Lessons from the Mountain

“Let’s go to the mountains” we said. And the world said “Yes! Do it! And do the adventure park and the hikes and the gondolas and the horses and the fairy garden and all the things because they are so fun!” And because the internet is never wrong, we said “OK!!” and we drank lots of water and hopped a plane to Breckenridge.

And then three days later Reese and I dragged our non-acclimating rumps to the emergency clinic where they took one look at us and hooked us up to oxygen and declared that Reese had borderline strep, and the recurrent stabbing pain in my skull wasn’t a migraine, but was related to the FULL BLOWN CASE OF SHINGLES I HAD ON MY NECK. Because stressed systems and a little something fun called hypoxia.

Side note: Never one to be accused of under-reacting, the second I looked in the mirror and discovered the tell-tale rash snaking its way up my neck I immediately packed my suitcase (read: threw it on the bed and dumped the entire contents of the closet and bathroom into it in under 27 seconds) BEFORE I yelled at Russell to grab his keys and Google the nearest emergency clinic. Preparedness is 9/10 of the battle friends. My family is lucky to have me. I’m practically a Girl Scout.

This segues nicely into Mountain Lesson #1. Did you know that 60% of people who travel to the mountains don’t acclimate and wind up at a doctor? And of those 60%, 50% get sent back to Denver by said doctor? Because they do. This vacation was full of fun tidbits like that.

Luckily we fell into the “sit back and take your oxygen and then head straight to the pharmacy and fill these prescriptions and then take it easy or wind up back here again where we will immediately send you back home” category. So we took it easy and did all the mountain things without actually going any further up the mountain.

Totally not stuff for the IG highlight real, right? So why am I telling you about it? Because Mountain Lesson #2: Life isn’t a highlight reel. I think it’s important to acknowledge and embrace that — it takes the pressure off. In fact, Mountian Lesson #3: life rarely goes the way you hope it will. It disappoints sometimes. It doesn’t live up to the unrealistic expectations we set for it. It doesn’t match a magazine. If we’re well and truly honest with ourselves we’d say that it usually behaves like a drunk toddler and requires a sense of humor to navigate without going crazy. And that’s ok. We put so much pressure on ourselves for our “best life” because that’s what we think people want to see. And sure, it’s fun to share that and see it. But it’s FREEING to share and see the less than awesome stuff too. Because that’s the stuff of real life. REAL, liveable, living, breathing life. (See what I did there?!)

I’m also telling the story because this vacation taught us some important things and I’ve never been accused of being shy. I like to call them Mountain Lessons #4-18. Things like the mountains are good in pictures. And for bears. And that Russell is a pretty great guy and is super good at making breakfast for every meal. And that lazy afternoons on the back porch are OK — you don’t have to always be going and doing all the things all the time — it’s completely possible to skip some and still have fun. And that life doesn’t always go to plan, and that is ok. You adjust, you make it work, and you keep a can of oxygen by the bed. And you work together. And you play Monopoly like it is your job. And you sleep in. And you rediscover that this family unit of yours works well, probably best, in the trenches. Because you love each other and you take care of each other. Not because you have to, but because you want to.

So — highlight reel? No. Me gasping for air behind the camera and wishing I could just be back in Houston? Every single day. Dad taking solo morning hikes with the coyotes? Yep. Gutting it out because sacrifice within reason is part of parenting? 100%. But adjustments and laughs and grace and patience and understanding and love? Yes. Absolutely. Overwhelmingly yes.

And isn’t that the stuff mountain dreams are made of anyway? 

(Written back at sea level in glorious HTX. I’ve never been so happy to see the Congrete Jungle in all it’s zero elevation glory in my life.)

Pinball and Cocktails

For the love of all that is holy in this world. Let’s talk about today’s 5th grade track meet…

Hundreds — HUNDREDS — of 5th graders milling around the infield for an hour and a half while the races went on, affording their parents a glimpse into the microcosm that is their social whirl. Let me tell you what I watched that took ten years off my life, and then what my child set right for me just now. I’ll preface this by saying I WAS DEAD WRONG. 

Reese is a triple threat: dyslexic, a mild dose of ADD, and an introvert. Imagine if you will, what that looks like in a sea of hundreds of children in a “relatively” organized setting, as viewed by her mother who could not contact her in any way, shape, or form besides smoke signals — in a smoke-free stadium. I’ll give you a reference point to aid your imagination…

PINBALL. 

I watched my child bounce around the infield like a demented pinball seemingly oblivious to everything and everyone around her until my heart just about stopped. She’s with a group. Now she’s not. She’s gone over and is watching from the railing. Oh! Now she’s zipped across the track in between heats. WHAT THE HELL?? Ok. Now she’s back. Ah good. With a group of kids in green shirts. BUT THAT IS NOT OUR TEAM. Does she know? Does anybody know anymore? Where is her coach? She is going to wander off and we will never see her again and she will wind up on a milk carton all because I can’t send up these damn smoke signals. Wait? She’s getting ready to run?? SHE TOLD ME SHE WAS IN THE 200 RELAY. This is not a relay… 

And on it went until the meet was over. I died a thousand deaths extrapolating this to her going to the mall, or concerts with friends, or college, or adulting. Sweet Jesus. I’m wrapping her in bubble wrap and keeping her with me until she’s 40. 

And then I asked her about it tonight at bedtime and she rolled her eyes and said “MOM. First of all, I was nervous. There was too much noise and the speaker and the announcements and the starting gun and I got disoriented. But then I figured it out and was just trying to get a good spot to watch. There were so many events and I wanted to see them all. It’s not a big deal. I knew what I was doing.” And there you have it. She knew what she was doing. It would appear she is the only one of the two of us today.

Good night. I am grateful for this triple threat of mine who teaches her Type A mother the power of letting go a little bit. It is excruciating and I want to microchip her or equip her with an exorbitantly expensive Apple Watch so I can know the location of her actual wrist at any given moment. I probably shouldn’t because GOD and FAITH, and this is all part of growing up and she’ll inevitably jump in the pool with it on anyway.

But I tell you Friends — I will not go to another track meet without a cocktail for as long as I live.

To My People on Mother’s Day…

Dear Family. I love you. I do. Truly. And so tomorrow, that one day out of 365 (0.27% of the year if you’ve been doing your math homework) I want you to know that it’s not about you. It’s about me. This doesn’t mean I don’t love you, we’ve already discussed that I do — it means that I also love me. So here’s how I’d like it to go down.

Don’t wake me up. Don’t do it. I am woken up every single morning to an alarm to wake you up, or to get to church, or by the sound of the blender or an argument over cereal. But not today. Today I shall awaken when I please. Because 0.27%.

Knock on the bedroom door. I’m confident you can do it, and when – and only when – I answer, you may come in with your cards and art projects you’ve been trying to hide from me for two weeks. I am here for all of it and the snuggles and the whole shebang, and I will love it. If you’re feeling wild you can even bring me my smoothie — in my favorite cup with the lid and my favorite straw. But no, I will not share it with you. Not today.

We are not going to rush out to church. You guys are welcome to go with Dad, but I’ll be staying here. Today I am going to spend quiet time with God at home, and it’ll be ok. I expect He/She understands the importance of this better than even I do.

After that, I want you all to go to Grammy’s. I want you to bring her all the hugs and all the love and make her feel all kinds of special because that is what GRANDmothers love. GRANDmothers. Because they don’t have to do all the argument breaking-up and lunch packing and dinner making and homework helping and book reading and doctor taking and laundry and cleaning and magic making and all the other things that I do willingly and mostly-lovingly the other 364 days. She will love it. Take her to lunch. Stay all day. Play. Make a mess and then clean it up. Laugh and make noise and memories and love. All the love, because Grammy is special and she will love it.

Don’t worry about me one single bit. I am going to be here, on my own clock, and very happy. I will probably order Chinese food for lunch. I’ll read. I’ll probably watch Big Little Lies to catch up for the new season. I might write a little. I may go for a walk. I will not clean. Or fold laundry. Or do anything else around the house. And I will feel no guilt.

At around 4 o’clock I’ll start to miss you. And that is when it’ll be time for you to come home and pile on the couch with me and tell me all about your day. And then you guys can make breakfast for dinner and we can eat and laugh and get ready for Monday together. And enjoy each other — because you gave me a break. And I needed it. And I love you for it.

Your dad can read you books tonight because he went to college too. You will not complain. You will enjoy this “day with Dad” and realize that he hung the moon too and you are lucky to have him. And while you are upstairs doing that, I will look at the kind of clean kitchen and the kind of packed lunches and the laundry that mysteriously accumulated while you were all out, and I will shake my head and smile. And then I will turn off the light. Because it can wait until the morning. And because 0.27%.

No deviations from this schedule will be accepted. Because I love you. And I love me.

Cupcakes For Everyone

**Gird your loins. This contains swears because no other words will suffice. You have been warned.

I’m currently supposed to be on a work trip in Oakland serving with our partner in do-gooding BUILD ON — but knee + tummy + stitches = no travel. I was initially disappointed, but I figured it was all happening for a reason. AND HERE IT IS…

This kid. This kid got her STAAR scores back today. THIS KID not only passed that noxious horsecrappery, but scored “meets expectations” in math and reading. Meets expectations. What a crappy sounding name for “woah, we didn’t really expect anyone to score that high”. But she did. In math. And reading.

READING.

Mother effing R E A D I N G ! ! (see – no other phrase does it justice)

Obviously we ordered pizza and baked cupcakes to celebrate this badassery, and we also had a conversation about her story. And we all cried. And then we ate more pizza. Because PIZZA. 
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STAAR is epic levels of nonsense, but in Texas it’s really freaking hard to go to middle school without passing that sucker. It was the monster that struck fear into my heart from the first day she was diagnosed as dyslexic. It was the reason we didn’t dick around with piecemeal remediation and found the funds to get her what she needed fast and effectively to protect her childhood and her emotional well-being. It was the beast in the corner, the dragon she had to slay to continue down the path.

It’s written two grade levels higher than it should be and is designed for kids to fail. I’ve been chewing my nails down to the stubs for weeks waiting on those results to know if we’re going to keep on this road or say “eff this” again and get her someplace that just lets her be her.

BUT SHE SLAYED THE DRAGON.

She is a warrior that kid. Her teachers at Briarwood were warriors. Her tutors are warriors. Her teachers at WCE are warriors. Her village is teeming with sister warriors. My village is teeming with sister warriors. And that is not an accident — she is equipped to live her story.

This test hopes to fail kids like my daughter and add her to a statistic to serve a political agenda. It is reprehensible and when I have more time on my hands, Austin should be worried. But not today Satan. Not today. Because MEETS EXPECTATIONS. 
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Fight the fight mamas. Say the things. Pray the prayers. Make the brave and unpopular choices. You know what is right, and it is not an accident that this is part of your story. It’s a group effort. And a group success. We’ve got your back.

Reese knows that Team Spradling is in this together, and she’s proven to herself that yes — this system doesn’t necessarily want her mind — but she’s here to slay anyway.

And to that I say..

CUPCAKES FOR EVERYONE!

Elementary, My Dear Watson

Ok. Let’s talk about these holiday parties. And I should preface this by telling you that I am well aware of my “old mom” status and am, in actuality, quite proud of it.

I hate them.

No. That’s not right. Hate is a very strong word. I don’t hate them. I dislike them. Strongly. And here’s what: I think deep down, WE ALL DO. Let that steep a minute. I mean seriously — does anyone derive extreme amounts of joy from watching a first grader smear green icing all over an ice cream cone? I don’t. Not anywhere remotely close to making my bucket list. Don’t even get me started on the 5th grader who made me promise I would look cute and make an appearance – and who then promptly ignored me the whole time. I cannot believe I put on a bra for that mess.

Now don’t get me wrong, parties have a place. I think. But the fervor with which we prepare is a bus that I have no desire to jump on anymore. None. Even if they were passing out free jello shots.

But God bless the mothers on the bus. I was one once. So were you. We had young kids. We did the Pinterest. We made the crafts. We sang the songs and did all the things and it mattered to us to make sure our kids had the most magical and wonderful time ever. We had energy and time to spare. We thought everyone did life the same way. And then we learned.

I met a mom who wanted no part of me when we first moved to the neighborhood. None whatsoever, although I would put us firmly in the relatively friendly category now. She had three kids, two of them much older than Reese and you could tell that she had done her time in the class party trenches, earned her stripes, and was well and completely OVER IT. At the time I thought she was insane and grumpy. Now, eight years later I realize that she was less grumpy and more busy. I also realize that I am now her, which means I probably owe all the young cute moms an apology. It’s not them. It’s me. I have been there, done that, frosted the ice cream cone and have graduated. Elvis has left the building. I am more than happy for them to take over. But while they do, I feel compelled to sprinkle a little wisdom of experience into the mix. Let me know if you feel me fellow OGs…

• Clean crafts. No glue. No paint. No glitter. Ever. Ever ever ever ever ever. And bring your own garbage bag. We all known the tiny can can’t handle twenty four plates and assorted craft detritus. Nothing says Merry Christmas to the janitorial staff like a trashed classroom.

• Let them make an ornament. It’s all spelling tests and math facts now. Throw me a bone. Shaped like a snowman. These little years pass so fast, I need the mementos – but I don’t have the energy to make them myself.

• No more organic juice boxes. I mean FOR THE LOVE. It’s a logistical nightmare because they can’t open them on their own. You’re organic and better at parenting than I am. I get it. I’m not advocating giving them a Jack and Coke, but would anyone expire with a Capri Sun? I think not.

• Cookies. Give them a dang cookie. Come on!!! Nobody wants grapes made to look like a Grinch. You ever see a 6 year old make polite conversation over a plate of grapes? It’s painful. Break open the cookies and everyone’s smiling. Including me.

• Let them move. Dance games. Charades. Pictionary. Hula hoops. Something. Anything. If I had to brush my hair for this I need to be able to laugh at something. Preferably my child.

I cannot go into the line around the building that looked like it was for a Beyoncé concert but was in actuality just the line of parents waiting to get through the check-in process. I’ll save that trauma for another post. I’ll just say that I think it goes without saying that one must approach party day with a hugely intact sense of humor. And a heaping bucketful of patience. And a crew of equally old parents who can commiserate with you while your children ignore you.

THIS is the stuff the last day of school is about — parties and the Prozac required to get through them. And it’s all good. It’s all part of the process, and is all to be treasured because it all goes by too fast. So no matter where you fall on the scale of beaming Pinterest hero to grumpy old yoga pants mom today, I am sincerely wishing you the happiest of winter breaks. We have all earned it. No alarm clocks. No schedules. No homework. No spelling tests. Just lots of naps. Lots of laughs. And lots of love.

Sex Ed for Parents

** Gentlemen: this post is not for you. It is inappropriate in so many ways. Consider yourself warned. 

Here are some words for you from my Wonderfully Made parent meeting tonight…. “Don’t give away your power by being silent.” Good ones, right? Here are a few more…. dental dam, transgender, and oral sex — all of which were found in the workbook glossary. Jesus be a fence and a wall and a nuclear bunker. I am not ready for this. It’s on its way, but I am not ready. 

Our church is offering a class for all 5th and 6th grade students on sexuality and what it means with respect to our relationship with God. It’s going to be a great class. Think anatomy and physiology and humor and inclusion and answers and puberty and understanding and a safe environment to ask ALL the questions. It’s phenomenal and I’m so glad that it’s available to these kids so they know what’s happening to them and how to handle it as they embark on their adolescent years. Rah rah sis boom bah and a bucket of birth control. BUT I AM STILL NOT READY FOR MY CHILD TO BE OLD ENOUGH to need to be equipped with this information. She needs it – do you have any idea the flow of bad information that is sure to start coming her way as she heads into middle school? I think not. Honestly if I could convert to Catholicism and send her to a nunnery right now I would, and don’t think I wasn’t Google-ing it in the meeting, I was. Turns out it’s a pretty complicated process that I cannot complete by the end of the week. More’s the pity. 

But, after I stopped grimacing and twitching as I skimmed the book I settled into the idea that this is the world we live in now and information and misinformation are free and everywhere. She needs to know. But the bigger question plaguing me tonight was this — where was all this enlightened teaching when I was growing up? I mean. I feel like we got the short end of the stick in this arena Ladies. All the puns intended. Don’t you? 

I didn’t get this information and I’ll bet a dental dam you didn’t either. The extent of my sex ed was getting pulled into the auditorium with the other girls at the end of 4th grade by the gym teacher, being made to watch a movie called “The Miracle of Life” or some such crap which traumatized me for life regarding childbirth, and walking out an hour later dazed, emotionally scarred, and holding a box of Always maxi pads with wings. I can only imagine what they told the boys. Miracle of life my ass. 

The extent of my discussions with my parents hinged on “don’t do it” and so I launched myself on the unsuspecting college populace knowing less that nothing about sex and my body. And I mean less than nothing. And to be honest, I was just fine with that. Boys were loud and hairy and smelled vaguely of Axe and beer, which to my 18 year old self was not an overly enticing combination, and I had classes to take anyway so I didn’t have time for that mess. I’ve got two lovely daughters and a moderately happy husband now so clearly I figured it out, but I wonder how things would have turned out differently had this been a topic that was openly addressed in the early 90’s. I’m not sure what I would have done with said knowledge, but I think it would have been nice to know? Maybe? Just the basics every girl should know — like two people with braces should not make out. Also sex by the dim glow of a black light poster — not what God intended for you. Oh, and if you don’t know the full name his mother calls him when he’s in trouble, it’s a no go. Also, backseats: not a good idea. And if dinner involves a drive-thru restaurant, also not happening. Likewise the idea that potentially creating a life that is half this person who thinks beef jerky is a legitimate food group is a poor one. Just the basics, like I said. 

I feel like a lot of unnecessary pitfalls could be avoided if lists like this were the next step in the Wonderfully Made curriculum. Maybe I’ll make a suggestion at the next parent meeting, but this time we had the onerous task of writing a note to our kid for them to read at the start of the course so they know that we know what they’re about to get and we are on board. Serenity now, Lord. 

I watched the mothers around me write flowing prose about how proud they are of their kid and how much they love them and all the right, wonderfully incisive thoughts on this topic. Naturally, I had nothing of worth in the moment, so here’s a semblance of what mine got… 

“Hey kid. It’s just biology. Don’t make it weird. 
Love, Mom.”

That’s less traumatizing than a free box of maxi pads, right?