About this whole Rudolph thing…

“The holiday TV classic “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” is seriously problematic.”

rudolph

Thanks for that tweet Huff Post (cue my eye-roll) but my kids and I will continue to watch Rudolph every single year. You know why? Because there are MAJOR life lessons packed into that 47 minute animation.

If people are just NOW realizing that there is a whole lot of bullying in Rudolph…then I am sorry you are a tad late to the party.

As a little girl, I always cried watching Rudolph. Even as a 3-year-old it was obvious the other reindeer were so mean to him because of his shiny nose. They laughed and ridiculed him to the point he didn’t want to be around anyone.

One critic of the movie wants it pulled off the air because “we should not be promoting bullying.”

Look let’s get real – what happens at “reindeer practice” is no different than what happens with kids today in lunch rooms, on playgrounds or online.  We’re not showing them anything that they’re unfortunately not already exposed to.  Not talking about bullying doesn’t make it all go away.

Mean people are EVERYWHERE…at EVERY AGE. The sooner we take off our rose-colored glasses and accept that fully…the better our children will be.

Our children need to learn at a very young age how to REACT and RESPOND to mean people. Because newsflash: it’s going to happen. And as a parent, it will rip your heart out the first time your child comes home upset because somebody was picking on him. But if they don’t learn how to respond now…they’ll be lost as an adult…because mean kids grow up to be mean adults. True story.

The other night, the kids and I popped some popcorn and watched Rudolph.  My 7-year-old son was the first to shout, “UGH…they’re so rude!!” Before I could even say anything he said, “I would not even play with them. They don’t deserve to be friends with Rudolph.”

Ahhh. I gave myself a mental high-five. He “gets” it.

The critics have it all wrong, in my opinion.

Bullying is always painful to others.

People are bullied because they don’t look like everyone else…

People are bullied because they don’t dress like everyone else…

People are bullied because they don’t act like everyone else…

People are bullied because they don’t talk like everyone else…

People are bullied because somebody wants to feel powerful and in control.

But the moment we teach our children that other people’s words and opinions do not define them…the stronger and more resilient they will become.

The way people treat you is a statement of who they are as a human being. It is not a statement of about you. (If I let other people define me then I would be a — well, I am not even going to type the nasty things I have been called).

And just remember – what made Rudolph “weird” ended up saving Christmas.

xx

 

 

Work-life balance.

“Work-life balance.”

I detest that phrase.

Ok, maybe I’m not THAT angry about it…but I think I would prefer hearing nails screeching down a chalkboard than to hear someone giving me tips about “work-life balance.”

It took me YEARS, four children and countless 23 hour days to realize that the only way I would achieve this “coveted” utopia called work-life balance is if I did one thing: say no.

Yep. That was it.

I learned to say no.

Like most women, I was burning the candle at both ends to prove that I COULD HAVE IT ALL. What the he** does that phrase even mean?? What is the definition of “ALL” anyway??

work

I have a wonderful family…amazing friends…a job that I am absolutely passionate about…faith…organizations I believe wholeheartedly in…a gym that I love going to.

That’s my balance.

It has nothing to do with the dinner you serve…the laundry you folded…the cleanliness of your floors…the title behind your name…the amount of zeroes in your paycheck.

My priorities needed to change and change fast because I wasn’t happy…and we all know when Momma isn’t happy…nobody is happy.

That’s when I started saying no and I ignored other people’s expectations of me.

I stopped committing to events that I wasn’t passionate about.

I stopped agreeing to be places on the weekend…because in all honesty, the only place I want to be is at home wearing sweatpants with my family.

I stopped returning work emails and checking my voicemail after 5:00pm.

I stopped signing up to be the mom who bring treats to school because let’s face it, I pinned a bunch of cool Thanksgiving turkeys made out of Rice Krispie treats…but you kids are really getting pre-packaged cookies from the grocery store.

I stopped getting upset when my kids made a mess.

I stopped reading blogs and articles that were titled: “HOW TO ACHIEVE WORK-LIFE BALANCE.”

If the laundry piles up…then it piles up.

If one of my kiddos wants me to lay down with them for an hour…then I am laying down with them for an hour.

If I know the only cure to a really bad day is a two-hour soak in the bathtub…then that is what I will do.

Start saying no and invest what you are passionate about. Period.

My days aren’t planned out anymore.

When I am at work…I am ALL IN.

When I am at home…I am ALL IN.

That’s it.

I follow my own rulebook…not someone else’s.

That’s my balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Elf on the Shelf…

The Elf on the Shelf.

I cursed that elf at 3 this morning when I realized he was still in the same place. I walked through a land mine of pointy toys, including the dreaded Legos, trying to check on sweet little “Sugarplum.” Yep, that’s his name. Sweet little Sugarplum.

I read something earlier today from a woman who refuses to have the Elf on the Shelf in her house. I get it. He can be a nuisance. It can be time-consuming cleaning up after him.  And let me tell ya, Sugarplum is not very creative…he appears in the most BASIC manner.  Snow angels out of flour…head in the coffee canister…stuck in a glass. BASIC. Sugarplum is not a Pinterest elf…he keeps it pretty simple.

I didn’t think I was going to be one of those Elf on the Shelf mommas but let me tell ya…that all changed on the first morning he showed up. Their faces were priceless…their belly laughs were contagious and they couldn’t wait to see what he would do next. And let’s be real, it’s kind of clutch to be able to say, “Sugarplum is going to report back to Santa!”

When my oldest was 7-years-old, she stopped believing in Sugarplum’s magic. It made me sad because I knew Christmas wouldn’t feel the same for her…it would feel slightly less magical.

We only had seven years of LOOK-TO-THE-SKY magic and wonder…and then, it was over. Only seven years.

So that’s why Sugarplum and his annoying little ways will always be welcome in my house.

The magic, wonder and curiosity doesn’t last very long…

I want to cherish every second of it.

Even if that means piercing my feet with Legos at all hours of the night 😉

 

This day.

I woke up in the middle of the night in the throws of a full-on panic attack…all because of this day. The memories of this day will, sadly, always haunt me.

November 21, 2017 will forever be etched in my mind as one of the worst days of my life.

Our entire family was in town to celebrate Thanksgiving and the baptism of our Aria Isabella who was born two months earlier. She was perfectly healthy…I was not.  I was going through a battle since her birth…I couldn’t quite stand up straight…it looked like a ball was popping out of my stomach…I would get debilitating pain that would shoot through my body. One time it got so bad, it knocked me to the ground while I was out shopping with my four children.  There I was in a ball on the ground in the middle of the store.  I went to see the doctor who performed my C-section several times…but I left with no answers.  I was told things like…”your nerves may be re-attaching…it could be a hernia…you’re a little older than when you had your other children…this is your first C-section.”

I was in constant pain and I was frustrated. And I was beginning to wonder if I would ever feel normal again.

Around 5:30pm on November 21st, my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and I were taking all of the big kids to a local trampoline park. I bent down to help my daughter take off her shoes and tears were coming down my face…the pain was so intense…it was a burning…stabbing and ripping sensation.

As I was standing there with my sister-in-law, I felt something weird.  I looked down and my pants were soaking wet. I’m talking from my waistband all the way down to my toes…soaking wet.

WHAT. THE. H***.

If I could have run I would have sprinted into the bathroom…but my body wouldn’t let me do more than a slow shuffle.  When I got into the bathroom, I realized my sweatshirt was also soaked. So I stood in front of the mirror and lifted up my shirt — liquid was gushing out of me.  I called my friend who was also my midwife throughout my entire pregnancy…”SOMETHING IS WRONG!!” She told me to get to the hospital immediately and to call the doctor who treated me.

My first thought was “I don’t want to wait in an ER…I need to get ready for Thanksgiving.”

When I called the doctor I was told that it was “good that it was leaking out…get a shower and put a pad over it…I will see you at 8am at the office.”

Ok then.

I got a ride back to my house where my mother-in-law, who is a doctor, was waiting for me. She quietly whispered to my husband in Spanish…next thing I knew my husband was nearly carrying me out the door to the car.

“What’s going on??”

He calmly said, “let’s get you to the hospital to get checked out.”

My husband was eerily quiet in the car…he looked scared…I’ve never seen him like that.

I went to one ER…then I was quickly put in an ambulance and rushed to another.

An amazing doctor walked into my room with ANSWERS. She said, “Amanda, you had an abscess that basically exploded…it was leaking inside of you. You were most likely hours away from septic shock.”

Wait, what?

I later learned that my mother-in-law told my husband, “Get her to the hospital now or she is not going to make it.”

I am crying while typing that.

I cry every time I think about that moment.

My mother-in-law saved my life that night. Had I stayed at home…to “shower and put a pad over it”…well, my anxiety kicks into full force just thinking about all of the what-ifs.

I was admitted to the hospital and later met another angel on earth…a vascular surgeon who heads up the wound clinic. “If you can deal with one minute of excruciating pain, I can keep you out of the operating room.” Excruciating pain was an understatement. He was cleaning out the rest of the infection with his hand…and it was by the far the most pain I have ever felt in my life. Ever.

I was hooked up to a wound vac for a few months…it was annoying and at times embarrassing…but I didn’t care. I was on the road to getting my NORMAL back.

I could bend over and tie my kids’ shoes…I could stand up straight…I could walk faster than a turtle…I didn’t cry in pain when I picked up one of my children…I could sleep without being awoken by debilitating pain.

I hated the date. I cringe thinking about it.

But then it finally hit me…maybe I am looking at it all wrong.

In my heart I now know that November 21, 2017 is the day that God decided that He needs me to continue His work here. He needs me here to help raise the four gifts He gave me. He needs me here to keep being an advocate for every child…a voice for the kids who are gone forever.

That day knocked me down and shook me…but it me realize that every moment should be celebrated. It sounds cliché but it’s true.

Drink wine on a Tuesday…use my Grandmother’s fine china for Mac n’ cheese night…build forts instead of doing laundry…’fess up to your parents about all of the house parties you threw…let the kids stay up late to watch a movie…wear the expensive perfume every day…order the nachos…roll up in your minivan blasting your favorite Tupac song…smile at someone who doesn’t like you…wear the maternity pants if they’re comfortable…reach out to the friend who you haven’t talked to in years…eat the whole damn pie…have living room dance parties.

All of the little things in our life…are actually the big things.

I was saved on that day…in more ways than one.

xx

It’s on us.

A 9-year-old girl recently committed suicide…her family says she was bullied.

Let that marinate for a second: a 9-year-old girl recently committed suicide. 

madison

Her name is Madison Whitsett…she lived in Alabama.

Look at her.

That sweet face.

That beautiful smile.

Gone.

Let’s call it out right now: kids can be mean and hateful. Some kids just have a bad day and they lash out at someone…other kids are just hell-bent on torturing others.

When we hear about bullying, there is a rally cry that follows: “THE SCHOOL FAILED! WHERE WERE THE TEACHERS? THE ADMINISTRATION DID NOTHING!”

This is the thing: it’s not a school issue. It’s a HOME issue.

Kids aren’t dumb…they’re not being mean to other kids IN FRONT of teachers. They’re slicker than that. They’re waiting until an adult isn’t around to say something mean. When they’re asked about it, most kids turn on the doe-eyes and deny, deny, deny.

The problem won’t get better if all we do is blame the schools.

It’s OUR job as parents to teach empathy, compassion and kindness. And that happens at HOME.

We teach our kids how to use the potty, brush their teeth and tie their shoes…but do we ever teach them how to show empathy?

There is a really simple way to teach empathy too: treat others how you want your kids to treat others. That includes how WE TALK TO OUR CHILDREN.  How we talk to our children becomes their inner dialogue.

I know it’s tough. I have four kids ranging in age from 1 to 10 so I am in the thick of things with a moody “tween,” a sometimes defiant 7-year-old, a threenager who knows it all and a one-year-old who, well, she is still sweet 🙂

There are meltdowns and temper tantrums that push me to the edge. My first reaction is to lose my mind like a lunatic and just start screaming. But I don’t. Well, I try not to.

I started to ask a simple question instead: “Something is clearly upsetting you…you want to talk about it?”

Their feelings are real…they just don’t know how to express them.

When we encourage our children to share their emotions and feelings with us…we are teaching them empathy without even realizing it.

Honestly, if we aren’t teaching these things at home…then it may be our kid who is the bully.

And if you’re okay with that…then you are the root of the problem.

 

A tough lesson…

If there is one thing that is guaranteed in life when you are a girl it’s this: there will be drama. Plenty of drama. Particularly, mean girl drama.

I dealt with it a lot growing up…and as a mom of three daughters, I am prepared to deal with it again. I just wasn’t expecting it to be so soon.

My oldest is 10, and she recently found out that someone she doesn’t know was saying some not-so-nice things about her.  (The cool thing was her friend defended her). Apparently it was all over a boy.

Face palm.

Eye-roll.

Come on kids…you’re 10. This isn’t an episode of Dynasty.

When Gia was telling me the whole story, I started to see red…and I was biting the inside of my cheek. Tell-tale signs that I was in full Mama Bear protective mode and I was about to blow.

So I took the “recommended” amount of cleansing breaths because I knew this was a teachable moment…and I knew it would not be the last time we had a conversation like this.

This isn’t a school issue…I would not be emailing the teacher or principal.

This isn’t an issue where I try to find the parents on social media and demand an apology.

Nope.

This is a LIFE issue.  One that you need to learn pretty early on because people never really leave the “middle school lunch table.”

Cue the talk:

“So…this girl doesn’t care for you.  She apparently doesn’t like you…at all. That’s ok. When people say mean and nasty things, it’s natural for us to feel like we want to retaliate with even more hurtful words. We want them to know that we don’t like them either…eye for an eye right? It’s okay to be angry and hurt…that’s completely normal.  Just know this…not everyone is going to like you. You’re not going to like everyone. That’s ok.  But remember this: don’t treat people as bad as they are…treat them as good as you are. Period.”

DON’T TREAT PEOPLE AS BAD AS THEY ARE…TREAT THEM AS GOOD AS YOU ARE.

It’s. A. Struggle.

Because there is that fine line of taking the high road and being treated like a sidewalk.

But if you make it a goal to only surround yourself with the best kind of people…the ones who ADD something to your life…then everything else is just noise.

It’s a tough lesson for a 10-year-old to learn.

But learning how to respond to mean girl behavior may be one of life’s most important lessons.

We will never be able to control what people say or think about us.

But we can control how we react to it all.

 

 

 

 

“CLEAN IT UP.”

Nothing brought me greater joy than hearing this when we checked into our hotel room over the weekend: “We have complimentary breakfast and dinner for you and your family during your stay.  You and your husband also get three free drink tickets each night.”

A tear of joy slid down my face as I took our room keys.

We were six hours away for our daughter’s soccer tournament. The thought of 6 of us in ONE hotel room for an extended weekend was giving me anxiety and a migraine. My middle two children have NO INDOOR VOICE…at all…ever. So the majority of my time was spent saying things like, “Please be quiet…you’re going to get us kicked out of here…we’re going to have to sleep in the van…ok no pool!”

Fast forward to Sunday morning and our kids were up at 4:15. 4-freaking-15. Of course we are shoved in a hotel room for the TIME CHANGE. “Guys, please be quiet…it’s so early…please don’t wake anyone up…people are still sleeping.”

But I could tell by a woman’s look at the elevator a little later on that she was woken up by my son’s “indoor voice.” I’m thinking I need to put chocolates or mini-liquor bottles by neighboring rooms next time.

Down at the FREE breakfast buffet, the six of us piled on top of each other to sit at the only vacant table. It looked like the size of this…

small circle coffee table Unique 45 Delightful Italian Designer Coffee Tables thunder

Six of us. Around this.

But it’s now 8:00am…but it’s supposed to be 9:00am…but my kids have been awake for so darn long it feels like 2:00pm…we needed to eat and we needed to eat fast. We are slowly approaching stage 5 of complete meltdown mayhem so I was perfectly fine corralling around the world’s smallest table.

Belgium waffles…eggs…sausage…biscuits…you name it, my kids were taking advantage of the FREE buffet. But act like you’ve eaten before, ya know??

The baby of the family still has not mastered the art of getting food from the plate to her mouth. She was leaving a trail of disaster behind…in the form of Cheerios. The floor underneath her high-chair was covered.

I stood up to throw some trash away when I saw a member of the hotel staff. “I am so sorry…my daughter made a mess on the floor.”

I have made this apology MANY times over the years…so I was expecting the usual “oh no worries” response.

Nope.

Not this time.

“CLEAN IT UP!”

Before I could ask if she was serious or not, the woman handed me a broom and pan and walked off.

I heard gasps around me.

My face felt flushed…I was slightly taken back…a little annoyed by how harsh she was.

I could feel everyone staring at me…including my own children…they were waiting to see what my reaction would be.

So I started cleaning up the mound of Cheerios and then I took the broom and pan back towards the kitchen door.

As I was walking back to my table, a woman sitting nearby grabbed my arm and said, “I can’t believe that. You should not have had to clean that up!”

When I sat down, I was feeling a little mortified…slightly embarrassed…and a tad irritated. I was taken back…my initial thought was: THAT WAS NOT MY JOB TO CLEAN THAT UP!

All it took was a few deep cleansing breaths for me to snap back into reality… it was MY job to clean it up. My child made a mess…and I was perfectly capable of cleaning up after her.  Staff at that hotel is not there to serve as my children’s personal assistants. It’s no different than going to a friend’s house for dinner…I’m not going to let my children tear through their house like a tornado and not make sure it’s cleaned up.

I looked around the dining room and it was evident why that staff member had enough that morning: there were rowdy kids (like my own) EVERYWHERE…half-filled juice cups and muffin crumbs blanketed tables…straw papers and dirty napkins covered the floor…it looked like manners weren’t checked in with the bags that weekend.

Maybe hotel protocol is to clean up any and every mess.  I get that.

But it should be parent protocol to teach children that manners matter…every day…no matter where we are.

And if we make a mess, both in the literal and metaphorical sense, it’s OUR job to clean it up.