Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mommy Guilt - Just Say NO!

The mom guilt - it can start as fast as two blue lines appear on a pregnancy test!
Oh, no, I think I had caffeine last week.
Uh, oh, I think I may have eaten unpasteurized cheese.
I forgot to take my prenatal!
I despise Mom Guilt.  I rail against it.  I encourage every mom I know to not beat herself up, to do her best and leave the rest to God.  I do my best to ignore the uncivil shouters of the world who try to convince me that their way is the only right way.  But, even I, the champion in the fight against Mom Guilt is susceptible.

Today, I go pick up my girls from school, they get into the car, chattering about the lunches I had packed for them.  We get home and I work on homework with both girls.  The Engineer gets home and asks the Hedgehog about her day.  She promptly bursts into tears.  She'd had a bad day.  she doesn't like one of her teachers at school.  One of the boys that she's working with on a project isn't helping.  It all pours out, all over her Daddy, as I sit by, shocked. 
Why hadn't she told me?  Did I even ask about her day?  How could I not tell that she was having a hard time?
Sigh.  Attack of the Mom Guilt.

Time for the girls to go to bed and I'm feeling somewhat better because I've helped Hedgehog brainstorm some strategies for dealing with the situations at school.  I feel like I started late, but I finished strong.  Go Team Mom!

But then, there is screaming.  The noise is coming from the girls' bathroom and the Engineer goes to investigate.  He comes back in a few minutes holding a nightgown with monkeys on it.  "Whose is this?" he asks, waving it at me.  "I don't know," I confess, and he wades back into the fray.  He eventually determines that it probably belongs to Hedgehog, based on the size, and she puts it on, gives kisses and goes to bed.  Monkey, despondent, cries in my lap for another 30 minutes.
What kind of mommy doesn't even know which pjs belong to which kid?  For good grief's sake, there are only 2 of them!
Even more Mom Guilt.

There are too many topics that prompt guilt to count:  vaccines, co-sleeping, disposable or cloth diapers, make-your-own organic baby food or jarred, work or stay at home, breast or bottle?  And as the kids grow, the topics just change:  public or private or homeschool, how many extra-curricular activities, hairdos, piercings, attitudes, DATING!

We can drive ourselves crazy, second guessing every choice, wondering if our kids' mistakes are our own fault, and listening to every side of each and every issue.  But, all we can do is try our best.  After we've done what we hope to be right, we need to give ourselves a break.  We need to make a choice based on what we know of the situation and our child and move forward.  We need to silence the ugly voice inside our own heads that says horrible things we would never allow to be said to a friend and we need to ignore all the "advice" givers in our life.

Mommy, just say NO to Mom Guilt.  You deserve better.  So do I.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Bully

I've always hated bullies.  My sense of justice just gets all offended when someone bigger, stronger, more powerful or smarter picks on someone who simply isn't equipped to fight back.  My junior year in High School, I met the worst bully I had ever know, in the person of my U.S. History Teacher.

I shouldn't have even been in her class.  It was a Freshman subject, but I had transferred from another state, and had not had it yet.  This teacher liked teaching scared, vulnerable Freshman.  But I wasn't a Freshman, not scared and not vulnerable.  She didn't pick on me.

She was a poor teacher.  U.S. History had the potential for being a great, interesting class (we wouldn't have appreciated it, we were teenagers, but she could have tried!)  Her class consisted of reading from the textbook, aloud, in turns and then answering the questions at the end of the section.  Homework was the same routine, read a section, answer the questions.

Reading aloud has never been difficult for me.  I love to read, have an extensive vocabulary and can usually muddle through pronouncing difficult words.  Not everyone was so lucky.  Several students got nervous when reading, causing them to trip over their words.  Some students couldn't pronounce all the words and some were just plain slow.

Her classroom had an odd arrangement.  There were four long rows of desks that faced her own desk, and three short rows that faced the long rows and were sitting to the side of her desk.  The slow kids, the poor readers, the ones who stumbled over their own words, or mispronounced things sat on the short rows.  These were her favorite targets.

If someone was reading slow, she'd lean on her podium and dramatically drum her fingers on it with a "we're waiting" look on her face.  She made faces when people stumbled when reading, causing the class to laugh and the poor reader to squirm.  But the worst was always if you mispronounced something.

There was one boy in the class, James, who was slow.  He wasn't with the Special Education kids, but he was probably pretty close to being eligible.  Just like many slow kids, James was unpopular.  Some of the kids called him "Booger".  But he was such a nice guy.  He was always smiling, always tried hard and I just never could be mean to him, it seemed too much like kicking a puppy.

But picking on Booger got big laughs, so our teacher did so nearly every class. Every time it was his turn to read, without fail, he would mispronounce something.

"Noooooo, James" she'd say, in a voice dripping with sarcasm.  "It's gov-er-N-ment, NOT gov-er-mint," she'd say, and roll her eyes as our classmates tittered.  He would smile, re-pronounce the word and soldier on through the drumming of her fingers and her mocking faces and the laughter of his peers.  He never acted like he disliked her, and I never was even sure if he understood that she was being awful to him, which, in my mind, made it worse.

I never did confront her about her treatment of poor James.  In truth, I'm not sure that I had any idea how to do that.  But, to this day, I get perverse pleasure from the fact that I ticked her off and still got an "A" in her class.

Homework, though unoriginal and useless, was required in her class, every night.  If completed homework was not brought to class, we had to fill in a form.  I was generally a conscientious student, but for some reason, one day, I had no homework and was required to complete her form.  And, that day, I was in no mood for her.  The question on the form read, "Why had you chosen not to complete your assigned homework?"  I thought about half a second before responding:
I had better things to do than waste my time on moronic busywork
and I passed my form to the front.

I then watched as she leaned on her podium as we read in turns, idly marking checks on completed homework and 0s on forms.  I knew when she reached my form, because she suddenly stood up straight.  Then she went scarlet and then purple with anger.  She stalked out of the classroom while a student was still reading.  I sat, as my befuddled classmates wondered what to do, and felt an odd cross of horror and elation.

She stormed back in, holding my form plus a copy of my form.  She waved them both at me while barking to me to stay after class.  Those seated near me gave me sympathetic looks, fearing for me, but strangely, I wasn't afraid.

After class, she hotly informed me that a copy of my form was going in my "permanent record".  She said that my bad attitude was going to prevent me "from going anywhere in life" and that I would be "lucky to pass her class and not have to re-take it as a Senior",  She pronounced the last bit as vengefully as any Disney villain, but I shrugged and walked out.

The next week we got progress reports.  I had a solid B in her class and promptly decided to use my marks to torture her.  Several times a week, during class, I would pull out my calculator and all my papers, averaging my grades according to the rubric in the curriculum.  She would glower at me as I cheerfully determined my grade.  I turned in only the assignments that were absolutely necessary to keep my grade rising.  My final grade in her class was a 90.  An "A" that I know it pained her to give.

It didn't solve the problem, but I felt victorious nonetheless.  I thought I had fought her and won.  I hope to teach my girls that there are all kinds of fights out there to win.  This time, I picked the wrong fight.  I should have been fighting for the underdog, the poor bullied boy, not my grades.  I hope they'll choose better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Memory Monday: Karma's a Bitch

"Whaaaa!  Whaaaaa!  You ready for 3 a.m. feedings, Joe?"  Dale teased, rubbing his eyes in an imitation of crying.  "Ready to change some diapers?"

The crew laughed, and Joe grimaced good-naturedly.  One of the perils of working for your brother-in-law was the boss knowing all your business.  He shook his head and tried to focus on the siding job in front of him.

He and Lily had thought they were done having children.  This little "surprise" would be a full 9 years younger than their son.  He really wasn't looking forward to the long nights again.  His elementary school daughter and son were at a low-maintenance age, and he enjoyed that.

Too distracted to work, he pulled his Marlboros from his pocket and walked out to the driveway before lighting up.  Dale, having finished talking with the homeowner, was headed for his truck.  Just before pulling out, he rolled down his window and said "Hey, Joe, you wanna come see the boys play tonight?"

Joe took a long drag, considering the question.  Dale's twin sons, one year younger than his daughter, were fair athletes, but one little league game is about the same as the next.

"Nah,"  he shook his head, "Lily's been tired.  Better stay home."

"Better get ready", Dale grinned, miming rocking a baby.

Joe half-waved at him and crushed out his cigarette as Dale drove off.

Later that night, on the ball field, Dale mentally patted himself of the back, it had not been easy to get all 3 of the kids ready and there on time, but he'd done it.  He'd be glad when Susie got back from the doctor, though, it was hard to coach first base and keep an eye on Jillie at the same time.

A few minutes later, he saw her walking over to the bleachers and signed in relief.  It was so much easier when they could divide and conquer the supervision duties.

He smiled and waved and immediately tried to concentrate on the game.  For second and third graders, the Blue Jays were a pretty good team.  He coached a runner to steal second and waited for the next batter.

Susie, however, had finally reached the stands and was talking with some of the other moms on the bleachers.  Her high, excited voice was carrying onto the field, in pieces.

Dale heard, "Doctor....shocked...pregnant" and whipped his head around, completely missing whatever was happening on the field.  There was a crack of a bat and wild cheering but he heard nothing but his wife say "....twins"

For the rest of the game, he was useless.  His mind whirled with thoughts of two more children, how to provide, expanding the house and, annoyingly, "What will Joe say?".

This is a true story of Belle Mère and Big Poppa.  Joe and Lily has a son, and not long later, my in-laws, Susie and Dale, had their second set of twins, Elizabeth and David.  Joe graciously didn't tease Dale too badly.

Memory Mondays

I've had so much fun posting about my Grammy and my Mimi, that I've decided to make it a regular feature.  Memory Mondays will feature a treasured family story.  Some will be funny, others scary and all of them precious to me.  Hope you enjoy them like I do!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Making Changes

I've just finished reading the September/October issue of MomSense magazine and a great article called "Changing Directions" by Sharon A. Hersh (  She writes all about how to parent differently than you were raised.  She says:
"Researchers have discovered that the single most important predictor of how we will parent is how we were parented as a child.  It's as if we have a GPS programmed in our brains that directs us in our parenting.  This can be a blessing if we learned to respond with patience and encouragement.  But it can be a curse if our internal programming directs us to yell and to criticize."
Her article is very encouraging, with helpful suggestions to those who wish to parent differently than they may have been.  One of the lovely things is that is it not one of those "bash your parents" articles, either.  Rather, it is asking us to take a long, hard look at our own parenting and make changes if needed.

I have seen first hand that this CAN be done.  The examples I have seen in my family's history lead me to believe that I can change and be the kind of mommy I choose to be.  For example:
  • My Grammy's mother was a bitter, controlling woman.  She used guilt to attempt to get her children to do what she wanted them to do.  She didn't even go to her daughter's weddings because "they were leaving her".  Grammy didn't like that side of her mother's personality and decided not to emulate it.  As a result, my Grammy was a positive person who never tried to control her family, just guide them, if they needed help. 
  • Momma Bear's mom (my Mimi) is a complainer.  If you call Mimi, pull up a chair, because she's going to tell you all about her ailments for a LONG time, in a most dramatic fashion.  And if you call her, she's going to tell you who all hasn't been calling her lately (funny phone she has, only takes incoming calls, apparently she can't call out....).  Momma Bear has some crap stuff in her life that would be complain-worthy, but she doesn't gripe.  She does what has to be done and goes on.
  • Big Poppa's mom (Engineer's Mammaw) tried to be controlling.  From her nursing home, she attempted to boss around her entire family.  The Engineer and I went to see her a few days after returning from our honeymoon and took her a chocolate pie.  Her response was "Now you can come back every week and bring more pie".  Her domineering attitude guaranteed her few visitors.  Big Poppa lets his family do what they want.  He has plenty of advice, to be sure, but bossing isn't his style.
All of this gives me hope.  When I look back at a day where I lost my temper too quick, raised my voice too often, threatened instead of taught and spanked instead of using a time out, I remember.  I remember those before me who fought to be different, and I know that someday, I will be too.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tantrum Theology a.k.a Why Monkey Shouldn't Have to Clean Her Room

It started our innocently enough.  The Engineer told the girls to clean their room.  We've had a long-standing problem with Monkey playing while Hedgehog cleaned the whole room, so he divided the room in half, assigning each child a half.

Monkey exploded.

By the time I arrived, the full force of her five year old fury was on display.  She was crying, kicking and screaming about the unfairness of the system.

"Her half is smaller and has less stuff," Monkey shrieked, loudly enough to be heard by the entire tri-state area.*

The phone rang.  It was Belle-Mère.  The Engineer left the room to talk with his mother as I tried to reason with Monkey while Hedgehog swiftly and steadily cleaned her half of the room.

After completing her half of the room, Hedgehog got on the phone with Belle-Mère.  Seeing this, Monkey screeched that she wanted to talk on the phone, too.  I explained that she would have to stop yelling to talk on the phone.  This proclamation was answered with an ear-splitting shriek that instantly terminated her telephone privileges.

She was sent back to her room with orders to stay until it was cleaned, or she would not get to dine with the rest of us.

Defiant, she crossed her arms and shouted "I will NOT clean, I WILL eat dinner and I WILL call Belle-Mère!"  She refused to even return to her room until I counted to number two of three.

From her room, she continued to rail about unfairness, until she suddenly changed strategies.  The cries were now "I can't do it, I can't help it, I just can't do it!" in a most pained, overly-dramatic way.

She burst from her room and ran to me.  "Mommy, I can't do it, I can't help it.  My brain's not right for it!  I'm not smart for cleaning!"

I told her she was a very smart kindergartner and she certainly could clean.

I picked her up, put her in my lap, and said "Monkey, whose hands are these?", holding hers up for inspection.

"God's" she answered.

Recovering far slower than I would've liked, I said "Well, who did God give these hands to?"


"That's right.  And you can use them for fun things like playing with your toys AND for cleaning your room."

"But I don't like to do that" she whined.

"I know.  That happens sometimes.  Mommy doesn't like doing the laundry.  But these,"  I plucked at her pants, "were clean and folded and in your drawer this morning, right?"

"Yeah", she said sullenly.

"So what does that mean?"

"You really do like laundry?"

"No," I chuckled, "I still don't like laundry.  But we all have to do things sometimes that we don't like.  It's part of growing up.  Understand?"

She gave me a grudging nod.  I sent her, still sniffling, back to her room to clean it.

I smiled at the Engineer, mentally patted myself on the back and contemplated sending my story to ScreamFree Parenting.

Then Monkey screamed, "I don't know why God made me this way!"

It took another hour and a half of screaming, kicking and throwing before she finally cleaned her room.

I may need to go to seminary before her next fit.

* Obscure Phineas and Ferb reference

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blue Jeans: A Cautionary Tale

I want to tell you the story of a time when my tight-fitting jeans nearly cost me my life.  Sounds overly dramatic, I know, but the older I get, the more I realize what kind of trouble I really could have been in.

It was a gorgeous spring day during my college years and I had the day off and no plans.  I woke late, de-frizzed my natural curls as best I could, and got dressed.  An off-day meant my favorite pair of Rockies jeans, boots and a cute top.  Rocky Mountain Jeans were designed with no back pockets, so were perfect for showing off my cute, tiny little tush.

I hoped into my red Geo Metro and drove to the local Wal-Mart for a few college essentials (caffeine and junk food).  I whipped into a fairly close parking spot next to a Bondo-grey van.  I hopped out, and dug around in the back seat for my purse.  As I did, I heard appreciative comments coming from the van.  Van drivers were NOT my type, so I ignored them.  I continued to ignore lewd comments about my backside and what one could do to it as the three van occupants ambled past into the store.

I found my purse, shouldered it, and set off in the opposite direction at a quick, determined pace.

Inside the store, I gathered my few purchases and headed for a check-out lane.  From the check stand I could see that the three men had joined a fourth and they were all standing in the jewelry department.  And I was still an object of their attention.  As the cashier made small talk, I noticed the three heading for the exit and inwardly sighed with relief.  I purposely took my time going to the exit, giving the men ample time to leave so I would not encounter them again.

Just before I left the building I saw the fourth man, leaning on the counter in the jewelry department.  I looked at him and he grinned at me.  Disgusted, I looked away, took out my keys and left the building.

Instantly, alarm bells were going off in my head.  To my left, near the pay phone, was one of the three, on my right the second, and I could see the third man standing in the parking lot facing me.  If I walked a few feet more, I would be surrounded.

I froze.  I stopped mid-step, looked at my watch and turned on my heel to go back into the building.

Just two steps inside the building, I saw the fourth man again.  He was grinning again.  He walked past me, getting so close that there were mere molecules between us.  I could feel his body heat on my skin.

I stopped at the nearest employee and asked for an escort to my car.  It took several minutes to find someone, and I'd almost convinced myself that I'd overreacted until we walked back outside.

The grey van was stopped right behind my car, completely bocking it in.  I pointed at the van, and it sped off.

I believe that if I had not heeded my inner alarm, I would not be here today.  I would've been in the back of that van, unspeakable things would've been done and I would have been gone.

Blue jeans designed to highlight a woman's backside aren't really dangerous.  But some men are.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

If I Were a Hoarder

OK, so, in my head, the title goes just like "If I Were a Rich Man" from "Fiddler on the Roof", so I have to get it out of my system.

There, now I feel better, and a little Russian.

I needed that, because the subject of hoarding hits just a bit too close to home with me.  My Mimi is a hoarder.  She can barely move around in her house, despite living by herself in a three bedroom home.  The Momma Bear is quickly following in her shoes.  It wasn't that way when I was a child, but recently, it's getting bad.  The boys coming back to live with them was one factor, now the detritus of two little guys is everywhere, their backbacks and laundry stacked in various places.  But after Grammy died, it got worse.  They brought back boxes and boxes and furniture that they have no room for.  So, I worry that one day, my home will be too cluttered for the people who live there too.

Currently, the clutter isn't winning any battles.  Things are mostly put away and I have a place for most things.  I've even cleaned out the kitchen cabinets and the hall closet since the kids went back to school, and my trunk is full of things to donate.  But, with that said, there are a number of large totes in the hall closet, filled with craft supplies and unfinished projects.  There is one whole corner of my bedroom dedicated to "crafting" that currently looks like a crime scene.

I don't know that I really "hoard" craft things, but I sure do have a BUNCH of unfinished projects around.  I've been working on cross-stitching Christmas stockings for all of us since before Hedgehog was born (yeah, she's seven, I know) and the stitching still isn't completed on the Engineer's.  I'm YEARS behind on my scrapbooking, and the sewing projects are in a tote under the bed.  And don't even get me started on the two unfinished furniture projects in the garage.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I AM a hoarder.

Don't be surprised if I don't post for a while, I have some things to do, apparently!