Finding My Mission

Lent is almost over.

I mentioned before that one of my Lenten penances was to not spend money. I’ve experienced an unintended benefit of this in that, instead of going to Target on Wednesdays when I have a babysitter for a couple of hours, I go to Adoration. It’s been wonderful.


This Lent I’ve also been listening to lots of lectures, in person and recorded, and reading and journaling a lot. One common theme I’ve been hearing/reading during Lent this year is, “Don’t miss out on what God is calling you to do!” and “What is God’s mission for you? Are you embracing it?” and “What is it that God wants you to do that you are resistant to?

This has all made me feel just a bit self-conscious, as though there’s some grander plan that God has for me and I’m somehow not grasping it. I’ve been wondering what it is.

I’ve always felt like I’m embracing my mission pretty well, actually. I have been pretty sure that my mission, my vocation, is to be a wife and mother and a teacher to my children. Sometimes I’m not very good at it. I yell at my kids, and I slack off on homeschooling stuff, and my house is a disaster. But I’ve still been pretty certain that this is my thing. That I’m doing just what God wants me to do.

BUT, during this Lent, I have repeatedly I felt like maybe I’m missing something. Every time I hear a priest or other speaker talk about making sure that we say “yes” to what God is calling us to do. . . I feel a bit of panic, like I’m not hearing or not heeding my call. I search my brain to try to figure out what I’m missing. “Am I following God’s plan? Am I obeying Him? Am I blocking out His call??? What if I’m missing the whole point of what He wants me to do?”

I’ve been praying a lot for God to help me know what He wants from me. Yesterday was the completion of my 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian consecration, and I’ve been asking Mary to pray for me to “get it” too. I’ve been praying to be a better wife and a better mother. I’ve resolved to not yell at my girls. I really want to do a better job of juggling homeschooling and housekeeping and preparing our house to sell (and I’m failing miserably at this, but that could probably be another whole blog post).

I’ve been praying and praying all this stuff, and though Lent has been nice, and centering, and productive in certain ways for me, it has seemed like I’ve still been waiting on. . . something.

Let’s circle back around to the first part of this post, where I mentioned that I have been going to Adoration every Wednesday. Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Annunciation and the day I completed my Marian consecration. I went to Mass in the morning. I went to Adoration in the afternoon. As I drove there I prayed the joyful mysteries of the Rosary. I thought about Mary’s “Yes” to God.

When I got there, I got down on the kneeler and began to pray as usual, and then I tried to just listen.

I got my answer – the answer to all of my prayers of “What am I missing? What do You want me to do?” In the stillness of my heart I felt/heard one word.


That might seem very anticlimactic, but I swear in that moment, a smile lit up my face and I felt like I had been given the answer to everything.

I try really hard to be a good wife and mom. I focus on getting things done and the results of my labors.

“Do my kids have good manners?”

“Are they eating good food?”

“Do they know their letters and numbers?”

“Did I get my husband’s laundry done?”

Check. Check. Check. And so on.

This is what I do. But I have been missing a huge part of my job, and that is they joy in it. I get so caught up in all the things I need to get done, that I forget to have fun with my kids. When they complain about a school lesson, I put my head down and focus on getting it done instead of trying to find a way to make it fun. I often clean dishes and fold laundry instead of playing with my kids. When they whine or misbehave in small ways, I bring the hammer down instead of calmly correcting or redirecting. Not always, but these examples are more the rule than the exception.

Yesterday I got it. God doesn’t just want me to be a good mom. He doesn’t need me to be a perfect mom. He wants me to be a joyful mom.

Smith Vows-217

As I knelt there in Adoration, my mind was filled with so many ways I can make my mothering more joyful, in chores, and homeschooling, and even (especially?) discipline of my girls. Most of this was stuff I’ve thought of in passing before, but it suddenly seemed so clear and so obvious and so necessary.

For weeks, I have wondered about what God wants me to do. All of these big, crazy ideas have crossed my mind. “Does He want me to write a book? Look into adoption? Start something at our parish?” None of these seemed quite right, and in fact when I prayed specifically about some of them, I got a definitive answer of “No.”

Yesterday, I didn’t ask God specifically, “Do you want me to have more fun?” I just listened, and He told me.

Be joyful.

The Mom Comparison Game

A few weeks ago I went to a play date at another mom’s home. Let’s call her Fancy Friend. She’s a lovely mom, and we’d had quite a few play dates before our trip to her house: a few at neutral places and one at my house.

When Fancy Friend and her sweet littles came to my house, I made lunch for the kids. It was just mac-n-cheese (ahem, from scratch), because that’s really all my kids want whenever I allow them to have it, and it’s easy so I can make it without sacrificing visiting time with my friend. I think I had some intention of throwing together a salad for us moms to eat, but I didn’t quite get to it that day, so Fancy and I ate some mac-n-cheese too. We had a fun play date. It was good.

Everything was good.

Until I went for a play date at her house. Um, can I just say that she went all out with three different things for the kids to eat for lunch, plus a separate lunch for us moms, which she prepared with my preference for paleo food in mind, plus she baked stuff!!!! Some yummy fluffy pastry things and an almond torte or something like that. I mean, it was fancy. What the heck?

Ugh. So now I’m kind of mad at Fancy, because I just felt like such. a. loser. the whole time I was at her house. I mean, she fed us awesome, delicious food with our dietary preferences in mind and used her OVEN in the process. Who does that?

Just kidding. I’m not at all mad at Fancy Friend. Because that would be ridiculous. But. I did feel like a loser while at her house. I was kicking myself the entire time. “Geez, why didn’t I bake something when they came over? I should have served fresh fruit on the side with the mac-n-cheese. Look at how freaking domestic she is!”


Anyway, after that play date, I started thinking about how I sometimes compare myself to other moms. It’s not a game of “I’m-better-than-her.” Oh no. When I get into the Mom Comparison Game, I tend to find myself lacking. I get this vague sort of guilty/not-good-enough feeling that sucks and is totally stupid.

It is totally stupid. But I do it anyway.

So, after my fun play date at Fancy’s house I started wondering why in the heck I do that comparison thing.

And here’s what I figured out:

I am surrounded by amazing moms.

It’s true. Friends, family, acquaintances… So many wonderful mothers cross my path or go through my mind on a daily basis. So I can’t help it.

I sometimes look at my friends who are mothering little ones right along with me, and I think that they seem to have it together so much more than I do.

I see FB updates from acquaintances, and I think they just seem to be awesome at doing the Mom Thing.

Heck, sometimes I see total strangers and think, “Gosh, that mom is really with it. Why don’t I ever….”

Then there are my family members who are done with their mothering-of-small-children years. Comparing myself to these ladies is really not fair, because mostly what I’m comparing myself to in these cases are the Successful-Offspring-Outcomes these moms have as the result of many years of in-the-trenches mothering.

I compare myself to my own mom of course, all. the. time. Or to my Auntie. Or even to people whom I never actually observed directly as mothers of small children, like my Mother-in-Law, or my Grandma, or my husband’s aunt who has five awesome young-adult daughters and I totally want to be like her.

The end result for these moms is pretty darn great, so for some reason I feel the need to wonder “Why can’t I be more like them???”

Weird, right?

I know. I find it so odd that I look at these wonderful women who surround me and somehow end up feeling like I’m not quite up to snuff.

I’m not like this all the time. Most of the time I feel pretty confident that I am doing a darn good job being Mom to my sweet girls. I’m not perfect by any means, but I’m good.


Still, I have times of insecurity. The job of Mom is so darned important, and it really can be disastrous if you screw it up. My mother-in-law often quotes Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as having said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”

So. True.

And so much freaking pressure!!

So yes, I tend to compare, and sometimes think myself lacking.

I used to get annoyed with myself about this, because it’s not productive.


But then I realized that insecurity is only bad if you let it limit your life. Almost everyone has some moments of insecurity. The important thing is recognizing these for what they are and not getting all uptight about them, right?

I mean, if I look at other moms and think about how they might be doing or have done things better than me, and then I freak out and throw a pity party and think I’m the worst mother ever and leave it at that, well then I’m letting insecurity make me miserable. And that will probably make my children miserable too.

Or if I feel insecure when looking at how good another mom is and blame that on her, as in, “OMG, I can’t believe Fancy Friend made all that delicious food! Now my kids are going to think they should get a meal like that every day. She is soooo inconsiderate. And I know she was just trying to make me feel like a loser after I only made mac-n-cheese. What a jerk. My kids are going to think she’s a better mom than me. We are never coming here again.” Well. That just wouldn’t be very beneficial to anyone.

So instead, what I learned from my little introspective journey into the Mom Comparison Game is that I should be grateful for the fact that I have so many wonderful moms around me. I learn from other moms every day, as well as from my own experiences. I have decades of mothering experience in those around me. I choose to think of it as an awesome foundation, rather than as something that makes me feel small in my short little four years of motherhood.

I think that helps me to be a good mom and to continue becoming a better mom all the time.

I’m still not likely to bake from scratch for play dates though.


P.S. My sweet Lass is turning 3 on Saturday. I am throwing my first ever birthday party at our home, with other kids and games and stuff. I’m terrified. So I will be spending the next 48 hours going totally overboard with crafting and organizing The Most-Fun-Horse-Themed-Birthday-Party-Ever-for-a-Girl-Who-Now-Wants-an-Okapi-Party. Yes, you read that right.

So I won’t be posting tomorrow. I will share the details of the party ASAP though. It’s gonna be good.


18 Things My Daughters Will Know Before They Turn 18

The other day I was wandering around Pinterest, and I saw something that caught my eye. It was titled something like “15 things you should teach your daughter before she turns 18.” I don’t know why (it’s not like I choose the things to teach my daughters based on them), but I always enjoy reading these little lists. I often find them to be endearing. Sweet. Nice thoughts on mothering daughters. So I clicked on it and proceeded to read.

Unfortunately, this one was pretty disappointing, and even slightly disturbing. It had points like the following (I’m paraphrasing):

“The only alcoholic beverage you should drink from a bottle is beer.” Okay. This is true. But not one of my top 15 things to teach my daughters before they are 18.

“Every guy looks at other girls’ boobs. They can’t help it. Don’t take it personally.” Really? That’s what you want to teach your daughter before you send her off into the world? Ew.

And “Every slice of pizza you eat requires 30 minutes of running to burn it off. 2 slices, an hour, and so on. That doesn’t even count the beer.” I don’t even know where to begin with the issues I have with this statement. How about that it is just begging for the development of an eating disorder?

Anyway, there are 12 others there. Some of them aren’t so bad. One warns against cutting one’s own hair. Another recommends you don’t ask a question if you aren’t emotionally ready to hear an honest answer. I won’t go into all of them. You get the gist.

I realize that the author’s intent seemed to be preparing one’s daughter to leave home and go to college, where crazy parties and roller coaster relationships can wreak havoc with a young girl’s self esteem and even place her at risk when overindulging in alcohol, drugs, etc. Yes. I get that. I  also sense that perhaps this list was written a bit tongue in cheek. I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t cute or sweet or inspiring of warm and fuzzy thoughts of my future as a mother of daughters preparing them to go off into the world as strong, independent, compassionate women.

But reading that list did make me think about the things that I think are important for my daughters to learn before they are 18 (or before they leave the house). So here they are (some of them anyway).

18 Things My Daughters Will Know Before They Turn 18

1. How to change a tire, check oil, and use basic power tools.

2. How to accept a compliment graciously. A smile and a sincere “Thank you” are sufficient. Self-deprecation is not attractive.

3. When meeting someone new, shake hands firmly and make eye contact.

4. The joy of cooking. My Dad tried many times to teach me to cook before (and after) I left home. I was never into it. I always told him, “I’m an intelligent person Dad. I can read and follow a recipe to cook whatever I want.” This is true to a degree, but I viewed cooking as a chore and was really a horrible cook until well into my twenties when I started having fun with it. I want my daughters to learn that cooking is fun and to experience the joy of cooking good food for themselves and others.

5. Do not waste your time in a relationship with someone (boyfriend, friend, etc.) who doesn’t respect you and treat you as a priority. (And for Pete’s sake, if he’s looking at another girl’s boobs in front of you, ditch him!)

6. The things you eat and drink can either be your body’s best medicine or its worst poison. Eat real food and enjoy it. Eat only until you feel satisfied, even if it means leaving some food on your plate. Don’t deny yourself occasional “treats.” Everything in moderation.

And because I want my children to learn about alcohol and drugs from their Dad and me rather than from their peers:

7. Too much alcohol impairs ability to make good choices. Don’t impair your ability to make good choices. If you do drink, be responsible about it. Never, ever get into a car with a driver who has been drinking (including yourself). And from my paranoid side: Only accept drinks that are prepared in your sight, and don’t leave your drink unattended.

8. When you’ve had a bad day, turn up the music and dance until you feel better.

9. You don’t get anywhere in life by speaking negatively of others. If you feel that you need to cut someone else down in order to get ahead, you need to reevaluate where you’re heading. Avoid gossip and backbiting.

10. Be a good friend. Listen well. Friendship is a fine art (wisdom from Great Grandma S), and a true friend is a treasure.

11. Your sisters are your best friends for life. Don’t let disagreements linger. Forgive and love and protect each other no matter what.

12. Beauty and attractiveness are determined more by behavior than appearance. Be kind to others and carry yourself with grace and confidence always.

13. Family is always a top priority.

14. Learn about things for yourself. Don’t believe everything you hear. Know how to do your own research. Form your own opinions.

15. Trust your instincts. If you have a “gut feeling” about something, listen to it.

16. Dress in a classy manner. “Stylish” does not mean “revealing” or “skin tight.” Unless you’re wearing a bathing suit, I guess.

17. Never let someone (including yourself!) tell you you can’t do something. As your Dad likes to say, “If I cannot find a way, I will make one.”

18. If you choose to pursue something, always do it to the fullest. You’ll never regret working hard for something.

What would you add?



Motherhood is a Profession

I’ve been struggling lately with a big issue.  Since shortly after Miss was born, I have worked as a forensic psychological consultant.  I have considered myself to be incredibly lucky to have secured this position.  Basically, I’m a small business owner.  I do consulting work for a company that has a contract to perform competency to stand trial evaluations. I get referrals from this company.  I set up an appointment at my convenience to go to the jail and complete the evaluation.  It only takes a couple of hours.  Then I write my report from home, usually during nap time or after the girls have gone to bed.  Occasionally I have to testify in a case (this is my favorite part).  It always seemed so perfect, because I never worked a ton.  Maybe one or two, sometimes three evaluations per month.  I could stay home essentially full time with my kids and still get an opportunity to do some of the work I spent so many years in school to be qualified to do.

For a little while before and a few months after Sis was born I took a self-determined maternity leave.  Now that I am back to working, my work load has drastically increased, and I’m getting lots of cases in other counties.  In the past month or so I’ve done seven evaluations in jails that are at least an hour drive away.  This has led to lots of time away from my girls.

Last Tuesday I didn’t get home until 6:30.  I had spent most of the morning working on reports and then had a long drive for a long evaluation.  On the way home I had this awful pit in my stomach, knowing that I would miss dinner and not have much time with the girls before bed time.  I had to watch my speedometer very carefully during the hour-and-a-half-long drive home that evening.  My mind and heart were protesting being away from my little girls and aching to get home, and my body was responding, pretty much involuntarily, with my foot repeatedly pressing down harder on my accelerator.

I got home and felt like I had barely seen my girls all day.  It was awful.

I did let Miss stay up a little bit late to watch Olympic gymnastics that night.

But I still felt like crap at the end of that day.

So.  Here I am tonight, having just finished up and sent off another report (my third this weekend).  I haven’t done a blog post in a week.  Because I’ve been spending pretty much every nap time and bed time working.  And I don’t really even enjoy the work anymore.  Work is no longer what’s important to me.

I used to find psychology to be so fascinating and I loved the challenges that my job presents.  Now?  Meh.  Psychology and evaluating criminals is no longer what I find fascinating.  This is:

Being a psychologist is part of my identity, and has been for almost ten years.  But.  Though it is a newer facet of my identity, being a mom way trumps being a psychologist.  Way.

A few weeks ago I seriously started to consider leaving my consultant position.  I felt very guilty about it.  Some of my guilty thoughts:

But I spent so many years training to be a psychologist.

But I used to love my job.

But I should feel so fortunate to have a position like this.

I thought about how I would feel to not be a psychologist anymore.  I wondered if I would feel sad.  Or lost.  Or, somehow, less.  I knew I was not happy spending so much time away from my girls these past few months, but I kept thinking I should ride it out.  I shouldn’t give up this amazing work opportunity.  I should keep this job so I can maintain my professional skills.

Then Tuesday happened and I was sick with missing my kids and I thought, “For what?”  All these shoulds, and no real good reason for them.  I once thought I needed to keep my skills so that I can go back to working more when my kids are in school.  Except I’m going to homeschool them.  

So I came up with a few more shoulds that make more sense to me.

I should take advantage of the opportunity I have to stay home with my girls and be present and happy with them.

I should remember that being a mom is a full time job, and it’s okay to have only one of those.

I should soak in all the wonderfulness that is these little beings that I am privileged to call mine.

I should take back nap time and bed time.  Seriously.  Any mama of preschoolers/toddlers/babies knows that you can’t give up all of these for long without going totally nuts.

Yes, I should.  So I’m going to.  After much discussion with my husband, my mom, and a good friend, I’ve decided I am going to leave my job.  Right now my priority is my family.  A little bit of work now and then was okay.  A lot of work is not (and in case you’re wondering, I have basically been told that I cannot decline referrals unless I’m out of town).  I am going to stop worrying about going to work and focus on doing the work of raising my kids.  I might be a little sad to not have my professional identity anymore.  But I have other things I’m going to focus on in my free time (more on that later).  And I’ll still technically be a psychologist.  I’ll always keep my license current.  Nothing says that I can’t go back to it someday if I want to.

The bottom line is this: I am a mom and my profession is Motherhood.  I prefer the title of “Mama” to “Dr.” any day.

What Do I Do All Day Anyway?

If you aren’t or have never been a stay-at-home mom (or dad), you might wonder what someone does who stays home with her kids all day.  I know I did before becoming a full-time mom myself.  I didn’t wonder about this in a malicious way, in a “what the H-E-double-hockey-stick-does-she-do-all-day?” kind of way.  I just wondered.
Well.  Now I know.  So, what do I do all day?  Here’s an idea:
I create mountains with couch cushions.  I encourage.  I insist “you can do it.”  I cheer for accomplishments.  I help when necessary.
I do laundry.

I have tea parties.  I color.  I read aloud.

I ask, “What color is this?”  “What does (fill in this blank with some animal) say?” “What sound does (fill in this blank with some letter) make?” “What do you think about that?”  All. day. long.

I sing songs.  I sound out words.  I count everything out loud.

I answer “Why?”  and “Why?” and “Why?

I watch.  I praise.  I watch again.  And again.  And again.  I teach.  I spot.

I kiss boo boos.  I teach manners.  And responsibility.  And problem solving.  And everything.

I discourage whining.  I try to reinforce more effective ways of communicating.  I try to teach my girls to be strong and direct.

I do laundry.

I referee fights over who gets to wear which headband.  Over who gets the little Cinderella doll (or “Wedda” as Lass calls her).  Over who gets to hold Baby Sis first.

I change diapers.  I wash diapers.  I fold diapers.

I nurse a newborn. I take forever to get out of the house.

I cook.  I clean up.  I cook.  I clean up.

I wipe mouths and noses and counters and hands and tables and rear ends.

I give baths.  I comb hair that is like silk.  I fix pony tails.  I say “You’re beautiful.”  “You’re smart.” “You’re strong.”  “You’re funny.”

I do laundry.

I help to outfit Super Heros.

Daddy helps them to fly.


I do more laundry.

I give lots of hugs.  And kisses.  I snuggle.  I tickle.

Sometimes I just sit.  And watch.  And I’m thankful that I am fortunate enough to be able to do all of these things and so much more.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fast and Furious – Sis’s Birth Story

Baby Sis arrived yesterday, beautiful and perfect, after a labor that started out very ho-hum and ended up with a crazy fast finish.  I had agreed to be induced yesterday morning, fully believing that she would arrive before then.  Of course she didn’t, so we got ourselves all ready and came on over to L&D.
Because of my history of a c-section with Miss, it isn’t safe for me to be induced with pitocin.  That is entirely fine with me, as I would prefer not to have medication said to make contractions even more painful than they are naturally.  So, for me, an induction consisted of having my water broken and hoping labor would start.  I felt pretty confident that it would.  In fact, I was surprised by how slowly it got going.  I kind of expected the contractions to start up right away.  They didn’t.  But once they did, things happened fast.
My doc came up and broke my water at around 8am.  I had to stay in bed to be monitored for an hour.

Then I could get up and move around, though I still had to carry the monitor with me.  I put my lovely hospital-issued “track shoes” on and my husband and I got to walking.

We walked for three hours, almost nonstop.  We did have to pause for a minute after each lap around the L&D floor so our nurse could monitor Sis’s heart rate, because the mobile monitor wasn’t working well while I walked.  After three hours, we took a little break.  I didn’t want to stop, because every time I did, my contractions, such as they were, would slow down, but we were hungry and just needed to sit for a few.  So I hung out on the labor ball, my hubby got lunch and I got some Italian ice and Jello (and snuck a few of his fries), and we took a short break.

We got up and walked some more after lunch.  Labor had started, in that I was having somewhat regular contractions, but they were pretty mild and my husband and I continued to joke and chat as we walked.  After a bit we had to stop again for monitoring because of a deceleration in Sis’s heart rate, so I sat on the ball some more.  As you can see, my labor was still not too difficult at this point.

In fact, my husband and I were lamenting how slowly things were moving and trying to gear ourselves up mentally for another really long labor like Lass’s.  At 1:30 the nurse said we could get up and walk again but she wanted to check my progress first.  I didn’t really want her to, because I just knew I had not progressed much, but I let her anyway because I’m cooperative like that.  I was only 5cm.  I had been 4cm when I started at 8am.  This did not encourage me.

But things began to change rather quickly after that.  We got up and walked a bit more, though I think we only made it one and a half laps or so.  We were going much more slowly and I was having to stop for each contraction.  The contractions were coming much more closely together and I told my husband we needed to go back to the room.  When we got there I sat back on the ball and things got serious.

We weren’t joking and chatting anymore, and by about 2:30 it was all I could do to stay focused through each contraction.  As he was during my labor with Lass, my husband was awesome.

I decided I wanted to try something different, so I asked to get into the tub.  The nurse again said she wanted to check me before I did.  I was feeling kind of discouraged and thinking I was not going to be able to continue without an epidural the way things were going if she told me I hadn’t progressed much, but I agreed to let her check me.  As soon as I stood up, she almost didn’t need to.  I immediately had an overwhelming, all-consuming need to push.  This urge came with two conflicting but equally strong thoughts, “Oh my gosh this is pure torture!” and “Woohoo!  I’m almost done!”  The nurse checked me and sure enough, I was ready to get the job done.  Unfortunately, the room was not set up and my doctor wasn’t there, so I had to wait a bit before I was allowed to.  This was the worst part.  My husband and nurse kept reminding me how to breathe to keep myself from pushing.  The best thing that my husband said to me, many times during that short period of intense labor, was “This will end.  Just get through this one contraction.”  That was the perfectthing to say to help.  Even so, it seemed to take forever (though I’m sure it was only 10 minutes or so) before everything was ready and my doctor was there.  Two or three contractions later, Sis was born!

Then she peed on me.

Born at 3:06 pm.  9 lbs, 7 oz, 20 inches of gorgeous.  As you can see she is just perfect.

I am going home later today after my husband gets off work.  I can’t wait to see my big girls and let them meet their baby Sis.  I am so thoroughly blessed.

“Muddy Soup” and Other Messes

So, yesterday I mentioned that I was hoping for more messy outdoor time for my girls today.  They are such agreeable and thoughtful girls.  They found the one little remaining spot of standing water/mud, and they really delivered.
They jumped and stomped in the mud.  They splashed with sticks.

Miss got a little on her face, and freaked out momentarily, but recovered well when reminded to just wipe it on her sleeve.

Lass was largely unperturbed by all the mud she was getting on herself.  Once in a while she’d turn around and point, as if to say, “Hey, I think I’ve got something on my face!”

She also held up her hands a few times and said, “Wash?” though when informed that we couldn’t wash without going inside, she happily went right back to her puddle.

Miss was a little concerned by how dirty her sister was getting.  She said, “Let me see your face, Muddy Girl.”

Then Miss declared she was going to make “Muddy Soup.”  Her Daddy requested pepper and garlic in the soup, to which she declared she would add cream, butter, and sugar.  Yum.

We had a grand time and sure did make a mess today.  I have no problem with outside messes.  Outside, my girls can get as dirty as they want.  Who cares if the yard gets dirty or messy?  The only thing I have to bother with, generally, is their clothes, and those wash (yes, these did all come miraculously clean).  So I find it kind of odd that I struggle a little bit with indoor messes. I have to regularly remind myself to lighten up when we are doing things that are a bit messy inside.  Now, I don’t care about toys getting messy.  Our house looks like a tornado hit it every day until bedtime when Miss does her chores, one of which is cleaning up toys.  No.  Toy messes don’t bother me.  I tend to get a bit uptight about other kinds of messes.  Play Doh.  Paint. Glitter.  Etc.  I make myself tolerate these things and try really hard to embrace them.  And typically I find that when I do, I have tons of fun and realize the mess is no big deal.  Like tonight.

Miss tested me with indoor messy tonight before bed.  She decided to play with the plastic eggs that I have in an Easter basket on our counter.  Yes, I have Easter decor up in our house already.  I was afraid I wouldn’t put it out if I waited too long and Baby Sis arrived before I got it out.  So anyway, we have an assortment of Easter decorations around the house, one of which is a fairly large basket with plastic eggs in it.  Under the eggs is a whole bunch of that paper Easter grass stuff.  Miss decided to dump the whole basket out on the floor, multiple times.  That grass stuff was everywhere.  I started getting all antsy about it, but I took a deep breath and told myself to chill out.  Then Miss brought the “grass” up on the couch where I was sitting.  It was in my hair and her hair, stuck to our clothes, in my couch cushions, all over my rug in the family room and the floor in the kitchen.  But you know, once I started really playing with it with her, I stopped caring about the mess we were making.  Miss made “hair” and “hats” out of the grass.  We used strands of the grass to make mustaches and giggled while we tried to arrange our mouths so they would stay in place.  She made lots of “toys” for her Baby Sissy, which she lovingly constructed, described to me (“tiny ball,” “snake,” “thing to put her thumb through,” “headband,” “mustache,” etc.), and then placed on my belly.  It was precious.
I sometimes wish I could be like those moms who are totally laid back about all the different types of messes of childhood.  That I could get out the really good crafty stuff, like finger paints and glitter projects several times a week, instead of my more boring stuff like stickers and crayons.  But, I yam what I yam, and I do always try to grow and to stretch myself, like by telling myself to chill out when a relatively minor mess starts to make my heart flutter, my hands sweat, and my face flush (just kidding, I don’t get quite that freaked out about it).  I’m getting out the Play Doh and the dot markers more and getting ready for another painting day.  I’m really enjoying the girls’ increased interest in helping in the kitchen in spite of the increased messiness it brings.  Childhood is messy.  I love the outdoor messiness.  I’m working on bringing my outdoor attitude about it into the house.

I’m getting there.

On Being Pregnant

Being pregnant is really an awesome experience.  There’s no real way to explain how cool it is when you feel a little baby kicking in your belly and then get to see pictures of her like this:

Awesome is really the best word to describe it.

Little Sis seems to be growing well so far.  She’s breech for now, just like her big sister Lass was, but I’m hoping she’ll get herself facing the right way more quickly and easily than Lass did.  We’ve entered the third trimester and all is going well.  I’m fairly enormous, but that’s okay.

I’m used to being enormous.  That’s just how I carry a pregnancy I guess.  All way out in front.  It’s not uncommon for me to look more pregnant at 6 months than many other people do when they deliver.  It’s no biggie.  It’s just the way I work.  It is funny though, as wonderful as pregnancy is, it also is an odd experience in terms of how it changes the way people treat you.  Of course there are always the ubiquitous “How have you been feeling?” “How far along are you?” and “Everything is going well, I hope?” questions and comments from friends and strangers alike.  People tend to be concerned with and interested in pregnant women, and this interest is very well-meaning, kind, and harmless.

However, there are times when I swear I must be wearing a sign on my forehead that says, “Hi, I’m Amy.  I’m pregnant.  Feel free to ask me very personal questions about my personal choices and bodily functions, tell me your worst labor and delivery horror stories, comment on how huge or small you think my belly is according to your idea of what size I should be, and/or give me unsolicited advice.  And sure, go ahead and rub my belly while you’re at it.”  Seriously.  Anyone with me here?  Here is just a small sample of some of the things that have been said to me or to others I know:

“Geez!  Did you mean to have them that close together???” – Said to me in a somewhat snide tone by a nurse practitioner after she asked me about my children’s ages during an office visit.

“Oh my gosh!  You gained 10 pounds in a month?!?!  Wow, that’s a lot.” – Said to me by a medical assistant after taking my weight during a routine doctor’s appointment when I was pregnant with Miss (I then heard her whispering to my doctor outside the door about how terrible my weight gain was.  To her credit, my doc never said a word to me about it).

“Wow, my daughter-in-law is at the hospital today delivering twins, and you’re as big as she is!!!” – Said to a friend of mine when she was about 6-7 months pregnant.

“You still have three months to go??  Wow, you look like you’re ready to pop now!” – Said to me this past weekend.

“Are you sure you don’t have gestational diabetes?  I had that, and you look like you do.” – Said to a friend of mine.

“You’d better be planning to breastfeed that baby.” – Said to me by a total stranger in the grocery store when I was pregnant with Miss.

And my personal favorite:
“One on board and another in the oven???  Um, you do know how that happens, right?” – Said to me by a total stranger when I was pregnant with Lass and carrying Miss in a sling above my belly.  I have to say though, this wasn’t as bad as my friend who heard, “You do know how that happens, right?” from an OB/GYN resident doctor while she was in labor with her third child.

And then there’s the belly rubbing.  I hardly ever get belly rubs from people I am close to, but those belly rubs don’t bother me anyway.  It’s the people who are strangers or acquaintances who don’t just rub or pat the belly but kind of, well stroke it, for lack of a better description.  I mean, that’s weird, right?  Fortunately this has only happened to me twice.  Once by a friend of a friend, who started rubbing my belly right after she was introduced to me.  And then another time by an acquaintance who noticed I was pregnant very early on with Sis and started rubbing my relatively small belly as she commented about how exciting it was that I’m pregnant again.  This is not only weird, but risky too, don’t you think?  We hadn’t really announced that we were expecting, and I wasn’t that big yet.  What if I was just gaining weight?  Very risky.  And weird.

Now, I know that for the most part the people who make odd and sometimes inappropriate comments to pregnant women are probably not trying to be offensive.  And usually I’m not even really offended by the comments (except the weight one, that one had me in tears).  I just think they’re kind of funny and like a little puzzling social phenomenon – The “say anything” and “touch freely” policies that often seem to surround a pregnant woman.  I’m not the only person who has experienced this, and I’ve had many laughs with friends about the crazy things people will say to a pregnant woman.  I think people mostly are just interested in pregnancy and want to or feel like they should say something to a pregnant lady to show their interest.  Maybe.  It truly doesn’t matter much anyway, as it’s such a tiny part of the nine-month wonder of pregnancy.  But it does make me chuckle a little.  I love being pregnant.

Did I Say I Thought Pink Eye Was Yucky?

Yes, I did.  When Miss first started school I typed this post, which I stupidly titled, “Bring on the Ickies” (why would I ever type such a statement?).  At the time I was grossed out because I thought she had pink eye, which she actually didn’t have, by the way.  I was writing about how I knew she would bring home lots of germs now that she had started school and blah, blah, blah.  Yesterday I got a much better sense of the truly icky.  Picture it.  I wake up at 4 AM to Lass’s crying.  It was a “something’s wrong” kind of cry, so I went in to get her thinking maybe she’d had a bad dream or something, and I’d just rock her for a bit.  Instead I found that Lass had puked all over herself, her bed, her floor, and then me as soon as I picked her up.  Okay.  I got it all cleaned up, put both of us in clean jammies, and began rocking her to try to get her back to sleep.  Naturally, she puked all over both of us again before I managed to run her to the bathroom and get her over the sink.  Again, I get it cleaned up and go back to rocking her.  And that’s not even the really icky part…
Rewind about 8 hours to Wednesday night.  I had received a text message from a babysitter telling me that her roommate had just found out she has scabies.  Oh yes.  I thought pink eye was gross?  No.  No, scabies is gross.  Gross as in make-my-skin-crawl-give-me-the-crazy-heebie-jeebies kind of gross.  Unfortunately this babysitter had been to my house three times in three days, including Wednesday afternoon for a little while while I took Miss to gymnastics.  At first I wasn’t too worried about it, since this babysitter didn’t even know if she actually had it, and I hadn’t seen any signs that my girls did, but still.  I did vacuum every room where this babysitter would have been, rugs and furniture.  And then as I was sitting there at 4-something AM, rocking Lass again after changing both of our clothes for the second time, I couldn’t help but imagine a little bit what yesterday might have had in store for me.  I pictured two puking girls, perhaps being sick myself, and needing to scour and sanitize my house and medicate my girls to get rid of little tiny mites that had burrowed under their skin and gotten into all of our clothing, bedding, furniture, carpets…  Perhaps this was a bit melodramatic, but I was sleepy and my mind was wandering on it’s own.  And really it wasn’t really too far fetched to imagine that could have been my day.
Amazingly, Lass went back to sleep (though I never did – see thoughts running through my head, above) for a little while and when she woke up she had no additional symptoms of a stomach bug.  She kept down everything I gave her to drink and eat and was her cheerful happy self all day long.  Miss never got sick, nor did I.  Score 1 for Mama!
Unfortunately, I did get a text later in the morning that my babysitter does in fact have scabies.  Even more unfortunately, I couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment until 4:30 in the afternoon to find out if my girls or I had it.  So, though I tried not to worry about it, I was kind of freaking out that we were infested.  There were no real signs that any of us had it, but I started imagining that every little red spot on my girls or any itch I felt myself was a little mite trying to find a home.  I started stripping sheets and doing laundry.  And then I did the most appropriate and merciful thing yesterday afternoon.  I let my girls watch a rare bit of afternoon TV and I called my mom to whine.
 TV Glaze

It was quite therapeutic.  My mom did what all good moms do.  She listened.  She sympathized.  She made me laugh.  What more could a girl ask for (other than having said mom living nearby so she could have come over to help with the laundry, which my mom would have happily done, of course…).

And to make a very long story short, the girls napped, we went to the doctor, and we found out that we do not have scabies.  And I learned a lot about scabies that made me feel better all around, like that scabies can’t live long at all in clothing, furniture, etc.  That washing every article of clothing and bedding in our house wasn’t really necessary, though I did it anyway.  That scabies show up fast and move fast and itch like crazy.  In other words, if you have scabies, you know it.  Since we didn’t have it and our poor babysitter had not been around for a while, the likelihood that we would get it was nil.  Score 2 for Mama!

And, since we did not have scabies, our other babysitter, whom we had scheduled to come over so my hubby and I could get out for dinner, was still happy to come.  So we had a nice dinner out and relaxed away the craziness of the day.  Score 3!!  I am still a little bit shocked when I think about how crummy yesterday could have been and then about how relatively not-so-bad it really was.  I feel like I dodged a major bullet!

And to top it all off, since we don’t have scabies and my testimony for this morning got postponed (thankfully, because I wouldn’t have had a babysitter!), we got to go to a much-looked-forward-to play date with some great friends.  My friend had a Christmas cookie decorating play date at her house this morning, and it was a blast.  Lass mostly just ate a cookie and played in the frosting.

Miss had lots of fun decorating the cookies and eating them.  She had a little bit of a hard time though with the idea that she could only eat one of the cookies she decorated and the rest we had to just decorate and save to take home.

Miss made a special cookie for her Daddy.

A good time was had by all.  Hooray for no scabies!

Tomorrow we go to my parent’s house for a week.  I am so thrilled to spend the week with my Mom and Dad.  But, that likely means there will be very little blogging from this girl until we get back, as my parents live in an internet black hole.  I’ll be back in about a week!

A Few Thoughts On Raising Daughters

I often think about how to teach my daughters to be assertive.  In our culture, girls and women are often given the message that they should always be agreeable  and nice rather than speaking their mind.  I want to raise daughters who will be strong, independent, and confident, as well as being nice people.  Daughters who will not afraid to voice an opinion, go against the grain, and stick up for themselves when necessary.
 After school today she insisted on getting back into her Halloween costume so she could be “a beautiful ballerina.”  I love it.
So far this little one seems to have no trouble expressing her feelings about things.

Yesterday at her school Halloween party, I saw a boy push Miss a few times.  She came over to me after it happened the first time and seemed quite intimidated.  I admit, my immediate instinct when I first saw it was to go and tell the boy to please not push.  Instead, I talked to her about how shecould tell the boy to please not push her.

This morning, after a week of no tears and great school experiences, she was a bit upset about going to school again.  I thought it might have something to do with that boy, so I reminded her of what we had talked about yesterday and how to handle it if another kid pushed or hit her.  She then mentioned that the boy had pulled her hair yesterday as well.  When I dropped her off at school I informed her teacher of my concerns about what had happened.  She was very responsive and reassured me about the issue.

When I picked Miss up, I experienced a major proud mommy moment.  Miss’s teacher told me that Miss had turned to the boy who had pushed her and pulled her hair yesterday and said, completely on her own, “I didn’t like it when you pulled my hair.”  Simple and direct. The boy apologized.  I am so incredibly proud of her!

As a mother of daughters, it is so important to me that they learn to stick up for themselves.  To not be afraid to voice disagreement with something they think is wrong or to tell someone to stop it if they are being treated badly.  Right now it’s pushing and hair pulling.  Later on they might have to be assertive if faced with bullying, “mean girl” behaviors, or overly zealous attentions from hormone-crazed boys.  When they are older, I will teach them some good ways to knock down the hormone-crazed boys (literally and figuratively) if necessary.  Their dad can teach them some good wrestling moves.

But for today, I’m pretty darn proud of “I didn’t like it when you pulled my hair.”  That’s my girl.