Category Archives: Something to think about

Momsicle Is Turning into a Lifestyle and Crafting Blog

I decided I needed to make some money from parenting. And all the cool kids are architecting their lives and crafting the sh*t out of stuff. So it’s time to style—lifestyle—it up in here, bitches.

[Psychotic laughter. Snorting.]

You’re right. That’s not happening. You know what is happening, though?

My friend Rebecca is providing me endless entertainment by sending me parenting videos. Her videos are kind of like December’s Sunset magazine post. Remember that one? It was a head-to-head battle between curated girl-next-door-parent Kendra and actual girl-next-door-parent Marisa. Kendra had the gloss. Marisa had the sticky notes.

I’m here to say: curated girl-next-door parents, it is on. I’m tired of your bullshit.

I don’t believe that homeschooling your littles is magic. And your Instagram posts that say things like “Transforming the main floor bedroom into our playroom was the best decision I’ve made for our family” make me want to vomit. Especially when accompanied by a Pottery-Barn-like photo of your actual home.

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That is an actual kids’ playroom. I did that drawing of my face reading this post.

Don’t worry.

Rebecca is here to help the rest of us get to that playroom utopia.

I present to you a sneak peek preview of a new project Rebecca and I are developing called [ummm… we’re working on the title] vlog. Possible vlog tagline, “Messy houses ugly shitty ass crafts that are actually fun for kids to make etc.”

Drumroll please…

How to Clean Up a Play Room to Be Mindful and Grateful Again and Get that Pottery Barn Feel

Tell us what you think. Send us a photo of how things go. Let us know if you want to see another video. (This a vanity project for me and Rebecca, so you may not have a choice.)

Happy decluttering of the mind and soul.

xoxo (All good parenting blogs have at least a few x-o-x-os.)

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Now Is Our Chance to Thank Dick’s Sporting Goods for Standing Up for Gun Reform

Dick’s Sporting Goods did something awesome. They stood up for commonsense gun reform in a thoughtful, smart way. They’re getting backlash. We have to be louder than the backlash. This is saying a lot coming from me. I’m exhausted and have very little time for my social justice pursuits right now. I feel you, people. I’m letting teenagers lead the way. But calling was super easy and fast.

Dick’s Sporting Good’s customer service phone number is 1-877-846-9997, option 5. They are tallying all the feedback they get. I got through really quickly even though it said there might be a long wait time. I said, “I’m Evelyn Shoop from Portland and I wanted to say thank you for what you did to stand up for gun reform.” My representative said they are watching how the community responds and are sending the information to the higher-ups this week.

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This is what Chelsea Handler had to say:

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You can tweet to @DICKS. You can also write an email. Their email is CustomerService@dickssportinggoods.com. Here’s the email I wrote:

Dear Dick’s Sporting Goods,

Reading your announcement was like a huge breath of fresh air, and a pressure release. As a mom of three young kids–two in elementary grades–I have to push my anxiety that my kids will be shot at school out of my mind. I think about it in passing every time I pass their school. Every. Single. Time. And that’s not something I’ve been able to acknowledge. You have to shove that thinking aside to keep on functioning.

The principal of our school was reduced to tears in a parent meeting when I asked about emergency plans when my son was in kindergarten. I was interested in earthquake emergency preparedness, but she couldn’t tackle it because her mind was too caught up in shooter scenarios. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and the fact that my child’s principal doesn’t have enough bandwidth to deeply tackle earthquake preparedness because of the threat of mass shootings is terrible. Yet, I don’t blame her at all.

I watched as a double door locking system and video entry were installed in our school this year, and I think about how much time, energy, and resources it takes to implement something like this. I want that time and energy to go to small class sizes and teacher resources. Watching the double-door system go in, I also knew that it wouldn’t stop a shooter, it would just slow them down so there might be more time to save additional children.

The fact that Dick’s stood up and spoke out in a really thoughtful, smart, compassionate way with both words and actions is a gift to our whole country and the millions who have been fighting hard to get taken seriously. I am not anti-gun. But I am in favor of our gun violence epidemic being taken seriously. Guns should not take priority over children.

I know that for every customer who leaves Dick’s because of your decision, you will gain many, many more. Thank you.

With gratitude,
Evelyn Shoop
Portland, Oregon

You could also use this as your excuse to purchase something you’ve been craving to support Dick’s. I bought a pair of shorts. I hate shorts, but the ones I got are Carhartt and promise to be functional and not too short. So win-win!

Go moms, parents, high-schoolers, sensible gun owners, and kids!

Guest Post: 10 Tips for Surviving (Yet) Another Snow Day

Guys!! Do you remember Rebecca of Dumb Mommy? Remember how brilliant and funny she was on the blogosphere and then she disappeared? I found her!!! I found her!!! Underneath a pile of paid freelance work. And here she is–back and brilliant as ever!–helping us survive this surprise Pacific Northwest mini-snowpocalypse. These tips are particularly useful for work-at-home parents. I tried them today, and all I have to say is THANK YOU, DUMB MOMMY! I’ll be living tip 5 all day tomorrow.

10 tips for surviving (yet) another snow day

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If you live anywhere in the Northeast, you’ve probably had about three snow days this year. Today is number 4. You’ve used up sick days and vacation days. You’ve put off tasks. You’re studying the calendar and counting the days left in winter. You’re calculating the likelihood of future snow days and realized that 4 snow days may only be the halfway point. Here are 10 ten tips for surviving the day.

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Let it out.

Hide under your covers and cry. Everyone needs a good cry sometimes. When your kids ask about your puffy eyes, don’t say, “I’m just sad because I wasn’t expecting to be around you guys so much.” Instead, try “ It’s just my snow allergies acting up.”

TIP 2

Try for a miracle

You know those neighbors who are always telling you your kids are so cute, the ones who go on and on about “missing the patter of little feet”? Call them up. Be like, “Mildred, I’m about to make your day.” You know the rest. It involves you marching your little ones across the street so they can patter their cute little feet all over Mildred’s house.

If today is not your day for a miracles try this:

TIP 3 (for real this time)

Collaborate

Make your kids your colleagues. Let them know what you need to get done today. Let them know how long it will take. Mention one or two things they can do to help you get your work done, like playing together in another State (not really) or using their quiet “library voices” while you’re on a conference call (really).

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Offer a pot of gold

Let them know one thing you’ll all do together when you’re done. “When I finish my work, we are going to go outside and build a giant ice castle. Elsa will be jealous it’s going to be so off the hook!” Make sure it’s something you’re prepared to deliver on.

TIP 5

Get the party started

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Now you need to get your kids to occupy themselves for a few hours. You can jump-start the adventure with some of these ideas:

  • Pull the couch a few feet out from the wall. Stick a bunch of pillows and sheets back there. BOOM: fort, cave, clubhouse! Let your kids take over this new space anyway they like. Then run away to get your work done.
  • Put a stuffed animal in an empty box. Present it to your kids. Say, “Look I got you a dog! I need you to take care of this little guy while I’m working.” Add some props like a washcloth and plastic bowl to encourage their play. Then run away to get your work done.
  • Reintroduce toys they have not played with in a while. Sometimes this just means pulling a few oldies down from a shelf. Put these “new” toys in a place they’ve never been before. You might put a bunch of cars and blocks under the kitchen table. Let your kids discover them. Then run away to get your work done
  • Decorate! Bring down paper, markers, and tape, and invite your kids to decorate the bathroom. They’ll think it’s just ridiculous enough to be fun and you’ll contain the craft bomb to one tiny room! Then run away to get your work done.
  • Invent a holiday. “Oh my gosh, it’s almost Great-Aunt-Once-Removed Day!! Can you make Great-Aunt-Once-Removed Linda a care package? When it stops snowing we’ll mail it to her and she’ll be so happy.” Then run away to get your work done.

TIP 6

Stay Put.

If you don’t hear complete chaos (or total silence) down the hall, then things are probably going swimmingly. Resist the urge to peek in on your kids. Seeing you will just remind them of that sandwich they want you to make them.

TIP 7

Give them a challenge.

If things are falling apart, ask them for more. Give them a real grown up responsibility like making their own lunch for the first time. Give them the chance to show off their inner big kid. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get things back on track.

TIP 8

Pull out all the stops.

Your kids have played together for a while. Your sanity depends upon getting a little more work done. It’s okay to offer a little media. For guilt prone parents try an audiobook or podcast. We love Story Pirates and Circle Round for their storytelling genius. Brains On and Wow In The World are great for science. You might even put some sleeping bags under the table or in the bathtub to make the listening more of a special (and contained) experience. And, of course, you can go the movie or show route. Before you press play, remind your kids, “When this is over I’ll be done with work and we’ll all build that three story snow tower! 

TIP 9

Keep your promise.

When time is up put away your work. Hide it under the covers so it does not taunt you. Let your kids know, “You now have my full attention and we are going to have some crazy fun together!” Head outside. Play hard. Make Elsa proud.

TIP 10

Try for another miracle.

One your way in, build a quick little snowman. Hope that it magically turns into a babysitter overnight. Just in case there’s another snow day tomorrow…

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Thank You, December Evelyn: 2 Tips to Improve Your 2018 Mental Health

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They’re experiencing history and culture hands-on by touching real antiques!

Today I’m giving you two tricks to add to your mental health first-aid kit. They’re about gratitude. I can’t stop laughing out loud even writing that. How many times have we been told to be grateful because…. they grow up so fast, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, everything has a purpose, some people don’t have limbs.

Bullshit.

Sure, I believe all that stuff. But it does not help me RIGHT NOW. So I’m like, “Eff that, God. I will reflect on the strength I am gaining LATER. Your condescending mantras are not helping me RIGHT NOW.”

Also, our culture berates our parenting all over the place with words like “screen time,” “attachment parenting,” and “collaborative problem solving.” And don’t get me started on Facebook where all the children are fierce and indomitable and all the hearts of all the parents are breaking open with so much love. Sure, sure.

It’s an Instagram-filtered world out there designed to tear down your mental health.

Never fear! Here are the two tools that will help you build yourself back up. Think of it as my 1990s after-school special on self-esteem. Remember those?

1. Whenever something mildly terrible is happening, finesse it into something special by using the same positive parenting language normally used to make you feel less than perfect.

Transform “I’m screaming at the kids to stop fighting in the car so I can finish sorting out where the &*^% my GPS is taking me,” into….

“I’m showing the kids that all people have limits, and it’s important to be mindful of other human being’s emotional cues.”

Transfrom “All I asked was for K-Pants to go outside for 15 minutes and he’s freaking out, having to be picked up and removed, and is now watching TV with his blankie,” into….

“We already had outside time walking home today; plus he’s used up all his emotional bandwidth at school and has nothing left. That makes sense! BONUS: He knows his limits and has his special lovie to self-soothe.”

Transform “The kids have watched 5 hours of TV today,” into….

“I’m so grateful that PBS Kids has taught my kids phonics, problem-solving, and scientific inquiry over the past eight years!” Or just, “It’s not 10 hours of violent TV!”

2. Lavish praise upon your past self

This comes straight from my friend Marisa. The same Sunset Magazine–defiling Marisa we hung out with over the holidays. Here’s what to do: Whenever you come upon something small or large that you like and can attribute to something you did in the past, compliment yourself out loud.

Scenario: You have no idea what to eat for lunch but find some Indian food from a week ago stashed in a produce drawer in the fridge.

Compliment: “Way to go, Last Week Evelyn, for hiding this little snack away for a time you knew I would need it!”

Scenario: Your internal battery is at 5% and the kids are coming home soon, but you find some dark chocolate in a random canvas bag on the back of a chair. (Rebecca, I’m looking at you.)

Compliment: “THANK YOU, December Evelyn, for forgetting about this non-kid-candy in just the place I would need it.”

Scenario: You find $10 shoved in the pocket of a zip-up vest.

Compliment: Thank you, 2017 Evelyn, for never washing this vest! Let’s put this money in our secret escape fund.”

You may seem disorganized to some, but you know that you’re just saving time and money on expensive in-patient psychiatric care. Go forth!

My Resolutions So I’ll Remember Them

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Creek Reflection by Boy Woww, 2018

The time for manic resolutions has passed, so I’m ready to look at what I want for the year. I don’t always make resolutions, but the past four years have been so tumultuous and transformative in that tear-you-apart-and-make-something-out-of-the-broken-pieces kind of way, that I am ready to tuck deep down into some reflection and look forward, a little bit at a time.

1

Start the day with a little prayer for unconditional love, seeking it for myself and giving it to others. I’m opinionated and can be abrasive. These things make it easy for me to act decisively and with confidence. They can be endearing, but also hurtful. So…unconditional love first for me (because if I can do it for myself then I can do it for others) and the things and people I love and encounter in the world.

2

Work toward getting stronger physically and emotionally. The years that I was pregnant with the Fairy Pig and she was an infant, one-year-old, and two-year-old have been the weakest-feeling of my life. I’ve been atrophied and exhausted. Sometimes thinking about exercise overwhelmed me. But I love to be outside and be active. Help!

3

Expand my freelance network, especially to include more talented women of color. I’m really proud that my freelance work is up and running… professional work was on the back-burner for six years. Now I want a rich network of bitches who are creative, thoughtful, and have great writing, web coding/design, or graphic design skills. Power is in community. If I know you, I’m coming for you. If I don’t know you, hit me up.

4

Get in bed before 10 p.m. and try to go to sleep at 10. Doomed to failure? All the other years say there’s no way she’ll do this!! I’m a night owl. The kids are all down by 8, but I want to do my personal writing, check in on Facebook and Instagram, snuggle up with my boo on the couch and watch mindless television, take a bath, and read a book, all before 10 p.m. My expectations are way too high, but if I don’t do all the things then life seems less fun, and when life seems gray I spiral into a depressive abyss. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to bed…

I like having these here as intentions. Failure is fine. But if I put them out in the universe, then maybe they’ll come back to me abundantly… who knows. I would love to hear an intention of yours, because it helps me grow.  

How to Make People Feel Bad at Christmas: Yuppie-Hipster Style

Out here in the West we have Sunset magazine, the naturalesque style and culture mag where gardening is bespoke and children are vintage fashion accessories. If you’re from, say, Alabama, you might read Sunset and think everyone west of Kansas has a mini Airstream trailer with a pop-up porch lined with flowering vines. (I’m looking at you, Cousin Thad. This post is your education in how we find our Christmas trees here in the wild, ironically flannel-clad West.)

My friend Marisa gets Sunset. Perhaps it’s a relic of her childless days? Last year’s Christmas edition made her irrationally angry. This, it turns out, was a gift to all of us, as you shall see.

Marisa and her wife have two kids ages 6 and 2. They’re exhausted, and they know there’s no “perfect day at the tree farm.”  But there it was on the cover, part of “The West’s New Holiday Traditions.” Marisa annotated the article to save the rest of us from internally combusting. Let’s join her now…SunsetMag

 

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Ahhhhhhhhhhhh the holidays. Thank you Sunset, for keeping our already unrealistic expectations in check. People have real sh*t to feel bad about, but now they also have Yuppie-Hipster Christmas Tree Excursions to add to the list.

Stay tuned for our next edition of How to Make People Feel Bad at Christmas when we light up your life with condescending Christian lawn signs.

 

Letter from a Young Widow to her Husband

This is the letter that Adriane wrote to her husband Sam two weeks after he died. Adriane and Sam have two sons in elementary school. Adriane is a teacher, and Sam worked in tech.

Americans are not good about talking about death. We try not to be around death, and we rarely know how to react it. Death, like other events in the shocking and terrible category, is something we distance ourselves from as if getting in too close might mean it could happen to us. We also don’t know what to say.

Sam died of a sudden cardiac event, most likely ventricular fibrillation–basically an electrical issue of the heart that stops the heart from pumping blood correctly. It could not have been prevented.

I heard Adriane read this letter at Sam’s memorial. When I wrote to ask her if I could share the letter, she said, “I still believe that life is beautiful–even with all its sorrow–and that Sam would want me to keep living and doing all the things. And so we will–and even though we’ll be really mad and sad sometimes that he’s not here, we won’t let his death color the rest of our lives. We cannot. I know it would make Sam mad, in fact, if I just gave up and lived a pinched, closed off version of life. He’d hate that, actually.”

In reading Adriane’s letter, it’s helpful to know that Sam started a tech company in Portland with two friends, and that Adriane and Sam’s boys–born close together–were babies during the start-up phase. It’s also helpful to know that Adriane and Sam have been very involved in working for positive, progressive change in Portland, and that they live near the giant brick chimney at Chapman Elementary School, where the swifts gather every fall–creating an aviary cyclone as they all funnel down into the chimney for the night.

September 10, 2017

Dear Sam,

It’s been two weeks since we last talked. There are lots of things I’d like to tell you. The swifts have started their nightly dance, swooping down the chimney each evening; I watch them out our window. Solly has a locker at school and Abe just finished a great book that he couldn’t put down. Baby Hannah waves and says hello. The leaves on the cherry tree are turning; fall is right around the corner.

I miss you. I wait for you to ride past the kitchen window on your bike, returning home from a long day. I think maybe I’ll bump into you in the kitchen, smiling and eager to offer us your latest açaí bowl creation. When you’re not there, I’m certain I’ll find you working upstairs at your desk, or maybe standing in our closet putting away your laundry. It seems impossible to me that you are gone. That I won’t see your sweet face again. Or run my hands through your soft hair.

People have been saying so many nice things about you. There have been articles and posts and photos shared. These are wonderful stories and it makes me happy to think of all the things you did during your time here. You were genuinely curious and open to learning and helping. You told me many times over the years that our partnership was essential in helping you pursue these passions. Because you knew you could depend on me to keep our family humming and support you emotionally, you could go out in the world and do this work. I hope that is true, and I think it is. Marriage is full of compromises, and we made these for each other because we loved each other and believed in each other. Our choices were made with intention but they weren’t always easy; I made more space within myself than I sometimes wanted, in order to protect and care for your dreams. I knew that if I was going to marry you, there was no way to quell this passion or redirect it; you had big ideas. During those times when I felt like you were overcommitted and I was overburdened and lonely for your presence, I took deep breaths and believed the sacrifices were worthwhile because I knew you could lead us all in a better direction. You do these things for only certain people.

Your work took you to all corners of the earth. A friend recently wrote that I was your lighthouse when you were far from home and I think this is right but you were also mine. No matter where you were in the world, I felt safe and protected, because you were in it. It didn’t matter if you were an ocean away, the thought of you, the thought of Sam, was my safe harbor from whatever life threw at me. I cannot tell you how many times, when I faced a challenge or felt uncertain, I told myself Sam will help me, I’ll be okay because I have Sam. It’s scary now because that lighthouse has burned out. I’m out at sea without a landmark in site. It is stormy and dark. It was not supposed to be this way. You were taken too soon.

Though I am sad and angry and mourn the time we didn’t get to share, I keep getting pulled back to a place of gratitude. It would be greedy to overlook the fact, that though far too short, the time we did have together was simply amazing. It was not perfect, we had our differences and periods of disillusionment, we argued like every couple and sometimes felt distant, but at the end of the day we always came back to each other and fought for each other. In the wedding toast that you wrote [recently], you were going to give some advice on marriage. You wrote, “There are times where your relationship is in a perfect state of equilibrium, where you are wholly happy with your partner. But I guarantee you that you will also endure traumatic, painful periods, where the connection you feel seems distant. Sometimes just one of you will experience this disequilibrium; sometimes the other; the WORST is when you both have it at the same time. At those difficult moments try your best to remember that it’s just a temporary disequilibrium phase and your relationship will soon emerge stronger and happier on the other side.”

Sam, when I look back on our last year together, I am comforted by the fact that our relationship was squarely rooted in an epic phase of equilibrium. We packed so many things into that last year; a dual 40th birthday celebration on a perfect summer evening; a New Year’s party for the ages (really it was way too crowded but we were surrounded by so many friends, it was so much fun); I watched you find your groove as a basketball coach to Abe and Solly, an experience you fully enjoyed; we hiked miles of the Costa Rican cloud forest spotting quetzals, sloths, capuchin monkeys; we heard U2 play the entire Joshua Tree album from start to finish; this summer we went to New York and you finally got to see your beloved Hamilton; you took me to Boston and we went to Fenway. Our last trip together was to see the eclipse. You were adamant (as you were about pretty much everything), that it would be worth the extra work and hassle of finding a spot within the line of totality. That clear morning, our last Monday together, the four of us watched as the moon’s shadow completely darkened the sun. It was amazing and it was totally worth it. You made sure we did these things and saw these things; it was as though you knew you were running out of time. That me and Abie and Solly would need these memories to sustain us when we no longer had you physically here with us. We can summon these moments–and I have already done so many times–even if we can’t touch you or talk to you. Though grief leaves me jagged and raw at the edges, I am full of gratitude, even as I’m full of so much pain, for the life we built together. You gave me so many gifts and these do not die with you.

The last book I gave you on your birthday and that you recently finished was Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It seems strange to me now, even a little bit eerie since it’s a story about the grief Abraham Lincoln experiences after his son Willy dies. It’s a story about ghosts. You loved this book and paused several times to share your reflections with me as you read it. I’ve been pulled to it recently, wanting to cling to the thoughts and words that resonated with you during your last days. I found this quote and it made me think of you, and of life, and the way you chose to live it, and the way you would want us to move through our grief and eventually rise above it:

“His mind was freshly inclined to sorrow; toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever way one took in the world one must try to remember that all were suffering (non content [discontented], all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), and therefore one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact; that his current state of sorrow was not uniquely his, not at all, but rather, its like had been felt, would yet be felt, by scores of others in all times, in every time, and must not be prolonged or exaggerated, because in this state, he could be of no help to anyone, and given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it…. All were in sorrow, or had been, or soon would be. It was the nature of things. Though on the surface it seemed every person was different, this was not true. At the core of each lay suffering; our eventual end; the many losses we must experience on the way to the end. We must try to see one another in this way. As suffering limited beings–perennially outmatched by circumstance, inadequately endowed with compensatory graces. His sympathy extended to all in this instant, blundering in its strict logic, across all divides.”

During one of our last conversations, I had changed my mind about wanting to speak in front of hundreds of people at [the upcoming family] wedding (ironic given where I stand today). We had a funny idea about me jumping in the middle of your toast and giving my own advice… about marrying a Blackman. I was trying to back out at the last minute, “Never mind, Sam. I don’t think I can do it. You go ahead,” I said. You turned to me, with your big grin and told me, “You can do it, baby. You’ll be great!”

So now, as I lie awake in the middle of the night and the weight of your absence bears down on me and I think, “How can I do this? How do I go on without you?” I try and remember your words, “You can do it, baby. You’ll be great.” I wish like hell that I didn’t have to do it without you, Sam, but I will do my best. I promise to read every day, take our Sunday family walk, ride public transit, throw the frisbee at the park, and cook oatmeal. Your voice will always guide me as I parent Abe and Solly; I will honor all of the ways you wanted to raise them and prepare them for their own life journey. I won’t always make the choice you would want and I’m going to make so many mistakes, but I will live the best way I know how. I am certain that all of us who love you and believed in your dreams, will carry the torch that you’ve passed to us. Your whole existence was a call to action and your death adds an exclamation point.

I love you, Sam. I hope someday we’ll meet again.