Rolling your eyes at the spelling of your student’s name isn’t just ignorant, more often than not, it’s racist.

Anglicizing someone’s name is racist. Feeling that someone should spell their name differently to match your own “norm” is racist. It’s also nosy, small minded and disrespectful. However, realizing that something you’ve done is racist doesn’t mean you’re a bad person as long as you change your behavior. Know better, do better.

I recently read an article that, for all intents and purposes, shamed parents for naming their child something uncomfortable for whomever wrote the article… and for spelling more common names in an uncommon way. Like, legit wrote an entire article to articulate their disgust for the names of children. The worst part? The comments.

I don’t typically insert myself into online back and forth if I don’t know the people engaging, however, I could not read the article and then the comments and do nothing. I mean, seriously? How can you expect to live in the melting pot of the world (remember that? Remember when we celebrated that fact?) and not have a diverse population of names.

When I hopped on the comment train of this article and suggested that the idea behind shaming parents for the spellings of their children’s name is racist, I was in the minority… in a big way. I mentioned that names are the thing by which we identify ourselves to others, and that having a unique spelling, and therefore unique name, and THEREfore a unique *identity* is heavily rooted in several cultures and families as a traditional way of preserving their own identity. You know….not the identity of anyone else, like a slave owner…. so go MYOB if someone spells their name uniquely.

My mind is blown that teachers… caring, thoughtful, nurturers of our little ones… are not recognizing that for one particular population group, unique spellings, African rooted names, and individuality were, and still are, a way of separating their identity from SLAVE OWNERS. So…sit down, Nancy, and shut your mouth about spellings you find difficult. Literally no one cares if you can’t spell a student’s name without committing it to memory….or so I thought. According to the comments of this particular essay….so many people care. And so many people shared with me that my comment was a long list of negative adjectives and the fact that I jumped to the conclusion that it’s racist just proves how racist I AM. Yep. That happened. WTF.

I’ve heard lots of jokes and kind hearted exasperation about Irish names, but never the visceral belittling and questioning that other non-white cultures and families receive. If you are unfamiliar with Irish names, let me give you an example. Niamh is pronounced Neeve. And for SOME reason (she’s white?) no one gets nasty and blames her mother for doing something ridiculous, you know, like naming her child a traditional name that belongs to her family and history and culture. But if you want to spell a child’s name who is a child of color, well then you’re stupid and looking for attention and apparently, disqualified from naming your child. What the actual?!

I decided to do a little research because my reaction was so emotional I wanted to be sure I wasn’t just making all this up. I swear I had a sound, logical and statistically backed reason for being outraged at people not being outraged by the article Scary Mommy published about “annoyingly spelled names.”

Want to know more? Read on. I pasted some of what I found for your enlightenment. Sure did.

“A study published in 2005 found that teachers had lower expectations for children with unusually spelled names like Da’Quan, even when compared to their siblings with “less black-sounding” names like Damarcus.” NY TIMES

“Diversification of baby names in America started in the late 1960s during a larger sociocultural shift that emphasized individuality, and that’s where names for black and white Americans began to diverge. As black Americans began to give unique names to their children (much more so than white Americans), there was a sharp rise in the prevalence of distinctively black-sounding names — influenced at least in part by the championing of black culture by the Black Power movement.” NY TIMES

“And while nontraditional names are testaments to nonconformity, they do not signal combativeness or unacceptable personality fits. They signal the multitudes of different experiences that shape people of color, and increased knowledge of these experiences can be wielded to combat bias.”NY TIMES

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/10/19/job-discrimination-based-on-a-name/appreciate-the-history-of-names-to-root-out-stigma (NY TIMES article in full that I’m referencing)

“Because of the vibrant Creole culture in Louisiana, there is also a French influence in some African-American names. This includes not only French surnames but also given names beginning with “La,” (e.g. Lawanda), “De” (e.g. Deandre’) and with the use of apostrophes (e.g. Andre’, Mich’ele), that represent accents that were not yet available on American typewriters at the time.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/whats-in-name/201503/our-evolving-black-american-naming-traditions.

If we focus on “weird” African American names in jokes and conversation, it’s because blacks remain at the bottom of America’s racial caste system. “Hunter” is just as unusual as “Malik,” but it’s understood as “normal” because of its association with white men. It’s arbitrary, yes, but it reflects who holds power. Indeed, if the situation were reversed, odds are good there would be plenty of jokes about “dysfunctional” white people who name their children “Geoff.” https://www.thedailybeast.com/are-blacks-names-weird-or-are-you-just-racist

 

 

Screen time battle…with myself.

The parenting screen battle is real. And it’s mostly a battle with myself, probably because my kids are younger than 5, haha. But, before it grows into a battle with them, I should probably figure out how to win this fight with myself.

Do I want to be a perfect parent? Nope, sure don’t. Do I want to be present? Of course I do. Do I want my kids to feel like I am 100% present at all times and they are my number only priority? Oh heck no! It’s good for them to know there is more in my life, in their lives, and in the world than just their needs, wants and interests.

However, like all things, a balance needs to be found. And I am still searching high and low. I do not want to give up my phone, but I also need some help learning how to navigate staying at home with my kids AND my phone. I justify it to myself with thoughts like, “well, I deserve a break from my kids” (I do) and “I don’t want them thinking they’re the center of the world” (they’re not) and “I love the connection with other adults, which feels crucial for survival on some days.” (it is)

But….if I were honest with myself, I would have to admit, my phone time is too much. I haven’t found the balance. I haven’t figured out a realistic way to restrict my phone usage but maintain my sanity. Some days I do, actually, do a pretty stellar job of balancing kid time with phone time, so it’s not all woes and panic. But, most days I would venture to say I am on my phone too much.

It’s not just because I want to be a more present parent, but it’s also because my kids are going to learn how to be on their phone by watching me and my partner. When we are on our phones all the time, they learn that this is normal, ok and to be expected. Yikes!

We do have some set “rules” for ourselves, and we follow them regularly, so there are some sacred non-phone spaces in our home and in our lives. We never have our phones at the table and we eat dinner at the table 85% of the time. We never have our phones at church. We never use our phones while driving.

I always talk to my kids about making safe choices, but I’m not sure I’m always following suit. Does anyone have any tips, suggestions or resources they can give me to help me navigate this world of phone time?

 

Listening to your body, or, you know, not.

If a friend was sharing with me their health ordeal from the past two weeks, and it exactly mirrored mine, I would tell them to listen to their bodies, take it easy and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

But, I’m me. So, I put my fingers in my ears and do a weird little “not listening” dance. Which, is funny and fine until you end up in the ER twice in one week, and the second time courtesy of an ambulance.

But, even the ambulance didn’t clue me in. I continued to ignore my body even with the paramedics standing right there telling me to get in the ambulance. I said, “Do I have to go to the ER? Because, I really didn’t want to call you guys in the first place…” He said, “Well, I can’t kidnap you….but, I highly recommend you go to the ER, and that we take you.” Luckily my dad was standing in the background mouthing JUST GO, JUST GO WITH THEM. So, I went, under silent protest, because, apparently, I’m an idiot.

My week of medical turbulence all started when I had surgery for endometriosis. It was outpatient surgery and not scary or dangerous, but it was still surgery, and I don’t know why I thought I would be fine in a day or so, but I did. Unfortunately, I had a bad reaction to pain medicine they gave me right after the surgery and was throwing up all day, so my first 24 hours of recovery were actually wrought with constant throwing up, dehydration, and a trip to the ER to get fluids and try to shut down the puke fest. You know, complete rest and relaxation, ha!

I had the surgery on a Thursday morning and taught ballet on that Saturday morning. Wait, what? I did what? Writing that out highlights to me how crazy that was, but at the time it felt so doable. I had a helper in the ballet classes and she basically did all the moving, and I just ran the class, but still, it was too much. I wasn’t listening to my body.

A couple days later, Monday,  it was business as usual with Patrick going to work and me taking care of the three kids. Sure I was a bit tired earlier than usual in the day, and sure my stomach didn’t feel *great* but I was “fine.”  The next day, business as usual again, I took the kids to pre-school and ran an errand afterwards with Sophia. I planned on getting so much done that day while my older two were in preschool, but my body had other ideas once I got home from that errand with my youngest. Cue faceplant, Ambulance, second trip to ER in one week, and a time for reflection on what it means to engage in self care.

One of my friends had texted me during the thick of things, but before that Tuesday face-plant, and reminded me to listen to my body. I chuckled when I read the text, thinking, duh, I know that! But, I also realized that maybe I hadn’t been listening to my body at all, not even for a minute. I joked with her that my body was telling me to “lie the F down!” and it was all laughs and jokes until the next day my body told me to “lie the F down” by face planting it on the floor. I texted that same friend the next day and filled her in, she said, “uhhhh that was your body again…listen to it!”

So, what is it with parents? Or anyone who feels like they “can’t” rest. Of course, as a parent, I put my kids first, and of course, as an intelligent human being I know that in order to be a good care taker, or parent, I have to be in good shape myself. I also understand that putting myself first doesn’t mean I’m being selfish or putting others last. But, boy oh boy, is that inner critical voice loud, and it’s telling me to suck it up, I’m fine, it’s fine, we’re fine.

I can’t take a break, I have three kids to take care of!! I can’t take a break, I need to get the house in order! I can’t take a break, I need to run these errands! I can’t…I can’t…I can’t. But, if I was honest with myself, I guess what I’m really saying is, “I won’t” and that’s kind of stupid. But man, oh man, it is a hard habit to break.

I imagine it’s hard for all people who are care takers, in any capacity, to prioritize their own health and well being. There are SO MANY jokes about moms (in particular)  being sick but not getting time off, or moms trying to juggle everything or what it looks like for a mom to be sick versus a dad. Those jokes feel accurate and funny, but they also perpetuate that undercurrent of pressure to not take time off, to not put yourself first and to try to juggle everything because that’s what moms do. Cue laughter…cue faceplate…

So, I’ve been thinking alot about these couple of weeks, especially because I have alot of “free time” now that I’m on mandated “rest.” And, now that I’ve made two trips to the ER, I’ve finally decided to listen to my body and rest. Such a quick learner, ha!

But, finally, I think I get it. I guess surgery is not like a headache you can “get over” in a day or so. It’s more of a show stopper that requires intentional rest, strategies for healing and… babysitters, lots and lots of babysitters. Take all my money, babysitters!!

So, here I am, Christmas week, taking it SUPER easy at my in-laws…just what the doctor ordered. Like, literally what the doctor ordered. And you know what, I’m feeling 100 times better. My body is healing, my mood is improved, and I can actually be there with my kids and for my kids, because I don’t have to worry about that good old face-plant situation.

Cue Christmas celebrations, spending time with family, eating good food, and enjoying the week…face-plant free.

 

 

 

Sleep deprivation induced creativity.

As I was putting my youngest, Sophia, to bed last night I was thinking about the night I “created” this lullaby for all my kids.

April 2014: It was week two of having my first baby. Aka, crazy time!! We had this bassinet that played Brahms’ lullaby in a strange, synthesizer-like way. I couldn’t remember the actual words to this lullaby, heck, I couldn’t even remember if it had words! All I knew was that singing or humming with the synthesizer soothes my crying newborn.

So I started making up words. I created the song in what I imagine to be a typical creative process….on speed.

I couldn’t stop singing or the crying would start back up, so I just sang version after version after version, somehow editing in my mind along the way.

I finally settled on the version I’ve posted. I use whichever child’s name I’m signing to, and you better believe I make any number of syllables fit, haha!

I will never forget that night of manic creativity, the synthesizer bassinet or the patience my husband has for lying in that same bed listening to version after version of me singing frantically along with the bassinet. Since my youngest is becoming less of a baby and more of a toddler I thought I better write down “my” lyrics. Enjoy!

Feeling pretty darn lucky.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at calendar math. What is calendar math, you ask? Well, it’s when you do math about months in the year…and for some reason I struggle. For example, when my third baby was born my oldest was technically still 2. I really thought she would be three by the time the new baby was born…she wasn’t. So, from February 10th until April 13th of 2017,  I had a newborn, a 1 year old and a 2 year old. I started saying “we’re fine, it’s fine, I’m fine” alot…and we all know what that means.

By “fine,” I mean we are an absolute circus show anytime we go anywhere in public. I used to feel super sensitive to the stares and remarks made by complete strangers, but now I see them for what they are. People just interested in our family. I like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not being judgmental when they make comments about us having our hands full, about my sanity or about the lack of sleep. I mean, they’re pretty much on point. My hands are full, I have very little sanity and even less sleep.

But, despite all of the daily chaos, exhaustion and mayhem, I love our family. I love the way my kids play with each other, I love how my older two are best friends. And now that they are closer in height, coordination and language,  they are sometimes mistaken for twins, and they love it when that happens! They always shout, “twinsies!” and burst into giggles. And, oh the giggles. Now that my youngest is almost 2 I live for the moments when all three are laughing that full, toddler belly laugh.

As you can imagine, living with three toddlers is not always a walk in the park, but it certainly isn’t boring! And I’ve got to think that all the physical running around, the mental exercise maintaining my cool, and the laughter that constantly fills our house is a perfect recipe for staying in some kind of shape! I’ve certainly become more easy going, haha!

I used to worry a lot about each child feeling loved and getting enough attention, and I worried that by having them so close together I missed out on special moments. In some ways that is actually true, I can’t tell you a whole lot about Grace at 18 months old because I also had a newborn, or Henry at 18 months old because I was about to have Sophia, but I’ve accepted that sure, my experience with my little ones won’t be the same as if I had had them further apart, but our experiences are still super special. And, I’m not “missing out” on anything other than the experience of having kids further apart, and that’s ok.

People get really hung up on spacing of siblings, but I honestly don’t think there’s a “wrong” spacing. Close together, far apart, 2 years, 18 years, lots of kids, one kid, no kids. Every family is doing what’s best for them, what works for them, or what’s been dealt to them. I’m still figuring out our rhythm, ways to spend the day in a meaningful way and how to balance giving myself to my kids without giving all of myself to my kids.

I write a lot of posts about our chaotic misadventures, but there are so many moments each day when I am reminded of how lucky we all are. Grace and Henry have the funniest conversations about all sorts of wildly imaginative and creative topics. Sophia is becoming her own little person. I joke about Sophia being “psycho” (she is) but I also see a child filled to the brim with determination, a desire to be heard and an adventurous spirit. So, when I’m not trying to prevent her from leaping off the shelves she’s climbed or calming her down during an epic meltdown, I’m wowed by her huge personality.

Yep, Patrick and I are pretty darn lucky!

Baking with littles is BIG fun!

Full disclosure: I hate messes and I hate inaccurate baking. I wasn’t always like this, but unfortunately, I got like that right around having kids, and if there’s anything I’ve learned about kids….they’re messy and inaccurate.

However, I’m trying to take a page out of my mother-in-law’s book and let my crazy bunch bake, mess and all. Because I guess it’s not about a perfect product…it’s about building confidence, having fun and letting my kids be independent and all that jazz.

So, this morning we made a “Christmas family tradition” cookie. Some people call them Russian Tea Cakes, probably because that’s what they are…and some people call them snowball cookies, probably because that’s what they look like and we’re Americans, darn it! Whatever you call them, they’re delicious and don’t have any eggs in them, which means I’m not a nervous wreck when my kids make them because even if they eat a little dough there’s no salmonella risk. Win-Win.

I measured out all of the ingredients ahead of time so that my young kids could just dump and mix, but if your kids are older I say let them measure! Baking is not an exact science (it literally is….I mean it’s fine.)

First thing’s first….wash your hands and wash your kids’ hands, and then use hand sanitizer because ain’t no one want runny nose cookies. YUM.

Now, pre-heat the oven and pray that your kids don’t touch a pile of dirt, go to the bathroom, or rub their hands in the fireplace soot while you do that. Let’s be clear, that could happen, it takes at least 3.4 seconds to preheat the oven and….kids.

Pre-Heat oven to 325F as quickly as possible.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper OR a snazzy cookie sheet.

Divide two cups of walnuts into any number of ziplock bags, I did three ziplock bags because my three kids were helping me

Put two cups of flour in a bowl

1/2 cup sugar in a bowl

1 teaspoon vanilla in a tiny bowl

set aside two cups of powdered sugar in a big bowl

Put 2 sticks of very soft (but not melted) butter into a big mixing bowl

Are you wishing you could do this in your kitchenAid mixer….me, too. But THIS baking session is about the kids, not us. Ugh, I know.

Make sure your ziplock bags are sealed tight (I messed that up…oopsie!) and let your kids POUND the walnuts with wooden spoons, or anything else that is safe for them to pound a bag of walnuts with. Good ideas: wooden spoons, rolling pins, fists. Bad ideas: wine bottles, glasses, anything breakable…and actually…move fists into bad idea category.

Now, let each kid dump their bag of crushed walnuts into the bowl that has the butter.

Next let a kid dump the sugar in, flour in, vanilla in.

Now, I recommend an adult starts the stirring and lets the kids take over, but I’m also not totally committed to a messy baking experience, so it’s really up to you. Worst case scenario is flour getting everywhere and let’s face it…that’s bound to happen anyway.

Next, divide the dough into three bowls (I kept reusing my flour, sugar and vanilla bowls) and let each kid make small balls of dough and set them on cookie sheet.

PRO TIP: You can’t “roll” the dough into balls because then they crumble. You have to kind of squeeze them into balls. The balls shouldn’t be bigger than ping pong balls, but don’t make them too tiny, either. (Remember when I said this isn’t about perfection…I was wrong)

Once the cookie sheet is filled with cookies, put them in the oven for 25-35 minutes. My cookies needed 30 minutes. You’ll know they’re ready when the bottom is slightly browned. The top won’t look much different than when they were raw, so be sure to check the bottom!

Take them out and let them cool just a bit, cool enough that you can handle them and your kids can handle them, but still warm.

Now the fun part. And by “fun” I mean the most stressful, messy and chaotic part. Let your kids roll the cookies around in a bowl of powdered sugar. I divided the sugar into three bowls so they each had their own because my kids share everything all the time and I like to give them their “own” things on occasion.

You should accept the fact that your kids are going to lick their fingers because they’re covered in sugar, they’re going to eat the cookies and they’re probably going to lick the bowl like a dog lapping up water on a hot day. No? Just mine? Cool.

Now you have some awesome cookies, great memories, probably some cute pictures, and a fairly manageable mess to clean up.

Want the recipe but not the sweet, sweet commentary? Find it below.

2 cups crushed walnuts

2 cups flour

2 sticks of soft butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325

Mix butter, flour, crushed walnuts, granulated sugar and vanilla

Roll into balls and bake for 25-35 minutes until bottom of cookie is slightly browned.

Let cool so warm to touch and roll in powder sugar

**I also did a batch with mini chocolate chips…delicious!!!!**