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I’ve learned to accept the fact that it’s ok to devote your best effort to life, even when you’re not so sure you’re doing any of it right.

This thought swirled through my brain when ordering less-than-stellar food from the lady behind the glass counter display at my local grocery store. A hodgepodge of fast, fatty edibles: one burrito, some fried chicken, one corn dog, green beans, chocolate pudding, and dinner rolls. In an attempt to save some semblance of my maternal self-esteem, I also picked up some tomatoes for my burrito and some navel oranges to peel for the kids. It all cancels out that way.

(Incidentally, the prepackaged green beans “tasted like stale hot dogs” according to my middle child, and his analogy wasn’t too far from the truth. Those ended up in the trash.)

“Yes,” I reassured my husband via text. “I went to the stupid store.”

My husband takes care of no less than 99.9 percent of our food shopping and preparation but that particular night, I was on my own.

I have a longer commute these days for my job. On good days, I’m on the road for a little over an hour. On bad days, more like 90 minutes. I drive three separate interstate systems to get where I’m going. Thank God for the free satellite radio subscription that came with my car.

I try to remember to enjoy the ride, even when I’m staring at brake lights. I have an office to travel to after all and I’ve known plenty of people who don’t share that luxury.

I knew this parenting phase, with three kids in three separate schools, would be crazy. If we didn’t have friends in the neighborhood to pitch in with rides, to help us stay organized, to take care of our kids with the same level of love and concern that they show their own, I don’t know how we would manage.

I knew I’d have to forfeit the idea of being the perfect manager, the most attentive mother, the most affectionate wife, the most inspirational coach, the most reliable friend… all the while keeping myself in peak physical and psychological shape.

I can’t possibly do all of that.

But what I CAN do is wake up grateful for having woken up each morning. 🙂

I CAN let the people I see every day know that I care…about a shared goal, a meaningful experience, and a common chapter we are all living together.

I CAN recognize that the ones who rely on me the most don’t feel let down.

I CAN appreciate the here and now while also looking forward to the future.

I CAN forgive myself for falling short at times.

As an avid fan of reading authentic authors, I don’t think I’ve found better inspiration on how to live life happily without imposing unrealistic expectations on myself than Rachel Stafford over at HandsFreeMama.com.

If you’ve ever felt overly distracted and not entirely in tune with what you should be most focused on in life (especially if you have an influence on little ones, whether your own children or others who look up to you), take two seconds to subscribe via email to get Rachel’s posts in your inbox.

I have had my own readers tell me they can relate to what I write about and I hope this post is no exception.

If you tell me you’ve got life all figured out and have never doubted yourself, I’ll tell you I’m a top chef. Stale hot dogs and all.

Written by Heidi Woodard

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Remember that piece of advice I wrote for you last year about how I remembered what it felt like to be a 12-year old girl in seventh grade whose primary goal was to snag the boy with Vanilla Ice hair? The one that I forced you to read on the way to football practice? About treating girls with respect while also not falling victim to their voodoo magic?

The one you took roughly 25 seconds to scan?

I could tell it sunk in deep. You thoroughly appreciated my insight.

As evidenced by your head nod, grunt, and total indifference.

Lucky for you, I REMEMBER EIGHTH GRADE TOO. I feel like I would be robbing you of a treasure chest full of mom knowledge if I didn’t impart my wisdom on you again this year.

So here goes…

Sports are your world right now. Look, I toooeeetally get it. It’s hard to beat that feeling of competing alongside and against your friends. It’s fun to be cheered for at pep rallies and to have your locker decorated on game day. Just remember to keep your eyes open to new areas of interest too. Don’t let your jock friends be your only friends.

Were you aware your mom was quite the singer back in the day? Wait, scratch that. Technically, if we’re being real, mom went to a small enough school to be deemed “not as tonally terrible” as the dozen or so other kids who tried out for musicals so she landed solos in a select few.

I was going to be nicer to my former cast members, but no one seemed to have kept a picture of me as Alice in Alice in Wonderland our eighth grade year (which, frankly, floored me) so I’m letting the claws and honesty come out.

I received a Tony nod back in 1989 with my vivid portrayal of Jack's mom - struggling to keep him off the beanstalk and in my arms.

I received a Tony nod as a 7th grader back in 1989 with my vivid portrayal of Jack’s mom – struggling to keep him off the Beanstalk and in my protective arms. #mothersinstinct

Whatever you do and no matter how old you might feel, remember that no one has your back like your mom does.

teen textYou can publicly ignore me around your friends and then come to me when you need my help. I get it. I used to do the same to my parents.

But my parents didn’t have social media to pay me back.

overconfident pitcher tweetYour dad had interests outside of sports in eighth grade too. I had the privilege of listening to him recite the entire soundtrack of Straight Outta Compton while sitting next to him last Friday night at the movies. Who knew he was a closet rapper back in the day? Obviously NOT your grandma or grandpa with those lyrics! He kept that talent well hidden from them.

You seemed to have grown about half a foot over the last year. This increase in height has made you jump to the conclusion that there should be a proportionate increase in your level of freedom and independence from your dad and me. We’re here to remind you on a daily basis that you are still 13.

I’ll try to continue to give you some slack as long as you don’t give me too much of an attitude. A little attitude is understandable. That’s how we define ourselves in this world after all…especially in eighth grade.

mom and Owen

I’m confident you will conquer this – your final year of junior high. I feel myself taking shallow breaths anytime I think about how few days remain between now and your freshman year of high school.

But don’t you fret. I’ll offer up some ninth grade wisdom soon enough.

Written by Heidi Woodard

First there was a sick husband.

Followed by a sicker son.

Not to be outdone by a delusional daughter.

My boy came down with strep throat. Hard.

Bad enough that he couldn’t muster up enough energy to laugh. That’s the worst kind of sick for a 10-year old boy.

Bad enough that his mom had a heart-to-heart with the after hours nurse, begging her to convince the on-call doctor to not make us return for the dreaded repeat office visit, but instead phone in a second antibiotic to replace the first one that wasn’t working.

Bad enough that there was more white than pink in the back of his swollen throat.

Bad enough that his 6-year old sister noticed the extra attention he was getting from mom and dad.

Watching Goosebumps episodes in between fever episodes.

Watching Goosebumps episodes in between fever episodes.

It was only a matter of time before that girl thought her throat might be hurting too. She begged to have her temperature taken and her tummy rubbed.

She felt the word her brother used, lightheaded. She didn’t need to know entirely what the word meant. She was convinced she had it…whatever it meant.

After 24 hours of listening to little sister complain of having the very real symptoms that were making him miserable, big brother looked at her and said, “Hey Jaycee. I have an app on my phone that I can use to scan your body to see if you’re really sick. Do you want me to try it out on you?”

With a poker face that Kenny Rogers himself would be proud of, she looked straight in his eyes and said, “Sure.”

She wasn’t ready to fold em.

Below is the patient photo he took before scanning her entire body.

She is sssiiiiccckkk.

She is sssiiiiccckkk.

Much to little sister’s shock and disbelief, this was the reading that came back on big brother’s phone.

IMG_0205

After having cried fever so many times and convincing herself that she was, in fact, as ill and miserable as he was, she reacted the way any sensible 6-year old would. By flipping out.

Her brother decided to scan her body one final time and this second reading (a culture, if you will) finally revealed what she knew to be true.

IMG_0201

She was a little sick after all.

I ask that you continue to keep us in your thoughts.

Written by Heidi Woodard