Mar 242014


I let Craig handle last night’s round of “Whack-a- Mole” (bedtime) and settled into the couch at 7:45. It’s like my victory lap –  that couch settling.

Day is done, gone the son, gone the girls and the the fights and the whiiiiines. All is calm- Bravo ooooon- sleep is nigh….

One of the myriad problems with this parenting gig is that they save the hardest part for last. BEDTIME. Bedtime should be in the morning – when we’re fresh and kind and sweet –  and decent parenting still seems like a very real possibility. But no, the hardest parts – dinner and baths and bedtime – arrive at the end of the day- when we have nothing left. When the truth is, we are counting the minutes. Counting the moments until no one is the boss of us anymore. Until we can sink into that couch, book, internet, or glass of wine – whatever our victory lap includes.

It doesn’t help that in our mommy minds, we have this idea that bedtime is supposed to be the most peaceful, loving time of day. That we are supposed to send our lovies off to dream land with songs, stories, soft, sweet voices and strokes of their cherubic heads. Sometimes bedtime happens this way for us. Not often.

Each of our kids gets a story at bedtime. They never pick a good one, they pick the longest one.

And the little one wants to “help read” her book. So, let’s see. It takes her about six minutes to sound out each word, and so if the book is one hundred words, well, I don’t specialize in math but I am telling you that I am stuck in that room FOREVER. It feels like I will be reading that book with Amma until I die. And I know I’m supposed to be SUPPORTING her reading. I mean it’s good – this is good stuff, this wanting to read. I was a reading teacher, I know this is GOOD stuff about which I am supposed to be EXCITED. But for me, exhaustion trumps excitement every single time. And I can’t help but notice that the ONLY TIME SHE CARES THIS MUCH ABOUT READING IT HERSELF IS AT BEDTIME. When she can hold me hostage and stay up six minutes later with every sounded-out-word.  And so while I’m supposed to be thinking sweet thoughts, all I can think is: OH MY GOD. I AM GOING TO DIE. I AM GOING TO JUMP RIGHT OUT OF MY SKIN. YOU SUCK AT READING. YOU SUCK YOU SUCK YOU SUCK. PLEASE GOD. PLEASE MAKE THIS BOOK..just..just …DISAPPEAR so I can take my victory lap. I DESERVE MY VICTORY LAP! 

But No. Nope. No help from above. So it goes on. And on.  “S….o…….soooooooooo  t-h- e….tuuuuu—-huuuuuu—-eeeeeeeeee?” says Amma. I am held hostage for forty five minutes. When she is finally done. I decide that after that debacle there is NO WAY that the Universe also expects me to sing the “song” that is also part of her “bedtime routine.” I say goodnight and pray she’ll forget.

But they never forget. They PRETEND to forget ONLY so that they have another excuse to pop out of their rooms and remind you of what you forgot.

So three minutes later, when I think I’m in the clear, here comes my littlest mole. “You forgot my song,” she says. And I stare at her for a long second and admit to myself two things.

1. She is unbelievably cute and precious and one day I will miss these visits, especially when she starts  sneaking out of her room to party with her friends instead of to find me to sing to her.

2. Doesn’t matter. I’m going to lose it.

And so I sing her song. But I sing it like an insane person. Eyes wide, teeth clenched, just a little too loud. No sweetness. Like a robot. “You. Are. My. Sun. SHINE. My. Only. Sun. SHINE. I sing it like there are implied curse words between every lyric.

And then. Then I am done. It is time. I am a Freedom Fighter and I have fought long and hard for my OWN FREEDOM and it is here. Now is the time I raise my mommy arms in the air and breathe deeply and eat cookies alone. My hand is on the child’s door knob. I can see I can feel I can hear I can TASTE those couch cushions. And then. Amma speaks again. I freeze.

Mooooooommy. Tell me about God.


WHY DOES EVERY KID BECOME A FREAKING THEOLOGIAN AND NATURALIST AND INQUIRING MIND ABOUT WORLD ISSUES AT BEDTIME????  I THINK WE KNOW WHY. Oh, yes. I think we know why. Because there is a secret right of passage we don’t know about. When they are babies, some older kid at the playground sneaks a book into their strollers called “BEDTIME HOSTAGE QUESTIONS: A Treasury of Inquiries Yo Mama Will Feel Too Guilty Not To Answer.” On the back cover it reads: “Guaranteed to buy you 10 extra minutes each night or your money back.”

But I know the drill. I KNOW THIS DRILL. AND I LOVE GOD, SURE. I love teaching kids about God- I’m a freaking Sunday School teacher for Christ’s sake (literally). BUT GOD LOVES ME, TOO. AND GOD WANTS ME ON THE COUCH NOW SO EVERYONE IN MY HOUSE CAN LIVE TO DIE ANOTHER DAY.

And so I look back at Amma and say-”Honey, I’d love to talk to you about God. If you are still interested tomorrow during YOUR TV TIME WE WILL CHAT. HOW ‘BOUT THAT?”  ON YOUR TIME, SISTER. Ba- BAM. HOW YOU LIKE ME, NOW- AMMA????

She gets it. She finally goes to sleep. They know when mommy’s done. When I start gesturing like a cage fighter instead of a mama, they know it’s time. It’s not pretty, but it’s effective. I am Glinda the Good Witch until 7:45 and then at 7:46 it’s nothing but green faces, warts, cackles, and threats. And often that’s the best I can do.

So last night as I waited for Craig to whack the last mole –  I half listened to the bedroom doors re-open and the typical mole-y excuses –  “I can’t sleep because my elbow hurts!” “I need ICE COLD water, not reg-a-lar water” “My closet doors are open.” There’s an elephant shadow on my window.”  Whack- Whack-Whack- Whack.  Nothing new. The moles are not too creative tonight, I thought .  But then – I hear a door open and one appears to say to poor Craig- mallet in hand- sitting against the wall in the hallway – “I can’t sleep because my finger smells because I keep scratching my bottom.”

Hmm. Not bad, I thought, and I giggled, because it’s funny when it’s not your turn. Craig says, “Okay. Go wash your hand.” I hear the water run, hallway waddling, child returns to her room. Two minutes later, door re-opens, child-mole re-appears. “My finger still….” “GO WASH YOUR HAND AGAIN,” Craig says with that very even, controlled tone that indicates the Whack -a-Mole machine is about to BUST. Water starts, child- mole slowly creeps back to her room. A minute later, door re-opens. Mole child says, “My finger still…” THEN STOP SCRATCHING YOUR BUTT. AND STOP SMELLING YOUR FINGER! OR PUT IT UNDER YOUR PILLOW. HOLD YOUR BREATH. WHATEVER IT TAKES. JUST GO. TO. SLEEP!

Mole child gets it. She is out of quarters. Daddy’s broke. Machine is done for the day.

No more doors open.

Craig comes downstairs.

He joins me with tea and House of Cards for our victory lap. He’s asleep within ten minutes.

All Moles Wacked. Me and my cookies and quiet. Glinda is back.

Carry On, Warriors.

The Worst Bedtime Family in the History of the Whole Entire Universe

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Mar 202014
From the first page of Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

From the first page of Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

I feel a little stirring lately. I’m feeling CURIOUS about something – and curiosity is the universe’s invitation.

I think I’m ready to dip my toe into the waters of international poverty activism. I’m nervous about it, though. Since I don’t know what the hell I‘m doing.  I’ll definitely say all the wrong things. And because every time I try to be an activist of any kind I always prove to be more of a distractivist. It’s always: OH MY GOD THE PAIN THE DEVASTATION I AM GOING TO DO ALL THE THINGS TO SAVE THE WORLD FOREVER AND EVER AND OH LOOK, A BIRD! I’M THIRSTY. I should go to Target. NEW PILLOWCASES!  Sigh.

Still. Even so. This seems like the Next Right Thing, so I’m going to start asking questions and paying attention: slowly and careful and with great humility and all of my ridiculousness and ignorance and distraction and privilege. And then I’m just going to occasionally read and share stories about what I learn with you. I’m a storyteller, so I’ll just start activating that way.

To be very clear –  I know you and I know you’re ALREADY DOING ENOUGH – too much, likely. So I won’t add anything to your plate. Every once in a while we’ll just read a special story together and  maybe let our hearts and minds open wider and soften deeper. That’s all.  We’re just going to try to let it in. And then maybe miracles will happen or maybe the sharing and reading and opening and softening are miracles enough.

Or maybe it’ll work like this: Maybe we’ll read a story about a guy building schools all over the world or an organization working to get kids clean drinking water and that’ll get us thinking. Maybe instead of succumbing to guilt or despair we’ll choose gratitude instead. And maybe that gratitude will offer us a new perspective on our day. Maybe we’ll take it easier on ourselves because we’ll realize:  Our Kids Are Fine. There are kids who really, really aren’t- but since our kids have food and water and school and at least one person who loves them- they’ll probably be okay. So maybe we’ll relax a little. And that relaxing gratitude will allow us to offer an extra smile to a tired mama or a lonely grandpa or a struggling cashier at the mall later. And maybe that’s enough. So that’s the way we’ll do it- we’ll subtract worries before we add them. This is our kind of activism. It is slow but real. It is small but true.

Here are two heart-opening things for you today. Toe in the water.

Pencils of Promise


I just finished Adam Braun’s book, The Promise of a Pencil. This guy. He builds schools all over the world for otherwise invisible children, you guys. And he writes about his passions and his BIG LOVE for the world so beautifully. He writes about small decisions his parents made raising him that led him down the road of reckless Love he walks everyday. Also he’s gorgeous but that is not valid at all here, Glennon, because he is engaged and you are MARRIED and THIS IS ABOUT THE CHILDREN. For theloveofallthatisholyFocusUpDISTRACTIVIST! Anyway -I believe in Adam and I ordered his book because it’s GOOD, and because he is Good and  because every penny Pencils of Promise makes goes back into the schools Adam builds. He’s a builder of goodness, this guy.

World Water Day


You know how I feel about water. Water and books. Just give me water in any form and books of any kind and a jar of peanut butter (crunchy, please) and come back in a year to check on me.

Turns out that kids are dying right now all over the globe because they don’t have clean water to drink. We all know it but we don’t say it much because well, it’s all just so excruciatingly impossible to think about. Let’s try something different. Let’s try saying it and see what happens. Let’s resist the instinct to hide from the brutal and remember that ALL THE BEAUTY IN THE WORLD HAPPENS WHEN FOLKS RUN TOWARDS THE BRUTAL INSTEAD OF AWAY.

As a small way of running towards the brutal, I’ve accepted an invitation. A relief and development organization called Church World Service has invited me to come and learn about World Water Day by being part of a live, online discussion they are having about water on Saturday.  A  Google+ “Hangout.” Church World Service is an organization made up of some amazing people doing extraordinary work, so I’ve decided I can do this.  I can Hangout. I can hangout and ask questions of these inspiring people doing the on-the-ground work across the globe to get families clean water to drink. I can be ignorant and distracted and privileged and still activate a little.

And you can join me. The Hangout is scheduled for 7 pm EDT on Saturday, March 22, but you can check it out now and RSVP to let us know that you want to be a part of it, too.  Let’s mark World Water Day by listening and asking questions and learning a little bit about this emergency and what we can do to help. I’ll tell you right now we can’t fix it. But that’s not our job, is it? Our job is to keep our hearts open and soft so that we’ll be ready when the ONE LITTLE THING we CAN DO makes itself known.

Join me for WATER DAY.

That’s all for today. Thanks for getting your toes wet with me.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest

Mar 182014

Gifted and Talented

“Don’t worry, Scout, it ain’t time to worry yet,” said Jem. He pointed. “Looka yonder.” 

In a group of neighbors, Atticus was standing with his hands in his overcoat pockets. He might have been watching a football game. (*He was actually watching the house next door to the Finch home burn to the ground.*)

“See there, he’s not worried yet,” said Jem.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Last week, one of my mama friends called to tell me a story. Her daughter had come home from school and while she was eating a snack she said, “Mom, I’m sorry but I’m not gifted. They sent home letters today to the gifted kids. I’m not a gifted kid.”

Let’s  talk about that.  I have some thoughts, and so I’ve just sent up a Twitter prayer to the G-O-D that it’ll all come out right. Sometimes I know something to be true, down deep in my bones, but when I try to turn it into words, it changes. Gets all jacked up. Like how blood is blue till it hits oxygen and turns red. Which is why I predict we’d be better off if people talked less and just quietly knew more. She said, as she wrote her 3,670th blog post.

Here I go. I’d like to talk to you about your brilliant children.


Every child is gifted and talented. Every single one. Everything I’ve ever written about on this blog has been open for argument, except for this one. I know this one is true. Every single child is gifted and talented in a particular area. Every single one also has particular challenges. For some kids, the classroom setting is the place where their genius is hardest to see and their challenges are easiest to see. And since they spend so much time in the classroom, that’s a tough break for these little guys. But I know that if we are patient and calm and we wear our perspectacles and we keep believing, we will eventually see the specific magic of each child.

Like my student who was severely dyslexic and also could’ve won Last Comic Standing at age seven. “Hey, Miss Doyle. Were you really busy last night or something?” Yes, actually, I was. Why do you ask, Cody? “Because your hair’s actually the same color it was yesterday!” The boy was a genius.

Like my precious one who couldn’t walk or speak because of his severe Cerebral Palsy, but whose smile while completing his grueling physical therapy inspired the rest of my class to call him the “bravest.” Genius, that kid.

Like my autistic little man, who couldn’t have hurt another living being if somebody paid him to. He was the most gentle soul I’ve ever known. And he loved animals like they were a gift made just for him by God. Which, of course, they were. But nobody in our class knew that but him. Undeniable Genius.

Like my third grader who read like a kindergartener and couldn’t add yet. But one day I stood behind her at recess, where she played all alone, and heard her singing to herself. And that was the day I discovered her gift. It was also the day that she discovered her gift. Since I FREAKED OUT. And marched her over to the rest of the teachers to make her sing for them. And announced to the class that we had a ROCK STAR in our midst. And she quietly beamed. And she sang all the time after that. All the time. Actually, it was a little much. But we let it slide because you don’t mess with artistic genius.

Or the little man in one of Chase’s classes who was always getting in trouble. Everyday, getting in trouble. And Chase came home one day and said, “I think he’s not listening because he’s always making pictures in his head. He’s the best draw-er I’ve ever seen. He’s going to be famous, I bet.” Chase was right. I’ve seen this kid’s work. Genius.

Or my little one who was gifted in learning the classroom way, and was miles ahead of the other kids in every single subject. But had challenges being kind and humble about her particular strengths. So had a lot of trouble making friends. Sometimes it’s tough to be a genius.

Every single child is gifted. And every child has challenges. It’s just that in the educational system, some gifts and challenges are harder to see. And lots of teachers are working on this. Lots of schools are trying to find ways to make all children’s gifts visible and celebrated.And as parents, we can help. We can help our kids who struggle in school believe that they’re okay. It’s just that there’s only one way to help them. And it’s hard.

We have to actually believe that our kids are okay.

I know. Tough. But we can do it. We can start believing by erasing the idea that education is a race. It’s not. Actually, education is like Christmas. We’re all just opening our gifts, one at a time. And it is a fact that each and every child has a bright shiny present with her name on it, waiting there underneath the tree. God wrapped it up, and He’ll let us know when it’s time to unwrap it. In the meantime, we must believe that our children are okay. Every last one of them. The perfect ones and the naughty ones and the chunky ones and the shy ones and the loud ones and the so far behind ones and the ones with autism.

Because here’s what I believe. I think a child can survive a teacher or other children accidentally suggesting that he’s not okay. As long as when he comes home, he looks at his mama and knows by her face that he really is. Because that’s all they’re asking, isn’t it?

Mama, Am I Okay?

In the end, children will call the rest of the world liars and believe US.

So when they ask us with their eyes and hearts if they’re okay. . . let’s tell them:

Yes, baby. You are okay. You are more than okay. You are my dream come true. You are everything I’ve ever wanted, and I wouldn’t trade one you for a million anybody elses. This part of life, this school part, might be hard for you. But that’s okay, because it’s just one part of life. And because we are going to get through it together. We are a team. And I am so grateful to be on your team.

And then, before we dive into “helping.” Let’s just eat some cookies together and talk about other things. There are so many other things to talk about, really.

And then our kids will see that we are like Atticus Finch . . .  Hands in our pockets. Calm. Believing. And they will look at us and even with a fire raging in front of them they’ll say, “Huh. Guess it’s not time to worry yet.”

And then we’ll watch carefully. We’ll just watch and wait and believe until God nods and says, “It’s time. Tear open that gift, Mama.”

And we’ll get to say our Mama FAVE. Told you so. Told you so, World.

**A version of this essay appears in Carry On, Warrior:  The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life.**

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest