The terms and conditions of marriage.

You know how when you sign up for an online service or activate a new phone or credit card, or basically any time you buy anything ever, you have to sign an endless, detailed, coma-inducing document known as the terms and conditions? No one ever reads it, but next thing you know, you’ve agreed to plant 100 trees, karate chop the elderly, and let Apple/Verizon/Walmart tattoo its logo on your face.

Marriage is kind of like that.

The basic agreement covers the general stuff:

to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better or for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

But here’s the fine print.

#1) You are now your spouse’s primary physician.
You are now required to analyze your spouse’s intimate health concerns with them. When your spouse comes home and confesses to you that they haven’t had a normal bowel movement in 3 weeks (usually it’s the husband,  amiright ladies?)  or they’ve discovered a mole/lump/growth in a deep crevice somewhere on their body, your first reaction may be, “Why are you telling me this? I’m not a doctor!”. But there you are 20 minutes later, flashlight in hand, squinting as you google pictures of cancerous moles or asking questions about color and consistency. Word of advice: stay away from WebMD.


#2) Bodily functions happen and you must deal with them.
Your alarm goes off at 6:30 AM. You hit snooze and roll over to snuggle your still sleeping spouse, stealing some peaceful moments while the world is quiet and the sun has just started to peek through the blinds. Your spouse snuggles a little closer to you, lets out a quiet, contented sigh and then…farts on your leg. Now, I’m not saying this scenario happened in my marriage last week, and I’m not saying that the guilty party texted her best friend and sister-in-law to tell them all about it later that day, all while stifling giggles in an effort not to wake the sleeping baby in her arms, but I’m not NOT saying any of that happened, if you know what I mean. Look, bodily functions are a normal part of life and you can’t spend the rest of your marriage sneaking into the bathroom to pass some gas or shifting in your seat to let out a silent one. And your husband is living in a fool’s paradise if he thinks you don’t fart.


#3) The silent stand off over the dishes (or some other, equally unpleasant chore).
I hate doing the dishes. So does Christopher. The first house we lived in after we got married did not have a dishwasher. Which meant every few days, the dishes would pile up in the sink and we would begin our own Cold War. We’ve never admitted this officially, but we both knew we were just waiting until the other one cracked. More often than not, I was the one to give in, because I would need a certain dish to cook and there were too many dishes in the sink to wash just one. Christopher had the upper hand however, having lived with roommates for a year and a a half before we got married.

#4) The struggle of the snacks.
One of the simple pleasures of life is having a special snack that only you enjoy. That way, you can keep it in the house and not worry about coming home to an empty bag or box one day. But that dream is shattered when your spouse decides to try it, after months of saying how gross it is, and discovers what they’ve been missing out on. Then, you feel guilty for over-indulging, especially if you eat the last of your tasty treats. Until your spouse shamelessly admits to taking more than their fair share. Then the gloves are off.

These are just a few of things about marriage that you didn’t (knowingly) sign up for. What are the terms and conditions of your marriage?


The baby accidentally chewed the dog toy.

So, the other night, our son Solomon chewed on the dog toy. I know it sounds disgusting, and it was. We have a siberian husky named Luna and she is in the height of shedding (also known as “blowing” her coat), so her hair is EVERYWHERE.

2014-07-06 15.04.11

Luna lounging on a bedspread that she has now chewed two holes in. Husky owners cannot have nice things.

And when I say everywhere, I mean absolutely everywhere. Her hair especially likes to congregate on our stairs, under the couch, and on our clothes. I’m convinced that one day the hairs will become self aware and come together to form a phantom Luna. But I digress.

On the evening that Solomon snacked on Luna’s toy, we were somewhat mortified. It may be one of our biggest parenting blunders in our short, 6 month career.

But you know what? He didn’t get sick. He didn’t choke. He didn’t have a sudden allergic reaction. He is fine.

As I reflect on that incident, I realize that there are some moms out there who would seriously, hard core judge me for that. And I think there’s something wrong with that. Any mom with even the slightest iota of experience knows that you cannot prevent every possible disaster from happening. Lots of things are preventable using some simple common sense, but you could bust your butt all day trying to keep your kid safe, nourished, napped, clean, and happy, only to discover him playing in the toilet the minute you take your eyes off of him. But so many moms are hesitant to share those experiences because there’s always the mom who makes some snide remark or facial expression that somehow degrades mom points.

Why do we do that to each other?

I have some theories, which I will discuss in a later post, but for now I think we can all agree on one thing.

No matter how you decide to parent your kid- cloth diapers or disposable diapers, breast feeding or formula feeding, sleep training or co-sleeping, spanking or timeouts, homemade baby food or store bought jars, homeschool, private school, public school, or whatever- the most important thing you child needs is total and unconditional love.

I have a friend who is getting ready to welcome her baby girl into the world. At her baby shower, everyone shared some advice or a thought as to why she was going to make a good mom. I shared some advice about not being afraid to put your baby down (one of my rookie mistakes) but what I wish I would have said was this:

“Jaimee, there are a lot of hurdles that you are going to face throughout this child’s life, and a lot of different way you and your husband can handle them. But I know your capacity to love is so great already, and it is going to grow leaps and bounds the moment you set eyes on her, and if you just keep that at the forefront of your mind, she’s going to be just fine.”

So maybe my son got a taste of some doggy drool. But he is incredibly loved by so many people.



Last summer, when I found out I was pregnant, I thought to myself, “How fortunate to be in my third trimester during the winter! Now I won’t have to suffer in the unbearable summer heat like so many other mothers!”

It was incredibly naive and short sighted.

Because as terrible as it would be to spend the final months of pregnancy in sweltering heat, your belly at its most glorious, there are wonderful inventions like central air conditioning and snow cones to combat feeling like a sweaty hippo in search of a mud hole. Then, you give birth to your beautiful little meatloaf and you have all fall and winter to hide the tragic remains of your body under bulky, cozy layers of fleece and cable knit while you get yourself together.

When you have your baby in spring, and you’re totally pumped to “treat yo’self” to some new, non-maternity clothes, this is what you’re presented with.


Guys, someone cut the bottoms off all of these tank tops.

When I told the lady at Target that I suspected youths of this horrible vandalism, she just laughed and walked away. Then I saw this.


What is this???? Where is the rest of the shirt? Don’t they know some of us are not going to be able to conceal the jello bowl remains of our stomachs in shirts like this??

Excuse me, where is the section for stylish, postpartum moms?
Tough luck moms. Don’t even get me started on swimwear.


I’m pretty sure these triangles are the same size as my breast pads.

I eventually found a maxi skirt with a wide elastic waist band, perfect for popping a squat anywhere to nurse a screaming child.

And these beauties.


Hello friends.

I guess it’s time to tuck my stomach pooch into my big girl panties and accept the fact that I’ll be sweatin’ it out in gym shorts all summer.

The Birth of Solomon

How many March 18ths have passed in which I paid no attention to the date? So many times that day has come and gone without my notice. Last year, I had just gone to a Taylor Swift concert and was on a much needed spring break from school. How a year changes everything.

Solomon Christopher Parker Smolen was born on March 18, 2014 at 9:26 pm. He weighed 8 pounds and 1 ounce and measured 20 inches long. This is his story.

On March 17 I went to what would be my last prenatal appointment hoping for good news. I had been dilated 1 centimeter and was about 50% effaced for close to two weeks. The Saturday before I thought for certain my water had broke, but 3 hours of walking in the maternity ward produced no results, and I was sent home.

My appointment brought only disappointment. I was dilated 2 centimeters, but Solomon was not close to the birth canal, positioned posterior, and quite happy where he was. We reluctantly scheduled an induction for that Friday. My doctor decided to strip my cervical membranes in the hopes on starting labor, but neither of us expected much from that. I left resigned to an induction.

The rest of my day went on as usual. I went to Target after that and ran in to my best friend, Bekah, which was a delightful surprise. Now as I reflect on that Target trip, I can’t help but think God arranged it so we could both spend a little time together and just refresh. From Target I went to Christopher’s parents’ home to celebrate my mother in law’s birthday with the rest of the family. We ate a meal of corned beef and cabbage and potatoes to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (this will be important later), opened some gifts, and spent time talking together before Christopher and I headed home ad went to bed, expecting Friday would be the day we met our son.

At 1:30 in the morning, I woke up to contractions. I made a visit to the bathroom, where I lost my mucus plug. I knew this was a good sign but I wanted to be sure I was in labor before I woke Christopher up. I got back in bed and began timing contractions. Our birthing class and my doctor both said to wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart lasting for one minute for at least an hour before going to the hospital. Mine were anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes apart.

After about half an hour, I woke Christopher up. Once he got over his initial disbelief, he sprang into action. We were only halfway packed and Christopher had just washed all of his pants and hung them up to dry in the basement. His shirts were still in the washer. Reluctantly, he stayed in his pajamas. When we were as packed as we could be, we got into the car, my contractions growing more intense, and went to the hospital.

I remember getting to the hospital hoping and praying that I would have been progressed enough for them to admit me. After the initial check, I was only 4 centimeters dilated. The nurses called my doctor, who decided I should walk for 2 hours before they could admit me. So we walked, all the while my contractions, as well as a strong desire to vomit, grew stronger. We only made it about an hour and half before I couldn’t take it anymore. I sat down to rest and the nurses did another check. I was now 5 centimeters dilated, and my doctor decided I could be admitted. It was now about 5 in the morning, and Christopher began calling our parents to let them know that they would be meeting their grandson that day.

At this point, I started telling Christopher that I wanted pain killers. Up until now, we were pretty committed to having a 100% natural child birth. But as each contraction came, my resolve grew weaker. I was sure I couldn’t make it to 10 without something. Christopher remained strong, saying that I didn’t need them and I could do this. It was very hard not to get angry at him.

It was on our way to our room when we hit the first speed bump. I made it about 10 feet down the hallway, right in front of the nurses’ station, when I announced that I was going to throw up. I have never seen a trash can appear beneath me faster. And then, all that corned beef and cabbage made an encore performance. I must give credit to the nursing staff; they never batted an eye.

After all that excitement, we made it to our room, where we believed Solomon would be delivered. We got settled. I attempted to sit in the tub and relax. The warm water was soothing between contractions, but during it did very little to relieve the pain. I soon moved to the bed. Again, I told Christopher I wanted pain killers. After some  more insisting, he finally relented. I was given an IV pain killer, which took the edge off but only for a little bit. I knew it wouldn’t do much in a few hours. After two doses, and another round of vomiting, I tapped out at 6 centimeters and asked for an epidural.

And that’s when I met an angel named Steve. (I think.) If you don’t believe in angels, go see an anesthesiologist. They are the kindest people on the planet. I was somewhat afraid of the epidural, but Steve made it so quick and painless, I would get an epidural every day of my life. Things began to look up after that.

The rest of the day moved by smoothly. The epidural kicked in and Christopher and I were both able to relax. Our families arrived at the hospital and we spent the day together talking and enjoying the process. Even though I really thought I would be able to do the natural childbirth thing, I’m really glad we had the epidural. We were able to share a lot of the experience with our families which turned out to be a huge blessing. They provided a lot of support that we would need later that day.

My body continued to progress through labor and by 2 that afternoon, I was completely dilated and effaced. We were ready to push. However, my doctor was in a surgical procedure that was taking longer than expected, so we had to wait. And wait we did. Finally, around 5, she was free.

And then we hit another speed bump. Solomon was facing the wrong direction. I was going to have to try to flip him, but in order to do that, the epidural needed to wear off enough for me to feel my legs. They lowered my dosage, and some feeling returned to my legs. I was helped onto my elbows and knees, and pushed like I’ve never pushed before. After an hour, which felt like 15 minutes, Solomon flipped. We were good to go.

I’ve never had a baby before, but I knew enough to know that this would be the toughest part of the labor. But I also knew it would be the most rewarding. I was feeling optimistic at this point, even though I was in quite a bit of pain. I thought for sure I would be meeting my son within half an hour. I was very wrong.

Solomon moved through the birth canal very slowly. Long bouts of pushing would result in little, if any, progress. He was not cooperating, and two long hours later, he still had not crowned. He was very close, but not budging. Against our better judgment, we agreed to try some suction to see if that would provide the extra push he needed. Four hard pushes later, I was exhausted, my contractions were getting farther apart, and Solomon had not moved at all. From what my doctor could tell, he was stuck. Our only choice was to have a cesarean.

I have to pause at this time and brag on my husband for a bit. If anyone knows Christopher, they know he can be somewhat squeamish. We were both uncertain about how he would handle the labor, and even joked about having to attach a smelling salt to his shirt. But, when it came down to it, he was a champion. He never left my side the whole time, he helped hold my legs while I pushed, let me squeeze any part of him I could reach and said nothing but encouraging things to me. There is no way I would have lasted as long as I did if he had not been there.

Going into the c section, I felt at peace. This could have been the drugs, but also there was a great sense of relief knowing that it would all be over soon. I knew Christopher was worried, as was our family, but as I told Christopher, it’s not like God didn’t know it was going to happen. This was part of His plan, and it was going to be fine. And at 9:26pm, when we heard the first cries of our son from behind a giant blue curtain, we knew it was worth the 20 hours of labor it took to get him into this world.

The days that followed were a blur of emotions, visitors, and some pretty gross recovery. But now, 16 days later, I know that this is the greatest thing I have done with my life.



Just minutes old.

Killing Regina George: Confronting Your Inner Mean Girl

How do I begin to explain Regina George?


We all know Regina George. That girl who comes to school every day with perfect hair and the cutest outfits, the woman at the gym who sweats in the most beautiful way, the mom in Target with well-behaved children in adorably coordinated outfits, the lady at the office who brings delicious snacks to the break room each week. Everyone has a Regina George in her life.

I can guarantee that every girl and woman can think of at least one girl or woman who has made her feel bad about herself at some point in her life, whether it was intentionally or unintentionally. Many times, it has been intentionally. In fact, most of us can think of more than one Regina George who victimized us at more than one time in our lives. These incidents leave deep scars on us, down in the hidden parts of our hearts that we don’t want anyone to see. And we do a lot of unhealthy things to try to heal that hurt.


But what we learned about Regina George is that she is just as broken as the rest of us. She doesn’t have a good relationship with her mom and dad. She’s been with a lot of guys. She’s insecure about her appearance. She covered up her issues with a cocktail of manipulation, gossip, false compliments, nice cars, and pretty handbags, and created a cold, shiny, hard, plastic veneer to keep the world at bay.

Now, we could all get together and sit in a circle and share our stories and cry and hug and talk about baking a cake of rainbows and smiles and we could all be happy.But if we were honest for one second, we’d realize that it’s only a temporary fix, a small Dollar Store Hello Kitty band-aid over a gaping, festering wound.


I think we need to approach the problem from a different angle.

All too easily, women play the comparison game. I teach middle school and high school students, and I hear it every day.

“Today, I weighed…”

“Okay, did you hear what she….”

“Oh my god, what was she…”

This greatly distresses me.

Not just because I know how physically, emotionally, and spiritually dangerous this game can be, but also because I know that this is only the beginning for them. Today it’s their bodies and the number of followers they have on Instagram. Then it will shift to boyfriends, colleges, weddings, husbands, careers, income, homes, cars, pregnancies, post-pregnancy bodies, children, parenting skills, and on and on and on. And they will continue to play this game for the rest of their lives.

But the only way we are going to begin to fix this problem is to face the pure, sweet, difficult truth.

There is a Regina George in all of us. And she thinks that she should be better than everyone else.

We know this because our natural reaction when we feel the “injustice” of another woman’s success is not the celebrate but to tear her down. We scoff at the first time mom’s decision to use cloth diapers, calling her “naive” and “idealistic” despite her thorough research and careful decisions. We downplay our neighbor’s healthy weight loss by crediting good genes or an excess of free time instead of recognizing the hard work and dedication it took to get there. We ignore our own unique beauty and the beauty of other women around us because we’re too caught up in measuring beauty by unrealistic magazines and Pinterest boards. We keep our own personal “burn books” in our hearts and visit the pages whenever we’re feeling sad, angry, disappointed, or inadequate.


It’s time to kill Regina George.

It’s time each of us recognized that little Regina George in all of us and pushed her in front of a speeding school bus.

“Regina George is an evil dictator. And how do you destroy an evil dictator? You cut off their resources.”

#1) Stop surrounding yourself with women who let their inner Reginas thrive.

#2) Practice thinking about yourself in a realistic way.

#3) Be excited for the women in your life. And not just your friends.

It’s going to be so fetch.


I am now officially 9 months pregnant.

It feels like this.


I think back to the glorious days of 2nd trimester, when I was cutely pregnant, not hugely pregnant. I had energy. I could bend over. I had no stretch marks or heartburn. My shirts still fit over my belly.

I am even envious of first trimester, when I simply looked a little pudgy. Sure, I was always tired and hungry, and I had to run to the ladies’ room every 20 to 30 minutes, but I could still move quickly, most of my clothes fit, I could go up a flight of stairs without getting winded.

At 9 months, I have a growing list of problems that I can only categorize as #pregnantproblems.

1. Strange, irrational, raging emotions.
I am not emotionally stable enough to handle any Carrie Underwood song (particularly “This is Just a Dream”), classic Disney movie (The Little Mermaid), or anything involving abandoned or abused animals, veterans coming home from the Middle East, or any combination of the two. I also take it personally when I hurt myself accidentally, like stubbing a toe or getting a paper cut. I feel as though the world is out to get me. And two weeks ago I had a meltdown at midnight in my bathroom because none of my shirts could fit over my belly anymore.

2. Gravity hates me.
I feel as though everything I pick up is ten times heavier than it was 9 months ago. The other day I picked up a large ceramic bowl that I used to be able to spin on my pinky finger. Now it feels like a bowling ball. You would think with my increasing size that I would be getting stronger, but in fact, I seem to be growing weaker.

3. Pregnancy Brain
I thought this was a myth or an urban legend, but people, I am here to tell you that pregnancy brain is alive and well in our society today. What is this “pregnancy brain”, you ask? It is a strange condition in which the mind of the pregnant woman takes a long nap, leaving the pregnant woman incapable of remembering anything, hearing correctly, or keeping up with any conversation. This is especially difficult for my students. Last week, a student asked if she could borrow some lotion from me. I responded with, “No, because you’ll lose valuable test taking time.” I thought she had asked to go to the bathroom. Needless to say, she was quite confused. But they have benefited as well. I have forgotten to print quizzes, enter grades into the grade book,  and accidentally gave answers to the class during tests. So this is working out quite nicely for them.

4. Drop something on the ground? Clear your schedule for the next 20 minutes.
You’re not going anywhere. In order to retrieve the dropped item from the ground, it’s going to take several minutes of meticulous planning. Certain things need to be in place for a successful retrieval. They are:

– a sturdy piece of furniture, a large ledge, or counter top to hold on to
– adequate room for squatting
– a handy cell phone, in case you are alone and need assistance
– hydration
– a flare gun

And of course there is the presquatting ritual of hiking your pants, spreading your legs, and taking a deep breath. Let’s hope you’ve made a recent trip to the bathroom, otherwise you can bet on a little leakage.

Oh, and this.



I cannot stress the importance of fiber and water in the final months of pregnancy. If you want the full description of my most horrific bowel movement ever, email me.


In Defense of Taylor

I was incredibly excited when “Red” was nominated for Album of the Year.

I bought “Red” the day it came out and I’m pretty sure it stayed in my car’s cd player for a solid year.

I went to the Red Tour. I wore a red dress. My friends and I were invited to see the show from the pit by Taylor’s dad himself. It was truly the most spectacular concert I have ever been to.

Let me explain why.

She played for TWO WHOLE HOURS. Every song had costumes and sets and lights and dancers and guitar solos and fog and moving stage parts and Taylor belting her heart out. This girl pulled out all the stops to make this show worthwhile for her fans. She gave it her all for the entire two hours, not a minute did she slack off or perform halfheartedly.

And as I have spent the past year with “Red”, dissecting every word of it, I have developed a deep appreciation for Taylor and her work. First of all, her lyrics are ripe with literary devices. I have used many a T. Swift lyric as examples in my classroom. Second, she is incredibly willing to express amazing vulnerability through her songs, but at the same time not necessarily blabbing every detail for all the world to know.

Now, yes, I am aware that she has had many boyfriends. I am aware that she’s made a lot of mistakes. But why is it that everyone acts as if she is the only one to have done this? As if no one else has been in multiple relationships or been with the wrong person. Puh-lease.

And why is it that whenever Taylor goes to an award show or performs at an award show, the media has to nitpick her existence to death? This time, the world is mocking her over her flipping her hair around. Really?


May I remind you all that just a few years ago we were all “whipping” our hair “back and forth” when Willow Smith, who was 9 at the time, was telling us it was cool?



What’s more, now the media is mocking Taylor for showing excitement upon hearing an “r” sound as they were announcing the winner for Album of the Year. Would we have mocked Daft Punk for the same reaction if they had lost? Of course not, because they wore helmets to mask their faces so they could avoid humiliation. I guess you should have worn a helmet too, Taylor.



How petty are we going to get?

“Look at Taylor over there drinking water like it’s the coolest thing in the world, she’s so stupid for liking water, I mean, seriously, water? Come on, water is sooo lame.”

I have 8th graders more mature than this.

Haters gonna hate.


How Having a Dog Prepares You for Parenthood.


In April, my husband and I bought our first home. It is a lovely house, over 100 years old with beautiful wood floors and woodwork throughout the house. It also has a fenced in backyard, which to me meant one thing: we’re getting a puppy. And the following month, we did. We found a Siberian Husky breeder from rural Nebraska in the newspaper and in a Walmart parking lot in Fremont we were given our first puppy, Luna. As you can see, she was adorable. She stole our hearts immediately. She was so soft and sweet and cuddly. She took lots of naps. She was playful and quirky. It was a match made in heaven.

The honeymoon was over about two weeks later. As Luna grew, she became more energetic, and less sleepy. She became less licky, and more bitey. Potty training was hit or miss. She developed a taste for socks, Christopher’s in particular. She made several escape attempts that resulted in heart-attack inducing moments of panic as she ran fearlessly in front of cars, even a fire engine. She desecrated our dining room rug on so many occasions that we eventually gave up on cleaning it and just threw it away.


Little did we know at the time that Luna was preparing us for the next big step in our lives: parenthood. In July, we found out that we are expecting our first son, Solomon, in March. And I can’t help but notice all of the ways Luna has helped us understand the reality of parenting. Now, I know raising a child is vastly different from raising a dog; you can’t put your child in a kennel for a few hours while you and your husband run errands. However, there as several things Luna has done that I am positive Solomon and whatever children come after him will do.

#1) Destroy beloved possessions.
My husband, Christopher, has a love for old books. He has quite the impressive collection that he displays proudly in our living room, but his most beloved book of all is a large, very old Bible that my mom got him for Christmas two years ago. He loves the ornate detailing on the cover. Tragically, Luna also discovered her love for this Bible, not as a beautiful piece of history, but as a delicious snack. One summer day, I discovered her methodically chewing away pieces of the spine. Terror rushed through my veins as I realized the magnitude of what she had done, the effect it would have on my husband, and the horror of being the one who had to deliver the bad news to him. When Christopher came home, I broke the news to him as gently as I could. He did not speak for half an hour. If you know my husband, you will know the depth of his devastation. It was an amazing display of self control on his part not to pack Luna’s things and ship her out the door. And as time passes, it slowly heals the wound, but I know there will always be a small twinge of sadness at the thought of that Bible.

Luna did not know how much Christopher loves that Bible, she simply enjoyed the rip of the cover and the flavor of over a hundred years of knowledge and wisdom. Likewise, Solomon will break many things in our home without knowing about our sentimental attachments to them. I fully expect him to one day discover my wedding dress in the back of my closet and decide to “make it pretty” with magic markers.

#2) Need to be reminded of the rules 10,000 times.
Luna is not allowed on our couch at home. We bought it at Mrs. B’s Furniture Outlet when we moved in on a lucky break and we are trying to keep it as nice as possible for as long as possible. However, at my parents’ home, Luna is allowed on the couch. Now, I understand that this may be confusing for her, but we have been quite firm about her not being on the couch at home. We know she knows this, because she always waits until we leave the room before she jumps up on the couch. Lately, however, she has become more bold. If you are sitting on the couch, she will come over to you under the pretense that she “wants to snuggle”. She will lay her head on your lap and lick your hands and shove her head under your hand to tell you she wants to be petted. Once you start petting her, she puts her front paws in your lap. Then she snuggles you. Then her back leg begins to slowly creep onto the couch and next thing you know, there she is sitting on the couch with you as if it was the most normal and natural thing in the world. And every time she does it, she gets a spanking.

If Solomon is half as stubborn as I was as a child, he will need constant reminders of the rules as well.

#3) Get sick and make spectacular messes.
On Friday evening, we bought Luna one of those obscenely humongous rawhides in the shape of a candy cane. It was on Christmas clearance at Petco. She was very excited, as were we because we knew it would keep her occupied for some time. She happily chewed it for several hours that evening before we put her to bed. The next day, I let her chew for a few hours in the morning, and Christopher let her chew for a few hours that afternoon. Luna has a sensitive digestive system, but we weren’t too worried because she has had rawhides before and been fine. We were horridly wrong. She had a little bout with her bowels Sunday morning, so we decided to have her skip breakfast to give her stomach a break.

When we came home from church Sunday afternoon, we immediately knew something was wrong. Our house was filled with a putrid odor. Something dark was brewing in Mordor. I went to the basement to let Luna out of her kennel. What I found was straight out of a horror movie. Her entire lower half was covered in mess. It was all over her kennel. There was no where for her to go. She was so sad. We spent the next two hours giving her a bath, cleaning her kennel, cleaning the floor around her kennel, cleaning the carpet where we tracked in mud from trying to rinse Luna off outside, and cleaning up the vomit that was still coming out of Luna. We fed her the tried and true remedy of boiled chicken and rice to settle her stomach and sat with her in the kitchen for about an hour until we were confident she would keep her food down. She spent the rest of the evening sleeping on our feet while we ate a dinner of cereal, trail mix, and edamame. We tried to have her sleep in her kennel in case she had another accident, but after about an hour she started crying, so she spent the night curled up on the floor of our bedroom. This morning she was tried, but decidedly better.


As we were cleaning and worrying over our sweet Luna, I came to the realization that this was not the last spectacularly disgusting mess we would be dealing with. Children get sick. They make messes. And you take care of them because they are yours and you love them. So while I know Solomon and any of his siblings to come after him will test and try us in ways Luna never will, I can’t help but feel that Luna has helped up stay realistic about taking care of children and overcoming any squeamishness we might have had. We are better people because of Luna, and we will be even better people because of Solomon.

Writings from My Students

Report Cards
By Racine, 8th grade


Time is pressed.

Only a day ’till all these tests.


This year, I am teaching a creative writing class. At the end of the first quarter, my students made poetry portfolios showcasing their best work. Here are some works from two of my students.


Jordan, 10th grade


Thunder roar,
   Lightning flash.
The rain began to soar.

  Thunder, lightning, rain and all;
next thing you know the trees will fall.

The clouds start spinning,
    a tornado’es beginning.

When the sun arrives,
  we’ll see who else has survived.

Unknown Future…

I don’t know where
to go from here

As my future comes really near
I get stifled with fear
because my future is unclear.

There is one thing I know
that wherever I go
God will always be there.


A beginning.
A start.
The first of it all.
An ending.
A finish.
The last of the fall.


Racine, 8th grade

Untitled #1

Black night,
Dark night,
Fall night,
Star light.

Grey skies,
Dark skies,

Rain skies,
Scattered lies.

Blue breeze,
Cool breeze,
Whisper breeze,
hard to please.

Pretty flowers,
Swaying flowers,
Many flowers,
Persuasive powers.



Untitled #2

    Star light,
                         Fall night.

Lake serenity, tree whispers.

                        (Rise loon call) to the lake, wander.

                                  To the sky, mourn.

                        Like a lost shadow, cry.

                                  (To the islands) sing.

And to the dead of night,

Call the stars to life.


Untitled #3

The forest calls

Before the dead of night,

After the early morning.

                           The leaves,



                          The wind,



                          The trees,



We tower,

We call.

                               (The sky) we touch it.

                               (The ground) we hold it.

The birds flock to us,

Delighting us with their songs.

They pay us with their voices and we keep them safe in our outstretched limbs.


We stand and watch the dirt turn to dust, until finally…            We topple.

Dear Menards Guest

I work at Menards.

Dear Menards Guest,

No, I cannot do an exchange at my register just because you have the item you wish the exchange with you. Please go to the giant customer service type area labeled “CUSTOMER SERVICE”.

I don’t know why your credit card was declined, but it may have something to do with your iPhone, designer bag, and the 8 pounds of candy you are trying to purchase.

I’m sorry you thought that $150 patio umbrella was on clearance for $10. Anyone could have mistook that $10 price tag that was 20 feet away from the product.

No, my register is not open. I just like standing at the end of the lane with the light on. I don’t even work here, I just really like wearing this apron.

I’m sorry I don’t know you by name, sir. It might have something to do with how you’re dressed like every other contractor here. I’ll still need to see some I.D.

Go ahead and put those 60 pound bags of concrete on the conveyor belt. Even though you had to use a cart to bring them to the register, it’s no problem for a little girl like me to lift each one.

While you’re at it, finish your phone conversation before you sign off on the 96 cent pack of gum that you put on your credit card. The other guests can wait.  That mom with two toddlers screaming for candy or the potty doesn’t have anywhere she needs to be.

You know what would make my day? Just cram all of your purchases on the belt with no separation between your items and the next guest’s. I will magically know which items are your’s and which are not. They give us special training for that.

Oh, and let your kids run willy nilly up and down the lane. I don’t mind their constant requests to push buttons and play with my stapler. Their shrieking is such a refreshing sound. And keep adding candy to your cart, they need all the sugar they can get to ensure they go into a pre-diabetic coma later.

I don’t care about the sordid details of how you came to discover that these door hinges do not fit. I just need to know if they’re damaged or not. I’m sure it’s a thrilling tale, but I really must get back to staring hopelessly into the dense abyss that is my future.

Thanks and have a great day!

Your friendly Menards cashier