Thursday, July 24, 2014

working on genuine

I try to be a genuine person. My definition of genuine means what you think and what you say and do line up. They harmonize. They sway together in the breeze. 

I actually try to be genuine and kind- because I've certainly met some very genuine people who I didn't care for very much at all. They were blunt or self focused or boring or blah. But they completely owned themselves and their opinion, they didn't try to be anyone else- and no matter what I find a certain beauty in that alone.

Today I felt bat shit crazy all day long. It's not shiny and I'm still going to talk about it. It all lapped up overwhelmed me at once. I felt hopeless. Lonely. Michael and I struggle to communicate and connect. Plus he's gone a few days for work each week. And Greyson and Parker can't talk to me. Sometimes out of no where the quiet swells up and fills the whole house and doesn't leave any room for me. There are many days the only adult interaction I have are the kid's therapists and YOU. I think that's why I take writing so personally. For the past three years our life is therapy. And it's not going to change any time soon. Monday through Friday. Today's sessions were 9-12 (both), 1-4 (Grey), 4:30-6:30 (Parker). And something about not doing much of anything and not going much of anywhere is exhausting to me. MUCH more exhausting than going and doing. And when I am sad I also get EXHAUSTED. Like could sleep at any second. I took two naps today.

What makes someone genuine? That's harder. I think we all want to be genuine- we just don't know how or we aren't comfortable living in a relentlessly honest fashion. We are afraid of what people might think if we showed who really really are. I looked back at some old blog posts of mine right after Greyson was first diagnosed with autism. I remember feeling so much less shiny than my writing came across. It didn't feel like my writing. I didn't lie about anything, I just omitted some of the darkest parts of how I really felt. I packaged everything up with a bow by the end. Not even knowingly- almost as of I was trying to convince myself even. I think sometimes us glass half fullers are sometimes so busy sewing in a silver lining that we don't allow ourselves to completely come undone nearly enough.

I had an literary agent review the first chapter of the book I'm writing- Little Light Bulbs. She was fast and New Yorky and smart and she HATED it. "The fact that you have two children with autism isn't a big deal", she told me. "I mean- I'm sure it was a big deal to you in your life, but it's not a big deal for a memoir. I hope you don't take that the wrong way. You need to be much more raw and honest. You never even mention how horrible it was when you lost control or came undone. I want to hear how you really felt. I need to hear more drama. Not everyone can be a Christina Braverman* and do the right thing." 

"Listen", I told her politely STEWING and DESPERATELY wishing I was the type of person who could go off on strangers. "Coming undone- going completely crazy is a luxury you don't have when your child is diagnosed with autism. Because you have to function, like it feels as if your child is going to die if you don't give them all the help you can IMMEDIATELY because you already failed them once by letting them get autism. So you learn to cope without getting to hit rock bottom.  I didn't stop my life or stay in bed for days or do drugs or run away. I barely even drink. I just got up every single day and breathed in and out and that ghost of me took care of my boys. And for so long it was more painful than any physical wound you could ever imagine. Like surgery without anesthesia. And I thought that level of pain was going to be a constant lifelong companion so I learned to function while it rode shot gun."

But I do realize that at times I'm trying so hard to look at the bright side that I don't notice the dark side that has the ability to overtake me if I don't acknowledge it. And being genuine means good and bad and REAL, it doesn't mean always happy. 

And I'm glad I told you all of that. The fact that an agent said I suck because it has felt like something I needed to hide. It was the first and last contact I made with an agent and it sucked out my steam. However I also realize if I can write about it- and be honest and real it means I am ready to move on. It's more important to me to be genuine than to try and be perfect.

My parents, my sisters and their families are coming in town next week so as a special treat I hired a cleaning lady to give our house a good scrub down. Our bathrooms and baseboards are certifiably disgusting. Today I noticed a poo skid mark in the toilet. I don't want the cleaning lady to think we are filthy animals (which we kind of are) so I cleaned the toilet. For the cleaning lady. And then I proceeded to clean all the toilets in our house. And then I swept, and dusted and then cleaned the windows. And the counter tops. And the kitchen. 

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Look how clean my house is. For the cleaning lady.

And I had to stop myself from changing the sheets in the guest bedroom. And I'm not the first gal ever to do this- clean for the cleaning lady. Sometimes I even clean for the baby sitter. And it's absolutely harmless but not exactly genuine. Genuine people are also allowed to be dirty.

I think at the root of it all, we all urgently, desperately want to be loved exactly the way we are. But we are afraid we won't be because we think we are much more bat shit crazy** than everyone else. We think we are the only ones with poo skid marks in the toilet or skeletons or depression or shadows or incapable or ugly or unlovable or unworthy. So at times we present ourselves a little more how we WANT to be because we are afraid of looking as insane as we feel. And it feels harmless, but it also sends a subtle message to ourselves. The real you, they way you naturally are isn't good enough.

Let's practice saying this. I am good enough AMAZING exactly the way I am. 

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Doodle smuging up the window so the cleaning lady will feel productive tomorrow.

And now I am deep breathing because the hardest part of the day is over and I see the finish line. All these feelings will pass. And come back and pass and come back and pass. They always do. Life isn't like a blog post that gets to be tied up with lessons learned in a pretty little bow. Sometimes it just ends- just like this. Somewhere imperfect in the middle. 


*awesome mom of a child with super powers on the show Parenthood.

** if you in fact aren't even a little crazy and are so confused as to what I am even talking about, please do not tell me. Do me a favor, let me just think everyone feels this way. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

wednesday in pictures

Today was three days long. If you don't believe me check your clock. It's still today. Crazy-right? Tonight crap TV wins out over writing. And look at it as a sign for YOU to take it easy on you too. Instead some pictures...

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We are making progress. He no longer screams his bloody murder face off every time he goes under water. He doesn't love it or do it on his own but HE'S DOING IT!!!

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And my oh so sweet Doodle. My love nugget. He makes me laugh out loud every single day. I call him my sinker because he doesn't swim. He literally just jumps or walks into the water (like fully immersed) and then waits for someone to pull him back up. No kicking or thrashing or waving of his arms or anything. He's jumped into the water a few times without anyone waiting for him and scared the bejezuz out of us a few times. At this past lesson he FINALLY started to kick (just a little but we will TAKE IT). 

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And this never gets old. There have been so many weeks that Frank is the only non-therapist I see. After moving to a brand new city it's hard to rebuild a life. I can't tell you how many times I have prayed to God to fill my life with community and friends. I get lonely but Frank's friendship reminds me that God listens and even sent a friend to me. I am slowly creating a life that makes me happy.

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Cha cha cha

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Makes my heart happy.

I love endless Summer days. Even though it's still Wednesday. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

in the middle

I thought by the time I was 40 I'd have it all figured out. I'm pretty sure some issue of Glamour Magazine promised me something close to that. Something like: 

By 30 you'll finally feel comfortable in your own skin. Petty things will no longer matter. By 40 you've finally realized what's important in life and have the confidence to go for it. 

I thought like it would feel like this big swooping thing. This calm and strength and peace and pulsing capital C Confidence. Not so much. Actually- most days really not at all. Because I keep finding new things I'm supposed to be figuring out. New lessons. New challenges. New stages. New things about my body to accept, to appreciate. Or at least try to appreciate. New stages to guide my children through. New stages to guide myself through. I thought maturing was figuring it all out but I think real maturing is realizing I will NEVER ever have all of it figured out- only some of it, some of the times and I just have to be ok with that. We are mostly in the middle of all the big and important parts of our life. In the middle but clawing desperately to get to the finish line where everything is complete- which then becomes our perfect. There's no such place- at least I've never found it, because once I get to the finish line three more races start. 

I think the key to getting older is realizing you'll never have most of the things figured out. And then find a way to be good with that.

Tonight we explored at the Fresno State University campus. 

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The boys LOVE it there and It's so good to go to a college campus to reconnect with the infinite feeling of possibility. It feels just like the campus where I went to college in Springfield Missouri. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life but thoughts about it made me excited and scared.  I thought (and hoped) that when my graduation day came I would receive a degree and then have a certainty about life and my future. I thought I would have it all figured out yet again. Some lessons I have to learn repeatedly. 

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I told Grey- Some day you may go to this school. Wouldn't that be amazing?! You can explore every day. I will even move into your dorm room with you! He started laughing really hard. Sometimes I'm pretty sure he understands way more than I could ever imagine.

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Save the clock tower! (what movie?!)

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College and life. Time simply to explore everything.

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A time to be flappy, whenever the heck you feel like it.

It's the beginning of a new week. 

How is your week going to be, Friend? What will it look like? I don't mean your calendar or your to do list- I mean you mind, your spirit, your flappy- the real things. Those are the real things- right? What if it felt like endless possibility instead of Sunday blues? Sometimes I have a hard time believing it's up to me. It feels like life just happens to us. At us even. It just keeps happening so fast and we just have to make last minute decisions in order to survive. We need to swim and run and jump and chase and beg and learn and talk ourselves into change over and over. What if instead of the week happening to us- we happened to the week?


What would that even look like I wonder?

Let's try and think that way for a minute. And only in that blissful unbearable silence can we connect with the part of our mind that knows life isn't about obligation, it's about possibility. We automatically label the unanswered questions as wrong or bad. But this isn't a college calculus test. We can leave some of the answers blank until we get a chance to live them.

Ready, set, go.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

keep swimming

Watching Greyson and Parker learn to swim the past couple of months has felt like its own little epic journey. The first couple lessons were really quite terrible. Stomach hurting awful. I didn't take any pictures so you'll just have to believe me. Something about crouching behind a slated bench watching your child sob and scream themselves hoarse doesn't really feel like a Kodak moment. At one point Greyson's eyes caught my hiding ones.

"Maaaaaaaa!" He calls out to me with white cold fear in his eyes, confused as to why he is hurting and I am not making it better. "MAAAAAA!" A precious term that I rarely hear, and I just sit there, doing nothing. Sometimes nothing is the hardest thing to do, but I know it's exactly what I must to in order for him to grow and to learn. If I want him to learn to swim I can't do it for him and I can't rescue him. If I rescue him he won't grow at all. I will be doing him an incredible disservice and stripping him of all the beauty that hard lessons bring. But his pain is like second hand smoke- it kills me just the same. I just sit there and watch him struggle.

And with shaking hands and legs and everything else, he did what was asked of him, over and over again. I knew that things will get easier and better, (or at least I hoped) and that's the thought I repeated over and over in my head. He needs to learn to swim. This will make him safer, stronger, better. He's going to have to suffer first, but it will be worth it. I saw the entire big picture while his view was only of fear and pain. Water floods up his sinus cavities, burning. He couldn't bear water on his face- yet it is covered in droplets that trickle down and assault him. And I sit there and watch his agony.  Kinetic and potential energy collides in me, leaving me twitching. My momma heart says- SCREW IT. DON'T MAKE HIM DO THIS. My momma head says- SIT RIGHT THERE- HE NEEDS THIS.

But with each lesson came growth. By the second or third lesson I could watch out in the open. And he still struggled, but I could see his strength and hope and he kept trying.

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And now that a couple of months have gone by, I witness the greatest doggy paddler in the world.

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And he loves it so much that most of the time that he is swimming, he is also smiling.

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And while watching Grey swim I thought about all the things I prayed and begged for with the boys. Why God? Why autism? Why Greyson? I asked in fear. And then, Please- Oh God, not Parker. Please, don't let it happen to Parker, I said. 

But it did.

I didn't feel like God hated them or me. I didn't believe he gave me pain because I could handle it. I just felt like I was all on my own. Like he forgot about me- or maybe he was just too busy to help me or stop the inevitable from happening. 

I think of the times that were the hardest and I felt the most scared and in pain and alone. I now realize He was there all along. Watching intently, twitching in discomfort- wanting to jump in and stop it or save me, but he knew he couldn't because that would stop me from learning and growing. It would stop me from becoming exactly who I am supposed to be. We really don't learn or grow or change when everything is perfect and easy- do we? Yes, I'm certain God was there all along- and if I would have actually started to drown- he would have jumped in. And looking back- it felt I was dying, but that was me actually getting stronger. 

God was just teaching me to swim. Maybe you are learning now too.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

the greatest band on earth

Tonight I was rocking Parker to bed. It's one of my very favorite moments of the day. It's always the same; soothing and comforting. A chance for quiet and calm. Where breathing goes from restless and scattered to deep and calming. I think about the day and somehow the hard parts don't seem nearly as hard. And the good parts, they rise to the top like bubbles. As they float away I can't always comprehend that these little beings belong to me. Sometimes I don't feel good enough or perfect enough to be their mom. But then I realize it's all by design and this is exactly how life is supposed to go down. I was chosen to be this lucky.

Imperfect me
Imperfect them
We are all imperfect now and then

Tonight Grey tried to join us on our little tiny glider and he kept leaking off. He looked around the room with concentration and amusement in his eyes- in a way I could tell that he was formulating a plan. He pushed a side table to Parker's crib and climbed in so he could have a place to sit. I smiled and saw the outline of Parker's profile in the faint golden glow of light leaking in from the hall.  And while we were there doing our evening dance- I could already miss it. I strangely and achingly missed this moment. This time. This life with two so dependent on my at times it makes me overflow with crazy.

What a gift. Life. If you don't believe me, ask someone who is dying. They'll tell you what's up.

I can count the number of times Grey has sought interaction with other kids on one hand. And I'd even have a few fingers left over. Last week-while phone free and connection full -we had a group of friends over. At one point everyone congregated upstairs and started playing "music". That term MUST be quoted. It sounded like screaming and singing and the banging of the drums- OH MY, I cannot forget the pounding horrible banging of the drums. At one point my friend said- "I hope that's not too loud for Grey. Do you think he's okay?" So I peeked upstairs and my jaw fell right off. Grey was actually standing in the middle of it all, jumping and flappy and happy and shaking some maracas. And almost every single night since then he takes Michael or I to the drum set - and says "Help me". He wants them back where they were when our friends were over. He wants to recreate that moment again and again. Like me, he loved it so much he probably already missed it while it was happening.

And today he had his wish. And I went upstairs to check on him and saw this. And my eyes found it so unbelievable it could barely tell my brain what was going on.

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All the boys playing together. MY BOYS playing together with all the boys. Did this really happen? In the moment it was just so fast and sweet and then life happened and I had to do something or go somewhere but now I sit and relish this picture and this moment and this memory and this life and these boys all playing together. I think I may just burst.

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And today they made the prettiest music I think I have ever heard.

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Doodle and his bestie Liam swimming today.

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And the afternoon ended perfectly and unexpectedly when this drove by while we were walking the last of our friends out.  (Frank had to take off today).

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Going, going, gone. The day and this life. 

I'm so glad I get to spend it with them and with you.


Come check out my words on my favorite topic- Everyday Adventure at Mamalode today!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

let it shine

Hot summer sweat trickles down the back of my legs. A perfect evening of memories collected and stored up in my head as this week's happy. 

Tonight I was so tired and all I wanted to do was lay in bed and read. At 7pm I was ready to put on my jammies and call it a night. "Do you want to go to the Farmer's Market?" Michael asked, referring to the weekly event that occurs a few miles from our house which is usually my favorite (next to smiling- smiling is my favorite) (And name that movie). 

Ughhh...nothing sounded worse- leaving the house in NOT pajamas, finding a parking place, chasing the boys through the 100 degree heat. So I even surprised myself when I responded with a "sure".

As soon as we arrived a sea of black shirts poured in. I saw a sign that the Fresno County Youth Choir was going to perform and as they lined up my excitement grew.

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Greyson can not speak in words, but he can hear in music. He lets the symphony of sounds overtake him and it's powerful to watch him. "Grey- MUSIC!" I exclaimed and pointed, practically jumping and flapping myself.  I couldn't wait for his excitement, because he always shares it with me and everyone around.  The director announced the first song- This Little Light of Mine. The tears rushed up my head and were ready to pour out my eyes before the singing even began. Because that's how I always think of my boys- a light that I want to shine. And I want to share their light because it makes the whole world brighter. I felt like God wanted me to be here to let this music fill my ears and break the heat/life/tired funk I felt all day today. 

Ahhh, you should have heard them sing. It was like a great episode of GLEE times infinity. The music vibrated and shook the world and filled the outside, swirling instantly to all the sad parts and making it better. Music has the ability to take people everywhere all at once.

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Grey inched his way into the choir, mesmerized.

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Sometimes he stood and watched, still and quietly fascinated just soaking it in to his core...

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And then you could see his unfiltered joy bubbling and building up...

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And then he would just kind of explode into a million pieces of happy that scattered all around.

Which I'm now quite certain is exactly how we should do music. And life.

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Grey jumped

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photo by michael gutierrez

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And Parker watched and even clapped- which is something that he's worked really hard in Behavior Therapy to learn how to do. Because they have autism, they have to be taught how to do almost every single little thing in life. Sometimes it's sad, but mostly it's inspiring and amazing. 

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photo by michael gutierrez

It was the perfect Summer night.

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We ate ice cream

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And deeet-sa (pizza)- in that order.

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And got filthy and made wishes and stayed up way past our bed time, because that's what Summer is for. That's what childhood is for. Sometimes that's even what adulting is for too.

The perfect Summer night and the whole thing almost didn't happen. Sometimes it's good to stay in bed and read- but sometimes it's even better to say "sure" to Life. God may be somewhere waiting with a present he created just for you. His fingers are crossed that you are going to come open it.

And I just want to remind you (and me) that we all have our very own personal light to shine. Gifts that we need to give and others need to receive. Every one of us is really darn good at something- something unique, something special, something good. Yes, even you- maybe you just haven't found it yet. Stop looking so hard and say "sure" to life a little more.

So Much Love,


A very special thank you to Fresno County Youth Choir for sharing your gift and your light.

Monday, July 14, 2014

learning to be

It's been a week since I've written. And this blank white page and prompting and blinking cursor feels foreign and somehow comfortable all the same. The words and thoughts swirl and I sift through them looking for the ones that want to be told. My writing muscles are sore and rusty. This writing is so comfortable and so weird all the same. Naked. Vulnerable. It's been a little while and I make sure to discard surface thoughts to dig deeper into the heart.

I took a week off from writing because I wanted to spend less time in my head, less time on my computer and phone and more time in my present and in my life. I want to write a little bit less and live a little bit more. I need to remember why I write. Not for likes. Not for you to tell me I'm an awesome Mom or doing a great job. Because I feed on that- and then when I don't hear it I feel like crap. That's the OPPOSITE of self-esteem. The opposite of being present. The opposite of dream-chasing. I needed the swirling cycle to stop- and I realized that as the adult- no one was going to do it for me so I took a break. It was soothing and needed and awakening. The first day was itchy and twitchy and uncomfortable at times. And like anything hard, by days 2-3 I could feel it clearing from my system. My eyes opened wider. I could breathe better.

I realized everyone is on their cell phone. All the time.

At least that's what it felt like. All I noticed were phones. Like on the movie- Peewee's Big Adventure when Pee Wee gets his bike stolen- suddenly all he can see are bikes EVERYWHERE. That's how I saw phones. Blinking and loud and tapped on everywhere I looked. And it scares me because I was doing it too and I didn't even know it. I was even busy judging others on their cell phone use thinking I'm better because I do it less. At least I don't use it while checking out or while at the playground or while out with friends, I reasoned. I won't post more than 1 maybe 2 photos on Instagram a day. I take the weekends off.  It doesn't matter, I was still addicted. Addicted to being accessible and to accessing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I checked social media at least fifty times a day, and the constant checking made me feel emptier and starving for real connection- but I ignored that feeling and just checked more.

We were at the local outdoor shopping area the other day and I looked around at all the people walking around. It felt like the whole universe was on their phone, walking slowly, glued to the screen, a complete lack of expression on their face, tapping and scrolling like mad. It appeared as if zombies had taken over the nation and they were controlling us through these little rectangular devices they force us to carry and stare at all day long.

I saw a group of teenage girls out to dinner awhile back. Each girl had a cell phone at their side as if it were part of the place setting. They would take turns taking pictures and posting them to Instagram. Most likely with a caption along the lines of "Having so much fun at Starving Artists Cafe." And the rest of the dinner each phone would take a turn lighting up and each girl would attend to it immediately. At one point every girl was silent and focused on their phone. I sat there in fear about the future WE are creating. Not one girl was talking to each other, no one was focused on the live music playing. They weren't "Having fun at Starving Artists Cafe"- they were alone together in Internet Land.  Is this what we are teaching them? And then on the Fourth of July Holiday the couple behind us was on their cell phone during the entire fireworks display. They had that zombie face and they were tapping away at the glowing screen the entire time. It makes me sad- they missed all the pretty fire works. Where do we draw the line? One day will we walk down the aisle clutching our phone? Will doctors be scrolling and looking at their phone during our appointment? Will it be acceptable to text and Facebook during church? 

Whatever you love most in life gets your last touch or thought and night and first one in the morning. I guess I loved my phone most. The plugging in for five minutes here and there that accumulates to hours and stops us from calling a friend, writing a letter, texting, talking to God, mailing a card, visiting a friend or sitting in silence simply learning how to be. I learned I am TERRIBLE at being. I am working on it.

This past week away from my phone- It changed my life- it's that simple. I took Instagram and Facebook off my phone and only checked both a handful of times. For a week it changed the way I thought about EVERYTHING. Instead of finding myself lost in someone's cousins friends aunts wedding pictures I found myself in my own life. I called a friend. Visited someone- even if I only had twenty minutes.

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We invited friends over- which then led to a Saturday night invitation- and on Saturday night we went dancing- until midnight, and it was AMAZING. I wish I had pictures to show you but I was just too totally present there- in LIFE all week long. I made conscience efforts to be here and present- and it wasn't always easy. I took back the three minutes here and ten minutes there I spent on my phone. I practiced being. I realized I have my own very beautiful, robust life right here in front of me. How did I forget?

I soaked up regular old everyday life. Boring and beautiful and mine all mine.

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A lesson in numbers from Frank. Parker LOVES when you read letters to him.

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We Speeched. Look how hard he tries-even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. If he can do hard things than so can I. And so can you.

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We napped. Nap time is my FAVORITE.

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So is wake up time with my Doodle.

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And we played. You should have seen him. He was singing, "Nuh nuh nuh nuh no mah?" (Do you want to build a snow man from FROZEN.) I don't want to miss these moments, and the thing is- we don't know if it's going to be one of those moments in advance. Sometimes we just have to take a chance and dive in.

Maybe you don't have a phone problem. I believe you- these words aren't for you then. Everyone else- I urge you, take whatever controls you MOST off your phone for a week. Make conscience efforts to replace it with good, healthy stuff. Just see what happens. It might just change your life. Actually- YOU might change your life.