Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Mom Games

I recently stumbled upon a video from "The Mompetition." By the way, her blog is hysterical. I am going to add a link on my side bar soon. I checked out a few of these videos, and while some are a little crass, they really are not far from the truth in many ways. I particularly find this one and this one to be entertaining. But these little clips got my wheels turning about modern mommyhood. The modern mom has somehow become the competitor in the on-going reality series "mom vs mom." I am not sure why the modern mom is so competitive. Maybe it has always been this way but I never noticed because I was not a mom until now. Not sure. I am blessed to have a core group of 3 or 4 "mom friends" that I can confide in, be honest with, and simply enjoy without the pressures of "playing" these games. But the random encounters, the play groups, the acquaintances, and the cyber world are filled with moms who want to compete...and judge at the same time. I confess that I occasionally engage in the mom game, but as you will see below, I could not possibly hold a candle to these super moms, so I this is my official withdrawal from the games.

I think we are currently in an era where there is a backlash to the feminist progressive agenda in the 70s and 80s, and at the same time a resurgence of feminism from the children of those feminists. We are in a era where people are expected to "be green" and enjoy simplicity and nature while also have purchased and mastered every new tech gadget available. We are in an era where people are critiquing and blaming public schools for all of society's ills, but at the same time wanting their children in every possible AP class, extra curricular, sport, and debate club. These contradictions make it hard to be the perfect mom in this era. How can you do all of these things at the same time, anyway? What characteristics define this perfect mommy? I would love to hear your ideas. I did my own "investigating" and came to the following conclusions:

The modern mom is an ever evolving stereotype for each generation. Think of TV mom icons like June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver), Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch), Clair Huxtable (Cosby Show), Jill Taylor (Home Improvement) and Bree Van de Camp (Desperate Housewives) . My oh my, has the modern mom evolved over the ages! The descriptions below (laden with sarcasm, of course) are the 8 points of perfection of what I have gathered our society , umm scratch that, maybe not society, but what qualities other modern moms (based on our current media, mom blogs, facebook, literature) deem necessary to earn the label of a "good" mother.

1. She must be totally green! She prepares only organic food and homemade/homegrown everything for her family. She cloth diapers her children to ensure the viability of our planet. She proudly "wears" her children, co-sleeps, and free parents (but her children are perfectly scheduled...hmmm?). She recycles everything. She has no plastic toys in her home. She does not vaccinate her children to avoid any harmful additives in medicine from ruining her children's bodies. Finally, she must breastfeed her children until they are at least one year old. She certainly would never give them *gasp* formula. She should not even have a bottle in her home.

2. She stays at home. She certainly does not let other people care for her children. Moreover, she home schools her children to ensure they are not corrupted by "the system."

3. She must be a size 6 or smaller. Oh yes, we have not strayed from pop media here, have we ladies? The modern mom must be able to sport skinny jeans to show off that cute baby bump. It should not be an issue because the modern mom should only consume organic food and certainly works out everyday to keep her perfect figure.

4. She is dressed to impress. She has make up on...always, but not too much. She sports super trendy clothes that are designed to look like they don't cost a dime, but are really from some up scale boutique and cost a fortune.

5. Her children are the image of perfection. She has invested everything in her children and they are her trophy. Thus, she has perfectly behaved children (at least she thinks she does) dressed in perfectly preppy name brand or homemade clothes. They are the stars of the soccer team and also play in a band, have a black belt in karate, and are on their way to earning a full scholarship to Yale.

6. She has mastered the cyber world (Blog, Facebook, etc). Her cute mommy blog is well designed and has at least 300 "followers." She posts all of her children's accomplishments on her facebook wall, such as the "potty" success of her perfectly potty trained 10 month old, just to make sure all of her other "friends" know what failures they are at parenting since their three year olds are still not fully potty trained.

7. Her children NEVER watch TV. It rots their brains.

8. Her house is perfectly neat, perfectly clean, and perfectly organized.

Wow, fellow moms, the bar sure has been set high! If you have achieved all of the above, congratulations.

But I , for one, have not. And after two years of putting myself under the mommy microscope, I am deciding to let it go. I am not my generations version of June Cleaver and never will be... EVER! And I have decided that it does not make me a bad mom! My kids are HAPPY. My kids are learning. My kids are thriving. And as long as I am doing the best I can for my children, it is enough.

So here is how I rank on the perfect mom standards

1. Totally green: Negative

Now there is nothing wrong with being green at all. If more people receycled our planet would be healthier. We try to pull our green weight around here, but we are far from perfection.

-I buy organic milk and pasta, but my kids still eat easy mac and pbjs at least once a week, and we eat out... a lot. After working all day the very last thing on my mind is cooking for my family. We are trying out emealz soon to add variety to our dinners and see if this helps us eat home more often. I have heard great things from people who use it.
- I cloth diapered for three months... then I went to work and realized I don't have time to do laundry every day. So disposable it is! I donated the cloth diapers to an orphanage in Ethiopia where they will definitely be used.
-Baby wearing. Now this might be my one shining star in modern parenting. I have the sling, the bjorn, the mai tai, the ergo... you name it, I've worn it. And I still wear my two year old. As an AP (adoptive parent) I have found it great for attachment parenting , blah blah blah, but honestly, the reason I do it is because I find it easier than dealing with a stroller!
- We recycle our cans, plastics, cardboard...but we still use at least one roll of paper towels every two days. It is just faster and easier. And quite honestly, sponges gross me out. I just think of them as festering petri dishes.
-My kids favorite toys are made from plastic... in China. Sure we have Melissa and Doug this and that and they do enjoy them. But they really want the plastic stuff that beeps and blinks!
- My kids are 100% vaccinated! And yes, that includes the *gasp* MMR shot! I have one child with a relatively week immune system. The last thing I need is some preventable disease landing us in the hospital. I could go into an entire rant on this one, but suffice it to say, I think getting kids the proper immunizations is important.
-As far as the breastfeeding is concerned, I get a big fat F. My youngest was bottle fed and my oldest did not come home until he was 4 (so certainly not breast fed by me!). If I had a dollar for every mom who told me, "You know, you could breast feed him (Payton, my younger child) if you want to. Just because he is adopted doesn't mean you can't." Okay, first of all I would have had to pump my body full of hormones to do that. Ick. Second of all, research suggests that adoptive mom's who do that are usually not able to provide enough milk and still need to supplement. And you know what, I think my formula fed baby is right on track developmentally. Now, he was NOT able to write his name at 6 months of age, but he has met every milestone pretty much on time. And in his Mama's eyes, he is perfectly perfect.

2. Stays at home: Negative.
- I work. I love being at home with my kids! I mean, LOVE it. And if we could swing it, I would stay home until both of my kids are in school. Those of you that can are very privileged! Enjoy it! We have a sitters that watch our kids. This working mama (and daddy too) fly thru the house like a whirlwind each morning. Then I spend 730 am to 4 or 5 pm working with other peoples children before returning to my own. I piece together a quick meal, enjoy 1-2 hours of playtime with the kids before starting the bedtime routine, then I crash for an 30 minutes or so in front of the TV to decompress before spending the rest of the evening working on lesson plans and grading papers. Teachers cannot leave their work when they leave the building. If I did, my students would NEVER have any of their work graded. I have a new prep (AP US History) this year so I am hoping next year will be a tad less time consuming. Oh, did I mention that I am public school teacher. So, home schooling my kids, not going to happen. I believe in *gasp* the public system and the idea of equal opportunity. It is, after all, why I entered education. On principle. The idea that a free nation must have an educated citizenry. Yes, it is idealistic. But I am passionate about it. Ok... I just need to stop here! I am about to go into a crazy teacher rant and expose my *gasp* liberal roots.

3. Skinny: Negative.
-Pretty sure I have gained at least 15 lbs since I became a mom. I once found time to train for a marathon, pre-kids. Now I *maybe* run three miles once or twice a week.

4. Dressed to impress: DOUBLE NEGATIVE.
- I don't wear make up. I don't have time. I get my hair cut once a year. It is still wet when I arrive at work because I don't even style it when I get out of the shower in the mornings. 15 minuts of sleep Vs. 15 minutes of hair styling. Ummm... sleep is going to win every time. High school students think teachers are old and boring anyway, so I doubt they even notice my unkempt self.
-Trendy clothes, HA! I hate to shop. I don't think I have ever even been to a boutique. If I am home, I wear a hoodie, workout pants, and my running shoes. If I am at work, I wear black pants, my ugly teacher shoes, and a plain colored top. Boring, yes! But I am always comfortable! Comfort before beauty is my motto.

5. Perfectly behaved, perfectly dressed children: NEGATIVE.
-Have you met my firecracker of a two year old that likes to shout the word "poop?" Particularly when everyone else is quiet.
-However, my kids do look cute in their thrift store clothes. My Aunt Linda and Char find the most adorable outfits for my kids. I am glad someone else has a sense of style... because I sure don't.

6. Blog/facebook/etc:
-Well I blog. And I Facebook. But not well. I don't have any theme to my blog and I rarely even proofread before I publish a post. And I am lucky to post once a week. As for Facebook, I am an addict. But I am not a good f-book friend and I rarely even wish people happy birthday even though facebook so kindly reminds me every day. Ugh. What a terrible person I am.

7.Never, Ever, lets their children watch TV: Negative.
-My kids watch at least 30 minutes of TV while we get ready in the mornings. Moreover, when I am desperate, I whip out the old faithful *gasp* D*sney movies. The current favorite is CARS. How can I corrupt my kids so! Um, it is called sanity. And sometimes I just need it!

8. Clean House: Nope.
-My house is cleaner and more organized than say, the homes of people of the TV series Hoarders. But lets be real. I have three dogs, two boys, and we live on a farmette. My floors always have a few globs of hair and manure on them. That's just how it is on a farm. If I obsessed over keeping my house perfectly clean, I would never have time to play with my children. Instead, we try our best to pick up here there, scrub the floors before the social worker visits for a post placement, and stuff everything in closets when we have guests.

So I am officially a failure at the mom games if I am judged by the 8 points of perfection in the mom games. However, as a working mom I rarely have time to compete anyway. Most competitions occur on playgrounds, in preschool pickup lines, and play dates. Working moms don't really attend these events... because we are working. But I am officially forfeiting on my last competition ground: the cyber world. I am throwing in the towel. Tapping out. The only team I am going to play for from here on out is my kids' team. Allowing myself to feel like a don't hold a candle to all you fab June Cleavers out there makes me less of a parent. It is time for me to embrace the "just doing what it takes to get thru each day and keep my kids happy and healthy" me. And it is time for me to accept His Grace in all areas of my life, including motherhood. After all, my kids opinions matter much more than some random mother at the park or someone I don't really even know out there in cyber world. And my kids, they think I am pretty awesome. Just last nite, my little man told me I was his favorite friend. My heart was in a puddle beside his bed.

And finally, as a Christian, I believe that I am not really deserving of the Grace that has been so generously offered to me. After all, that is what makes grace unique. You don't earn it or win it or deserve it. It just is. It is time for me to bask in His Grace. The Grace that looks past all of my ugliness and competitiveness and my not-so-great parenting moments (ummmm... like letting the kids watch CARS for the third time this week). This place is such a better to place to be. My mommy games are over. If you are a mom that has been competing and quite frankly have grown weary from playing, please know there are some of us out there who promise not to judge if you are using disposable diapers, letting your kids watch Sesame Street in the mornings, and are ready to scream and die of embarrassment after your three year old says "oh, sh*t" as loud as possible... at church. I've been there. Heck, I live in that mommy-hood, not the perfect one. Moreover, there is a loving God that offers peace and grace in the midst of this crazy season of life. Maybe you know Him, maybe you don't. I am not here to judge that either.

Below are some pictures one of my favorite (safe and non-judging) mommy friends snapped of me and the kids at the park. I love it because she caught the real us on camera: me in my preferred attire (sweats), Payton eating a fruit snack that he just dropped on the ground, and Bunte being his goofy self. But most of all, I love that they are happy. My kids are filled with JOY. There joy does not come from my parenting alone. It comes from a Source much greater. The Spirit moves in my children. I wish I could be more like them and see joy in everything, everyday. But goodness knows I see Joy in my kids. They make me smile... a lot :). Especially when they yell poop as loud as possible at the grocery store :).






The same day that these pictures were taken there was young Black woman at the park. I noticed her watching my boys for quite some time. As we were about to leave, she looked at me and said, "You are so lucky!" I just smiled and said, "You are so right! Thank you for reminding me!" As APs, Wes and I often hear stuff like, "what you are doing is so great....blah blah blah." But the reality is we did not do anything special. We are parents like so many other people out there. We are the ones who are blessed. Very blessed to have these beautiful boys. To hear this young woman says this was such a breath of fresh air. She gets it. She sees the Joy in my boys. She knows that we have, indeed, been blessed.

So the Mom Games can continue on.... without me. Whatever way you parent is your business, not mine. I am just going to enjoy my kids. Any thoughts from other moms out there about their experiences playing in the mommy games?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Adoption Themed Jewelry, Gear, and Books

Just wanted to share a few sites that have great adoption related gear! These all would make AWESOME baby shower/child welcoming gifts for a waiting adoptive mama! This is a work in progress and is by no means a complete list of books and gear. I have just seen a lot of wonderful ideas shared recently and wanted to compile a list before I lost track of them all.

Jewelry:

Junk Posse (I got my "Hands for Africa" pendant here and I had "Little K" engraved on the back. I wore this during our wait to bring him home. This pendant will be Bunte's when he is grown (up enough to have it/wear it without losing it)! Some of the designs benefit various people's adoption. Check it out!)

bel kai designs (My wonderful husband let me pick out my own Valentine. I ordered the "family tree" pendant and had it customized for our family. Picture to follow when it arrives!)

Hope Bracelets (I don't have one...yet. But the purchase of these bracelets provides funding to the Foundation of Hope and Grace that gives grants to adoptive families... and many other things as well.)

DaisyDream4us (Fellow adoptive mom using her gifts to create beautiful jewelry to help fund her adoption.)

Light Gives Heat (Awesome bead jewelry made in Africa and its proceeds are actually for the people who make it. Great way to "be the change.")

Little Goody 2-Shoes (Bottle cap necklace with Africa in the center made by an 11 year old girl who uses the proceeds to buy shoes for people in Africa who need them. I love this girl's heart!)

Stationary:

Mandy's Moon (This site has great ideas for adoptive parents. Not to mention it celebrates multiculturalism! I ordered some awesome address labels!)

Dolls:

Sitina Dolls (Wonderful dolls made by a Nigerian woman. A great conversation starter about the love first moms and adoptive moms have for a child.)

Books for Adoptive Parents (and family of adoptive parents):

In on it: What adoptive parents would like you to know about adoption. (I have not read this book yet, but will post a review when I do. It is great idea for families members to read while an adoptive family is journey down the hard road of THE WAIT.)

The Connected Child by Karen Purvis (One of favorites! Great ideas for attachment parenting and healing. This book is particularly appropriate for parents with children that joined their families as "older children."

There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Greene (Such an amazing story about a woman's journey to help children orphaned by AIDS. I have never cried so much as I did when I read this book and after going to Ethiopia the story is so much more real to me.)

Black Baby White Hands by Jaiya John (I wish I could have everyone that knows my kids read this book. I know it probably won't happen, but I think it would change the way people interacted with my children and would keep well-meaning people from saying "I don't see color" etc. This is a personal story told by an adult adoptee who grew up in a transracial family. It is HARD to read. Not because it is hard to understand, but because it hurt my heart to read about his pain. I hope my kids never feel as isolated as he did at times. Reading this book helped me understand the impact and importance of environment and relationships have on my children.)

Children's Books About Adoption:

Yafi's Family: and Ethiopian boy's journey of love, loss, and adoption. (Great story and discussion started for families to discuss adoption.)

God Found Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren: To this day, I cannot read this book without getting teary. Such a sweet reminder to our children how much we longed for them and prayed for them before we ever knew them by name.

Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis (Great story about domestic infant adoption. It is such a cute book and appropriate for very young children. P loves this one!)

Art:

jodi queenan (She has AMAZING artwork. I purchased this print from her when we started the process for little B. We hung it in the boys bathroom (it matches the paint in that room best.) Anyhow, yesterday I was giving him a bath and he pointed to it and said, "Mommy (points to the fair-skinned lady) Bunte (points to the dark-skinned baby)." While he is not a baby, he definitely could relate to the picture. And it led to some deeper discussion. I love art work and literature that mirrors our family, simply because we can relate and because it is obviously not as mainstream and easy to find as art and literature about families created the "traditional" way. When I went back to visit her site, I saw they she now does jewelry and life books as well! Awesome! I was also thinking that I would like to purchase a print for the boys room at some point. I like this one and this one. Which would you choose? Finally, she gives some of her profits the Kolfe Youth Orphanage in Addis.


Other Ideas:

Pitter Patter Art (Awesome selection of art and clothing with adoption themes. She also just has absolutely adorable kid stuff!)

For Such As These (A fellow adoptive mom waiting on her son in Ethiopia. Her daughter is making hand bags with an Africa print.)

Stitches So Sweet (This adoptive mom does amazing embroidery and custom decals! She even has baby bloomers and bibs with Africa designs. They are too cute!)

Our Heart in Ethiopia (Vinyl decals of Africa with a heart stamped in Ethiopia. These would make great additions to kid's rooms or gear!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mini Family Vacation to Great Wolf

So many people have suggested taking the kids to Great Wold Lodge. We decided we would celebrate our 15 years together by going the Great Wolf. So (not) romantic. However, it was a great time as a family! We were not overly impressed with the service and the prices are... ridiculous! However, we were able to keep the costs lower because we went mid-week, did not purchase any food from their snack bars (in fact, we only consumed one meal at Great Wolf) and did not buy any "extras." They allow you to attach your credit card to your wrist band so it would be super easy to spend a ton of money really fast! But we were able to scoot out of there without falling prey to the gimmicks of theme parks.

A (decent) family photo. My hair looks awful, but at least we are all looking at the camera. Improvement!
We did eat lunch at GW the last day we were there and the boys got free wolf ears to compliment our over-priced, bland meal. If you go to GW, take your own food!

While I was not impressed with the service, food, or prices, I was totally impressed with the water park. The life guards were super vigilant, the water park was very clean, and the rides were totally appropriate for EVERYONE! This alone made the trip worth our time and money. We all had a blast at the water park. Not to mention that we were able to pretend it was an 84 degree summer day for two days because they park is heated year round!

We swim every weekend at our local gym, but this was the first time Bunte really learned to be independent in the water (with a life vest) and figured out how to make himself go where he wanted to go! We were so proud of him! He went on all the "big" water slides that he was allowed to and he even went "swimming" (again, with a life vest) in the wave pool!
Payton was obsessed with the GIANT bucket of water that fills and spills every 5 minutes. It has a warning bell, so every time the bell rang, Payton said, "watch, Mommy! The bucket!" (except his B sounds like an F). Ha! Payton really only lasted for about two hours each day in the park. The loud noises just got to be to much and he plugged his ears. However, I was so proud of him for going on one of the "big" slides. My tiny tot looks so grown in this picture!

The boys loved the cozy little "wolf den" in their room! Payton was terrified to go in at first, but after a day of water park, he was to exhausted to notice. He slept on the bottom bunk, all by himself. It was the first time he has ever slept in a "big boy" bed! *tear*

(Side note: the boys are wearing matching outfits in all of these pics, but I promise I don't usually dress them this way! It just kind of happened.)

Trouble!

On Wednesdays I have my two boys plus my four year old nephew! I am so thankful the weather permitted us to enjoy another farm day! So much fun!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

She's No Secretariat...

But to us, SHE IS GOLDEN!

Daisy all "prettied up" for hunt night in 2008. Look how tiny P was then?!

P and Daisy at a horse show last summer.
Fox hunting with Wes and Brooke.

Chillin' at the in gate on Hunt Night at a show in Nov 2010.

Daisy taking care of my little man in December 2010.
Competing in Special Adults at a local show in 2008.

(Warning: this post has a lot of horse jargon. If you are not a horse person, you may be a bit confused.)

The other night Wes and I put the kids to bed and stayed up late to watch Secretariat. It was a wonderful movie! Of course I have always known the story, but I was a) totally impressed by Secretariat's athleticism and b) impressed by his owner's faith and the strength she possessed to get him to the top. I will never own a Secretariat or have the money to purchase a ready-made, wins-the-blues-at-Devon type of horse. But I sure do have one stellar little mare and watching Secretariat made me think about just how lucky we are to have her and how glad I am that we made the decision to keep her.

Her beginnings were quite humble to say the least. It has been over six years now since my sister got a call from an older gentleman that was downsizing his farm and wanted her to look at some horses as possible school prospects for my mom. She went out to see them and was not impressed. Then she asked him about the "little" mare in the field. He said he would sell her if Brooke was interested, but the mare had never had a saddle or bridle on before as she only two years old. Brooke grabbed a lead rope and a halter, hopped on her in the field, and said, "We'll take her," and brought her back to my parent's barn. At that time Wes and I stilled lived about an hour away. I came home over the weekend and my mom told me to ride the new chestnut mare while she and Brooke headed off to a horse show. I did. No major problems.

They returned and asked me how the ride went.
I replied, "Okay I guess. But she doesn't bend at all and she seemed a little hesitant to jump." My Mom gasped, " You jumped her!"
"Yeah, why not?" I replied.
"Because she has only been ridden three times...ever!" (Ooops.)

But it was then I knew there was a little something special this quite rotund, slightly shaggy, chestnut mare. A few weeks later my mom asked me if I wanted to buy her before she advertised her for sale for anyone else. Wes and I chatted about it and decided it would be a good investment.

Fast forward a few months and I am riding her at a show in Lexington VA. She was going around a 2'6" course like a pro. I was beaming with pride. There is nothing fancy about this girl, but she is so darn cute that she has her own fan base. Really. We don't get to too many shows these days, but people still know her name. Little girls I don't know come and kiss her and say, " I love Daisy." It is cute. Anyhow, at this show, her first ever at the ripe age of 3, we were sitting at the in-gate waiting for our division flat class, and someone came up and offered to purchase her for 5 times our investment. She was ready to cut a check right there on the spot. They wanted her as a hunt prospect. I called Wes to see if he was interested. He siad, "I just can't do it... she's like...family." I agreed. Looking back, I am so grateful that Wes (a newbie to the horse world when we married) had the foresight to keep our "Fat Mae," as we lovingly call our hefty "Belgian/Quarter Horse cross that looks like a Haflinger but is officially registered as a Spotted Draft Horse."

She is perfect. She is a super star for me in the show ring. She can carry Wes around the hunt field (granted he looks a little ummm...interesting on our large pony- yes, she measures just under 14' 2 hands, making her officially a pony). And best of all, I can pull her out of the field, on a cold winter day, when she has not been worked in nearly two weeks, and trust her to take care of my kids. They both can walk and trot on her and she takes care of them. This girl is worth more than a million dollars to us and we wouldn't trade her for anything. I cannot wait until the boys are steady enough to take her out in the fields on their own. Some of my best child hood memories are galloping through the fields, laughing and screaming, without a care or fear in the world. I hope they will enjoy it as much as I did... and still do. But now, I also enjoy a quite walk, just me and my Daisy Mae, soaking up the sun and enjoying the quiet sounds of nature and the beauty of God's creations. I wish I could squeeze in a little more of those rides these days.

I love you, Sweet Daisy Mae. And thanks, Brooke, for giving this little mare a chance and seeing her potential. She is SO worth it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fun on the Farm

Two weeks ago Bunte finally got on a horse for the first time. He was terrified when he first arrived but seeing picutres of Payton horse showing sure changed his level of fear! He was demanding to jump and canter. He had to settle for walking and trotting with somebody leading him. However, I do think he has potential! Look for him in the short stirrup ring this summer!
My nephew, Bryden, spends Wednesday afternoons with us (at least until I go back to work.) Thankfully, today was perfect farm weather. They had a blast!
They loved on one of the "bottle baby" goats. This little one was a twin and its mommy picked it up by the leg and threw it across the barnyard. She refused to feed so now it lives in the tack room and the farm and gets loved on by anyone who hears her pitiful little cry.
Bryden finally worked up the nerve to get on Daisy. He was pretty scared, but I am so proud of him! He did it!
When they were finished riding and giving Daisy treats, they decided is was time to clean. They each grabbed a pitch fork and scraped up loose pieces of hay to "feed to the horses." Will let them think they did a lot of work ;). They really did do this for almost 45 minutes and were mad that I made them stop to get snacks and take a nap. Life is so hard.