I like to know how I’m doing. I like grades, evaluations, benchmarks and milestones. If there’s one difficult thing about parenting (and there are many), it’s that you never know how you are doing. Of the 3 million decisions you make in a day, which were right, and which were the ones that will scar your kids forever.

Fortunately for me, there’s an exam for that. I found this in the tomb of an ancient pharaoh’s mother…and copied all her answers, because obviously she did a bang up job if her son became pharaoh and loved her enough to build her a shrine when she died.

Parenting Exam


Create an hourly schedule based on the following guidelines for a two month old baby:

Your baby should eat approximately every three hours, but can start to go longer at night. At this age, babies get three naps per day, ideally at 9, 12, and 3. Naps should be between 45 minutes and 2 hours. The baby should get up when your family gets up, ideally around 7 am. To keep your baby from bad sleeping habits, they should not nurse to sleep. The best way to prevent this is to keep the baby on an eat-play-sleep-repeat schedule. Babies should go to bed no longer than 1 hour after their last nap. Most babies do not sleep a full 12 hours at night by this point. Babies can sleep a full 12 hours at this point.


Approximately how many decibels are added to ordinary household sounds while your baby is sleeping?

  1. 5-7 decibles
  2. 10-12 decibles
  3. 20-25 decibles
  4. all the decibels

Which of the following is the result of Ferberization?

  1. baby self-soothes and goes on to win the Nobel prize
  2. baby screams for hours and permanently ruptures the parent-child bond
  3. baby self-soothes and permanently ruptures the parent-child bond
  4. baby screams for hours and goes on to win the Nobel prize
  5. all of the above, simultaneously, in your head

What are the likely side effects for children growing up with a working mother?

  1. attachment disorder
  2. resentment
  3. insecurity
  4. a guilt-ridden mother imagining all of the above in her perfectly well-adjusted child

What is the greatest gift you can give your child?

  1. breast milk
  2. the ability to self-soothe
  3. consistent discipline
  4. a pony


My baby has been very fussy when I try to put him down for nap.

In this sentence, the word “fussy” means:

  1. overtired
  2. undertired
  3. hungry
  4. overfed
  5. intentionally bitch-slapping your emotions

My baby has been very clingy lately.

In this sentence the word “clingy” means:

  1. overprotected by parents
  2. not getting enough attention from parents
  3. sick
  4. perfectly normal for her age
  5. socially crippled and destined to live at home into her 30s


Explain, in words a two-year-old can understand, why mommy can have wine, but a toddler cannot.


Read the following list of parenting decisions. When your group has come to an agreement, circle those that are associated with well-adjusted children, and place an X by the ones associated with 90% of America’s prison population, SIDS, and/or autism. Be prepared to share your results with the class.

-nap schedules






-lack of structure


-vaginal, unmedicated birth


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Thoughts from a Second Time Mommy

Being a second time mom is so great. Not because “I’ve let all that stuff go.” Not because Moira was over-attended, and Asa’s hanging out in a swing all day.

But because I know how to change a diaper. Fast.

I don’t fall to pieces when he cries.

I’m not afraid of the breast pump.

Mostly, being a second time mom is great because I’m not a first time mom. People aren’t rolling their eyes when I explain Asa’s schedule, or our priorities for his development. No one is telling me not to worry about things, or handing me lists of things to worry about.

People treat me like I know what I’m doing, which increases my confidence that I know what I’m doing. Which leads people to treat me like I know what I’m doing.


Plus, I’m married to a second time dad. That, my friends, is the best surprise of all. First time dad was sweet and helpful. Second time dad is a rock star. He’s not just helpful…he doesn’t need help.

So if there’s one major payoff to adding a second agent of chaos to the mix, it’s that Lewis and I are broken in. We were already sprinting, so why not sprint a little faster?

Things that are easier than I thought:

Asa: contrary to what EV-ER-Y-ONE told me to expect, Asa is not the “opposite” of Moira. Granted he’s only two months old, but so far his main descriptors are “content,” “laid-back” and “alert.” Which is exactly how everyone described Moira.

Maybe he will erupt into a high maintenance Shiva the Destroyer next month…but for now we are sleeping well, clean, exercised, and eating family meals. It’s not all smooth sailing, but it’s possible. I will say that he eats more than she did, which is exhausting. But I feel like that’s my introduction to life with a boy.

Enjoying the moments: About 10 minutes after Asa was born, I grinned at Lewis and said, “I never have to do that again.” And that is how I have felt about every difficult thing since. I never have to bring a newborn home from the hospital again. I don’t need to get good at this…I just need to find peace and happiness in each stage, and once it’s over, it is OVER.

Self-care: With Moira, it was 3 or 4 months before I realized that I needed to start thinking like a man.

Men are really good at putting on their own oxygen masks before helping those around them. Women have a harder time. I think this is more nurture than nature, but whatever the cause, at one point I had to say, “If I want to be sane, I’m going to have to get the help I need.”

Some people have family who camps out in their home and makes it possible. Some people have paid help. Some people turn to their spouse. Some people hire a babysitter. However you do it, you can’t wait for someone to offer.

Changing the Soundtrack: You know, the sound track to Jaws that plays whenever you jump to a worst-case-scenario conclusion based on one bad moment, argument, or encounter? When you witness a situation escalate from A to B and then assume that you’ll be at Z before you can stop it?

That’s what is identified in the wonderful book “No Drama Discipline” as shark music. The authors list it as one of the primary escalators in parent child conflict. I would go further to say that shark music is the sound track to my entire neurotic life.

The cure? Remembering how God was faithful yesterday and today, and compiling enough little alters to remind myself that he will continue to be faithful, and that every missed nap or refused bottle does not signal the end of healthy sleeping and eating.

Lewis pointed out that we have plenty of other John Williams soundtracks to choose from, and suggested Indiana Jones as the preferred soundtrack to parenting.

Giving zero shits: Once one child has survived my parenting as a happy, intelligent, confident toddler, I have a lot more confidence in my decisions.

So go on, tell me all about how you put your babies on a schedule at 3 weeks old. I’m impressed, and happy for you. I used to hear every mom’s personal strategy and philosophy as an indictment of my own. While I still have to actively shush the voice of condemnation and insecurity, I can and do shush it.

There are plenty of better parents out there…but there’s only one person who can give my kids the proper mix of baggage and advantage to make them who they need to be.

Things that are harder than I thought:

I don’t have a bullet list for this. Basically, having two tinies is a challenge. If it’s worth it, it’s challenging.

Like most things in my life, having two kids is not the complete SNAFU that I thought it was going to be. Do we go to bed tired? Yes. Do I cry more often than I’d like to? Yes, but that’s the hormones. Sweet two-month-old Baby Asa has himself more figured out than I do.

Two kids, a newborn and a toddler, has me at my neediness threshold, but not beyond it. I’m living the reality that God’s mercies are new every morning. Hasn’t failed me yet.

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Something New and Good: Asa

On July 20 our family grew by one! He beat his induction by a day, and has kept us on our toes for the last five days and rewarded us with no shortage of snuggles, and pro-level eating and sleeping. I haven’t had time to do much reflecting or meditating…but this is something I wrote in the last days preparing for his arrival. We picked the name Asa a long time ago, and in June and July I became more and more convinced that it was the right name for our boy. Here’s why:


In the grace of the gospel there is a salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady. There is no spiritual disease, but there is power in Christ for the cure of it. – Matthew Henry commentary on Matt 10:1

Asa. It means “healer.” And if ever there were a time when we need healers, it is now. His name will be his charge: to go into the world and right wrongs. To hold hands with the oppressed, and to share whatever power he inherits.

He is our son, born into a world that feels like it is falling apart at the seams. A world that feels broken beyond repair. We did not know when we chose his name that he would be born during a local crime wave, in the wake of explosive racial conflict and the deadliest mass shooting in history. A time when America is so lost for leaders that it is pulling itself apart from the margins. 

We didn’t know that his birth would be a bright spot in a pretty dark time.

But we hope he will be more than a bright spot. We hope that he will be a continual, persistent, light that cannot be overcome. We hope that he will go beyond saying “this is wrong” and do something to fix it. We hope that he will be a healer.

Rev 21:4-5 ‘Jesus will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Lately we’ve seen the limits of our own pursuit of justice, how entrenched our generation is in broken systems. We are more free than those before us, but not free enough.

While we do our tiny part to pursue peace, perhaps the most productive thing we can do is to raise another generation into greater freedom, greater awareness, greater truth.

We are naming him in hope, as our flaming arrow into the darkness. We are committing him to the God of Peace, the Great Healer, in hopes that he will do great things.

Matthew 10: 7-8 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

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Something New and Good: A Son for Such a Time

Every parent of a daughter reads the headlines and cringes. Or cries out for justice. So much violence against women. So much inequity still, even in a world that claims to be past it. That’s just here in my own country. I sometimes can’t even think about the world as a whole.

Since I had my girl, I’ve been passionately praying for her to be brave and strong. I’ve been clothing her with dignity, so that she will stand on the necks of would-be abusers, and cherish the gifts of those who love her truly. So that she will know when to forgive the fumblings of an ordinary “dude,” and when to wash her hands of blood-sucking bastard.

But now…I am about to have a boy. I’m (hopefully soon) giving birth to the headlines that make me so angry. He will be born into privilege. He will be white, male, and the child of professional parents.

We, as parents of the privileged, have to fight against our children’s immature impulses to turn that privilege into entitlement. We cannot feed the beast that says athletes are somehow more deserving than lawn care workers. That their success is proof of their virtue. As much as I want my kids to take pride in their accomplishments, I want them to be even more grateful for generations of investors, workers, and taxpayers who made it possible for them to take the last tiny step across the finish line. Continue reading

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Love is an Endurance Sport

Lewis and I started dating a month before my first marathon. We got engaged a month before my second marathon. We got married a month before I started training for my third (his first). By our first anniversary we were training for an ultra-marathon.

Endurance training is the back drop of my love story.

It’s not really surprising that on the back of a picture frame holding a cute photo of us I wrote, in a fit of dramatic resolution: “Love is not a game of desire. It is a game of endurance.”


You can’t tell in this picture, but this is the day that Lewis carried a writhing, sobbing one-year-old UP the switchbacks of Navajo Loop at Bryce Canyon National Park. He never complained.

At some point in our dating relationship old wounds reared their heads and the giddy, moonstruck, giggles became intense conversations. My irrepressible excitement was replaced by a nagging sense that he was not giving me everything I had dreamed my love story would be.

The truth was this: He was living by a poorly calibrated internal compass and unable to see it was getting him nowhere. We were in an uncomfortable holding pattern waiting for some kind of magic to awaken in him.

I was on the brink of breaking up with him, because I was tired of waiting on his magical feelings to kick in and make me feel like the fairytale princess I’d waited so long to be.

But I remember the night I stubbornly looked at him and thought, “Damnit, I’m going to win this. I am going to outlast your issues with love.”

Because love isn’t for fairytale princesses. Love is for endurance athletes. Continue reading

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The Confidence of a Two-Year-Old, On Her Birthday

Moira’s second birthday started off like most special days in our house, with me overthinking things and stressing everyone out trying to maximize the “special” and minimize the disruption to her routine.

But after a 5 am wake up, and a long time falling back to sleep, we all slept until 7:30, and school starts at 8am.

My plan for donuts and bacon breakfast was foiled by the fact that she ate way too much candy on Easter yesterday, so I felt like she needed something healthy in her belly to take on her big birthday.

Basic meals with Moira take at least 30-45 minutes on a good day, and she was not too keen to cooperate today. We did manage to squeeze in some special things, just a little faster than I had envisioned. She only got to listen to half of her favorite song. Because it’s 8 minutes long, and we’d gotten dressed and brushed out teeth and it was still going…

As she and her dad drove off to school, me watching from the porch, I got a feeling that must plague every mom on her child’s special days: “I just want her to feel special today.”

Reality check: Moira is two, and she’s an only child with an enthusiastic support system. She feels special every day.

Moira - Geronimo Creek

She cheers for herself (and demands that we join in) every time she eats a bite of food she doesn’t like. (We have a Draconian policy that she try everything on the plate, so she’s found a way to motivate herself.)

She looks at herself and the mirror and says, “Oh, you look so beautiful.” Continue reading

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Something New and Good: The Surprising Freedom of Mama Bear

If I had one fear going into motherhood, it was that their hungry little mouths, and needy little souls would be the death knell of my freedom. In fact, when Moira was born, I went through a period of mourning for my afternoons of deep contemplation, for the concept of “browsing,” and the ability to lose track of time.

The beginning of a baby’s life is hard for the mom.

I felt like I had about 45 minutes between breastfeeding sessions in which to cram in all of my personal maintenance, and graciously thank all the well-wishers and meal-bringers. Life had never felt more scheduled, crammed full of nuts and bolts.

But looking back, I realized that something miraculous began in the midst of that.

I became freer.

This is what freedom looks like at our house: naked cascarone parties, with chic headbands.

This is what freedom looks like at our house: naked cascarone parties, with chic headbands.

First, before this starts sounding like tales from the joyful martyr, let me say this: I’m writing this in a coffee shop, processing my thoughts, and sipping tea. My first baby’s season of hourly scheduled needs is over. A second baby’s is about to begin, but I don’t think I’ll need to mourn so much, because I realize how quickly it’s over. Continue reading

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Twig Book Challenge Wrap-Up and a New Adventure

Well, I did it. I forgot to post about it, but I did complete the book challenge.

My last two categories were “A book over 500 pages” and “A book over 100 years old.”

I used these categories as an opportunity to transition into my new adventure: starting this year, I am now a full time writer. Not the novel-writing kind of writer, but the “multiple commercial, journalistic, and creative projects at once” kind.

Quitting my steady paycheck to pursue a lifelong dream would have been a very bold Millennial generation kind of thing to do, if my job hadn’t been a dream job. I was paid to travel. Comfortably. More than comfortably. Luxuriously.

But, I have a calling. It’s become fairly clear. And that calling is to write.

Because Lewis and I are both firm believer that funding is an essential part of creative endeavors, I’m freelancing for my supper. In addition to bringing in pretty decent money, commercial projects give me daily writing exercise.

I’ve also taken on a more official role at The Rivard Report. Business cards and all. As their education writer, I’ll be sitting in on a lot of board meetings, yes, but also exploring what might be one of the great social justice issues of our generation: educational outcomes. So, in addition to stimulating conversation, it helps me sleep at night knowing that if the world ends before I publish a book, I haven’t wasted my time.

Which brings me to the big creative project that pushed me over the edge into full-time writerhood.

First stop on the Olmsted Trail: Library of Congress.

                                              First stop on the Olmsted Trail: Library of Congress.

For the next four months I’ll be following the trail of Frederick Law Olmsted’s journey across Texas, documenting the changing fates of the places he visited. Conveniently, his home base was San Antonio. So it will be a series of smaller journeys following his timeline, rather than one epic road trip.

(You can follow the trip on select social media sites: #olmstedintexas, and expect regular blog posts starting…soon)

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. In preparation I read the following books, among many others, as a point of transition:

  1. Over 500 pages: Rough Country: How Texas Became the Most Powerful Bible Belt State, by Robert Wuthnow- basically, if you want to understand why your friends from other states assume you like Ted Cruz, but don’t assume you like Julian Castro…this is the history for you. Why people assume more of Texas looks like Dallas (fundamentalist Bible belt and big business) than like San Antonio (Catholic Southwest and not-as-big-business).  Technically, the prose in the book ended at 480 pages. But they were dense pages and I read a lot of the reference material and footnotes, so I’m giving myself this one.
  2. Written over 100 years ago: Journey to Texas 1833 , by Detlef Dunt – Olmsted actually refers to this widely publicized account of a German immigrant to Texas while it was under Mexican rule. He basically says, “Who was paying this guy?” The author (Dunt is probably a pen name) gives a pretty encouraging account of what he found on arrival in Texas, which upon reading Olmsted and Wuthnow, I’m tempted to agree was something of an advertisement for others to follow his lead and come to Texas, which was then a very rough country.


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Plush nativities and communion…

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. But Christmas always brings out the blogger in me. Most likely because of a long and conflicted history with the holiday and my need to externally process.

This year, with a toddler, we have entered the vortex of American Christmas. “Do you guys ‘do Santa’?” (which is a creepy question). Grandparents are wanting to buy her presents, which leads to conversations about the kinds of toys we want to have in the house, and how much regulation is appropriate for us to exercise in that realm. She also has her own interests, which makes me more inclined to impulse buy all the Daniel Tiger merchandise, bison toys, and musical instruments I see around town. (Yes, bison. That’s her favorite animal.)

Continue reading

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Twig Book Challenge: Third Quarter

This year our local bookshop is conducting a reading challenge. Now that Moira goes to bed at 7:30pm, I thought, well, why not! Reading is quiet, portable, and doesn’t require me to get into a “mode” the way that writing does. As January revealed, I like a structured challenge, and I have been enjoying the Twig’s reading challenge since January 2. I’ll be reporting on my progress periodically. This quarter’s reads have reviews in this post, previous quarters’ reviews are on the previous Twig posts.

AND I still need a 500 word page turner to close her out! (if you’ve already recommended, please remind me, as social media tends to bury these things) Continue reading

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