Author Archives: Emily Sparkles

Typical New Mom

A blog post about motherhood. It was bound to happen. It’s what moms do, right? That thought is why I’ve been avoiding this post. But then I thought about what I do – I as in me, since online thought sharing became a thing – and what I do is share my story online. Or at least pieces of it.

This post could and probably will get pretty cliche. I’ll try to avoid it, because I desperately want my friends without kids to read this, too. Of all the cliches I’d heard before and dreaded, one of the most painfully real is how social lives change after having a kid. I want to build a bridge somehow to fix that. #dreambig

Another cliche that’s come to fruition is that love thing; the love a parent feels for his or her baby really does border on indescribable. But I don’t think it’s an exclusive ticket to a parents-only club. At least I don’t want it to be.

Then there’s the marriage shift. And the parental shift, as in, how differently things look between my parents and myself with this life change.

Lastly, I want to talk about the me shift. The fears and realities of an identity that (I see now) must inevitably evolve once that baby is placed in one’s arms.

First up: Friends. I’m gonna be straight with a lot of you guys; you don’t invite me out anymore. You’ve stopped asking me to hang out. You’ve even stopped with the Facebook event invites. Could you rightfully assume I wouldn’t be able to make it? Probably. But the message received was one of ignoring or not liking, not consideration. FYI. Why do we do this to new moms? I’m sure I did it, too! But TBH, while giving birth involves medical professionals for good reason, it doesn’t come with a quarantine. I’ll get to the identity struggle in a minute, but I think it’s super important to let new parents know that they’re welcome even if not expected. In fact, it’s probably great for us to get a break from the intensity to hear from friends who’ve had kids and made it AND from those who don’t and can talk to us about those other, still important parts of our lives. I guess I’ve realized that moms only hang with other moms because for the most part, that’s whose rallied around us. Not because we don’t want our other friends. (Special shout out to my ladies who have been there throughout! You beautiful unicorns know who you are).

Why is that important? I used the word intensity because everything about new babies is intense, and mostly in really good ways. Intensely cute. Also intensely messy. But mostly the intense kind of love that goes beyond “aww you’re precious.” Yes, it’s love at first sight – including the 10 week ultrasound we had – but it’s also falling in love with this tiny little stranger who has needs and routines that take awhile to master. It’s crazy beautiful hard and more “natural” in a very National Geographic wilderness kind of way – not a “so easy always intuitive” way. It’s good to hear from other parents because y’all have so many suggestions one of them is bound to click! And it’s good to hear from non-parents because chances are you’re part of someone’s child rearing village and I don’t think biological reproduction alone qualifies anyone as an expert. It’s also good to hear from anyone about work gossip, entertainment news, book talks, insert-non-parenting-interest-Here. Because while the world rightfully revolves around that new little bean on one level, and always will, parents actually are still people. Something that is definitively logical yet easy to forget. I want this kiddo to have healthy, well rounded parents. That’s part of the intense love thing; loving him enough to figure out what’s best for him and then doing those things.

Which brings me to the shifts in marriage and between myself and my parents. I have sooooo much more grace for my parents now. My mom will attest to that (she actually pointed it out and I wasn’t even offended. Evidence!) And Mike and I have thankfully become an even stronger team. I know that isn’t always the case, and I can totally see why, so I’m grateful. There was something magical between us during labor and delivery that’s carried past, where communicating needs is easier and more clear as are meeting them. I couldn’t imagine doing this without Mike.

That shift to comfort in dependency is a big part of how my identity has evolved. Probably for the better. It is humbling to realize how challenging yet amazing I have found parenting. I honestly didn’t fully expect it to work out for us, so my expectations were nearly nonexistent. Nevertheless, one thing I was genuinely afraid of was losing my drive. Losing my passion for my career. And losing my love of writing. In some ways, exhaustion of new parenting has borrowed from those reserves. They’re rebuilding, slowly, but it’s bizarre to see my biggest fear start to happen and be too tired to care that much. I can voice that now, 4 months in, because they’re coming back. But I definitely was surprised to see how easily and even happily I added “mom” to my identity when I thought I surely wouldn’t change that much. I wouldn’t be “that girl.” I don’t like proving myself wrong. As my Instagram feed became the Auggie show that I swore it never would, I laughed at myself because when on maternity leave in winter, what else am I going to take pictures of? When I felt the emotional cocktail of joy at being back at work mixed with guilt for feeling joyful mixed with an intense sadness at being away from Augustine mixed with gratitude to my mom for watching him plus a dash of fearful jealousy that he’ll like her better…once again, I’ve arrived at cliche.

When I found out we were going to be parents, I really wanted to avoid being cliche…but now I realize that’s just another cliche anyway. Parenthood is amazing. Exhausting. Rewarding…yet draining. It’s everything you’ve ever heard. And that’s kind of amazing, too.


Anger in the Wake of Election 2016


Since Tuesday’s results, I’ve been listening.

Thoughts and words have been forming, some as responses, some as expressions of my own feelings, but mostly because when big things happen my natural response is to write it out. So this is what we have; a mixture of response to the conversations at hand and a reciprocation of all the listening to tell my truth in the wake of the election results.


I awakened after about 3  hours of sleep Tuesday night at 11:22pm. My phone’s browser had been intentionally left open to the NY Times live results. I hesitated before checking; what would seeing results mean for the rest of my night? But I couldn’t resist. When I saw Trump had a 95% chance of winning, perhaps had already been officially declared the winner, I honestly can’t remember through the shock of it, I set my phone down. Got up and went to the bathroom, mechanically, and then returned to bed.

Sleep did not return. It was too chaotic inside my mind. How did this happen? How did the former host of a crappy reality TV show make it this far? What was wrong? How does this happen?

My Anger

Then anger swept in. Deep, dark anger. Anger I have seen resonating from both sides of this story as I watch and listen online, and I understand it. Because my chest was beating with rage, physically constricting and expanding while I clinched my eyes shut and could see only red.

I was enraged because this wasn’t right. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I wanted that glass ceiling to be shattered, I wanted our nation to uphold a standard for this highest elected office, I wanted men who brag about assaulting women, who disempower minorities, who live in self-centered worlds of hubris to be shown they cannot win, that’s not who America is anymore. I wanted men who speak loudly without saying anything intelligent at all to be shown they can’t talk over the experts any more, that it’s time to LISTEN. To listen to the refugee who has gone through the vetting process, to listen to the children of illegal immigrants, to listen to the African American man who has been targeted unfairly, to listen to the transgender woman who just wants a safe place to use the restroom, to listen to the woman who was assaulted regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

I was angry that even proclaimed Christians would vote for this man because of Supreme Court justices and pulling political strings instead of because of the aforementioned citizens who are the very people that Jesus would CLEARLY, Biblically be spending his time loving and living life with day to day. I was angry that fear and hate are so powerful, and then I realized how much hate I was holding onto, too…which I will come back to momentarily.

Your Anger

I should have avoided Facebook this week, but like a masochist, I haven’t. I have a lot of friends whose anger mirrors my own in motive and ventilation. I have a lot of friends whose anger is targeted at the media for calling them uneducated for voting for Trump. I have a lot of friends whose anger is targeted towards me and others for being sad and angry and afraid at these results.

I see people posting accounts, many of them personal, of the hate crimes literally performed under the name of Trump* in the days following the election and directly underneath I see a post saying to “Get over the results” or “Rural white people have valid concerns, too” and it doesn’t make sense to me.

(* I recognize that crimes in the name of Trump are not facilitated by the president-elect, but whether it’s a relationship of causation or correlation, it is significant).

When you are mad in the wake of your candidate winning, or even mad at those who are responding to it negatively, that doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve been listening to try to understand. I’ve been reading your personal posts and the articles you share and I don’t get your anger. Are you trying to control our feelings? Or are you trying to defend your choice? Or is it that you are so determined to prove every account of hate crimes wrong that you feel it your duty to say something that either separates you from “those” Trump voters or from “those people” who are probably making it up because “liberal media”?

Why are YOU mad?

Our Anger

Tuesday night, somewhere around midnight or 1am, as I continued to wrestle with my emotions and to accept the results, I was feeling very lost. My anger was too seething to ignore as just a phase, it showed me how angry I’d been at Trump and his voters for a long time. As I often do in moments of internal, emotional chaos, I grabbed my phone and opened my Bible app. I opened a plan I’d been reading about creating margin/rest in life and the scripture was Matthew 26:36-46.

This is the night before Jesus’ capture and crucifixion, the night he took his disciples to the garden to pray: “He plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, ‘This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.'” And he proceeds to ask God to change the plan, but resolutely holds to follow through if that’s what God wants.

I felt the solidarity wash over me; the Jesus I know feels deeply and is crushed by injustice, too.

The verses go on, with Jesus returning to his people twice to see if they’re praying with him, but they just keep sleeping.

There are two reactions I’ve had to this, two realizations.

One is about MY anger. One is about YOURS.

MY Anger

The one who I believe was agonizing over the sacrifice he was about to make agonized because he knew how many would not accept it. Would ignore it. Would abuse others in His name or their own. This sacrifice that was intended to bring in a peace beyond understanding would so often be ignored, spat upon, and misused.

And while I could sit in that place, in the tortured moments of the garden, that’s not where Jesus stayed and so I won’t stay there, either. He went on to do it. To forgive everyone. Around 1am after the election, I was struck like a lightning bolt that regardless of what happened, I was being asked to forgive Trump and it hit as hard as when I knew I needed to forgive my sexual assaulter. This man has not asked for forgiveness for what he has done, belittled, stolen, promised, threatened, ignored, or abused. But forgiveness is so much more about what it can do for the one doing the forgiving, I know that because of the atrocities I’ve had to forgive (and thanks to this election, I’ve had to re-forgive and re-forgive again because those dark moments were so often brought rushing back thanks to “locker room talk”).  In this election, I have recognized that Hillary, the candidate I proudly voted and rooted for, required forgiveness, too. And I was swift to provide it, due in part to her actual apologizing and owning of her actions. But I was always frustrated that the Right would not forgive her. In this moment, I saw that we all needed to forgive a lot more people than we’d probably realized.

This was when the real weeping started. I did not want to forgive Trump, not at all. I wanted to hold on to my hate, but in that passage I read I think you can see that forgiving is not the same thing as condoning. Forgiving does not take the place of righteous anger in the face of injustice. Forgiveness does not still the fight to right wrongs, in fact I think it purifies it and gives it focus. So in that moment I started what will probably be a daily forgiveness, but I’ve lived in this space before.

YOUR Anger

It took a few days of listening to realize what so disturbed me about the anger from the “winning side.” The very next day I was able to recognize, as I think many of you have, that you are right – my life doesn’t have to change that much at all from these results. I am white and middle class. I have a job with amazing benefits that I don’t have to pay for, and so does my husband. In fact, I have primary AND secondary insurance – for free. I’m a woman, so I do have that fear hovering, but it seems most of the public hate towards women these days is wrapped up in intersectionality – towards the women in jihabs, with darker skin, with different sexual identities. So to those saying “get over it,” I realize that I could choose to do so because of my privilege.

But I teach public school, in a district composed of that newly realized disparity between urban and rural students. The day after the election, before school had even started, I had to shut down a conversation between about 5 students in my classroom who were celebrating how the wall between us and “freaking Mexico” would finally be built. Keep in mind that they have classmates in that room who are Mexican. Who – likely unbeknownst to the 5 wall-builders – have parents who do not speak English. As I quieted down their hurtful though ignorant celebration, I asked each student in the room to recognize that they, too, were from immigrants unless they were Native American. Because my baby bump is of great interest to these students, and because my husband is part Mexican, I was grateful I had a personal place from where to show them who they were personally marginalizing while also reminding them that the junior high was full of students from Hispanic backgrounds, as well as other diverse backgrounds. It was sobering, and I wish I could say that was it. But I’ve had more and more students going to the counselor to report racial and sexual harassment this week than ever before. My job in the wake of this election is to show all students how to love and respect one another. To seek to understand before we seek to be understood.

To the people who say “get over it” or who even are defending the results, I want to say that the fear those you are talking to hold is real. Bad things are happening that were not before. Again – we can dispute causation and correlation but we cannot dispute the change that this entire election has brought. I don’t want to take away from you that rural life is changing, but I do want to ask you to ask yourself does that change involve violence? Are you really aware of what is happening in your nation as a whole? Do you really not understand why this result is unsettling for so many?

If you are defending the results and the rural/small town way of life, if you are defending the need for conservative (Republican) powers in place, and if you have faith – I want you to consider the same passage of scripture that convicted me – on the other side of the political fence. Because I think the message for you is different. As your fellow Christian, I am asking you to try to hear it. And to make it easier, I am going to share some lyrics from a song based on this passage for you:

All I ask is that you pray
All I ask is that you stay awake
But your dreams betray me

Wake up.

“Are you resting? Are you still asleep?

Wake Up, O Sleeper
Wake Up and say a prayer
Wake Up, O Sleeper
Are you my betrayer?
Wake up, O Sleeper
Wake up, O Sleeper
Incomprehensible, Incomprehensible”

Are your dreams of conservative agendas consistent with why Jesus came? With how he lived? With who he values? With how he values and loves them? Are they?

And for those on either side or who are weary, another song. It won’t make everything okay. Everything is NOT okay. But it’s a bittersweet balm that vindicates our feelings and our circumstances.

Let’s all listen.

What We Can Learn from 7th Graders this Election Season

This post is about the 2016 presidential election, the Common Core, and it’s written by a public school educator. So it’s got all of the ingredients for a storm of anger to descend in response, if only this blog were better known. A girl can dream, eh?

In reality, though, this post is one I could’ve written before this election and one I’ll want to write again later. It’s a post I think about writing to all of my adult friends who partake of their first amendment rights and share their opinions in writing and verbally and otherwise. I’m confident my fellow ELA (English Language Arts) teachers are nodding their heads in agreement.

Why? The Common Core ELA standards. Really, the things we have committed ourselves to teaching our kids have aligned with these principals before the Core, but it’s just worded so nicely and concisely in these CC standards!

The thing is, from August to June, my students learn how to read informational texts with a critical and analytical mind. They learn how to write their own informational texts after conducting research where they use only credible resources. They even learn how to not only have clear, coherent, and accountable arguments but how to evaluate them in writing and in media.

See for yourself!

Reading Informational Texts

In summary, students learn how to comprehend what they read, they learn to critically analyze informational texts – AKA “the media.” They dig into argumentative writing and informative writing and are able to evaluate the author’s intent, bias, and layers of meaning. Think about Facebook for a minute – how many people fail to do this? Thank God for the Common Core, am I right? Here are a few that really nail it:

    Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
    Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).
    Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to the development of the ideas.
    Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
    Analyze how two or more authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information by emphasizing different evidence or advancing different interpretations of facts.
Not only do our nation’s 13 year olds learn how to read like pros, they learn how to write effectively. They learn that in order to write an effective argument, you need to have reasons and evidence. Like, fact-check-proof evidence. They write things that are “clear and coherent” – you know, appropriate to the audience. Thoughtful. Tailored. More of that critical thinking the Core loves so much! My all-time favorite standard is W.7.8 (full text below) where students learn to identify whether or not a source is reliable and trustworthy AND they learn how to avoid plagiarism (I’m looking at YOU people who post quotes without sources!!) And to take it even deeper than your average fan of the ol’ FB, 7th graders learn how to use multiple sources as evidence for their own, new ideas!
    Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
    Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
    Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
    Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Speaking and Listening
Debates. Oh, those debates. How many ELA teachers were just clinging to the SL standards during a debate? How many of us were not-so-secretly thrilled when our students brought up the lack of accountable talk stems present in the debates? Sigh. These standards are all about having meaningful, fruitful, peaceful discussions. They’re about evaluating arguments. They even cover things like eye contact and voice volume. DO YOU SEE THE BEAUTY?
    Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.
    Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
    Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

And these are only 13 of the standards – for a full list and as my only external source, you can check out for yourself what we’re up to that makes 7th grade ELA students more qualified voters and maybe even political debaters than most of America.

Bad News Revisited

Auggie is becoming more active during the day time, and usually during late morning I feel him kick and swivel around. It’s like a morning tradition with him,  sending  little secret messages to Mom that he’s there and he’s coming and it’s the best thing.

Another morning tradition, a much earlier-as-soon-as-I-awaken tradition for me, is scrolling through the day’s Timehop feed and seeing what the past had to offer. Today brought up a blog post from 3 years ago, called Bad News. I remembered this post without having to read it, but I did read it, because of its new significance. It was 3 years ago today that I got the call from the Polk County Health Department informing me I did indeed get Lyme Disease that summer. The whole post was important for me personally to read, but this bit in particular is important for more than just me, I think:

Before I had even hung up the phone with the health department, I began to cry. Once the connection was severed, I burst into sobs. All of a sudden the migraines and aching fingers, the still-lingering spurts of numbness and soreness in my neck and face, the ever-increasing numbness of my fingers including the recently finicky middle finger….it all seemed much more ominous. Allergies and sinus infections and improper ergonomics when typing vanished and lymph-node dwelling, meninges-eating, Lyme loomed darkly in my mind. A future of decreased mobility, no children, and memory loss seemed certain. All through this I prayed, and quickly went to find my mom for more assurance.

That part about no children ate at me more than any other. It was echoed in the following months as I sought treatment through many paths and experts. Not that it was guaranteed infertility, but that it could be, and that it would certainly be “irresponsible” to try getting pregnant until 1-2 years had passed because my body needed that time to heal. No woman wants to hear that even if she wasn’t planning on having children. It’s like this essential function has been denied, stolen, taken away.

I’d already lived in that fear of biological failure because of the eating disorder, because of 6 years of amenorrhea and then a violent, monthly, return. Because of what doctors had already told me all this without the addition of Lyme could very well add up to mean.

I’m going to put faith in you that you’re recognizing the significance of this anniversary. As I sit and reread and relive those fears and wonderings, this baby boy, my son, is squirming to a point of adorable discomfort. I know that not every woman’s issues with fertility end this happy. I know (trust me, because of my bff Anxiety) that our story isn’t over and happy may not be where we land.

Even in my dreams of Augustine, he’s often with someone else and I’m desperately trying to get to him. It’s probably my anxious mind’s lingering disbelief working itself out. But just last night I had a different kind of dream,  one where I did get to him. And I saw a wrinkly, red little boy with bright blue eyes and so much dark hair it looked like a wig, whose face broke into a smile the moment I leaned over his crib and said “Hello.”

Even if the timing of that old post and this one is coincidental, I think its helpful for me and for others to reflect on those dark moments in our past and recognize what beautiful light has come bursting through.