Diary of a Tired Mom – The Please No More Words Edition

It’s been a weird month for me.

My subconscious wants to write very badly – I have dreamed about writing blog posts multiple times in the past month.

And those dreams have not been limited to when I was asleep.

When I got my first dose ever of “the gas” at the dentist, I was so trippy that my entire being was spinning out in staticky, multicolored, 8D spirals, and as the galaxies orbited what was left of me, I began realizing deep truths such as “I don’t even exist anymore. But I faintly hear the dentist still drilling on my teeth. I wonder if she realizes I don’t exist anymore. Someone should tell her she’s wasting her time except it can’t be me because I don’t exist anymore. But wow this would make a great blog post. Wait until I describe these new colors and sensations to the world. It will CHANGE IT.”

(Right after that, I came back to existence enough to rip off the gas and vomit three times.)

(I’m pretty sure my dentist will not allow me to have such services again.)

So yeah, a weird month. But despite my desire to write, I have had a rough month health-wise, so I haven’t been able to write. I’m getting better, so I’ll try to document some of my jotted-down notes from the month.

(Except not the rest of my thoughts from the dentist’s chair. Because those would change the universe too drastically and I’m not ready to pull the rug out from under y’all like that.)


Tiers of Childhood Monologue.

In case you haven’t noticed, kids talk a lot.

They ask a lot of questions, tells the same things over and over, and LOVE to, once they can read, tell you everything they are reading.

The prime ages for this phenomenon, I believe, is between 6 and 10. Which helps me understand a little more why toddlers are middle schoolers are my jam.

(But, Noah is the snuggliest nine-year-old boy that ever lived, which entirely makes up for his endless words. Most of the time.)

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(Also he’s prepared for anything. Which comes in handy more often than you’d think. Though I did tell him I was afraid this particular preparation belt would keep me from having grandkids if he fell at the wrong angle.)

Car rides are especially difficult for words with me, because the multi-tasking of operating a large machine AND listening to my kid (because I learned long ago that I am entirely incapable of tuning out any words ever) is tricky. So I have tried to hone the quality of words that come out in the car.

And so, there needs to be a helpful chart – a continuum if you will – of the things read or narrated to a parent while said parent is driving.

Level Negative Ten: iPad narration. I DO NOT CARE what your Monsters are singing about. THAT IS GREAT that you just killed all your Minecraft villagers and goats, but is it really? Did those angular goats really deserve that slaughter? But whatever you want to do to the goats, do it – just don’t tell me about it while I’m driving. (We even have a family code word (more on that later) for QUIT NARRATING YOUR IPAD GAME TO ME.)

Level Negative Eight: Unnecessary and/or repetitive questions about the future. This seems like a placeholder in conversation that my children love to use to fill space. Thankfully Ali learned my terror of answering questions about the future a couple years ago and ceased doing it most of the time, but it’s still a favorite hobby of Noah’s.

Level Negative Six: Jokes from a joke book. Or worse, jokes they know and have already told you ten times. Jokes are excruciating 99 out of 100 times. But then there’s always that one joke that catches you off guard and actually makes you laugh, which makes it not so bad.

Level Negative Two: Trivia books and Guinness Book of World Record books. These facts, read aloud, can be sometimes interesting. But then they seem to read the same pages over and over and they begin to feel like jokes.

Level Positive Two: Hearing about the books they’re reading, or their school books. I like knowing that they’re interested and involved in what they’re reading. Although Noah sometimes gets too involved in his history book, throwing his book on the floor and screaming at our forefathers for their prejudices, poor decision making, and foolish life-ending dueling. But that can be entertaining as well, giving this oration an overall positive rating.

Level Positive Four: Family Feud Cards. This is the one random Car Conversation Savior that I’ve found I enjoy. Someone got these for Christmas, and Noah loves quizzing Chris and I on Family Feud categories. They’re actually entertaining with the same magic that Family Feud is entertaining as a show – magic I don’t necessarily understand but appreciate nonetheless. But what makes them most fun is the children’s uncertainty about whether they’re inappropriate or not when they don’t understand them.

I present this example:

Noah: “Name things that start with the word ‘skinny'”

I snorted. My first thought was “Skinny B**ch”

I wondered if it was on the card, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask.

Chris and I got a few right, then trailed off.

Noah: “Do you give up?”

Us: “Sure.”

Noah:”There’s only one left but I think it’s inappropriate.”

Me: “Oh here it comes.”

Noah: “It’s ‘Skinny Late’ with Two T’s.”

Chris and I thought for a second, then exploded with laughter.

And immediately dared each other to go into Starbucks and order a Skinny Late with Two T’s.


I’m learning how to live with an apparent extrovert.

I held out hope for a long time that Noah was just an outgoing introvert, but the evidence continues to suggest a strong strain of extroversion. The amount of sounds that need to come out of his mouth at all times is staggering. It’s mostly questions but also comments, sounds, random thoughts, and just a stream of consciousness.

As such, over the past few years, we’ve created a collection of Callahan Family Code Words. I only have to say one word, and he knows exactly what I mean, rather than me having to use up all my words telling him to use less words.

Here is the legend to the Callahan Family Code Words. We haven’t copyrighted them, and so we offer them free to help you, too, have a less verbally overwhelming life.

Rubiks – “You’re making random, repetitive, completely unnecessary noises and I let it go for a while but I now need you to cease.”

Honda – “That question is either a.) a question about the future, b.) a completely unnecessary question, or c.) you’re just out of questions for the day because you’ve asked more than my brain can possibly handle. So I’m not answering it.”

Blubbermuffin – “NO ONE wants to hear your narration of your iPad game. If you don’t want your iPad to disappear forever, you’re gonna have to keep your mouth shut while playing.”

Banana – “Quit using your mouth and start using your eyes. We’re on a hike forgoodnesssake can we enjoy the sounds of nature PLEASE.”

The nicest part of these words is that I have to be less rude as a mother. There’s much less emotional content to just say “Honda” rather than “FOR THE LOVE DO NOT ASK ME ANOTHER BLOOMIN’ QUESTION, CHILD.” He knows what I mean and he accepts it without emotion. AND, the magic of the code word keeps him from arguing with me – it just ends the conversation.

But despite my code words’ helpfulness, I do assume this blog post has fully informed you of where my headspace has been going and why I haven’t had any words left for writing.

Blogging: May Cause International Friendship.

I regularly struggle about this blog. Besides the fact that blogging is a dead art, I have less to write about than when my kids were tiny, I have less time (thanks, kids, for not napping anymore), I have more varied interests that take up my time (running, hiking, photography, reading), and it’s harder for me to write well. Late at night when I can’t sleep and anxiety attacks me in random ways, I sometimes decide to quit writing. But the next morning, I always change my mind. And a chief cause of that is relationships.

I have made hundreds of friends through writing, in dozens of states and quite a few countries. I have met scores of these people in real life, and many of my good friends came from blogging. These bonds were formed because we, for many various reasons, have things in common. We view life out of the same lens (sorry if your lens is as sarcastic and cynical as mine.) We can relate. Because somehow – via comments or social media or emails exchanged in the middle of the night, we connected. We made an impact on each other’s lives simply through the exchanged written word.

This is why I still write. Not as often, not as well-crafted. But I write.

This past week was a reminder of the beauty of this blogging side effect.

A blog reader, who googled “Plus sized blue jeans” and found me half a decade ago when she lived in the jungles of Mozambique, came to visit me last week – for the second time. And she brought her husband along this time – who, for some bizarre reason, agreed to come stay with strangers for six days.

Now back to being residents in their home country of Canada, Rick and Heather are (clearly) the adventurous sort, and as such, we did all the things while they were here.

We greeted them at the front door, and they seemed happy to have arrived…

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Okay no we didn’t try and convince them that this was our house. But it would’ve been exceedingly fun to send them this address and wait for the texts to come in.

Back to what we DID do.

Heather wanted to meet all the people in Birmingham that I’ve “introduced” her to via the internet. So we started with lunch with Katherine of Grass Stains fame. (We tried to get Jamie to join us as well, but she was attacked by an October cold.)

We didn’t manage to get a picture with Katherine at our delightful lunch, but we did, however, find time to take multiple photos of the bathroom.

Because – who knew? The old Federal Reserve building downtown (where our lunch date at Urban Standard was located) turned the old vault into the bathrooms.

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Talk about needing to make a deposit.blog IMG_3447

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Since, on their trip down, Rick and Heather stopped at the biggest everything that they could find (you can see Heather’s Instagram feed for evidence of that), I took her to the OLDEST things.

The oldest baseball field in America (Rickwood Field),

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The oldest castle in Birmingham (Quinlan Castle, built in 1927 – you know because we have so many castles),

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The oldest Giant Amazon Box in Birmingham (okay there are a few others and I have no idea which was built first but they’ve been around for like a week or three),

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The oldest selfie-angel-wings in Birmingham (they’re not quite a year old yet but aren’t they fabulous?)

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And the oldest cannon pointed at downtown Birmingham.

blog Heather and Rick About Town IMG_4564The Canadians are coming! The Canadians are coming!!

We also visited some of the best Birmingham restaurants (Nabeel’s and John’s City Diner) and fantastic Birmingham signage nearby,

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Along with the Light Tunnels,blog Heather and Rick Light Tunnel IMG_4687

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Graffiti of note,

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And OBVIOUSLY the sunset.

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It was basically a Birmingham Second Honeymoon. With tour guides.

Because Heather found such fabulous deals last time she visited, we took another trip to Unclaimed Baggage, a couple of hours away – where all unclaimed baggage of all the airlines ends up.

I hung out in the books section for most of our visit, because I discovered that all paperbacks are $1.49-1.99 and hardbacks are $2.99 (and people read REALLY GREAT books on planes). I bought about 15 books, so I’m set for a few days.

I also reprised my small group girl’s trip tradition of finding the most unsafe pair of heels and trying to stand in them.

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I do not exaggerate when I say that I almost broke myself. And I only put one of the shoes on.

Heather’s husband, Rick, was surprisingly cool with all this – even the shopping trip, where he found himself the hottest vintage Baywatch jacket in all the land.

171015 Moss Rock Preserve High Falls 171012  Weathington Park IMG_4510Did I mention he’s a pastor? He’s going to look so fabulous preaching in his Baywatch gear.

Rick did find the need to DO something, which led him to begging us for access to our chain saw (to cut down a tree that fell through our trampoline during what was left of Hurricane Nate), putting together a “some assembly required” storage box I’d ordered from Amazon, and also I came home one day to my dryer taken apart because apparently, cleaning the lint filter doesn’t get all the lint out. (Who knew?) In his spare time, he made things like this with my children:

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A man’s gotta vacation how a man’s gotta vacation.

But what they REALLY came for…

was Alabama football.

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To see the things our state celebrates so thoroughly, like an elephant taking a poop on a Beetle.

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To see what we do with our excess tissue paper.

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And most importantly, to see Alabama Gameday Fashion at its absolute finest.

We saw it all. Multiple men changing clothes in public, ladies wearing scarves as shirts, all manner of visible bras (and visible oh-well-would-you-look-at-that-she’s-not-wearing-a-bra), and tutus. SO MANY tutus.

Heather said, more than once, and I quote,

“Wh – but Wh – Wh wh wh wh WHY??”

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Because Alabama. That’s why.

We made it into the game, where the culture continued to pour out onto us – this time in the form of significant back sweat of the man sitting in front of – and leaning onto – our row.

blog IMG_3658The back which provided the artisan Alabama perspiration can be seen leaning on Rick’s legs.

We had six days of all the adventure and experience and oddities that Alabama could offer. Which was absolutely delightful.

…As was this Introvert’s ICU ward that I entered upon their departure.

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Origin Stories.

Every year about this time, I write a post similar to this one. Then I don’t publish it, out of concern that my words would be misread or misunderstood. This year I decided to go ahead and hit that publish button.

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For the past ten years, the constants of my life have been that I am a writer, a mom, a wife, an accountant, a homeschooler. But four years ago, that shifted dramatically. Very suddenly I found myself sure I was going to die, dealing with daily chest pains and blacking out and heart racing. Four months of every medical test imaginable and I was diagnosed with Dysautonomia. Since that point my life has consisted of working every day at being able to minimize my symptoms. Drinking obscene amounts of water, running nearly every day, abstaining partially or wholly from the delicious parts of life like caffeine and chocolate and sugar, IV treatments, and tracking everything imaginable to see what helps or hurts my situation.

For clarification, I actually do live a fairly normal life, but I work seriously hard at being able to do so.

There are some things I can’t fix, however. I have tried countless things to make my brain work as quickly and as wittily as it used to, and nothing seems to help. Writing takes infinitely longer, and I have shrunk my writing schedule down from 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, times a week to the current 2 and sometimes only 1 time a week. If I happen to go back and read something that I wrote more than four years ago, I end up in a funk for a couple of days because it makes me so mad at how well my mind formerly functioned. And then it frightens me that my brain is in a continuing state of decline, and it’s going to get even worse.

Every year about this time, when my Dysautonomia gets especially rough (thanks, summer) and my brain gets unendingly fuzzy, I struggle with whether I should continue writing, or if I should take that pressure off of myself and quit while I’m ahead. Other times I glance at my blog’s dwindling visitor numbers and ponder whether I’m like a sitcom that’s gone three seasons too long.

But then I remember that the real reason I’m writing is for my children to read. They have 2,100+ posts over nearly ten years, many documenting their lives, and they already enjoy reading and hearing the stories I’ve captured here. Although Ali has reached the age where I don’t write about her as much because she deserves her privacy, Noah still has a lot of childhood left to document. And so I convince myself to keep writing – to not care if I’m boring people or losing readers with my diminished ability to craft words in a captivating manner. I write for the reason I started writing – to record our own personal history book.

(It really is hard to remember that because I love you all so much, and the hundreds of relationships I’ve birthed out of writing are precious to me. But at the end of the day, I try (but often fail) not to stress about my writing.)

So if I don’t write as often as I used to, or if you also notice that my writing style has drastically shifted, or if I take a long quiet break, please know that I’m probably somewhere, racking my brain for words and original thought, frustrated that I can’t remember how to think creatively.

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But as hard as the writing loss has been, from the journey of dysautonomia came my love for photography. Because when my brain was too foggy to form words, I could still tell stories in picture. And since I was now forced to exercise to stay lucid, I was seeing (and appreciating) more of my surrounding world on the daily.

From that birthed Picture Birmingham, my photography business where I sell my prints, note cards, and other photo art products so that I can donate all the profits to The WellHouse, a ministry that helps rescue and care for victims of human trafficking. In the three years of Picture Birmingham’s existence, it has raised over $15,000 for The WellHouse – and zero dollars of that would have existed if I hadn’t gotten dysautonomia.

So although my daily life is affected in annoying and constant ways, and although my ability to craft words and love for writing has been decimated, and although I have to work every day to live normally, dysautonomia has forced me to LIVE to be able to live – and therefore, to help my children also live a life full of seeing our beautiful world. It has forced me to appreciate my state, to explore, to engage in nature, and to do crazy things like go in a wet cave and climb on a slippery pedestal above a 50 foot drop.

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It has changed who I am and what I value. It has given me an appreciation for this spectacular world and an ability to go explore it. It has given me the opportunity to use those explorations to help women that are suffering in ways that I cannot imagine.

So yes, I have an incurable illness. And yes, that’s really stupid and annoying. But as illnesses go, this one does have its blessings. And I am, (at least some of the time,) okay with that.

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