Today I Feel Like a Failure as a Mom

Why do we, as moms, take so much on ourselves?

Right now, I’m looking at my kids’ standardized test scores with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Both of them have downward trending math scores over the past year. My gut is telling me that I could have done something to prevent this. And I probably could have. I could have worked diligently on keeping up with our math skills over this past summer as I had the summer before. But, for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

My kids are awesome and smart and funny and kind. Last summer, I just wanted to appreciate them for what they are and not fight with them to achieve things (even those those things are easily achievable if I just fight with them a little). I wanted to love and enjoy my children. That is not to say that we didn’t work on reading and art and music and math over the summer. It just wasn’t a regimented daily schedule.

Don’t get me wrong, math is super important to me. I have thoroughly enjoyed my fair share of calculus problems (and by enjoy, I earnestly mean I enjoyed working my way through Calculus I and II in college). But I don’t want my job as a mom to be that of ‘sit down and do some rote work because you will be tested on it.’ I want my job to be a supporter of my child. I want my children to look to me for guidance and safety, for love, and, yes, for help with their homework.

I’m disappointed that I feel that I again have to assume the role of ‘rote-work assigner’ so they can climb back up to where they were before I assumed a bit more of a laissez-faire attitude. I’m also disappointed that I’m disappointed.

At this point, I have to mention that my daughter was chosen to be the one in her class that will meet and greet new students. She was chosen based on the kindness that she exhibits throughout her normal day. I find it pretty sad, however, that I waited until the 6th paragraph to bring it up. Instead of sitting here with a smile on my face, satisfied that I have done something right in creating such a kind and caring daughter, I am lamenting my abject failure as a mom for letting my kids’ math skills slide.

In any event, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach persists as I plan how to incorporate practicing more math skills into our daily schedule.

NB: I feel like I have to explain that I’m not upset over what their scores are. Rather, I am disturbed by the downward trend. This could signify loss of focus, forgetting what has previously been taught, etc.

The World is Ending and All I Have to Wear is this Chambray Shirt

I don’t mean to sound apocalyptic, but stuff is getting real. Hurricanes, fires, floods. Rampant overt racism. Plans to round up groups of people and ship them off to who knows where.

Even if you are not directly affected by these events, you can feel the many different holes that are slowly tearing themselves open in the everyday fabric of society. Those who previously existed hidden within those holes are now feeling emboldened to come out and bully others for no other reason than they now feel empowered to come out of their holes and bully others.

Meanwhile, life goes on. I get my kids ready for school in the morning. I put on a happy face and greet the other parents and teachers, wishing everyone I see to have a good day. They return the sentiment to me. Kindness goes a long way.

After dropping the kids at school, I return home to check my Twitter timeline, which consists of a healthy mix of protest tweets against the latest outrageous act of the Trump regime, disaster tweets documenting the newest natural disasters, and moms asking you to answer their poll about whether you would prefer to drive or fly to Disneyland this year.

So what do I, as a middle-class, white, suburban mom, do? Do I continue to play my fiddle as Rome burns? Do I put on a false face and act like the erosion of common decency, the manifestations of climate change, and the scarily backward time-lapse of America isn’t bothering me? Do I put on my chambray shirt and post of picture of myself on Facebook asking people to comment on whether they like it or not?

Or… do I try to close one of those many holes that’s opening? Do I try to block the way, standing strong, chest out, feet wide, hands-on-hips, like some middle-aged wannabe Wonder Woman?

It’s risky (and, yes, sometimes embarrassing not to fit in with the model of what I should be doing as a white suburban mom). But if I posted my own personal Twitter poll about how I would prefer to get from this point in time to some time in the future, I would choose to be a middle-aged Wonder Woman. I’m putting my whole mom-self out there with my needlepoint skills and my Wonder Woman attitude, and I’m going to try to sew up as many of those holes as I can. The future that my kids inherit is worth both the risk and the embarrassment.

I dressed up as Wonder Woman for Halloween one year when I was a kid. Maybe I can find my old mask packed away somewhere and wear it with my chambray shirt.

Not Anymore

This year, we have received many compliments from friends, neighbors, and teachers about how our children behave. We are told that they are kind, they listen, they are creative and thoughtful, they are calm and patient. Compliments like this fill my heart to overflowing and I’m so appreciative of people who go out of their way to make me feel good about my parenting skills.

I have to say this about how we go about our lives. We, as parents, make sure that kindness, thoughtfulness, and creativity are the foundations upon which we build everything else.

But also, as parents, we make sure we don’t put up with any behavior which affronts our standards or doesn’t meet the mark of what we would expect of a common, decent human being. I am convinced that our unwavering strictness when it comes to a common, decent standard has made our children the wonderful people they are turning out to be.

That being said, we find it very hard (impossible) to tolerate the behavior of adults that falls below what we would expect of our own children.

For me to stand down in the face of behavior that falls far below any common, decent standard, is tantamount to going against every fiber of what I believe to be true, and right, and good.

My children are a product of my husband and me. And if my kids are valued and appreciated for exceeding expectations, then I and my husband need to be equally valued for our approach to parenting, and life in general.

We are a family of strong people. I’m proud of the strong family that we’ve created. I’m proud to stand up for myself. I’m proud to stand up for my children. I’m proud to stand up for anyone who feels that they don’t have a voice. I’ve been that voiceless person.

Not anymore.

Teaching Children to Help in Emergency Situations

Fun Shopping Trip Turns Traumatic

So today, my daughter and I took a trip to Goodwill. She wanted to look for electronic items that she could take apart to see what they looked like inside. We were browsing the electronic section when we heard the crash of glass breaking. As always, we (and others) looked around for the source of the sound. We found it to be a woman in the same aisle as us that accidentally knocked a vase down off of a shelf. A Goodwill employee walked over and then went off to, I assumed, get a broom.

Ok, that’s taken care of, I thought to myself.

After a while, I noticed that the woman was still standing in the same spot holding on to her shopping cart with one hand and holding her foot with the other. “Did she cut herself?” I asked my daughter. We agreed that she had and I searched my purse for a band-aid. I couldn’t find one (great mom I am). As the woman was still standing alone with her cart holding her foot, I took my daughter over to her and asked if she needed help. I noticed that she was bleeding quite profusely. In fact, there was blood dripping all over the floor. I told her I’d go to the front and see if they had a first aid kit.

As I approached the registers, the employee that originally checked on the broken glass was walking out with a broom and a couple of bandaids. I said, “Oh good, you have band-aids.”

When we went back to the woman she was still bleeding, dripping blood on the floor. The man started sweeping up the glass. And I gave her an antiseptic wipe to clean her wound. The cut was deep and still bleeding. She needed help.

Full ER Mode

I ditched my purse and gave her another wipe to apply pressure to her wound. The employee looked at me for direction as to what to do next. I spoke up. “Can we get her a chair so she can sit? I noticed some plastic ones over there.” He brought back a white plastic lawn chair and the woman sat down.

Her foot was still dripping blood. “Do you have latex gloves and a wrap?” I asked the employee. “Gloves and a wrap,” he repeated back to me and ran off. I left my daughter with the woman and went to get another chair so we could elevate her foot.

Foot elevated and pressure applied, the blood flow was starting to ebb. The employee returned with some blue latex gloves, more antiseptic wipes, some gauze, and some large band-aids.

This whole time my daughter was watching, whispering in my ear, “Good thing you’re a doctor, mommy.” (For more on my experience in medical education click here.) She had my purse hanging across her shoulders and was attempting to open another package of wipes for me.

We ended up with a nice gauze pad to apply pressure and improvised a string of band-aids to wrap around the wound and the gauze pad.

Helping Feels Awesome

When all was said and done, the woman thanked me. The employee thanked me. I wrapped the bloody wipes and failed band-aid attempts inside the glove as I snapped it off my hand inside out. I left the woman with a promise that she would go to an immediate care. “Yes,” she said and thanked me again.

I then retrieved my purse from my daughter. And said, “Do you want to go look and see if they have any nice shorts?”

“Sure,” she answered.

I couldn’t have asked for a better adventure with my daughter. Instead of telling her (as I quite often do) that she should help people, I had the opportunity to show her. Additionally, I did it without getting anything in return but a thank you. And that’s quite enough. I hope that this experience will have made a deep impression on her as she travels through life and through an America that has been empowered to step on the downtrodden to get ahead.

What Can You Do?

If you’re still reading this, you care about other people. So here is a quick mnemonic from to help if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:


  1. Sit or lie the victim down
  2. Examine the wound
  3. Elevate the extremity
  4. Pressure on the wound


Goin’ Local: Willowbrook Wildlife Center

We can’t take an Alaskan Cruise or a cross-country road trip every day. But that doesn’t mean we stop exploring. Today, we explored Willowbrook Wildlife Center, part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, for the first time. (I don’t know what took us so long, we live right down the street.)

Mommy, what if we find a hurt duck?

Willowbrook Wildlife Center flashed onto my radar a couple of weeks ago when my daughter asked me what we would do if we found an injured duck. I remembered there was a wildlife rehabilitation center nearby and took a look on the internet. The website for the wildlife center is deceiving as it doesn’t begin to highlight all they have to offer.


First and foremost, Willowbrook is a wildlife rehabilitation center. But they also have a butterfly garden, both indoor and outdoor live animal exhibits (including a bald eagle), and a few winding nature trails for an easy outdoor walk.

The center is free to visit, but a donation (either cash or other) is appreciated.

Urgently needed as of July 2017

Indoor Exhibits

After dropping our donation in the box outside, we headed into the Visitor Center to see what there was to see. First was a case full of beautiful monarch butterfly chrysalises. The kids loved the golden details.

IMG_5429There were many other indoor exhibits as well, which housed small birds and other small animals and reptiles. The birds were fun to see because the kids could get up close and really get a good look. (Unfortunately, I haven’t yet mastered our fancy camera enough to know how to focus on the animal, not the cage. I’ll be doing some more research on that.)

It was also fun to take a peek into the animal care area to see what was going on behind the scenes.

Bird enclosure

Outdoor Exhibits

We headed on to check out the outdoor exhibits. First, the kids encountered a sand pit where they could make imprints of animals’ footprints and figure out which animal each footprint belonged to.


But there was much more to explore. My son and I tried to catch a glimpse of the cormorant. We couldn’t get a good picture, but I find this bird interesting because a flightless variety of the cormorant exists in the Galapagos Islands.

My daughter headed off to the butterfly garden.


We didn’t spy any butterflies in the butterfly garden, but we did enjoy the koi pond.



Meandering further through the exhibits, we saw a sleepy and itchy red fox. (We actually smelled it before we saw it. It looks much cuter than it smelled.) And some owls that had eye injuries and could not be returned to the wild.

Sleepy red fox


We took the nature trail to the sandhill crane exhibit and found one of them to be very friendly, walking with my daughter back and forth (the bird inside the enclosure while she was outside).

Sandhill crane (photo credit: my 7-year-old son)

Finishing up our walk on the nature trail, we encountered some lovely foliage and a very camera-shy deer.


Camera-shy deer taking a drink

Willowbrook Wildlife Center is a lovely, close-to-home (for us) place to visit.

Alaskan Cruise with Kids – Part 6, Victoria, BC, Canada and Disembarking in Seattle

Day 6

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. We literally had just a few evening hours to spend here. And, again, we had nothing planned. We were cruise-weary and had one goal in mind: get food.


Getting food doesn’t seem like such a lofty goal, but two of us (my son and myself) are very hard to feed. He is incredibly picky and I’m a vegetarian.

But first, we had to figure out how to get into town from port. Luckily, with two cruise ships in port there were options. We took a double-decker shuttle downtown ($10 a person, round-trip and the kids were free) and walked around a crowded, touristy street in search of food.

I did some light research on restaurants before we got there and knew that there was a vegetarian-friendly restaurant in town, but I didn’t know where. As we were walking, I looked down a narrow street and, lo and behold, there it was at the end of the block.

Filled my belly perfectly at this vegetarian-friendly restaurant.
Mom and Dad always looking over our shoulders.

We spent the rest of the evening strolling the waterfront and taking in the sights and sounds of street performers.

One-man band.

And doing cartwheels in front of the legislature as the sun went down.





Smile for the camera.

Day 7

Back in Seattle. We booked at hotel close to the airport for that night, because we had a 6:30 am flight the next morning. However, the airport is a fair distance from the city center, which, of course, we wanted to explore. So we grabbed a cab from the cruise ship terminal to the airport at a cost of around $50. We stored our luggage at the hotel (we arrived in the morning) and, in order to save ourselves another $50 cab fare, took the light rail to the monorail, which took us back to the city center. By the time we got there, all we had the energy to do was lay in the grass and take silly pictures of the Space Needle.


We found ourselves back at the hotel and in bed very early that night. And made it right on time for our early morning flight back home to Chicago.


Follow our Alaskan adventure from the beginning here.

Alaskan Cruise with Kids – Part 5, Ketchikan

Day 5

Ketchikan. We found ourselves in Ketchikan on day 5 with nothing planned. So we just decided to see what there was to see.

sea plane
Watching sea planes land and takeoff never gets old.

Tongass National Forest Visitor Center and City Park

Our first stop was the Tongass National Forest Visitor Center where we learned a bit more about the history of the area (mining, logging, fishing), the native peoples, and the forest itself—the Tongass is a temperate rainforest (I didn’t even know there was such a thing). And the kids were able to earn more Junior Ranger badges.

Tongass National Forest

Tongass National Forest Junior Ranger badges
Taking their Junior Ranger oath at Tongass National Forest Visitor Center, Ketchikan, AK

From there, we decided to take a walk in the rain. Doesn’t sound too exciting, but just experiencing the fresh air and the smell of this little town in the rain was very refreshing. And my children loved seeing slugs all over the sidewalks instead of worms like we have here in Chicagoland.

Tsunami evacuation
Here’s a sign you never see in Chicagoland.

Our destination was a fish hatchery, but unfortunately it was closed for remodeling. We did happen upon beautiful City Park, though, with ponds dating back to the 1900s when they were used as fish ponds for the hatchery.

City Park Ketchikan
City Park, Ketchikan

Since Ketchikan was our final stop in Alaska, we took the opportunity to visit a few of the tourist shops to purchase T-shirts, an Alaskan fidget spinner (which is no different than a lower 48 fidget spinner), and a pair of earrings (and my husband just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy some Alaskan canned salmon) before returning to the boat.

To be continued…here. Follow our Alaskan adventure from the beginning here.