Motherhood: The Art of Triage & Planning The Garbage Event


I was talking to my daughter this week and we had one of those conversations that I love. She was telling me about a struggle and immediately the memories of being a young mom came flooding back and we had a good commiserating laugh.

All my dear mothers will understand.

Being a mother prepares you for a 2nd career as a triage nurse or an event planner and here’s how.

Taking out the trash at dinnertime. 

To take out the garbage you must first evaluate the entire situation as a triage nurse would.

Ok, it’s 5pm. You have peeled the potatoes and are holding the skins when you realize there’s no room in the trashcan! Crapola! Emergency!!

Assess the situation:

  1. Can I possibly smash the garbage down anymore? No.
  2. If I lay them on the top will they fall off alerting the baby and dog to investigate? Probably. Then dog will eat them and vomit later causing clean up. Baby will play with them and cry when I take them away requiring a halt in dinner making and requiring me to change directions and plan and delay dinner for an hour or more. What are plans for the evening? Can dinner be delayed? No!
  3. Can I just lay them on the counter or table? No. The ants might come back which will require another Pest Control bill and we have that trip coming up. So, the peels have to go now.
  4. Think back to what was thrown away in the can. Will it leak? Will it be too heavy to pull out of the can? I can’t remember.
  5. Is it worth the risk of dripping garbage juice across the floor which will attract said baby and dog? (Doing probability and percentage equations in my head.) The odds are borderline.
  6. The toddler (who is normally fussy at 5pm) seems to be playing peacefully and facing away from the path of the exiting garbage so he might not even notice I’m gone (laughing in my head because that’s just wishful thinking).
  7. Do I give him his favorite toy to perhaps get more time or will that just make him realize that he’s hungry and then demand to be held and fed? No, leave him alone.
  8. Does he have a dirty diaper? No.
  9. Any small objects, technology, outlets or other dangers around said child? Oh yes, the wire bundle behind the entertainment center. But the child will have to overcome an American Ninja Warrior course to get to it. Evaluating distance and rate of speed of said child to wire bundle gives me a small window of opportunity given that the bag doesn’t break, the husband returned can to it’s place, I don’t have to cram the existing garbage down in the outside can and no neighbors stop me to talk. Risky. But I’m willing to take that risk.
  10. Will he demand to eat in the 3 minutes it will take me to take the trash out? (Quickly assess schedule for eating, napping, bathtime and bedtime.) 3 minutes is fine.
  11. Will I run into any neighbors who will want to talk to me and delay the process? (Quickly assess arrival and departure tables of neighbors.) I think we’re good.
  12. The pot of potatoes is not quite to boiling. I can turn it down for safety but it will delay dinner. Got to prioritize! Safety first!
  13. The dog who will run to the door and try to escape and alert said child to my absence is distracted by licking himself on my throw pillow (which is another crisis that will have to wait. Mental note: wash the throw pillow.) Do I put the dog in another room to keep him from escaping? No, that will just alert child to a change in events setting off another chain of events. I think I can beat the dog to the door.

Even with the risks and chances of success being low, I need to get these potato skins out of my hands. Taking the garbage out is a go people!

Now comes the event planning. 

You have to strategically organize, coordinate and execute the plan.

Coordinate steps in the plan:

  1. Pull bag out of can.
  2. Bolt toward door as fast as possible.
  3. Throw bag in can.
  4. Return

Double check for safety:

  1. Distracted child? Check.
  2. Licking dog? Check.
  3. Boiling potatoes? Not quite. Turn them down to be safe. (Delays dinner, dang I’m hungry!)
  4. Doors unlocked? Check.
  5. Hear any neighbors outside? No, think we’re good. Check.
  6. Is outside can by the house? Yes.
  7. Sniff. Dirty diaper? Still no.

Execute plan now! Go! Go! Go!

Pulling the bag out of the can and bolting toward the door alerts the dog who almost knocks me off my feet as it squeezes between my ankles and the door frame. No matter how much I try to trap it in the doorway with my calves it manages to slither by like a greased snake. My yelling it’s name as I toddle to the can with the overflowing bag holding it out so as not to get the garbage juice on me seems to only propel the dog further down the street. It’s frantic barking and running at being freed scares small children and brings thoughts of rabies into the minds of their parents. Is it up to date on it’s shots? How much will that cost?

At the can, I set the bag down on my foot getting juice on my shoe – can it go in the laundry that is in process now? No! Gross! It needs serious sterilization! I cringe as I feel the juice seeping onto my toes. I open the lid and the lack of weight in the empty can causes the can to topple back. I have to set the bag on the ground and it falls over dumping eggs shells and potato peels on the ground. I set the can back up and pick up the debris all the while my neighbor is yelling, “Your dog is out!” Like I don’t know that.

Leaving the dog to his fate I hurriedly limp back in (because of the garbage juice on my foot) and find the child has crawled through the juice that was trailed along the living room floor directly for the wire bundle but was halted as his body has been wedged between the chair leg and the wall and is crying as he is straining for the wire bundle. Is the child in pain or just angry at having his plan thwarted? Just angry. I must quickly determine if the chair will hold the straining child from electrocution long enough for me to wash the salmonella, botulism, and Lord knows what else off my hands and my right foot.

Seeing the chair give way to my child’s determination and stubbornness that he must get from his father and since the child already has garbage juice on him I kick off my contaminated shoe toward the bedroom door and pick him up and take him directly to the bathtub but not before I stop by the kitchen to turn off the potatoes that are now boiling over onto the stove top which will require sandblasting to get the potato foam off. In the effort to keep the child from the boiling pot as he strains with every ounce of energy in his minute body toward it,  the garbage juice gets smeared all over both of us now. Pulling him away from the scalding steam inflames his stubborn streak and that combined with hunger sets off wailing that wakes the dead.

In the bathtub the running water thankfully distracts the sobbing child. I take off my slime covered shirt and with a disintegrating dab of toilet paper clean my right foot. I only sit on the toilet for a split second before there’s a knock on the door. In only my bra and my child in the tub, I decide to just let them knock. They continue undeterred. They hammer! They’re tearing down my door! I grab a towel and wrap up the baby who begins to cry again from being taken away from the water that distracted it. With the banging on the door echoing through the house, I run like a kidnapper clutching her screaming victim, avoiding windows and doors so as not to be seen half dressed and fling myself into my bedroom. I toss the naked child on the bed and grab a tshirt from the dirty clothes pile, scoop the naked child back up and go to the door. My neighbor thinking he has done me a favor, with a smile, holds my dog out to me and says, “I think your dog rolled in something, he smells.”

With the naked baby dangling from my arms I reach down, grab the dog’s collar and choke out a “thank you” to the neighbor. I close the door with my shoeless foot as he is telling me about how I need to better keep control of my dog and other helpful pet owner tips.

Limping and struggling like the Hunchback of Notre Dame I keep hold of the dog’s collar and with dangling child walk the dog to the back door so that it doesn’t touch any furniture or rugs or anything that will require a cleaning episode later and shove it in the back yard.

Back in the bathroom, child playing happily in the water, I sit on the toilet to catch my breath. I hear the husband come in. “I’m in the bathroom” I wheeze. The husband looks at my frazzled appearance. “Are you ok?” I can’t speak. The child coos and laughs at the father as if the last 15 minutes of hell never happened.

Husband says, “When will dinner be ready? We have that thing tonight, remember?”

Don’t even.

Happy Mother’s Day. Just know there is someone out here who understands!

Love and Peace,






A Superpower You Can Give Your Kids

Child superhero portrait

Last night, or early this morning, whatever time you call 3am I read an article.

You can read it here:  “According to Harvard Psychologists: Parents Who Raise Good Kids Do These 5 Things.”  It was in Curious Mind Magazine online.

You should read the whole article. It goes into detail about each of the 5 Things and gives practical application tips. It’s very good.

I was already thinking about some of the things mentioned because my son just turned 30 yesterday and Mother’s Day is tomorrow and I was wondering if I had been successful in my attempt at being his mother.

Not only that but recently I had interaction with an older adult and her behavior was very curious to me. I think I’m a pretty good communicator and listener but we were hitting a brick wall. We could just not understand each other. After some reflection, and serious self-examination to determine if I was the problem, I contacted a mutual friend to help. She said to me something very poignant, “She does not have the ability to put herself in someone else’s shoes so therefore she can’t be empathetic.”

In my experience as a person, a mother and a teacher of 17 years, being empathetic is a superpower everyone can have.

Empathy is the ability to “understand and share the feelings of others.” It’s different from sympathy. Sympathy is “having pity for someone, feeling compassion for their hardships. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

This superpower has world-rocking implications.

To be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes means that you have to take the time to get to know the person. You have to listen and hear them. You have to try to understand their world and experience.

When you try to understand from another point of view you have to acknowledge that you are not the center of the universe and people have different experiences. Just because you experience and interpret something one way doesn’t mean that everyone has the same experience.

I’ll give you a quick example from my life: My husband will sometimes send me to Home Depot for something. Before I go, I have him explain to me what he is doing and why he has to have that particular thing. Sometimes he gets frustrated and says, “Just go get the thing, it’s not a big deal.” However, I try to make him understand that when I – as a woman – go into Home Depot I very often (not always) get treated as if I’m stupid and ignorant of the world of hardware and tools. I often get approached by a gentleman with an annoyed attitude as if he is forced to allow the woman into the all-boys club. I can usually brush him off and get on with my shopping but sometimes I literally get chased down by an employee who can’t possibly believe that a woman knows what she needs and where to find it. When he catches up to me I inevitably get the barrage of questions. “What are you doing?” “Are you sure you want THAT part?” I can either take on the persona of the dumb wife and tell him that my husband sent me which opens up the world of “your husband doesn’t know what he needs, let me tell you what he needs” which makes me defensive. Or I take on the persona of ignorant woman which opens up the world of “let me help you little darlin'” and I really hate the condescension. Or I can just be rude and tell him to get off my back. It’s really too much to go through just to get a bolt.

My point, through my Home Depot rant, is that my husband and I have very different Home Depot experiences. And sometimes he forgets that. Going to Home Depot is a bigger deal for me than him.

Sometimes we forget that our husbands, wives, children and friends are having very different experiences than we are. When we feel impatient or irritated we might need to take a minute listen and hear and try to put ourselves in their shoes.

To put yourself in someone else’s shoes means that you have to get out of your own self for a moment. You have to be self-less for a while.

That is hard for everyone. But incredibly important.

During my teaching career I saw that this superpower was lacking in so many children. It really was the very rare student who could be empathetic. Most kids want it now and their way! And when that can’t happen it causes conflict.

When a child can put themselves in another person’s shoes and understand how it could be best, more loving, or more important to give up their way and allow another person to have it their way – Wow! So powerful! Conflict resolved! Love shown! The world is a better place!

Teaching your child to be okay with waiting, sharing and taking turns is the first step in teaching them to be empathetic. We all have to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around us and our desires and needs. Sometimes others have to be put before us. Sometimes we have to wait.

Unfortunately we also have to learn to do without. That’s life. I can’t tell you how kind and loving you will be to your child if you allow them to learn this lesson early. Better to learn early that they can’t always get what they want than later in life when they’re angry and hurt and arguing with their spouse because they want a new car and house but they just can’t afford it. And instead of “getting it” they blame the spouse for not loving them. (True story.)

However, you have to be patient with your child’s development. Younger kids are naturally selfish and when they are denied they will be upset. They will cry. They will pitch a fit. Stand your ground. Don’t give in. Even though they might be too young to understand why they can’t get what they want, they are learning that they can survive not getting what they want.

And as your child gets older and can understand you can then begin to explain WHY they have to wait or share or do without. This helps them put themselves into another person’s shoes.

They can begin by putting themselves in your shoes, their sibling’s shoes, their classmate’s shoes. But you have to take the time to talk to them about it. You have to explain and during this time you’re impressing upon them your values. You are impressing upon them the importance of love, compassion, kindness and all those values you hold important. (I hate to tell you but as a teacher, it’s very clear what values are important to the parents by watching a student interact with others. Kids learn first and mimic first what they see their parents do. “Do as I say, not as I do” does NOT work.)

But when your child develops empathy it gives them the power to be successful in school, at home, in all of their relationships.

When a child can think about his teacher might feel when he interrupts the class during instruction – powerful! Conflict solved! Relationship strengthened! Love shown!

When a child can share her lunch with a classmate who has none – Boom! Relationship strengthened! Love shown! The world’s a better place!

As an adult when a person can listen and try to understand and be giving to those different than they are – they make better managers, business owners, doctors, teachers, ministers and just all around better people.

It also helps them get through the difficult times in life. It’s not so shocking to them when as adults they have to scrimp, save, do without. Or when accident or injury happens they can rise to the challenge. They have seen and can perhaps understand the difficulty of others and learn from other’s victories and defeats. They learn resilience – a vital thing to learn! They learn that difficulty is not the end of the world – challenge accepted – this too shall pass and better times are coming.

Empathy – a superpower to give your kids.





I’m Not Giving You Parenting Advice (while I give you parenting advice)


Over the years of teaching and speaking I have had so many people beg me to write a book on parenting. And just recently someone asked me again.

I’m not sure why, and I don’t suffer with false humility when I say that. I didn’t have a mother, I had a negligent father and a psychopathic stepmother. Really, if I learned anything in my young life it was, what NOT to do.

Despite the lack of preparation I had 2 children. And I think they turned out pretty dang well. I give a lot of credit to God, my husband and my stubborn determination to give my kids what I didn’t have. Not in terms of possessions but rather in love, nurture and guidance.

So, when people ask for parenting advice I say this:

I can’t give you advice because I am not you. And I didn’t give birth to your child. 

There has never been and never will be another you. There has never been and never will be another child like yours. And there never has been and never will be another parent/child combo like you have. 

How can anyone tell you what to do? 

Parenting is such an intimate dance between you and your child. The interplay of your personality and theirs, your heart and theirs, your history and their future cannot, EVER, be understood outside you and your child. 

So, I can’t give you parenting advice.

But I’ll share some of my thoughts about parenting:

  • Your child is not your possession. They are a unique human being designed by God and given to you (because He thought you were the best for the job – remember that when you feel like you’ve messed up!) for a while to discover, nurture, educate, guide, enjoy and love.
  • Your child is not your ball of clay to mold in your image. They have been molded, you have to help them discover then educate and guide them in becoming the person they are.
  • You get the incredible privilege of discovering (along with your child) who they are, what their unique qualities and talents are and how they can contribute to society. How fun is that?
  • It is your job to make sure they know God and the world.
  • It is your job to make sure they know how to relate to God, to others, to themselves and to the world in a healthy, loving way.
  • It is your job to show them how to care for God, themselves and others.
  • It is your job to nurture them so they grow strong and healthy not only in body but in mind and spirit.
  • It is your responsibility to raise an adult, not a child. You need to raise an adult to be able to care for themselves and function in society.
  • Talk, talk, talk to your child about everything!
  • Love them unconditionally.
  • Think of them as plants to nurture, discovering in what way they best grow instead of animals to train, corral and drive.
  • Pay attention, listen and hear your child.
  • You get the privilege of being able to spend 18 (+/-) years will a special human being. You get to love them, pour into them, influence them and then send them off into the world as a healthy, strong, caring member of society. What an honor!

How you choose to do that is up to you. I don’t think anyone can tell you how to do it.

Life Lessons From a Teacher…

As an added bonus, I’d like to share with you some specific advice from my experience as a teacher of 17 years. If you will help your child learn these life lessons, I guaran-dang-tee your child have an easier time in life.

  • Teach them that they can’t always have what they want.
  • Teach them self-control. You can’t always do what you feel like doing whenever you feel like doing it.
  • Teach them to wait for their turn. (They’ll have to wait in the DMV one day.)
  • Teach them to lose well.
  • Teach them to fail well and how to not let failure keep them from getting back up.
  • Teach them how to hold their tongue. (They don’t want to get fired because they talked back to their boss.)
  • Teach them how to sit still. (Meetings!)
  • Teach them how to be bored. (Meetings!)
  • Teach them to share.
  • Teach them to care.
  • Teach them how to resolve conflict. (There is always conflict!)
  • Teach them to be happy for other people’s success and blessing.
  • Teach them to think about how their choices impacts others.
  • Teach them to observe.
  • Teach them to think critically (not negatively but to be able to analyze and evaluate)
  • Teach them to take responsibility for themselves as early as their development allows. You don’t want to have to wake them up, clean up after them, do their work for them when they’re 30 years old!

    Raise an adult, not a child!

You are doing your child a disservice if you don’t teach them to abide by rules and teach them how to have self-control. Think about your life as an adult. What do you have to do in the course of your everyday life? Most of us have to:

  • Sit still
  • Be quiet
  • Control our emotions
  • Control our desires
  • Follow rules
  • Take turns
  • Wait patiently for our turn
  • Clean, feed, dress ourselves
  • Go to bed and get up at a certain time
  • Do things we don’t want to do but we do what we have to do and often it doesn’t make sense to us but we have to do it anyway.

So, teach your child how to do these things.

And remember, don’t feel bad about setting boundaries and rules. Boundaries make kids (even older ones) feel safe. They want to know where the edges are, where “beyond here there be monsters.”

I guess I had more to say than I realized. Well, there’s my parenting advice such as it is.