Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To the one always tucked under my wing...

Dear Chicken,

I wrote yesterday about how I almost forgot that we'd changed your nickname here. Someone asked me shortly afterward what it means, "Chicken". Most people probably think it's some reference to you physically somehow, but it isn't that at all. It has to do with the fact that since you were the tiniest little baby, you've been a tucker. A burrower. Fairly often nestled under my arm, up near my ribs. Even now, you still do it. When you're really tired or sick or frustrated with the world, you'll still draw your legs up under both you and me, and get fully tucked in.

Under my wing.

I'm the Chicken Mama. I just might stay that way forever, and I'd be okay with that.

It's your ninth birthday. Nine years since you showed up that stormy August afternoon. The air was heavy and damp, the barometric pressure helping you along in the way that it seems to. You were, at the time, the earliest of my babies. Knowing that you were so early, knowing that you were a boy, knowing all the problems your brother had down at sea level with its abundance of oxygen, I worried. I was afraid that you'd have an even rougher time than he had.

And then you came. Itty bitty with those tiny little legs, but breathing well without any help. I didn't really breathe that sigh of relief for a few hours, always thinking the nurse was going to come and take you away to the NICU. But you stayed. Nestled and tucked.

You were a feisty baby, wanting to crawl and walk and run and jump as soon as you were able. I think you were barely two years old the first time I found you on top of the refrigerator. You haven't ever stopped climbing since...until this summer when you broke your arm. Two places, not one, because you are an overachiever.

For your birthday today, you got to go back to school. Happy birthday? I know it isn't exactly what you had in mind for today, or for any birthday really. Especially this time around.

I thought you'd be home this year. The stacks of curriculum materials remind me of it constantly. I know you thought you'd be home this year too. We all did, until an opportunity arose and we jumped at the chance. And maybe it works and maybe it doesn't, but we know that there are always options if we need them.

I know that you're nervous about going back because that last time went so badly. I know. I'm scared too. I want to swoop in and tuck you under my wing and fly away from all the things that scare us both. But I can't. It's my job to nudge you, to nudge myself right along with you, to do the things that are scary sometimes.

Of course, as I am writing this, you are at lunch recess, probably playing with all the friends you've already made. As I am writing this, your fears and worries are probably fading away into the midday breeze. I am confident that you will be okay. I am.

And I'm confident because you are okay. You're so very different than you were the last time you were in that space. You're not just a few years older, but you're more aware, you're more observant, you're more empathetic to others. You've got a toolbox full of skills you didn't have back then, and only a few of them have anything at all to do with school.

I know you're going to be okay, but I'm going to miss having you around all the time too.

This year I've watched you grow up so much in so many ways. When Dad went to the scout store to pick up your new uniform shirt, he called me and asked how long you were going to stay in. I asked you. Your immediate response, "Eagle". And you just might do it too. Watching your brother finish his, you know what an accomplishment it would be and how much hard work is involved....but hard work is basically your favorite thing anyway.

You're always the one offering to help with projects around the house. With cleaning. With dinner. You even offer to help with the things no one else wants to, the things they all run away from. You aren't afraid to get dirty or sweaty, blisters are badges of honor in your world. While some of your siblings are content to stay inside where the wifi is, you're out in the yard seeing how deep that hole can get before the day's end.

You amaze me sometimes with how your mind works, so different from my own. It seems like any time I'd present you with a new concept in math, you'd sit with it for a few seconds, then come up with some way to solve it I'd never imagined. You don't just think outside of the box, you deconstruct the box and use it for scaffolding to build something more amazing. I can't even explain half of the things your brain can comprehend so quickly...you just have a way of figuring things out. Solving problems. Seeing it all differently.

It's refreshing. And humbling for me, as both your parent and teacher, because you're constantly making me question what I think I know, making me realize just how little is certain and how much is possible.

In much the same way it has worked for your brother, your love of math has translated to a deep love of music. Never fall out of love with it, never. I know that we'll have to work a little harder to get your hands on all those instruments now that you're back in school full time, but we have our own mini symphony at home. The piano is always open for business here. And you can do choir now too, jazz hands included.

I'm so proud of you that I could burst sometimes, and I was never more proud of you than I was this morning walking into school.

I asked you if you were okay. You said no.

I asked you if you were nervous, your eyes filling with tears you managed to fight back. You said yes.

Then you grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the door.

You did it. 

Like I wrote just yesterday, being brave isn't about not being scared. It's about being afraid and doing the things that scare us anyway.

You're still the bravest person I've ever known.

I love you.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

Love you more first,
Chicken Mama

Monday, August 14, 2017

Before you go to school this year, 2017

I asked you all yesterday if you still wanted me to write this post. You're getting older, you deeply enjoy your independence and privacy, and yet still demand that I do this thing. Kinda like the birthday letters every year that I'll apparently never stop writing.

It's a little ironic, since this blog started all those years ago as a way to chronicle your childhoods, then morphed into whatever it is today, albeit now complete with nicknames to preserve your identities.

Then again, it isn't like I've been writing much anyway...

Two of you will go back tomorrow, two more on Wednesday, and then it will be me and the toddler staring at each other all day every day. I'm sort of excited about that but also dreading it at the same time because I am your mother and your mother is an emotional minefield when school starts anyway, but this year especially.

Let's just get this over with. Next year, I'll have to write five of these things. Gulp.

To The Oldest...
I cannot believe that you are going to be a Junior this year. Are a Junior. As in only have one more year of high school left after this one and then college will happen. I suspect that you'll end up going to that very-nearby school, and so you won't be GONE gone, but it will still be different. And weird. And the house will feel a little more empty. I'll still worry as much, if not more, though, because that is how I operate. You've changed what you want to be when you grow up a few times in this last year, which is totally fine by me. In fact, I encourage it. I want you to try out new things and decide what you actually like to do and discover that what you thought you might love is indeed something that you loathe. It's waaaaay easier to change your mind now than it ever will be further down the road, so try on some stuff while you can. Besides, I don't even know what I want to be when I grow up yet, so I can't reasonably expect that you should know. 

In the past year, you finished up your Eagle rank in scouting (though we still haven't had your Court of Honor because we're busy people with procrastination issues), you got your license (and FINALLY calmed the hell down about driving after you passed the test, which is a good thing because you were really freaking me out there for a while), you won another state championship with drumline, earned an academic letter and an invitation to National Honor Society, and pulled off damn good grades while doing band and volunteering. You got even taller (which, really, is that going to stop soon because it's going to get hard to find pants eventually...), and it's been surreal to watch your face and your silhouette morph from awkward teenager to young man. It really is the weirdest thing to watch happen. People who don't actually live you with you can see the changes because they are so dramatic, but the reality is that the degree of those changes was enough for your dad and I to witness it from day to day. SO WEIRD. In the best possible way, but still strange. 

I know that you are already worried about your class load this year. 5 AP classes at once is, in a word, RIDICULOUS. I mean, come on. It's a lot and it's going to be a lot, so hang on to those mental happy fun time vacations in band and try not to stress too much, even if that battery time signature is almost impossible. Time management is an important life skill, and you're really going to need it this fall. I will make you take breaks. I will force you to sleep and eat. I will shove you outside to go run off that frustration. I will remind you to go swim laps at the pool because you're the one who promised your sister you'd do the triathlon with her next year. 

Mostly, though, enjoy this time. There isn't much of it left, this adolescence. Laugh, play, do jazz hands, make occasional bad decisions (but not too bad or permanent, please). Squat on all the things. I love you. So does your Dad. He's just messing with you. But you already knew that....

To Freckles....
HIGH SCHOOL ALREADY?!?!?! What happened, kid? When I was filling in the breaks for the school year on the family calendar yesterday, I had to write down that it was going to be your 15th birthday next year, which is not possible. You were just six years old, wearing enormous sunglasses, utterly convinced that you were Sharpay from  High School Musical.

You can't be going to high school. 

But you are. Mostly because you don't listen to me anyway. You do your own thing. March to your own drummer...but never ever in actual drumline because that is your brother's thing and ewwwww. This year has been one full of changes and drama and hard things for you. You've forced yourself to do so many things that I know you didn't actually want to do, or maybe you partly wanted to do them but were afraid, and then you went and did them anyway. You've stood up to adults when you had to, you've fought for what is right more times than I could count. You've helped make an entire school a safer, more welcoming place for kids who might not have a safe welcoming place anywhere. 

You did that. I just showed up occasionally and brought snacks. 

You've spent another year volunteering at the Humane Society, hanging out with all the cats because you are actually a human cat, entirely convinced of your independence, but always wanting to know that I'm not too far away. Not too close either. 

I know that you're a little (okay a lot) nervous about school this year because there are so many changes coming, but it will be okay....and it will be okay because I've known you for your whole entire life, and I know that sometimes I just have to slow down and kick you out of the car, then drive away super fast before you can hop back in. And once you're there, you don't just survive whatever the new and scary thing is, you kick its ass. Because you're amazing. 

Even if you are officially taller than me now. Gosh. 

Bravery isn't about not being afraid. It's about being afraid and doing the right thing anyway. Keep doing the right thing. I'll keep abandoning you in parking lots and dropping off snacks periodically. I love you, and I'm proud of you. Dad basically is you, just an older, balder male version of you, and he thinks he is awesome, so naturally he thinks the same about you. *winky face*

To Mini Me...
This might actually be the calmest year yet for you, with the least amount of changes ever...and just thinking about that has me giddy. GIDDY, I tell you. You don't do change well. You come by that honestly. This year, though, should be smooth sailing. Same school, same teachers, nothing dramatic in the foreseeable future. ALL GOOD THINGS.

I know you are trying to decide between doing swimming and volleyball for the fall, but the gravity of a decision like that one is something I am welcoming in my life right now. Last year, it was the whole reintroduction to public school after being homeschooled thing, and it went way easier than I anticipated it ever would or could, mostly because of your social butterfly-ness. You really do love the people. 

For the first time in maybe ever, you'll also be on your own in a school without a single sibling present. You just get to be you, not so and so's sister, although honestly I don't see how people could ever really confuse you with your older siblings because you are all as different as can possibly be. 

For this year, keep trying new things. If you want to switch instruments, do it. If you want to try a different sport, do it. If you meet new friends and want to spend time with different groups of people, do it. If you fall in love with the art class you are currently convinced you are going to hate but I'm encouraging you to try anyway, do it (okay, this is me being optimistic here...)

Keep cooking and baking and making us watch all those cooking and baking shows. Keep taunting your siblings into joining you in the 5ks and triathlons. It's good for them, and for you. Keep making Dad take you out fishing and backpacking and hiking, and always make sure he stops at the video game place on the way home. Every time. I know you will make sure. 

Stay passionate about fighting for justice and fairness. I'll be the first to tell you that it can get exhausting, seeing things about the world that other people are content to ignore...but never ever ignore them just because you can. Drag out a spotlight instead. As you do.

You come by that part honestly, too. After all, you got that nickname for a reason. I love you. Have an amazing year. 

To Little Boy (a.k.a. Chicken)...
I haven't written much here lately, so I almost forgot that we switched your nickname...since you aren't so little anymore. Chicken still fits though, and I am perfectly content to still be the Chicken Mama. 

This year....oh, this year....big changes for you. Sudden, too. But, as you will learn many times in your life, sometimes you have to seize an opportunity, think happy thoughts and jump in with both feet. Right now, that leap of faith is one where you go back to public school. You're even going back to the same school. But it isn't the same school, not really anyway. The building is the same. It's filled with a lot of the same people. But it's a completely different place now. It just feels right. 

I learned a very long time ago to trust my instincts when it comes to my kids, and this time, my gut told me this was the right time and the right place for you to go back. I know that you are nervous, unsure of what to expect, afraid that what happened last time might happen again. I know. And I will do everything in my power to try and comfort those fears...but I'm nudging you back out there for a reason. A simple one, really.

Because it feels like the right thing to do.

You need it, my child who loves the people the very most. You need the daily friends and the constant interaction. You need a break from dealing with a toddler all day too. I mean, obviously the downside is that you'll have to wear pants. That's unfortunate, but there is a price to pay for everything, right?

You've grown up so much these last two years being home. You've learned so much. You've flourished in ways I didn't even think possible. You aren't the little boy you were back then. 

You aren't. You are this strong and determined and confident kid now. And I'm proud of you. I hope, hope, hope that this year is a good one. I feel like it will be. And if it isn't, there's always other options. We know that now. Some of them don't even require pants. I love you.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

7th Annual Photography Challenge Contest!!!

It's time for all that hard work to pay off!!! Before we get to the contest this year, I wanted to take a minute to thank you all for participating. Every year, this challenge gets bigger and bigger...and YOU get more and more talented. It is always hard to choose photos for the contest with so many wonderful submissions! Thank you, everyone!

These are the 20 nominees for the contest this year.  Each will be captioned and then numbered, at random.  To vote, please click on your favorites in the poll.  It is on the left margin of the blog.

<======= Over there

You can vote for more than one picture if you'd like, I will set it up so that you may vote for one or all of them. The only way for votes to be properly counted is to register them in the poll. Leaving a comment isn't enough. The poll may only be visible on web editions, not mobile. If you are on a cell phone, click the link at the bottom of the post to "view web version", which will allow you to vote. The voting will end at Noon MST, Wednesday, July 12th.

Anyone who visits this page can vote, so get your friends to join!

Also, if you're on a web version, you can click the images to enlarge them and scroll through them easier.

The prizes you are all playing for are listed at the bottom, with links to the amazing sponsors. Please show them some love and good luck!


1. Lighthouse
Jennifer Tallman

2. Firebreather
Holly Rexroad

3. Irises
Kelly Ceschin Acker

4. Bubble
Kate McAllister

5. Gravity
Carolyn Mears

6. Snail
Angie Simas

7. Prom
LaTonya Davis
8. Ocean
Maureen Corcoran Maslauskas

9. Blacksmith
Sarah Hovey Bouvier

10. Bee
Katie Duff

11. Rays
Mark Rodriguez

12. Bamboo
Heather Fleshman

13. Feline
Paula Gill

14. Wheel
Gretchen Chateau

15. Reflection
Melissa Zamora

16. Tracks
Tiffany DeHart

17. Barn
Angela Linton-Canfield

18. Horse
Davis Larsen

19. Shinedown
Deb Nelson

20. Ashley DeBie


SLOMBIE from The Crumb Diaries
$100 credit from Heather & Arick Reese
Custom Personalized Funko Pop from Alicia Belden
Jewelry from Penny Jules

Handmade Hoop Art by Punkin Monkey Boutique

I Just Want to be Perfect, courtesy of Chrissy Woj

Orange Essential Oils from Young Loving,
courtesy of Magan Sattler

Salt/sugar bath bomb sets from Dreamscents Parfumerie

Corn heat/cold therapy bags from Mom Cave Designs

Handmade washcloth and Sampler Set from Elysium Botanicals

Pampered Chef items from Jen Cooke

Custom family cross stitch from Rhiannon Sykes Jordan

Wonder Woman Jamberry set from Rhiannon Sykes Jordan 

doTERRA Serenity oils from Camie Kirkevold

Beer infused beard oil sampler from Beer'd

Twin Peaks, The True Story

Nail polish from Bad Bitch Polish

Custom Tumbler from Team Burns Designs

Custom Tumbler from 5K Kustom

LEGO earrings from Maria Ostrowski

Pearl bracelet valued at $90 from Jessica Wilson, Vantel Pearls
$35 store credit from Erika's LuLaRoe VIPs
Super Surprise Box of Awesomenessfrom Cheese Doodle Dad
Jam/pickle/chai sampler from Nikki Ewing

Also up for grabs:

- Coffee and wine basket from Sammie Prescott  at Raising Taters!
Prizes are subject to change because life happens. 

Thank you again to all who participated and contributed prizes!!!! GOOD LUCK!!!!!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

summertime and displaced writing

I should be writing here. I think about it almost every day. Honestly, I do.

And then I will open the blogging platform and stare at some blank screens for a while, delete some spam comments promoting erectile dysfunction implements and close it again.

I don't know why I'm not writing, but I know that I should still be here pecking away at the keyboard. It helps.

There is a direct correlation between my overall mental health and my writing. And well....I've not been writing a lot, so you can imagine how I am doing.

Not great.

I mean, it's not as bad as it was a few months ago when things were really, really, really bad, but it sure isn't fantastic, I'll tell you that much.

Then I read things that other people write and I miss it so badly. I want to get back here. I want to be funny and sarcastic and observant and analytical. I do.

I'm just tired of arguing with people, and it seems like just about anything I write anymore reads like an open invitation to the internet that says something to the effect of COME AND TELL ME 147 DIFFERENT WAYS IN WHICH I AM WRONG AND CALL ME SOME NAMES AND MAKE SURE YOU TELL ME THAT I AM FAT AND TOSS IN A FEW INSULTS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES THEN MAKE A LAUNDRY LIST OF ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ME AND DEFINITELY SHARE MY WORDS WITH YOUR BIGOTED MISOGYNIST FRIENDS.

Was I yelling?


It's fucking exhausting.

Civility has gone down the shitter lately. The internet is mostly a steaming cesspool of ugliness and I almost can't tolerate my so-called white liberal ally friends as much as the openly homophobic racists because "let's get back to posting pictures of babies and happy things only because I can't handle reading about police violence and Muslim girls being kidnapped and murdered because it's ruining my weekend, you guys" is seriously almost as bad. Maybe it's even worse, because at least the openly homophobic racists let you know where they stand. They don't pretend to care as long as it doesn't put a damper on their BBQ plans.

Holding a sign that one time and wearing a safety pin (but only in places that you'll be congratulated for it) isn't really being an ally.

That word even annoys me anymore, because it's become a badge of honor for people who want to be outraged as long as it doesn't actually affect their lives.

Don't claim to be an ally. Dismantle the system that requires them in the first place.


I've been spending most of my time working on real tangible work locally. Volunteering, organizing, showing up. Not because the social media stuff doesn't matter - because it absolutely does in many ways - but because I need the tangible stuff to ground me in this world right now.

I need to make lists and attend meetings and figure out work arounds of how we are going to get shit done to protect people from the real and legitimate harms in this twisted world, the one getting more dangerous by the day.

That, and in my entire lifetime online, I have witnessed exactly one person evolve in their thinking about any of this stuff. One.

You can scream into the void only for so long before you realize you're hurting your vocal cords and not making a damn bit of difference.

Besides which, there are so many people who aren't who they pretend to be online anyway. (FFS).

I unfriended someone this past week when I caught them celebrating the denial of last rites to dying gay Catholics.

There was glee in that fucking comment. Glee.

This particular someone would NEVER post about things like that on their own wall because they like to pretend to be the compassionate Christ-like person that can claim moral superiority and shit...but hey, the wonders of social media have a way of revealing who you really are. The ironic part of it all is that this person called me intolerant more than once.

A difference of opinion is just that - related to opinions. It's not about determining whether people are deserving of anything based on who they are, what color their skin is, what they believe in, who they love. No. Accept people. Love them. Fight for them. Period.

You don't get to have an opinion about the humanity of other people. You don't get to question the legitimacy of someone's identity or orientation. You just don't. Be a compassionate human and love and support them and fight for them. Period.

You don't get to claim some false equivalence between working for a paid job (even if it's a really shitty job) and slavery. Not on my watch. (I honestly wish I could tell you this was a one time thing...) Study some goddamn history. Unlearn what you think you know about how this country was formed and FFS stop trying to tell people that the Civil War was about state's rights. It was about the states allowing people to own other human beings.

You don't get to muse about the gay agenda. Not around me. I will literally call that shit out immediately in the most vocal way and play a one sided game of 20 questions your bigoted ass can't answer in front of your friends. There is no agenda. The LGBTQ+ community just wants the same rights as everyone else. Full stop.

I try the best I can to make people understand. Really, I do. But if nothing else, these past few months have crystallized in my mind the truth that there are just people who care about others and people who don't. Most of our issues in this society right now today can be boiled down to that sticky debate at the bottom of the pot. And the fact that it's even a debate at all makes me question the legitimacy of whatever progress we think we've made.

And this is why I don't write much anymore.

Plus, summer sucks for me. This summer sucks a whole bunch right now, and I'm focusing on keeping my head above water, so do with that what you will.

For now, I have to go. I have some more research to do and a photo challenge contest post to write.

Fight me.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the it has been forever edition

Hi. It's been a while.

I haven't written one of these in a long time, mostly because I have just been busy. I've also been trying to find positive ways to channel my rage into useful things of late because the world is really just a giant tire fire right now.

So, I haven't been writing. Much.

I did write an actual book submission last month, and have started writing for myself in an actual journal again, so I am writing. Just not for everyone.

Which is basically the theme of my life in 2017.

Not for everyone.

I think that should be my personal life sub-title.

This week in the photo challenge I posted my personality picture about how I know that I'm not for everyone one someone (I don't even know who) almost simultaneously unfriended me, as if it was a pure and beautiful representation of just how well I know myself and the propensity of others to not like me.

It's all good.

And yeah, I know that there are Chrome extensions and apps that will tell you who deletes you, but the truth is that I just don't give a shit anymore. I really don't.

Take me or leave me, I'm good either way.


Anyway, we are here to complain, so let's get there.

I'm really only writing about one thing, and it's something that will likely make more than a few people grab their pitchforks and push that all caps button, but I'm going into it knowing that.

And. Again, I'm good with that.

I want to talk about Wonder Woman. Yeah, the movie.

If you haven't yet seen it, stop reading. I'm tired of people whining about spoilers...so here is your spoiler alert. If you read beyond this sentence, it's not my damned fault.
Now that we have that out of the way, the grievance.

I mostly loved the movie. I wrote a sappy post about how I've waited basically my entire life to see her get her own film, and how I was a dorky kid twirling in the backyard in my Underoos and how I have a tattoo of her logo and all that jazz. I wrote it before I saw the movie.

And don't get me wrong, the movie was good.

From a comic book nerd standpoint, it was really fucking amazing, though some dudes on the internet are whining that there weren't enough references to her S&M origin story portions.

*glares at the male gaze*

Maybe this wasn't for you, dudes of the internet.

(it really wasn't...)

I mean, she has a few lines in the movie about how men aren't necessary for pleasure anyway...


The fight scenes were pretty epic and the whole theme of the film stayed true to who she has always been written to be - a hero dedicated to fighting for truth, justice and peace even when the people she is fighting for don't deserve her.

Also, Robin Wright was rad.

I mean, seriously. I want to go rewatch it just to see the high definition crows feet and thigh jiggles in fight mode. Talk about fierce representation of badass women...

We do absolutely need to take a moment to appreciate how huge this film is in terms of bridging the gap between men and women on the screen, in particular in the superhero genre. This was her origin story, this was directed by a woman, this didn't pander much to the male gaze. She was strong and independent and all the things. It's a remarkable thing just to recognize the fact that our generation and all those before us have been surrounded by almost entirely the stories of men, and that from 2017 on (FFS this better be the first one of many), our daughters will grow up seeing women in that place too.

It's fucking historic.


Having said all that...

It wasn't perfect. Themyscira is a fictional island full of women...not a real place. Wonder Woman was cast with an obvious cap tilt towards the image of Diana we've always had. Fair skin, dark hair.

Did she have to be white? No. 

It's fiction. There's no reason she has to be white. None at all. 

She's white because of the reality of whiteness in Hollywood. Really no other reason. And yeah...I know she is Israeli...

The rest of the island, though, could have and should have absolutely been more diverse than it was. There is no real reason to argue that it shouldn't have been, unless you are trying to make that bullshit canon argument, because anyone who knows much about the original creator of WW knows that he was a racist dude with some definite misogynistic tendencies (she spent a lot of time in bondage in those early years).

Women of color were relegated to subservient and slave-like or slave roles in the early comics, and while the movie did cast some women of color as warriors and (one) Senator, most of the few WOC who were in the film were in those subservient roles. It jumped out at me immediately. 


It's 2017. 

Do better than this.  

We totally have to do better than this.

We have to demand better than this.

We can love the movie and appreciate the historical significance of it and fairly criticize it for its failings. We can do all those things. And we need to do all those things.

It can be awesome and highly problematic all at the same time...and if that makes you uncomfortable, I say "good". It should.

Personally, I hope that the success of this film proves once and for all that female heroes can carry a film alone, and that this results in more and more of these movies, and that those movies are done thoughtfully and deliberately and cast in a way that reflects the world we live in.

Ms. Marvel, let's do this.

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