Friday, April 15, 2016

Email Debt Forgiveness Day

I am a huge fan of podcasts. I am always trying to find a new one that I can sink my teeth into. One of my favorites is Reply All- a different show each week about the internet. Last year, they started a National Day that intrigued me. It's called National Email Debt Forgiveness Day. Basically it's addressing a very real problem that we can sometimes find ourselves in. One where someone has sent us an email days, sometimes weeks, or maybe months ago that we didn't (for whatever reason) respond to.

Come on, you know you have one. Maybe it's a work email that you didn't want to write back with the answer to, or a friend you haven't talked to in who knows how long. Maybe you accidentally forgot to respond, or wasn't an accident. On April 30th, PJ and Alex have created this Email Debt Forgiveness Day to allow you to respond, with no questions asked, to those emails you accidentally or on purpose- didn't respond to. Just send the recipient this link in your response and relieve your email guilt.

If you're like me, you might be saying "I am actually quite good at responding to emails, this doesn't apply to me". WRONG. I'm fairly certain that if you look far enough back, like I did, you might find that, actually, you DID forget to respond to something or someone.

Life is too short to have guilt over response time, so I'm putting it out there now to remind you that Email Debt Forgiveness Day is out there, it's real and it's coming up very soon. Mark your calendars, crack those knuckles and let's get to work. kind to those who send you emails on April 30th. One of them might just be from me.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

To my baby girl on her first day of kindergarten

Dear Olivia,
I cannot tell you how hard it was to say goodbye to you today. I knew this day was coming. I thought about it, prepared for it, prayed through it, worried over it all summer. Finally today was the day that my baby girl left the nest. What a bittersweet day.

Sometimes I wonder what you will think of our decision to put you into transitional kindergarten. I think about this one year and how if you do well, you will move up to first grade and if you need more time you will stay in kindergarten. And basically, that will dictate the rest of your life if you are younger than all your classmates, or older. I have thought about this since before you were born; looking at your birthdate on the calendar, wondering how we would navigate this tricky October birthday you have. I have no way of knowing how this decision will change your life, all I can do is go with my gut and do my best and hope it turns out alright.

You, my sweet girl, are such a bright sunshine in my life. You have fought adversity, obstacles and big brothers and have turned into this very caring, sweet joy to be around little girl. I am going to miss that sunshine in my life each day as you shine in the world and not beside me. I wonder Olivia if you know what a treasure you are to me? What a gift it has been to have your sassy personality in my life? To hear the funny things you come up with, to watch your face light up when you come up with the perfect outfit. Your style is so unique.

Over the summer I've also watched as your natural musical ability has become more evident. Your ability to harmonize to any song (even songs you've never heard before) just blows me and your daddy away. We listen to you pick out the parts, feel it in your bones and sing in beautiful, clear tones and it just melts us. You have a gift- one that cannot be taught, but only given to you by God. You have such gifts, and such a great personality I am loving watching you grow.

I have no idea what this year will bring you, but I know my girl that you were built for this. I know that you are ready- even if I'm not. And I support your growing- I don't want to hold you back.
So I sit here, wiping away the tears and smiling that my baby girl is finally with the big kids, in a place that she can shine. I cannot wait to see what this year holds for you, my sweet Olivia.

Your mama
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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Taking Back Father's Day

When I was a kid, Father's Day was all about making a craft out of popsicle sticks and  a special card  expressing all the ways in which I loved my dad. He would, of course, read every misspelled word incorrectly that started down a 20 year path of him calling it Fat-hers day. It was simple, it was important.

Then.... I became an adult. I began to see just how complicated a holiday like Father's Day became.

When my husband became a dad, I started to see just how heated the debate became about how to celebrate it. Instead of taking time out of a church service to recognize all of the dads out in the congregation, it became a solemn, reflection time out of respect for those who had lost a father.
Instead of my facebook feed being full of best wishes to dads out there, it became flooded with blog after blog of reasons why, out of respect for those who have lost a dad, we shouldn't celebrate it so loudly.

There are a lot of reasons why celebrating Father's Day to some people is hard. Some people's Fathers were not great, some left too soon, others never got the opportunity to be fathers at all. I do respect that. But I think it's all the more reason to celebrate the dads out there that are just doing their best.

There are so many dad jobs in this world that get overlooked. So many moments in a dad's life when they scrub vomit out of the carpet, or work tirelessly on that science project. There are a million serious talks they must have, and pick ups and drop offs they have to remember. Some dads have to miss the big game because they're at work, and feel that guilt of wanting to make it up to their kids. Some of them work ridiculous hours and still find the time to read to their kids, or tickle them before they go to sleep. Even as their children grow up and leave their house and only remember to call them when they need help or money, they're still there, doing those silent jobs that they seldom get appreciated for. The world would be an awfully crummy place without dads in it.

I lost my dad 3 years ago, in my opinion way too soon. I will always miss him. I will always be sad that he's gone. But I don't ever want that to get in the way of celebrating Father's Day.
 I can still remember that he was my dad for 30 years. I can still be thankful for the time he was my dad. I don't need a look of sympathy or for people to hide the fact that they still have incredible dads in their lives. In fact  I don't want them to. I don't want for people to take away the honor that so many hard working dads out their deserve because of my grief. Dads are important, they should be honored.

Now in my household, Father's Day belongs solely to one man in my life. A man who works 40 plus hours a week and goes to school full time and still manages to make my kids feel loved and appreciated. A man who takes the time to have the hard discussions with his kids and to balance that with ridiculous amounts of kisses and cuddles and wrestles and tickles. A man who goes to every performance, every game, every special moment in my kid's lives because he knows how important it is not to miss.

So.. I'm taking back Father's Day. For Tim, and every other dad out there who's just doing the best they can. I salute you. I respect you. I honor you. Your kids...treasure you. This is your day, nobody can or should take that away from you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to do Disneyland in the Rain

You've done all the planning, made all the reservations. You've bought the tickets, but the forecast says RAIN!  DON'T PANIC.. your vacation isn't ruined. Here are some tips on how to be wet and still have fun.

The number one thing that I heard from people about rain buy ponchos. I searched every store I could think of and I couldn't find them anywhere. I did not want to spend the money in the park so I packed our best raincoats and umbrellas and hoped for the best. 
Don't skimp on the ponchos

As you can see, our light raincoats were no match for the sudden downpour that happened and we remained wet for the rest of the day. If I could impart any wisdom to you, BUY PONCHOS. If you can't find them in stores anywhere, then fork out the bucks and buy the Disneyland ponchos available on main street. It may be a bit more money, but it's worth not being miserable all day.
 Bring extra layers
As much as ponchos help, once you've been walking miles on end in wet socks, the trench foot can be wicked bad. Bring extra socks, gloves, etc. I "threw in" a couple of extra sweatshirts and things for the kids and halfway through the day, they changed out of their wet clothes into dry clothes and it was amazing how much extra energy and cheeriness they gained. Pack the extra layers in a waterproof bag. I use a cooler bag I bought at Costco to keep food cool on hot days. It also serves as an excellent waterproof backpack for all those dry clothes you want to keep dry.
Stay Dry and Have Fun
You've got the right gear, now what do you do? Just because it's raining, doesn't mean you can't ride. There are plenty of fun rides where you can stay dry..even in line. Start out on the Jungle Cruise. The line and the ride, while in the elements will be a dry one and it can keep you in that jungle atmosphere.
Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo, and It's a Small World are all long rides that you can enjoy inside. Rain can also force people away from standing in a line, so most wait times are short.
Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters are also great for keeping dry.

  Take the time to Meet and Greet
Every time we go to Disney, my kids want to see Tinkerbell and the line is always monstrously long, even at the beginning of the day. When the rain came pouring down, we saw an opportunity to go visit Pixie Hollow and to our surprise, we literally walked right up to her... NO LINE! When it's raining outside, your Disneyland experience doesn't have to be a downer. Go see the people they want to see most! Visit Fantasy Faire, the wait for that is totally covered and the lines are quite short.

            Sit back, relax and enjoy the show.        
Rain presents a great opportunity to hit up some of those shows you've been meaning to see. Like the Fantasy Faire theater, or Mickey's Magical Map. Over in California Adventure you can go see Aladdin or sing along with the Elsa and Anna at the Frozen Sing-a-long. These theaters offer a dry place and some entertainment that sometimes we forget to stop and enjoy when we're busy riding all those rides.

  When in doubt, Tiki-out

The tiki room is another great place to enjoy a break from the rain. It offers warm temperatures and fun, classic Disney charm. Our family enjoyed the refuge during a particularly nasty part of a storm. But even the rain shouldn't deter you from enjoying those famous dole whips. They are worth standing in line in the rain for!

  Enjoy those treats! 
Another wonderful treat is those famous Disneyland hot chocolates. Reasonably priced and full of warm goodness, they cannot be beat, even when standing in the rain. Of course, if coffee is what you need, the Starbucks on Main Street is highly motivating for a rainy day at Disney. I also suggest the gumbo at New Orleans Square or the chili bowl in California Adventure.

  Go Big or Go Home
Of course, there are some rides where you just cannot avoid getting wet and to those brave souls who still want their Disneyland adrenaline fix, I say.. go for it! During a rainstorm can be the perfect time to hit up that roller coaster you all love so much, because those lines thin out pretty fast and only make room for the die hards. We made the trek to Big Thunder Mountain and screamed in the rain with no wait time at all. We ended up going on it 3 times in a row because we could just walk on. It can make for exciting, wet memories!


If you're already wet, you might as well get more wet. Take the rain as a perfect sign to go all in on those water rides you may have been avoiding. Guaranteed Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run will have very short wait times. We decided to do Grizzly right before the park closed. We had no wait time, we got soaked and then we walked home. It was the most fun ever!

So don't let that rain damper your time in the park, after all you are still in the happiest place on earth. Make the most of your experience and make memories to last a lifetime!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

We Do Hard Things: And we live to tell about it

Last week I was sitting on my bed just in awe over this battle that I had fought and won with the school to get Elijah a printer for his ipad. You would have thought it would be easy, but the amount of red tape I had to cut through was alarming and after 6 months, and weekly meetings he finally got that printer! It was a sweet victory and I was reflecting on that when Elijah walked in.

He said, "Mama, I'm sorry that you had to fight so hard and that it took so long just to get me a printer." I smiled at him and said, "Buddy that's okay, it was a hard fight but it was worth it and you got what you needed and do you know why?"

Elijah looked up at me and said, "Yeah mama, I do. It's because We Do Hard Things."

And just like that... my work was done.

Over the past weeks, as I've been sharing with you this family motto, I have been amazed at how many of you have been using it. You've told me about your little victories and your massive life struggles. You've laughed, you've cried, you've opened up your heart and you've done it all in the name of 4 powerful words.  These words are the battle cry I'm hearing as some of you are heading to the hospital or just simply making it through the day.They are the words that you whisper when you feel near defeat or that you scream when you've finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It's not just what we say to ourselves, it's what we say to each other.

It came to me so clearly through a text message I sent to a friend of mine. I was telling her about having to put our beloved dog Sadie down. It was gut wrenching and terrible. And her response to me was "We Do Hard Things." I could just laugh and cry at the same time! When there is no right thing to say; what a response, what an encouragement.

And after that, I just knew I couldn't go another moment without it being on my wall for me to look at when I need it the most. A little 4 word pep talk on my wall. So I searched the internet over and came upon a lovely little etsy shop named RustiCreations owned by a doll of a woman named Laura. She made a custom, hand painted sign for me that I just absolutely love! Once she heard my story, OUR STORY really, she went even further and offered all of the warkymom followers an opportunity to get a custom made sign just like this one at HER SHOP.

Not only a custom sign, but also a 20% off coupon code for all you warkymom followers on ANY ORDERS in her shop. And guys, let me just tell you, there are some really amazing pieces in there!
She's a sweet mama from Nevada who's just doing hard things like the rest of us.
The coupon code for this amazing deal is: warkymomblog20 and it expires May 31, 2015 so if you need a little pep talk on your wall, now would be a good time to get one. P.s. Mother's Day is so close!

As you can see, I hung it up in a place of honor in my livingroom, where I fight my hardest battles and need the extra encouragement.

I just wanted to say Thank You to all of you who have shared your battles with me. There are moments in every person's life when they are in the trenches and it's been amazing to see how many trench buddies I have and how many of them are carrying their flags to victory! You guys truly inspire me and I am in awe over your love. Keep fighting guys... We Do Hard Things... we just do.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

WE DO HARD THINGS: You're Not A Bad Mom

I've recently listened to a podcast called Invisibillia. In an episode, it talked about a study on how blind children, if left to explore and were not coddled, could end up doing amazing things like climbing trees, riding bikes and basically..well basically everything. But because of the way the world sees blindness as a disability, we are programmed to help them, to do things for them. That made me think. A lot.

In my house, my kids do not naturally "try new things". In fact, most of the time, I have to drag them kicking and screaming.

One of the harder things I have to do right now, is to convince my son who has bilateral radial aplasia (both arms missing radius bones and fingers) that he is perfectly capable of putting on his jackets and buttoning up his pants. Fact: I am not totally convinced that he is perfectly capable of it. I have to teach myself not to say that to him. Part of my training, is to repeat over and over to him that he can do it. And then, the second part of my training (and by far the most painful part of it) is that I make myself stand there and watch him struggle. I encourage him. When he whimpers and whines and says "Mommy I can't do it. I tried but I can't." It makes me sick to my stomach, and with a lump in my throat I say "Yes you can baby. You can do it." I give him tips, I cheer him on, I ball my hands into fists and scrunch my toes and try with all my might to NOT do it for him. It's agony and each time we are finished with that terrible exercise, I usually go into another room and sob.

I would love to say that it is because my kid is "special" that makes my pain so much more tangible. That is FALSE. All parents go through challenging times in their kids lives. But it's so important for us to hold that line. I hate making him work so hard and hearing him so frustrated. But I know that the day that he learns to tie his shoes is going to be so much sweeter because we worked so hard to get there.

Last night, when I was being a "consistent parent" and making my daughter clean her room, she wailed so loudly that I said the typical thing that one says when they feel they are torturing their child. I said "I am SUCH a bad mom."

 But as I said it, my seven-year-old looked up at me and asked me why I thought that. I said that it was so hard sometimes to make your kids do things that are hard, especially when they cry. It makes me feel bad.

He looked right at me and without a pause said, "Mama, you are NOT a bad mom." I smiled and said thanks and then he said, "No mama, do you know that? Do you know that you are not a bad mom?"
As if that couldn't just melt you into a puddle, he was saying it while he was doing a chore. A CHORE people! I hadn't even bribed him.

Pushing my kids to do hard things might just be the toughest part of my job. It is tiring. It is ear piercing. It's unsettling. It's so so frustrating. And, if I do my job right, it will be totally thankless. But even though I push them, I know (if not gently reminded by my sweet little boy) that I am NOT a bad mom for doing that. Sure they may yell at me. They may scream and whine and bang on the wall. But making them do hard things doesn't make me a bad mom. We do Hard Things. And, with any luck, that will stick with them.

Do you struggle to hold a line? Do you feel discouraged about how hard it is? Do you feel like the bad guy? I'm telling you now... YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOM. You aren't.
Whatever battle you are fighting, whatever line you are holding, whatever hard thing you are making your kids do... know that these things don't make you a bad mom...they make you a good one.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

We Do Hard Things: ending the whiny mommy bloggers

Greetings readers!
I have been on blog radio silence for a while. I'd love to say that it's because I'm so "terribly busy" but the truth is, it's because something has been stirring inside me that I've been wanting to write about for months, but haven't had the courage to. You see... I have a bit of a confession to make and it's a little controversial and a whole lot self incriminating. Here goes. I can't stand mommy whiner blogs.  

But Erin, you are a mommy blogger. Oh yes, I am fully aware of it. Hence the blog silence. Let me back up a minute and say that I don't dislike mommy bloggers and I do think that there are some blogs out there that are very helpful to mothers  searching for someone who feels just like them, someone who can validate their feelings. To those blogs, I bare no ill-will. No, I'm talking about a specific group of mommy blogs: the mommy whiner blogs. 

I am a believer in empowering each other, encouraging people. I am a believer in giving voice to your thoughts and feelings, I am a believer in being real about your life and in giving grace to others who are real about their lives. What I am NOT a believer in, is when you use your life's circumstances to excuse your unwillingness to move forward; to work on being a better you.

This whole thing started on facebook. I had gone through a particularly bad couple of weeks in the trenches of motherhood and as I would scroll through my newsfeed there would be blog link after blog link with titles like "Why I don't take my sensory kid to church" and "What not to say to a mom of special needs". For some reason, this really irritated me. 

Some facebook friends would post things like "This is so me guys." And then would link to this lady who was just making excuses about how hard her life was. There was no epiphany at the end, there was no challenge to work on, there wasn't even a way the writer would let you relate to them. It was all very much, a "this is why you will NEVER understand why it's so hard to be me" alienating diatribe.  I mean, I have 2 kids with special needs, I could throw down a whiner blog like nobody's business. Maybe I had done that. Had I done that? Suddenly I felt icky. Oh no, had I unknowingly become a mommy whiner?

 I thought about the whole reason why I started blogging in the first place. It wasn't to get thousands of hits, to make money,  or to go on trips. It wasn't to be featured in magazines or exalted for the most amazing and wonderful person that we all hope people think we are when we blog. I started writing because I enjoyed being authentic, and raw and real. I am terrible at talking about my feelings to people in real life. But somehow, alone  (or sometimes in a room full of kids) on a computer, I could say exactly how I felt. I could be exactly who I was. My blog gave me the freedom to say what was on my mind and to talk about the struggles I faced as a human being. Most of the time, those struggles are about being a mom because.... well that's what is important to me. There are challenges as a mother, there are obstacles. You never know if you're doing the right thing, or if you're making huge mistakes. You feel isolated, you feel doubt, you feel joy, you feel incredible love. Those are the things I like to write about. All of it.What I don't like about whiny mommy bloggers are the fact that they tell you how hard it is to do certain things and THAT'S why they don't do them.

 In my family we have a saying: We Do Hard Things. How can I look at my son who has trouble buttoning his pants, or tying his shoes and say to him "Son, I know those things are hard for you. It's so hard so just never mind. Don't do it."? I have to lead by example. I have to show him that whatever you find challenging or difficult, you still have to DO. Because the world will not just give you grace because things are hard. We do hard things. 

Fact: Taking my sensory kid to church is one of the hardest things I do all week....but I do it anyway. Fighting for my kid to get all of the therapy and medical attention he needs is hard....but I do it anyway. Sometimes getting up and getting your kids dressed is the hardest thing... but you do it anyway. Maybe going to work and kissing your babies goodbye is just the hardest...but you do it anyway. Why do you do it? Because...well because you have to. You can't just give up. It's ok to be upset about it. It's ok to want to quit. It's ok to even whine about it. But eventually, you have to put your big girl blog panties on it the freak anyways.

I have a whole bunch of bright hot pink business cards. Right now they say:                     Erin Warkentin
                           freelance writer * blogger

Perhaps I need to be more specific, maybe a reprint is in order. What it should say is:           Erin Warkentin
                              freelance writer * whiner blogger

Forgive me if I've whined without giving hope, without trying to better myself, without picking myself up and continuing to just keep swimming, just keep swimming. If I've been that to you, I'm sorry. It has become one of my biggest pet peeves and I refuse to let my blog become my crutch for inactivity or lame behavior. 

Let's not settle for whineyness (is that even a word?) Let's become cheerleaders, and motivators. Does that mean that I will only ever write positive blogs from now on? Heck no. That wouldn't be real life now would it? It means I will write the good with the bad, as it comes wave on wave and that I promise not to enable my readers; my friends, to be inactive or to use their life circumstances as excuses. 

Chant with me friends:

Life is Hard...we do it anyways. 

We Do Hard Things.

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