For any parent, it may feel more like we’re leading a circus than conducting a beautiful symphony. We’re juggling calendars, taming lions (our kids), getting toddlers to perform tricks, and enticing good behavior with shiny things and yummy treats. Unlike a well practiced symphony of melodic harmonies or instruments only speaking when cued, we’re trying to hide the smell of animal biproduct and keep all the mess behind the curtain. Life sounds a little more like a football game and you’re praying the kind folks in front of your son think he’s cute, not annoying.
As a busy mom of 2 little ones (2 toddlers at that) and admits making sure they’re learning their letters, hitting their milestones, not eating any high fructose corn syrup, calculating their total screen time, teaching them to brush teeth, use the potty….the list goes on….(deep breath)…it can be exhausting.
Then, if you already feel like that list isn’t enough, you get the wind knocked out of you when you receive an unexpected text from your child’s teacher:
It is a moment when you are sad, angry, disappointed, frustrated, and quite fankly, just broken. As a natural problem solver, I want to know what happened, how it happened, what made my child do this and ultimately how to fix it. And then it hit me…what does it mean to “fix it” anyway?….No, I don’t want to “fix” anything, I want to cultivate character. I want to raise children who are able to love without boundaries and be compassionate beyond their comforts, who harness their impulse and use self-control. The milestones, the diets, the rules of life all seemed to melt away. A peace came over me a whisper said whether my kid is the smartest, the most athletic, the best at X, Y, Z will have little impact if they aren’t, first and foremast, kids (and eventually adults) with great character.
So, how do you teach a 3 year old how to have good character? …Just google it, right???…Okay, maybe not…But for little ones, it’s a little difficult to just discipline them for a incident that happened earlier in the day. Of course we talk about it, I get Reagan’s side of the story, which she didn’t deny anything she just thought she was playing. In my heart I want to believe she had playful intentions, but regardless someone else was hurt and we need to teach that our actions have meaning.
In our house, the best way to “fix” any problem generally means a trip to the craft closet. A letter was due. It’s important that Reagan knows that her behavior can have negative consequences BUT it’s equally important that she knows her actions can have hugely positive consequences as well. So, after talking about kindness and self-control, we chose a tangible way to acknowledge her friend’s feelings. Reagan wrote a letter saying 3 things:
- I am sorry for grabbing your paper airplane
- I will keep my hands to my self
- I promise to use self-control and be kind.
I must be honest. I shed a couple of tears. No one wants to be known as the parent of “bad” kids or “mean” kids, especially when you’re trying so hard to do everything else right. But, in my moment of self doubt, God reassured me of my number one priority and that is to love Him with all my heart, mind, and strength. Not to worry or beat up on myself. That same principle applies to my kids. Yes, they will fail, they are born sinners after all. But, because of God’s grace and daily opportunity for repentance He draws us closer to his goodness, even through all of our shortcomings and missteps.
When Reagan went to school the next morning, she was excited to give her note to her friend. And last night concluded with this reassuring text from her teacher.
The phrase ‘cultivating character’ just kept replaying in my mind. Character is the root of it all. Developing character by reinforcing consequences (good and bad) is what ultimately brings about better children. Character does not make a child blameless, it simply nudges their innermost heart to think more of those lasting things like how their actions make someone feel, or how their disobedience results in consequences, or how bending rules also bends your integrity.
So, may all that I do as a parent position my children to be of great character. And no better person to learn our character lessons from than Jesus. He who knew no sin laid his life before the world so that his character of selflessness, humility, care, compassion and love shone down.
Even when life is busy, when I’m feeling guilty for being a working mom, when my kids won’t listen, when it feels like I’m herding cats, the response in every situation is to be a person of good character that my kids can learn from. They are watching and I must never forget that!
Teaching them, loving them, guiding them, and ultimately being the example of compassion and care that this world needs far exceeds any lesson in a book. At our house, we cultivate character one apology letter at a time, along with other things of course 🙂 Lots of hugs, kisses and memories made along the way.
Honesty hour….here’s the skinny….I often am told “I don’t know how you do it all” and I’m left scratching my head thinking, other than an earlier an alarm clock and earlier bed time, I spend my days exactly like everyone else (and truthfully, the same amount of cumulative hours, give or take a couple)….I fill my day with making choices….I am looking to make the best choices for my spiritual life, my kids, my family, my personal health, my diet, my mental wellness…In choosing some things I have to forgo others.
Like, I may choose to send my daughter to horse camp while I work…does that make me a bad parent or her an unloved child…no!
In preparing for Mrs. International, I am making a choice to really improve my post-baby physique, if you will. So today I made a choice..a choice to not let the busyness of home life or the lack of a sitter deter me from a much needed workout. With 2 toddlers in tow, I packed up the car and made it to the gym…they weren’t perfect…I was distracted at times…I had to discipline…I had to break up a fight over the iPhone…but despite all that, a huge praise, to the fact that I have an amazingly patient personal trainer with a 2 year old of her own who was kind to let my kids disassemble her neatly organized shelf and run wildly about her gym (as if they were raised in a zoo)…
but, at the end of the day, my kids saw their mommy working hard to achieve a goal…they even participated in living well….
Were my kids embarrassing, absolutely…were my kids perfect, absolutely not….but even in their moments of craziness, and my moments of humiliation, I have to remember what they are seeing with their eyes. They will remember seeing Ms. Erin help mommy push through a tough workout…they will hear words of encouragement…they will come home and practice the moves they saw at the gym. They will want to participate in a life well-lived while I try to nurture them to a life well-loved. And never forgetting that we must live and learn with ALL 5 senses…so, just because my kids may not respond to my words, pleading for better behavior…they will remember that I had a cheerleader in Ms. Erin and will remember what they saw.
A charge to parents…to every parent out there who is giving up a piece of themselves because they are afraid of what strangers may think, or are overwhelmed by the behavior of your children, don’t stay dormant any more. There is a world your kids must see you partake in while nudging them obedience through the process.
I am not a perfect parent, but I am perfect sinner who by grace was and is given chance after chance after chance to be redeemed. As Christ sees us as his children, may we look at our own with the same love and extend the same grace. We as parents can’t ground ourselves for the behavior of our children, we must show them what an adult life looks like. What choices, sacrifice, and inclusion look like. If you’re having a bad day with your kids, just FaceTime me. I’ll prove you’re not alone…I’m still looking for the spoon that was covered with peanut butter from this afternoon.
Parents, you’re doing a great job! Keep up the good work. Remember, our goal is not have perfect children but to speak truth into our children that they may draw closer to God. We have to discipline with consistency and with God’s word. And don’t worry that the rest of the world is watching…and when the day comes that we are face to face with Jesus, we will be measured by our response to this world. We will not be measured the judgments of others or our perceptions of their judgements.
In all, what appears to be “doing it all” is just watching an intentional life in action. I want to be intentional with my choices…from things as simple as the food we eat to things we watch to how we spend our time…to others my life my seem overwhelmingly busy and I know my pace isn’t for everyone…there are no more hours in my day than are in yours, it’s just the choices I (we) make along the way look different (notice I said different, not right or wrong)….choices are hard…parenting is hard…making life decisions are hard….being patient is hard…finding time for yourself is hard…getting your to-do list done is hard…the reality is….***spoiler alert*** it’s all hard….my mission is to push through the hard because it is preparing me for a greater joy. I don’t have it all figured out and I’m nowhere near the person I want to be on this side of eternity, but one thing I know for sure is that I want to live each moment of each day as if it were my last. So, let’s all work together to leave each day a little better than the way we found it.
Scrolling through the ole Facebook this morning and I come across this article about a student and her end of the year award….but the award wasn’t necessarily praising her character, her athletic ability, or academic achievements…The award was mocking her for her inability to pay attention in class. This hit very close to home for me. Bear with me, I am about to get very vulnerable.
Before I move on…This is written from a good place. I love teachers, educators, and everyone who has ever encouraged me and spurred me on (My kindergarten Teacher, Mrs. Eikman, My first grade teacher, Mrs. Howard. Mrs. Eaton in second grade and my favorite, Mrs. Baker: third grade)…I just want to bring light to an issue that many parents may feel, but rarely voice and it is so important to create unity in the classroom, not division, especially division about things that are out of someone’s control…like race, gender, behavioral, mental, or physical differences.
Now, as a mother, I (we) want the best for my (our) children, and being armed with my own life experiences I want to make sure I put my child/children in a place they will thrive and find their true potential. I don’t want to go to work each day feeling like my child feels ostracized or different or left out at school, away from me. No parent wants that.
Now, some of you may read this and think, “C’mon, Ash, this isn’t a big deal.”…but here is why it is a big deal… I am that girl. I was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD at 5 years old. That was back in the late 80s, before every doctor in town was pushing Ritalin or Adderall. Although medicine was an option, it was not the route my mom wanted to go. I am thankful that she sought several opinions. That’s what landed me in a short behavioral study in Fort Worth, Texas where the doctor and my mom agreed to try an alternative approach to live with ADD/ADHD. (Notice I said LIVE with ADD…I didn’t say erase the symptoms or cure it). We embarked on a dietary transformation that I ended up abiding by for rest of my childhood and still follow much of it today.
In short, from that point forward I was on a restrictive diet. That meant I only ate food that were all natural, meaning no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. That may sound cool and easy today, but think back to the late 80s and early 90s, when that whole natural-food-fad hadn’t hit the shelves yet. Every visit to the grocery store required in depth reading of labels…I couldn’t even eat cereal if the packaging had BHT. Needless to say, as I child, I DEEPLY resented “the diet”….I would get so angry if my mom said, “tell your friends that’s not on your diet and you can’t have any.”….It’s hard for a 5, 6, 7, 8….16, 17, 18 year old to rationalize their food consumption as it relates to their behavior.
So, for the majority of my childhood, every crumb that entered my body was closely monitored and the resulting behavior was noted. Can you imagine what that is like? As I started to reach my tween years and more and more kids were prescribed behavior altering drugs, they seemed to quiet down and almost disappear emotionally and physically from the classroom. Many days, that’s what I wanted. I wanted a quick fix to my fidgeting, I wanted a quick fix to my impulsive behavior, I wanted a quick fix to boredom, or a quick fix to my inability to stay focused.
Here’s the thing, people who are not personally dealing with (TRUE) ADD/ADHD often say things like “That kid just needs a good spanking” or “discipline starts in the home” or “can someone please control that child” or “kids these days, just act however they want” or “they just never pay-attention”…But, living with ADD/ADHD, we are surprisingly aware of our behavior, but it’s like we have these completely capable little humans inside of us watching this person (myself) act out in a way that is not right. But, our ability to control that behavior is compromised in the tiny receptors in our brain (we have a lack of dopamine in the brain). My psychologist once likened it to a string. In a normal person’s brain, that sting is in tact and if you are trying to get information from one side of the sting to the other it just travels across without issue. Think of it like your playing telephone, a string connected 2 cans. One person is talking and one person is listening. But, in the brain of someone with ADD/ADHD, there is a break in that string, and as the brain works hard to recover from adverse behavior that string is excited, making it move faster and faster, exciting other receptors in the brain, and ultimately creating a snowball effect of adverse actions from hyperactivity, to loss of attention. It’s like we have 2 people talking on both side of that string. the way my diet helped is that is normalized this string. I was putting less strain on my brain by what I didn’t eat…Foods with additives or artificial ingredients tend to excite that string, making me less able focus or even lose a little self control. Food still allowed me function normally, without deactivated my brain. it stabilized the active parts, but din’t eliminate brain function like drugs do.
This is where traditional schooling can often be a prison for someone with ADD/ADHD. It locks you into a behavior format that may not allow parts of your brain the freedom it needs, so that you can allow the necessary parts to learn. I am thankful for early intervention regarding my ADD/ADHD, but it has been a lifetime of truly understanding how my brain works. Learning. Exploring. Having parents, educators, and friends who really tried to be sympathetic. At then end of the day, I deeply desired to be a “good kid” and the annoyed looks from teachers when I disrupted the class again just made me feel bad. I excelled accidentally, but steadily received “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” behavior marks. I always felt more graded on my actions than my abilities.
Therefore, as a mother of a highly active child and the understanding of what my life looked like, I wrestle daily with traditional school for her. In over 30 years, I haven’t seen a remarkable change in the approach to learning as it relates to this group of kids. They get judged, and often get judged unfairly. Like this sweet 14 year girl whose only award for the year is more of a reminder of her inability. Maybe I am the only one here, but i feel like something has to change. Educators, is this common?
My daughter is no angel, she is a tough cookie. As parents, we discipline, we talk, we address behavior, we love, we care. But, for the numerous people in public who have witnessed near meltdowns or what seem like negotiations with a terrorist, you may be inclined to judge me as the parent or worse, judge my child.
A child’s behavior can often be in direct relation to the attention they’re getting. If schools systems could identify areas where kids who struggle with ADD/ADHD are gifted, they will run towards and lock into those subjects. Trust me… I am that girl. As a child, any attention was good attention. So, while in 2nd grade, the teacher stepped out. It was a stormy Texas day and I proceeded to get out of my desk, go to the window, and tell all the kids there was a tornado. Blatant lie. But, I got attention. I ended up in the principal’s office, but it didn’t change me. Then, in 2nd grade, I stole a little Debbie cake from the cafeteria. I bragged to friends, but told them not to tattle on me (attention). I got caught and had to tell the cafeteria ladies I was sorry. The embarrassment alone made me stop. I never stole again. Then comes 3rd, Mrs. Baker, she was the kindest, most loving teacher who not once got onto me for my behavior, but redirected my energy. It was from that point forward my behavior improved and my love for learning grew. I remember moments when she intentionally pulled me away from a group to let me do an activity she knew I would enjoy, and that made me feel special and liked. It didn’t make me feel different or punished.
I guess this article is just one more moment where a puff of air is removed from my traditional-school-sail. I am excited about my kids attending a non-traditional school next year and I am excited to see how this unlocks parts of my child that really allow her to flourish.
I know I wrote a novel (passionate much?!). I just hope that this helps people understand that ADD/ADHD isn’t a cop out, a discipline issue, or a kid just acting out. Inside of most children with ADD/ADHD is a brilliant mind that just hasn’t found its course. If you are an educator in the tradition school system, please give me hope. I am a product of the public school system and went on to receive a masters degree, but the road wasn’t always easy. I’m not suggesting I only want my kids to have an easy road, but I do want them to feel encouraged, inspired, motivated and become healthy adults who are viable, capable citizens. I feel like they have the potential to be better than me if I give them opportunities that may not have existed when I was growing up.
In short, be kind…and be careful to judge. Children with ADD/ADHD aren’t born trouble makers, but they may require I different set of disciplining. Also, parent’s of children with Add/ADHD are GREAT parents who don’t need a side eye at Publix, but rather a pat on the back. No one is perfect, but the deep we understand our differences the greater our ability to come together and learn from one another will be.
Faithful blog readers…some new, some old…Here I
quietly sit quickly write about something that has been on my heart for a few weeks.
In this social-media managed, digitally driven world we live we are constantly bombarded with lives of others. We are secretly comparing our lives to our neighbors, we are struggling to live up to our friends, we feel like we are failing at being a mom or not living up to someone else’s vision of being a wife.
Stop….stop right there….
Confession…I am 100% guilty of falling into the twitter trap, the Facebook facade, the Instagram illusion. Not only do I secretly hold my life up against others’, but I post the best of me too. Why wouldn’t I?? We don’t want people to see how we’re really feeling or what’s really going on…but then get upset because no one knows how we’re really feeling or what’s really going on. Confusing? Right?
Insert queso and oversized shades to make you smile!
My heart has been wrestling with “why?”…Why do
we I care so much about the fictitious family I’m trying to project? The answer is simple…Fear…Fear that someone may see my flaws, my weakness, my cracks, my brokenness.
Then, 2 words kept resonating in my mind for days…Permission…and….Grace.
Why permission I wondered…I’m an adult. I am raising two children. I have a mortgage. What do I need permission for? This word kept forcing its way to the forefront of my mind. Then it hit me…God wants me to relinquish myself to myself. You see, I don’t give my self permission to be different. I don’t give myself permission to fail. I don’t give myself permission to take a break, to rest, to say no.
I encourage you to join me as I start allowing myself the permission to not be perfect, and live in the grace of God that covers all things as we fall short.
In giving myself the permission to fail, the overwhelming pressure to be perfect starts to fade. In giving yourself permission, you are admitting that life isn’t always roses and that you make mistakes and that’s okay.
Give yourself permission to have an off day. Give yourself permission to spend 5 more minutes drinking that coffee in the morning. Give yourself permission to cry, to feel sad, to be upset. Give yourself permission to let go of the things you cannot change.
And, in permission, comes grace. Grace is one of those words I’ve heard my whole life in church. Grace, grace, grace, amazing grace, God’s grace..blah blah blah…But what does that REALLY mean. Well, after becoming a wife and mother, you learn very quickly what grace means, by seeing it in action.
I encourage anyone out there who has had an off-day, a tough patch, or a rocky season in life to remember the word grace. Grace, the free and unmerited favor of God. We will have pinterest fails, we will be tired, our kids’ hair won’t always be perfect and their clothes won’t always match. We will struggle to finish chores, cook a healthy meal, play with the kids, and get it all done in a day. There will be moments we lose our cool or we’ll snap at our kids or spouse. In these moments, when we feel completely inadequate and worthless, remember there is grace….God’s unmerited favor…and give yourself permission to not be perfect.
Remember this….Forgetting a school spirit day won’t make our child a misfit. One day that you stuff your kids full of bad food, out of convenience, won’t send them into obesity (just don’t make it a habit 🙂 ). One day that you have to spend more time running errands than playing with your kids won’t make them hate you for life. One day that you don’t sing the ABC song or practice numbers won’t set your kids back 3 grades in school. One day that you just want to sit and watch movies with your kids won’t make them permanent zombies.
Just know that we love showing off our highlight reel on social media. Now don’t get me wrong, there absolutely is authenticity in those moments, but as a mama, some days I may be pulling my hair out after I post some fun picture of my daughter silly dancing. Keep it all in perspective!
There is freedom in permission and there is peace in grace. Let the permission to be imperfect settle well in your soul. This side of eternity perfection isn’t possible. We are constantly battling against forces wrestling to steal our joy, zap our happiness, and redirect our purpose. Grant yourself permission to accept grace. Yes, it’s the free and unmerited favor of God. But, what else on this earth do we get without merit? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! So take it!
Last thing, give yourself permission to be different. Know that we all have different gifts, different talents, different purposes. Live in your strengths. Reside there. Sometimes our greatest personal defeat comes from feeling like someone else is doing more or doing something better or doing something different than you. In turn, your mind twists that into a personal deficiency. We easily forget what all we are contributing and how our contribution IS noticed and IS impacting the world around us. Please don’t ever let your difference equate to deficient.
You are strong. You are capable. You are worthy. You are special. You are unique. I give you permission to be you!
It can’t be…that this month I had one baby turn 2 and one baby turn 6 months. The time doesn’t stand still.
A letter to both my littles:
You are my little ray of sunshine. You have made me love deeper, laugh more, and stop to smell the roses. You continue to impress me with all your words. We are working on pronouncing F sounds. Words ending in K sound German. You really emphasize the K, it’s kind of hilarious. I don’t correct it. You are the biggest helper with your little brother. You LOVE him so much. I’m afraid you may think there is a little competition too. You have reverted to drinking out of “bubby’s cup” (aka: baby bottle). You climb in “bubby’s bed” (aka his crib). You always want to be around your brother: playing with him, stealing his paci, bonking him on the head, then immediately giving him kisses. You read him books or at least show him the pictures. You are teaching him colors. You have a kind heart and a fierce spirit. When mommy stubbed her toe, you ran over and gave me kisses and said “aww bedder” (translation: ‘all better’). I have to remember those sweet moments when you throw yourself on the floor and pitch fits. You can be a little dramatic, at times, but I never want you to lose your self expression. In a world filled with people trying to fit the mold, I pray you break it! You don’t really sit still. I long for a day you can sit and watch a full episode of Daniel the Tiger. You can make it about 12 minutes. That’s the longest you’ve ever really been seated and still. You had a little Mardi Gras themed birthday party with your sweet neighborhood friends. You also celebrated your great grandfather’s 83rd birth at the Bright Star in Birmingham. Gymnastics is your new favorite activity, or as you say “Nym-nas-tics.”
I pray your spirit is not stymied and that your heart stays full of life and vigor. There is no denying you have personality. I always want you to be a good example to your friends. Be sweet, loving, kind, and caring. Continue using your manners. Think of others before yourself. Be creative, be playful, be the kind of person that world needs more of. I love you, my brave little girl!
You have made your mommy and daddy so proud. I have to confess, I probably baby you a bit more than I swore I ever would. You’re held a lot and loved so much. You have some yummy cuddles and the softest little ears that I love to play with (is that weird?!). You have these big blue eyes and I always wonder “What are those eyes seeing?” You are a champ for letting your sister jump on you, climb on you, kiss you, hold your hand, and snuggle you. She can be a little rough, even though I know she isn’t trying to be that way. You have started kicking your legs a lot more. You’re finally warming up to the idea of tummy time. It’s still not your favorite. You would rather be held. You are sleeping like a big boy. It’s not perfect, you still like to party for a few minutes at least once a night. It’s not long though. You are long a lean. You measure 27″ long but you only about 16 pounds. You are a happy baby, for the most part. The occasional cry to let me know you’re hungry or tired, but otherwise you are my mild-mannered, chill, relaxed child. You roll with the punches and go with the flow. You did have your first taste of table food this month. I let you try some homemade applesauce. It went over pretty well as a matter of fact, but you won’t probably start eating real food for a couple more months. You are kind of particular how you like to spend your time outside of someone’s arms. You are NOT a fan of the baby swing (took that back to the store). You don’t like laying on your back. You move all over your crib to get comfortable. You spin 180 degrees and toss from side to side. You don’t care to be swaddled and you prefer the calming effects of a pacifier. You smile constantly. I really can’t get over how happy you are. You like to jump in your exersaucer and play with your toys that make all sorts of racket. Needless to say, our house is not for those seeking rest. It can be a little on the noisy side. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As you mature, I pray your spirit is molded to be compassionate. I pray you develop into a little boy that will sit with the un-cool kid at lunch and invite the misfits over to play. I pray you have a tender heart that desires to be the good this world needs. You may not be my overly outgoing or extroverted kid, and that is okay. Use your quiet voice to stand up for what is good, right and noble. You will be a leader too. You are my gentle lion! I love you!
You have now been a part of this big world for four whole months! You are becoming one observant fellow. This last month you started rolling over. You coo all the time. Your smiles have become more frequent. I’m even convinced you laugh from time to time.
You are a growing boy. You now wear clothes sized 6 to 9 months and you are almost wearing the same size diapers as your sister. You aren’t a big fan of tummy time. You tolerate it for about…oh….thirty seconds. You love being held, but that comes with stipulations. No sitting allowed and some sort of motion is required, like walking, bouncing, or swinging.
You stopped liking your bouncer seat this month. That’s likely because you’re almost too big for it as you near 20 pounds. Yes, and you’re only 4 months old. You started playing and sitting in your excersaucer. You love the noises and bright colors.
Your first Christmas was spent in cowboy country and mommy’s old home, Fort Worth, Texas. You met your great grandparents and were showered with love from your grandad and Mimi. You got to open presents with all your cousins and great-aunts and great-uncles. It was a sweet day. Any yes, you rode all they way to Texas in your daddy’s truck and did awesome! I was so proud of how well you traveled. You also celebrated maw maw and granddad’s 60th wedding anniversary (your great-grands).
***Please be mindful of timestamps and time sensitive information***
We LOVE when you share, like, and discuss posts. Social media is our way of connecting you to the most up to the second information. We are lucky that our communication outlets have expanded and as meteorologists, we really like to capitalize on these outlets during severe weather. We want our audience to be able to access information quickly and easily. During days like today, when we are tracking severe weather, our posts are generated and published specifically for the NOW. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to limit confusion and help to keep a unified mission of keeping folks aware of developing weather.
DO: Share our posts: give us a like, retweet and regram what you see. It is just as important for you to know what’s going on as it is your friends. Likes and retweets aren’t for our own good, but for everyone. You see, some social media outlets populate their feeds with posts that get the most interaction. So, in order for our very important information to be seen by as many eyes as possible, it’s helpful if you give us a nod, in the form of a like, or even better, a share. A like is kind of like your way of saying, “I just read your post. Thanks!”
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On a severe weather day, here are some good rules thumb regarding when to repost and share:
Anything that is posted featuring radar: 10 minute lifespan
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(Something like this:
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From your friendly WIAT 42 Storm Track Meteorologist Ashley Gann