The Nouveau Appalachia Parent


When you visit the Virginia mountains with your children, you are likely to encounter a specific type of mother.

She doesn’t vaccinate her children. She’s likely to call them “Moon Pie”. And she will allow them a healthy serving of dirt – as only a snack, of course.

True story.

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A Christmas Present

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As a mother, I often feel like I am on the front lines of culture wars. This year I didn’t go Black Friday shopping. But two days later, I was forced to brave Walmart for milk (no blizzard pending).

The scene was so quiet, so serene, and the Christmas aisle was like my own pine-scented paradise. Except I was all alone. There was no warmth.

The whole endeavor to find an advent calendar was fruitless. In fact, I found nothing among the Christmas items but gift-related products. Wrapping paper, bows, gift tags, and tape.

Isn’t Christmas about spending time together?

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Boy Bands Ruined Me

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During my youth, my family could easily predict my mood. Happiness? Jay-Z. Sadness? Linkin Park. Teenage lust? Boy bands.

Looking back, I think what did me in on the latter was the cheesy charm.

“I’ll never break your heart.”

“You’re all I ever wanted.”

“For the rest of my life, you don’t have to think twice.”

These lyrics may have echoed across the globe, but for an insecure girl in a little mountain town with limited dating options, they offered a sunnier forecast.

Only what I didn’t realize then is this: I was sowing the seeds of future discontent.

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An Opt[ional] Out[look]

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“He’s at a great age for swim lessons.”

It’s one thing to hear such a statement from a stranger, but it’s another when the voice belongs to your three-year-old son’s pediatrician.

Truthfully, I had been preparing myself for this for some time. After all, older, more experienced parents have been warning me since pregnancy: “Just wait until the activities start.”

And now, it seems, the time has come, and the question is felt from all sides.

In which activities will we enroll our children?

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The Baby Doll Effect

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You know you are the mother of a toddler when you have your first temper tantrum – that moment when you desperately want your child to do something, and they simply refuse.

Such was the scene in my son’s preschool earlier this week when each child was lovingly gifted a handmade pillow by the crafting ladies of the church. It was a beautiful gesture. Really.

Except my son didn’t want the pale blue pillow placed in his cubby. He wanted the vibrant floral one…with the obnoxious lace ruffle. His kind teachers allowed him to switch. And just when I thought I could let it go, I snapped.

I felt the need to justify his choice to every parent we encountered down the hall.

“Oh, yes, his sister will inherit this one!”

Clearly, something deep was happening. Why couldn’t I support my son’s decision?

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The Great Purge

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Our Saturday morning began just like any other. We didn’t sleep in, the kids dragged their feet, and we departed our home at approximately 9 a.m. to peruse the local farmer’s market.

To the outside eye, it may have even looked like we had it together. After all, I teach an environmental health research class, we drive a Subaru, and we pay each month for curbside recycling. An air of confidence swept over me: We are saving the Earth.

Only my husband decided – at that very moment of peace – to remind me of reality: there was a mildewed child’s mattress in our trunk that needed to be thrown away. The mission itself seemed simple enough until we saw – quite literally – the writing on the fence: “No household or bulk waste.”

A bit stunned, my husband and I looked from the sign to one another. What are we going to do with our trash?

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Resisting the Seven-Year Itch

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My husband and I designed our home to be a space of freedom and exploration for our children, but one area remains off-limits: the corner of our main hallway. In this nook resides our wedding invitation and my dried bouquet. They rest upon a table built by my groom – an anniversary gift.

It didn’t take long for our little ones to learn: Do not touch something so sacred.

And the great irony is this: I wish I had been so careful with my actual marriage these last seven years.

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A Wall, Our Peril

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I saw a young man walk into a wall at the park last week. No joke.

The Pokémon Go craze has almost (yes, almost) intrigued me enough to learn how I, too, can walk into walls and run away in shame.

But, let’s be honest, we have bigger things upon which to focus. Take the 2016 Republican National Convention. Even if you haven’t watched it (I haven’t), I’m sure you’ve heard the highlights:

Trump said something inappropriate!

Protests took place outside!

Cruz got booed!

So in the midst of much excitement (i.e. drama), why then are thousands of people choosing to escape into an augmented reality game?

Because, quite simply, we are already living the game – all of us.

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All That Glitters Is Not Disney

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Disney. Is there a word more divisive in all of parenthood?

When you are raising your children five hours north of Walt Disney World, you quickly learn that you cannot be an isolationist.

“Have you been yet?”

“Are you all planning a trip?”

And, my personal favorite: “You’ll love Disney!”

But, let’s be honest, it isn’t just about the annual pilgrimage to Neverland – we’re talking the entire culture that Walt Disney may or may not have known he was building. If you are not yet a parent, it’s that feeling you get when you walk into Walmart only to be entirely consumed by a Frozen display…only there is a little one at your side who cannot take their eyes off of the glitter.

It is all too easy to hand over the reigns to the conglomeration – to buy the products; to sing the songs; to encourage children to dance to the beat of their favorite characters.

Except, of course, if you belong to the 1% who remain in the shadows. And, here, this is where you will find our family.

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