Perfectly, (im)perfect

The picture was perfect.

Our four little blessings, all dressed in their Easter best, with their infectious smiles beaming right at the camera.

I posted it on social media and was quickly showered with such nice comments: “What a good-looking group! You’re so blessed! They’re the sweetest!” An old college friend even messaged me, asking: “how they heck do you do it all?”

I was so flattered but it’s time to come clean: the picture…was a MIRAGE ūüėČ

Before I have to return my “mother-of-the-year” certificate, let me say this: I am BEYOND BLESSED. I’m THANKFUL. I’m GRATEFUL.

However…

That picture does not accurately tell the whole story of the chaos that is our life. So in a world where we find ourselves often comparing our lives to others because of what we see on social media, let me pull the curtain back on Easter 2019…otherwise known as s***-show 2019.

In the moments leading up to the perfectly, perfect picture…it was WrestleMania up in our house. The youngest two, who are 3 and 18 months, were pulling each other’s hair over a chocolate peanut butter egg. Forget the fact that there were PLENTY of those eggs to go around…but apparently this particular one was the most coveted. The fight led to melted chocolate in their hair, on the rug and all over their matching dresses. Thankfully their dresses were black floral so it hid the chocolate well. Score!

Then my oldest walked upstairs wearing some cutoff jean shorts and a t-shirt.

Ummmm…??

She rolled her eyes when I informed her that we were going to Easter Sunday mass and not to an amusement park to ride rides and eat corndogs.

My son then went from 0 to 60 when he thought the littles had been stealing his Easter candy. He publicly vowed to never share another treat again.

There was shouting…pulling…pushing…crying…and everything in between.

You know…they were being KIDS.

I bribed with more Easter candy and laid out my best mom guilt for that perfectly, perfect picture. “Mommy didn’t get any candy from the Easter bunny. All Mommy wants is a picture of my favorite people.”

Yep.  It worked.  I used bribes and guilt and I am not ashamed to admit it.

But I wanted to come clean just in case someone out there thought that I lived that perfectly, perfect life. As I told my friend, I am the CEO of Chaos.

Social media has, unfortunately, caused us to do a double-take on our own lives. Whether we want to admit it or not, we compare…houses, cars, jobs, spouses, kids. I’ll admit it…I sometimes have some pangs of envy when I am scrolling through social media. Especially during Spring Break. So many of my friends were on these amazing vacations and I was at home covered with used tissues and smelling like Lysol disinfectant. While my friends were frolicking on foreign beaches, I was distributing antibiotics to all four kiddos.

Let’s be real, social media is often only “catching” us on our really good days. Lord knows I’m guilty of it.

So it was in fact the perfectly, perfect picture…of the most perfectly, imperfect children from perfectly, imperfect parents.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not 1985.

“You cannot raise your children the way your parents raised you. Because your parents raised you for a world that no longer exists.”

I posted that on social media and I was immediately hit with emails suggesting that I was “dead wrong.”

It’s true…our values we should be teaching our children haven’t changed. Things like respect, kindness, compassion, empathy, patience, forgiveness, honesty…the list could go on.

While our values have stayed the same…our society has not.

So no…I cannot raise my children the way my parents raised me…because it’s not 1985. Things are different and I need to adjust to the times.

Back in the day, we had pen pals…our bikes were always outside our friends’ houses…we had Kool-Aid stands…we caught lightning bugs…we talked to our friends on the phone (but only until 9 because then our parents would take the phone off the hook)…we made forts with blankets…we had makeshift tents outside…we whipped our friends around on the tire swing…we recorded a mix tape for our crush…we played M.A.S.H…we roller skated in our garage…we played Pac-Man at Pizza Hut while we waited for our pie.

It was SPECTACULAR. It was FUN. It was SIMPLE. It was DRAMA-FREE.

If there was drama, you worked it out on the playground…and at 3:00pm on a Friday, it was over. Forgotten.

Monday is the new Friday for our kids. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter are the new playgrounds…or as I like to call it…”Virtual Red Rover.” The rude comments…photographic evidence of exclusion…it is all like a clothesline to the throat over and over again.

Don’t tell me that it can be solved by taking away a teenager’s phone. That accomplishes nothing because at some point, our children need to learn how to survive and thrive in today’s society…and that involves social media. Mean girls and jerk boys…grow up to be mean women and jerk men. (I could write an entire thesis with thousands of examples on this one) So you have to learn pretty early in life how to deal with it…and you have to be prepared to deal with it MUCH later in life too.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I love reconnecting with old friends…I love being able to share milestones with friends and family…I love all of that and everything in between.

But social media has changed the parenting game BIG time.

There is a pressure to be perfect. And it’s an unattainable kind of perfect that social media created with its filters and hashtags. The ridiculous goal of getting “a lot of likes” or “a lot of shares” is taking a precedence over being a GOOD KID. And let’s face it, adults face the same pressure. Whether it’s someone who posts a picture of their immaculate home or their 6-pack abs three days after having a baby…social media has a way of making us feel “less than.”

I can’t speak for any other parents…I can obviously only speak for me…but I feel an enormous amount of pressure as a mom. I see my oldest daughter, who is in the throws of being a tween. We’ve raised her with the same values we were raised with…but I’m still worried her priorities are very much 2019 priorities. I tell her every day: purpose over pretty…purpose over popularity. I pray that sticks with her.

Sure, I can pretend it’s 1985 and start taking things away completely. “KIDS, WE’RE GOING TO USE THIS PHONE…IT STAYS ATTACHED TO THE WALL.”

But then I would be failing as a parent.

I need to prepare them for the world ahead…not hang on to what once was.

So yes…the values are the same.

But I am taking off the rose-colored glasses.

 

 

 

Troll.

Trolls.

Wikipedia defines it as “a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the¬†Internet¬†to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or¬†off-topic¬†messages in an¬†online community¬†(such as a¬†newsgroup,¬†forum,¬†chat room, or blog) with the¬†intent of provoking¬†readers into displaying¬†emotional¬†responses¬†and normalizing tangential discussion,¬†whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.‚ÄĚ

Broken down to its simplest form: online trolls are keyboard bullies who sit high on their throne of judgment.

There is no bigger bully than the troll on the internet. The worst part of it of is…they are grown-ups. Adults. People with children and grandchildren.

I was scrolling through Facebook while waiting for my son’s soccer practice to be over when I saw an article posted by GMA. And there was the comment:

chrissy

Yep.

A woman actually wrote that. I blacked out her name because I don’t believe in any kind of online shaming…even if she deserves it for writing something so callous.

The woman in the picture is Chrissy Metz…one of the stars on “This is Us.” Her voice is AHH-MAZING. I remember watching her sing the other night on the ACM Awards and I was mesmerized. I don’t remember what she was wearing…I just remember her voice…her unbelievable talent.

Sadly, her talent was overshadowed by people picking apart her appearance…suggesting that she consult with a doctor about her weight…telling her she’s a bad role model for kids.

Hold up.

A group of adults are calling a woman, who they don’t know, every name in the book. And now suddenly they’re the experts on who is a good role model?

Online trolls disgust me.

This is the thing…an online troll is not allowed to define what beautiful is.

An online troll is not allowed to determine what size a woman or man should be.

An online troll is not allowed to determine someone’s worth.

Online trolls are cowards who have venom in their hearts…they think their keystrokes make them powerful when in reality, it only reveals how weak and pitiful they really are.

It doesn’t matter the size of your waist…the color of your hair…the shade of your lipstick…the jiggle of your thighs. Who give a s*** about the superficial nonsense? The only thing that can make someone UGLY is their lack of character or integrity…if they hold people’s head under water…or if they treat others like they’re LESS THAN.

Showcase your talents.

Share your strengths.

Share your weaknesses.

Be UNAPOLOGETICALLY YOU.

The online trolls will still be there. (Cue the eyeroll)

The trolls are haters…and haters are just confused admirers.

You’re probably taking the risks they didn’t have the guts to take.

ūüėČ

 

 

Advice for my Tween…

When you become a parent, everyone tells you it goes by fast.  I just never realized that kids grow up faster than a trip with Marty McFly in the DeLorean.

I woke up this morning with an ache in my heart…my oldest turns 11 today. She’s in full-blown tween mode but I couldn’t help to think about what is on the horizon: dances, dates, driving, prom, graduation.¬† Ok I know I am getting ahead of myself but just yesterday, she was a squishy little baby.

Every year on her birthday, I give my sweet Gia a list of advice to carry her through the year…and honestly I love watching her reaction when she thinks my “advice” is her present.

On your 11th birthday, here are 12 (one for good luck) pieces of life advice for you:

  1. You are loved more than you will ever be able to comprehend.
  2. Beautiful people are not always good. But good people are always beautiful.
  3. Don’t talk badly about people. Even if you “think” they gave you good reason to. Don’t. It gets messy.
  4. Use your library card every week. For books (just in case that wasn’t clear).
  5. Help others. But don’t publicize or brag about it.
  6. You may start entering the “awkward stage” of life. Ya know, acne and getting food stuck in your braces. Try to find the humor in it all…and remember when I was your age, I had a bowl cut and bottle-cap glasses. Things can always be worse ūüėČ
  7. What makes you different, makes you great.
  8. Never act mean to fit in. That’s not the crowd you want to be in anyway.
  9. Tell me the truth and I won’t get mad.
  10. Stop with the staged pictures and all of the posing. Can you see my eye-roll? Live in the moment with your friends. Nobody is fooling anyone with the “pretend that I don’t notice the camera” shot.
  11. A pint of Tonight Dough by Ben & Jerry’s can solve everything.
  12. On your brightest mornings and on your darkest nights, I will always believe in you. Always.

 

Lawnmower parents.

Lawnmower parents.

(Sigh)

Were any of us really surprised to find out that some of the rich and elite were buying their children’s way into college? Nope.

I think youth sports has taught us all we need to know about these kind of parents…affectionately known as “lawnmower parents.”

Being a lawnmower parents is defined as: parents who try to remove all the difficulties that their children might have to deal with. Instead of just hovering like helicopter parents, fussing and worrying for their kids, lawnmower parents take matters in their own hands, even before the ‘issue’ reaches them.

lawnmower

Can. We. Stop.

Stop trying to control everything. Stop trying to fight every battle. Stop trying to clear the path for everything. Stop holding another kid’s head under water so your kid can stay afloat.  Stop slamming other people’s kids so yours can look better. Stop worrying about what travel team your neighbor is on.  Stop concerning yourself with who made the final cut of the team.  Stop texting and calling all of the parents on your child’s team to try and manipulate things.  Stop emailing your child’s coach at all hours demanding to know why your child didn’t play.  Please stop. You are ruining youth sports.

Look, I get it‚Ķyouth sports are expensive‚Ķyou‚Äôre paying a lot of money every month‚Ķespecially if your child is playing year-round.¬† I guess you want a return on your investment.¬† But guess what? Everyone on the team is paying the same you are.¬† Maybe the neighbor kid is just better than yours? I know, I know‚Ķit‚Äôs tough to swallow.¬† You may have gotten too use to the ‚Äúequal‚ÄĚ playing time thing or the huge participation trophies every season.¬† You aren‚Äôt used to seeing your child on the bench.

This is the thing: if every kid is special, then no kid is special.

It may sound harsh…but let it marinate. It’s true.

We can‚Äôt keep saying things like ‚Äúthis entitlement generation is lazy,‚ÄĚ if we are the ones who continue to fuel the bad behavior.¬† If your child gets more playing time because you‚Äôre pulling the strings‚Ķthen your child will lose in the end‚Ķthey will fail later in life.¬† Trust me, I‚Äôve seen it.

Our kids need to learn this: Life is unfair at times…hard work ISN’T always rewarded…you don’t always get want you want…nobody owes you anything.

How about we put the lawnmowers away and teach our kids to show up…work hard…have fun…and be a good teammate no matter what.  And how about we sit proudly in the bleachers…and be a spectator. That’s it.

Our kids won’t be able to stand on their own later in life if we don’t let them experience the fall.

Let them fall. If they want it badly enough…they’ll get back up.

My response…

I believe in Freedom of Speech.

So I was not against the fact that someone mentioned my name over and over at a school board meeting Monday night. She had every right to do so.

However, just because we have freedom of speech does not mean we won’t be held accountable for what we say.

Since I was not afforded the opportunity from a publishing company to respond to these accusations and claims before they publicly shared her one-sided opinion of me, I’d like to take the time to respond now.

“At no time would I have ever shared a victims story w/o their consent. That was an ethical standard for me as I believed it could cause further harm.”

Fact check: At no point did I share the details of the case. I have had every disturbing detail from the very beginning including the names of the victim and the accused young men. I never once released a detail or name – even after some of the accused were sending out Snapchat messages about me with inappropriate hand gestures and #ags which reportedly meant “Amanda Goodman sucks.”

“I question where Amanda Goodman has been getting her info. Have any staff from Family & Children’s Council offered their actual services to the school, victim families?”

Fact check: All of the information I received regarding the investigation was confirmed by authorities. On behalf of Family & Children’s Council, I sent a letter to South Winneshiek High School offering to educate the students and staff on sexual abuse prevention. I never heard from the school.

“A young woman was recently prom dress shopping in the Cedar Valley and was asked where she went to school. After responding, she was told ‘oh, I’m sorry.’ This is the direct result of the numerous posts by Amanda Goodman.”

Fact check: I was not involved in any alleged sexual assault of a student. I did not commit any crimes. I shared information about an alleged sexual assault and reports of a cover-up. The good people of the Cedar Valley are entitled to draw their own conclusions.

“She posted to Facebook at 2pm that she wasn’t going to attend because her local authorities advised her not to.”

Fact check: I have been threatened repeatedly with things like such: “I’m going to choke the s*** out of you”; “Little girl let me come find you in ghetto Waterloo.” So no, I did not feel safe.

“On FB she said you can only talk about what is listed on the published agenda. Unfortunately there is no mention of what has been in the headlines on the agenda…Hopefully you all have a copy of that agenda. I just don’t see it, again leading me to question where Amanda Goodman is getting her information from.”

Fact check: From the South Winneshiek Community School District School Board meeting agenda, number 5: Comments should be kept to two minutes. The Board will listen to public comments, but please be advised that we cannont comment or discuss items not on the published agenda. Also, please remember that confidential student or staff information should not be shared in a public meeting but should be discussed directly with the superintendent. 

What was on the agenda is as follows:

12. New Business
a. FY2018 Audit Report by Hacker & Nelson
b. Approve 2019-2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the South Winneshiek Educational Support
Professionals
c. Approve Cooperative Agreement for Pre-Service Clinical Placement with University of Northern Iowa
d. Approve Partnership Agreement between the Winneshiek Co Fair Board, Winneshiek CO Agricultural
Extension and Decorah CSD, South Winneshiek CSD and Turkey Valley CSD
e. Approve School Budget Guarantee
f. Approve 2019-2020 School Calendar
g. Extend Teacher daily contract hours
h. Summer Projects
i. Set Public Hearing Date for 2019-2020 School Budget
j. Approve DLR Group as Architect for EL/MS Roof

The statement was concluded with a lovely quote by Mother Teresa.

I’ll end with a different quote:

Our Lives Begin To End The Day We Become Silent About Things That Matter

 

MOMO challenge

I’ll admit it: I can be a “lazy” mom.

I’ll swing through a fast-food restaurant instead of cooking a more nutritious meal at home.

I’ll wave the white flag and let my three-year-old have a cookie for breakfast instead of dealing with a meltdown.

I’ll give them my phone and let them surf YouTube so I can take a shower, eat a meal, use the restroom or not find the answer to the never-ending, nagging question, “why??!?”

When it came to YouTube and YouTube Kids, we have every parental control on there. It’s so guarded even Motley Crue videos from the 80s are deemed inappropriate. Well ok, some are ūüėČ

I will never understood why my children enjoyed watching other children on YouTube, or even sometimes adults, open giant eggs that contained toys…but hey, if it gave me a few minutes of some peace and quiet…watch away.

But recently, the phones and devices in our home got a complete overhaul: YouTube – DELETED. YouTube KIDS – DELETED. Roblox – DELETED. Fortnite – DELETED. Even our beloved Peppa Pig game – DELETED.

It’s called the MOMO challenge (or Suicide Game) and it’s hacking popular children’s websites and games as a sneaky way to get to our children. This face, that would give me a nightmare, will often appear…

momo

After this image appears, it reportedly threatens the player if they refuse to follow orders. There are claims that some of the threats include children being killed in their sleep and users are told to harm themselves and even kill themselves.

This scary image and the threats pop-up in the middle of harmless, children-oriented YouTube programs.

The sad thing is this: deleting all of those apps does not solve a thing. Because tomorrow, there will be a new kid-friendly app my kiddos want me to download. My husband and I will research the heck out of it…read the reviews…investigate the risks. He and I will then have another conversation at our kitchen table about whether to allow them to have the app. We will download that app only to later delete it because of something like the MOMO challenge pops up again.

Because the bottom-line is this: there will always be evil lurking. There will always be someone out there who wants to hurt our children. We can “think” we always know what our kids are watching or playing but the truth is, we will never be able to be in front of everything. I could click my heels and wish it was 1988 again. I could never allow my children to use one of the devices in the house. But let me brutally honest and admit this: I’ll hand my child a phone during the next meltdown at a restaurant; I’ll hand my child the phone when I need to use the restroom in peace; I’ll hand my child the phone when I am by myself and I need to get dinner made; I’ll hand my child the phone when they are “so bored” at their older sibling’s game. I’ll own up to my days of “lazy parenting.”

It’s another conversation we have to have with our children. We talk about strangers…we talk about good touch/bad touch…we talk about drugs…we talk about bullying. We MUST talk about it all and we can’t be afraid.

I showed my older two the picture of the scary bug-eyed woman and talked to them in the most simple way: “Look at her, have you seen this face before? Look – this image could pop up – or it could be another picture or a drawing. After they try to get your attention, they’re going to say really awful things. They want you to do awful things. If you ever see anything like this, you let me or Dad know right away, ok? And you know you never listen to anyone who is telling you to do awful or hateful things, right?”

We sat at our kitchen table, our usual meeting spot, and my son sighed and said: “The devil is always trying to ruin things.”

No truer statement.

As I heard one expert put it: “pull the band-aid off and have the tough conversations with your children.”

Those conversations with mom and dad will turn into the voice of reason in their head.