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Guest Post: This Is Motherhood


This guest post comes from the fabulous Toni who you can find at Toni Hammer and she’s also a contributor at What The Flicka? Make sure to check out What I Say Vs. What My Kids Hear, 10 Ways To Annoy A New Mom, and What Toddlers Think Before Falling Asleep.


Motherhood is changing your clothes seven times a day because your newborn won the silver medal in spitting up.

Motherhood is changing your clothes four times a day because your outfit is considered a giant kleenex.

Motherhood is throwing caution to the wind and just heading out into the world with stained clothes.

Motherhood is your coffee being spilled onto the carpet every day for a week until you rein in your mommy brain and remember to keep it out of reach of Tommy Touch Everything.

Motherhood is waking up at 1am (and 2 and 3 and 4) to hold and rock and cuddle a sick or teething baby.

Motherhood is waking up at 1am (or 2 or 3 or 4) to convince your toddler that it’s not time to be awake yet.

Motherhood is stepping on Cheerios a week after the box was empty and you’ve vacuumed roughly 72 times.

Motherhood is discovering cream cheese fingerprints on the top shelf of the DVD rack without any idea where they came from.

Motherhood is poop 24/7.

Motherhood is lying awake at night worrying your children won’t have anyone to eat lunch with at school… when they’re barely toddler age.

Motherhood is considering two showers a week a huge victory.

Motherhood is regretting teaching your daughter to call her pacifier a “suck” because she’s way too good at the “uck” sound.

Motherhood is screaming right along with your kids when you’re all having a bad day.

Motherhood is applauding your son when he takes his first steps.

Motherhood is realizing your world is over now that your son has taken his first steps.

Motherhood is stopping in the middle of a crosswalk to retrieve the doll your kid chucked out of the stroller.

Motherhood is giving your son a cookie at 10am because it’s adorable when he says “peeeease.”

Motherhood is eating your kid’s leftovers and calling it dinner.

Motherhood is dozing off on the couch and waking up to a toddler finger up your nose.

Motherhood is going to Target by yourself and feeling like you’re on a week long vacation.

Motherhood is misty eyes when your child says “love you, Mom” for the first time.

Motherhood is bawling your eyes out because this job is hard.

Motherhood is bawling your eyes out because this job is the best.


Toni Hammer never planned on having kids, but she’s now a stay-at-home mom to Lily and Levi born 355 days apart. She chronicles her mommy misadventures at, on Twitter and her Facebook page because she’s a social media addict. She contrinutes to Scary Mommy and What the Flicka and when her children are finally asleep, she works on her first book “Is It Bedtime Yet? Stories from a Mom Who Never Wanted the Job,praying a publisher will, ya know, buy it. She loves food she doesn’t have to cook or clean up and believes her out of control coffee consumption should be studied by science.

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Guest Post: I’ve Got Skills

This guest post comes from Mack who blogs at Is There Cheese In It? Also check out these posts; Wanted: Mom Friends Who Don’t Suck, As If Feeding The Kids Wasn’t Hard Enough, and I Wear “The Pants”, But Everyone In My Family Wears Pants… Sometimes. You can also find her on Twitter @cheeseinit.



New skills honed by motherhood:

* cooking meals with one arm, and one or more large, loud, hungry koala bears latched to my person

* driving with one arm in the back seat of my car (they think texting and driving is dangerous – they should outlaw driving with toddlers in the car)

* yeah, actually, just doing anything and everything with one arm, while lugging 25-50lb weights (i’m considering a second career in body building

* turning any meal into a smorgasbord of 1/4 inch toddler snacks

* peeing, pooping and showering with an audience

* defining “shower” as the cleansing of my face and armpits

* wearing maternity jeans well after the baby vacated the premises

* making shit up ALL the time on the fly, in response to the constant barrage of complex questioning (if you drink bath water, bugs will grow in your belly; if you stick your arm out the car window, a bee might fly into your palm and become embedded; if you are mean to your little sister, santa will not bring you presents; you have to brush your teeth two times a day, or else they will turn green and rot out of your mouth and no one will want to be your friend; yes, i just went pee in the toilet and that is why i am stuffing my face with M&Ms; when you grow up, you can __________ [chew gum/drink soda/drive/wipe your own ass/be the boss/ride a motorcycle, etc.])

* public displays of affection

* acting like it’s totally normal to go an entire day with someone else’s bodily fluids on my clothes

* plane travel while wrestling an angry octopus (don’t try this at home)

* changing the diaper of a moving target

* bathing two soapy, slippery little suckers simultaneously, rarely dropping either one

* carrying on telephone conversations with screaming hyenas in the background, and/or when said hyenas are trying to divest me of my communication device

* surviving sustained sleep deprivation and still appearing (to most) as a functioning adult human

* letting go of my OCD (a little) and learning to be okay with persistent, low-level filth

* embracing chaos (it’s a reluctant embrace, like when you’re cornered at a family reunion by your creepy uncle wally, who’s not actually your uncle (i don’t think), and who thinks you are your mother (who passed away over a decade ago) but hey, baby steps)

* being okay with not knowing everything, and being wrong (every once in a while ;))

* being a lot less judgy and a lot more understanding

* mastery of the 15 minute target shopping trip

* tempering my gag reflex

* whispering in a menacing manner and its corollary, Mom Voice

* i am really, REALLY good at counting to three

* bat ears/supersonic hearing

* reading books upside-down, otherwise they “CAN’T SEEEEEE IIIIIIIT!!!”

* amateur pediatrics and child psychology degrees at University of Google

* stealth, speedy ninja sex

* purchasing supremely embarrassing items from the drug store with a straight face (Gas X, Korbel, condoms, super-duper tampons and a jumbo-pack of pregnancy tests (either way i’m gonna need at least three out of five!))


Things that i am completely incapable of doing since i became a mom:

* holding an adult conversation when there are children in the vicinity

* remembering that thing i was just thinking about/looking for

* leaving the house with less than 37 pounds of baggage (and that’s not even counting my kids)

* arriving anywhere on time

* driving past a firetruck, ambulance, garbage truck or any manner of construction vehicle without getting really excited by proxy and pointing and exclaiming “LOOK!”

* basic math

* keeping the house, car and dog clean

* putting laundry away where it belongs

* maintaining normal adult human obligations such as regular medical check ups and dental care

* shaving (both, entire legs) on a regular basis … bikini… fuhgeddaboudit…

* finishing a thought or a sentence

* staying up late

* “partying”

* sleeping through the night

* giving a shit what other people think/say about my parenting and lifestyle

* giving a shit about other peoples’ parenting and lifestyles

* foreplay

* achieving my pre-baby weight

* wearing uncomfortable/matching underwear

* sneezing or laughing really hard without peeing a little bit

* remembering what my life was like “before” (what on earth did we DO with all that free time?!?)

* relaxing

* feeling shame


Things i pretend i don’t know how to do anymore when my husband is around (shhhh, don’t tell my women’s studies professors ;))

* use any and all household electronics, including remote controls and the DVR

* open a wine bottle

* reach things from tall shelves

* mix a pitcher of crystal light

* go grocery shopping (except and target, those i can handle)

* pick up dog poop

* take out the garbage

* blowjobs (i mysteriously manage to refresh my recollection at opportune times, e.g., in cases of emergency and/or as a bribery negotiating tactic ;))

Things my husband pretends he doesn’t know how to do anymore when i’m around: 

* pee IN the toilet

* hold in gas

* surreptitiously rearrange his junk

* basic table manners

* romance, including those long lost sweet serenades on his gee-tar

* hear certain frequencies of baby tears between the hours of 2 and 6am

What skills have YOU learned/lost?

*No Doubt

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Guest Post: Let’s Talk About Sex

This guest post comes from the wonderful and very sweet, Karen, who blogs at The Heart’s Inner Workings. You can also find her on Twitter @KarenPilarski. Make sure to give her some blog love! xx


Boys will be boys who sniff their armpits to evaluate if a shower is in order. Dudes who put empty milk carton back in the fridge. For kicks they kill ants with a magnifying glass. Over time these boys grow into young men on the verge of adulthood. They are no longer interested in Star Wars figures or watching Disney flicks. Having lived my whole life as a girl I may not be totally educated on what is a boy. I do know the difference between a boy and a man.

I comprehend the curiosity about sex. Everyone can recall the first time those thoughts started to bang around in brains. The naked statue in the art store resulted in pointing and giggling. An older kid using a sexual term sends a jolt to boy’s innocence.

My brothers as youngsters would huddle in a corner of the local library and peruse at that book called ‘the joy of sex.’ Do we as parents spend too much time worrying about girls and their body and self esteem issues? Are boys being neglected? Pornography gives an unrealistic idea to boys as to what sex is. Am I an expert? No! To be candid, I can still count the number of people I have been around the block with on one hand. As a woman, I feel compelled to give an education lesson to these poor misguided young boys.

1. Sex isn’t really that random- In these adult movies, the scenario is usually the same. Some mailman, doctor, manager, flight attendant, etc  are chilling out when some busty and frisky chick happens on by. Usually there is little conversation that doesn’t involve obscenities. Funky, cheesy music starts playing and it is ON. Realistically it takes more than a smile and a hunky guy to get women in the mood. I certainly don’t reward my mailman in that fashion! While there is something called instant attraction, it takes more conversation to make it all the way. Women adore a guy that makes her laugh and wants to know about her. Like for starters her name.

2. Sex isn’t always earth shattering- Elaine from Seinfeld said it best “fake, fake ,fake.” I’m sorry to crush the notion that women climax during every time she has intercourse. Honestly, it takes understanding each other’s bodies and asking questions as to what feels good. All women ‘fake it’ at one point or another. It is about time management. We have things to do and places to be. We have to get up early in the morning. I’d put money on it that Crystal Glass (the name I made up), the blonde nurse in the adult movies, is faking. As a serious ‘actress’ she probably tired of screaming the oh’s and oh my gods.

3. Women are not contortionists- Some women who have been in the ‘business’ a long time are very uh..bendy. They appear to love having their body manipulated like that. Truth be told, the women probably don’t like it (see number 2). While it is fun to be open to new things, and healthy to experiment, women know what they will not do. No matter how much a man begs. Unless women are similar to Gumby, who is green and has a horse name pokey (insert obvious joke). I don’t predict scenes from adult movies being tried out. Sorry fellas.

I’m not trying to make the male species feel bad about pornography. It can be a good way to spice up a relationship or get through a lonely period. I just want young men to realize what they see in adult films or on regular films is not realistic. How would they feel if women held men to those standards? We as women know not every man is hot and well endowed. It takes getting to know someone to feel a spark of interest. What one person labels as not good looking is good looking to someone else. Love and sex takes time. Knowing this and respecting women is what makes a boy transform into a man.


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Guest Post: Bippity, Bobbity, Boobies!

This guest post comes from a very awesome writer who blogs over at Times Like These and who’s a mom to such an adorable daughter, Charley. I’ve kinda become in awe of this great writer. She writes real, true, and honest…. the best way. Some great posts to check out: There’s no swagger in my wagon, but can I offer you a seashell? (best title evah), Sweet Dream Are Made Of… Irony, and Miniature Disasters and Tiny Catastrophes.



From the moment my family saw the movie preview for Oz the Great and Powerful, plans for a movie night were made. The Wizard of Oz is one of my all time favorites. I still like it even after Charley Anne has watched it 1000 times and dressed like Dorothy this past Halloween and always demands I play the part of Wicked Witch when she acts out the movie. Yes, I am fully aware of the door I am leaving open by freely admitting to ‘acting’ the part of the witch. What can I say – the kid has great intuition. The movie proved to be fabulous. It was awesome and lived up to our expectations. Granted, our expectations are set pretty low by overexposure to all those stupid Barbie and the _____ movies (fill in the blank with any adjective-noun combination: Wicked Unicorn, Happy Hamster, Deadly Virus). Initially, my husband and I feared that Charley would be disappointed, or even worse – BORED, when she discovered it was not full of her familiar, favorite characters.


My maternal instinct even kicked in (delayed  as usual) sometime during the previews as I considered how insanely horrifying modern cinematography and computer graphics could really make the those flying monkeys. This would obviously lead to my kid having some wicked nightmares (that would ultimately, and most importantly, affect my future sleep cycle). However, the kid never flinched. She was completely mesmerized and sat through the whole movie in complete awe. I was so impressed with her attention span as we chatted about the movie. We even held hands as we discussed characters and plot points. This beat the hell out of the last time we watched a movie together and it ended in sobbing as Charley flipped her shit when one of the Santa Buddies was temporarily paralyzed and the spirit of Christmas was compromised.


Who the hell thinks of these kids’ films? As delighted as I was with Charley’s behavior, I was floored when, with one small question, a teachable moment presented itself. A night of entertainment and a life lesson with my kid? Pinch me, the teacher-person in me was dreaming. With wondrous innocence Charley asked, “Why did the witch with the red hat became so ugly and mean?” [She is referencing Theodora's transformation from the innocent, kind sister into the classic wicked witch that we know from the originalWizard of Oz film]. A simple question to most people, but you need to first understand some background to know why I suddenly felt, for a small moment, I was starring in my very own Lifetime Original movie. For several months now we have had the overwhelming task of explaining inner vs. outer beauty to Charley.


Last Spring she sat on the table in her gymnastics leotard, smacked her belly and asked me if she was fat -like the girl at school said she was. Shit. Shit. Shit. It’s way too soon for this. I suppressed my gut reaction to teach Charley to just start saying, “Your mom is fat” when she was confronted by rude, little demons. However, I decided to not screw up this moment – mostly because I teach middle school and have witnessed too many little girls with unnecessary body issues. Not to mention, there is no way I can afford the therapy later on if I really blow this. After a long sigh, deep breath and quick prayer – the best I could come up with was a small explanation about the meaning of the word “fat.  I ended up just emphasizing that, above all else, what counts is how beautiful a person’s heart is. Hokey and cliche, but she got it. We’ve since had many talks and reminders about the measure of beauty being in our hearts – with no help from Barbie, Bratz and all those damn princesses!


OK, back to the Lifetime movie… I stood poised and ready to carefully guide Charley through this very real and timely connection to a really tough topic. While lights shone down from heaven and a piano played somewhere in the background, I squatted down with Charley and explained how Theodora lost her beauty and kindness only when her heart became evil and full of hate. With brilliance I effortlessly transitioned into addressing Glinda’s role and how caring and loving she was.


The moment was glorious. It was the stuff mother-of-the-year awards are based on. My heart was full and I was already planning my outfit for the Parents magazine photo shoot. I brought our conversation to a close by asking Charley to recall what made Glinda so beautiful. I gently placed my hand on Charley’s heart and softly whispered, “So kiddo, what did Glinda have right here [tapping her heart] that made her such a beautiful person?” With no hesitation, my daughter raised her hands to her chest and replied with her sweet voice, “Her boobies hung out.” Dammit. You win again, Disney. *Music pick… Grace Potter And The Nocturnels… very cool.

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Guest Post: Five ways your weekend is different now that you have kids.

This guest post comes from Lori from Once Upon A Product… Stories of life, love, and makeup. I love when I come across a blog that’s so funny and original. No matter what Lori writes about, she keeps you smiling. Some other posts to check out…

Who Are You Wearing?!?! – School in the 80’s, gotta love the clothes… and wearing the boys. Frenemies – What do Nutella, Crunchy Cookie Butter, and Vodka have in common? Those bastards are so damn tempting! In Sync – When music and hot pink corsets collide.


Before I had kids (two boys ages five and eight) a typical weekend was jammed packed full of parties/events/gatherings/things. Remember Friday afternoon happy hour? Remember concerts? What about brunch after rolling out of bed at 1:00 on Sunday afternoon? Remember brunch???

Yeah, that doesn’t really happen anymore. Because now, things are different.

Dining out is different.

I live in Portland Oregon, America’s foodie capital. In my twenties you would never find me at a chain restaurant – why would I go to Applebee’s or Chili’s when I could support one of the zillions of local, farm to table, delicious, organic restaurants available to me?

Now, on most Saturday nights you will find me out with my clan at Red Robin complaining like an old lady about how loud it is (why would you go there if you didn’t have kids? I see people on dates there and it’s so confusing) how nothing on the menu has any flavor, and how a chicken sandwich is a chicken sandwich, not a chicken burger. Jesus.

So. Not. A. Burger.

So. Not. A. Burger.

Sleeping in is different.

Saturday and Sunday morning used to mean waking up between ten and noon and as previously mentioned, going out to that brunch. My signature dish was a giant plate of biscuits and gravy, because I was all into my health and stuff.

Tomorrow, by seven at the latest, I will be bleary eyed sipping my coffee while constantly being told to “LOOK Mommy LOOK” at SpongeBob doing something funny, Fairly Odd Parents doing something annoying or talking to Dora (because nobody else in the room will do it) answering her question regarding what my favorite part of today is.
Answer: NOTHING.

'Eff you, Dora!

‘Eff you, Dora!

Drinking is different.

I used to love going out for a fancy drink. Give me the most foo-foo girly thing you got, with lots of cherries, pineapples and tiny umbrellas with extra sugar on the rim. I want a work of sweet, syrupy art going down my gullet. Bonus points to the bartender who has the pretentious giant square ice cubes or the little plastic monkeys.

Tonight, I will settle for some old airplane booze bottles that have been sitting in my freezer since the year of the flood. Either over ice or mixed with some grape Juicy Juice, garnished with an actual grape – if I can find one that’s not furry.


Date night is different.

On the off chance my husband and I do get out for a date night it always ends the same way. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. Yes we go out to dinner and have a few drinks. Then, we end up buzzed at where else, the worlds most romantic spot – TARGET.

We call it “Drunk Target” or “Tipsy Target” depending on how loopy we are. Because nothing caps off a special evening like stumbling down aisles under fluorescent light with a big red plastic cart to hold you up. I try on clothes, he looks at books and toys and we leave with Ziploc Bags and giant plastic Rubbermaid containers.

Plastic tub and a purple sweater with unicorns on it. STOP ME.

Plastic tub and a purple sweater with unicorns on it. STOP ME.

Movies are different.
I am an actor. I used to see every single movie that was up for an academy award religiously every year. Last year I saw one, Les Misérables. Oh wait, and BraveWreck It Ralph, and ParaNorman. That’s it. Lately I keep talking about how I’d like to see that “new movie” Silver Linings Playbook which I’m beginning to think isn’t ever going to happen.And yesterday I saw Snoop Dogg as a snail in Turbo, which made me pretty damn misérable.

Fo Shizzle.

Fo Shizzle.

And of course as cliché as it sounds, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
Well, maybe some of it. I mean, “for the world?”
I’d get out of eating bland chicken sandwiches and forced early morning conversation with Dora.
My airplane booze and my Drunk Target – I’m keeping those.
~ Lori Ferraro is an actor, writer and author of the blog where she writes about her lifelong obsessions with make up, Mick Jagger and the 80’s, and her past obsessions with big hair and boys.
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Guest Post: My Biggest Mothering Challenge… Remembering They’re Little.

This guest post comes from Christa Terry who’s a blogger, editor, and author who writes at I Know How Is Babby Formed. Her newest big project, Mom Meet Mom, helps moms find their new best mom friends and just expanded its beta launch nationwide. You can also find her on Twitter @howbabbyformed.

If you’d like to guest post, whether you have a blog or not, email me at If you have emailed me and haven’t heard back yet, please email again. I’ve been behind on emails lately. Sorry about that.



My daughter Paloma is four. Small for her age, but a mature four. Her language skills exploded early on and so we’ve been having long talks for years. I’m entirely biased as her doting mama, but I think of my girl as not only smart, but also sophisticated. She knows what nerve endings do. She’s interested in space and the elements and biology – these are interests that are easy to cultivate with books and experiments and old fashioned observation. Discovery can be a solitary pursuit.

Paloma is also a dancer, like I am. She has been dancing for almost a year now, studying tap and ballet just like her mama has done for going on thirty years. Dance is very much not a solitary pursuit. The hardest part of studying dance for her has been mustering up the courage to walk into a classroom of other little girls without me by her side. Like me, my daughter is a homebody and shy. The hardest part of studying dance for me – outside of finding the time – is probably mustering up the courage to walk into a classroom of other women.

The difference, of course, is that I have had thirty years to figure out how to straighten my back and sashay into the studio like a badass so no one knows how hard it really is.

Paloma has technically had four years to prepare herself and really much less time than that when you consider that she doesn’t remember all that much from her first two or three revolutions around the sun. To me, she seems so grown up – especially when she sits next to her nine month old brother, Hunter, to show him how to stack blocks or squeak his Sophie – but she isn’t. Before Hunter was born, I would have said she was just a baby herself. Now I look at her and I see a kid. A big kid.


I promised myself I would never be that mom who said “Be a big girl” or “You should know better” over and over again because I know better. A four year olds’ neurology is so unlike a grownup’s that we may as well be different animals. Paloma really doesn’t know better. She hardly knows anything at all relative to me, her mama, if you think about it.

She didn’t, for instance, know what a stage was. A stage. How elementary is that? She’d seen them in books but never in person and certainly not from the perspective of a performer. The recital was coming up. Her first, my zillionth. I tried to explain what a recital was and what she’d be doing and why, and how fun it would all be – and I was met with nervous tears. I’m ashamed to say I got a little frustrated. “This is supposed to be fun!” I said more than once, just not getting it.

And then I did something right. I got out of my own head and tried to get into her little kid brain which (though don’t say it in front of her) is still practically half baby. Suddenly I understood how scary the world can seem when everything – literally everything – is new. Dance class. Going on stage. The stage itself!

So I took her to see it. It was the best I could do, because how do you explain all of the complicated feelings that flood through you when you’re dancing or singing or reciting your lines in front of the audience you know is there out in the dark? We got up on stage together and looked out at the empty rows of seats. We walked into and out of the wings, then practiced filing onto the stage. Together, all alone in the echoing auditorium, we did our own dry run of the dress rehearsal and then the recital itself.

Because she’s little. And sometimes what’s supposed to be fun is frightening in its novelty. I need to remember that no matter how mature she seems, four is still four and my patience and understanding is a gift I can give her – and her brother, too, when he, too, starts to seem more like a big kid than a baby.

There will be plenty of time, years and years, for being a big girl. For knowing better. For now, I want to let her be little.

*Christa’s song pick… When You Dream

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Guest Post: When Cancer Hits Home. The Blog Post Emily Hopes You Never Need To Read.


This guest post is from Emily Fowler who doesn’t have a blog (she should!), but you can find her on Twitter: @Ladyaero3. If you’d like to guest post, email me at elle dot mommyhood at gmail dot com.


My husband was diagnosed with cancer three years ago when my son was nine years old. In the time since then I have had to muddle my way through figuring out how to help our son deal with the fact that Daddy has cancer. While I fervently hope none of you will ever need to learn the lessons I have learned, I think they can actually have a much broader application for some of the other family challenges we all face.

1) Your kids know when something is wrong, so don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes

When my husband first went to the Dr, we didn’t know for sure it was cancer (on that Friday afternoon we were only told “It doesn’t look good, come back for more tests on Monday”…seriously?!). We decided to wait to tell our son until we had more information. The thing about kids, though, is that they’re so much more aware than we think they are. Despite our attempts to keep things as lighthearted and normal as possible, on the way home from the Farmers Market that Sunday, my son asked from the backseat “Mom, why are you so sad?”

We carry a lot of stressors as parents (family illness, unemployment, loss, divorce) and while we don’t want to make our kids carry those burdens, we can’t hide them from our kids either. Letting our children know (in age appropriate terms**) what’s happening and how you are going to handle it can make them feel much more secure- “Well, it sucks, but Mom & Dad know what’s happening and they’ve got it covered.”

2) Build your kids a safety net

For most kids, they have an innate belief that if something really bad happens, Mom or Dad will be there to catch them when they fall.  When our children are faced with the sudden awareness that Mom & Dad might not always be there, it can throw their whole world off axis. No matter what is causing the tilt (having dual homes after a divorce, learning that parents are not immortal), one way to help kids regain their footing is to show them in black and white what their safety net looks like.

To alleviate my son’s fears of being left alone (‘cause he figured if Dads could go away, Moms might too), I sat down with him and wrote down who would take care of him if something happened to me. Because my son is a “what if” kind of kid, I had to make the list about 12 people deep before he felt secure that all the bases were covered, but it did the trick. Having that list also made him feel safer when Dad was in the hospital and someone else had to pick him up from school for me- he knew who had his back.

3) Remember that your kids are still growing

There is a very big difference between how a nine year old deals with things and how a twelve year old deals with things. That’s true no matter what is happening in your life, but it’s something that really hits home when you have a situation that stretches over the span of years. It means that every once in a while you have to stop and really look at whether you’re still meeting your kids’ emotional and intellectual needs when it comes to dealing with a family challenge.

While we have had the help of a school counselor the past couple of years, we  recently decided (including input from my son) that it was time to get my son a different level of support (in our case, a counselor who specializes in working with kids and families with a major or terminal illness).

Being a pre-Teen (oh, the fun of hormones and mood swings!) is hard enough- trying to deal with that and a family crisis at the same time is just adding fuel to the fire. Where my son’s nine year old self was more comfortable venting to me, his 12 year old self needed an additional outlet. Sometimes he asks me to stay and sometimes wants to talk to the counselor on his own. It’s all good. And in a few years, he might need something else- I’ll need to keep checking.

Also, remember that your very smart kids are getting smarter all the time. While we have always given our son the facts about cancer (except for life expectancy, since even our Dr. can’t tell us that right now), over the years the detail level of those facts has had to increase to meet our son’s age and intellectual curiosity.

Dumbing down the answers just leaves him frustrated and confused. So, every once in a while check in with yourself (and your kids!) to see if you are trying to help them in their understanding of their world or if you are trying to hide it from them. If you find it’s that latter, go back and read #1 again.

4) Take care of yourself

Wait, what? Yes, this is a list of ways to help your kids, but you just can’t do that when you’re so worn out or sad or empty that you can’t even crawl out from under the covers. During my husband’s stem cell transplant, my sister helped organize a list of folks that wanted to be of service. One of the things she organized was time off for me.

One night every other week, someone would take my son for a fun night out and another person would bring dinner for my husband while another friend got me out of the house for a couple of hours. I didn’t think I needed that, right up until I left the house.  Suddenly, my shoulders didn’t feel quite so weighed down and my mind had something besides worry to focus on. I came back from those couple of hours with my batteries recharged and my empathy back in place (it can wear down when you’re a constant caretaker). When the road is rough, don’t forget to pull off at a rest stop now and then.

**Over the last three years I have had many folks ask me how to explain cancer to younger kids. With so many people living longer lives these days, it pops up more than folks might think (especially with Grandparents or even Great-Grandparents).

I have seen instances where people just try to hide it (“Grandma’s just under the weather” but then she ends up in the hospital, leaving kids panicked that their next cold is going to be fatal) and some where the clinical explanation given to kids would have been hard for pre-med students to follow.  And so I offer up what I told my son on that very hard day three years ago.  I hope you never need to use it.

“Cancer cells are regular cells that have gone wonky (or weird, or crazy, or whatever word your family uses for something that just isn’t quite right). The cancer cells then try to make lots of other cells just like them. That can get in the way of our healthy cells doing their jobs, though, which can mean our bodies won’t work right anymore.”

In response to “Does cancer make you die?” (The second part is chemo specific, so change as needed): “If certain parts of our bodies can’t do their jobs any more, then, yes, it can make you die. But we’re fighting those cancer cells. The Dr. is giving some medicine that kills fast growing cells like cancer so we can keep it from going places it shouldn’t be going.

Our bodies have other fast growing cells too- like the ones that grow our hair- so they might lose their hair for a while, but it will grow back. They will need lots of extra rest to fight the cancer, but we’re all going to be sending lots of love to help. Would you like to draw them a picture or write them a letter? I know they would like that.”

*Dixie Chicks

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