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Five Random Things

29 Oct
This is the oldest photo I could find.  2009 isn't 2005, but it's close enough, right?

This is the oldest photo I could find. 2009 isn’t 2005, but it’s close enough, right?  Tiny Doodlebug with short curls!

Look out!  It’s 2005 and we’re blogging like in the good ol’ days!  To be honest, I didn’t start blogging until those good ol’ days were already just a memory, but I’ve really enjoyed reading other writers’ random things (Including Kim from Red Shutters, who tagged me), so I’ll join in with mine.

1. I love video games. I’m solid with a sniper rifle or shot gun, and my favorite magic powers usually involve invisibility or shooting fire at my enemies. But I absolutely refuse to shoot “real” people.  Aliens?  Wizards?  Fine.  World War I soldiers?  Street walkers?  Nope.  So far my favorite game is Borderlands 2.  I suppose some of those characters were “people,” but they were futuristic space people and half-mutant, so it doesn’t count.

2. I have terrible social anxiety.  I hide it well, but speaking to small groups of people terrifies me.  I own a room of hundreds, or a classroom full of 9 year olds with ease.  So if the next time I’m at your party, you think I’m outgoing?  I’m probably pretending you’re 9.

3. I’ve performed on stage at Carnegie Hall.  My college chorale performed one Christmas with Skitch Henderson and the NY Pops (though I didn’t realize at the time how famous Skitch was).  I will always regret turning down the chance to play with the orchestra.  See?  I’m not a vocalist.  I joined the choir just to go to NY.  And when one of the woodwinds found out I played flute and invited me to take a seat with the orchestra, I was too shy to say yes.  ::face palm::

4. I am married to my elementary school sweetheart.  No, really.

5. Before I was a mom and PPD advocate, I was an elementary school teacher.  I adore the ages nobody else seems to love – I’m at home with 4th graders, 5th graders, and middle schoolers.  And as several people have pointed out to me recently, that teacher self?  Resonates in most everything I do.

So there you have it!  Five random things that maybe you didn’t know about me.

I wonder who I can rope into this next.  How about Lindsay from With a Little Love and Luck, Story from Sometimes It’s Hard, Melissa Lee of Sweetly Voiced, Rach Black from Life Ever Since, and Tabatha Muntzinger from So Tabulous?

Momcraft: Moms Who Play Minecraft (and love it)

10 Aug

I was first introduced to Minecraft by a student.  “I built you a math stage!” he announced during a private tutoring session, “It’s a theater for you do to math in, because you love math so much!”

I will admit, when I first downloaded the game, merely to use as an educational and motivational tool, I was underwhelmed.  I just…chop down trees?  And dig for stuff?  How is this fun?

But as I used the game to teach arrays, fractions, and logic, curiosity got the better of me.  One night, after coming home from teaching, I opened the game and clicked on “survival mode.”  Instead of a plain world in which to build anything I wanted, I was plopped into the middle of the pixelated wilderness, with nothing but the clothes on my body.

Minecraft Spawn

That’s me. I get to be Supergirl in Minecraft. Oh, look! Pigs!

Minecraft is an open-ended survival game.  There are goals and challenges to complete.  Secret lairs and dungeons to discover, but you can just as easily spend your time farming and raising pigs or creating a herd of rainbow-dyed sheep.  So as I chopped down my first tree, the possibilities were endless.

After playing by myself for a while, I began to get lonely.  So I found Vikki, who became addicted to downloaded Minecraft after watching her son come down the stairs in tears after a particularly terrible gaming night.  Vikki and I met in front of a pumpkin patch on a private server I begged my husband to build, and it was almost as good as being with her in person.  To this day, there’s something wonderful about seeing her pixelated blue hoodie walk my way, knowing that my friend is practically within imaginary arm’s reach.

Together, we built a town.  We farmed and mined, creating something from nothing.  And slowly, other parents joined in on the fun.  We battled an incessant monster infestation, built fountains that resulted in our own drownings, and laughed at the arrows in each other’s butts.  Jessi explored, Lizz built a house (that I filled with chickens on her birthday), and Addye braved it outside the city walls.  We now have a hot tub, a diner, and an armory, along with sheep of every color, and a clubhouse to rival even the most exclusive.  And as of this week?  Momcraft even has a dad.

The town the moms built.

The town the moms built.

And though Vikki and I have graduated to a more public server (complete with a gold-based economy, stadium for games and shenanigans, and teenage players who can build circles around us), we long for the good ol’ days, where newbie parents battled the virtual elements together.  We have both found ourselves growing closer to our kids because of a shared love for the game, and I’m so grateful for both the fun and perspective Minecraft have provided.

As an educator?  I love the open-ended structure, the problem solving, the spacial reasoning, and the circuitry the game presents to players.  As a mom, I love that I have something I can play with my almost-six-year-old – not too violent and not too hard.  And as a gamer?  I love the fun.

Unless, of course, a creeper blows me up while I’m carrying 3 stacks of gold and the enchanted infinity bow I *just* made on my anvil.  Then, you’ll probably see me slam my laptop down in solidarity with all the 8-year-olds out there.  Like I said, perspective.


Wanna join us?  Want to try the game out before deciding if it’s right for your kids?  Want to see why your children are screaming at the computer screen and have tears rolling down their cheeks because of a “zombie pig man?”  Come say hello in our closed Face Book group or leave a comment below!

I promise, you don’t need to know a thing to play.  You just need a computer, the game, and a username.  We’ll take care of the rest!

Momcraft Header

Accomplishment, Worthiness, and Compulsion

11 Apr

I let someone down recently.  They saw a side of me I genuinely hate but can’t seem to change.

I have “compulsive completion disease”.  If there’s a job that needs doing, I throw myself into it and knock tasks off the to-do list with wild abandon.  I honestly can’t help myself and usually don’t realize I’ve overstepped my bounds until it’s too late.  I was the kind of kid in school who completed class projects weeks before their due date, who looked forward to homework, who hated group projects, and who reminded the teacher that he had forgotten that extra credit assignment for us to turn in on Monday.  If you *were* in a class project with me?  You probably got an A but didn’t get to do much.

My mom has it, too.  When she comes to watch the kids, she often puts in a load of laundry and unloads the dishwasher.  She brings rolls of paper towels and reorganizes my pantry.  It drives me nuts.

I used to feel like she helped out because she thought I couldn’t handle the housework … as if her assistance was a quiet judgement of my diminishing value as a housekeeper.

But really, that was just how I felt about myself.  I was the only person who thought her help was about me.

I’ve learned to let her help.  I ignore the thoughts that feel annoyed and focus on accepting her assistance, because the truth is that I really do need it with the housework and the girls.  And I’ve learned when to ask her not to help… because the truth is that there are times I want to do things for myself, and I want her to respect those boundaries.  She does.

A friend asked me to step back recently.  To help less and to listen more.  And that my personality hurt her somehow is eating at me.  I know I always seem so wise and so in control of the shame that plagues us all, but this one, I just can’t shake.

I’ve apologized.  She and I are okay.  I know that my imperfection does not make me unworthy of her friendship.  But I know I’ve let her down.  I loathe letting people down as much as I adore helping people –  which just goes to show that I’m equating my self-worth with my accomplishments instead of believing that I am worthy of love and belonging despite what I do or what mistakes I make.

Letting accomplishments feed my joy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when I find myself clutching success with an iron grip in fear of losing people I love, I need to reexamine my motivations.

I’m a do-er.  It’s a part of who I am.

But I want to do better at doing less.

I Swear I’m Not An Asshole

7 Dec

Dear Everyone Who Gets A Christmas Card From Me This Year,

iPhone for scale

iPhone for scale

I swear I’m not an asshole who is trying to start some kind of photo card arms race with my 6×8 holiday FLYERS.  I’m merely an over-worked mom who was drinking wine and doing three other things when she placed her card order. (I mean, really, Shutterfly?  You asked me to check my spelling, my dates, my image resolution – but never thought to ask me if I was sober before I hit “submit?”)

Believe me, I was as shocked as you are opening up my package.  For a moment, I wondered if my hands had shrunk.

And even worse?  I think my Christmas Cards have an attitude problem.  I can hear them now, sitting on your table next to all the other beautiful cards you received:

“Aren’t you adorable.  What are you?  3×4?  So cute.”

“I’m not saying my family is better than yours, but it did take two stamps to mail ME.”

That’s right.  I get to pay extra this year to look like a jerk.  I think the post office is charging me some kind of douchebag penalty for the size of my holiday greetings.

So when you open up my envelope, have a laugh for at with me.  Then clear some space on a large bulletin board or table and enjoy.

Next year, posters.

Then billboards.


p.s.  If you get a normal-sized card from me this year, it’s because you got one of the Minted batches.  At least I didn’t screw up both card orders, right?

Crocheted Happiness

27 Aug

I did something scary yesterday.  As I hit “publish,” my heart was actually pounding in my chest and I took three deep breaths to slow its thumping.

I opened an Etsy store.

Crochet Hat

I know, not really so scary, right?  Except it means I’m saying “I’m so good at something that you should buy it.”  It’s hard for me to self-promote like that.  Hard for me to believe that my work is worthy of a storefront.  And it means that I accept that there’s a possibility it will fail.

Now, I have two choices:  I can take every stat personally, every sale.  I can calculate the ratio of dollars per stitch.  I can be crushed if (when?) nobody buys anything.  OR.  Or I can focus on the value in the attempt.  I can say, “Watch me try,” like I used to as a child.  If you haven’t already, you must go read this piece by Planting Dandelions.  She hits the nail on the head.

It cost me $1 to open my store and list the hats I’ve been making just for fun.  Crochet is my self-care.  It soothes my anxiety.  I’m compulsively doing it anyway. So really, if the shop fails, I will have lost only $1 and a little bit of time.  And so I hit “publish.”

Hold me.

Etsy Shop Banner


One Kidney McGee

14 Aug

Did you know I only have one functioning kidney?

I discovered a lump in my abdomen when I was 8 weeks pregnant with Doodlebug almost 5 years ago.  My OB chuckled and told me it was probably just my organs moving to make room for my growing uterus and joked that I was so tiny that it was probably my kidney being pushed up.  When it failed to stop growing and moving around (I marked my skin with sharpie to document its comings and goings), and it began to hurt, I went back 4 weeks later and insisted on an ultrasound.

Two hours after my scan, the OB called and asked me to “come in right away.”  I was instantly sick to my stomach.  She explained that the ultrasound showed a large mass, 11cm x 18cm, and they were unsure what it was.  She wanted me to go for more tests and to see a surgeon for removal of what might be a cyst.  At 12 weeks pregnant, the idea of abdominal surgery terrified me and every doctor I spoke with seemed unsure as well.  Turns out, pregnant women make doctors (and their malpractice insurance) very nervous.

One day before my scheduled exploratory surgery, I had an ultrasound with a specialist to check on the baby.  With one glance at the screen, she diagnosed me with an enlarged kidney.  Apparently the first set of doctors didn’t put two and two together when the original ultrasound showed a large mass but noted that my left kidney could not be found.

I was then diagnosed with severe hydronephrosis of the left kidney, caused by a congenital defect that narrowed or blocked my ureteropelvic junction. Basically, the urine created by my left kidney couldn’t drain into my bladder, backed up into my kidney, and slowly destroyed the healthy tissue.  All I had left was a thin membrane of kidney tissue filled with fluid.

Here’s a picture:

The good news? Hydronephrosis is benign in most cases.  A severe urinary track or kidney infection is the largest threat I face because of the difficulty the doctors might have treating it.  But the reality was that my kidney had most likely been this way for a while and I never knew it. It’s often diagnosed in infancy or childhood and corrected with a simple procedure, but mine was never caught.  In fact, the human body can function just fine with only one kidney!  This article from Scientific American describes how the remaining kidney can grow to compensate.  Thankfully, my right kidney has done just that and has 99% function.

None of this was much consolation while I was pregnant (and an anxious mess) for the first time. Doctors weren’t sure how my still-functioning right kidney would do when the pressure from the pregnancy caused the expected (and totally normal) mild hydronephrosis of pregnancy in my right side.  I was given options to stent the UPJ, to drain the kidney to relieve the pressure, or to do nothing.

I am grateful for the St. Louis urologist (because that’s where I lived at the time) who talked patiently with me while I weighed all my options.  He treated me like an intelligent partner in my health decisions and was frank but kind about the risks.  He helped me find a knowledgeable high-risk OB who monitored me closely, watching for signs of preterm labor and additional stress to my body and the baby’s.  And he supported my choice when I decided not to undergo any procedures.  He’s the kind of doctor everyone deserves.

My first pregnancy (and subsequent accidental second pregnancy) were thankfully unaffected by the kidney.  I am not, however, symptom-free.  The kidney is still huge.  The size of a small loaf of bread or a large eggplant.  It presses on nearby organs (including my intestines) and can be very uncomfortable if I move the wrong way or exercise too hard. I wish I had a copy of the MRI image to show you – it’s impressive how half of my abdomen is basically all giant-balloon-animal-kidney-thing.

The plan is to have it electively removed.  I even had a surgeon all lined up to take it out laproscopically before I got knocked up with Bean (oops).  My risk of kidney infection and my discomfort will both be ameliorated by its removal.  Plus, there’s nothing like a good old nephrectomy to lose a few pounds.  Kidding.  Now is just not a good time – we’ll do it when the girls are a little older.

I used to think about how I was down one kidney all the time.  It used to terrify me.  Now it’s just another part of my day, but I do take good care of Ol’ Righty.  Which is why I’m writing this post in the first place.

People, take care of your kidneys.  Drink water.  Pee when you have to – don’t hold it in.  Assess your risks for kidney disease.  Don’t take for granted the amazing work your body does for you.  I sure don’t.


That extra little bulge above my hip?  Kidney.

Here I am 35 weeks pregnant with Bean.  That extra little bulge above my hip? Kidney.

Saying Goodbye

11 Jun

It used to happen every year.  We would gather on the sidewalk and wave as the children began their last bus ride home for the year.  Then we would meander to our classrooms, all looking a little bit lost, gathering up loose papers and little bits of broken pencils left under the coat hooks.  Thank goodness for our school counselor’s yearly ritual of singing “schooooool’s out for summer” over the loud speaker.  It was just the bit of levity I think we all needed to help us navigate that awkward place between joy and sorrow, relief and nostalgia.

As an elementary teacher, you spend 9 months entrenched in the academic and social lives of your students.  You struggle together.  You succeed together.  You form a bond that will never again exist.  When you really think about it, the exact combination of students and teachers will never share the same room again.  And no matter how welcome that fact might make the impending break, there’s a sadness about it, too.

I’ve been out of the public school classroom for 5 school years, now.  From my living room window, I’ve watched the first bus of the year pick up excited students carrying brand new backpacks and I’ve watched the last bus of the year bring home jubilant children.  And because I get to use my teaching chops workshopping piano solos and providing academic tutoring to private students, I haven’t found myself missing the classroom.  It’s the best of both worlds, staying at home and teaching.

And then this year, as my tutoring student handed me a thank you card, I fought back tears as I tried to find the words to tell him how proud I was of all his work; of how much I enjoyed working with him.  I was instantly transported back to those afternoons, standing in the center of an empty classroom, hoping the students I just sent into their summer knew how loved they were.

I realize now that I want more of that.  I don’t think I’ll find myself back in the public school classroom again.  But I’d like to take my academic tutoring from an occasional favor for friends of friends into something more.  Now I just have to figure out what.

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