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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Homage to Stay-At-Home Moms

This is my love letter to stay-at-home moms.  I know people have done studies about how many full time jobs and what the salary equivalent would be for stay-at-home moms if they were paid; and I can  honestly concur from my own personal experience, it has to be the hardest job I've ever had.  I have the priviledge for two and half months every summer to be a stay-at-home mom with my kids, and let me tell you...I think I'll keep my day job. 
Just trying to take a shower on a daily basis is a challenge.  If I turn my attention for more than a minute, my kids are in to something they shouldn't be...not because they are naughty kids, but because they are interested and curious.  The other day, I finally got a shower at 3 in the afternoon.  When I got out, my two-year old had found scissors in my computer bag for work and cut my earbuds to my iPod in pieces.  Later he found a black permanent marker, and drew all over his face and the dining room furniture.  He's no Picaso.
I've also been trying to potty train my son this summer (which I'll write about later).  I made the mistake of trying to multitask potty training with sorting through the gazillion toys they've acquired in their short lifetimes.  I was pulling out the baby toys they haven't played with in over two year for a garage sale or charity.  Of course, these were the only toys they wanted to play with, and within 15 minutes, Dylan had wet through three pairs of Thomas the Train underwear and no successful attempts in the potty.
We try to go outside and play to run off energy.  The thing is, I don't have that much energy and would prefer to sit and watch them play and maybe get a little bit of tan in the meantime.  This also is not an option because Natalie is turning on the water hose to fill up her wading pool or drown out the bugs on the patio, Dylan is pushing his bubble mower into the street, or they are trying to coax a stray cat to come across the invisible fence line so our dog can chase it up a tree.  They also take their inside toys outside, which would be okay if we didn't have a dog that chews EVERYTHING.  I guess its just the circle of life: the dog ruins the kids' toys, they destroy my house, and the circle of life continues.  I should have waited to write this during naptime because as I'm typing, Dylan hands me his sister's Barbie boot with chewed gum pushed inside.
Being a stay-at-home mom is a constant on-the-clock job.  There are no 15 minute breaks or leisurely lunches.  I'm always thinking about how what I do and how I interact with them will influence the way that they see the world.  I'm trying to balance free play with more structured play.  We try to mix it up by doing crafts, and I am not creative or crafty.  The other day I bought some googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and construction paper and felt like there must be something crafty we can make out of these.  We like to take day trips to the zoo, the science center, or just run errands to get out of the house.  Last week our special trip was to Casey's General Store for some donuts with sprinkles. 
All of the chaotic moments are balanced by the times when Natalie says, "Guess what, Mom?  I love you."  or Dylan comes up to me with his toy phone pretending to talk to Grandma, or hands me a book so we can snuggle and read.
I just don't know how stay-at-home moms do it all year long...dealing with the pee on the carpet, the spilled milk, and the applesauce dried on the kitchen chairs day in and day out.  Not only that, but the stay-at-home moms I know make it look so easy.  I get the job done, but its not graceful or pretty.  I'm thankful that I have the ability to spend this time with my children.  Research shows that the first five years of a child's life are the most important, and I'm glad I get to have my influence on them during this time.  I'm also thankful that just when I get tired of eating fish sticks and hot dogs,  I can go back to work and look forward to doing it all over again in 192 days.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Beyond the Birds and the Bees

We've seen it played out on many sit coms where TV parents are faced with needing to give "THE TALK" to their preteen.  However, from my own personal experience, I don't believe there is just one TALK, but several little talks along the way to teaching your children about their bodies and human sexuality.  My daughter is only four and here are some of the conversations we have already had.  Fortunately for me, my husband immediately leaves the room whenever the topic comes up and leaves it up to me to be thoughtful, honest, and poised.
I guess the "talks" started when Natalie was probably two and a half.  Dylan could sit up independently in the bathtub.  That's when Natalie asked me why Dylan has a tail and she doesn't, which led to our first conversation about one of the differences between boys and girls.  We, okay I, use the anatomically correct words for body parts, and my husband is starting to come along since he's realizing that he sounds silly calling it a wee wee when everyone else in the house (4 year old, 2 year old, and me) is using the word penis.  Once we learned about the names of our body parts, we had to talk about that they are private and that no one should touch their private parts and if anyone does to tell mom and dad right away.  As a result, one day in the kitchen, my loving husband grabbed my butt while I was cooking dinner and Natalie yells out, "Dad, don't touch Mom's privates!"  That's all I need for her to be telling her daycare providers. 
Keep reading it gets worse/ decide.  So, as my daughter gets a little older (she's going to kill me for writing this someday) she starts exploring her body parts.  As a social worker, I have seen/heard about a great deal of sexual deviant behavior, so maybe I'm overly cautious about wanting to create sexually healthy human beings.  My husband and I told Natalie that if she wants to touch her own privates, she needs to do that in her bedroom...this, too, has come back to haunt me.  A few months ago, I was changing Dylan's diaper and Natalie says to me, "Those are Dylan's privates and no one can touch them except mom and dad and grandma and daycare when they are changing his diaper, right Mom?"  'Yep, that's right.'  She continues, "But Dylan can touch his own privates in his bedroom, right Mom?"  'Yes, if he wants to touch his own privates, he has to do that in his bed room.'  Here it comes, "Mom, do you touch your privates in your bedroom?"  Her question put me in panic mode.  I had 3 seconds to come up with the most appropriate response.  If I said "no", she may feel shame about her body or believe that she is doing something wrong by exploring her body, if I said "yes", she's going to tell every stranger in the grocery store that "my mommy touches her privates in her bedroom," so I responded with, "Natalie, we don't talk about what we do in our bedroom with other people."  That seemed to satisfy her and the conversation ended.
I'm curious to know if those of you reading this have children that are just as interested in their bodies as my daughter and how you've handled it.  At least once a month Natalie lays a big one on me.  Like the time we were sitting in church listening to the sermon, and out of no where she asked me why I had boobs.  The whole pew chuckled under their breath and awaited my reply, "To feed my babies."  I whispered.  Then just today, which is the reason I decided I should write this blog, I was at the mall with my two kids.  Dylan holding my hand and Natalie holding his.  I looked like mama duck and her two little sweet ducklings as we walked passed a woman's clothing store.  There were manequins in the window wearing strapless dresses.  Natalie commented about how beautiful each of the dresses were.  Then out of left field, "Mom, I wish I had boobs like you."  'You will when you get bigger.' "Will they just pop out?" I laughed, 'yes.' "Will you laugh at me when they pop out?" I responded more seriously, 'no, I won't laugh at you.' "When I get big, I'll have boobs, and I can wear necklaces and get my ears pierced and wear earrings..."  Oh how I love this child, but she certainly keeps me on my toes.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do when Dylan is old enough to start asking me questions.  Since, we've attempted to start potty training, he's already in love with his penis.  I guess Penis Pride starts young and carries all the way to adulthood...something I didn't know about boys.  He also sang, "my penis, my penis" as loudly as he could in a restaurant a few weeks ago.  I guess singing about his elbow wouldn't have gotten the same response from his audience.   I'm hoping that as we continue to have these "little" talks, it will get easier for me and by that time, my children will be the ones embarrassed.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ode to the Tube Sock

I know I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.  I also know I'm not trendy or necessarily fashion forward, but I also don't think I'm living in a different decade either.  So when did the tube sock go out of style?  I apparently missed that message. 
If you read my last blog, you know that I have been going to the gym on a regular basis to work out with a trainer.  He makes a conscious effort to check out my socks because one day I was in a hurry and couldn't find two ankle socks that had the same color rim around the top.  One was green and the other hot pink.  On Tuesday this week, I was wearing my usual white tube socks that say Hanes in pink on the bottom of the foot.  I've probably had these socks for 7 or 8 years now.  I figured socks were like underwear, they don't really go out of style and you wear them  until they have holes in them, right?
Anyway, so he notices my tube socks and says, "Nice socks!"  I thought he was being serious because at least they matched.  I finally figured out yesterday that his statement wasn't a compliment when he joked about what socks I had on at Thursday night's class.  A friend of mine who is also in the class, started laughing and said she hadn't seen socks like those since high school track in the 80's.  What?!
Just so you know, this isn't the first time my tube socks have been an issue.  About two and half years ago, my husband and I took our daughter to the Omaha Zoo.  It was the first time any of us had been there.  I got ready in the hotel with my polo shirt, army green shorts, tennis shoes, and of course my Hanes tube socks.  My husband took one look at me and said, "You are not going in public looking like that."  He gave me a pair of his ankle socks and made me change.  I didn't know what the issue was, but I did thank him later for letting me wear his socks.  When we got to the ticket line,  I realized the only people that were wearing tube socks with tennis shoes and shorts where over the age of 60 and complimented the socks with a fanny pack.
I love my tube socks.  They keep my feet and lower calf/shin area nice and warm and dry, but I will succumb to the fashion trends of the twenty-first century.  Today is pay day, so I will go out and get me some new ankle socks...preferably ones without colored rings on the top, so I don't need to worry about them matching.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Exercise Schmesercise

It all started in September when I went to my yearly thyroid check-up.  My doctor conveniently has been graphing my weight since I was diagnosed with hypothyroid disease in 2006, and so kindly pointed out to me that I was 12 pounds heavier then I was two years ago.  Nevermind the fact that I  carried a baby and gave birth to a child during that time.
He dismissed any reasoning I contrived alleging that the weight was due to turning 30.  (okay it probably had less to do with turning 30, then it did the margaritas and cheeseburgers I consumed to celebrate 30)  My doctor continued to tell me that I needed to lose some weight.  "You're not obese or anything, but you could afford to lose 5 pounds," were his words to be exact.   Now I love myself more than most people love me, but I have to say he poked a hole in my self esteem bucket.  I told him that I wanted to wait and make sure I was done having children, so I didn't have to lose that 5 pounds twice.  Not only does my doctor lack kouth, but a sense of humor as well and responded with, "Unless you plan on getting pregnant in the next month or two, you can lose it now."
Now most people I tell the story to, wonder why I continue to go to this doctor...but I kind of appreciate his honesty and heading me off before the 12 pounds turned into 20.  I went home and looked in the mirror and yes, there was a visible muffin top, and no, the dryer didn't shrink all of my pants.  Also, shortly after that, I went to a bridesmaid dress fitting for my friend's wedding this coming June...I was measured and politely made aware that I have a pear shaped body instead of the coveted hour glass figure.
It was time to dust of the commercial grade elliptical I insisted we buy 5 years ago and had yet to log an entire hour on.  I was serious about dropping not only the 5 pounds but the entire 12 to get back to pre-pregnancy weight...and be able to fit into my gray pants.   I decided I needed a personal trainer to help me know what exercises to do, how to do them, be most efficient and effective with my work outs and ultimately look like a bikini model.
I talked about this for a couple months until my childcare provider told me there was actually a trainer in my small rural town.  My plan was to work out with him once a week for a month, learn some exercises to do at home on my own equipment, and then continue to train on my own.  I started in November with two personal training sessions a week and 4 sessions turned into 10 sessions, and then into an 8 session class with 5 other women.  I've been consistently working out an average of 3 days a week for 3 months now.  My muffin top is disappearing and smoothing out, my arms are defined and so much stronger, I no longer am experiencing frequent tension headaches, and I feel really good right after the work out.  I've finally lost the 5 lbs my doctor ordered.  You would think that with the positive results that I would have bought into this exercise thing and healthy lifestyle, but I must be honest.  I STILL HATE EXERCISE!  Its hard, it makes me sweat, my muscles hurt, its time away from the television and Facebook...oh and time away from my family of course.  I have two more sessions in the current strength training class I'm taking and I will sign up for another month of classes in February.  In March I will officially have to make the conscious decision to maintain the fitness effort on my own.  I will have a bikini body by summer...well, my body will be in a bikini regardless if I get offers from Sports Illustrated or not, and I will know I've reached my goal when I can wear my gray pants in public without offending anyone.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Letter to my kids' teachers

Dear Mr/Mrs  So and So:

Let me preface this letter by letting you know we love our children very much and we mean well.  When Natalie comes to school in a purple shirt with an applicade flower and burgandy pants with embroidery on the bottom, realize she dressed herself that day.  As parents we decided to choose our battles and felt that it was more important for her to experience independence and self-confidence.  She felt so good about what she was wearing and it was weather appropriate, hence we chose to avoid the fight.
Please understand that if she comes to school and there is nothing in her "share bag" that starts with the letter of the alphabet that you are studying that day, it doesn't mean we don't care about the letter "f" or any of the other 25 letters.  It might just mean that the cat puked on the carpet, her brother was running a fever, or I had a presentation of my own for which I needed to prepare.
It may appear that Natalie's hair isn't combed or her teeth aren't brushed.  There's a good possibility that one or both of those did not occur.  Her father isn't as gentle when he combs her hair, so she finds it a little aversive.  We do teach and practice good hygiene.  We'll try to get up ten minutes earlier.
I have received and read the notes you sent home about her needing snow pants, boots, hats, and mittens if she is to play outside at recess.  You do not need to put a note in the teacher's lounge asking for donations.   We have at least two pairs of mittens and two hats, but finding a matching pair is sometimes difficult in the morning, as she tends to strip down in the car on the way home.  My husband and I scour our vehicles every morning and we will try to send whatever we can find, otherwise feel free to dig something out of the lost and found.  You can also call and we will try and run whatever it is that she needs up to the school.  Just try not to punish her for things in which she has no control.
If you have concerns, please call or email.  We love our children very much and we highly value education.  We want our children to do always do their best.  We read to them, play games, and try to make each moment a teachable moment.  We would be happy to volunteer and chaperone field trips, so please excuse some of our other slips ups throughout the year. 

Perfectly Imperfect Working Mom
P.S.  Did you notice I took the utmost care in ensuring none of my sentences ended in prepositions?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

High Expectations

In the spirit of full disclosure, I feel that I must be completely honest.  In yesterday's blog I wrote that there were Cheerios all over my kitchen floor, which isn't entirely true.  Nope, not Cheerios, but dare I admit...Fruit Loops.  I know, I know...I give my kids sugary cereal, but in my defense, I don't let them drink sugar in juice...its either milk or water.  I'm considering purchasing our own dairy cow for as much milk as we go through in a week. 
I alluded in my last post to the "mom guilt" syndrome that many of us experience.   I don't experience much "mommy guilt" and the majority of the time its not because of other mom's around me.  I know that we are all doing the best that we can, and that by excelling in one area of our lives means that we had to let go of something somewhere else.  My "mom guilt" comes from feeling like its impossible for me to be the mom to my kids that my mom was to me.  The only time we got Fruit Loops was when we went camping and she bought the variety pack of the single serving cereal boxes.  There were only so many sweet cereals in the package, so between my siblings and I, it was a fight over the Pops, Frosted Flakes, and Fruit Loops.  My mom didn't buy Coco Krispies.  If you wanted Coco Krispies, you could pour chocolate milk on your regular Rice Krispies.  If she gave in at all, she would buy a box of Sugar Smacks and mix it half and half with the generic unsweetened bag of wheat puffs.  My mom was very conscientious about the food she put in our bodies.  We ate at home and my mom always cooked from scratch.   Fast food was a treat and saved for good report cards and long road trips to grandparents' houses on holidays.   I cook during the week, but sadly I admit, until recently, we've eaten out most meals on weekends.   The recent halt to eating out has less to do with our decision to eat healthier, but more to do with trying to be fiscally responsible. 
Not only did my mom provide us with healthy foods, but she also is an excellent seamstress.  She sewed our Christmas and Easter dresses.  My brothers had matching vests and bow ties one year for Easter.  She made elaborate Halloween costumes.  My favorite was the Snow White dress she made for me in fourth grade.  I got a sewing machine for Christmas this year, but I won't be sewing my kids clothes.  My goal is to try and make them Halloween costumes, as I was disgusted by the fact that the ones sold in stores were ridiculously over priced and cheaply made.  (We were stapling my son's clown costume together as we walked out the door for trick or treating!)  I should probably start sewing costumes now, if they're going to be done by October. 
I know it doesn't make sense to hold myself to the same standard as my mother.  She was able to stay home with us, and at the time it was more economical to buy fabric and patterns then to buy fancy dresses in the stores.  Today, I can get cute clothes from Target for $3 a shirt and $6 bucks for pants and I'm guaranteed the leg and arm holes are in the right places.  My daughter's favorite dress is actually one we got as a hand-me-down from a friend.  Its black velvet on top on red satin on the bottom.  She loves it because she can twirl in it.  Its obviously a Christmas dress, but I let her wear it in the middle of July to a kinder music class.  It wasn't worth the battle.
I think in our minds we always glorify and create our own fantasy about our mom probably doesn't remember motherhood as glamorous as I viewed it to be on her.  She probably had her own "guilt" issues, they were just different.  She tells me that she admires my confidence and calm as a mother.  I guess, I will continue to read my parenting magazines, books on child development, and consult with my own mother and friends as I try to make the best decisions for my kids in the time and place that we are in, and hopefully far into the future my daughter hopes that she can be as good of mother to her children as I was to her.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Not perfect, but good enough

I'm not the perfect mother, but I'm a good mom. My kids are healthy, happy, and well-behaved most of the time because they aren't perfect either. I'm not the perfect wife, but I'm a good wife. I have a happy husband that shares the daily chores and child-rearing responsibilities. I'm an excellent cook, and enjoy cooking on most days. I'm not a perfect housekeeper, but I can be when I need to be. It sounded like a good idea to build a house with an open floor plan, but then when someone comes to the front door, there are only so many rooms in the house I can close off from the mess. I'm not a perfect employee, but I'm darn good at my job and I love the work that I do. Its meaningful to me, I get to exercise my brain, and hopefully have a positive impact on the lives of others. I'm not the perfect friend, but I'm a good friend. I will always answer the phone and make time to share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, whichever the moment calls for!
I'm a perfectly imperfect working mother, wife, friend, and woman...and I wouldn't have it any other way!
Sometimes I feel inadequate when I talk to my colleagues/friends and hear about their daily routines. They come home, fix dinner, play with the kids, give the kids baths, brush their teeth, read them bedtime stories, say prayers, and put them to bed the same time every night. Then they go back to the kitchen clean up from supper, unload and reload the dishwasher, wipe down the counters, pick up all the toys and food crumbs off the kitchen floor, tidy up the living room, fold a basket of laundry, and then maybe sit down to watch the news before going to bed, but before falling asleep, they climb into their bed that they made in the morning before going to work, and pull out a book and read a couple chapters before saying their own prayers, kissing their husband good night and going to sleep....then they get up at dawn to workout, start a pot of coffee, make everyone's lunches, get the kids clothes ready (if that hadn't been already done the night before), take a shower, gets herself ready, gets the kids dressed, makes all the beds, combs everyone's hair, gives them their breakfasts and Flintstone vitamins, makes sure they all brush their teeth before running out the door to drop them off at childcare or school. Wow, I'm exhausted just typing that. In my mind, that's the type of mother I think I would like to be, but in my reality it doesn't ever happen that way. Is it laziness, procrastination, or in the big big picture of life is it really going to matter? Is it more important that I get all of the Cheerios off of my kitchen floor each night instead of cuddling next to my husband on the couch to watch the current ridiculous reality show on television? Although I value cleanliness, I've decided building healthy relationships and maintaining them are more important than having the perfect house. I would rather read my son's favorite choo choo book for the 235th time then wipe off the counters from dinner. My kids don't get baths every night, but I haven't seen research that says they need them. When I was a kid, we got baths on Saturday night, so we were clean for church on Sunday. Our goal is every other night, but sometimes that doesn't always happen either. We love to read books, and my kids could sit on our laps for hours reading "Goodnight Moon," "Fancy Nancy" and "I Spy" books, and anything by Sandra Boynton; however, we don't always get to reading time every night either. I make an effort to always offer a vegetable at dinner, but sometimes we resort to ketchup as our veggie serving of the night. We aren't perfect parents, but I think we're good enough. Our children have warm beds, a warm house, and parents who love them very much. We praise them and encourage them, we discipline and teach them...we do all that anyone can do by simply doing the best that we can.