"Losing weight is just hard."

If you remember from some of my previous posts, I've been waiting several weeks to see my regular doctor to get my lab work done that the naturopathic doctor requested. Walking into the appointment I knew that it was risky; knew that there was a good chance that the doctor wouldn't order all of the tests that the naturopath was wanting. What I didn't expect was to leave the appointment disappointed and frankly, offended.

So what are you coming in for today?

This is a new doctor for me. I've only seen her once before. She doesn't know me, doesn't know my past. I gave her the short version of all of my girly health issues as she starred at me with a blank expression on her face. I then explained all of my current symptoms and what I believed to be the problem (hormones? maybe early menopause?) I told her that I was worried about my inability to lose weight and that the naturopath believed that it probably has something to do with everything else going on with me and that I agreed. I then handed her the prescription for the lab work.

After she explained that she didn't like requesting lab work from out-of-network doctors, here, in a nutshell, is what she said:

I see over 2,000 patients and I have this same conversation with almost all of them. If losing weight were easy, we wouldn't have the global weight issues that we have. If you are in early menopause then all of your symptoms are typical. Losing weight is just hard.

I wanted to rip her head off, cover it in chocolate icing, and eat it for lunch.

Here is what I wanted to say back to her:

Losing weight is hard? Really? WOW! I'm so glad you told me! I had no idea. Tell me, Doc, how am I supposed to reconcile the fact that every doctor tells me that I am overweight and should shed a few with the fact that my body won't let me because I am going through something that I shouldn't be going through for another good 15 years? Does this make sense to you, because it sure as hell doesn't make any sense to me. I am here for more than just weight loss. I'm here because I know that something isn't right with my body and that stupid diploma on your wall says that you're supposed to help me. Clearly you have no intention of helping. Basically, you're telling me that I just have to accept this is for what it is and live with headaches and fatigue and an inability to lose weight--no matter what the hell I do--for the rest of my life. Bullshit. You suck.

Actually, I said something similar but left out all of the sarcasm and cussing.

She ended up ordering and few of the labs and referred me to and OBGYN for the rest. (Yea! Another doctor!) I left wanting to scream, "And this is why we seek out help from alternative doctors! Because you people won't give us the help that we need!" I've never been opposed to traditional medicine, but when you can't get the help that you need, when you feel like your doomed to a life full of feeling less that 100%, you have no choice but to seek out alternative help.

Next week I'll see the OBGYN who, fingers crossed, will order the rest of my labs. If not, I will most likely have to pay out of my own pocket for the rest. At this point, I'll pay just about anything NOT to have a doctor look at me and say, "Huh. Sucks to be you."

Pathetic at Week 3


So today is the start of week three of my new...healthy...lifestyle. I pause between between each word to try and show my lack of enthusiasm.

Did it work?

I wish I could start this post by telling you HOW AWESOME everything is. But I can't. I can't because right now in this moment I don't feel awesome. It's hard to feel awesome when you get on the scale after two weeks with no alcohol, diet coke, no processed foods, or dairy, or sugar and see NOTHING. No change. Nada.


So I did it. I cheated. Today the boys wanted to go to Islands for burgers and I had no intention of ordering a salad. Last week Derek took the boys to Habit for burgers (yep...we enjoy our burgers) and brought me home a salad with a patty on top. And it was okay. It filled me it. It did the job food is supposed to do. It served its purpose.

Today's cheat (a Big Wave with CHEESE and a whole wheat bun...and fries) also served a purpose. And today that purpose was to make me happy. Because I wasn't. I wasn't happy this morning to see no improvement whatsoever.

To answer your questions, I still have gone to the lab for my blood work. Unfortunately, that won't be done for another week. So I don't know anymore about my health than I did two weeks ago. And as far as exercising? Well...I've been good and bad. That first week my energy level took a major hit. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being super hyper, I was at a negative 30. My energy level seems to be picking up. I think it has a lot to do with the Maca supplement that I take twice a day. But even with a little improvement in my energy, I still haven't been exercising a ton. Derek's been traveling and the boys are around all the time making it hard to go to yoga (when the HECK does school start?) and it's been a million degrees outside. Enough excuses for you? I know. I know. I should find a way to exercise even if it's just walking around the block twenty times. But I just don't...feel like it.

I'm not feeling guilty because I know how unproductive that is. Instead, I'm giving myself some grace. I've had some changes in my life lately, had some "stuff" going on, which of course includes my new healthy lifestyle. Completely changing the way you eat and having to say goodbye to some dear, dear, albeit destructive friends like Processed Food and Sugar hasn't been easy. Adding exercise into my daily routine will be another major change for me.

Yes, I totally understand that when I DO start exercising regularly (and I will...eventually) there is a good possibility that I will see some movement on the scale. Except that is not what has happened in my past. In my past, I've worked my butt off--red face, sweaty, stinky, worked my butt off--to see NO CHANGE. You can see why it's hard for me to be very motivated to work out.

Which leads me back to the blood work and the hormones and the mess that I am beginning be believe more and more that I am. I am so ready for that blood work to be done. I need a reason. I need my luck to change. Do I want something major wrong with me? Of course not! I just need to someone, preferably a health care professional, to look at me and tell me what the deal is.

So tonight, to make up for that burger, I will enjoy (big fake smile inserted here) my healthy smoothie and pray that tomorrow will be a better day.

Gardening in the suburbs.

I bought myself a present a few months ago--a raised vegetable garden. Normally a present that I would buy myself would be more along the lines of a purse or a big chunky necklace (if you know me, you know I love my big chunky necklaces!) But I've wanted to put in a veggie garden, but our soil here is hard and full of rocks. Not to mention that we have rabbits that my husband likes to shoot (oh, that's a whole other blog post right there!)

When I was very little, my parents had a suburban garden on the side of the house. I don't remember much about it other than having it. My grandmother, who was raised on a farm in southwestern Oklahoma, always had a garden too. It just seemed like having a garden was what you did. And now it's my turn.

My garden isn't very big. About 2' by 4'. Just big enough for me not to become totally overwhelmed. I actually started gardening by accident. I used to have a compost bin on the side of the house until some critters got into it. A few months after emptying out the compost, this was left behind...

A pretty little tomato plant with actual tomatoes growing on it. I was so excited. "I'm a gardener!" I exclaimed to the Golfer. "No you're not. That's what they call a lucky accident." Well, whatever they call it, I get to claim it.

So across from MY tomatoes, we started the Freeman Family Farm. After the Golfer built the raised bed, I hired some local child laborers to do the planting for me. Here's the oldest mixing the organic soil and the compost together.

For this very first round of planting, I decided not to try to grow anything from seed and go with some already growing. The Golfer says that's cheating, but I say it's just smart.

I kept it seasonal. We have red, green and yellow peppers, jalapenos, basil, strawberries, cucumbers, squash and that blank space in the front is okra that I did start from seed. The Golfer put in a irrigation system for me so that I wouldn't come home to a dead garden every time we leave town. We also planted a watermelon plant near the tomatoes. So about the time that everyone is carving pumpkins, we'll be carving a watermelon.

This is the Freeman Farm today! The cucumber vines have taken over the whole thing. I have some little bitty peppers and jalapenos growing and the signs of some squash and cucumbers on their way as well...

It's fun to go outside and show the boys how these vegetables are growing. I think there's probably some mama merit badge somewhere for growing a garden with your kids. If there is, I should get one.

The strawberries, which I thought would be the easiest, aren't. They aren't very big and juicy like a strawberry should be and they are a little warped and weird looking. They taste good, for the 2 seconds that it takes to eat them.

But something is eating my tomatoes and it's making me angry! Those tomatoes that I had absolutely nothing to do with, are now being eaten by some kind of worm that is eating 100 times his weight and size in tomato leaves and probably rabbits (or worse...)

Guess no one said gardening in the suburbs was easy.

I don't like to move it, move it. Don't like to...move it.

Tomorrow starts my second week. I'm unsure what to call it. My new diet? My new lifestyle? My new health? My new life? Whatever this is, it's new. As the saying goes, out with the old...

So far, so good. I've avoided sugar and alcohol, even when going to dinner with friends. The restaurant served the wine (that everyone else was enjoying) in these fabulously big glasses that I would have loved sipping out of. But I said no. I drank my club soda with lime happily. That's right. Happily. (The wine would have made me even happier, but that's beside the point.)

Unfortunately, my energy level hasn't gotten much better. This great site that my friend Jennifer recommeded to help me with my switch to a paleo diet said that that the first 2-3 weeks when switching to a paleo diet are hard. Your body is detoxing off of all of the junk that it is used to having. My energy level was already low without a new diet making it worse.

Which brings me to exercise. I don't like it. I don't like to exercise. If it happens accidentally, great. Accidentally as in you get a little exercise by walking briskly through Target or carrying clean and dirty laundry up and down the stairs. But on purpose? Yeah, thanks, I'll pass. I don't like to sweat. I don't like to be overheated. Exercise causes both. Honestly, if I could spend the rest of my life not working out,  ever, I'd be a happy lady. But that's not how it works. I suppose I could never work out again if I wanted to weigh 500 pounds and be unhealthy, but I don't want that. So that means I have to get up and move it.

So God sent me yoga. Not hot yoga, but plain good ol' fashioned yoga. That's right. God sent it to me. I had prayed and prayed to fall in love with exercising, that I find something that I actually enjoyed doing. He knew how much I didn't like to sweat so He sent me yoga.

I still struggle to get out the door. I am a professional at finding other things to do than work out. But with my new...lifestyle...I've made a promise to myself. I've promised myself that I will move every day, that I will get up and move and that hopefully that movement will turn into exercise. So I walk the dog or I head to yoga and I never, ever regret it when I do.

The Doctor's Detox Smoothie

A big part of my getting healthier is starting with a smoothie. My doctor wants me drinking this at least 5 mornings a week for the next 2-3 months. Drinking a smoothie every morning for breakfast? No problem!

Except here is a pic of the typical smoothie that I'm used to drinking:

OJ, organic vanilla yogurt, a banana, blueberries, some spinach, a little flax seed maybe some chia seeds. Healthy right? Of course it is. Nothing wrong with a smoothie like this. My boys love smoothies like these and I'm so glad. I mean, how else do you get your kids to eat spinach and flax seed?

The problem for me is that this kind of smoothie makes my blood sugar spike. The sugar in the juice and the fruit and the yogurt starts my day on a sugar high. I can't do that any more. So here's my new smoothie. My liver detox smoothie:

First is the liquid. Either one cup of water or coconut water. I recommend it being cold. I use the coconut water.

Next comes the greens. Either spinach or kale. A good hand full will do.

Then some red cabbage. Never thought I'd be putting red cabbage in a breakfast smoothie.

Adding to the veggies are some beets. I've really grown to love beets. But I love them roasted in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. In a smoothie? Uh...sure.

Next I add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Apparently cinnamon is really good for you. Lowers blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, treats yeast infections, is an antioxidant, may reduce inflammation, and fights bacteria. Awesome right? Love cinnamon! My problem is that I'm used to getting my cinnamon on toast with butter and sugar. Now it's going into my smoothie.

My doctor has me add the following supplements to my smoothie: resveratrol (found in red wine, yea!) and tumeric (anti-inflammatory and disease preventative). I have to add 10ml of each. Both of these are an important component to my liver detox.

Yea! Something sweet! You can add either a pear, pineapple, or mango to my smoothie. Berries are not recommended.

Two new words that I love: good fat. Avocados are a good fat, just like me. I like to think of myself as a good fat. I added 1//2 of the avocado. Could also add some olive oil, another good fat, but I like the idea of creamy avocado better.

What I don't have a picture of is the protein powder that I have to add. It's called Vital Clear and it is a veggie based protein powder that is for liver detox. 5 scoops of Vital Clear goes into my smoothie.

All of this will make for a very thick smoothie, so be sure you all plenty water or coconut water. I've found adding a little ice helps too. Makes is a little colder and a little easier to drink.



Thank goodness for the beets, tumeric, and red cabbage that turn it this nice red color. The whole recipe makes about 16 ounces=1pint. About the same about that you would pay good money for at your local smoothie shop.

I'm not gonna lie to you. That first sip is a doosie. Especially when you're used to always drinking a sweet smoothie like I was. But the more you drink it, the more you get used to it. With each sip I try to focus on how healthy this little drink is going to make me while trying to ignore the Pop Tarts that my boys are scarfing down next to me.

The Sugar Addiction is Real

Yesterday was Day One of my liver detox. To say that it sucked would be putting it mildly. Giving up caffeine and sugar both in the same day was the dumbest thing that I've ever done.

I felt like total crap. The morning started out fine. I was so good. Drank a smoothie, passed on the coffee, took my Maca, and had a healthy lunch filled with veggies and protein. And then I started to get a headache. It was a bad one. One that stops you in your tracks and makes you feel like your brain is going to start oozing out of your ears at any moment. I had ZERO energy. I couldn't get off of the couch. I was so fatigued, so tired, I felt like I hadn't slept for DAYS. It was terrible.

Laying on the couch, eyes closed, unable to sleep because my head hurt so bad, the same phrase kept playing over and over again in my head. "This sucks. This suck. This sucks. I can't do this if this is how I'm going to feel every day. I can't do this. I can't do this." But I'm going to have to do this. I prayed that tomorrow would be a better day.

Here is my problem. I didn't realize until yesterday afternoon how much I use sugar and caffeine to get me through my day. Sugar is my friend and my worst enemy. I didn't realize how much I needed it to feel good. I. Am. Addicted. To. Sugar.

Hi, I'm Stephenie and I'm a sugar-a-holic.

Not in a eating cookies and cakes and candy all day long kind of way, but in a fruit, fruit juice, diet soda, processed food, fast food, piece of chocolate after lunch, ice cream at night kind of way. And each time I had that sugar, my blood sugar spiked causing all sorts of other issues. Hello Hypoglycemia! I have truly become dependent on sugar to function and now I'm having to take my body off of it and my body isn't liking it. Not one bit.

This morning started out the same way. Had my smoothie and some eggs and bacon. Felt okay enough to run to the grocery store to buy the plethora of veggies that I need for my paleo diet. But I had no energy. On a scale from 1 to 10, my energy was at a 1 at best. It was 9AM and I felt like I had just finished walking 39.3 miles (I've done that. Believe me, I know what it feels like.) Just putting the grocery bags into the trunk felt like a major ordeal.

So I headed to Starbucks.

Yes, I allowed myself to have a skinny sugar-free vanilla latte and it was the best thing I've ever had. Like manna from Heaven it was!

Since my coffee fix, today has been better. I'm making sure to eat something every 2-3 hours, like the doctor told me to do. I've decided that trying to change all of my eating habits, while giving up sugar and caffeine simultaneously, was a BAD idea. So I'm allowing myself that one cup of coffee only and I'm saying goodbye to my beloved Diet Coke at lunch. I'm focusing on eating lots of protein and veggies only and having NO sugar of any kind.

Because I have do this if I want to feel better. This won't suck. I can do this. This won't suck. I can do this.

A holistic approach.

Holistic Doctor Mill Valley CA 
 :: photo credit here :: 

I'm one of those people who looks healthy, but on the inside not so much. Apparently, my insides are all out of wack and my body has had enough.

For years I have been trying to lose weight. I have proof of it here and here and here. But no matter how hard I worked out, how much sugar I stopped eating, I could never lose any weight. And then there were the headaches. A few years ago I started having horrible, migraine worthy, headaches that were making me miserable. Are still making me miserable.

My "regular" doctors were no help. The answers that I received were to work harder and to see a neurologist for the headaches. A neurologist? That advice was neither reasonable or helpful. I was frustrated and beginning to feel like this was simply my life. I had started resigning myself to the fact that this was how it was going to be for me. But one of my best friends snapped me out of all that crazy talk.

My friend Amy, one of the smartest, prettiest, healthiest, all around best people I know, recommended that I find a holistic doctor. She had started going to one several years ago and it changed her life. She reminded me that God had given me this precious gift--a body to take care of--and I needed to do whatever it took to take care of myself. So I started to search for a new doctor. I live in Southern California. Finding a holistic doctor shouldn't be hard.

So yesterday I went to see my new naturopathic doctor. I was a little nervous. I had no idea what to expect. I'm all about being as natural as possible. Whole foods and yoga and healthy choices, yeah, I'm all about it. But would this lady end up wanting to do some kind of weird voodoo treatment that involved chanting and drinking some kind of weird, homemade brown stuff out of Bell jars?

Not even close.

I liked her right away. She spent a lot of time just listening to me. Typed out everything I said with a keyboard in her lap while never taking her eyes off of me. I've never had a doctor listen that closely before so it was a little strange at first. But I could tell that she was working on putting a puzzle together about what was going on with me.

I told her that my main symptoms--in a nutshell--are an inability to lose weight no matter what I do and horrible headaches 2-3 times a week. She asked me a ton a questions based on what I was saying. Told her about a menstrual problem in 2009 (non-stop bleeding) that led to a D&C and Ablation and because of that I no longer have a period. Told her about my occasional "funks" and my low energy levels. Told her about my stresses with motherhood, a wife that travels, and regular life crap.

And then I held my breath, praying that she wasn't going to tell me that I needed to work out harder and see a neurologist.

She didn't diagnosis me in a traditional sense, but explained everything that she thinks is going on. Right away she said she wanted to run all of the blood work for the hormone tests that my OBGYN didn't do when I was having my bleeding issues. So I have to get my regular doctor to order those labs for me. She actually wants to try and bring back my period. I thought that I had just gotten lucky not having one anymore, that I had one some kind of great female lottery, but she said that not having one has most likely effected my estrogen levels (hopefully the blood work will show that.) Basically it's like I'm in early menopause which she said isn't good at all for someone so young (loved it when she said that) because it will be bad in the long run for my bones and heart. She put me on an herb, Maca, to help bring back my period.

She also thinks I have issues with my adrenals (adrenal fatigue), that I'm hypoglycemic (big, huge problems with stabilizing my blood sugar) which is causing all of my headache issues and that I possibly have a thyroid problem. Wow. I didn't realize that I was such a mess! All of this, along with the hormones and stress, are all related, all connected. They feed off of each other like the perfect storm. They effect my my metabolism, cortisol levels, and my weighty issues. When she was explaining it all to me I had my own little light bulb moment. The moment was that someone cared enough to put all of my symptoms togehter, to make sense of them all, and offer me a way to get better.

She wants to detox my liver, which is necessary for the blood sugar to stabilize. This is a huge part of my getting healthy again. She has put me on the Paleo Diet--70% veggies and a few grains, 10-15% protein, and 10-15% good fats. No processed anything, no sugar, no caffeine except for in teas if possible. I have to make a smoothie every morning with a protein powder called Vital Clear (for liver detox), spinach or kale, red cabbage, beets, a good fat, and any other veggies I want to put in there. Can also put cinnamon, water, an one fruit like a pear or mango if I want (uh, yeah, I'll probably want.) I also have to put 2 supplements--turmeric and resveratrol--in my smoothie. Basically, this will be my "medicine" every morning that I have to take, along with the Maca. I have to do this for 2-3 months, which is usually the amount of time that it takes your liver to detox.

I go back to see her at the end of August. By that time I will have my blood work back and have a liver that is partially detoxed and I should be feeling the positive effects of it. Adjusting to this new diet won't be an easy change, but honestly it's the way all of us should be eating anyway! But the bad thing is that I forgot to ask her about alcohol. I'm assuming that it's a no because of the sugars. I've gotta add a lot more protein to my diet and be better about what kinds of snacks I eat, always putting fruit with a protein, fat or veggie. I shouldn't eat fruit alone because of the blood sugar spike it causes for me.

That's probably a lot more info than you, my kind reader, ever wanted to know about me, but writing this helped me process a lot of the info. I desperately want to be faithful to this and stick with it. I really believe that if I can do this that I will feel like the way God intended me to feel.

To be continued...

I'm still here. All of me...plus some.

You know how anorexics walk around believing they are fat when in truth they are very, very skinny? I have the opposite problem. I walk around thinking that I look just fine and then I see a picture of myself and realize that some 40-year-old fat woman has taken over my body without asking my permission!

So I'm off today. Off to the doctor. I'm wishing that it was a plastic surgeon so he/she could replace this irritable fat woman with a much more desirable version of myself, but no. I'm actually going to see a naturopathic doctor to look me over from head-to-toe. I'm tired of working out and getting nowhere. I'm tired of being tired. I'm tired of constantly waking up with a headache ("It's not a tumor!") So as a 40th birthday treat to myself, I'm going to find out what's wrong with me.

The Golfer offered to tell me what was wrong with me for free. Yeah, he's hysterical.

I'm just hoping that this doctor doesn't tell me that this cranky 40-year-old fat woman has permanently taken over my body and I should just learn to meditate and get over it. Cuz that would really suck.

(P.S. I had no intention of anyone ever seeing the above picture. Sure, it's great of the boys. They look quite sweet actually. But there's this fat woman in between them and she's really starting to piss me off.)

paying attention part 11: so what would happen without medication?

I never planned on medicating my children. When I nursed them as babies and daydreamed about all of the wonderful milestones that lay ahead, learning how to successfully swallow their daily ADD medication wasn't one of them. So in April, almost two years after his initial ADD diagnosis, I decided to try something. I decided to take Bentley off his medication. I didn't tell anyone. I didn't even think that much about it. One morning Bentley looked at me and said, "I don't want to take my medication anymore." And without much thought I simply said, "Okay."

It wasn't hard because I had become more and more unhappy with medicating our son. I was tired of him being in such a bad mood every afternoon. He would get into the car after school agitated and irritable. It's hard enough being a preteen, and it's even harder being a preteen with medication making it worse. And that was what it seemed to be doing; making things worse.

When your child is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, you know that one of the first decisions that you are going to have to make is whether or not to medicate your child. Soon after Bentley's diagnosis I joined several parent chat rooms on reputable ADD/ADHD websites. I needed to hear what other parents thought. I needed to read about their concerns, their fears, their worries about medicating their children. The Golfer and I struggled with what to do: weighing the side effects and the negatives with the benefits and the positives. Finally we landed on the best decision we could given what we believed and what we had quickly learned. Isn't that what we do as parents? Try to make the best decision we can in the moment based on the information we have at the time?

Three different types of medications and one antidepressant later, we were no longer sure if our original decision was the best decision. So, like I said, I sent him to school without medication to see what would happen. I didn't worry. I knew that even if it was for only one day there wouldn't be any permanent damage done. He could always hop back onto the pill popping wagon if he needed to. If all hell broke loose, I had a cabinet full of meds to solve the problem.

He got into the car that afternoon...different. He was happy. He talked about having a good day at school. He laughed and smiled and acted like a normal 11-year-old. I pulled his papers out of his bag. Everything looked normal. No bad grades. No notes from the teachers. I checked my email. Nothing from the school. He had made it through the day without medication and all was good.

So we tried it the next day. And the next. And the day after that. He was happy. He was eating. He was sleeping. He was still making good grades. He talked about friends. He played on the soccer team. He took his standardized test. He finished the school year with straight A's and a special award in Spanish. (Hola!) All without medication. And he was fine. He was better than fine. He was...normal.

What did this all mean then? Did his ADD suddenly disappear? Had we dreamed the last two years? Was he misdiagnosed? Unfortunately, no. His ADD symptoms were all still there. He was still distracted. He still had trouble focusing. He was still messy and had horrible handwriting. There was no question that he still had ADD, but he seemed to be coping successfully. Without medication.

And then we found out something. We found out that the Golfer might have ADD too.

Stay tuned...

Making way for ducklings.

Yesterday, after school pick up, Palmer and I started chatting about planting a garden. About what we would plant (Tomatoes...jalapenos...onions. Hey! We could make a salsa garden! Yeah, and then we could make our own salsa! Cool!) About what those plants would need. (I learned in Science all about that, Mom.) About how we could do it together. (That could be our special thing.) It was a sweet conversation and as I was driving, I was already thinking about how I wanted to write it down, so I could remember it always.

And just about that time Palmer yelled out, "Mom! Look out for the ducks!"

Sure enough, a mama duck and her baby ducklings were right in front of my car, crossing the street. The street where most people travel a minimum of 45mph. Minimum.

I missed the ducklings by 10 feet, swerved into the middle of the road, threw the car into park and told Palmer to stay in the car before jumping out. He immediately disobeyed which, of course, didn't surprise me at all.

So now there were two mamas and their babies out in the street in the middle of traffic.

We managed to help Mama Duck and babies cross safely and watched as she hopped up on the curb and into the grass. The problem was that her babies couldn't jump the curb. She immediately started quacking, which I took as a mother-to-mother cry for help.

"She needs our help, Palmer. Grab the baby ducks and put them on the grass."

"It's Duck Dynasty, Mom!"

Yes, Buddy. Without the guns. Couldn't have loved my boy more in that moment.

As we tried to help, Mama Duck quacked even louder at us, clearly unsure of our intentions. The ducklings made their little quacking sounds, yelling for their Mama. We got all of the ducklings up on the curb except for one. The last one, realizing that he had been left behind, freaked out and started running away from us. I didn't know this before yesterday, but baby ducklings are fast little suckers! That little guy wanted no part of us, even though we were only trying to help him.

Finally we caught the last duckling and after putting him safely with his family headed back to our own car. And about two seconds after buckling out seat belts, we saw Mama Duck and her babies going BACK across the street.

"You've gotta be kidding me!" (That was Palmer.)

So we hopped out of the car and did it all over again.

Not surprisingly, we've talked a lot about those little ducks in the last 24 hours. We've wondered where they are, if they are doing okay. Palmer even included them in his nightly prayers. When you save the lives of a duck family, it's hard not to fall in love.

Which is why I am so heartbroken over what I saw driving home today. There, in the middle of the street, totally crushed, was Mama Duck. I wanted to cry. Am I certain that it was it her? No, I'm not totally sure, but it looked a lot like her. And besides, how many ducks walk across a road when they can fly? Mama Ducks who are walking their babies across the street, that's who.

The ducklings were nowhere to be seen. I wanted to pull the car over again, just like yesterday, and find those babies. I wanted to rescue those ducklings and be their new Mama. The problem was, my boys were in the car and I just couldn't bring myself to allow them to see the deceased Mama Duck. Especially a Mama Duck flat as a pancake.

I have a feeling that up in Heaven, they are making way for ducklings.

The one where I talk about free coffee.

It's funny to see people's reaction when I tell them that I work at a church. You can see all over their face how quickly they are trying to process the information so they will react in the appropriate way. I always want to interrupt their thought process to explain.
  1. No, I am not a pastor. I have never been to seminary nor am I ordaned.
  2. Yes, it shocks me too that they never ask me to preach.
  3. Why do I work? Because I like it.
I don't have to work. My husband works hard, really hard, which would allow me to stay at home a be a lady of leisure if I so desired. But the hub's job also forces him to travel...a lot. For me, being home alone with nothing but kids and a house to manage isn't a good thing. For me, working makes me happy. It's part-time, it doesn't interfere with my family time, and I get to work with some of the best people on the planet while we all help people find and follow God.

So what does free coffee have to do with any of this? Everything.

You see, even with part-time jobs that are fun and easy, as a mother you still question whether or not you should be working. A couple of months ago I began to doubt my choice. Was my selfish need to work hurting my kids? Was it distracting me from my first job as a mom? Would my kids grow up resentful that I chose to go to work?

And then one morning I woke up at 5:30AM to hand out free coffee.

Our church believes in showing God's love in a real and practical way to everyone. Everyone. Let me say it again. Everyone. Not just the people who show up on the weekends. Not just the people who put money into the offering bag. Everyone. Especially to people when they least expect it.

That's what we did one morning, bright and early, a few weeks back. Our staff handed out free coffee (including a cute little packet of sugar and creamer) to people headed off to work. To people dropping off their kids at school. To everyone.

So how do you hand out free coffee to people driving down a busy street going 50mph? You hold up signs like the haircut guy twirling his arrow on the corner. You run out into traffic and dance to get people's attention. You point and laugh and make a total fool of yourself.

And do you know what happens when you do that? People stop. They roll down their window, reach out for their free cup of coffee, and they smile. Showing God's love to others is fun. It's simple. It's worth getting up at 5:30AM for.

A friend of mine who was dropping off her son at school saw me running in the street, twirling my sign, and sent me a text. 

Saw you with the sign. What's the deal with the free coffee?

I laughed when I read it. I am sure that is what every, single person thought who saw us that morning. What's the deal with that? What are all of those obnoxious church people doing out there? We know that's what people thought. And we loved it.

So I responded back.

Just trying to show God's love this morning. It really is free! Stop back by and get some!

And then I hit send. But then I noticed my mistake:

Just trying to show God's love this morning. It really is free! Stop back by and get some!

Did you notice it? You see, I meant to write: The COFFEE really is free. But I left that part out by accident. When you read the text, it's sounds like I'm telling her that God's LOVE is free and she should stop back by and get some.

And then I laughed, because my mistake, my typo, wasn't really a mistake at all.

God's love really is free. And I am blessed to have a job where I get to help hand it out on a daily basis.

And that's why I work.

Creating a monster of a reader

Every time we drove by the new public library, which wasn't often but often enough, Bentley would ask when we could go in. Would beg, actually. To say that I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by his request would be the understatement of the decade.

This love for the library was a long time coming. When he was around 2 years old, I decided that he was old enough to sit still and listen to story time at the library. Driving to the library with my first born for the first time, pregnant and nauseous with the next little Freeman, I had a vision of what my boy's first experience would be like. We would find a few books to read on the carpet together, maybe a classic or two from my own childhood like Where the Wild Things Are or maybe Ezra Jack Keats' Snowy Day. We would then quietly move into the room for story time, where Bentley would quietly sit and listen to the librarian. Maybe we'd even make a couple of new friends. It would be a lovely, memory-making experience.

You see, I loved the library. My mom always took me there when I was little. We'd go to story time and then to the drug store down the street for chocolate milk. The library was a happy place and now that I had my own child to take there, my expectations were high.

The children's section in the library, however, had changed a little bit since I was a kid. Along with the brightly colored carpets and the rows of miniature bookshelves, now there was a LEGO table, a Thomas train table, cool artwork hanging from the ceiling and posted on the wall. And don't forget all of animals behind glass cages to look, at including new born baby hamsters. This place was a toddler/preschooler paradise!

I tried several times, unsuccessfully, to get Bentley to sit in my lap and read a story. I'd get through half of a page and he was off to something else. And the actual story time with the librarian? Forget it. He had no interest. Granted, he was only 2 and expecting a child that age to sit and listen was a large ask. But he continued to do the same thing when he was 3 and 4 and 5 years old. Of course, we didn't know then what we know now--that sitting down and paying attention just wasn't going to happen for Bentley no matter how badly I wanted it.

Eventually I gave up on story time and the library. He never wanted to just sit and read. I would have his little brother in my lap reading Trashy Town yet again (Palmer's f-a-v-o-r-i-t-e library book) and Bentley would be everywhere. Not in a bad kid type of way, but of a kid with ADD type of way. A child who is so overly simulated that he can't focus on any one thing for any length of time. I finally decided that grabbing a few books at Target or Barnes and Noble was a lot easier than the frustrating experience the library had become.

When we first moved to California in 2006, I decided to try again. Funds were low and free entertainment was a must. Turns out that although the location was different, the experience was the same. Except this time I had an old man yelling at me, telling me what a bad parent I was because I was allowing my children to talk in a library. When my kids are misbehaving, I own it. But in this particular case my boys were using their whisper voices, quietly asking me questions about this book or that. But this man continued to berate me, even after I politely explained that in the children's section my children were allowed to act like... children. So instead of punching him in the mouth like I wanted to do, I left in tears. Tears because my library experience with my children had just gone from bad to worse.

Jump ahead to March 23, 2013. We head as a family back to the library. As we crossed the street and ascended the stairs into the building, Bentley asked, "Can I get my own library card?" I told him probably so and that we would certainly ask. I was so proud and excited that my son and I were going to share in something that I loved. It was the memory-making moment I had been waiting for.

You see, in the last year Bentley has become a crazy reader. Crazy as in "put the book down we're at the beach!" type of a reader. It took a while, but that preschooler that I thought would never, ever be a reader had finally become one. And a voracious one at that! In fact, the book that he check-out that day (or "rented" according to his little brother) he finished reading before he went to bed that night.

"Mom, can we go back to the library tomorrow?"

"Probably not tomorrow, but soon. We will go back very soon."

"But I want to go today..."

Looks like I've created a monster and I couldn't be happier.

The one where I talk about my talented friends.

I have the most talented friends on the planet. No really. I really do. I could write a never-ending blog about all of the talents that my friends possess. Today, I will limit it to one. My friend Kim Frakes.

Kim and I have been friends since the fourth grade. She is dear and precious to me in so many ways. It kills me that we have to live so far apart and I'm reduced to only seeing her a couple of times a year. Especially now that she has started her Sassy Sawdust classes!

In her retirement from teaching (she was a very talented teacher, by the way) she has gone crafting crazy! She's always been crafty (she makes her own homemade vanilla and has the best handwriting on the entire planet) but she's recently taken her craftiness to a new level.

Kim has gone jigsaw crazy!

See that darling Easter egg hanging on my door? That's from one of her "Make and Take" classes. (And since I can't go to any of her classes and make one for myself, and because she loves me, she made this one especially for me.) She's had classes where you take home a mitten (for those winter months), a heart, a bird, and most recently, an Easter egg.

The coolest thing about all of this? Kim is taking her talents and putting them to use. And best of all, she's having fun doing it (and maybe making a little bit of spending money too!) Check out Sassy Sawdust's Facebook page to learn more about her classes.

Or even better, just have her make you own of these:

I told you. My friends are talented. Crazy talented.

Love you, Kim.

The one where I talk about my Honey-Do list.

There is nothing I like better than looking back on a day and seeing everything I've accomplished. So, looking back on an entire weekend of accomplishments makes me really, really happy.

This weekend I decided to be intentional about getting things done. I had the hubs home for three days straight and I wasn't going to waste him. I never create a honey-do list for him. (He hates those.) Instead, I try to make my honey-do list that doesn't exist sound as appealing as possible.

Honey, I want to add a little color to the back yard. Will you go with me to Home Depot to buy flowers?

And before he knows what hit him, he's covered in dirt and doing most of the work. He's pulling weeds and fixing sprinkler heads and I'm, well, I'm a happy lady.

That is exactly how our weekend went down. I made several suggestions disguised as "favors" and the hubs dutifully agreed to each. He cleaned out his closet and then promptly took the five (yes, five) large trash bags full of clothes to Goodwill. He took P to the park so B and I could stay home and read our library books (more on than adventure in a future post.) He helped me cook (i.e., he did the grilling) and then helped me clean. The best part was that we did it all together. He is a good husband and I will keep him forever.

Most days, for both me and the hubs, are filled with tasks. Things we have to get done. Things we have to do in order to be successful in life. We aren't always good at it; good at getting it all done. It's chaotic. Busy. Hectic. We're forgetful. We're disorganized. We get frustrated and embarrassed at our constant lack of ability. And we're constantly tired. Always tired. And that is what it's like. Week...after week...after week.

So why on earth would we intentionally fill a weekend, a free weekend together, with more stuff to do?

Why? Because I discovered the hard way that life doesn't stop just because it's the weekend. Every weekend can't be a mini-vacation no matter how much we want it or need it. There are things to do and taking a weekend off only makes those things pile up. And when those things pile up it makes me crazy and I'm no good when I'm crazy. Just ask the hubs. Which, of course, is the reason why he's always quick and willing to be so helpful around the house. One completed honey-do list a day helps keep the crazy wife at bay.

Yep, there's nothing I like better than checking everything off of my honey-do list that doesn't exist. And let's face it. There's freedom in getting stuff done. Even when it's the smallest of things like putting the laundry away, there's a serious sense of accomplishment when that laundry basket is empty. I realize that makes me sad and pitiful, but I don't care. Check it off. Sigh. And smile.

Honey...can you do me a favor?

The one where I talk about why my dreams won't come true.

Turing 40 has caused me to realize several things:
  • I will never be interviewed by Barbara Walters. I used to have this reoccuring daydream of Barbara Walters interviewing me for her "10 Most Interesting People" show. That's never going to happen and I'm okay with that.
  • I will never sing on stage. This was another daydream, usually involving some type of Christmas spectacular. I was always wearing a long red velvet dress while singing Mariah Carey's version of "All I Want for Christmas is You." That's never going to happen and I'm okay with that.
  • I will never host Saturday Night Live. (Disappointing, but okay.)
  • I will never be a cover model. (Which is probably a good thing.)
  • I will never become a best-selling author. (This one still makes me sad, but I have to be okay with that.)
  • I will never host my own show on HGTV. (Although I'd totally rock it and it would be everyone's new favorite show. Yeah, I'm not quite ready to give up on this one yet.)
  • I will never star on MTV's show "The Real World." I always thought I'd be the perfect candidate for the "good girl" roommate that is constantly shocked by all of the nutty shenanigans of her fellow roommates. MTV is never gonna call and I'm more than okay with that.
  • I will never win the coveted, quadruple E.G.O.T. (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) hence the reason why...
  • I will never walk a red carpet. The only red carpets I'll ever be walking on will be the ones that lead into Mexican food restaurants and I'm okay with that because who doesn't love Mexican food? Speaking of food...
  • I will never have a six-pack. I love food. I love food that is bad for you. I will struggle against that love my entire life. It's not the greatest but it is what it is and I'm okay with that.
  • I will never be a fashion icon. I prefer a good pair of yoga pants over a sequined gown any day of the week and twice on Tuesday. My face/body/clothes will never grace the front page of the Image section of the LA Times. I will always be one of the fat armed women wearing a boring black dress in the background and guess what? I'm okay with that. Although I would like to do something about my arms.
I will never be famous or have some massive talent to display on stage. I will never have a reason to wear gorgeous couture gowns or have the body to fit into them. I will never look into a camera and scream, "Live from New York..." and students all over American won't be standing in line to buy my next book. The fame game doesn't need me as a participant. Because the truth is, it was never God's will for me to be anything of those things and that is the reason why I'm okay with that.

The one where I talk about my Easter candy addiction.

Some people can sit and eat an entire bag of potato chips in one sitting. I can do that with a bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs and a bag of chips. And just in case you're wondering, sometimes I eat both at the same time. One after the other. Salty followed by sweet. In that order. I wish I was exaggerating for comedic effect, but I'm not. Yeah, I don't know how I don't weigh 400 pounds either.

I am ready for all of the holiday candy to go away. It has been present and readily available since Halloween and I'm ready for it to stop. Like some kind of shady, back alley dealer, all of the grocery stores have been pushing these sugar-laden drugs on me for months now. Today my will power finally gave out. A choco-holic can only hold out for so long.

I had been good. I didn't buy the candy corn at Halloween, avoided the peppermint bark at Christmas and didn't eat a single candy heart during Valentine's. I have been so good for so long. But now the Easter candy has appeared and I just can't take it.

This morning, after dropping the kids off at school, I headed YogaWorks. I learned the hard way that it's best not to eat prior to this Sculptworks cardio class, so after a 55 minutes workout that made me want to throw a kettle ball at my instructor, I was starving. And that was putting it mildly. I was what a friend calls "hangry." Hungry+Angry=Hangry. You know that person that gets extremely grumpy when they're hungry? Yeah, I'm one of those. And as luck would have it, the errand I needed to run after the class just happened to be to the grocery store.

You probably know where I'm going with this.

I only needed a few things: a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter. (If you don't get that joke, you didn't watch much Sesame Street in the 70's). You've probably heard the saying, "Never go to the grocery store hungry." We'll add to that, "...especially after just coming from a workout that has left you believing that you have earned the right to eat whatever your heart desires."

I didn't even pretend to avoid the Easter Candy aisle. All of my enemies were there waiting for me: Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. Jelly Beans the flavor of Starbursts. Whoppers Robin Eggs. And Peeps. Don't leave out the Peeps. Those things are made by Satan himself.

My grocery cart was filled with a lot more than just a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter. The amount of junk that I loaded up with was embarrassing. The guy at the cash register saw all of the candy and asked, "Working on the kids' Easter baskets?" Yeah, sure that's it. It's all for the kids.

Except it wasn't. It was for me. And I took it home and ate it as quickly as possible to avoid having to share any of it with my children. If I can't be proud, at least I can be honest.

Stop judging me and hand me another Peep.

The one where Bentley turns 11 and the Birds and the Bees arrive.

:: birthday boy, 2006 ::

Eleven years ago today, the doctor looked at me and said, "He's not going to come out on his own. Your birth canal is very narrow so we need to do a C-Section."

The only place on my entire body that is narrow is my birth canal. That sounds about right.

Bentley safely made his way into the world, narrow canal be damned. He had a little trouble breathing at first and his right eyelid wouldn't open all of the way, but he was here and he was ours.

Bentley is eleven years old today and I don't like it. I'll admit it. I'm one of those moms who doesn't love the idea of her little boy growing up and yes, I realize how selfish that sounds. But turning eleven means that he is basically a pre-teen. Turning eleven means that he's getting closer to driving and dating. Turing eleven means that it's time to sit him down and talk to him about things like body odor and girls.

Bentley is a quiet, unassuming boy. I once mentioned to Derek that I doubted Bentley thought much about girls yet. Derek just grinned and said, "Honey, you know better than that." And I do. I know that even though he is still just a little boy, he is already being exposed to lots of things that are beyond his chronological years. Sure, as parents we try to stay on top of and know about everything that his mind is ingesting, but let's face it...we can't be with our children all of the time and we don't hear or see everything that our kids hear or see every second of every day.

Back when I was still teaching, I overheard a conversation between several of the 5th grade boys in my class, the same grade Bentley is in now.

"You know Mountain Dew makes it hard," one of the boys told the others. And by "it" he of course was referring to his penis.

Yeah, 5th grade boys are the best. A constant source of amusement and amazement. As much as I wanted to correct them that day, I chose not to for lots of reasons. I imagined that most of them would go home, test their theory, and find out the truth on their own. No need for me to ruin it for them.

I can almost guarantee that Bentley is already learning about sex, including all sorts of crazy Mountain Dew type theories. At a young age we are exposed to lots of information about boys and girls and sex. And then when you get older, if you're lucky, you learn the truth.

My cousin was the one who taught me about the Birds and the Bees. She is four years older and even though we only saw each other every couple of months or so, she was like an older sister to me. I'll never forget laying under the covers in our grandparents front bedroom, the sheets tucked under our heads, our knees propped up to make a tent, the glow of her Casio watch night light giving us just enough light to see. It was there that my cousin taught me the basics about sex and that I had no interest in any part of it.

My mom had already given me the "talk" (or her version of it anyway.) She bought a book about body change that was extremely vague and lacked essential details (granted, it was the early 1980's.) On the pages where it showed a cartoon drawing of a naked boy, she used her hand to cover "it" up. And by "it" I mean his penis.

My mom wanted to teach me about sex, and she also didn't want to teach me about sex. I don't blame her. What parent actually wants to teach their children about sex? The older I got, my mom's "talk" was reduced to the reverse of a Nike commercial: Just don't do it.

It's no different in 2013 than it was in 1983--if you don't teach them the truth, someone else will. Will having the talk with Bentley be weird and strange and embarrassing? Yes. Will I make his father do most of the talking? Yes. And when together we read the book that we bought to share with him I'll have to resist the urge to cover up the pictures.

Tonight we will eat cake and celebrate our sweet boy. And in the near future, his dad will plan a day for the two of them to go on a hike where eventually, when they reach the top of the mountain, they will sit for a water break and start the first of many talks to come.

And I will nervously sit at home wishing that he was three year old again.

The one where I talk about the beach...and traffic.

There are things to dislike about California. The traffic, the cost of living, earthquakes, and the traffic, sigh, good Lord the traffic. But like many things in life, we accept the good with the bad. Because although there might be some bad (i.e., the traffic) the good makes it all worth it.

I remember when Derek was being interviewed for the job at UCLA. The coach hiring him did his best to warn us.

"It's expensive out here. The traffic's really bad and you'll probably have to commute because you won't be able to afford living anywhere near campus. Which means fighting the traffic on the 405 every day which can be really bad. And gas is expensive and so are the homes. Did I mention how bad the traffic will be?"

But we didn't hear a word. We were excited. We were moving to the ocean. And even if we couldn't afford to live near the ocean, then at least we'd be living close enough to drive there. Even if it meant fighting the traffic.

When we first arrived, we were shocked by the amount of Californians that told us that they never go to the beach. By the time we moved here, most of the beach gear was gone at Wal-Mart and Target, so we asked new neighbors and other people that we had just met if we could borrow theirs.

Do you have any beach gear that we could borrow? What? No? You don't own any? You never go to the beach? But it's California. You do realize where you live right? Yes, (sigh) we've heard about the traffic...  

So, for our first trip to the beach as Californians we were forced to buy a beach umbrella and a few sand toys for the boys at the gas station across the street from the beach. Maybe we were just a bunch of bright-eyed, landlocked Okies, but to us living in California and never going to the beach was like living in Oklahoma and never taking cover during a tornado. It just doesn't make any sense.

We are trying our best to raise beach boys even though we live a good 45 minutes away from the coast. Almost seven years into California living, we now own 2 surf boards, 2 boogie boards, 3 wet suits, 2 beach umbrellas (one of which is the original gas station umbrella), 5 beach chairs, and enough buckets and shovels to keep the kids digging for a good 10 minutes at least.

Yes, going to the beach is work. You've gotta plan ahead, pack snacks, pack the car, remember enough towels, pack enough drinks, pack enough sunscreen, don't forget the hats, remember the sand toys, and the wetsuits, and on, and on, and on. A day at the beach is never a day at the beach for the parents who are trying to make sure that you have everything you need to enjoy your day at the beach.

And do you know what has slowly happened? Each year that goes by we seem to go to the beach less and less. We are becoming Californians.

But then you get a four day weekend and you decide to head down to Laguna Beach and you are quickly reminded that God moved you here for many reasons, and one of them is to enjoy and be blessed by this amazing place in which you get to live. California isn't perfect, but it is beautiful.

Our boys have no idea how cool it is to be growing up here.

But they weren't kidding about the traffic.

Family Science Night

There are many things that impress us about the boys' school. Our school does a great job of the "extras" and by "extras" I'm referring to the many things that the school does that goes over and beyond the expected. When you choose to send your kids to a private school and start writing a big fat tuition check every month there are a lot of expectations, so for the school to go over and beyond those expectations is pretty impressive.

You are probably thinking, "Sure there are impressive extras. It's a private school." There's no arguing with that. Private schools definitely have resources that public schools currently do not (i.e., money.)  But our old public school had extras too. The difference? At our public school, the PTA coordinated and paid for the extras, and since I was on the PTA Executive Board it was hard to really ever be impressed with or fully enjoy our own work.

At our private school, the teachers and staff handle all of the extras. (Unless it's a party, then I have to be a 5th grade Party Mom, my latest school volunteering gig. You can take the mom out of the PTA, but will never completely take the PTA out of the mom.) But this particular extra, Family Science Night, was all about participating, no planning or partying required. I was able to just enjoy being there with my boys.

We learned about Optical Illusions. 

We experimented with creating a boat our of aluminum foil to see how many pennies you could float without sinking your craft.

Tried to build the tallest Marshmallow Tower out of toothpicks.

Found out what kind of fingerprints we had (lots of loops and swirls in our family.)

And even though they bickered about how to exactly create a suspension bridge out of masking tape and straws and didn't have a lot of patience when trying to get a paper clip to float, we had fun.

When it comes to impressive extras shared together as a family, that's really all that matters.

:: photo credit Palmer Freeman::

iTouches at the table.

:: photo found here ::

We have a rule at our house: No iTouches or any other type of electronic device at the dinner table, at home or otherwise. Is there a time when it is ever appropriate? No, not really. Have we ever been guilty of allowing this? Absolutely. Have we succumbed to the "here just play this and be quiet" pressure? You betcha. Did that make it okay? No...it...didn't.

When our kids were babies we did what most parents do; we did anything to keep them from bothering and irritating every other single person in the restaurant. Then came the time when our boys grew out of the age where disrupting other patrons was a concern. It was no longer necessary to pull out the board books or the plastic keys to keep our kids happy until their meal arrived.

Saturday night after church we went out to dinner as a family. The boys know our rule, but that didn't stop them from asking to play on my phone while we waited for our table. Instead, we made them sit there, patiently waiting. This required their father and I to stay off of our phones. This is called being a good example. Are we always perfect about that? No, but we try.

After our wait we finally sat down in between two other families. And wouldn't you know it, the kids at the tables on either side of ours were all on some type of Apple device. The adults were talking to each other enjoying their meals, while their kids played their games totally disengaged from everything around them. It was like the kids weren't even there. The kids could been home with a sitter and the parents could have really been enjoying themselves. I'm just sayin'...

But the story gets better. One of the mothers sitting next to her child who was probably around 10 years old, didn't even make her child stop playing his game to eat his dinner.  As he continued to play, she began feeding him like he was a baby! His head was down the whole time looking down at the screen while she carefully navigated the noodles into his mouth encouraging him to take a bite.

I stared in horror. I couldn't look away. His arms weren't broken. He wasn't handicapped or disabled in any way. He was perfectly capable of feeding himself. It...was...crazy. There was a fleeting moment when I wanted to look at her, mother to mother, and say, "What in the world are you doing? If you have any respect for yourself as a mother or a person, please stop. For the love of all mothers, please stop!" Luckily my sushi arrived and my Lotus on Fire roll saved the day.

You're probably wondering what my family did at dinner that night. We talked to one another. We enjoyed our sushi and enjoyed our conversation. Bentley tried a spicy tuna roll. Palmer complained about cooked cabbage being in his noodles. And Derek spilled his wine while helping Bentley with his chopsticks. It was a lovely evening.

Know the last thing I ever want to be is judgmental, especially when it comes to parenting differences. And I'm certainly not going to judge anyone on this particular issue because there will probably be a time when my boys will be found with a phone in their hands at the dinner table. We aren't perfect and we don't expect others to be either. We just know that when we sit down to dinner, we would prefer that our kids not invite Plants or Zombies to be at the table with us. Oh, and they also have to feed themselves. We're weird that way.

paying attention part 10: limbo

Before taking my blogging hiatus, I had started to tell Bentley's story. In nine different posts I shared his diagnosis of ADHD-Inattentive, the struggle to find a doctor, our issues to medicate or not medicate, and the worst struggle of all: teaching him how to swallow a pill. (Yeah, I'm not kidding. That was the worst.)

We are now two years into his diagnosis and things are...good. Actually, they are really good. We ended up changing his medication one more time. Like many conditions that can be managed with medication, it takes a while to find which medication is best. Bentley is on his third medication, Concerta, and this one finally seems to be the right fit. There are still side effects, his lack of appetite and trouble falling asleep, but he started taking a second medication at night that helps with both of those. Wasn't our first choice to put him on not only one but two medications, but after trying it for a few weeks we noticed great improvements. Great improvements are hard to deny.

But medication isn't the only fix. We also met with a couple of therapists. After reading about the benefits of something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that works well in conjunction with medication, I went on the hunt for a therapist. This type of therapy works to help kids change the thought patterns that can keep them from staying on task and focusing. It also helps with other areas that kids with ADHD/ADD struggle with like time management and organization.

Much like my hunt for a doctor to diagnose him, finding a therapist wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. I would love nothing more than to help my son myself.  I wish that I could just read a few books and be able to help him focus, help him pay attention, stay on task, stay organized. But I can't. I am his parent, not his therapist.

The first therapist we found who claimed to treat kids with ADHD/ADD didn't even know what CBT was when I brought it up.

"Now, what is that exactly?" the therapist asked me during our first appointment.

"I read that CBT is one of the best therapies to help kids who have my son's diagnosis of ADHD-Inattentive," I replied. "And, well, you said that you worked with kids who had been diagnosed with ADHD/ADD."

"I'm just not familiar with that particular therapy." he said.

I have a problem with going to a professional where I know more about his field of study than he does.

"Actually," he said, "I think Bentley might have control issues. Does anyone else in your family have control issues?"

"Yes, well, me. Yep, I come from a long line of controllers. We're not controllers. We just want it the way we want it." I stopped talking and tried to force a laugh but it came out sounding manic, which is never good when you're sitting in a therapist's office.

I couldn't get out of his office fast enough.

Finding professionals in the fields of medicine and education that have been trained/educated about ADHD/ADD in children has been far from easy. This has shocked me more than anything else about Bentley's diagnosis. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 10 kids has ADHD and that since 2007, 5.4 million children have been officially diagnosed. That's not a small number. In a school of 500 kids, there are at least 50 that have ADHD/ADD. That's a lot, people.

We eventually found a therapist who was familiar with CBT, had worked with kids with ADHD-Inattentive before, and was willing to work with our son. We met with her a few times and Bentley seemed to like her, mostly because she had a cool LEGO game in her office that he got to play with while he was there. After four or five meetings, she told me in not so few words that Bentley was good to go.

Really? That's it? Um, okay. Sigh. So much for that.

Did I try to find someone else? No. Bentley was about a month into the new school year and seemed to be doing fine. Better than fine:

  • he was staying on task at school
  • he was doing homework without being reminded
  • he was no longer bringing home unfinished school work
  • he liked school
  • he wasn't a discipline problem
  • he was making good grades
  • he had friends
  • he was happy

I mean, I have friends with kids without ADHD/ADD who don't have it so good.

Maybe our boy was getting better. Maybe that LEGO game did more for him than I realized.

more to come...

list 16. 16 things I learned from my dog.

1.  Start every day with excitment, even if it's only to go outside.

2.  Always be happy to see people.

3.  Multiple naps throughout the day are a good thing.

4.  Don't be ashamed to show your need for love and attention.

5.  Listen.

6.  Obey.

7.  Take long walks.

8.  Don't bite.

9.  Don't beg.

10.  Don't bark at others.

11.  Eat whatever you are served.

12.  Too many treats will make you sick.

13.  Sometimes sitting in the front yard, enjoying the view, is enough.

14.  Don't pee on the carpet or do anything else that makes others unhappy.

15.  Loyalty matters.

16.  Protect the ones you care about.

Belated spoiler alert!

Apparently you can tick a lot of people off if you write a Facebook post about an episode of a favorite television series that not every single, solitary person that you are friends with has watched.

I was so sad after last night's Dowton Abbey episode, so heartbroken for the Crawley family, that I woke up needing someone to share in my grief. Yes, I know. It's stupid to be so emotional about a bunch of fictional characters, but you've gotta give it to that Julian Fellows (show's creator, producer, and writer.) He sure knows how to pull at your heartstrings...and then shock the hell out of you.

So, I turned to Facebook because that is what one does when one needs to grieve; turns to social media. Here is what I wrote (consider yourself forewarned):

Stephenie's Status: "Still mourning the loss of Lady Sybil. (sniff...)"

Let's just say, my post wasn't well received. I wish I had a screen shot of the comments to share with you because people were NOT happy with me for spilling the beans about last night's episode. People were H-O-T, HOT. They were so upset in fact, that I deleted the post as to not upset anyone any further. Apparently my post needed to come with a disclaimer: "Do not read if you haven't watched Episode 4 of Season 3 of Dowton Abbey! DO NOT READ! I MEAN IT!"

Since no such disclaimer was given, I replaced it with this:

DVR'S are the problem here, people, not me. Before the invention of the DVR we were all forced to watch our television shows LIVE, in real time. You would have watched, I would have watched, and this, my friends, would have allowed us to gather together around the water cooler to share our feelings. Share how heartbroken we were that they would kill off the prettiest of the three sisters, how mad were were at the Sir Whatshisname and Robert for not listening to Dr. Clarkson, how much we sobbed when Cora was saying goodbye to her baby and when Branson was yelling, "Don't leave me! Don't leave me!"

That's all I was trying to do. Share my Dowton feelings around the 2013 water cooler.

And I promise to never do it again. Not until next Monday.

Drink your milk. It will make you pretty.

:: from the book, Made to Crave ::

When I was little, my mom used to tell me, "Drink your milk. It'll make you pretty." I'm not sure if she really believed it or if it was just creative parenting. I drank my daily glass of milk faithfully, because if this was how I was going to get to be beautiful when I was older, then I was all in.

But I'm no longer a little girl who drinks her milk every night. I am a 40 year-old mother of two with gray hair. Yes, I have gray hairs. Not a ton, but enough. I have sprouted 20 new gray hairs just in the last month alone. Gray hairs mean I'm getting older. It's a fact and gray hairs are the proof.

Do gray hairs effect whether or not I'm a beautiful person? Of course they don't. Will that stop me from spending too much money coloring my hair to hide the grays? Of course it won't. Because I put my beauty in other people's hands. I allow my concern for what other people think define me, to define whether or not I am beautiful. I'm afraid that if people see my gray hair, then they won't think I'm beautiful. They'll think I look old and tired even though I am most definitely both.

Yesterday I got a hair cut. I used to like getting my hair cut, walking out of the salon feeling like a new woman. What's not to love? But I have a lot of hair, and getting my hair cut requires me to sit in the chair staring at myself in a mirror for a long time. Sure, I take my Kindle and my magazines in an attempt to look away, but the majority of the time it's unavoidable. I'm forced to sit and stare at myself and all of my imperfections.

Where did that line on my neck come from? I better head to Sephora for some neck cream. Are turtlenecks back in style?

When the hell did my face get so fat? I gotta start working out. Is it the ice cream? It's probably all of the ice cream. 

That little line between my eyebrows is getting bigger. IT'S GETTING BIGGER! I keep staring at it and it's GETTING BIGGER!

This is stressing me out. I look old and tired. I want some ice cream.
Yeah, mirrors suck. That is why it is totally crazy that after leaving the salon I promptly posted my picture on the social media tri-fecta (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.) I was nervous about it because I don't like having my picture taken. Ever. Why? Because when you have your picture taken, later you have to look at that picture and are forced to see everything you've been avoiding. So for me to take my own picture AND put it out for the world to see required me to lean into my insecurities and be a little vulnerable (thanks, Rita for sharing that one.)

I was shocked at the response to my picture post. So many of you liked and commented. And do you know what happened? I felt beautiful. And then after that, I felt ashamed. Ashamed because those likes and compliments meant way more than they should, because how I feel about myself shouldn't be so dependent upon how many Facebook likes I receive...or don't receive.

We all do it. We all drink the milk. We all try to do whatever it takes to be beautiful. We are hardwired to want it. There's nothing a women wants more than to be beautiful. Physically beautiful. If any woman tries to tell you differently, she is lying through her newly bleached teeth, if she can even form the words through her silicone injected lips. We believe that being beautiful is all about the physical image that we portray.

But it's not. Being beautiful person has nothing to do with physical beauty. Being beautiful isn't about what we look like, it's about who we are.

Did you feel it? Did you feel the freedom that statement gave you as you read it? Because you should. You should feel a huge sense of freedom knowing that what you've been out searching for, what you've been out spending tons of money on to create, is actually something that you already possess.

We all know this. We all know deep down inside that physical beauty isn't everything. It isn't all that we are. But does that stop us? Does that stop us from fixating on the outside? No, it doesn't.

Pour me some milk.