is my son’s father), I took it as a sign that he was struggling with himself. But when he said our son was a fucking idiot, I told him to get help…and, long story short, the help wasn’t sought and we eventually moved out. And the perfect life I thought we’d been leading was left shattered on the side of the road.

My life with my kids now is far from perfect – we’re broke after a $50,000 divorce; we live in a much smaller “fixer-upper,” a house built in 1988 by a woman who was apparently color blind or madly in love with Dusty Rose (and who wasn’t in ’88?). The house, which was previously supposed to be kept tidy at all times, is consistently in disarray while I paint, remodel, and change out light fixtures. We’ve added two hamsters and a dog to our family (or to our zoo, as I now like to think of it…) Our whole life has changed in ways I never saw coming.

But as I tell the kids on a regular basis…our life is now perfectly imperfect. Whereas before I was “white trash” if I left things in disarray, now those messes are a sign to me that my priorities are in the right place. Each little pile signifies time I spent with my children instead of on menial tasks. And every time I hear one of my kids talk about things they can’t do right – things that might, for example, make my son “a loser like his father,” it’s another chance to talk about how those imperfections are what makes him the whole human being that I absolutely adore.

At one point, I believed I held perfection in my hand. We had perfect jobs, the perfect home, perfect finances, and the perfect relationship (from the outside). And yet, every month, I had to endure a spouse who gave me the silent treatment, who adored one child and seemed to despise the other; one with whom we walked on eggshells for fear of setting off the hair trigger. The perfect shell was cracked and flawed where no one could see. Now, with our (rather messy) divorce behind us and our mistakes and flaws out where everyone can see, I find I’m happier now. I’m no longer trying to keep up that “Facebook image” of the perfect family; no longer trying to convince everyone that we were perfectly compatible at all times (we never fought, but that didn’t make us perfectly compatible).

Coloring Outside the linesMost importantly, though, through this process, I have taught my children that it’s okay to be imperfect…to color outside the lines, to swear sometimes, to be noisy when you play, to defend, loudly and vehemently, those things you most value – like your child’s self-esteem – and to stand up for yourself when someone demands a false perfection of you. If nothing else, I hope that when they have children, they can see in them the value of being “perfectly imperfect,” and teach their own children the value in being yourself…flaws and all.

My daughter asked today if we divorced because of that time that Daddy said the mean things to big brother. I told her no – there were a lot of things that contributed, but they were NOT to blame. She said, “you know…if anyone else ever talks to E like that, I’ll kick their butts. He might drive me nuts, but he’s MY family.” I’m glad to know she’s learned the importance of loving your not-so-perfect family.

Perfectly imperfect

Headshot.png
Dominique Dobson is a writer, brand manager, and most importantly, a mom, in Portland, Oregon. She loves pressure-cooking, good coffee, and the idea of packing up and moving to France with her kids…although she’s not sure how well her sarcasm would translate. Dominique blogs at Entertaining Morsels.

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I asked each of our Writing Contest judges to share her thoughts on the honorable mention entries.
Here’s what they had to say about Dominique’s story:

Korie.Chocolate

Korie: “What a courageous person you are. Your story is inspiring; thank you for writing.” 

Korie Buerkle is the mother of two imaginative young children, and the wife of the talented graphic designer and amazing stay-at-home dad, Brandon Buerkle. She is a Children’s Librarian and loves creating storytimes and book clubs when she is not doing other administrative things that are not as much fun.

MeghanRogersCzarnecki2Meghan: “The vulnerability and bravery here is inspiring and touching. I feel like this is so many people – living a life meant to look perfect and terrified to have that fall apart. Bravo for telling it like it is, and loving where life has brought you.” 

Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki works at her family’s independent bookstore, Chapters Books and Coffee where she loves chatting with customers about good books as well as their personal stories, which are often just as compelling. She spends way too much time reading, negotiating with her three children, and cooking to have any left over for cleaning her house, so imperfection is near and dear to her heart. 

AjSchwanzAj: ““At one point, I believed I held perfection in my hand.”” 

Aj Schwanz is the Chief Manager of Consumption for her tribe at their humble abode in Dundee, Oregon. She writes single-sentence bios for herself and then gives Beth Woolsey permission to write the rest. :D Beth and Aj share a deep love of well-written words which they usually find in YA fantasy novels and occasionally on a completely inappropriate Canadian television series about the fae underworld, about which they text regularly. Whereas Beth just Makes Up Crap on her blog, Aj worked Real Jobs in the Writing World as a Young Adult librarian and as an editor for Barclay Press. 

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And we would love to hear your thoughts, too!
One of the hardest parts of writing is wondering how our soul-baring will be received.
Your feedback and encouragement are enormous gifts.

Old Wood Pencil image credit gubgib via freedigitalimages.net