Four (AKA Wow, It’s a Blog Post!)

I know I haven’t blogged in a really long time. I’m just popping in to give a quick update on life with four.

I am in such baby heaven these days.

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Baby number four is awesome.

My girls are much older now than the last time I had a little baby, and it is so much easier to have four kids seven and under than it was to have three girls under four. My girls can do so many things for themselves that they couldn’t do when last I cared for an infant. They get themselves dressed. They can get their own breakfasts and brush their own teeth. Miss does her own hair.

I heard once that once your oldest child gets to be about six or seven years old, life suddenly becomes much easier. My oldest two are six and seven, and this is so true.

All the girls do so much to help out and love taking care of their brother.

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Miss and Lass clean bathrooms and vacuum stairs. Sis wipes baseboards and scrubs toilets. They feed the dogs and clean their rooms and put their laundry away.

And even when they aren’t doing something to actively help me, they’re usually downstairs playing with each other and not needing me at all. Which is awesome and sad at the same time, I suppose, but more awesome most of the time.

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As for Baby Boy, he just does his thing. He’s a happy baby and doesn’t fuss about being along for the ride when we’re out and about taking his sisters to various activities in the afternoons. School can be a bit tricky, but he usually naps for a at least a little while when we do school in the mornings.

He’s very easygoing.

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And a major thing that I’ve noticed this time around is that I’m a lot more easygoing about him too.

I don’t get uptight if he’s going to miss his afternoon nap. He really doesn’t have a set afternoon nap, because we are typically away from home 2-3 afternoons per week at least. It’s just the way things are so we roll with it.

I don’t worry about how often he’s eating, or how long it’s been between his feedings, or if he’s on a good eating/sleeping schedule (he’s not).

I also don’t stress that he isn’t sleeping through the night. All of my girls were much better sleepers than he is. They all slept through the night pretty consistently by this point in their babyhoods. Baby Boy has slept through the night a grand total of one time.

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And you know what? I kind of don’t really even care. Of course I’m tired, after waking up 1-3 times per night for the past 4.5 months, but I’m not terribly bothered by it. Recently I said to my husband, “Meh. He’ll sleep through the night one of these days.” And he will. And I’m about as concerned about it as that sounds.

I’m so thankful to have another little baby to snuggle and love on, I’m just trying to soak it up and not wish it away. One day last week he fell asleep while I was nursing him on the couch. Twice in one day. He did it again today. And each time I just stayed right where I was and let him sleep. And I watched him and marveled at him. I do that a lot.

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Life with four is so good.

Three Girls and a Boy

We’re two months into this four-kid gig. It’s pretty wonderful and a little crazy. I had gotten kind of used to sleeping through the night, walking freely (sans baby carrier and diaper bag), not changing diapers, not even wiping butts anymore! But this little one makes all the sleep deprivation and everything else so, so worth it.

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His sisters dote on him, and that’s a big change. The last time I had a newborn, my oldest was three. It’s a bit easier this time around since the girls are independent in many ways and love to help with their brother.

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And speaking of the girls, apparently having a baby boy after three girls brings on lots of comments from strangers. Most are well-meaning and seem genuinely thrilled to see our little family. They seem to think it’s great fun that we had a boy after three girls, as if they’re truly happy that we get the joy of having children of both genders.

However, there are always the other comments too. “You finally got a boy!” and “Your husband must be sooo happy to have a boy!” and one man even said, “I had three girls. I didn’t have another because I was afraid it would be another girl.” I usually just smile and say something like, “Yes, we’re so blessed/my husband is happy to have four beautiful children.” And to that man? “We love having girls!” I mean, really? People say this stuff right in front of my daughters! I’d love to shake them (the weird strangers, not my girls) and say, “Please do not assume that all this time we’ve been pining for a boy. We were not trying for a boy. We are beyond thrilled with our son. He is awesome, but our girls are too!”

Bah. End rant.

Anyway.

Life with four kids is really cool.

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^^Sometimes I literally sit and hold him like this for over an hour, happily ignoring the overflowing laundry baskets around me and just basking in his snuggly baby-ness

We’re loving having a sweet baby around. This sweet baby.

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I think it was my mother in law who predicted that I might be able to more easily enjoy him and soak up this time with him since the girls are older. She was right. This time around, since I know that this is very likely the last time I’ll get to hold and snuggle and care for my own newborn, I’m trying to savor every bit.

He’s growing a changing so fast, and I’m trying to burn into my memory every little milestone and special moment. The way he snuggles up so perfectly on my shoulder. The way he smells. His first laugh during a bath on St. Anne’s feast day. All. of. it.

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We’re doing great here.

Three girls and a boy is perfect.

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day…

I’m thinking of my Mom. A woman who sacrificed so much for me, and worked so hard to raise me well. I often made it very (very, very) difficult for her, and yet she loved me fiercely no matter what (even though I know I sometimes wasn’t very likable). She taught me so much of what I now know myself about being a mother. It’s true what they say about not really understanding your own mother in many ways until you have children of your own. I understand so much more (and man, I feel bad about being such a jerk in my adolescence and early adulthood!!). She is far away from me today and I miss her terribly, though I always keep her close in my heart.

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I’m thinking of myself as a mother. About how much I have changed over the past almost eight years, since learning that I was pregnant with Miss. About how motherhood has caused me to grow and stretch (in more ways than one). How this has sometimes been painful but has always been beautiful. I love so much more now. So much better, though far from perfectly. I know what it feels like to watch your own heart outside your body and to feel intense terror and pure joy about it at the same time.  I’m learning every day from these sweet little ones about joy, and sacrifice, and trying so, so hard to be better. And failing. And trying again.

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I’m thinking about all the amazing women who have taught me so much about how to be a good mom. Some of them have mothered me. Some of them have walked beside me through this journey. Some of them I know mostly from reading their words and interacting with them on this good old world wide web. They are members of my family, both near and far, friends, also near and far, kind women I’ve met at church, ladies who write great blogs, and others. We really aren’t meant to mother alone, and these women help me to feel lifted up in myriad ways.

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I’m also thinking about the women who struggle on Mother’s Day. Those who have lost children. Those who have lost babies before ever having a chance to see them or hold them. I think about those who are longing to have babies of their own but have been unable to conceive or have miscarried or are still waiting for the right person to come along to have babies with. I think of how painful it was to wait for this pregnancy and lose two babies over the past few years, and it breaks my heart to think of those who are still waiting, many of whom don’t have other children to hold while they wait. I always keep a special place in my prayers for these mamas, but especially today.

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To me, Mother’s Day really isn’t about cards and flowers. Heartfelt words of appreciation and love from my husband today nearly brought me to tears in a way Hallmark could never do. For me this is a day to reflect on this beautiful vocation, in my own life and in the amazing women I see all around me. It is a day to be so grateful for these women and for my precious children and for the blessing of this life.

Happy Mother’s Day.

My Girls

You probably think from the title that this post is going to be about these little cuties:

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But not this time.

Today, I want to write about my grown-up peeps. The ladies who have my back, make me laugh, and help me stay sane by just being available, whether in person, via text, phone, or even FB.

I’ve been really blessed lately to have the opportunity to spend some quality time with some of my “girls” recently. Here are some highlights:

In early February, I got to take a trip to Florida with two fabulous friends.

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Our equally fabulous husbands watched the kids (all 12 of them!). We got on a plane and flew to Naples for two and a half days (DAYS!) of amazing relaxation, laughter, food, and conversation. For good measure I made sure we started the trip off right with a pregnancy-related trip to the ER. This could be a whole post in and of itself (if I ever get around to writing it), so I won’t go into details here, but:

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We managed to have a pretty great time in spite of the awful ER (it was really bad) and the disruption to our plans. That’s Super Friend on the right. And though she and her family have appeared in other posts you haven’t been formally introduced yet to our other dear friend on the left, whom I’ll call “The Extrovert” for blog purposes (I’m the introvert, and Super Friend falls somewhere in between, so we make a great team and have lots of laughs about our personality differences). Yes, she was sitting on a portable hospital toilet. Good sports, these ladies. Look how great they were, after 5+ hours at the first ER, while waiting to get in at our second hospital of the day:

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(And BTW, everything is fine with Baby Boy and me).

The hospital trip didn’t stop us from having tons of other fun.

It did however prevent us from going to the beach in the afternoon, so after we had dinner we grabbed coffee and some macaroons (a first for me) and hit the beach at night.

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The next day we made up for lost time with a yummy breakfast, a fun meander around downtown Naples, a long walk on the beach, a lovely Mass, and delicious dinner.

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There’s just something about time away with great friends that really helps to recharge my soul. These ladies just get me. Even when it’s just for a few hours, it’s so, so important. But for two-and-a-half days!! I talked so much, and laughed so hard, and it. was. awesome.

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And as if that wast enough, last weekend, I traveled with my kids to spend some time with some of my family “girls,” my Mom, my Auntie, and my cousin. We were all together for my cousin’s baby shower (some boys were around too, whom I should give some love to as they were wonderful to see as well: my Dad, my Unka, and another cousin).

We stayed up way too late talking. We swapped baby and pregnancy and other stories and “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” over the cute stuff my cousin received for her baby girl.

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^^ My aunt and cousin included my kids in the shower, and they were enthralled ^^

And after my cousin’s shower was over, the other guests were gone, and most everything from the shower was cleaned up, they sat me down and surprised me with tons of gifts of mostly baby boy clothing (which we are sorely lacking). It was my own little surprise mini-shower, and it was so sweet it almost made me cry.

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I am humbled by how blessed I am to be surrounded by amazing women. My family, my friends, my tribe. There are more than the ladies mentioned here, some even whom I have never met in person, and I am so grateful for each and every one.

I hope I am modeling to my daughters how to be a part of a community. Our community consists of both wonderful men and women, of course, but there is something special about the bonds between women. Between mothers and sisters. I don’t have biological sisters, but I have my sister-friends, whom I think are just as great (we even share clothes, without the history of fighting over them). I hope that seeing these relationships that I have will help my (little) girls to build their own, and to nurture and cherish them.

Seven – A Lot of Photos on My Big Girl’s Day

Seven years ago today, this happened:

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My oldest girl made me a mama.

I get so sappy and nostalgic on my kids’ birthdays.

I can hardly believe she’s seven!

Just look how she’s grown.

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She’s racing through first grade.

She loves reading (Happy Potter at the moment) and singing and all kinds of crafts.

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She plays the piano and takes ballet lessons. She sings in the children’s choir at our church, and she’s in Little Flowers Girls’ Club. She loved soccer last year. She runs like the wind.

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She’s sweet and loving. She’s creative and loves to explore. She’s funny and quite goofy, but sometimes she’s very serious. She has a habit of twirling her hair. She likes to learn about things before getting too involved with them. She’s tough, but not a daredevil.

She loves her sisters and her friends and her dogs. She would spend all of her time outside if she could.

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She’s a great helper, and she can’t wait for her baby brother to be born.

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Seven. I don’t know how time has flown by so quickly. I have been poring over her baby photos and videos today and marveling at how she has changed and matured and grown.

I just tucked her into bed after a wonderful birthday party with all of her cousins, and I told her she has to stop growing. She thought that was hilarious, but I was only half joking. She’s such an amazing little girl, and my time with her here at home is feeling so fleeting today (I told you I get super sappy on my kids’ birthdays!).

I can’t believe how blessed I am to be her mama.

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Is the “Competitive Mom” a Thing?

We’re having some landscape work done at our new house, and the guys doing the work like to listen to a local radio station while they’re here doing their thing. The other day I was outside wiping my dogs’ muddy feet (for the 1437th time), and I happened to hear the DJs on the radio station commenting about what makes a “competitive mom.” The DJs were two men and a woman, and they seemed to be reading a list of things they had found somewhere about what supposedly makes someone a competitive mom.

I was a bit surprised to hear these radio personalities discussing this topic, and as I was listening to their conversation, I was thinking to myself what a ridiculous thing it was for them to be talking about. I’ve heard of the concept of a “competitive mom,” I suppose. More often I’ve heard disparaging remarks about “Pinterest moms” and “overachieving moms.” Whoever compiled the list these DJs were reading on air seemed to have combined all of these mom stereotypes into one to create this inventory of seemingly offensive things a mom can do to qualify her as “competitive.” Here are a few that I remember (paraphrased):

  1. Spend weeks making costumes for your kid’s school play
  2. Bake over-the-top baked goods for your child’s school bake sale
  3. Make sure your child always has the latest and greatest gadgets
  4. Arrive a half and hour early to save front row seats for your child’s performance in something

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There were a few more they mentioned, but these are the ones that stuck in my memory. For each one, the male DJs would read the offense, and the female DJ would scoff at it, as if it was a completely ridiculous thing, and basically say, “No way, I would never do that.” As if actually baking items for a bake sale instead of buying them from a bakery was a terrible thing for a mom to do.

I attempted to look up the list, and found what seems to be the same one (interestingly on a different radio station’s website). Here are a few more of the “offenses”:

  • Make fancy desserts for your kids to pass out on their birthday
  • Throw amazing parties for events such as Halloween, Easter, and Christmas
  • Make the most amazing and expensive party bags for favors
  • Enrolling their kids in extracurricular classes like music or computers

You can look at the rest of the list here if you’re interested.

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So, here’s what I think about this list, and other lists like it: they are utterly stupid.

Now, I’ll say that I can probably think of a few characteristics or behaviors that might lead me to think of someone as a competitive mom. Most moms have probably experienced interactions with or heard stories about the “one-up” mom or the pushy mom who insists you do things the same way she does or you’re wrong.

But honestly, ridiculing moms for going the extra mile for their kids is just a jerky thing to do. Maybe there are some moms who go overboard to try to compete with other moms, but I have never had the feeling that another mom was baking cupcakes or PTA-ing at me. Most of the time I think that moms do the things they do for their kids because they love them and they want to show them in ways that they might just to be especially talented in.

I happen to really enjoy throwing special birthday parties for my kids, complete with fun favor bags that go with the party’s theme.

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I also love sewing and/or otherwise crafting cute decorations for my kids’ bedrooms. It’s just my thing.

Once I baked really ugly pumpkin cupcakes for Miss’s kindergarten Halloween party. I’m a terrible baker, and I was so excited that I actually used real pumpkin in them, that I mentioned this to a few other moms.

Did they think I was bragging or trying to compete with them? I sure hope not, but maybe.

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I’d like to think that instead of rolling our eyes at or ridiculing moms for doing things we might not choose to do, we could just say instead, “Wow, that was such a cool party she threw for her kid, she must really like doing stuff like that,” Or “She has such a skill at baking, how cool that she shares it in that way to support her kids”?

I think it’s awesome for a mom to spend extra time doing something special for her little ones. And I’ll bet that 99 times out of 100, that mom is only thinking of the joy her efforts will bring to her kids, and not about anyone else at all.

The idea of the “competitive mom” is probably not a complete myth, but I do believe it is a highly overblown and misrepresented notion. What do you think?

The First Week – A Homeschool High

I promise I will go back to blogging about stuff other than homeschooling very soon, but this week, it has pretty much been all-homeschool-all-the-time in my brain, so I’m needing to tell everyone how we did. Ready?

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Ahem. We crushed it.

The week was fantastic.

The curriculum was very easy to follow and implement.

The girls loved the workbox system.

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They are crazy about the Star Wars workbooks that I work into their workboxes in between their “real” work.

(When proofreading, I realized how many times I used the word “work” in that ^^ sentence. I started to edit, but then decided I enjoy the fact that it is used four times in there, with four different meanings. I’m leaving it.)

We did a science experiment.

We did an art project.

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I let my kids use Sharpies, and we all made it out unscathed (including our clothes and furniture).

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We learned about Mother Teresa (her feast day is tomorrow).

Miss developed an intense interest in Japan.

We read and discussed the Gospel for this Sunday, as well as most of them from the Mass readings for the week.

We memorized a Bible verse (Psalm 1:1). They did much better at this than I did. Even Sis has it down.

It was so fun.

We even named our little school after our patron saints. I had the idea the night before our first day that I was going to ask the girls to choose a patron saint for our school for the year. I worried a bit that introducing this might be a big disaster. I suspected they would fight over which saint we should choose. To my surprise, they came to an agreement almost immediately. When I first asked whom we should choose, Sis said, “Saint Joseph.” Miss said, “That’s exactly what I was just going to say!” Lass said, “Mary.” I said, “How about the Holy Family?” They said, “Yeah!”

So we are now Holy Family Academy.

I’m kind of feeling like Super Homeschool Mom. I’m having an “I need a cape” moment (these are few and far between, so I’m making the most of it).

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Of course, it wasn’t perfect, by any stretch. There were a few tense moments. Even a few tears, because Lass has a hard time understanding that she isn’t supposed to do things perfectly when she is learning them, like cutting an oval shape. I repeated many times things like: “You don’t have to be perfect, you’re just learning,” and “It takes practice to get good at new skills,” and “In our school it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn.” And so on and so on. She still had a meltdown over the fact that her ovals were a bit angular.

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I also need to streamline my process for prepping the next day’s work in the evenings and filling the girls’ workboxes. I think I spent at least an hour each night doing this, and that’s just not sustainable. I’m working on making it smoother, doing some of the prep work for the next day as the girls are finishing up their current day activities, and finding other ways to be more efficient. I’m hoping this will get faster as I get more familiar with the curriculum and once we are in a more user-friendly space after we move.

And speaking of user-friendly spaces, I learned that, although I really like having individual desks for the girls, I also like having the big table in the middle to use when we’re doing work together at the start of the day and when we do experiments and art projects. So we’ll probably be making room for the big table in our school room (we inherited a new dining room table from my in-laws).

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So much packed into the first week.

Do you want to know my favorite part about the whole thing? I could watch my girls growing closer to each other through our work together and their helping each other.

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I know that sounds crazy after just one week, but I swear they’re kinder to and closer to each other today than they were last Friday. They’re complimenting each other, they’re helping each other, they’re playing Star Wars together so nicely!

I’m feeling more connected with them too.

The house is a mess and my meal planning has gone to heck, but today it all feels so worth it.

Ditching the Cover-Up at the Pool

Early this summer, one of the first times I took my girls swimming for the season, my oldest daughter said, while pulling down her bathing suit shirt as if to cover her rear end: “Oh my gosh, I’m so embarrassed!”

A few weeks later during a week of summer camp, my middle daughter asked me, “Mama, am I fat?” Then she started to cry.

Both of these scenarios shocked and confused me and broke my heart. I truly don’t  know why one of my daughters would express embarrassment about her body while another would voice concern to me that she is fat. I’m pretty vigilant about not sharing my own body image issues with my girls. I don’t talk about my weight (or theirs) with or in front of them, and I never criticize my own appearance in front of them.

I have lost 40 pounds since January, but I have done it without mentioning weight loss or calorie counting in their presence. I don’t think they’ve even noticed a change in my appearance.

And yet, somehow my girls went from this innocent place where “fat” was just a word to describe something, to a place where the idea of being fat is embarrassing to them or makes them cry. I can’t help but feel physically sick just thinking about it.

I feel like I’m doing something wrong, like I’m failing them.

Then, a few minutes later, I feel like I’m not doing anything wrong, and there’s just nothing I can do to completely block the “fat messages” of our society from invading their innocence.

I’m not sure which is worse.

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Why do I get so freaked out about this?

Because I remember being a tween/adolescent girl and feeling like I was fat and how much I hated feeling that way.

Because I remember some of my friends in high school taking diet pills and/or binging and purging (either by vomiting or using laxatives).

Because when I was a psychologist, I worked with people with eating disorders and body image issues. It’s so hard to help people who have lived most of their lives thinking they are ugly and/or fat.

Because even though I’m almost 40 years old and I just lost around 40 pounds, I still struggle sometimes with being accepting of my weight or appearance.

Right now, I weigh roughly what I did when I got married.

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Unfortunately, my body looks drastically different. Back then, pretty much everything was where it was supposed to be and was fairly sleek and smooth and toned.

After three children in three years, “sleek, smooth, and toned” are not the right descriptors for me. Saggy, dimpled, and deflated are more accurate.

Fortunately, I have come a long way from my adolescent self, and the truth is that I usually don’t really mind these bodily changes of motherhood too much, as it’s a very small price to pay for the three precious daughters I’ve been blessed with (I’d happily gain 50+ pounds of “baby weight” all over again given the chance). When I’m dressed in regular clothes, I even feel pretty good, actually.

But when I’m a little less covered, like at the pool for example, I struggle.

In summers past, I have always just worn a big loose, flowy cover up over my bathing suit. But this year, in the moment when I heard my oldest daughter say, “I’m so embarrassed,” and I responded, “Honey, you have nothing to be embarrassed about when wearing a bathing suit,” I decided that my days in a cover up at the pool were over**.

This summer, even when I’m not in or near the pool, I’m not throwing on a cover up or wrapping myself in a towel anymore. This was uncomfortable at first, but after the first trip to the pool, I just don’t even pack the cover up anymore, and now it’s no big deal.

Except when I’m noticing how my thighs spread unattractively when I sit down to eat lunch, or when I feel the jiggle-jiggle as I walk around the deck of the pool, or when I notice that even with a midriff covering, somewhat loosely fitting top on my bathing suit, I still can’t hide my permanently pooched-out belly.

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Yeah. Except for those times.

I wish this wasn’t an issue for me, but sometimes it just is. However, I’m going to continue to do everything I can to make sure it won’t be for my girls.

This weekend we’re having a pool party with some friends for Lass’s fifth birthday. I’ll be strolling around the pool in just my suit. I’ll feel self conscious, but hopefully I won’t show it. Sometimes it really is helpful to just “Fake it ’til you make it.”

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**I’d like to quickly add that this post is not about shaming anyone who chooses to wear a cover over her suit, or suggesting that moms wearing bathing suit cover-ups cause their daughters to have poor body image. It’s just one small way for me to battle back at the anti-fat culture.

On Humility (or Lack Thereof)

Last Thursday, we had our beginning-of-the-year, meet-the-new-members Little Flowers Girls’ Club Picnic. During the picnic, Miss was going to be getting her final badges to finish up her Wreath I. Lass was getting “sashed” in the Sashing Ceremony as a new member. We were all excited for the start of the new Little Flowers year.

To back up a little bit, Miss was one of the original members of our Little Flowers group (some of my friends and I started it together last year). At the beginning, all of the girls got sashes, since that was the only thing available from the website for wearing/displaying badges at that time. I lost my love of the sash pretty quickly, as it wasn’t terribly sturdy, and it always seemed awkward for the girls to wear. Then I accidentally got some glue stain on Miss’s when I was trying to use stitching glue to adhere her patches (don’t try this, it doesn’t work).

So when we started this new year, I was excited to see that there are now adorable vests available on the Little Flowers website. I immediately thought that all the Flowers in our group should switch to these, but no one else really wanted to go that far, so it was decided that each girl could decide whether to get a sash or vest for the upcoming year.

I decided to get a vest for Lass, and to go ahead and get one for Miss too, since her sash was a little messed up from the glue incident. I didn’t ask the girls what they wanted. I just got them what I wanted. I showed them the vests last week, and when they said, “Mom, I want a sash,” I “convinced” them that the vest was better, and that was that.

The night before the picnic, I stayed up late, taking Miss’s patches off her old sash and sewing hers and Lass’s onto the adorable vests.

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Adorable, yes?

I was so excited for them to wake up the next morning and see their vests. I just knew they would love them.

You can see where this is going, right?

In the morning, I proudly showed the girls their vests. They both threw fits and said they wanted sashes. They wouldn’t even put the vests on. I got all fired up by righteous anger and I-stayed-up-late-sewing-this-for-you hurt feelings.

I yelled.

They cried.

I fumed.

They cried some more.

I was awful. It was ugly.

As I type this, I have no idea why I didn’t realize that this would happen. When I told the story to my husband, he said several times, “Well, you could have seen that coming,” and “You knew that was going to happen.” But I didn’t. I can only explain my complete idiocy on this issue as an excess of stubborn pride.

Somehow, that morning I managed to realize what a jerk I was being and how stupid it was for me to just decide to get them something different than what they were expecting without even asking them. How unfair it was for me to not listen when days before they had told me that they wanted sashes.

I tried in vain to think of what I could do to fix the situation. I wanted to address with the girls how their response to the vests I gave them was not really the right way to go (we generally try to discourage wailing and complaining when someone gives us something or does something nice for us), but mostly I wanted to figure out a way to fix my wrong in the situation. I knew there was no way I could get them sashes by that evening’s picnic. I felt horrible. I was near tears, and I sent up some desperate prayers for help and guidance on how to fix the mess that I had made.

When I am at my ugliest, the best thing to do is pray.

And then text Super Friend.

I sent her a text about my misery, because we were getting together with her and her kids later that morning, and I wasn’t sure we’d be very good company. I had absolutely no expectation that she would be able to help me. I just wanted to tell someone how awful I felt, and at the time I was still kind of mad about my girls’ responses to the vests, so I was looking for a little bit of sympathy too.

A short while later, Super Friend called me. She asked me if I had thrown away Miss’s gluey sash. I told her I hadn’t. She then said that she had managed to find an extra sash at her house and asked if I wanted it. She had an extra sash!

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. Matthew 7:7

I couldn’t even answer her over the lump in my throat. There was a long pause as I struggled to speak. Finally, I just started bawling, “Yes please!!!”

The guilt and relief and gratitude for an answered prayer just overwhelmed me.

I spent all of my girls’ rest time that afternoon taking off the patches I had so carefully sewn on the night before and re-sewing them to the sashes. I gouged my finger with a needle. I offered up that time of sewing for my girls.

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May I always remember these sashes when my pride and selfishness get in the way of mothering my girls the way I want to.

That Time I Didn’t Ruin My Daughter’s Soccer Career

Every time I think I’m starting to get motherhood figured out, some new situation or experience comes along to give me a nice beat down. Organized team sports, soccer to be specific, has been the latest. Here’s a little story to illustrate:

For the past two months, my older girls have been playing on a soccer team together. And as with most things, their vastly different personalities were very apparent when watching them on the soccer field.

Miss was a bit hesitant in her first game, but then something seemed to click for her and she was suddenly all over the place, scoring tons of goals and seemingly having a great time. She was confident and played hard whenever she was on the field.

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Lass complained every time they had to go to practice or a game. She rarely seemed to put a in lot of effort, and during each practice and game she complained of her “tummy hurting” any time she ran much at all. She seemed insecure, and didn’t like to do most of the games or drills they did at practice, because she didn’t like to lose or make a mistake. I gave her all the gentle encouragement I could, but also a bit of tough love with, “In our family, we don’t quit and we always give our best effort. So get going.” She actually perked up a little bit at that point, though she still seemed to dread soccer days.

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The season was going along well enough, but then I made a mistake that I thought was going to ruin the rest of the soccer season for my eldest child.

Miss was really on fire one night, scoring lots of goals and running all over the field. She kept yelling to her coach the tally of the number of goals she had scored (from that game and the previous one). It was something like this, “I’ve got seven! I’VE GOT SEVEN!” then “NOW I’VE GOT EIGHT!” The coach often didn’t hear her or was trying to give instructions to other kids, so she just kept yelling it over and over. I was thrilled that she was so excited, but thought to myself that perhaps we might need to have a little bit of a talk about humility at some point. . .

Later in the game she was running next to her teammate who was taking the ball to the goal and about to score. Miss took the ball from her teammate and scored the goal herself.

After the game, we congratulated her on a game well played and shared in her excitement about her successes. We praised Lass for an increase in energy and playing hard. As always, we tried to keep the post-game talks positive and encouraging of all efforts.

However, I wanted to say something to Miss about learning to display humility and also about being part of a team and supporting teammates without taking the ball away from them. I didn’t want to rain on her parade right after her exciting game, so I waited until the next day to talk to her about these things. We talked about how to be happy and excited about accomplishments without boasting. She seemed to easily understand the idea of not wanting to come across as bragging about the number of goals scored (we had recently studied humility in Little Flowers). Then we talked about playing on a team and not trying to take the ball away from her teammates. She seemed to get that just fine too, so I left it at that.

However, during her next game, she not only avoided taking the ball away from her teammates, she also barely kicked the ball at all. She held back so much that she didn’t even try to take the ball away from the other team!

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I was horrified. I tried to talk to her briefly during the game to clarify what I had meant about just not taking the ball from her teammate when she is actively kicking it, and I encourage her to go after the ball, but it didn’t help.

For the rest of that game, she was hesitant and seemed to have lost the confidence that she had displayed in previous games.

Afterwards I tried to talk to her even more about what I meant. I over-explained. I apologized for perhaps confusing her or causing her to think that I wanted her to hold back. I encouraged her to go after the ball and play hard.

None of it made any difference. For the next several weeks, she played tentatively. Her spark was gone.

Do I need to tell you how terribly I was beating myself up? How my stomach clenched every time I saw her let the ball go by?

I had thought I was doing a good thing. I had thought I wasn’t criticizing, just providing a gentle lesson about how to play on a team. I had thought I was doing my job of teaching and guiding her in the ways of things.

Instead, I ended up fearing that I had crushed her little spirit and ruined her soccer career forever.

I talked to my husband about it. I talked to my mom about it. I talked to Super Friend about it (who assured me that the same thing had happened with her son and it would be okay). I prayed about it. I reminded myself that she’s only six. Still, every time I watched her, I felt awful and feared what horrible thing I had done to her.

I didn’t really know what to do. I felt like I had talked the issue to death in trying to backtrack and clarify what I had meant. So I just tried to encourage both girls to play hard, have fun, and get after the ball at each practice and game.

For a while, this didn’t seem to be making any change in Miss, but Lass was starting to show quite an improvement. The girls’ coach was wonderful and really put extra effort into helping her to enjoy the game and to score a goal either at practice or at a game. She mostly stopped complaining that her tummy hurt. She started having more fun. She really wanted to be able to score a goal, and though we always told the girls that the number of goals they scored wasn’t the most important thing, I suspected she would find the game much more enjoyable if she could experience that taste of success.

Last weekend, my husband and I decided to spend a lot of extra time playing running and kicking games with the girls. We all played duck-duck-goose and kickball, he played sharks and minnows and kicked the soccer ball around with them.

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Thursday night was their last game. I prayed that they would both end their soccer season on a positive note. They were on the field together, and both started out playing hard.

And then, within a few minutes of getting into the game, Lass scored a goal!! Her first goal ever. I was standing up and cheering, and I actually started to cry, I was so happy to see her joy in her achievement. Her sister picked her up and hugged her fiercely. Lass ran back to her coach and said, “I love soccer!!” She looked over to us on the sideline with a beaming smile and said with two thumbs up, “I scored a goal!”

And her accomplishment seemed to finally light the fire in her sister again. Within minutes of her sister’s success, Miss scored three goals, one right after the other. I felt like my heart was going to burst with happiness for both of them. And with relief that I really hadn’t ruined my daughter forever.

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I’ve found this soccer mom thing to be kind of tricky. I want to encourage my girls and push them to do their best, but not push them in such a way that they feel that approval is contingent upon scoring goals or some other specific measure of performance. I want to help them learn about how to be a good sport and a good teammate, but not squash their enthusiasm or desire for individual achievement.

In this situation, I had such good intentions, and still I totally blew it. Even now, I get a little teary thinking about it. I want nothing more than to help my daughters be confident and joyful in all the things they do. I know I will continue to make mistakes, so I only hope that an abundance of love and prayer will help them to overcome all of my shortcomings in the future.

At least I know they will never be lacking in those two things.