(blows dust off microphone and proceeds to act like no time has passed)

Squeak is… different than Noise and Funk. He’s my figure-it-outer, my make-stuff-worker, my sharer and my sweetheart. What he is not, is in love with school. Though he’s smart as can be, the entire structure of school as a concept is hard for him. He wiggles too much. He apparently loses all bone structure when asked to sit in a group. He gets distracted and doesn’t finish stuff. He believes that he is “not good at this” but in reality, it’s largely the way we educate kids. He’s never been a good sitter. Ever.   He isn’t great at holding still and holding focus at the same time. He needs a lot of encouragement, attention, and hugs.

We’ve known this since he started Kindergarten last year, and addressed it with his teachers. (It’s gotten much, much better.) We weren’t too concerned, though, because every academic test he took came back that he was at or above grade level. We thought we were dealing with a behavioral thing, that wasn’t (yet) affecting his academics.

This year, though, some new tests were administered. It turns out that the last year’s tests were read to him out loud. Once he was asked to actually look at a paper and answer questions, though… not so much. He rocks the casbah in math. He can math the shit out of some math. But…

David is struggling a lot with reading. He can’t identify about half of the lower case letters of the alphabet. He struggles with hearing and identifying vowel sounds. Reading just hasn’t “clicked” with him like it did with Noise and Funk, and it frustrates me to no end because I have no idea what to do about it. The other kids just kind of… got it. On their own. With no help from me. While I smiled smugly in a corner.

We’ve been working a lot on it at home, but worksheets just lead to tears on his part, and wine on mine. He started to dread coming home from school, where there was yet more sitting in a chair working on worksheets waiting for him.

So, I have been trying to make up reading games that engage his body and his mind.

I made a bunch of small post it notes with lower case letters on them, and we became “letter detectives,” putting them on items that started with that letter. (Noise’s shoes got an ‘S’ for stinky, and our weird little toilet-closet thing got a ‘P’ because we call it the “poop room.” A lamp I hate got a ‘u’ for ugly.) He loved it, and begged to play every night. (On a side note, should you come to visit my house, you will probably leave with at least three post-its attached to your person.)

We made up a game called “Spellbody,” where he has to spell words I give him by moving his body into that shape. This game got distracting for him, because he felt it needed more breakdancing. But still! Spelling was happening!

His favorite game so far is “Spell or Die.” I got the idea for this one after watching him and his brother pelt each other for an hour with dirty, rolled up socks. (Additional side note: ew.) Spell or die goes like this: I have a basket of (clean) socks. If he spells the word wrong, he gets pelted with socks. If he gets the word right, he gets pelted with socks!

He just really loves being pelted with socks. What can I say, that kid is weird.

I get three tries to hit him and if I don’t hit him, then I get pelted with socks. I don’t love being pelted with socks.

I noticed that he was missing words on purpose just to get hit, so I started throwing in some harder words, too. Words he hadn’t even learned yet! But he did a great job sounding them out. My next step will be to get a dry erase board, and not say the words out loud– he will have to read them from the board.

So far, these games seem to be at least engaging him more than worksheets. When we play, he does so well. But then Monday he brought back another awful spelling test. I will keep trying new things, though, to engage my little dude and keep things fun. What ideas do you have?


He’s also losing teeth like it’s going out of style.

It started innocently enough.

Hubs struck up conversation about the news that the US Treasury is going to put a woman’s face on the $10 bill. Wasn’t that cool?

Now I will own that I was already super pissed off because this was the morning of the AME Church shootings, and you know how I feel about racism and white privilege and and and… But I had been thinking about the money thing for a couple of days, and I had pretty much decided I did not think it was cool. Super uncool, actually.

I know I’m supposed to think it’s cool– I’m supposed to have something akin to gratitude that my gender– the gender of over half of our country– is, after 100 years, going to be on a limited edition $10 bill. (Not forever, mind you. And of COURSE we won’t be removing Alexander Hamilton, because…..)

But I have no gratitude. And frankly, I’m pissed that I am supposed to, or that I am expected to be happy about a token gesture that changes precisely nothing. Is that $10 bill going to be worth $7.80, since women only make 78% of every man’s dollar for the same work? Or, since the Treasury is considering Harriet Tubman for this dubious honor, will it only be worth $6.40, since black women only make 64% of every white man’s dollar for the same work?

I have no gratitude because in many parts of this country it is still considered acceptable to beat your wife, rape your wife, lock your wife away. To deny your daughter education. To treat women as a belonging, instead of an equal. To rape women and say “boys will be boys.” Not to even mention the plight of women globally, and the horrors that women experience every. single. day.

Seeing a woman’s face on a fucking ten dollar bill does not change the reality of being a woman in America.

I said as much, with all the rage that I felt, and Hubs was very offended. Which got me even madder.

“I don’t expect you to understand this,” I said. “You are not a woman.”

Which got him angrier.

At which point I reminded him that no matter how feminist and down for the cause he might be, he is not a woman. He does not walk around in a woman’s body having a woman’s experience and living with the constant reminder that no matter what you do, how educated you become, or smart you are, your societal value will depend on being legitimized by a machine that is driven by white men. He was not raised as a girl being told to be pretty and that smarts weren’t important or boys were better at mathsportsstrengthprovidingeverything. He was not raised with the expectation that he would marry, shoot babies out of his vagina, cook meals and do laundry, and shut the hell up. When he is seen caring for our children in public, he is a “great dad.” When I am seen caring for our children, I am not seen. And lord help the woman who doesn’t have any children at all. She is less than human, worse than invisible.

We didn’t speak for the rest of the morning.

And I fumed.

I fumed that it somehow became my job to explain this. And to explain it in a way that didn’t make him uncomfortable, even though uncomfortable is exactly how I feel in parking lots alone at night, or in college when I was stalked, or when I once fell asleep (drunk) on a (male) friend’s couch and he said the only way he would drive me home was if I gave him oral sex so I had to figure out a way to walk 5 miles, at 2am in the dark, no idea where I was, intoxicated, or or or…. Too many stories.  But if I make someone uncomfortable when I express my anger, my thoughts on this, then I know they will never hear what I have to say.

I fumed that he couldn’t see this for what it was– a patronizing gesture that was meant to replace real conversations about a real issue.

I fumed that my anger would be seen as an “irrational woman” being “dramatic” about my real thoughts and valid arguments.

I fumed that most people I know would tell me that there is no difference in the way women and men are treated, at least in America. We are living in equality, they might say. A post-gender inequality America.

I fumed that my criticism means that I am a bitch or I am never happy with anything. I am supposed to be happy with the scraps. I am supposed to see them as a gift from my benevolent benefactor. I am supposed to be grateful, because “something is better than nothing.” (Fuck that, I say, because my full equality as a human is not anyone’s fucking gift to give.)

I was so, so angry. And so hopeless for change. And the weight of years of impotent rage was so heavy on me, and I was so tired. I consider Hubs fairly feminist… and if he couldn’t “get” this, I wasn’t sure there was hope for anyone.

And then– no shit– I had an honest to god Hallelujah moment. I mean it brought me to my metaphorical knees. I had gotten the teeniest, tiniest of glimpses of what it feels like to be a person of color in America having these conversations around race and white supremacy. And the hard courage to be willing to engage in that dialogue, only to be dismissed and have excuses made for why an elephant in the room is not an elephant in the room. Only to be told that your experience, your thoughts, are not valid unless a (usually) white news anchor declares it so.

I am still processing this, and I am not sure I have too much more to say on it right now. I had some good, uncomfortable conversations with people whose opinions I value mightily yesterday (about the #AMEshootings, not the $10 bill.) I did a lot of thinking about being an “ally” versus being an “accomplice.” I reflected on the fact that no matter how down for the cause I might be, I will never fully understand. My speaking out is safe, because I am not living that experience. I am not risking my job or my safety or my life by speaking out about the culture of racism and hate in our country.

I can be down for the cause, but I will never fully get it. I can’t.

And that’s not something I can do a lot about. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing I can do.

I can continue to have conversations about white privilege with people who do not see it, don’t believe it, or simply haven’t come across this concept before.

I can have dialogue with the folks in my circle if the things they say and do contribute to the problem instead of being part of the solution.

I can continue to think critically about my actions and words, and take action to discontinue those things I do that contribute to white supremacy and degradation of people of color in my community and country.

When I discover that I am contributing to the problem, rather than complacently being embarrassed or ashamed, I will make change because my embarrassment does nothing to solve the problem. (My embarrassment, sadness, or anger is about me, and this is not about me. It is easy to feel bad, but it is not easy to do better.)

I can continue to listen, and learn, and show up. Because when you know better, you do better.

And we all have to do better.

It was Saturday, and I was in the kitchen doing my post-shopping trip cutting/storing/freezing/cooking, and the kids were running around, and I don’t even know where Hubs was– busy somewhere. We’d had the football game on in the back room, and every so once in a while a kid would run in, slamming the door behind them, to check the score.

I wasn’t paying any attention.

Apparently the game had ended, and the 5 o’clock news was on.

If it bleeds, it leads, so the opening story was about a 6 year old girl who was shot in nearby Kansas City. I think it was Funk standing there when the story aired, and, distressed, she wandered back outside to tell her big brother the news. She did not realize that Squeak was standing just out of eyesight, and he heard the whole thing.

We know he heard the whole thing, because he collapsed on the ground and started to wail.

I rushed to scoop him up, thinking he was hurt, and the older kids brought me up to speed.

I brought him in to sit on my lap in the big chair, the chair we sit in to talk about Big Feelings and Scary Things.

But there was nothing to say.

There was only wailing, and keening, and it was all I could do not to join my precious, big-hearted boy.

“She was a kid like me,” he cried.

“I know,” I said, “but you are safe, and nothing bad is going to happen to you.”

“I bet her mom said that, too.”

With that, his crying escalated to a level of grief that was so past his years. He wailed, he rocked back and forth, he pulled at his shirt. It broke my heart. I would have done anything, in that moment, to take away his hurt. I began to cry, too.

We talked in between his tears, and I asked him– are you scared for yourself? And he said, “No. But no kids should get shot. And no kids should die.”

I mean, hell. What am I supposed to say to that? He’s right. There is no worse abomination than the death of a child. It is a horrible, terrible thing, made all the more terrible when it happens because of the willful decisions of another person. I had no idea what to say to him, as he came to grips with the fact that not only do all people die, but sometimes children die and sometimes it is because an adult does a bad thing to them.

I told him the only thing I could. “My boy, I love your sweet, sweet heart. And I promise you that the more that people feel the way you feel, the less kids will get hurt.”

One of the reasons that I don’t write here often anymore is that

What I mean to say is that when I try to write

I mean that I have this pressure I put on myself

I mean

I was funny before, I feel sorry that those words don’t seem to be at the forefront.

There are a lot of stops and starts. Lots of posts I started and then abandoned. My kids are still funny– lord my oldest is taking a sex ed class at our church that has been a laugh riot around the dinner table. There are lots of things to be proud of– everyone’s doing well and my job is good and I am still sewing some really cool shit. There are even things that would be funny to bitch about– how I am never at home and P.S. there is still only one shitter in my house.

But none of that seems to be here. The funny isn’t what shows up when I start to write.

There are these boulders– big, writer’s-block-y boulders– that seem to be in the way. And I can’t write out the boulders but I can’t get to the funny/proud/happy shit behind the boulders, either. And I’m not vaguebooking– I can tell you straight up what the boulders are. It’s not that I can’t— it’s that I don’t want to. And I don’t have to. But I also can’t get to anything behind that shit in the meantime. Some of that shit:

  • Friends who are young mothers who are dying of cancer
  • The fact that I grew up in and around Ferguson and it turns out I know/am friends with a lot of racist bigots
  • A kid I know was molested
  • I still only have one shitter and I feel like I am living in an episode of Hoarders
  • Election season is hard in my house
  • A lot of friends with dying/died children
  • It turns out that if you eat all the things you will remain portly (and I by this I mean I will remain portly)
  • A student of mine who is being deported to likely be killed/maimed back in her home country, her resoluteness to those facts, and my relative powerlessness to stop it

The world is just too big and scary and unfair for my blog, and these days even Facebook. I can’t even squeeze out a status update these days about worrying that other people might think I am “really upset lately.” (Which, hey there friend, if you really think I am depressed, go ahead and reach out and ASK me, instead of mentioning my FB status updates to other, mutual friends, and not reaching out to me. I’m ok, but everyone likes to know they are being worried over a little.)

And that’s just it! I am OK! I am not depressed! At least not any more depressed than anyone with two eyes and a brain would be! Life is sometimes shitty! Let’s not pretend otherwise, but let’s celebrate the non-shitty things!

So I am out there living my (mostly not depressed!) life, and not writing here, but I miss it. I miss having this. (I do not miss fighting with my husband about what I wrote here.)

Let me first start by saying that I love my kids. I do. I know how lucky I am to have three healthy, able children who are active and read and make stuff and all that happy shit.

But daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

After week bajillion of familial flying by the seat of our pants, it occurred to me that this level of parenting is eating me alive. This level of parenting needs a Safe Word, because it is spanking my ass a bit too roughly.

I never saw us as the family that let the kids become over-scheduled. Each kid has typically been allowed one sportsy thing, and one non-sportsy thing. Fine. Since most of them share a non-sportsy activity (4H) and one of them wasn’t old enough for sportsing, this was a relatively safe family “rule.”

But exceptions and special circumstances have swirled together to create something not unlike juggling rabid monkeys at the circus. Who have sports equipment.

Funk wants to try softball. Cool! She loves trying new things! But as I pointed out, we moved to a new gym over this summer, and gymnastics isn’t really a sport you “take a break” from for three months and expect to come back where you left off. So ok. Funk can have two sportsing things. Because we want her to try something new and not specialize at 8, but she loves gymnastics and we don’t want her to have to catch up all Fall from taking a break.  This means that she has two days of gymnastics, and softball practice, and a game, every week. Something 4X a week, minimum. OK. Doable.

Noise is doing only one sportsing thing– baseball,  which he loves. But his level of sportsing has elevated, so they practice a couple of times a week,  on the weeks they don’t have two games. So… That’s usually 2-3 times a week. Honestly, he could use a lot more practice, but I ain’t sayin’ shit. I’ll take a gift when I get it.

Squeak wasn’t supposed to be old enough to sign up for anything yet, but he’s been begggggging to play baseball for years. And he’s 5 and can hit a pitch. And throw home from first. So he’s ready. They let him play even though he wasn’t technically old enough, so for the first time, he is also a “big kid” who is sportsing right alongside his sister and brother. Add to that his 2X a week swim lessons (because he was terrified of the water and I am not taking a water-phobic kid to Florida basically by myself without swim lessons and this lady is the kidwhisperer) and that’s lessons/practice/games 4X a week. And Squeak isn’t old enough to be left anywhere by himself, so no matter what the other monkeys need, a parent has to be with him at all times.

Now add in 4H camp, 5 days with Grandma, prepping for the 4H County Fair (sewing and painting and woodworking and photography and rockets and and and and)

And then you see why this parenting needs a Safe Word.

On any given night we have three kids in three locations, with two adults (sometimes) trying to keep all the monkeys in play. So the typical day is to wake up (late, always frigging late), feed kids, drop off everyone, go to work, maybe use my lunch hour to run someone a glove or googles or whatever, usually get off work and dash to a kid who has to be somewhere, pick up another kid, cram some kind of random foodstuffs in kid mouths, elsewhere across town Hubs is picking up a third kid and getting them to something, do the things, come home, maybe bathe kids (if they have been in a body of water this totally counts as bathing, IMO), and put kids to bed (late, always frigging late.) We stay up too late because these moments after the kids’ (late) bedtime and unconsciousness are the only moments to ourselves, or with each other.

And then it starts all over again.

They tell me I am going to miss it.

And I believe them. In between practices and games and scrimmages and drives are some of the best moments I have with my kids, watching them try and succeed and fail and try again. We have great talks and good laughs, and I get to be with them, even if it is in the in-between.

And even though I feel as though this is all too much, I can’t volunteer a single thing to be cut. I think this is just how it has to be right now.

And so all I can do is just hold on for dear life to these monkeys and try like hell not to drop anyone.

So the blog has been fairly Funk-heavy, when I post at all. I do apologize for that, but anyone who has parented knows that the kid with the most pressing issue tends to rotate– for a while it will be Noise, and then Squeak, and then Funk. Also, I find myself less and less willing to write about Noise, because he is getting to the age where his stories are his own. (Man, I wish I could tell you about the day they watched the puberty video at school! Classic Noise story, that ended with me having to explain sexual intercourse. Ugh.) 

But back to Funk: I didn’t want to leave you hanging about this post. OH EM GEE, guys. I need something bigger than caps lock. OHHHH EMMMM GEEEEEEEEEE. The change was instant, dramatic, and phenomenal. 

Funk SKIPS into practice. She skips!! With actual skipping! She does gymnastics for three hours straight twice a week, and no matter how hard the skill she is practicing, there is a goofy smile plastered across her face 90% of the time. Her coaches give her high fives and use her as a positive example for the class (and they use other girls, too, which spreads that love) and tell her how proud they are of her and HIGH FIVES, MAN. She feels supported and not afraid and there’s no drama and I don’t even flinch a little bit when I write that big ass check every month or drive back and forth 20 miles (though car pool buddies are totally welcome.) Because my girl is getting her groove back, her thing, the thing that gives her peace and freedom and confidence and an outlet for her very busy brain. 

Skills that she would not even try after her beloved and trusted coaches left/were fired are coming fast now. Double back hand spring. Cartwheel on the high beam. She’s soooooooo close on her kip. That child is even doing front tucks off the vault into the foam pit, y’all. If you know anything about Funk, or gymnastics, you can appreciate that this is an amazing amount of advancement for the number of practices she has been there.  While part of it is a switch up in skills coaching, a huge part of it is that she feels appreciated, and cared about, and she trusts the folks in charge. 

Most importantly? She is so much happier. She feels better about herself. Her life is better. As Funk’s love for her sport and her confidence increases, I can more fully appreciate everything that was slowly lost over the past year. 

I can’t believe it took me a year to pull a toxic, harmful person out of my daughter’s life. I will have to live with that for a while. 

It has been three weeks– it could all go to hell– but for now I have not one single regret about leaving. I can say with confidence that unless CMS were to leave, and major changes implemented, we will never go back. Even if this goes to hell, even though she misses her friends terribly– we will never go back. 

Funk got her groove back. 

Funk has done gymnastics at our local Parks and Rec since she was a toddler. While we’ve tried other sports (too short for basketball, not aggressive enough for soccer) gymnastics has always been her happy place. That’s really important, because she has a fair amount of anxiety in general.

“When I am doing gymnastics,” she said all the time, “I don’t feel stressed out or worried or angry. I’m happy. I just feel free.

Last year, some of Funk’s favorite coaches decided that some of the girls might benefit from a competition team. After all, what good would basketball practices be if you never played a game? How would you assess your golf skills if you only practiced your long ball and putting, and never played out 18 holes? Competition is a vital part of gymnastics.

Funk competed at the very lowest level, at the lowest level of commitment. It didn’t cost much extra, we had $15 leotards, but she loved it and she flourished. If she loved gymnastics before, after that first season it became an obsession. Funk went from someone who “did gymnastics” to being a GYMNAST.

After the competition season, over last summer, our gymnastics program fell under a new Director. She had more experience than our past director, but she also came with a LOT of baggage. From the beginning, she was often thoughtless in the way she spoke to other coaches. She rubbed parents the wrong way. She had a sordid past that was whispered about in the parent waiting room from the moment she stepped on the scene– a past that, if uncorrected, made her not the best role model l for our girls.

Whatever you are thinking about? Yes, that. And that. And that, too.

But I waited.

I believe in fresh starts. No one would want to be judged forever by their worst moments– I sure wouldn’t. We owe each other that grace, I think.

So I waited.

I stepped up as president of the Booster Club. I volunteered to sew leotards for the whole team, to save everyone money and so the girls could have something a little fancier than they had the year before. I baked cookies for bake sales, I volunteered at events. I ran meetings. I tried to advocate for our girls.

Over time, it became obvious to me and many other parents that not much had changed for the Director (Let’s call her Critical McSoulcrusher, or CMS for short.)  One of our very first interactions with her involved receiving an email sent to all parents that called us “uneducated” and told us that all of the problems we had were because of US. There was little information exchanged, other than what was expected of US, and how we had failed in those (previously uncommunicated) expectations. When information was exchanged, it was often incomplete or completely inaccurate. She treated the parents like stupid children who were only there to write checks, and the coaches under her even worse. I received the brunt of this, because of the role I had volunteered to take on.

This blog post could never be long enough to catalog all of the many, many, MANY awful ways CMS treated people, me in particular. It was bad.

Never one to keep my damn mouth shut, I involved her supervisor. CMS was “talked to.” That happened a few times, but nothing seemed to change. There was never an admission of wrong doing, never an apology– only excuses followed by why it was our own fault. Then I talked to CMS’s boss’s boss. Nada.  With each new transgression, each more unbelievable than that last, I just kept going up the chain. Nothing.  Surveys were taken, but no results were ever shared.  Some parents and myself launched a letter and phone campaign to have our concerns heard. NOTHING.   I knew we were in trouble when the Director of the entire Parks and Rec yelled at me for “harassing his employee” though he had never spoken to me before.  He didn’t doubt the veracity of these transgressions, mind you… but his answer was to stop letting the girls compete– to go back to a purely practice-only gymnastics program. In short, punish the children to make the parents stop making waves.

What did CMS’s transgressions look like?

Pointing to a bunch of 6 year olds at their first competition and saying to our girls, “look at them, they are 6 years old and better than you guys.” (Though true, how or why was this helpful to our girls?! She said this kind of thing all the time, pitting our girls against each other and making them feel bad about themselves.)

Telling my seven year old that she was yelling at her because she was upset her own uncle had been brutally murdered a few days prior. (My daughter doesn’t need to know that real people get murdered in real life at SEVEN.)

Yelling at the two other coaches AT A COMPETITION, in front of judges and the girls.  (Um, whoa. Just whoa.)

Texting through the entirety of another competition, instead of watching the girls. (Not coincidentally, the team of girls who had won the least at meets.)

Throwing two twelve year old girls out of the gym for rolling their eyes at her, leaving those girls completely unsupervised. She did not call the parents, she did not even step foot outside the gym to see where they had gone. One of the girls walked out of the facility unsupervised, in a not-stellar area of town. (Um. SUPER WHOA.)

Repeatedly ordering me to write a check to her for expenditures that were a) not voted on by the Booster club and b) had no receipts.  (I quit my role with Booster club after this happened the second time. I told her to stop emailing me, that I would send everything she sent me to everyone, because they were so hateful and rude. Her quote? “Release the check to me and I will release YOU.”)

But unarguably the worst transgression? She was tearing down our girls. One by one, I watched Funk and many of her friends start to dread gymnastics practice. It wasn’t the burpees or the falling off the beam that turned them away– it was CMS. CMS never, ever had anything nice to say to any girl that wasn’t a favorite. She only criticized. She only spewed warnings. Long diatribes about how right she was (even if she was wrong), how much experience she had (experience isn’t the same thing as being good at something), and how ONE DAY THEY WOULD THANK HER.  She never apologized. She argued for tough love, and told us she wouldn’t coddle our girls, since the world would not.  The problem, she said, were the other coaches– who were nice to the girls when they should be hard.  In a meeting with Funk, she once came close to paying her a compliment… but then said “don’t get me wrong, you still have a LOT of BAD habits…” (And then went on to list them.)

YEAH. FUNK IS SEVEN. She has plenty of time to learn how hard the world is, how ’bout you back the eff down?

We stuck it out, so Funk could compete, but by March her confidence was shattered, her favorite coaches were fired by CMS for insubordination (daring to challenge her dangerous training approaches and hypocritical policies), and Funk left every practice and meet in tears.  In the beginning we talked to Funk about how “different coaches had different styles” and “seeing something through is important, even when it is tough.” We even pulled out the old “CMS wouldn’t be so hard on you if she didn’t think you had talent.”

But by the end of the year, the talks were more like “Funk, it’s time you learned that some people in this world are just mean, thoughtless jerks. And CMS is one of those people. And you get to decide if you are going to tell her that what she said hurt you, or let it go, and that might seem like a lot for an eight year old but she is YOUR coach and she will not care what Mommy says if I try to talk to her about this. You don’t get to call her a jerk, though.”

Instead of being Funk’s Happy Place, gymnastics became the place where she felt she was never good enough. Her beloved coaches she had known since she was 3 years old were gone, and she felt alone and hopeless in the face of an adult that seemed to openly hate her.

Gymnastics no longer made her feel free. It made her feel less than, in every way.

My little girl, who saw herself as nothing less than a future gold medalist at the Olympics a short year ago, became a girl who wouldn’t try ANYTHING without being spotted, because she “knew she would fail.” Because CMS told her she would. She lost skills she gained with other coaches, because she didn’t trust CMS to spot her, or because CMS had convinced her she could not do it.

And then came the day when I mentioned to Funk that she had gymnastics practice and she collapsed on the floor in a heap.

“I would rather quit gymnastics forever,” she said, “than ever be in the gym with CMS ever againI love gymnastics, but I can’t do this anymore.”


So much nope.

We start a new gym in June. I cannot say if I waited too long to pull her– maybe I should have months ago, even if it meant taking the competition season off, even though she was begging to stay with her friends– I will always second guess how long I let this go on. I can say that we won’t take another day. I did everything in my power to change things, to advocate for my daughter and the other girls I have come to love and be proud of over the past few years. I loved the parks and rec program, and I believed in what it taught our girls, and its place in our community. I did everything I possibly could. I can’t say I always kept fighting the fight for the right reasons (sometimes it was a stubborn refusal to let CMS win, to let her have this thing that we loved, even as she was killing the thing we loved) but for the most part, my reasons were true. I hope the damage done is reversible. I hope Funk can love gymnastics again, that it can be her happy place, where she feels free from the anxiety that haunts so much of her day-to-day life.

There is nothing left to try, and nothing left to stay for.

And so we are gone.

Enough is enough.

If you know me in real life (or even just FB) for five minutes, I have probably shown you video of Funk’s back handspring. It is a source of endless pride for me, but for reasons other than how cool it looks. (Although, let’s face it, seeing someone who shot out of your vag like a cannon flipping across the floor seven years later is quite amazing.)

Of course it is impressive on its own merits– it’s something not everyone can do, and if I am being completely honest, the one thing that kept me from being a varsity cheerleader in high school. (On my head. Every damned time. Which is why you don’t send a ballet dancer to do a gymnast’s job.)

No, what really makes her feat impressive is how hard she has worked on it. Not just physically– but mentally. Like many things in gymnastics, half of being able to do a skill is being in the right head space. Funk had her back handspring a year ago. Then, she fell down and hurt her head, and her confidence. She lost the skill for months– would not even try. Then she worked up to trying with a spot. Even though her spotter barely touched her, as soon as she was on her own– she would fall. Then she had some encounters with her not-usual coach that left her full of self-doubt– convinced that she was not ready or able to do the skill.

She cried herself to sleep countless times, convincing herself that she just COULD NOT DO IT. I cheered, I thumbs-upped, I clapped, I cajoled from the sidelines. (I may have even repeated feedback I had heard her coaches give over and over. “BLOCK!”) Her usual coach cheered, thumbs-upped, spotted, and gave helpful feedback.

But no matter how upset Funk got, or how hard she worked, or how much I cheered, or how wonderful her coach coached… until her head was in the right place, it was a lost cause.

One day, she’d have it.

The next practice, it would be gone.

That doubt in her mind became a handspring monster, and it stole her confidence AND her consistency.

So, she has worked and worked and cried and visualized and worked some more. She has succeeded some, and failed some. She is learning how to not let that failure define her next attempt.

And it seems like we are there. She CAN do it. She WANTS to do it. And most importantly, she KNOWS she can do it.

It is stunning visual proof of her tenacity, her budding self-confidence, her ability to conquer her own ceaseless worry, and her hard work. It makes me so, so proud.

(I realize that this would be a great place to post video of her back handspring, but I can’t figure out how to embed the dang thing. Here you go.)

Both Noise and Funk are intellectually gifted– in Kansas, where gifted education is state-mandated special education, this means they are in the 98th percentile on the relevant tests that measure such things. (Word’s out on Squeak, but so far he hasn’t shown the primary indicator [early reading] that clued us in on the other two.)

This has a bunch of implications that are at least 47 different blog posts, but one of the typical results of this kind of special need is often a hypersensitivity and worry about world events, or things that they believe could happen to them.

Which means that while you and I are still worrying over our Christmas present shopping, Funk can’t sleep at night because of Sandy Hook, which was a year ago. She cries herself to sleep because of the Boston Marathon bombing (eight months ago.)  She can’t stop thinking about the kids in the Philippines after the typhoon. She frets with her certainty that we will be hit by a tornado. All things are possible to her, and most of those things are bad for someone.

This worry, when combined with perfectionism (another common trait among gifted kids) means that Funk is almost constantly worried. Not “man I hope I pass this test” worried or “I hope it doesn’t rain on field day” worried, but an inability to sleep, biting-her-nails to stubs worry. Most topics of worry result in the death of herself, her friends, her family, or just people in general. Noise went through this same phase at about this same age, but Funk’s has so far been much more pervasive.

Now, before you get all “Funk should see a therapist” please know that she is in general a happy child, and her quality of life is good, and this is not debilitating for her. However, it does mean we have a lot of conversations at night that start when I walk in and Funk is sitting up in bed, crying.

“What’s wrong honey?”

“Oh… you know…. I just can’t stop thinking about how scared those kids at Sandy Hook must have been and what will happen if a guy with a gun comes into my school and what if me or Noise get shot or what if Mrs. Teacher gets shot trying to save us because I know she would or what if the school catches fire and who will help all the preschoolers get out and I just can’t stop thinking about it!!!!”

So, together we are working on tools to help her reason with her own self– to mitigate the worry and practice calm. (This is the most hilarious thing ever, since I am a horrendous worrier who also struggles with this skill at forty. Nevertheless!)

“Honey, do you know how long I went to school?”


“I went to school for 13 years of regular school. 4 years for my Bachelor’s Degree, and 2 more for my Master’s. Do know how many times I ever had a shooting on my campus, or even saw a gun?”


“Never. I never did. Not one single time. And my schools were not even half as half as safe as yours is. There are thousands and thousands of schools in this country. There are millions and millions of students in school. Most of those kids will never experience something like Sandy Hook. 99.9% of students won’t. Does this seem like something you need to worry about?

“….no? Maybe? But it *did* happen to those kids. And whoever it did happen to is not the 99%. And that could be me.” 

“That’s true. Bad things do happen to people sometimes. And I wish I could promise that nothing bad could ever happen to someone you know, but I can’t promise you that. I can reassure you that it is extremely unlikely, though, and I can promise you something else.”

“What’s that?”

“I can tell you this. You are loved, and everyone around you wants to keep you safe. And here is my promise: I promise that you don’t have to worry. You might choose to worry, but you don’t have to. For a couple of reasons: first, you’re a kid, and your only job is to be a kid. Let grownups worry if there is worry that has to be worried. Second, worry won’t change anything. Worry has no power. Worry’s only power is to rob you of sleep and strength, leaving you full of doubts and fear. I cannot promise you that there is nothing to be afraid of, because everyone has fear– that’s healthy and it totally okay. But I can promise you that daddy and I, your teachers, your family– we are going to do everything we can to keep you safe. And worrying about the million random things that will likely never happen to you or anyone you know doesn’t actually change anything except you.”

It’s hard, because I know that she knows in her brain that she’s safe, but I also know that in her mind, because it happened ever, it could happen to her. And I really want to tell her “it will never happen to you!” but that’s not something I can promise. So I shouldn’t. I can remind her of the fire and lockdown drills, and the fire station fifty feet from her school, and all of that– but because it happened one time at one school, she knows it is possible at any time at HER school.

I hate to see her hurt for the world, but I love her heart so much– she is genuinely in distress because anyone has to go through anything bad. But I want her to feel empowered, not beat-down by the truth of that. Bad things happen: be a part of the solution when you can.


With Pinterest, and blogs, and Facebook, and Instagram, it’s easy to get caught up in this idea of what we *should* be doing. Things we *should* be able to do. And, for me at least, this sends me down a spiral of do more be more try harder that can be horrible on my self esteem.  But here’s the thing: I just suck at some stuff. And I’m not going to get better at it, either because I have zero aptitude or minimal willingness to work at getting better. A rousing list of my unlikely-to-improve inadequacies:

1. Gardening/Outside Maintenance: I have a black thumb. Pretty much I mow the lawn and that’s just about it. Oh, and I scoop dog shit. That’s the low level of House Beautiful we have going on at the Pair gardens. I don’t even have house plants, because I can’t keep them alive. I suck at any living thing that can’t make a noise when I fail to water/feed/care for it. (Which means I also suck at pet fish.) I don’t weed, I don’t edge, I don’t trim or plant. And it’s ok. 

2. Christmas cards/Birthday cards/Notes: It’s not because I don’t care. I do totally do. It’s because I suck at it. I may write, but I don’t have stamps. So it sits. Or I have a stamp but I can’t find your blasted address. So it sits. Or, in the case of Christmas cards, it’s just… not going to happen. And I refuse to feel guilty about that, even though others may judge me. (My subtle grandmother gifted me personalized stationery for five years in a row from age 8 to age 13. I had most of it until after I married, when I finally threw it out because my name changed.) I adore getting cards, and I do wish I had my shit together enough to make you feel the same way. Feel free to cross me off your card list if reciprocation is important to you, because the day you get a Christmas card from me it will probably mean that either a) one of my kids did them, or b) I am dying and working up a way to tell you. It’s not laziness, it’s not self-centeredness, it’s not personal (I love you, I DO!)  I just suck at it. And that’s okay.

3. Having a spotless house every day: my house is messy. It is not dirty, but it will never be featured in a magazine. It is comfortable, it is cozy, and it is strewn end to end with toys, crafting supplies, and lone socks. I anticipate that it will be thus for the foreseeable future. While my house was *somewhat* cleaner when I was at home with the kids, it still wasn’t spotless, because that just meant the kids were inside the house more hours of the day, spewing socks, snacks, and craft sticks. I know how to clean. I’ll do it for company. I just don’t spend much time doing it on a daily basis, and I don’t anticipate that this will change. My life is made up of a finite number of minutes. So I am going to minimize the quantity of those minutes that are spent cleaning toilets. Upkeep– dishes, laundry, bathing children, vacuuming the inordinate amount of dog hair my single dog produces– eats away at enough of those minutes. So dusting can go fuck itself. And that’s okay. 

4. Momentos: ugh with the STUFF! I love my children. I take their picture regularly, I love hanging out with them, and I think they are awesome. But I am not keeping all of the noodle art/clay finger bowls/glitter bombs that come into this house. I am just not. I have no desire to change this about myself. I love that my children create, and I feature their works of art prominently for a time… and then I throw them away. I use my small house as an excuse for this, but in reality I just don’t see the point in keeping all of it. To what end? So that I can be smothered in Crayola marker sketches in my nursing home? No. I keep a few things, and pass the rest on to that great art gallery in the sky. And that’s okay. (Although I will admit I have been unable to discard a finger bowl yet. Current count: eight.)

5.  Playing with my kids: this is only partially true. I love playing with my kids some of the time, some of the things. Not Barbies or dolls or Littlest Pet Shop or Legos or cars or trains or Star Wars. Honestly the only reason I play this crap is because it makes them happy. Now if they want to craft or play a game or jump on the trampoline or play tag or play Wii or even just hang out, I am all over it. But the idea of sitting there, while my tiny Napoleon dictates every character and piece of dialogue, makes me want to poke my eyes out with a stick. I have been known to walk away from Squeak in a hot session of playing cars, telling him, “for the last time, I AM NOT YOUR PUPPET.” It’s just so gawdawful boring and even though I make myself do it… Yuck. I suck at it. And that’s okay. (Mostly because they are growing into a phase where they play things I actually *want* to play.

I know these things about myself. And I am not ashamed. And I won’t feel guilty for them. I give myself permission to accept that no one can be good at everything, and these things– are not my things. I still have a huge list of things I suck at that I am working/should work/will work to change and grow at, because that’s important, too. I am not “done.” We are not “grown” simply because we reach what is considered an adult age. I have plenty of growing to do, just not with the above. And that’s okay. 

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