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Mabel’s Labels: A Must Have for Moms!

by Miranda on September 17, 2014

School has brought about more than one change in our life, and considering Joshua has now been enrolled in two schools so far since we moved, we’ve had more changes than most.

All of these changes, most specifically starting school, are the reason why Mabel’s Labels are a must have for moms like me. And you. Because suddenly I have a 5-year old who has to be responsible for his own stuff all day long and, well, he’s 5. So HAHAHAHAH to that. ‘

So, we’re six weeks into school here, which I know is jaw-dropping for those of you whose littles just went back last week, but we’ve (and really I mean Joshua) lost Joshua’s water bottle 5 times already.

And his lunch box. Actually two lunch boxes, but the second one was retrieved, which is great because it’s actually MY lunch box.

Thankfully, Mabel’s Labels saved the day with the water bottle. Five times. (The lunch box, however, we’ve determined found its way itno a trash can.)

How have we recovered the water bottle five times? Because of this guy:

Mabel's Labels Review

This, dear friends, is a Tag Mate that came as part of the Mabel’s Labels Stylish Scholars Combo. It has ensured that Joshua’s water bottle has been returned it its rightful Kindergartener every time he’s lost it.

(HOW DOES HE LOSE IT!? OMG!)

The Tag Mate, which is made for clothes, and which is washer and dryer safe, will be AMAZING this winter when it’s time to send in hats, gloves, and coats. Plural.

In Georgia, layers are a daily requirement. Some mornings it’s 30 degrees, which might necessitate heavier coats, and by afternoon it’s 55, which means a fleece pullover. I cannot even begin to imagine how many times I will visit Lost and Found this winter.

Or maybe I won’t have to visit Lost and Found at all because I’ll have labels on EV.ER.Y.THING.

The Stylish Scholars Combo pack also comes with tags called Skinny Minis, which are dishwasher safe, which makes them great for labeling food containersm and the Round Labels are perfect for the insides of shoes.

Because if anyone is going to lose ONE shoe, it’s going to be a kid. And I know this not from experience with my own children but from teaching in a school where we put the Lost and Found out twice a year and marveled at the number of single, partner-less shoes we found.

I got one sock…looking for the other…one sock…looking for its brother…when I find that sock, I’ll tell you what I’ll do…

(If you know what book that song is from, speak up!)

I have a Round Label on the inside of Joshua’s backpack. And a Skinny Mini on the outside. I’m determined not to lose it.

Mabel's Labels Review

If you or someone you know is a constant loser-of-things, Mabel’s Labels are for you. They go on and they don’t come off unless you want them to.

Right now you can enjoy free shipping and your order will leave within 24 hours of being placed, which means you could be ready to stop losing things pretty quickly.

Depending on how you use them, you’ll get enough labels in your Mabel’s Labels pack to last you all year. Maybe even longer.

I cannot recommend these enough to moms, teachers, grandmothers, basically anybody who will listen. These are definitely must-haves!

Disclosure: Mabel’s Labels sent me a Scholars Combo in exchange for this review. Having met them at several conferences, I was eager to work with them because of the nature of their company and the quality of their products. Mabel’s Labels were created by moms, for moms to help us solve our lost-stuff dilemmas. All opinions are my own.

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Signing Our Life Away

by Miranda on September 6, 2014

When you buy a house, you sign your life away at the closing. The joke you’ll hear before mountains of papers start flying your direction is that you better get your hand good and warmed up because it’s about to be put to work.

You’ll spend the next 45 minutes to an hour, maybe longer, promising a bank everything from your regular monthly payment to your first born son and then at the end of all that signing a lawyer will shake your hand and congratulate you on your purchase.

Welcome to home ownership!

But when you sell a house? That’s when you’re REALLY signing your life away.

It’s been an emotional few days around here as we’ve prepared to pack the last decade of our lives into a storage unit until we’re settled in our forever home sometime next year. We’ve cried while reminiscing about what the last ten years have held, and most of those memories have taken place right here.

We started our life together, put down roots, and made this town we didn’t know our place. It’s familiar. Comfortable.

It’s home.

Our children took their first steps on these floors which we put in ourselves during a summer renovation project that ended up lasting into the fall. This is the only home they’ve ever known.

We spoke their names for the first time in these rooms.

I’ve kissed boo boos and sung songs and hoped beyond hope for nothing but happiness for the both of them while rocking them to sleep at night in nurseries chosen and designed before they were born.

We’ve baked cakes and celebrated birthdays and anniversaries and life and death and we’ve done it here. Together. As a family.

It’s funny, and I know I’ve said this before, but for a long time this place didn’t feel like home. It was just the where we lived. That is, until it wasn’t ours anymore. Now all the stories tucked away in these walls are suddenly crying out, begging to be told again and again. Begging to be heard and remembered forever. Scared we’ll forget about them.

Even though the memories are ours, it’s like they don’t belong to us anymore. They’re trapped within these walls and we’ll be leaving them here forever in just a couple of days. It feels like we can’t take them with us.

How do you pack a memory into a cardboard box?

Of course there are new memories to be made. One day I’m sure we’ll look back on this as just another leg of our journey together, but for right now as I lay here unable to sleep on what is our last night in this house, it feels like we’re closing a book and not just turning a corner to see what’s coming up ahead.

Turns out we made this place a home after all and we didn’t even know it.

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When Mom Guilt Strikes

by Miranda on August 26, 2014

I don’t have a catchy title for this. I can’t give a shit about SEO. I just have a metric ton of Mom Guilt sitting on my chest and I desperately need to get it off because I can’t breathe with it there weighing me down.

We’re moving. In 12 days.

Yes, that’s right. We sold our house. This summer’s hard work and my home staging skills paid off and after being on the market for 6 weeks, it will no longer be ours.

That’s the amazing part, really. We’ve dreamed of the day we could sell our house for quite a while, never expecting the housing market to rebound here so that it would be possible. And now the market has rebounded and the house is sold and we’re moving. Officially.

But the Mom Guilt is eating me alive.

Moving now means switching schools. And then switching again. I knew this would be a possibility, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard.

“He’ll only be a month into school! No big deal! He’s adaptable!”

He is adaptable. I, as it turns out, am not.

See, we’re not going from here to our forever home. We’re going from here to living with family to our forever home. Because that’s what happens when you want to build a home of your dreams and you have people who graciously open their doors to you and the timing for everything is all weird like this.

I cried this afternoon when I realized that my son probably might not exist in a yearbook.

I know this is more for me than it is for him right now, but one day, it’ll be for him. School pictures at his current school were today. They’re probably taking place soon at his new school if they haven’t already. There’s a good chance I’ve missed the boat and the only record that he attended in either place will be in whatever I can cobble together.

I cried at Joshua’s curriculum night on Monday when I told his teacher that he only had 8 more days with her. I wiped my eyes as she talked about the times she needed classroom volunteers when I realized the available times are perfect for me to have been there, helping with the art center, or working on reading, or doing whatever she needs done.

I know there’s a chance I’ll have this same opportunity at his new school, but I also know there’s a chance I won’t.

I cried when she talked about the ways she engages the kids in activity to help them work off excess energy throughout the day and when she relayed some funny stories about their interactions with one another and the ways she sees the class coming together.

I know there’s a chance he’ll have that elsewhere, but I also know there’s a chance he won’t.

I cried when I listened to the PTA president talk about the school and community they have there and how they help one another and are able to do the things they’re able to do not because they’re the fanciest school but because they’re a family.

I know we’ll have many, many years to become part of a school community when he gets to his final destination, but it seems like so far away before we get there.

I feel stuck.

We’re stuck. Moving, but stuck.

I’m worried and I’m sad and all these little things are piling up and I feel like the entire first year of school is a wash with all the moving. We can’t put down roots and get comfortable. He’s going to be spending the next however long adjusting while the rest of his classmates are established.

All of this just means a lot of change. And a lot of feeling like I’m not doing the right thing right now while simultaneously doing the best thing for the future.

I just don’t want to screw up.

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Just a White Girl

by Miranda on August 19, 2014

I remember the very first time I realized I was just a white girl. And I don’t mean in the sense that I became aware of my skin color and how it differed from that of my darker skinned friends.  I mean the first time I became aware that I was JUST a white girl. With privilege I didn’t ask for or want.

It was May of 2005. I needed one final English credit and a linguistics credit and found a Maymester course which satisfied both requirements. It would mean fewer hours at work for three weeks, but three weeks!! I would officially be a senior in college.

The course turned out to be a film studies course on race and ethnicity in the media and literature. I learned more about myself and the world in those three weeks than I had in the previous four years of college courses.

Our final would be a presentation covering what we’d learned about our own race and ethnicity while taking the course.

That’s when I realized I was just a white girl.

My race is one of oppression and my ethnicity, if geographical locations can be considered such, was “southern,” which, given history made things doubly worse somehow. What could I possibly contribute to this discourse that would be meaningful in any possible way?

I said as much in my final exam.

“I’m just a white girl. I don’t really HAVE an ethnicity.”

I got an A.

*******

The second time I became aware of status as just a white girl came a few months later, during a discussion in one of my education courses, and once again I was caught off guard. I railed against the lesson, grappling with the words written in one of our required readings.

The author, Lisa Delpit, asserted that white women couldn’t teach children of color, Black children specifically, because we didn’t understand the cultural differences and coded language used by Black mothers and teachers. Those students wouldn’t respond to our methods of asking nicely instead of giving direct orders.

“But students are students! HOW DARE SHE say I can’t teach children of color!! HOW DARE SHE!”

I was angry. It was visceral. I said as much.

This woman who didn’t even know me deigned to assume what kind of teacher I would be to students who didn’t share my same pigmentation. She didn’t believe that I was capable of reaching ALL students. Was she REALLY going to advocate for classrooms segregated by color and teachers assigned to their respective students based on race?!

That was not what she meant. That was not what she meant at all.

I learned that lesson soon enough, though at the time I was too colorblind to see it.

*******

Colorblindness doesn’t work.

Teaching our white students and our white children that race doesn’t matter and doesn’t exist isn’t working. We think we’re doing a good thing by saying “we’re all the same underneath our skin” and that’s true. We are.

But change isn’t happening because we’re not acknowledging the very serious realities of what it means for the rainbow of people living in America, and the truth is that it’s very different for each of us. Easier for some and much, much more fraught with anxiety and oppression for others.

The situation in Ferguson, MO last week has dredged up some feelings about race and ethnicity and being just a white girl that I’ve been trying to swallow for quite some time now. I’ve tried and tried to hold them in because once they escape I can’t take them back. I know that. You know that. We all know that.

I’m just a white girl. And lately I’ve been hearing a lot of “sit down and stop talking because this isn’t your issue and it’s not your fight.”

But this IS my issue and this IS my fight because I believe in the interconnectedness of humanity. That while we’re all different, change doesn’t happen unless we all make it so, and I can’t make it so if I say nothing.

When I think of the suffragists, I think primarily of the men who lobbied and protested and picketed to secure women the right to vote. They didn’t have a dog in that fight aside from believing it to be a fundamental right of all citizens of the United States. They already had the right to vote. Why should they care if women did?

They cared because it was the right thing to do. They recognized their privilege and how silencing voices oppressed a group of people.

I care not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because I believe in the fundamental right of humans NOT to be afraid to leave their houses or send their children into the world. I believe in equality. That our children–that WE–all deserve to be treated and seen as equals in the lives of the public AND the law.

I recognize my white privilege and, quite frankly, I hate it. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t deserve it. Maybe that turns my white privilege into white guilt. I don’t know.

So I guess I better put it to good use.

I want to amplify the voices sending the messages we all need to hear. I want to share the stories of those mothers living daily with the fear of letting their young men out into the world, because while all mothers fear their children leaving the nest, even to make a trip to the store, the fear is very different for mothers of color, particularly in the wake of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, John Crawford III, and Trayvon Martin.

I want to stand up and shout that racism–covert, overt, systematic, systemic, and everything in between–is unconscionable. I want to know how to teach my son what to do should he see racism occurring around him, how to fight against it, and how to stop it for good.

I want that because I want a world for ALL of our children where none of them fear anything other than the ordinary parts of adolescence and adulthood.

But the truth is I’m scared.

I’m terrified because I’m just a white girl. I don’t want to step on toes or offend or seem like I’m attempting to silence the voices that matter or shout more loudly than anyone else. I just want to throw mine into the mix and be heard.

I want to do better for my children, yes, but mostly I want to do better for yours.

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Be The Light

by Miranda on August 12, 2014

Some of you know that one of my freelance jobs is as an entertainment news writer. By now you’ve probably heard that Robin Williams died yesterday. He took his own life following a serious and prolonged battle with depression.

When my professional and personal worlds collide like this, it’s hard for me not to stand up and speak out. It’s hard for me not to be personally affected. It would be hard for me not to be personally affected by news of Robin Williams’ suicide regardless of my job. I love Robin Williams movies. All of them.

But this is doubly difficult because of his battle with depression and the way people respond when someone–anyone–commits suicide as a result of mental illness.

I know how close many people living with depression get to feeling like taking their own lives is the answer. I know how close they get to feeling like they don’t matter. Like no one cares. That the world would be a better place without them in it.

I’ve been there.

Robin Williams’ death is an opportunity to open up the discourse about mental illness, suicide, and the stigma of both, but–and I hope I’m wrong–the opportunity will be missed because of people who don’t understand and don’t try to understand. Many of them are well-meaning, but they’re also very wrong.

Suicide isn’t “the easy way out.”

Suicide isn’t “a permanent answer to a temporary problem.”

Suicide isn’t “selfish.”

Suicide is death. Period. Full stop. End of discussion. RestmycaseAmen.

Mental illness is a disease of the mind. And one that is far too often handwaved as a moral failing or shortcoming on the part of the person living with the disease.

“Just go out and take a walk! Get some fresh air! You’ll feel better!”

“Pray more! God will hear you! You’re only going through this because God is teaching you something!”

“Why can’t you just snap out of it?”

“Wow! You always seem so happy! What do you mean you’re depressed? You have nothing to be depressed about!”

“You have so many awesome things in your life. Why aren’t you happy?”

“You should just be thankful you’re alive.”

If any of those things were truly helpful in any way we wouldn’t have a legion of depressed people walking around, many of whom can’t get treatment because of lack of access and resources to do so, or who won’t seek treatment because they’re afraid of what people might say, or how it will affect their personal and professional lives should anyone find out.

We wouldn’t have people like Robin Williams committing suicide.

Depression lies, and when you hear those bootstrapping phrases enough and can’t seem to dig yourself out, the depression just gets worse.

“What’s wrong with me that I can’t just be better?” If we could will it to be so, we would.

If any of the bullshit statements being bandied about regarding mental illness were truly helpful, I wouldn’t be a woman living with depression and anxiety. Robin Williams (probably) wouldn’t be dead. My student wouldn’t have taken his own life at 17.

We wouldn’t need activists shouting that there is hope for you if you’re suffering.

Frankly, I dream of that world, but that’s not the world in which we live. And my heart is a little more broken open today because of it. Because another life has been lost to mental illness. Countless lives, since suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 3rd among those ages 15-24.

We live in a place where you never quite know what’s happening in the lives of those right next to you. In traffic, on the train, at the grocery store, in the carpool lane, at school or work, or maybe even at home. You don’t know what lies depression might be telling the person you think you know so well, especially if you’re the kind of person who spouts off the nonsense written above.

Because we can’t know that, not unless the person suffering shares the information, the only appropriate response when we find out is “How can I help you get better?

And the answer, if you really want to hear it, is to listen. Listen and don’t judge. Don’t try to solve the problem with quippy and faux-supportive phrases you heard on an After School Special or read on Facebook. Don’t tell people what YOU would do if you’ve never been there. You can’t know what you would do if you’ve never been there.

Be a friend. Check in. All the time. Make phone calls and find the person help. Do not give up. Tell someone. And on a global scale, stop doing things that prevent others from gaining access to treatment (like voting for politicians who don’t give a shit about healthcare). Shout loudly against the stigma of mental illness and not in ways that only further it.

Don’t just “rage against the dying of the light.” BE THE LIGHT.

Fight alongside those who are suffering, even though you yourself do not, because there might come a time when they can’t fight for themselves and they’ll need an army to do it for them. Be their army.

Do it for Robin Williams.

1-800-273-TALK

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Invisible Loss

August 6, 2014

It’s been a year since we said goodbye to my dad. A year ago today. I dreamed about him on Sunday. He was only there for a second, but he was there, greeting someone with a smile on his face, introducing himself, hunched over slightly to mask his height. And then I woke up and […]

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Dear Joshua, On Your First Day of Kindergarten

August 4, 2014

Dear Joshua, Today you started Kindergarten. I always fret and worry about you and big changes in your life, and man, this year is going to bring a few of those. Kindergarten feels like such a big deal, a much bigger deal than any change we’ve weathered so far. You feel so big and yet […]

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First Day of Kindergarten (Free Printable!)

August 3, 2014

You guys. My baby boy, the pioneer child, the one who taught me what it means to be a mom is starting Kindergarten. Tomorrow. (It won’t bother me one bit if you pin this. Nope. Not one bit.) Tomorrow I will have pictures and a letter/wishes for him to post here, because parts of this […]

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Spill It

August 2, 2014

In case you haven’t looked at a calendar, it’s August. AUGUST. Fall is upon us, school is starting (Monday!), and our busy, too short, blink-and-you-miss-it summer is done. Just like that. I didn’t blog at all in July and at first I didn’t care. Didn’t even notice. I was too busy doing and being and […]

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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Climb Out of the Darkness

June 25, 2014

I will never forget the relief I felt the first time someone looked at me and said “Miranda, you’re depressed. This is depression.” In that moment, my moods, the sadness, anger, rage, all of it, had a place. Slowly, with therapy, dedication to getting better, and through the twists of fate which started me on […]

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