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The Morning I Tried to Take My Vitamins

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One morning, I was trying to take my vitamins–in the morning–when I’m supposed to. This is what actually happened:

As I reached into the fridge to grab the probiotics, I saw there was an open cup of milk just sitting on the shelf. I take the probiotics out along with the cup of milk. I put the probiotics on the counter and dump the milk. As I set the cup in the sink, I realize the sandwich container I need for my son’s lunch (he’s in soccer camp this week) is sitting in there. I begin to wash it and then sigh as I quickly wash the cup I just put in the sink, along with two knives, two forks, and the plates from breakfast.

After I’m done washing the dishes, I go to open the cabinet where the fish oils are and my daughter is standing in front of it asking for honey to put in her oatmeal. I get the honey out of the cabinet and hand it to her. She opens the microwave where my cup of coffee from this morning is sitting, and asks me if I want to re-heat it. I tell her yes and she proceeds to heat up my cup of coffee.

In the meantime, my youngest comes in and spills a cup of water all over the floor. I grab a rag to wipe it up and put it in the cabinet under the sink. I realize I have no more rags because they’re overflowing in the cabinet. I hear the beep from the microwave, grab my cup of coffee, and put it on the counter. I grab all the rags from under the sink and run downstairs to throw them in the washer. As I run past the dryer, I remember the comforter is still in the dryer from the night before. After I turn on the washer, I grab the comforter and run back up the stairs to put it on my son’s bed. I come back downstairs, see the vitamins but before I can take them, my daughter reminds me that my coffee is sitting on the counter. I grab the coffee, my favorite thing in the world, and walk into the living room to try to catch the weather.

At this point, I see our puppy trying to eat my couch. I grab all the pieces he’s ripped and put him outside. As I’m putting him outside, I remember he has an appointment and I need to grab a fecal sample for the vet. I quickly run into the house, grab a bag and then go back outside to grab a sample. I walk in just in time to see my youngest running to my coffee and I yell. Loudly. He jumps and steps away from the coffee as he laughs like only a diabolical preschooler can. I keep eye contact until I grab the mug. I walk into the kitchen and realize we have 10 minutes before we have to leave the house. I try to gulp down as much coffee as humanly possible without burning my esophagus and I gurgle to the kids to get ready.

15 minutes later, we’re out the door and one block later, I utter a choice word.

I forgot to take my vitamins.

Surprise Pregnancy: Unplanned doesn’t Mean Unwanted

I sat in the Walgreens parking lot for a moment, mapping my route through the store.

“You just need a pregnancy test. It’s okay. You’re an adult. You’re allowed to buy a pregnancy test.” 

But I was still terrified someone would see me. It’s a small town. People around here know me. They know us.

I probably didn’t even need to buy a pregnancy test. I was already pretty sure I was pregnant. The tell-tale signs were there, and although I was only a day past my missed period, I operate like a clock.

I took a deep breath as I briskly walked into the store, grabbed a bag of m&ms and an orange soda, skirted quickly through the family planning section, fumbling for the cheapest test I could see at a glance and hiding it between my candy and soda.

The teen at the register was awfully chatty tonight, and as he scanned the pink box, I held my breath and my mind reeled with thoughts: “what do drug store clerks think when they scan pregnancy tests? Does he remember me being in here last week with my screaming three-year-old? He’s probably thinking, ‘the last thing that lady needs is more kids.'”

But the truth is, even though this potential pregnancy was unplanned… even though we thought we were “done,” deep down inside, my heart flip-flops a little bit at the idea of a tiny, rosy-cheeked surprise blessing.

And now, as I stand here staring at two pink lines on one test, the digital word: “pregnant” on the other, I’m elated and terrified all at once.

What will my husband think?

How will we make this work?

I hope it’s a boy this time.

How did this happen?

I’m over 35, it’s so risky.

What will other people think?

Can my body handle another pregnancy?

What if I miscarry?

That last question, specifically, carries a lot of weight in my mind and emotions. Having experienced 9 previous pregnancies and only 1/3 of those resulting in live births, the odds seem against me. And although this pregnancy is completely unplanned, surprising, and inconvenient… as soon as I knew I was pregnant, this pregnancy and this BABY are completely, utterly, desperately WANTED.

I WANT this UNPLANNED pregnancy.

I LOVE this surprise BABY.

People will judge and ask nosy questions. Let them.

It will be hard. So be it.

We will struggle. We will survive thrive.

And in the end, we will have more love, more beauty, more fun, and more children.

I whisper a prayer as I shove the pregnancy test in my bureau drawer, simultaneously freaking out, trying not to hope, but hoping… and wanting all the same.

Because unplanned doesn’t always mean unwanted.

Little surprise, you weren’t our plan, but you are SO wanted.

 

When you don’t have the answers: coping as a parent when the solutions are unclear

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When you don’t have the answers, coping as a parent can be tough.

There is nothing more frustrating than watching your child struggle with something that is out of your control. An illness, a heartbreak, a betrayal of a friend, getting overlooked in sports and hobbies, or any other challenge our kids face often take every trick in your parenting bag. Times of uncertainty can be emotionally draining for the parent as well as the child.

Coping as a parent when the solution is unclear

Finding the words can be very difficult when the opportunity arises to explain uncontrollable circumstances to our children. Recently, when my daughter was ill and we were grappling at explanations for her unrelenting stomach pain, I found myself getting frustrated with her for not allowing me to help her find relief. I felt terrible for her and wanted nothing more than to take it all away. She did not want to eat, she did not want to drink, all she wanted to do was sleep. She endured tests and appointments trying to get to the bottom of her symptoms. She was frustrated too. How could I get upset with my child that was confused and in pain?

In my mind, I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do as her mother. Couldn’t she see I just wanted her to feel better? I was treating each symptom and following the doctor’s suggestions. Why was she not cooperating? What I realized was that I was not upset with her, I was upset because I could not control her willingness to participate in her own care. I was upset that I had no control over her discomfort. I could not take away the pain, and I did not know why it was there.

As days went on in the process of eliminating the possibilities for her symptoms, my frustration changed to just focusing on comforting her through the pain. In my quest to fix things, I resolved myself to the fact that I needed to step back and breathe and remember to get back to what she needed most…me.

I have had my share of coping through super tough times with my kids through middle school and high school. For me, it always comes back to one thing, staying calm. When the fear of not knowing what is happening or how to fix things in times of distress with your child, what is most important is that your child knows you are present and there to lean on. They don’t always want you to fix it, but just be there. You can champion, advocate, go full-throttle “Mama Bear.” All of that is so important, but what the child needs most is just you.

Talking to other parents about what your child is going through is a must when we don’t have all the answers.

Coping as a parent when the solution is unclear in any situation is crucial for remaining a steady role model for your child. For me, faith and prayer help me to feel comfortable in the unknown. Listening to others share their experiences also offers me perspective and sometimes leads me towards a solution–if there is one. I learned that sometimes when you don’t have all the answers, you have to ease up on the gas and just set the car on cruise control for a while so you can get your bearings. The answers may be just over the horizon.

Statewide Celebration: Jump Around Wisconsin

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If you’ve ever been in Camp Randall Stadium between the third and fourth quarter, you know what it’s like to have the earth shake beneath your feet. The first notes of House of Pain’s Jump Around sound like an alarm bell, the roar goes up from the crowd and with the first blare of the familiar riff, thousands of fans begin to jump. I hear that song and my Badger Pride swells as I am immediately transported back to the crown jewel of my alma mater. I feel the electricity in the air caused by jingling keys, high-fiving strangers around me after a touchdown (remember high-fives??), the fervor created by beating Ohio State, securing the Axe, or smelling Roses once more.

Jump Around is a celebration of Wisconsin.

Not just the university, but the state as a collective body of citizens who are in a fight against a formidable opponent. Instead of being shoulder to shoulder on the sidelines, we are in our respective homes, keeping our distance from one another to try to save one another. So let’s Jump Around….TOGETHER. 

Jump Around Wisconsin : Saturdays at 3 pm

Here’s how you can get in on the Statewide Jump Around excitement! 

  • Check out the Jump Around Wisconsin Facebook Group! At 70,000 members strong, this group is full of fans from all over the country who are excited to jump around at the same time! RSVP to the Facebook Event HERE for all the details on Jump around Wisconsin!
  • Set a reminder for 3 pm on Saturday afternoon and get those muscles warmed up! Want to join in on a live stream? Head to https://www.twitch.tv/jumpwisconsin!
  • Play Jump Around by House of Pain and get jumping! Obviously, streaming music is an option, but you can also tune in to the radio stations below who will all be playing the song at the same time. Take some video and share it with #jumparoundwisconsin, post to the group page, or email to [email protected]

Will we see you jumping around?!

Jump Around Wisconsin Radio Stations:

Sheboygan:
Janesville:
WJVL Janesville
Beaver Dam:

 

Teacher Mom :: My Thoughts on Online Learning during Social Distancing

As a teacher and a mom, I have been very conflicted about my thoughts on this new forced online learning. I feel pulled in so many directions on what is “best” for our kids and learners. Do I have a lot of questions? Yes! Do I have any of the answers? Nope!

First, I started by looking at the school calendar. Using my school as a reference, I have ten weeks left of school. In that ten weeks, I had a week of Spring Break, a week of state standardized testing, a week (or two) of other standardized testing, and another week if I add up all the other random days off. This means students are missing a total of 5-6 weeks of instruction. This made me feel better…I hope it does the same for you!

The Cons 

Right now, teachers are doing a mixture of online resources and packets that parents are picking up. The problem with this is that not all students have access to the internet and/or devices. Also, putting together packets and having parents pick them up does not guarantee students are learning. These two options work well for students that come from homes that have access to the internet, devices, and someone who can teach the material being sent home (but it’s still not a guarantee). These two options are not going to work well for students without the internet or devices. These options are not easy for students who have an IEP (individual educational plan), are English-Language Learners, or who receive more individualized support by someone who is not their teacher during the school day.

This whole situation makes me worried that the achievement gap that already exists is just going to widen.

The Pros

As much as I want to be against packets, google classroom, and continuing the school year via online learning, I do have some students who have reached out to me almost begging for things to do. Some students love packets. There are kids at home right now who want to get their hands on something educational. It might help kids feel that there is still some routine in their daily lives.

My Wish

My first wish would be that we find a cure for COVID-19, and for everyone to have access to it. This wish is a little lofty, so I will also tell you my second wish–the one more specific to this post. 

I wish all schools were able to reach students both with and without access to the internet. I wish the message to parents was that everything is optional. I wish schools made it clear that nothing would be graded, and none of the work would affect report cards or GPAs. I wish parents knew that they were the most amazing people ever and that they can do what’s best for their kids, even if that means spending hours upon hours watching Netflix and snuggling. 

At the end of this, I want parents to know the packets that were sent home and the google doc your kids were asked to complete are far less important than your family’s physical and mental health.

 

COVID-19 Needs A Trauma Informed Approach

It is well-documented that the best way to curb the spread of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing. As Governor Evers has said, we are safer at home.

The quicker we stop the spread of COVID-19, the quicker we get back to school, work, and our regular lives. We all want this.

It doesn’t seem that hard to follow the recommendations around social distancing. Stay home, away from people who don’t live with you, wash your hands, and stop touching your face. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong.

Not everyone has the ability, means, or even desire to follow the social distancing guidelines. It’s so tempting to shame people into following the guidelines. This approach won’t work and can cause unnecessary trauma and shame. There are so many memes floating around social media that judge, shame, and blame people who are still shopping and hanging out with friends.

But what if we used a trauma-informed approach to COVID-19 to better understand the barriers that exist for some folks and help them resolve those so they can be healthy and safe as well.

What is trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to a distressing situation. Traumatic experiences can involve a threat to someone’s life and/or safety but don’t have to include any physical harm. Trauma affects each person differently and can impact their cognitive, emotional, spiritual, physical, and social life. The tricky thing about trauma is that you never know what someone has been through. COVID-19 impacts everyone differently based on their past experiences. This is where using a trauma-informed lens is so important.

What is trauma-informed care?

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, trauma-informed care is a shift in thinking that focuses on someone’s past experiences and how they shape the present. An easy way to think of trauma-informed care is that it asks the question “what happened to you” instead of “what’s wrong with you.” There are six key principles of trauma-informed care. They are safety, trustworthiness and & transparency, peer support, collaboration & mutuality, empowerment & choice, and cultural, historical & gender issues. Using a trauma-informed care approach to COVID-19 and social distancing can help unite us and help us stay healthy and safe during these unsettling times.

So, the next time you see or hear about someone who isn’t following the guidelines for COVID-19 #flatteningthecurve, consider replacing judgmental thoughts with questions that seek to understand other people. This is easier said than done and takes a ton of practice. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. The goal is to recognize negative thoughts and replace them.

Let’s practice together

The next time you see someone at the grocery store, and it seems like they are buying “more than they need” of something. Instead of judging, consider their past. Maybe they didn’t have enough food as a child or young person. Or maybe they are buying for a food pantry or have a large family.

Maybe your neighbor isn’t following the recommended six feet social distancing guideline. Instead of judging, try to understand the barriers that stop them from following the guidelines. Maybe they need a break from a household member. Or maybe, they have a hard time hearing. Or maybe, physical closeness is a way for them to self-regulate.

Navigating life during the COVID-19 pandemic is hard. We need each other. We can do hard things together.

In this Together : Cozy Apparel Supports Milwaukee Area Families

Cozy Stay-at-Home Wear Supports Milwaukee Area Families

FAMILY. Now more than ever, we are reminded of how important family is, whether that family is by birth, choice or otherwise. We are spending a lot of time together lately and our roles as parents have expanded in ways we never imagined. We’ve partnered with Raising Good to create this exclusive cozy Milwaukee Mom sweatshirt, perfect for quarantine, cuddling with kiddos, and escaping to read alone in a corner to get a break. It’s a sign of solidarity with other parents that we are indeed, all in this together, doing the best we can for our kids.

10% of these sweatshirt sales will be donated to OneHope27, an organization dedicated to bringing hope to kids and families involved in foster care in Milwaukee Co.

Now more than ever, we can’t forget about foster families and at-risk families who are finding themselves cut off from the essential resources they are used to relying on for support. OneHope27 provides basic material items that children in foster care often lack, including pajamas, clothes and a proper bag to transport their belongings.

They also connect and mentor individuals wanting to get involved with foster care and will be opening an Support Home in 2021 that will provide the connection moms need to succeed with a mentoring program, life skills classes, and low-cost housing right in the heart of the city, all with the goal of reunification with their children.

Join us as we band together as parents supporting other parents. Pre-order your Milwaukee Mom sweatshirt below and grab a matching kiddo t-shirt while you’re at it. You’ll be supporting small business in Milwaukee as well as standing alongside families.

Pre-Orders Close on April 12th!

Shop the Exclusive Milwaukee Mom Collection from Raising Good

The Importance of Being Real on Social Media During Social Distancing

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It’s always refreshing to see something honest on social media, where we tend to post only our best moments — but it’s even more important to see people being real on social media now, during social distancing.

What do I mean by real? Mother’s Day 2017, this is the picture I posted on Instagram:

There’s my happy little family, out for an evening stroll. What you didn’t see on social media that day was the fact that I was pregnant with our third and had been sick all morning. That the kids had trashed The Cheesecake Factory during Mother’s Day Brunch, and we were probably now on their “do not serve” list. That an hour before that picture was taken, this picture was taken:

In the spring of 2017, our daughter was big into the “fun with feces” stage, and I found her room covered in just that when I woke her up from a nap. I spent Mother’s Day afternoon disinfecting her crib and hosing her down.

I asked my husband to take this picture because this was the reality of Mother’s Day for Moms of littles. It’s not the picture I shared on social media that day, but I’ve often thought since that it should have been.

I think we need to see these things even under normal circumstances. We need to share them, so we can hear from our fellow Moms, “Hey, that’s us today too. Solidarity, sister.”

So we can hear from the parents who have recently entered into the next phase of parenting, “Yep, I’ve been there. It will pass, you’ve got this.”

The social distancing we’re practicing right now is far from our normal, and in light of it, these real, less-than-perfect moments become even more important. We need them now.

Now, when our screen time is up 61% from last month.

Now, when our feeds are flooded with scary news, funny memes, homeschool schedules, and creative projects.

Those memes are important because they make us laugh. The schedules and projects help to spark our creativity…but what we need most is to feel like we’re not alone, in this time where we’re more isolated than we’ve ever been.

I don’t know about you, but my house looks like someone’s gone through every room in muddy boots and emptied every drawer looking for gold bars that aren’t there. Being here all day every day has taken a real toll on my house. Yours too? Show me that mess.

I haven’t been able to make a schedule. Nor have I even thought about starting the homeschooling part of all this. My kids have watched an extraordinary amount of TV while I try to get my work done and figure out our new normal. Anyone else out there? Please tell me I’m not the only one!

Show me your kid melting down because you put their sock on the wrong foot. Mine did that today too.

Show me the Rice Krispies you poured for dinner because you just couldn’t cook another meal. That’s been me all week.

Show me the pajamas that you haven’t changed out of in eight days, because I need to see something other than the pajamas I haven’t changed out of in eight days.

Show me the good things too — show me the creative projects you’ve done, the inspired school activities that have worked for you, the things you’re doing to make this time extra special for your kids.

I know there are a lot of people out there who, for various reasons, don’t like to get too personal on social media, and that’s just fine. But for those out there who are comfortable posting the things that maybe are not quite working for you, please share. Balance it out, so we can find community in those real moments amid this new reality that still doesn’t seem real.

Oh, and if you have a solution to the “fun with feces” stage besides duct taping the diapers on, I’m all ears. Because baby #3 is here now, and entering that stage herself. This time I’ll post that picture.

Video chatting :: How we Stay Connected

 

Video chatting is single-handedly making it possible for my son to have amazing relationships with my family.

My husband and I moved to Wisconsin about four years ago.  He is originally from Texas, and my home state is Nebraska. Since moving here, we have gotten engaged, married, and recently(ish) had our first child. We have been doing our best to raise our son with little to no physical help from our families. Now before my mom or sisters feel it necessary to give me a call, I will say that there have been some very crucial times when my family has traveled the 8 hours to help us out, and for that, I am truly grateful! 

In general, though, we can see each other one weekend about every other month, making us a long-distance family.

One aspect of our long-distance family that has always made me feel like I was doing a disservice to my son is the relationships he was missing out on. In the beginning, I really did feel like he was missing out big. I wanted him to be able to have weekly snuggles with his Lovey and Papa, Aunties that would pick him up early from daycare for a hooky day, and cousins who grew into best friends. I was worried that our decision to live in Milwaukee would prevent these relationships from happening.

I was so wrong! 

Video chatting has seriously made it possible for my son to have amazing relationships with his family. We FaceTime my mom and dad almost daily, we check in with aunties often and play “peek-a-boo” with cousins who live many miles away. I know it is not the same as being there in person, but it really does help. When we reunite with family members either in Wisconsin or elsewhere, my son doesn’t act shy or scared. He will reach for my mom or roar in his cousin’s face within seconds of reuniting. I will rightfully give video chatting the credit for these effortless relationships and feel so hopeful that these relationships will continue to flourish.

As time goes on, we reach further and further with our video chats. We find ourselves FaceTiming uncles in Texas, WhatsApp-ing with family members visiting the states from Africa, and Marco Polo-ing my son’s milestones to more aunties (there’s always more aunties).

As the positives pile up with each video chat, I have to ask myself the question, “Video chatting doesn’t count towards my son’s total screen time?”

Right?!

Help Stop Hatred: Learn About Transgender Kids

Pride Parade 2018

My Transgender Daughter is Awesome

I’m a mom of six, one of whom is trans, and I want you to learn about transgender kids to help stop hatred. My daughter faces discrimination, obstacles, and heartbreak if we don’t change. How do we do that? One person, conversation, and heart at a time. Learning about trans identities is something we can all do to heal generations and prevent violence and suicide. To start, I want to tell you our story.

When Ella was born, we expected a boy. By all appearances, we got just that. We were thrilled. We’d had a girl and were excited about trains and superheroes. By 18-months-old, something was clearly different. Our “boy” only wanted to wear dresses, loved Princess Anna, and showed zero interest in any traditional boy things. We were surprised, but having an older sister was an easy explanation. We’d never heard about transgender kids.

Transgender Daughter

By 4K, she strongly preferred “girl clothes.” She wore pants on her head as long hair. She drew herself as female, identified with female characters, and showed confusion over being called a boy. We made her wear boy clothes to school. We weren’t sure if this was a phase, a result of limited socialization with boys, or if we’d “done this to her” by allowing dress up.

After school, she’d change clothes immediately. She went from daytime to diva in less than a minute, without fail. For dress-up days, she transformed into princesses and ballerinas. At Center Time in class, she played with kitchen sets and dolls.

That year, she started having night terrors. She wet through several outfits each day. By years end, we stopped insisting on boy clothes and let her wear some of her sister’s. The change in her was so positive; I took her shopping for her own.

At the end of 4K, she asked us to call her, “a daughter, sister, and girl.” We’d expected this but had avoided labeling in case it was non-conformity or a phase versus a transgender identity.

What is gender

I had to learn about transgender kids.

I made an appointment with a gender therapist. I joined groups for parents of transgender children. I read books about what being transgender means. I pored through studies, laws, and history. The things I didn’t even know I didn’t know filled volumes. I learned the difference between advocating and gatekeeping. I petitioned our school board for bathroom rights and district-wide policy change. I met with doctors.

I made myself an expert on my child.

Since transitioning, she’s embraced a love of all things creepy, superheroes, and black clothes. She’s eight and cooler than I’ll ever be. She doesn’t have to convince anyone she’s a girl. We know. She can be who she wants, how she wants. One important thing I had to learn about transgender kids was that they don’t owe us a binary identity. Gender is a spectrum.

People ask how I’ll respond if she “changes her mind,” and while that’s unlikely, I’ll respond by loving her – who she is, at that moment, always.

I’ve written about our journey and how other people impact that. Ella’s open about her identity and proud of who she is. She’s accepted and loved at home. She has supportive friends and teachers. Sometimes ignorance and hate hit us hard, but that means we get to show a lot of people what true acceptance means. Ella’s journey is just starting, and ours is too.

Help us love her by learning more.

Transgender Pronoun Pin

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Guide To Milwaukee

Dine While Distancing: Milwaukee Area Restaurants Offering Carry-out, Curbside, and Delivery...

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As the social distancing has ramped up and quarantine situations have begun to take shape over the last week, Governor Evers has taken the...