There Are No Perfect Parents

My career move into consumer science has put me unexpectedly in touch with human psychology.

And I love it.

I have gained so many insights into not only myself but also my relationships with others that I have become so much more comfortable in my own skin and confident in my approach to life. I’ve also come to deeply appreciate the value of gaining another thinking person’s reflection on the places where I’m stuck.

Andy and I sought out one such person in Dallas when we realized we’d shaken our toolbox completely empty when it came to our kids. We had been in so many parent-teacher conferences with little Graham and had seen first-hand the difference that approach makes in his confidence and well-being.

That’s where our lives intersected with Ms. Amy. Ms. Amy is a certified play therapist in Dallas.

::record scratch::

Play therapist? Yep, play therapist. A psychology professional who deals exclusively with kids under age 18. Let me go ahead and address some of my FAQ from friends & family who have discussed this whole “Ms. Amy” thing with us:

1. Graham is a perfectly normal preschool-aged boy, why would you take him to a counselor?

This has never been about fixing Graham. “Fixing” would imply that there was something wrong with Graham in the first place. No, what we needed was someone to help us understand Graham. And once she understood Graham, she then helped us diagnose what specifically is and isn’t working in our approach to parenting him. I think taking him to a play counselor says less about him as a little boy and more about me as a struggling parent.

2. Aren’t you worried about what Graham will think about being taken to a counselor when he’s old enough to understand? Will he label himself as a kid who needed counseling and carry that with him through life? 

I think we – as a society – need to shift our thinking about counseling, therapy & mental health as a whole. This hush-hush stigma that we have is perpetuating the shame that goes along with seeking help. There should never be shame about seeking out a healthier, well-adjusted, happier life. Period. To that end, Andy and I have committed to talk to Graham and Reid about the ugly stuff. The hard to talk about things. I don’t actually really count our month-long relationship with Ms. Amy as ‘the ugly stuff’ but you get the point maybe. Hiding these visits with her from him or others actually implies that there’s something there to be hidden. Hiding perpetuates shame. Shame begets more hiding. Time to break the cycle. Hence – I’m talking about it here!

Those are pretty much the two items that keep popping up. But you know what? I am so thankful that Andy and I took the steps to see Ms. Amy while we were in Dallas, because I just had to do a phone consult with her a few weeks ago.

Graham all of the sudden had a significant spike in separation anxiety about a month ago, and I placed a call to Ms. Amy. Before we got started on the current topic, she asked how Graham was and how we were doing after our big move. I told her that we still use all the tools that she gave us – even if we’re not perfectly consistent at it, we try really hard. She let me finish my thought, then interjected:

“Debbie, there are no perfect parents. There’s no such thing. What there are, are parents who love their children so much that they are willing to keep trying to do better the next time. And that’s what these children need.”

And it’s funny, you know? The “mommy wars” are real. And hurtful. We are all trying our hardest, and then we turn around and snipe another parent for not trying hard enough. Or for doing the wrong thing. Like it’s a black-and-white matter – a right-or-wrong answer. Like there are perfect parents. Instead of shaking our heads in 100% empathy and saying,

 ”I know, it’s so hard, isn’t it?”

Sick Day

Well, Reid got kicked out of school yesterday afternoon. I got that stomach-dropping call from daycare in the middle of the afternoon. (Daycare and school moms know it: when the school’s phone number pops up on the phone, and you know they’re calling about one of your kids. There’s a moment before you answer when a flash of panic/dread spikes and quickly recedes because you know it could be really bad or it could be nothing.)

Reid’s teacher said he had a temp of 101.5, so I dropped everything to pick him up.

I gave him some Advil when I got home and the fever broke. He lingered around 100 when I put him to bed, but when I went to check on him before *I* went to bed, he was the definition of burning up. I’ve never felt a kid so hot. Took his temp again: 103.5.

Yeah – we stayed home from school today.


Reidy woke up with a temp around 102, so I’ve been letting him simmer without Advil. He doesn’t seem uncomfortable, just tired. He ate two bowls of cereal then went back to sleep.


He looks downright happy here, right?

Reid slept from 9 – Noon and woke up for lunch.


Here he actually didn’t have much of an appetite. Ate half his yogurt, most of his milk and most of a slice of cheese before the cheese became distasteful and he started to try and scrape it out of his mouth.

I sort of wonder if he has a sore throat. (But just try and look down a toddler’s throat. TRY IT. Doctors must spend their entire third year of medical school just perfecting the toddler throat check. Impossible!)

We sat and watched T.V. for a bit, and Reid started asking for his baby[doll]. I went and got it and, for kicks, got a baby bottle out of the cupboard. He loves babies but is even more excited about them after having his cousin Kate here this weekend.

Reid is a natural.


We took turns feeding the baby.

Then I turned on some Barney, and he loved it. O Lord Almighty, what have I done??


Then by around 1:15 (mind you, he woke up at Noon) he looked like this:


So back to bed for Bonzo.

Craig and Susan – having been fully informed of the presence of whatever-this-is in the house – decided we should still keep our weekend plans for a visit. They arrive here midafternoon! Then only time will tell what our weekend plans end up being. Can’t wait! Just hope Reid shakes whatever has him down!

Just a Little Bit

Hey – do you think I can write a post every day for awhile? They may be short (I can hear the “hallelujah”s already), they may be pointless (probably), but they will be here. Are you with me? Let’s go!

We had an amazing visit with Brian and Michelle last weekend, and we’ve just about turned the guest room over again because we have Andy’s parents due to arrive tomorrow. Visits, ahoy! How come it took until June for people to start visiting?!

Oh right, Wisconsin. Fair enough, people. Fair enough!

We are so happy to have people up to our house. So happy, in fact, that Andy bought 6 tiki torches at the Menards on Sunday. That means that, on the tiki torch scale of hosting excitement, we are at a 6.

We have also been busy in between. Take last night for instance: After cooking, serving & cleaning up after dinner, Andy installed a ceiling fan in Baby Reid’s room and mowed the lawn, and I bathed both boys, tucked them into bed and then made a pan of enchiladas.

Tonight, Graham has his third t-ball practice. I’ll be honest, I think I succumbed to Millennial parenting peer pressure and signed him up for team sports too early. I admit it. The first week he was nervous about it. Last week was so much better because his cousin Charlie played on his team. This week, he’s pretty excited to put on his green shirt and hat. But the whole ‘organized sports’ thing? He could live without it. Only 3 more weeks after this, though, so we’ll ride this wave to shore.

That’s all for now. I’ll post some snapshots of our visit soon enough. Just probably not before this weekend. :)


Fire Starters

Andy’s installing an underground dog fence today, so that left the boys and I looking for something to do. Today also happens to be our neighborhood garage sale day, so the two and I set out to see if we could find any awesome deals. We fared okay. (Actually, I did score a cast iron skillet, so I was pretty stoked.)

One of the things I found was a pack of cheapie crayons, all barely used. So, after we got home and put Reid down for a morning nap, Graham and I set up at the kitchen counter and made some fire starters.

No, I’m not talking about her.


Or him.


I’m talking about the myriad of little things you can use as pre-made kindling to get your campfire started easily.

There are ridiculous numbers of ideas out there on Pinterest, but we just finished a carton of eggs today, so Graham and I decided to try our hand at one in particular that has had rave reviews.

First, you start with some crayons – take the paper off.



Then we started some water boiling in a pot to make a double boiler. I mean… I have an actual double boiler, but nothing I plan on melting crayons in anytime this century.

While the water was boiling, I pulled out our tinder boxes. One we keep in the laundry room, collecting lint. (Literally.) The other we keep in Andy’s shop in the garage, where he collects sawdust and wood shavings.

I had Graham stuff lint in each egg carton well.


Then I had him sprinkle sawdust and wood shavings on top of the lint.


This also would have been a great place to include the paper from the crayons too. Or even the cardboard from the crayon box, come to think of it. I didn’t think of it until later. Not like we were short any amount of wood shavings, though – as you can plainly see.

Finally, with our egg compartments filled, we had boiling water to melt our wax.



… going…IMG_0685

… gone.IMG_0687

Ultimately, this only filled about half the egg cartons (this was 16 crayons). I ended up taking some sagging candle tapers [that we, for some reason, moved all the way from Texas] out of the closet and melted those down too.

But yes, after the wax is all melted down, you pour it on top of all the lint/sawdust/shavings/paper in the egg wells. Pour until you fill up the well and voila! 12 fire starters! Just tear or cut one apart from the pack, light the egg carton on fire, and that little thing will burn until your kindling catches. Very handy!


We decided to make some super easy fire starters we had all our stuff out. We took some paper towel rolls (we had two that had been recycled lately), cut them in half, layered lint-sawdust-lint-sawdust-lint and so forth in a sort of tinder parfait, then we laid a sheet of wax paper over a sheet of newsprint, rolled up the lint/dust tube up and then twisted & tucked in the ends.

These paper towel starters are super quick and easy to make, but are better suited for a fire pit – where the wood is drier to start with – because they burn a bit faster. The egg fire starters are lauded for burning long enough to get a damp morning campfire started. Game on – because that is a tough gig!

Wish us luck – maybe we’ll try one of these bad boys out for some s’mores tonight. :)

Put Me In, Coach

Graham had his first tee ball practice tonight. (And for once and for all is it TEE ball? Or T-ball? Because I always thought that, since you were basically hitting off a giant tee, that you spelled out the tee. Someone enlighten me, please!)

This has been something Graham has been looking forward to, with gusto. Last night, we laid out his outfit so he’d have the perfect thing to wear. He had an Illinois shirt and athletic shorts (thanks, Uncle Michael!) at the ready. We hit a little snag when Graham made the somber realization that he did not have any special baseball underwear. After quick deliberation, Graham declared that his solution would be to wear no underwear to practice. (I guess better no underwear than be caught in the wrong underwear, right? Makes sort of sense to me…) I was having no success talking him into undershorts of any kind, so – thinking quickly – he and I placed a call right then and there to his Grandpa Craig, who helpfully corroborated my story that baseball players just wear underwear. Plain old underwear – but that, yes, they did wear underwear, so something was probably in order.

(Thanks, Craig! Crisis – and chafing – averted!!)

Today was the big day. To use a baseball analogy, practice was both a hit and a miss.

Today was all about baseball drills. They paired off at the beginning and played catch with other kids their age. Graham paired off with our neighbor, Connor. The boys actually did really well with this, I thought. Graham even caught a ball once! ;)


Then the group split in two: half went to the outfield and half went to bat. Graham was in the batting group.

Graham loved this part. It was his favorite. He had two at-bats total. Loved running the bases. I would cheer him on and give him thumbs up when he’d get on base and look my way. Every time he saw my thumbs up, he’d yell, “THANKS, MOMMY!!” Gotta love that kid.

First at-bat:

Second at-bat:

More hustle and just a lit-tle more style that second time! ;)

Graham was a good little baseball player… until we tried to get him to play in the field. He decided he was pretty much done at that point. We got him out there a couple of times, but he just kept coming back to the fence. He was thirsty, he was hungry, his tummy hurt. The works.

Even so, Graham exceeded my expectations. I thought he did super!

Baby Reid did all his baby duties well.

He hung out with us, climbed on the bench, watched big brother from the fence, tossed his own ball into the field, tried to make a break for the ball diamond it a couple of times and sort of fussed that he couldn’t play until something distracted him.



Graham’s got a couple of kids he knows playing too. Connor, from across the street, is on his team, and so is Sam – a little boy his age from his preschool. They were so excited to see each other. Sam was in the field when Graham was batting, and he yelled to his parents: “I’m going to catch GRAHAM’S ball!!!”

These kids were babies, like, yesterday, you guys. I’m not really sure where these last four years have gone, if we’re being honest. Yet, here we are, playing baseball with the other boys and having just so much fun with it!