Friday, January 20, 2017

Letting Him Go (Across the Street)

This year rather than an extremely long bus ride from school or much quicker ride in the car there, Ethan's had a chance to walk to and from school. I've mentioned this before. The walking to school thing is just one more item on Ethan's list of Why the New School is Better than the Old One (older kids; cooler mascot; a school store; and shouting pep rallies in the gym with the principal, to name a few others).

I enjoy the fact that Ethan's school is close enough to walk to, too, except for one small issue: I feel as if some days he's nearly risking his life to cross the street to get there.

To explain: we live on a busy street that crosses an even busier one, where the school is. All Ethan has to do in the morning is cross our street, walk an eighth of a mile, wait to turn right when the Walk light goes on and the crossing guard helps him get across and over to the school. Simple? It would be, if people didn't constantly 1) speed down our street 2) run red lights and try to turn on red lights and 3) constantly turn right on red even when the sign says not to.

As a kid I was walking with a friend (no parents) on our own to school by first grade. But we lived in a tiny town with no stop lights. Until this year I've always driven my kids to school. I'm not used to this. And yeah, I'm not quite sure how much to trust my kid.

Crossing our street in front of our house scares ME sometimes. So I don't feel too anal or helicopter-ish wanting to help Ethan get across. And truthfully, he's a smart kid, but once in a while he'll get in his own head and lose focus. You can't forget to look both ways when you cross our street. It's more like, look both ways and then do it again. And run.

What I want to be able to do is help him get across and then watch him walk off to school. I can see the intersection from my house. I can see the crossing guards. It's these crazy drivers that have stopped me every time. There's been close to 10 times already that the crossing guards have had to start screaming with their hands out, at cars turning, coming way too close as he's inside the crosswalk, walking with the blinking Walk sign. This makes me so mad I can't think straight. It also makes it harder to let go.

A few weeks ago was the worst of such incidents. There was Ethan, in the crosswalk, when a car attempted to race through a red light and turn left directly into where he was walking, oblivious. "ETHAN!!!" I screamed, at just about the same moment the crossing guards were screaming at the car, "STOP!!!"

In that moment when I screamed, I realized something. Ethan had been startled by my yell and the crossing guards coming from two different directions at the same time. As a result, he sort of froze in place rather than moving.

My overprotectiveness had in fact just made the situation more dangerous.

"Why were you yelling?" he asked me that afternoon.

"Didn't you see the car?" I asked.


The other day I had an early appointment and Dan was the one to see Ethan off to school.

"Mamma, I don't want daddy to walk me to school," he protested in advance.

"You'll have to talk to daddy about that," I told him.

Sure enough, later on he told me that daddy watched him cross the street (on his own!) and then watched as he walked on his own to school.

Just like that.

I'm still most likely going to keep walking with Ethan to school in the morning. I don't mind getting a little fresh air, and I like to chat with him on the way.

I'm also probably going to put a call in to the police department about the drivers at our intersection. Several people (including the school) have suggested it.

And I'm going to keep talking and reminding Ethan about tricky cars and unsafe situations, and which directions to look when crossing; to pay attention.

But he is nine years old. I have to let hold of the reins just a little bit. In this case, that means letting the crossing guards do their job. They're very good at it. They're looking out for my child. A lot of wonderful people are during the school day.

I always have to trust that he IS learning better to watch out for himself; to think; to be responsible.

This is what letting go is all about: teaching, giving them the tools, and then stepping back just a little to see how they do. Not too far. Baby steps...for both of us.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Explosive Offense

I was watching football the other day when I heard them say it, again. Every time I hear the phrase, I almost start laughing. It's been more than 20 years (seriously?!) and I'm convinced that sometimes the most irritating things that happen to us actually end up being a gift.

To explain (cue flashback ripple, a la every 80s sitcom you've ever seen):

I had a rather unconventional college experience. I didn't live there, and that was fine with me. My whole in-bed-before-11, up-before-7 sleep habits really don't fit well with a dorm lifestyle. That and the fact that I basically hate the taste of alcohol and only drink wine once in a while if I want to pretend I'm sophisticated. So I commuted to Westfield State (also known as "cheaper than UMass"). A lot of people did. Only: I didn't have a car right away. That's kind of a long story. So my only choice at first was to take several buses up there until I secured my own transportation.

This was an adventure in itself. On the bus there was some good people-watching for this introvert, let me tell you. And there were a few other sorry souls like myself who were also stuck taking the bus up to Westfield. We nodded perfunctory "hello's."

And then there was, well, let's call him "Bob."

Bob had also gone with me to high school, although we'd rarely crossed paths. He was that kind of quiet, nerdy, glasses and all kind of guy I normally liked and got along with (I'd run in the other direction from over-confident jocks!). Bob seemed nice enough. Bob also really, really liked the Buffalo Bills football team.

Really, really liked.

This was back when the Buffalo Bills were acting like the Red Sox of old and getting heart breakingly close to winning the Super Bowl but never quite pulling it off. They were a good team, for sure. Certainly much better than the embarrassingly bad Patriots. The Buffalo Bills were awesome, and Bob made sure he brought that up all of the time. I'd see him climb on the bus, and inevitably he'd end up sitting near me, and somehow, always, the conversation rolled around to football. Maybe he was especially happy that a "chick" liked to talk sports. All I know is, before long he would launch into his spiel about why Buffalo was the best, why'd they'd win on Sunday, why this time they'd win the Super Bowl. The only specific evidence he ever shared to back this up was because they had an "explosive offense."

And there you have it. Explosive offense. I'm not sure how many times I heard that term, but it may have been 3,251. Give or take. I didn't really understand what it meant -- I still don't -- but whatever it was, the Buffalo Bills had it. And Bob was going to let me know about it.

All of this would have been just mildly annoying, if it weren't for one thing. I would have politely listened and maybe done an invisible eye roll and that would have been that. But it's what happened a few months later that always got to me.

You see, my pal Bob managed to get himself a car before I did. And suddenly, he had something new to talk about. Not on the bus, of course, because he was driving to school now. But no, every time we'd run into each other, he'd announce, "Well, I've got my car now. I'm looking forward to driving home. Too bad you're still stuck. Have fun on the BUS!" with a smirk and a knowing look.

Every. Single. Time.

This guy literally lived about a mile from me. I remember the day I missed the bus and was sitting forlornly, waiting.

"Well, I'm headed home," he announced, sauntering by, not acknowledging my plight in the least. "Have FUN waiting for the bus!"

I stood there glaring at his back, fuming, thinking about how he could have offered me a ride. Then I realized I really didn't want to sit in his car and talk about the Bills for 45 minutes. Explosive Offense!

In retrospect, I wonder if Bob had some kind of Asperger-ish thing going on (the repetitiveness; the obsession with one subject). That never dawned on me until I started writing this. Maybe I should have been a little less irritated and a little more compassionate
My run-ins with Bob went on for awhile, until I finally got my own car (a 1984 Ford Tempo that, as it turns out, was infested with spiders). I found that of course I loved the luxury of coming and going as I pleased, but I did miss some of the characters on the bus. The older lady that worked at the dry cleaning place. The lonely man that washed dishes at Abdows. The veteran who would regale the bus driver with stories, many involving his medical ailments. Gus, the brilliant guy from my poetry writing class who enjoyed writing about vampires.

I can't say I missed Bob, because it was nice to not have to grit my teeth and bite my lip. Once he heard I had a car, he had little use for talking with me when we'd cross paths on campus. But to this day, when I hear someone talking about the Buffalo Bills, I think "Explosive Offense!" without even thinking. For Dan and I, it's become a sort of buzz word. He throws it around whenever he's trying to act like he cares about sports. ("The Celtics this year? Oh, yeah, uh, they've got an explosive offense!").

And every time they say it on TV, about whatever team they're talking about, and whatever it means, I laugh to myself and remember this lesson I seem to have been taught several times now. There will always be things that happen that don't seem very funny at the time, but in retrospect are sort of hysterical. I can only think also of our neighbors in our three-family house when we first married, the ones who hated us for no reason and claimed we walked on the floors above them purposely with "one shoe on and one shoe off" to bother them. In 1998, pure hell. Today, a story to tell our kids and laugh about. Again!

Things don't always work out this way. Some stuff happens and it's just crummy and there's no redeeming it. But we can mine our lives for these Buffalo Bill moments. They are out there. When we look at life in that way, it's a lot less miserable and a lot more fun.

So thank you, Bob, from all those years ago.

Go Bills!! (Next year, that is...)

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

My house is bordering on disaster, the tree is raining needles, and I haven't started my New Year's diet -- yet. This Christmas Anna received a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan, "Perfectly Imperfect," and that just about sums up this Christmas. It was perfectly imperfect.

But then, isn't that how it is for all of us?

We went to the Living Nativity and once again the kids started arguing right in front of the carolers serenely singing "Angels We Have Heard on High." Ethan heard the song and said, "Hey, they took that from our song we're doing in kid's choir at church!" and I had to inform him that the carolers didn't "steal" this classic Christmas carol from eons ago.

We went to a Christmas light display and there was actual snow on the ground this year! Everything looked so festive. Chloe oo'ed and ahh'd at the lights. Anna and Ethan fought over who should sit where in the car to get the best view. Yes, the stop in the middle of the park at "Santa's Village" or whatever it was called was highway robbery (three dollars to roast ONE marshmallow over an open fire -- whaaaat?!) but Chloe loved riding the Merry-Go-Round (as I slowly froze in the 20-degree temperatures, holding on to her).

My grand plan once again for getting the kids excited about donating money to send animals (i.e. sheep, honeybees) to people in Africa to help them work a trade fell through once again. I lost the pamphlet and forgot to even give them allowance for weeks (to their credit, they didn't even ask me for it). But I did buy some things so we can make little plastic bags full of toiletries and other items to give out to the homeless. We haven't done it YET, but then again, why are we doing everything at Christmas? People need things throughout the year.

This year we finally got on board with having Anna and Ethan get gifts for each other, using their own money (including the allowances I'd forgotten to give them). This was interesting to watch, and the payoff was rewarding. I knew there was some selflessness in there, I thought when one child was about to use all of their allowance saved up rather than the $10 I'd suggested.

We lit the advent candle at church one Sunday and Chloe didn't run away and wreak havoc. She may have stood with her back facing the congregation almost the entire time, but I'll take it. Ethan once again refused to sing a solo in the kid's choir (he has a great voice and had lyrics memorized months ago) but he didn't spent the whole time looking at his watch while on stage (that was a few years ago). Another little girl had a fun time pulling her dress over her head and dancing in circles while they were singing, but that's what made it precious. I almost forgot the words to my Christmas solo due to sheer nerves, but pulled through. And didn't trip while walking across the stage, because I wore my ugly flats rather than deciding to get adventurous.

I found myself several times telling people what I continually tell myself: "It's okay, it'll be fine, you'll do great and if not it's okay because it's not about that." That's not what Christmas about; church is about; God is about.

Christmas break kicked off with Ethan getting sick and throughout the holidays all three kids came down with variations of the same virus. Everyone was hacking and nose-blowing. Ethan and I missed the Christmas Eve service with Dan's family. Chloe was an angel for the kid's Christmas pageant. She actually walked down the aisle. She didn't run in circles but looked very quizzically at the baby Jesus (a.k.a plastic baby doll) lying swaddled in front of her. We didn't get out much to do special things with everyone feeling sick, but we were able to do Christmas with both of our families.

And yes, this Christmas as we celebrated with those close to us I thought of those in my life who have lost loved ones in the past year. There have been some really horrific, difficult things that some have faced this year. And while I've often wondered how they continue to hold on, I'm not going to lie and say that there aren't times like these when my own faith is rocked. There are times when I have to fight to not ask over and over and over: Why?

For a long time I was very hard on myself about this. I hate to be one of the Doubting Thomases of the world.

But more recently I've decided that thinking people are going to ask questions. What matters more is what you do when you feel the answers don't add up the way you'd like them to.

There's been some backlash out there against those who decide to rail against the perfect Pinterest Christmas, about people who have started to "let it all hang out" online, the moms who are in defiance bragging about how inept and messy and imperfect their family is, darnit, and we need to relish in that. It's gotten to the point where some people are asking, "What's wrong with me if I like a neat house? Or if I enjoy doing crafts with my kids? Or if I managed to host a nice party? Do we have to glorify being imperfect now?"

There's a difference, though. There is a difference between reveling in your imperfections vs. accepting them.

There's a difference between being satisfied and willing to stay right where you are vs. knowing you are heading on a path somewhere but you aren't there yet, and along the way you are going to stumble many, many times.

We had an imperfect Christmas and I have an imperfect faith. And we'll keep trying to keep the focus on the right things and to love each other and to love God but sometimes we will miss the mark spectacularly. And the one thing that is perfect about it is God's grace carrying us again and again and again...through loss and failure and yes, in my case, questions, lots of questions.

Being perfectly imperfect means loving yourself right where you are -- but that doesn't mean you have to stay there. I'm going to keep walking.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ethan Meets "Fake News"

A few weeks ago Ethan asked to play on my phone for a few minutes before school. This is a sometimes-privilege granted when he's completely ready for school, chores done, good attitude, etc. He nearly always goes to YouTube and looks up videos about Minecraft.

This day seemed different, however. And while I'd like to say I monitor every moment my child is online (because God knows what's out there!) I don't always see everything he's doing, especially if he's on for a brief period of time. It wasn't until we were walking to school that he sighed, "My greatest wish in the world is to be able to fly." This isn't the first time he's said this, along with sharing his love of bald eagles and how he wants to be a bald eagle -- so he can fly, of course.

But this time there was more. "Mamma, do you know there IS a way you can fly? For real?"

"And what's that?" I asked slowly, suspiciously.

"Well, I saw it on this video..." Warning bells went off. Loudly.

"What video?" I asked, my voice rising.

"On YouTube."

"Is that what you were just doing??"

"Yes. There are these videos, and the people said if you do it you really will be able to fly, and they weren't lying. And they even showed them flying. I swear!"

I didn't even know where to begin with this. "Ethan, what did they say to do?"

"Well, one said you had to think really hard about being able to fly, and drink a lot of water, and then say these words and spin around, and you would really start flying."

Again I was left speechless, and yet it was almost time to see him off to school. How to start a discussion with a very literal child about the evils of the internet, about not everything you see online being true, about special effects and people who will say anything to get followers and about when someone is kidding or doing a little "spoof" versus real life?

All I could think about was when I used to work for the hospital full time, and they had the "Safe Kids" program that was dedicated to child safety and educating people on issues like drowning or choking. They had an ad campaign called "Kids Can't Fly" that highlighted the way some children, in their longing to be superheroes, were actually seriously hurt trying to do things like jump out of windows, believing that yes, they could indeed fly.

"Ethan, I'm sorry, but people can't fly on their own. And you can't believe anyone who tells you that. I need you to come to us always and check before you try something you see online." He said he understood as he headed off to school, but I wondered.

In fact, I fumed about the incident on and off while he was at school. Yes, there are practical jokes and parodies. But where do they cross over to downright dangerous? What if one of these "tip videos" had (even jokingly, which he might miss) told my child to jump out of a window, or do something else that bordered on unsafe?

The first lesson is, of course, to know what my child is watching, or not allow him to watch at all. True. But I can't always be there. Already he has the opportunity to Google sometimes at school. I can't always see what he's taking in.

So, as with all kids but even more so, we have to give him the tools to distinguish between fantasy and reality; to use his judgment; to not take things at face value; to go to his parents or another trusted adult and ask before just believing.

These issues have come up in other ways already. Recently he started quoting some fact that I knew was inaccurate. I asked who told him that and he said a kid in his class. When I told him the boy was wrong, he insisted that was impossible, because this person had told him, and he'd found it online.

Ethan thinks Google is a person. He's not yet completely convinced that the internet is run by people -- people with all kinds of different biases and motives. He sees it as almost an all-knowing God-figure. "Just ask Google," he'll say, not wanting to believe that it's actual people feeding the information TO Google.

Later that day I caught Ethan closing his eyes really tight and saying something. He got embarrassed when he saw me and acknowledged, yes, it was something about being able to fly.

"I'm sorry, Ethan. You can't fly..." I really do feel for him.

"But they said...they promised they weren't lying!"

"I'm sorry, buddy. They were."

I hate that he has to learn this, yet I'm desperate for him to learn this. Such is the world we live in.

To cheer Ethan up about the flying thing, we are seriously looking into indoor skydiving. I told him that IS a way he can fly. Who knows? This could be next year's birthday surprise.

But I'm not naïve enough to think this isn't going to come up again. I just pray, in time, he has the tools, the discernment, to navigate these murky waters.

Monday, December 12, 2016

That Pesky English Language Strikes Again

I love when kids try out words.

Chloe, lately, is trying to figure out time (not how to tell it, but rather what the different time terms mean). And so she'll randomly throw out things like, "When I was at Grammy's house, five years ago..." which is rather funny, since she's not yet three. Or: "When Anna comes home at 46." Forty-six is definitely her favorite number. And no, it's not because I or her dad are 46 (but that number is starting to look closer and closer).

Ethan tries out words, too, with a few slip-ups along the way. His speech is fantastic. He has come a LONG way from the days when he was delayed at age 2 and 3. His pragmatic language (using speech in the correct context) is really quite good as well, but he has his moments. He tends to use the more formal term for certain things, sometimes. So instead of being hurt, he might say, "I'm injured!" Sometimes I wonder if he gets this from football, They have the injury report, after all, and are always talking about having "an injured player on the field." Thanks to Master Chef he likes to say things like, "Yay, it's time for our entrees!" when we're at a restaurant. These type of things make me smile and Anna cringe. It's so hard to explain to Ethan that the words he's using aren't technically wrong. They're just not typically used -- especially by a nine-year-old.

The other day he asked me what "e.g." meant. He'd seen it in a book. I told him it was like saying, "for example." Honestly, I don't know what e.g. really means. Does it stand for something Latin? Yeah, I was an English major but I don't know.

So the next day in conversation he said something like, "So, if we're going to do something active, e.g., basketball or football..."

"Ethan?" I asked. "Did you just say e.g.?"


"Um." I tried to think of how to phrase this. "I know it means for example, but it's not something people use in conversation. Usually it's just written in books."


"Why?" I repeated. Darned. Stumped again. "I don't know why," I admitted. "It just sounds weird."

"But what about a.k.a.? People say that? And for example? Isn't it all the same thing?"

Acck. The kid is too smart. "Well, yes...." I conceded. Why? I asked inwardly, shaking my fist at the English language. Why is aka alright but eg is not?

"I love e.g. It's my new favorite word," he said happily. Since then he has started using it all of the time. Well, in context. But I swear he's looking for examples of times he can say for example, via e.g.

"Do you say that at school, to other kids?" I asked him, wondering if they would know what he's talking about.

"No," he said, but he wouldn't say why. That made me wonder if maybe he's making a mental note of the "right" way to say things, if there really is such a thing. But he feels comfortable to say them however he pleases at home.

And that's the way it should be. Family, e.g., the place where you can be yourself. And say the words that sound silly. Even if none of us really know why.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Boss of the World

So Ethan has this new interest in people in charge and "authority."

In some ways it's distain (he came out of Sunday school a few weeks ago after a lesson on the authority figures in his life and declared "I HATE your authority").

I get this. Sometimes for a kid it feels like life is all about many, many different people telling you what to do.

And of course this interest in bosses and being the one in charge has everything to do with power -- which is really appealing to a just-turned nine-year-old boy. Those who wield the most power (aside from parents, who are asking him to do things he doesn't want to do) are to be admired.

Gaining an understanding about authority happens when you begin to see that there is a structure and reporting system or chain of command in all of the entities in this life that either directly or indirectly affect him -- school, government, even church.

This may have begun when we were talking about the superintendent of schools and how he visited Ethan's school one day. I remember our superintendent when I was in elementary school. A stern man with a big balding head, he terrified me.

"Do you know Craig Cooke is in charge of all of your teachers?" I asked him.

"I thought the principal was in charge," he replied.

"Well yes, but Craig Cooke is HER boss," I said. This gave him pause. "Who is Craig Cooke's boss, then?" he asked.

As often happens in these situations, I didn't quite know, which had me tossing around answers without really knowing what I was talking about. This seems to happen often, as a parent. "Umm, the state education commissioner?" I pondered.

"No, the Board of Education!" Ethan replied, as I wondered where he gotten that from (some book, apparently). I wondered: was he right? and then lamented I didn't pay attention more in that State & Local Government course in college.

Despite not receiving true resolution on Craig Cooke's boss, Ethan felt confident enough about the matter to discuss the whole thing with his principal a few days later. Apparently the principal filled in one afternoon for whoever takes the students who walk home from school over to the crossing guard. She and Ethan got to chatting, and, Ethan announced proudly, "I told her Craig Cooke was her boss. But not the crossing guards' boss." (We'd talked about that, too).

I don't know how many times Ethan has asked me who's in charge of the police; the firefighters; the people in a hospital.

Of course when the election came around there were ample opportunities to talk about the way government works (or doesn't) and who reports to whom. Once again he stymied me as we talked about our town's mayor and town's manager. Wait a minute? What's the difference? I'm still wondering, and realizing even now how incredibly dumb and uniformed children's questions can make you feel.

Trying to explain "checks and balances" and the three major branches of government is a bit much for a third grader (and my somewhat lacking store of knowledge). But I've made an attempt, several times.

One day he asked me about the Supreme Court. He loved to hear that it was "the highest court in the land." Even better -- that the president even could not overrule something the Supreme Court decided. "The Supreme Court," I heard him saying to himself, smiling. Oh, the power!

Another time recently he asked, "Is the United Nations the boss of the president?"

"No!" I answered, probably too vehemently (shudder). "The U.N. is not the boss of our president."

"Well, who is?"

"No one, really."

"The Supreme Court is."

"Well, not really. They don't tell the president what to do." I felt another discussion of the three branches of government coming on.

"Wait, I know who the president's boss is!"



And well, that was that. He has a point. Even when it doesn't feel like it.

It's great when kids make you think, and when kids make you learn, and when they help you remember things that were once more difficult, and yet easier to understand.

"In the Lord's hand the king's heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him." - Proverbs 21:1

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Freelance Writer/Mom

The moment I realized I was crying -- outwardly weeping -- because I could not find my sunglasses and I needed to go outside and get Ethan from school and didn't want people to actually SEE I'd been crying was when I acknowledged that yes, it had been a very bad afternoon.

What's worse than a toddler who doesn't feel like napping but rather engaging in destructive practices? A toddler who doesn't feel like napping but being destructive, WHILE mom is trying to do work.

I do have another job, right now, even though I've tried to keep it to a minimum, working primarily around naps and early in the morning. Sometimes this all goes splendidly and I'm living the balanced life of being at home while still using my brain in a different way, and all is good. Other times? Well.

What happened that afternoon? The question should probably be what DIDN'T happen. I desperately needed to be on the phone scheduling things, while Chloe desperately wanted to stay up and wreak havoc. In every room. She left no stone unturned. Books off shelves? DVDs on floor? File folders emptied out and spread randomly all over the dining room? Sure, why not. I could not SEE her bedroom floor. Then, there was the potty no-so-much-of-an-accident. Things get really, really ugly when they don't have a diaper on. The horror! And all of this while I was attempting to reach people who ignored deadlines and were infuriatingly unreachable. Good times.

I always have to add a disclaimer, when people ask what I "do" for a career, and I tell them I mostly stay at home with my kids, but that I'm a freelance writer/editor as well.

"It's not as glamorous as you might think. I mostly write health care articles," I sometimes say, in case their idea of a freelancer is that I'm dashing off magazine articles or possibly novels. Or, maybe they are like my eighth grade self, who figured it just might be possible to stay at home all day, keep an eye on my children, and become fabulously rich writing about young adult characters. I had stacks and stacks of my "books" lying around my room -- stories about "Jessica" and "Tiffany" and the trials and tribulations of middle school.

That vision lasted a few years until career day in high school, when I attended a session with quite possibly the most depressed journalist on the planet. "Don't do this," he essentially told us, which I thought was rather strange on a day designated for kids to explore their dream careers. His demoralized attitude got me thinking, and before I knew it I'd decided to pursue psychology in college instead of journalism. Only, after a year I was disillusioned with too many crackpot theories, and particularly by psych professors who seemed more depressed and disillusioned than that journalist back in high school. So after winning the freshman essay contest, I decided to switch to an English major, which led to everyone in the world asking me, "Oh, are you going to teach?"

"No, I want to write," I'd tell people, which they thought was rather hysterical. Even my advisor, well-meaning as she was, suggested I pursue a health career. That's where the jobs were, she reiterated, and asked if I'd consider becoming a nutritionist. Which -- to this day -- is so laughable I'm not sure how I respectfully exited her office.

Yet somehow I DID become a writer (with some video producing thrown in for good measure), and wouldn't you know, a writer on health care topics, after taking a last-semester internship in Marketing and Public Relations for a large local health system. A year later I was hired, and when I left seven years after that when Anna was a baby, I began taking on projects on a freelance basis.

Which is where we are today, and I am immensely grateful to have a chance to be home with my kids and get to write, and get paid for it (even if I'm not writing books but rather articles about medical procedures). I've learned a few things on this 10-year plus journey through freelancing and mothering. Sometimes, unfortunately, I forget what I've learned, which leads to days like above. But in my more wise moments, I remember:

1) There are days you just have to turn on the TV for a little while for your child so you can get your work done. Your child will not be permanently scarred. You will finish whatever you need to get done infinitely more quickly than with someone tugging on your sleeve and asking for more juice. Again.

2) When dealing with people who are convinced of their superiority (this happens sometimes -- not always! -- with physician interviews in particular) it's always best to admit your ignorance up front. Willingly own your lack of knowledge, and they are immediately disarmed and a bit more sympathetic and patient when you don't fully understand their "medical speak" and ask them to elaborate.

3) When I'm on conference calls and think there could even be a chance of being interrupted by a young child, I give everyone a heads-up. Because there's nothing worse than talking business and then having a little voice pipe into the conversation, "I have to go pee-pee!" This, sadly, I learned from experience.

4) When a big project takes over, something's got to go. In our case, it's the house. I've got not choice but to put some of the less essential cleaning chores on hold. The way I figure: I'd rather my kids recall me putting the household chores aside rather than putting them aside to vacuum.

5) Working from home means never fully escaping your job -- which can be the greatest blessing, or curse. I love the luxury of answering emails at 5:30 a.m. I hate the pressure of knowing I COULD be working on a Saturday, if I really needed to.

There are always going to be days like last week's nightmarish afternoon. I am still trying to get questionable smells out of our living room rug. And I may never publish a novel about Jessica and Tiffany, or have that newspaper column I always dreamed of (who reads newspapers, anyway)?? But I am so glad to be able to do this work thing and kid thing, as crazy as it may sometimes be. Tears and all. I can work in my jammies while sipping tea. How could I possibly not be thankful for that?