I am racist. And I am anti-racist, too.

It actually makes me sick to my stomach to write that three word sentence. I am racist. The same way I’ve been sick to my stomach thinking about whether or not I need to “go there” on this platform. But that’s my privilege, and I’m working on it. I recognize that I may lose followers over this, and I also recognize that my definition of racism may be different than yours. And I also haven’t ‘held’ this definition of ‘racism’ and ‘being racist’ all my life. Actually not until recently, and that’s the sickening irony of it. In fact, if you asked me if I was ‘racist’ a year or so ago, I would have replied no, without a doubt. If you called me racist a year or so ago, I would have probably gotten defensive and angry. Because I am white, never have I ever had to truly worry about understanding racism. Because I am white, never have I ever had to truly worry about my own safety doing completely mundane things. Because I am white, never have I ever had to face the fact that my life is opportunistically and systemically different in a lesser sense than those who have skin different than mine. Because I am white, I am sitting here worrying about losing followers or “going there”…small potatoes compared to those who are worried about losing their life simply because of the color of their skin.

I’ve been working on myself over this past year, doing what I can to understand my privilege, doing what I can to understand and reflect on my life experiences thus far, and most importantly doing what I can to empathize with (I could never say “understand” – I am white – I will never understand what it’s like to be a person of color) and become an ally for people of color as they continue to face unfathomable inequities, injustices, and racism – institutional, systemic, covert, and overt, and everything in between.

I’m not here to preach. We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves on this matter and determine where we stand. But I do feel a responsibility to share where I stand, given the public nature of this platform as well as as the public nature of my profession. (Please note, this is not about politics. Groups, people, parties, organizations, and camps aside, this is social justice.)

Here are my most pivotal realizations of the past year — I know there will be more to come.

  1. I have reaped the benefits of being white in our society since my creation. And with that whiteness has come a life full of privilege, most of the time unbeknownst to me or unrecognized by me. While I like to think that my opportunities and successes in life were a result of my own hard work, I also recognize that my peers of color had to work that much harder to achieve the same level of opportunity and success as me simply because they started on a different playing field. I had a head start from birth, simply because of the color of my skin.
  2. I am filled with implicit biases, and I always will be. It is not about being a perfect person, it is about continuously acknowledging and being open to recognizing my own biases, and making decisions accordingly. In fact, some of those implicit biases probably show in this post, without me even realizing it. It is on me to call myself out or in when I have done or said something biased, and it is on you to call me out or in when I have done or said something biased.
  3. I have done, said, witnessed, and engaged in biased/racist things in my past. See the thing is, I can count on one hand the number of times someone has called me out on doing, saying, witnessing, or engaging in something biased or racist. But for each of those times I’ve actually been called out, I’ve probably done, said, witnessed, or engaged in biased/racist things a thousand more times. And more importantly, I am grateful for the times I actually have been called out because it forced me to grow and reflect.
  4. It’s not about intent. In the few instances I mentioned above when someone actually called me out, I cringe thinking about the follow-up conversations I’ve had with the people who called me out. In all cases, I apologized for the offense but unintentionally justified it by trying to explain it away saying it was never my intention to cause offense or harm. Intention doesn’t justify an action, it doesn’t explain it either. I have coached myself to not default to ‘intention’ when someone calls me out. Instead, I now say, “Please tell me more about what you noticed, I need to learn from it.”
  5. Calling in is easier for me right now than calling out. I’ve always been the type to avoid conflict. I don’t like it. So if someone else said or did something that was offensive to me or to others, especially in regards to minority groups (age, class, sex, gender, race, religion, etc.), I would either freeze (not know what to do), ignore it, or remove/avoid it. Now, I realize that doesn’t cut it. Calling in has been my middle ground. Calling in, or when you seek conversation and an opportunity for growth and discussion with an individual who has said something hurtful or oppressive, fits my personality because it can be done in private, has an inquiry approach, with the end result usually being educational and reflective. I find that many people respond well to being called in. Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of times when calling out, or letting someone know their comment was hurtful or oppressive right then and there regardless of setting, are warranted and needed. I hope to get to the point where I feel confident and comfortable doing that when it is needed. But I am honest, and I am not there quite yet.
  6. I am committed to being an ally. An ally is someone who uses their privilege to advocate on behalf of someone else or another group who doesn’t hold that same privilege. I don’t feel confident on all stages and in all walks of life. But my role and my work as an educator and as a mom has been my vehicle to allyship. And it is in this arena I feel like I can currently make the biggest difference, so that’s where my efforts lie.
  7. This is a lifelong journey. I won’t all of a sudden be “not racist”. There is no such thing. So rather than fending off or denying my bias (and more specifically my racism), I will work to recognize it actively each and every day, to educate myself on it, to advocate for others, to do what I believe in, and to share that journey with you, if you’re choosing to be here for it.

If you’re interested in understanding my perspective a bit more, there have been three texts that have been revolutionary in my journey. I encourage you to read them, too:

I’m humbled if you decide to stick around despite my vulnerabilities. I’m ok if you decide I am not for you. I’m even more humbled if you completely disagree with me and everything I said, and still decide to stick around. ❤

The Great Debate: The Science of Reading and Where I Stand

(And what you can do to support your child in their journey of learning to read)

I’ve held off on writing on this topic for a WHILE, because once you get into it, the opinions and criticisms and arguments come fast and furiously, even if it’s unwarranted or unwanted. I’m a pretty rational person, even when it comes to controversial topics, which means if someone’s perspectives, beliefs, values, or philosophies are different from my own…rather than trying to argue and prove my point, I try to listen, learn, empathize, and understand. And when I listen, learn, empathize, and understand, sometimes my opinion stays the same, sometimes my opinion changes, and sometimes my opinion just adapts or evolves. None of these outcomes are bad scenarios, in fact, I’d argue, we learn a heck of a lot more when we fill our circle with those who are DIFFERENT from us than those who are the same.

If you’re in elementary education, then you’ve probably heard of the science of reading by now, and you most definitely have heard of ‘the reading wars’. And if you’re a parent of a child in elementary school, then you may have heard this too. If you’re a parent of a child who is struggling to learn to read, then you most definitely may have heard of this either in your own research or in your meetings with your child’s teachers and school personnel. So let me explain…

The Reading Wars: Defined

There are two ‘camps’ of reading experts out there right now, both backed by lots of studies and lots of research. Both camps also continuously attempt to discredit or disprove the other camp in an effort to promote their own as THE answer to teaching all children to read. So let’s meet the players:

On one side of the reading wars, we have those who support the whole language approach to learning to read. The whole language approach operates under the assumption that we learn to read and write best by engaging in language. In other words, we learn whole words by encountering them in context rather than understanding them in isolation.

On the other side of the reading wars, we have those who support the systematic phonics approach to learning to read. This camp operates under the assumption that direct, explicit, and systematic instruction in letter-to-sound correspondences is the best way to teach children to read. In other words, we learn to read by sounding words out, free from any supplemental information like context or pictures.

As with many debates, there’s also usually a player in the middle, and in this case, there is. Right smack in the middle lies the balanced literacy approach to learning to read. Balanced literacy pulls philosophies both from whole language and systematic phonics. In other words, those who support balanced literacy would agree that YES, it is important to teach kids letter-to-sound correspondences so they can ‘sound out’ words, but YES it is ALSO important to teach kids how context can help one learn to read as well.

Here’s a visual to illustrate these approaches, taken from a McGraw Hill publication, and chosen simply for the sake of simplicity:

My Beliefs, My Perspective, My Philosophy (Criticism Welcome!)

Ok, so, now that you have a basic understanding of the reading wars…which is now in its third decade or so…I’m going to share where my beliefs fall. First, you should know that my undergraduate and post-graduate education, work, and research would probably fall within the balanced literacy approach. Makes sense, because I’m typically a middle-of-the-road person…lines up best with the rational side of me – I’m able to see the strengths of both sides of an argument and come up with a compromise somewhere in the middle. And in most of my career so far, I’ve seen the biggest positive effects on kids with the balanced literacy approach.

BUT, in my work as a literacy specialist, I’ve had a relative re-awakening in the past few years. Maybe I’m late to this party, and there are probably loads of experts out there who have already realized this, and are a lot smarter and more impactful than me. My re-awakening, you ask? All players in the reading wars are right, and all players in the reading wars are wrong.

Let me be clear…

I DO think kids need direct, systematic, and explicit instruction in phonics.

I DO think kids need regular and easy access to trade books.

I DO think kids need to be taught to sound words out AND to use context to help.

I DO think kids need to self-monitor their reading and learn how they, themselves, can determine if they got a word wrong while reading.

I DO think kids need to know what to do to fix a word they realize they got wrong (called self-correcting), and I DO think there are various strategies to do this including BUT NOT LIMITED TO sounding out, looking at the picture, thinking about what sounds right, etc.

In fact, I think learning to read is so specific and individualized to the child who’s in front of you, that you can’t slap on a philosophy that is one size fits all and expect it to reach every single child. Where I disagree with the visual I included above is the part of the visual that says, “best for…”, because I think that statement compartmentalizes kids into labels that attempt to describe how they learn holistically, when learning in general and learning to read is much, MUCH more complicated than that.

In short, the best approach (IN MY OPINION) to teaching a child to read and write is to treat that individual as their own person with strengths and weaknesses, and how their strengths and weaknesses play off of one another (or don’t play off of one another). There are and will be students who need the phonics-based approach, and there are and will be kids who can learn to read and write with the whole language approach. And there are and will be kids who learn to read and write with the balanced literacy approach. But I feel strongly that teaching kids to read and write is more a concoction of different approaches based off of what that student is showing you they already do/know. The way I teach student A to read and write is 1000% different from the way I teach student B to read and write. In fact, I think I’d be hard pressed to find any two students in my career that I have taught to read and write in the exact same way.

So, as a parent, what can you do to support your child?

  1. Read often. Read with them, read to them, and create a general positive atmosphere and mood around reading. Talk to them about what they read. Have conversations about books. Instill a love of reading as best you can, and don’t force it.
  2. Notice how they read. Do they read accurately? Fluently? With expression and intonation? If not, try modeling for them. Show them (without telling them explicitly) how you read when you read accurately/fluently/with expression and intonation.
  3. Encourage and coach them. Don’t tell them a word when they are stuck, but don’t necessarily let it go either. Ask them to try a strategy (you don’t even have to know the strategies!) that might help, and if they aren’t sure what you mean by ‘strategy’, prompt them to think about what their teacher has been teaching them. Sometimes, even just telling them, “Go back and try that again,” is enough to solve the problem. And don’t get mad at them. If your child is frustrated, or you are frustrated, it’s time to put the book away, or change to a different book altogether.
  4. Be the parent, not the teacher. (Harsh, I know, I’m sorry!….and even I struggle with this one, for the record.) It’s easy to hop on Google and start researching and looking for ways you can help – we all want the best for our children and will do whatever we can to help them succeed. I’ve seen many instances of this where a parent has the best intentions, but they end up counteracting what we are trying to teach in school, and the child just ends up very confused. It’s even easier to begin ‘teaching’ your child to read the way you were taught to read (“Just sound it out!” or “Here’s some flashcards, memorize these words!”), but (1) your child isn’t you and (2) best practices in education and instruction have changed light years since we were in school.
  5. Avoid comparisons. Avoid comparisons to siblings, friends, or peers. It’s not that comparing is bad, it’s just that it can get you down a rabbit hole, and most of the time that rabbit hole is negative space. If you find yourself subconsciously comparing often, remind yourself that all children are different, all children learn at different paces, and all children learn in different ways.
  6. Question and advocate. If your child is struggling or begins to struggle, it is ok to question your child’s teacher(s) or advocate when you think you’re not being heard or your child’s needs aren’t being met. Ask what methods your teacher/school is using, ask if there are opportunities to try other methods or strategies out. Ask if your child has received targeted small-group or individual instruction to address his or her challenges and weaknesses. Advocate for assessments to determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses if the teachers haven’t already (hint: all good teachers should be able to tell you your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and have data to prove it). And don’t become complacent – trust your gut, and get second opinions from professionals (not other parents!) if something doesn’t seem right, or you aren’t seeing progress.

Dear Katie: A Letter to Pandemic Me

We’re heading into the one-year anniversary of the shutdown, of COVID-19, of the pandemic – what seems like the end of life as we knew it. I was newly post-partum, heading back to work, and all of a sudden the world shut down and people were dying. The fear was real, and for my newly post-partum self, the emotions were visceral. In the beginning, we laughed it off, not really knowing or understanding the reality of it and the long journey that was just beginning. Some days were great, and I was able to find the silver linings easily – more time at home, more time with the kids, a comfortable house, sweat pants every day, curbside delivery, and Dine In CT. Some days were hell – WFH while caring for 3 under 4, a hubs who at times might not have understood I needed space, and the literal prison of not being able to leave my house or my yard, never mind the moments I CRAVED separation from the very beings who carry my heart outside of my body. And then the weeks turned into months and the humor turned more to normalcy, some days we were sane and some days we were not. Don’t get me wrong – we were fortunate then and we are fortunate now, and there are many others who have had it way worse than us. But if I were to go back and tell my pandemic self all the things I I realize now, this is what I would say:

Dear Katie,

Let. it. go. That load of laundry that sat wet in the washer overnight? Run it again. It’s not worth coming down on yourself for that. One musty load is a heck of a lot better than the MOUNTAINS of clean laundry that now sit in the hamper unfolded for days at a time (mostly till the kids run out of clean clothes to wear and we realize we have to get ‘er done). The fact that your husband can’t seem to find the hamper, and most of his clothes end up on the ground right next to it rather than inside of it? Leave it alone. Who cares, no one’s coming to the house these days anyway. The bruises put the Playmobil away the wrong way? They’re just going to play with it again tomorrow. If you fix it now, it just gets messed up again the next time around. At least they’re playing, and at least they’re attempting to clean up after themselves. One day you’ll realize these things really weren’t the end of the world, and your house was more than liveable, even when you thought you couldn’t go another day living in the mess.

Stop spending. It’s a pandemic and the world is shut down. Instead of buying 34059845098 new sweatshirts and sweat suits so that you can look like a scrub in style, save that money for things that will suit your family more. You aren’t seeing anyone anyway, and the few people you do see could care less what you look like. They just want you to be their wife and their mom. Plus, that temporary happiness you get from rocking a new sweatshirt is a lot less valuable than the long term wealth you gain from having more for your family down the road, even if it means less for you right now.

It’s ok to struggle. You will question your own mental health many days. You will wonder if you need to seek professional help, but never actually take the initiative to get it. You will experience middle of the night wakes with a racing heart and a racing mind, mostly as a result of the work/home stress and anxiety. And it will be an anxiety you aren’t used to, one you haven’t experienced before. One that triggers migraines and forces you to call out of work because you just can’t work up the courage to face the world that day, to do your job that day, to show up for your kids that day. And you know what? It’s ok. This is the hidden side of life. You’ll dig yourself out of it each time, and you’ll figure out a way to keep moving forward. You’ll find yourself again one day, and you’ll find ways to manifest that crippling stress and anxiety into something good.

Take care of yourself. And when you do take care of yourself, it doesn’t mean you’re selfish, or you’re less of a mom, or you’re less of a wife, or you’re less of a professional, or you’re less of a woman. And stop looking to social media or pop culture to figure out what it means to take care of yourself. If taking care of yourself means eating cookies and candy, do it. If taking care of yourself means finding time to exercise again, do it. If taking care of yourself means letting go of the expectations society has set for you or if taking care of yourself means embracing the expectations society has set for you, do it. If taking care of yourself means saying yes more or if taking care of yourself means saying no more, do it. And don’t feel badly about it. And definitely don’t apologize for it. Those littles who need you most will get a better you if you start taking care of yourself. You’ll be better for yourself and you’ll be better for them. It’s a win-win.

Be more present and practice patience. Stop thinking that things will go back to normal tomorrow. Don’t plan any parties or book any vacations. When you look up the definition of pandemic, believe it. But don’t let it consume you. Take things a day at a time, and work on managing the present moment in a way that helps you all survive that moment, or better yet, be happy or content in that moment. Turn off the TV, put your phone away, and do a craft even if your two year old can’t handle it, or play a board game as a family even if turn taking is hard. Live in the moment, stop thinking about the past or the future.

Show your teammate you care. Your number 1, your ride or die…he always shows up. Remember that. He puts up with your moods, your anal retentiveness, your stubbornness, and your princess requests. Go out of your way to make sure he knows how much you appreciate him and how much you value his teamwork. Stop comparing how much you do to how much he does. It’s not a competition, you’re on the same team, and you help each other out.

Play. Play with your kids, play like your kids, play like an adult. Do things that bring you joy, indulge in more wine, be silly, dance like a goofball. Now is a better time than any to literally dance like no one is watching – because literally no one is watching. And stop feeling guilty if you played more than you should have. Who cares if you’re 33 and have a hangover, or who cares if you have work in the morning. Because literally the world is at a stand still and we are living a new normal one moment at a time.

Accept yourself for all of you, and don’t feel guilty, shameful, or worthless because of it. You are you and no one and no thing can take that away from you. Live your life the way you want to live it, and stop putting pressure on yourself in comparison to others. Your hair’s falling out because it’s postpartum 3 and it’s the worst yet? Flaunt it. You have a pouch for a belly because your skin just won’t go back to normal anymore? Be proud of it. You can’t get that extra work done at night or on the weekends because your family needs you more? The world goes on. And don’t judge anyone else who may be doing things differently than you, or worse, don’t feel less adequate by what others are able to do that you can’t.

Enjoy the snuggles. The lazy mornings laying in bed. The pillows being thrown in piles for the world’s biggest “the floor is lava” game. The leftovers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The flat yard with the swingset. The dog who follows you and the kids around all day, just like the 6th family member he is. Pick up the phone calls and facetimes from family and friends. Ask others how they are doing and listen to what they say before moving on to the real reason you called. Be thoughtful. Say I love you. Accept criticism with grace and make an effort to make change. Grow instead of staying status quo.

You got this, I can’t wait to see who you’ve become on the other side, because if it doesn’t seem it now, I know you’ll be someone you’re proud of, someone you’re inspired by, and someone you’re empowered from.

Your same self,

Katie

This one goes out to the…

  • Single moms/dads/caretakers
  • SAHMs/SAHDs with partners who work 24/7
  • Moms or Dads whose partners travel for work all the time
  • Military moms/military dads
  • Anyone else who spends days and nights on their own caring for kids
  • Parents and families who live long distances from other immediate family members and support systems

I put this picture up on my Instagram stories last night as a half-joke because my husband’s been on a (one night, one point five day) golf trip this weekend. And I captioned it “Dad’s away for a golf weekend we’re fine I swear.”

In reality, he will have been gone for a total of about 28 hours. Kind of pathetic for me to complain. But whenever he goes away it feels like an eternity. So behind this half-joke picture is a mom whose anxiety is through-the-roof high.

…whose spending the entire time watching the clock and coaching the seconds to tick by just a little faster…

…whose setting the tiniest goals for her own sanity (just make it to nap time, just make it to bedtime)…

…whose engaging in the great mental debate of whether or not to spend the 45 minutes getting the kids ready to leave the house and get out for a bit vs. staying home to avoid all aspects of the real world so no one has to see my single-parenting…

…whose sleeping with all lights inside and outside the house on and the TV on, and actually not really sleeping at all because of the fear of being alone in the house overnight with the kids…

…whose chewing off all of her cuticles and putting bandaids on bloody fingers because it’s the epitome of the manifestation of her anxiety…

Literally my world stops and time stands still because of how much anxiety I have doing this on my own. I am SO grateful that most of the time I get to do this life with my best friend, the greatest dad, and the handiest helper. So I suppose it’s SUPER selfish of me to throw a tantrum when he asks to get away for a little bit, or when he works late nights and has meetings leaving me to handle dinner and bedtime on my own.

I’m not quite sure my whole point in all of this but I think there are a few. First, behind every happy photo or what looks like a put-together mom could be something entirely different. I try not to judge or compare; I know we are all doing our best. And second, I think it’s important to normalize NOT being ok all the time, admitting when you need help (usually I’m the first to call in grandparent reinforcements, it just so happened that this weekend all grandparents were busy!), or letting go of things that aren’t going your way.

And, lastly, I try my best to put mind over matter and keep the most positive outlook, to enjoy the QT with my QTs, to not be afraid of leaving the house because I know it’s better to be out and about playing and interacting with others rather than hiding in my own safe-haven of a home going stir crazy and allowing myself to dwell in my anxiety. Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it goes poorly. But the thing is, it ALWAYS goes. I try and find peace in that.

Bottom line, SO. MUCH. RESPECT. for the people who do this all the dang time. And if that’s you, I hear you and I see you and I feel you. You are a freaking superhero!

The Saga of Family Photos

What it takes to (semi?) coordinate a 4 year old, 2 year old, 8 month old, and a skeptical husband…

I’ve been itching to do family photos for a while now. The last time we did them (which honestly wasn’t that long ago) was Tessa’s newborn photos. But I feel like those are a little different than normal family photos because Tessa was still a blob, and we were a barely-functional new family of 5. We didn’t have the time or energy to put much into them, so we snapped a few and called it a day. I tried a little harder this time around, but let me tell you, it is still no easy feat to get this family through a 1 hour session of family photos.

Jen Morrissey, ladies and gents! She’s awesome, and a really great friend!

I have to start planting the seed with my husband MONTHS in advance. He can be SUCH a grump, so I have to grease the wheels wayyy ahead of time. And originally, I planned a sunset shoot for today (Sunday). Once I had organized it with my photographer (who doubles as my real life friend – what a treat!), I had to text her and say, “OMG Mike will murder me if I make him do family photos in the middle of football Sunday”. So we switched it to a sunrise shoot. He wasn’t too happy about that either but, hey, at least it wasn’t during football.

As it crept closer, I had to start priming him (yes, still referring to the husband). Priming him usually includes trading him a round of golf for a pleasant demeanor DURING the shoot. We’ve spent plenty of family photo shoots bickering aimlessly as we try to get non-smiley kids to smile. It just so happens that yesterday my brother in law asked him to join him in Asbury Park for a golf weekend next weekend. THAT was my ticket in! “Sure babe you can go golfing next weekend IF you promise to be a good sport for pictures tomorrow!”

Now that I had the husband hooked, it was time to focus on the kids. Remember the photographer, my friend, Jen? Listen to this brilliance she sent me last night (and I quote): “Tell the boys and Tessa about Wendy. She’s my friend who lives in my camera, and she whispers to me when she’s so happy with what she sees. And she tells me to tell you when they’ve done an amazing job and should get treats. And if they look hard enough with big enough smiles into the camera they may see her bouncing around. But most of the time she’s shy so she just gives out treats.” Seriously?! GENIUS!!

I exacerbated the Wendy story and decided to tell the kids that Wendy was, in fact, Santa’s special camera helper AND that she’s friends with Elfie (our Elf on the Shelf). So not only would Wendy be magically bringing treats if the bruises smiled hard enough, but she would report back to both Santa and Elfie and their Christmas would depend on it. Too mean of me? NAHHH.

Click any of the photos in this post to be taken to her website.

The other thing I told them to hopefully gain their cooperation was that we were going to a farm to take photos. This hooked Dominic, but what I didn’t tell him was that it was NOT an animal farm. Because every farm in his eyes has animals. I knew I only had a certain amount of time once we got there before he realized there were no animals so I was banking on the Wendy thing to come through.

So now we’re at the shoot, and the first thing we realize is Tessa pooped on the drive there. But her outfit is too complicated to try and change her in the middle of a field, so ehh we’ll just manage the shoot with a stinky poop in her diaper no biggie. (And I forgot to mention that, of course, on the day of family photos she wakes up with a booger eye all red and swollen and crusty…great!)

And we’re pulling out alllll the Wendy stops. Luca is so curious about Wendy, he keeps walking as close to the camera as possible to see if he can get a glimpse of Wendy, and is posing like a cute little boy left and right. I quickly realize 4 years old is the PERFECT age for photos.

Tessa is pretty cooperative too. All she needs is Mommy in her foresight and she’s all smiles…booger eye and all.

Meanwhile Dominic is over it after the first 3 snaps. Here comes whiney, vocal-fry Dom just asking when Wendy was going to bring treats. He’s not only over it, he’s legit ignoring it. We get the whole family into position and he’s purposely turning the other way, picking his nose, or putting his hands over his eyes.

CT-based photographer but also just stellar human.

So in comes the 3/5ths rule. 3/5ths rule means we can NEVER wait till all 5 of us are photo ready, because it will NEVER happen. Instead, wait until 3/5ths of us are ready and do the best we can. And actually, today, I’d say we hit 4/5ths the majority of the time so I’d call that a win. This is also the reason we can’t just rely on posed photos all of the time. By the end, we just told the boys to run around in the field while Jen snapped photos because the more movement for them, the happier they’d be, and the less annoyed with the camera they’d be.

And it wasn’t until the end that Dominic finally said, “But Mommy this is NOT a farm!” To which I responded. “Aw man, I’m sorry you didn’t like the farm I picked out this time. I’ll pick a better one next time.” And you know what? That response miraculously did not cause a meltdown, he simply shrugged it off and said, “Ok Mommy!”

Mid-shoot, Wendy magically dropped off airheads and rock candy, and one little taste and the boys knew exactly what to do. Luca’s so smart, he would take one picture, ask for a piece of a treat, then take another, ask for another treat (to which we obliged) and so on. He definitely got the most out of Wendy’s treats, and by 9am the bruises were so hopped up on sugar they were running in circles.

Yup, all of this before 9am. And then off to bagels, comfy clothes, and a relaxing football Sunday at home.

Plus, she sent some unedited sneak peaks (in this post!) a few hours later…and they made it all very worth it. I can not wait to see the rest!! ❤

Who Says a Mom Can’t Have Her Cake…And Eat It, Too?

In other words, what it’s like to be a 33 year old Mom on a bachelorette party…!!!

In a few short days, my best friend and long-time college roomie is getting married. And COVID has really messed it up for her big day. She originally had a wedding planned for December at a resort in Mexico. To say this mom (me!) was eager for a real adult vacation is an understatement. And she having been a maid of honor at my wedding, I couldn’t wait to be there for her big day…the one she’s deserved since she was put on this earth. But, stupid COVID. So she planned a smaller, more intimate wedding for family in Cape Cod later this month. But then the Mass. governor put all the travel bans in place, and with her fiance’s family being from the Dallas area, that had to be canceled too. Stupid COVID. So finally she settled on an elopement in a few short days. No family, no friends, just her, her fiance, and a JOP. Stupid COVID. She’s gone through the ringer when it comes to this wedding, so we wanted to make sure she felt special for one last weekend, COVID restrictions and all. Kristen, we love you!

And now I’m about to tell the world what it’s like when two of the most opposite things in the world collide: being a mom, and a bachelorette party.

Let’s start from the beginning.

I have not been away from my kids overnight since September 30th, 2019. I know the exact date because that’s the weekend my husband and I escaped to Nantucket for a long weekend as a babymoon in preparation for Tessa’s arrival. My daughter is 8 months old now. And most of you know she has never taken a bottle, no matter how hard we’ve tried. Sooo safe to say I had some anxiety leading up to this weekend. The cherry on top being that my husband has also yet to be on his own overnight with all three kids too.

The good news? Well, a couple pieces of good news. One, I haven’t seen my college friends in ages and we had a pretty awesome day planned so I had some excitement to counterbalance the anxiety. Two, when I asked my husband, he had absolutely no anxiety or nerves surrounding the weekend whatsoever, even though I envisioned a baby crying all day and night because the boob was nowhere to be found. Three, two other nursing mamas also on the trip, and friends with lots of understanding and compassion.

Fast forward: Instagram ready on a chartered boat out in Boston harbor with a jet ski, driving green, plenty of spiked seltzers, and neon wigs. Definitely not a normal page from my reality. (If you can’t guess which one is me, just look for the loose fitting mom sweater and long mom skirt…)

The reality? Ha. Just you wait. There’s lots going on under that neon wig and mom outfit. Including but not limited to a panty liner to catch the pee I will leak all day long, a dose of antibiotics to stave off current UTI symptoms, high-rise spanx underwear UNDER my bathing suit to hold in all the extra skin and still look (halfway?) decent, nursing pads to catch the let downs that occur every time I think of my baby girl, and a huge black bag in tow that just happened to be filled with my breast pump, a mini cooler for pumped milk, and a hands-free nursing bra so I could pump and still enjoy some spiked seltzers. Also, about the hairy legs and unmanicured nails. Oops! And of course, I DIDN’T remember to pack my nursing poncho/cover…which just meant I was pumping for all to see whether I liked it or not.

But you know what, why should I be ashamed of that? Why should I worry about hiding all that? Why couldn’t I be a mom AND a good friend having a great time on a bachelorette party? Screw that, I totally could! So I pumped a lot, texted the hubby often to see how things were going (she took her bottle FINALLY at 6am this morning!), and yawned my way through dinner wondering how on earth I’d stay awake till the end of the night.

But I did it. I embraced the sh*t out of the situation and felt more free than I ever have in my life..well at least in a really really long time. The captain may have seen a few more boobs than he bargained for, but it was worth the good laughs and special times with friends I rarely get to see these days because of my reality. And my homecoming made for the sweetest (and usually unusual) extra snuggles from the bruises, with no plans to dictate our Sunday…and a hubby who, despite being on his own all weekend, still let me sneak in an afternoon nap to make up for the late night out (home by 11pm, that counts as late, right?).

In retrospect, I had two choices facing me this weekend: drain my cup and wallow in the challenges of trying to have fun in a social situation while filled with anxiety, OR fill my cup, refresh my soul, and come back a better mother for it.

I filled my cup, and I’m feeling pretty grateful. ❤

The Isaias Diaries

On Tuesday, August 4, 2020, we got hit with tropical storm/hurricane Isaias, resulting in the longest I’ve gone without power since my kids were born (it’s a lot harder when you have littles relying on you!). Knowing I wouldn’t have internet for the foreseeable future, I kept a diary on Microsoft Word (how archaic!). I decided not to go back and edit these entries to keep them as real and raw as possible, and to be honest I don’t think this post is going to draw a lot of interest. But sometimes I think life’s ordinary challenges end up being the most reflective opportunities for growth, so for that I think it’s worth it.

Disclaimer. This isn’t a pity party! I know there are people who have and will experience far worse than a week long power outage in the middle of summer. I’m always one to count my blessings, and this is no different. It’s just my own emotional rollercoaster put into words for me to remember and to reflect on.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Hiding from the tomato in our basement

Day 1. Oblivious. Luca’s camp is canceled for the day, even though all weather forecasts told us it isn’t going to hit bad until between 2:00pm and 10:00pm. We know we are getting the “wind” side of the storm, and not the “rain” side. When the tornado warning comes through at 3:11pm, telling us to seek shelter, we bring all the Goldfish and Smartfood and iPads downstairs into the basement with our flashlights and make a treat out of it. The boys have fun with it; we keep it really lighthearted and even bring a bottle of wine down for the adults. In Dominic’s words, a TOMATO is coming! By 4:00pm, the “tomato” warning is over even though the winds are still pretty bad. We get word from our neighbors that a massive tree branch is down across our shared driveway, so the boys put on their rain boots and plow through the debris to check it out. Afterwards, I hop on the grill to prep burgers and dogs since we now have no power, while dad heads over to help the neighbors chainsaw the tree up. Bedtime goes smoothly, then for whatever reason I down a bottle of wine…I think for two reasons: (1) my mom-tuition knows we are kind of in for it the next few days, even though my real brain refuses to accept it, and (2) UTI symptoms start (sorry, if TMI, then stop reading now, but this is unfiltered) and hell no I’m not going to deal with this through a hurricane during a pandemic. I am going to mind-over-matter the sh*t out of this UTI.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A good excuse to use a good Anthropologie candle

Day 2. Dumbfounded. We awake to still no power, and the first obstacle is explaining to my creatures of habit that they can’t have their morning milk or watch youTube kids. A few protests but overall they take it pretty well. Here goes being totally unplugged for the foreseeable future. It being Wednesday and a workday and Mike having just started a new job this week, he HAS to go into the office. Surprisingly, camp is open so while Mike treks into work I trek to camp. A normally 20 minute drive takes me 1 hour and 20 minutes, of which I pass (I’d say) between 10 and 20 downed trees/telephone wires. Luca’s camp is only a few miles away. Damn. I guess it is A LOT worse than we thought. We make our way home, and Dominic, Tessa, and I decide to go for a walk since there is nothing better to do. We turn out of our driveway and manage around the corner to be stopped by a massive tree across the road with power wires strewn all over the place. Like a tangled-up delicate necklace. In shock, we head over to our brother and sister-in-laws for dinner and showers, since somehow they are the only house in their entire vicinity to not lose power. Meanwhile, UTI symptoms still lurk despite my best out-of-sight-out-of-mind attempts. We drink more to stave off reality one more time.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Day 3. Hopeful. At this point we realize we are probably in it for the long haul. So Mike wakes up extra early and literally goes to the stream behind our house to fill coolers with water. We have well water, so no power means no water. He heads to work, I to camp. Once home with Tessa napping, Dominic and I decide to help Daddy out. We head outside to clean the yard. For every adult tool, we have a little one to match. First we pick up sticks and branches, then we rake, then we wheel-barrow, then we sweep. Three hours later with the baby still sleeping, this mom is feeling like superwoman because not only do we do a whole lot of cleaning but my Dommy is such a champ the whole time. We get Luca from camp and wait for Daddy to get home. After realizing I forgot to eat lunch, we whip up a pretty darn good dinner using just our grill – steak and baked potatoes with fresh cukes and tomatoes from the garden. And while at work, Mike is able to see on Facebook that our area of town is on track for lights on by 11pm. Hallelujah! Wine to celebrate! We go to bed feeling realllly hopeful.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Day 4. Hopeless. Wake up at 4am with UTI symptoms so bad I sleep on the bathroom floor in fetal position covered by a towel till 6am, and still no power. Bummed and exhausted, but realizing this was inevitable, we have to figure out what to do with the two extra freezers full of breast milk that were now 3 days into defrosting. Mike’s argument is to just throw it out (?!?!?!?!), since Tessa won’t take a bottle anyway. My argument is HELLO SHE STARTS DAYCARE IN TWO WEEKS WHETHER SHE LIKES THE BOTTLE OR NOT. So, we make plans to drive the freezers 40 minutes away to my parents’ house who have power, but luck is on our side. Turns out the in-laws regained power overnight, 1 mile down the road. We load the freezers, the kids, and whatever food and gear we scramble together into the car to house-squat at Nana and Papa’s for the time being. And this is when the waterworks start. I think the stress and anxiety (and going on day 4 of no coffee) is finally getting to me. Plus, naptime isn’t going well and Dominic tore through the toys here in an hour, leaving us 4 hours till camp pick up with nothing to do on a rainy-ish morning. We throw rocks down the drain and walk to the end of the road to watch cars and trucks go by – I’m pretty sure people driving by are puzzled and maybe even concerned? Unkempt, unshowered woman with a baby and a toddler sitting on the curb on the side of a busy road? Just us, no need to worry! Not to mention my UTI is now roaring but with no cell phone service I can’t even call my doctor to have him order meds. I cry off and on all day, while Mike calls my urogynocologist (yes they exist and yes I have one…that’s what baby 3 will do to ya) and beg for meds, only for them to deny unless I go for a urine test but QUEST WON’T LET YOU IN WITH ANYONE BECAUSE OF COVID AND I HAD 3 KIDS TO TOTE AROUND. I think the doctor feels bad because the nurse calls him back a little while later asking me to call if I could so the nurse could talk to me – NO I CAN’T CALL I HAVE NO POWER AND NO SERVICE. I call back while picking Luca up from camp and finally get her to agree to call in meds if I promise to give a urine sample the next morning (Saturday). Needless to say, I forget to eat lunch again, and hubby shows up after work to Nana’s and Papa’s with a variety pack of hard seltzers, a bottle of wine, a few pizzas, his Xbox, and Trolls World Tour so the kids can finally watch something and give us a good 20 minutes of FREEDOM for the first time in 4 days. Dang, what a day. And thank god it’s the weekend, because I think today is definitely my rock bottom.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

LOVE my MIL’s cute sense of style!

Day 5. Grateful. It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep, coffee, and antibiotics does for me. I feel like a new woman. And by 9:30am the tree around the corner from us is finally cleared, leaving just the mess of wires. A good sign. But Eversource released the estimates by town and we’re not scheduled to be back on the grid until 6pm Monday. And we still only have cell service for what seems like a few hours in the evening so we spend most of the morning off the grid completely. Breathe, just breathe. Decide to get out of the house so the whole family goes to the lake for the afternoon. Even though the amenities here are also without power, crews have the snack shack up and running with generators and the weather is beautiful. Things finally feel a little normal, even though they are far from it. Gets me thinking, of course.  Healthy and safe kiddos, in-law’s down the road to escape to if needed, no tree damage to the house or property, mango hard seltzers, ruffles cheddar and sour cream chips…you know counting my silver linings.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Day 6. Apathetic. We do our normal wake up run back to the house to grab clothes and any needed items for the day and to check on the power situation. And today it’s same old…no power. So we hit the lake again and meet up with some friends, and we immediately notice all the amenities at the lake have power again. You’d think it’d ignite some hope, but for whatever reason I’m just over it today – maybe just emotionally drained – so I feel like I’m not really feeling at all. Head back to Nana and Papa’s to make an early Sunday dinner, and we stop at home to grab some food items we need. We’ve gotten in the habit of driving down the road to check on the tree and wire situation, so we do what we normally do…TWO LONELY LINEMEN WORKING ON THE WIRES!!!! Mike yells, “You’re my hero!!” out the window as we drive by, and sure enough a few hours later we have power. By this point, the kids are in bed so we decide to just stick here for one more night and migrate home in the morning.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Day 7. Mixed emotions. You’d think I’d be elated that power’s back on and we’re headed home, which I am! But I’m also extremely overwhelmed. Nana and Papa’s house is a mess and we’ve been living out of my car with essential items packed in re-useable shopping bags. I pack up what I can, leaving the mess to return to and clean after bedtime tonight. I get Luca off to camp and get home. We walk in the door and I’m excited to be home but I’m gob smacked in the face with a war zone of a mess. I don’t really remember leaving the house because everything is such a daze, but apparently we left it torn apart. Everything from dirty dishes in the sink, rotten fridge, stinky garbage, cluttered playroom, laundry. And still no cable or internet so I do the best I can to call into two work meetings despite looking like I got hit by a bus. I just can’t keep up. Dominic and Tessa take a killer afternoon nap and internet finally comes back on.  And ultimately I come to realize that while this whole Isaias saga is over, it’s still going to take me a few days to catch up and return to normal. I gotta learn to cut myself a break sometimes. And judging from the pictures I snapped each day, I don’t think my kids ever even picked up on the stress and anxiety of this whole thing, just the excitement of the TOMATO warning, real life flashlight using, and the big-bed sleepover at Nana and Papa’s condo. Pizza for dinner because we just survived a tomato and its aftermath (and really because I haven’t restocked the fridge yet).

FACT CHECK.

Take a good, hard look at the photos above. What do you see?

To be honest, I didn’t see what my husband saw when he snapped these. Or what he saw when he decided to put them on social media. He saw a baby girl eating up (pun intended) the beach on a hot summer day. He saw a mom and her daughter in vacation mode. He saw his wife making memories with him and his family. Well really, when I asked him what he saw, he said, “I couldn’t really see anything…it was really sunny and I had my sunglasses on.” *Shoulder shrug*.

You know what I saw? I saw an intense widow’s peak from postpartum hair loss. I saw holy boobs because of breastfeeding. I saw thick thighs and a double chin. I saw sunglasses that all of a sudden look too small because my face is rounder than ever before. And I saw extra skin flaps and lots and lots of belly fat. Rolls for days.

So, no. This is not my typical blog post. It doesn’t fall under bruises, bows, or books. And it’s not really the content I ever anticipated putting on here. But I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon reflecting on these photos, coaching myself to NOT ask my husband to delete them or take them off social media. To NOT crop myself out of them. And I know if I want to be real on here, then I’ve got to be honest…even if it means being serious every now and then. The pressure on us mamas is so, so real. And it’s so, so hard. I owe it to myself and I owe it to all of you to let you in and see this side of me. In the span of 6 hours (we got home from the beach around 2pm), there are hundreds of facts that crossed my mind when looking at these photos. I forced myself to fact check every single one of them. Here are some of the ones I struggled with the most:

Fact: I’m feeding my kid a pouch of mangos, not all the fruits and veggies I’ve pureed myself.

Fact check: Who cares; fed is fed. Plus, I shouldn’t be self conscious because I made a choice that would make things easier for me at the beach.

Fact: Depending on the angle, I legit look like I’m balding.

Fact check: It’s only temporary.

Fact: I have lots of stretched out skin and rolls that are uber obvious when I sit criss-cross-applesauce.

Fact check: I don’t think my kids or my husband have ever once made note of extra anything on my body. I get the same amount of hugs, snuggles, squirmies, and hits. And I can eat my freaking ice cream if I want to; I earned it.

Fact: These boobs are enormous one minute, and flat, empty bags the next.

Fact check: My baby is fed because of me, and only me. No one else could give her what she needs right now.

Fact: Three babies in and my body is not, and never will be, the same as it used to be.

Fact check: I carried and birthed three freaking humans. (!!!!!) They are all healthy, and happy, and I am GRATEFUL.

Fact: Thank god for technology. It’d be really easy to fix this with photoshop or iPhoto. If the kid looks cute and I don’t, I can still salvage the photo of them by cropping myself out.

Fact check: Do I really want my kids growing up without any photos of me with them because of my insecurities? No.

Fact: I looked at these photos and the first thing I saw was all my flaws. Not the cute, happy, smiling baby next to me.

Fact check: I want my kids to grow up loving all humans, no matter shape, size, or color. And I want my kids to grow up accepting themselves exactly as they are because they are perfect. So I better start accepting MYSELF exactly as I am (no, I’m not claiming I’m perfect, at least not in that way, anyway). I am me, and that’s worth fact checking any day.

What do you want to read about?

As much as I can rattle off ideas for content or thumb through the photos on my phone for inspiration, I know there will be days or weeks where I got nothin’. I’d love for this page to be as interactive as possible. If you’re a fellow mom or teacher, or just someone who stumbled upon this page and wants to give me a run for my money, I’m game. Ask me a question, drop me a line, give me some feedback. If you’re a fellow blogger and happen to notice how much my page is struggling in design and/or content, give me some advice, I’m begging you!

My family

So by now you’ve heard about the two bruises and the bow in my life. And let me tell you they are my everything. But there are two other members of my family that you probably won’t hear as much about (on here anyway). My husband’s name is Mike and usually he thinks I’m all things corny, but surprisingly he’s been super supportive of my foray into blogging. So much so he even offered to pay half of my domain fees…he knows I’m a teacher coming off maternity leave surviving off a balloon check in the middle of summer.

Then there’s the dog…you know…the family member who starts off as your baby when you’re newly married but six years later turns into, Brady..who? whenever someone asks “Hey, how’s Brady doing?” Between toddler-tail-tugs and baby-bops, our not-so-little puggle Brady gets the short end of the stick most days, but he’s as loyal and loving as ever. At the end of the day, he completes our family…after all, he’s been here since the beginning.