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?


Ahem. We crushed it.

The week was fantastic.

The curriculum was very easy to follow and implement.

The girls loved the workbox system.


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.



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


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).


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


**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.

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.

Teaching Girls to Respect Themselves is Not Shaming Them

The other day I read a blog post that I found interesting and refreshing. It’s called “To the Middle School Girls at the Pool Who Told My son He Was Hot.” (Go on over and read it real quick.)

I saw it as a reasonable commentary on the way that young girls sometimes act inappropriately, and as an appeal to them to stop and/or to their parents to guide them away from this way of acting. The post isn’t hateful, or judge-y, or hurtful.

I didn’t have a super strong reaction to it, and would have just filed it away in my mind as a nice thing I had read and then moved on, except that I saw at the bottom of the post that the author decided to close the comments because some commenters attacked her personally, even going so far as to call her shameful and disgusting. Wait, what?

Naturally, that piqued my curiosity so I scrolled down to see just what had been so “offensive” about the post.

The main problem commenters seemed to have with the post was that they thought that the mom’s words were shaming young girls and contributing to the “rape culture.”

Hmmm. I did not see that coming. The take home message of the post seemed to be this, “I’m trying to teach my son to respect girls/women. And girls, you should also respect yourselves.”

In my opinion, the author was not shaming girls, nor was she contributing to the rape culture at all.

However, the post comments made me think about the concept of “rape culture” in general and how it seems to get thrown around a lot on social media, perhaps without a clear understanding of what it actually is. So, I Googled it. Here’s a definition:

Rape culture is a culture in which dominant cultural ideologies, media images, social practices, and societal institutions support and condone sexual abuse by normalizing, trivializing and eroticizing male violence against women and blaming victims for their own abuse (Huffington Post)

Okay. So:

Rape culture is making jokes about sexual assault.

It is not a mom pleading with young girls to stop throwing themselves at young boys.

Rape culture is blaming a rape victim because of what she was wearing.

It is not telling girls that they should have respect for themselves.

Rape culture is Fifty Shade of Grey, for pete’s sake.

It is not teaching girls that they can and should be responsible for their own behavior and make good choices for themselves.


It seems to me that our society has become so hypersensitive to never, ever offending anyone, that we have made it inappropriate and often offensive to tell people to make good choices and take responsibility for themselves. If we dare to suggest that someone might be doing something that isn’t in her best interest, we can attacked as being judgmental and hateful. Just like the mom in the above-linked post, who simply said in essence, “Come on girls, you’re better than that,” and was then chastised for “blaming the victim” (except that there was no victim).

This doesn’t help anyone, and I find it really disturbing as I think ahead to what I want my own daughters to know as they get older.


As a mom of three girls, I think it does much more harm than good to send the message to girls that they can do whatever they want, wear whatever they want, and say whatever they want, no matter how sexually suggestive it may be, and no one should ever say anything to them about it, because correcting them perpetuates rape culture, or is misogynistic, or sexist, or whatever.

I want to teach my daughters to have respect for themselves and for others in all situations. And that means (when they get older) not posting duck-lipped scantily-clad selfies all over the place, or making suggestive comments to boys, or being sexually aggressive and pushy, and so on. I aim to teach them this stuff not because if they behave this way they’ll be attacked and it will then be their fault. Of course not. But because:

  1. Behaving in a sexually aggressive way could actually put them in a situation where they are at risk for assault, and
  2. Acting in a suggestive way and throwing themselves at boys will make them feel terribly about themselves, and
  3. I want them to know that getting a boy to notice them is not the most important thing and is not what gives them value, and
  4. They need to understand that if a boy does notice them, it should not be because their bodies are barely covered but because of the other many, many wonderful qualities they possess.

I could go on and on with many more reasons, but you get the picture.


Trying to help young girls understand why they should have self respect and stop throwing themselves at boys is not shaming them. It’s empowering them in a real way. Not a fake, “you’re a woman, you can do whatever you want, sleep with whomever you want” sexual-revolution kind of way. That’s not empowerment. That’s crap.

Teaching girls that they shouldn’t always just do whatever the heck they feel like doing and dress in a provocative way and say suggestive things to boys does not contribute to the rape culture. It contributes to their healthy development.

I’m not trying to diminish the reality of rape culture with this post. I despise the attitudes that lead to this type of mindset. However, I think in some ways, as a society, we’re missing the mark in efforts to get rid of the rape culture. We should be crying out against the magazines and ads that portray women falsely and place an overemphasis on their bodies and appearance and sexy poses. We should be voicing opposition when the media publishes stories, like the recent one about the Duggar family, purely for the sake of sensationalizing and getting ratings, without any regard for the poor victims and their privacy. We should be turning away from books and shows and movies that positively portray sexual violence instead of turning them into bestsellers and major hit movies (ahem, Fifty Shades of Grey!!).


I know my daughters will not be this innocent forever. It breaks my heart and scares the daylights out of me to know that they will be exposed more and more to the smut that is the “entertainment” industry in our country as they get older. I can only encourage them to try to seek out things that promote truth and beauty and love, and to always have respect and love for themselves and others. There’s no shame in that.

The world doesn’t need what women have, it needs what women are. – Edith Stein (AKA St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

The Kindergarten Birthday Party Dilemma

Miss’s sixth birthday is in about two weeks. I’ve been thinking about what to do for her party for weeks. Okay, months.

There are so many different philosophies out there about how to handle kids’ birthdays and birthday parties. They range from family-only small gatherings with no presents to all-out huge bashes with party planners and dozens of guests (and gifts).

Of course, there’s not just one right way to do it. We’ve never really set a firm birthday policy in our house, but mostly just determined, with each birthday, what seems like the best thing to do. When Miss was little, since we always have a trip to Iowa planned on or around her birthday, we’d just do the family-only party, and she was always thrilled with that. In fact, last year, for her fifth birthday, was the first time we’d ever done anything beyond the family birthday party for her by having a gathering at our house. She had a Brave-themed drive-in movie party, and it was really fun.

I’ve discovered that I like putting together birthday parties for my girls. I enjoy getting into the theme and decorations when we have parties at our home. I like combing Pinterest for ideas and coming up with creative things myself. I know it’s not necessary for them, but I have fun doing it.


As for the guests? For previous birthdays, I’ve never been in a situation where I felt the need to invite many other people to our parties. Until this year, our girls didn’t go to school, so there was never a question of inviting lots of kids. Except when we have parties in Iowa and invite all of my husband’s family, we never have more than two other families come to a birthday at our home. For Lass’s zoo party, only the Super Family could make it, and that was just fine.


Since my girls didn’t attend school, I’ve never had to think too much about whom to invite, and my girls have never felt that their parties were anything but wonderful with the few close friends we included.

But now, with Miss having part-time-away-from-home kindergarten this year, things have changed. She has been invited to the birthday parties of at least five of her classmates so far. For all but one of them, all of the little girls in her class were invited (and one even had all the boys too!). I have mixed feelings about having a huge party, so I’ve spent far to much time debating what we should do for her birthday this year.

Do we invite all the girls in her class? This seems a nice way to go so that no one feels left out, but that’s a lot of kids. She has 11 other girls in her class, plus we will always of course invite the Super Family, along with the sisters of one of the little girls in her class whose family we are friends with. And she also wants to invite the little girl who lives across the street. Lots of kids = lots of presents, which I feel kind of weird about.


Do we keep it small and only invite a few friends? If we did this, there would be a few more people invited than we’ve done in the past, because she does have some new friends from school, but it would still be considerably smaller than if we invited all the girls in her class.

I went back and forth about this in my mind for quite some time. Initially, I thought we’d just invite a few close friends. Then I thought it was important to teach her to be kind to all the other kids and invite them all. Then I thought it’s unrealistic to tell her she needs to invite all the girls if she doesn’t want to, since she’s not going to be close friends with all of them, and she might not have much in common with some. Then I thought we should really invite all the kids who have invited us to their parties, since it’s rude to not reciprocate. Then my husband pointed out that she shouldn’t feel pressured to invite anyone if it’s only for the reason of reciprocating an invitation. . .

I worried about having a lot of kids because that means a lot of presents. I’m cool with birthday presents, because we pretty much only get our kids new toys on their birthdays and Christmas, and a few things on Easter. But I’m uncomfortable with them getting a lot of presents. If all of the girls in her class came to the party, plus the Super Family and the family across the street, that would mean she’d get about 13 presents, not even including those from her family! Not only do I not want that many more things in my house, that just seems so excessive to me. We went to one party where I watched the little birthday girl open present after present, announcing the contents of the package, and then literally tossing the gift aside to move on to the next one. There were barely any “thank yous,” and none that involved eye contact and sincerity. I was cringing inside the whole time.

So what will we do?

Ultimately, what we decided was to ask Miss what she wanted. I was kind of hoping she’d choose to have her party here at our house, so I could really have some fun with decorations, crafts, and games. But she chose to have it at the gymnastics center where she takes lessons (and she’s attended two other birthday parties in the past month). She wanted to ask all of the kids in her class. I told her she could only invite the girls (I could not handle the idea of that many more presents if all the boys came too). She chose, no surprise, a “Frozen” theme for the party.

For this year, this first year of school experience, I’ve decided I’m okay with the big party. The gifts make me a bit uncomfortable, but I’ll just make sure we have a discussion about the importance of saying “thank you,” making eye contact with the gift-giver, for each present. And of course we’ll have her take the time to write thank-you notes afterwards as well.

I know this isn’t the one “right” way to do a party. But after much (over)analysis of the issue, it feels like the right way for us this time. We’ll probably change things again next year, but for this year, a big birthday party is fine.

I still remember the birthday party I had when I was in kindergarten. It felt like a big deal.

I also remember that after that one party in kindergarten, I didn’t have big parties anymore. I had outings with a few close friends or cousins, or sleep-overs when I got a little older. Maybe that’s how we’ll do things after this year. I’m sure I’ll start thinking about it around October, so I’ll let you know.

Thoughts on Community From an Introvert

I never used to put much thought into it, but I think always used to consider myself an extrovert. I like to be around people. I like to go to parties, and when I was younger I loved the bar scene. Each time I have moved to a new city, I’ve sought new friends, because I don’t like not having friends to hang out with.

As I’ve gotten older though, I have realized that I’m probably more of an introvert in many ways. I cannot do small talk. Truly. It’s painful. I need to sometimes have time by myself. I much prefer to have one good friend to having a large circle of friends.

I’ve always been this way. I’ve never been the “popular girl,” but more like the best friend of the popular girl. As I look back over my life, this has been true at pretty much every stage. In high school and college, I fondly nicknamed one of my best friends “The Social Butterfly.” She was friends with everyone, and if I remember correctly, she was voted “Friendliest” in our graduating class. My other best friend was the homecoming queen and voted “Most Popular” (I’m pretty sure… it was over 20 year ago!). It wasn’t that I wasn’t friendly toward people, but I didn’t have it in me to cultivate friendships with lots of people. I was voted the girl with “Most School Spirit.” I was okay with that. I’m pretty sure it still holds true today, and I’m still okay with it.

IMG_4241^^ Left to right, Homecoming Queen, Social Butterfly, and me ^^

When I moved here and had no friends and no job and was about to have my first baby, I search and searched for a group I could call my own. I joined various mom groups. I went to play dates. I joined the Newcomers Club in my town. I met some nice people and made a few casual friends. But in most play date groups I felt very uncomfortable. I tried MOPS. Awkward. Other than in book clubs (because I can talk about books!!), I never felt comfortable in large groups of people I didn’t know.

It took three years after moving here for me to meet Super Friend, and once I did, I stopped trying to cultivate friendships with other people. I mostly stopped scheduling play dates or coffee dates with other moms. I was perfectly happy to spend my social time primarily with Super Friend (if you knew her, you’d understand). That’s not to say I didn’t have any other friends, I just stopped putting much effort into developing those friendships with others. I’m not really sure why. Because I was lazy? Because I was comfortable (Super Friend!)? Because it doesn’t come easy to me? All of the above, I’m sure.


^^ Me and my beloved Super Friend ^^

One thing I didn’t realize for the first few years of my friendship with Super Friend was that she had this sort of divided friend-life. There was me, the atheist friend, and then she had this whole other group of friends that she knew through church and her (now our) kids’ school, whom I barely knew. She is so much better at developing and nurturing relationships than me (yes, I’m still the “popular girl’s friend”!), and she had this whole community that I only vaguely knew anything about.

When I began my conversion, Super Friend invited me to attend a Catholic mom’s Bible study (you can read about my first time attending here, whoa). And of course, I started attending Mass weekly and going to RCIA eventually. Over time, my perspective on friends began to change. This change has really begun to crystalize in my mind over the past few months. I’ve realized that, in spite of my natural tendency to hunker down and be happy in my little world with my husband, children, family, and one fabulous friend (and her fabulous family), that is really not enough. I mean, it’s enough for me, but it’s not enough. Wait, what?

I need a community.


I go to Bible study every other week with nine other moms and we talk about our study and we learn about the Bible. But we also talk about our kids, who all go to, or will go to, school together. We talk about our fears for raising Catholic kids in this world, and how can we protect them from all the stuff they need to be protected from, and teach them all the stuff they need to be taught, so that they will grow up to love Jesus and our Faith. And they will know why.

I realized that these women, these other moms, are the community with whom I will raise my girls. When my kids get bigger and they go to events, even if I’m not there, there’s a good chance one of these moms will be. And they will tell me if  something noteworthy happens or if my kids do something I need to know about. And my girls will know that these moms will tell me what they’re up to. They will know that there is a whole community that cares about what they do and what happens to them, beyond just their parents. And I’ll have spies everywhere…

Just kidding. Sort of.


Even beyond the Bible study group, I have found other sources of community since beginning my conversion.

RCIA was such a wonderful experience the first time, I’ve returned for another year as a sponsor. Through RCIA I gained the lovely Godmother, who is such a source of support and wealth of knowledge, along with my other friends.

And our parish is a beautiful community too. My natural tendency is to go to Mass, shake hands with and smile at some people during the Sign of the Peace, say “Hi” to the Super Family and other friends who might be there after the service, and then go home. I don’t tend to reach out to others. I don’t speak to strangers. Remember, I don’t do small talk. But the Bible says:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” – Hebrews 10: 24-25

This past Sunday at Mass, not one, not two, but three strangers or near strangers came up and spoke to me. It was uncomfortable and wonderful at the same time. Two were women sitting near us who complimented me on my children and my mothering, and one was a woman I met in May at a Mother’s Day brunch, who came up and re-introduced herself and then proceeded to introduce her husband and children and start talking to my husband and children. I would never do that. But how great that she did.

Bible study, RCIA, Mass… A whole amazing community that I need to try to be more open to. I need to nurture my friendships more beyond my dear Super Friend. I need to reach out to strangers more. I should be the one complimenting a mom with little kids or reconnecting with someone I met a while ago at a parish function. I shouldn’t be averting my eyes and hoping that no one sees me, because I don’t know what to say.

It’s nice when life is happy and comfortable, but growth happens when I push myself beyond comfortable. I really love the little community that I’ve become a part of. I’m excited to watch it, and help it, grow.

Little Girls and Fat – 7 Ways to Encourage Healthy Body Image for Daughters

I’m pretty intentional about the way I discuss food and exercise and body image and fat with my girls. Our society is obsessed with fat. Or rather, with not eating fat, not gaining fat, and not being fat. My parents never tried to get me to lose weight, and never taught me, explicitly or implicitly, that I needed to be super thin or diet constantly. However, the bombardment of “be skinny!!” messages in our culture still led me to have plenty of struggles with body image and “feeling fat,” particularly as an adolescent (I was never overweight, just not super skinny).

As an adult I have learned that it is more important to focus more on having a strong and healthy body and less on being thin. I know this in my head, but I still struggle with it every single day. I want to be able to lose the weight I gained while I was pregnant this summer. I want to be able to lose the extra pounds I had before I got pregnant this summer. I want to be thin again, like I was before I had babies. Even though I know better, I have moments of loathing this body that has grown and nourished three little people, because it doesn’t look like what I wish it did. That’s ridiculous, but it’s true.

I want better for my girls.


I have heard about little girls who worry that they are fat, or who want to be on diets, or who won’t eat certain things because these foods will make them “fat.” Five and six and seven year olds.

The idea of my little girls feeling that they need to be on a diet or do something to avoid getting “fat” makes me want to cry. I want to teach my girls about fat and food in a different way than what is common in our culture. Here are seven ways I try to do it:

1. I do not ever speak critically about my own body in front of them. Even more, I don’t scowl at my reflection, I don’t weight myself in front of them, I don’t complain that certain clothes make me look fat. When my kids inevitably poke my belly and comment on how squishy it is I just smile and say, “Yes it is.” I don’t say, “Ugh, I know. I need to eat less ice cream and work out more.” Even if that’s what I’m thinking.


2. I don’t discuss food with them in terms of its potential to make them (or me) fat, and we don’t go on “diets” in our house (I don’t believe eating paleo is a “diet” in the way I’m thinking of it here). We discuss foods in terms of their nutritional value. I explain to my girls that we need to eat a variety of foods to keep our bodies healthy.


I don’t ban sugary treats, but I tell them that we eat small amounts of these because they don’t offer our bodies much, if any, nutritional value, and eating too much of them isn’t a healthy choice and/or makes us feel tired, etc.

3. I don’t talk about fat or “being fat” as a bad thing. When my girls ask me why some people are fat, I simply say, “Because God makes people in all shapes and sizes.” Once Miss asked me what would happen if her daddy got fat. I have no idea where that question came from, but I said, “Well then we would just love him anyway, whatever he looks like.”


4. Similarly, I don’t tell them not to refer to other people as fat. The idea of being “fat” doesn’t have a negative connotation for them yet, and I want to keep it that way. I have felt embarrassed when they have asked other people, “Why are you so fat?” but I don’t chastise them for it because it is completely innocent. Obviously, if I ever heard them use the word “fat” as an insult, I would put a stop to it right away. For now, I’m just glad they don’t even think it that way.

5. I never have the TV on adult programming when my kids are awake. Commercials are so full of inappropriate content. When we occasionally have on a sports program during the day, I try to keep it muted, at least during the commercials, to avoid all the commercials about the latest and greatest “lose weight fast” schemes (it’s also nice to avoid the erectile dysfunction commercials so common during sports programming).

6. Exercise is always only referred to in terms of its purpose for making us strong and healthy and helping us to feel good, never for trying to lose weight. I was in our garage working out the other day while the girls played in the backyard. I was doing sumo deadlift high pulls and feeling like a cow, noticing how my belly fat was oozing over the top of my workout pants each time I bent down. Lass came to the door between the garage and the backyard and said, “Looking good, Mom!” I couldn’t help but smile.


7. I don’t talk about how relatively big or small they are. I have one daughter who is on the small side for her age, and two who are on the big side. Miss and Lass are almost exactly the same size. People comment on this all the time, usually right after asking me if they’re twins. But I don’t make a big deal about it. I don’t make comments about how petite Miss is or compare her sisters to her in that way. They know they wear the same size clothes, and it’s a non-issue beyond that.


I know I won’t be able to shield my girls from society’s skinny obsession forever. Really what I’m trying to do now is lay a good foundation for the conversations that will come when they get older. I hope that they will have a firmly established set of beliefs about exercise and food and their bodies, so that they can roll their eyes at the photoshopped pictures on the magazine covers and the ads promising that they can “Lose weight fast!!”

For now I’ll feed them healthy food and continue to try to be a good role model of healthy exercise and body image. I certainly need work on this myself.

Revisiting Allowance (Otherwise Known as Revising a Bad Parenting Decision)

You may remember that I posted almost a year ago about my kids (mostly Miss) constantly asking to save their allowance for things. At the time, I thought that they were mostly only asking to save their allowances for items as their way of expressing to me that they were interested in those things. I was sure I was right about this when the tendency to ask to save allowance for something seem to mostly fade away a few months after I wrote that post.

But then it came back. With a vengeance. Both of my older girls began asking to save their allowances for everything. And they really seemed to want the things. Not just to be “expressing interest.”

I thought I was going to lose my mind.

And I began to worry again about whether I was teaching them the right things by giving them allowance and allowing them to spend it on toys. Yes, they were putting a dollar each week into our giving jar. Yes, Miss was also putting a dollar of hers into her piggy bank for long-term savings. But I had wanted them to learn the concept of having to save for things they want, and instead they were buying cheap toys on a whim and then never playing with them, so the point was getting totally lost.

I started to stress out about the allowance policy that we had instituted with very good intentions, but which seemed to have gone terribly awry. I knew I wanted to do something different, but I couldn’t decide what to change. Then a few things happened that prompted me to take action.

I read this post written by a woman who took pretty much all of her kids’ toys away. I was fascinated by the idea of drastically reducing clutter and excess in order to increase creativity and gratitude. I started thinking about how we might implement something like this in our house, but I was hesitant to pull the trigger.

Then we started getting ready for our trip to my parents’ house in April. Often when we visit my parents we take the girls to the Nature Center where they can see and learn about lots of different animals. Each time they had been there before I had allowed them to go to the gift shop and pick out one small souvenir toy to purchase.

This time, when talking to Miss about our upcoming trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa and the possibility that we would go to the Nature Center again, she got super excited and begged me to call Grandma to make sure we could go there. I thought it was pretty great that she was so excited about it.

Then she revealed the reason for her excitement. She wanted to get a toy. She really wasn’t interested in looking at the animals. She just wanted to go to the gift shop and get a new toy.

She was totally skipping over the fun of the experience in her mind and going straight to “what am I going to get?” I was kind of horrified and so upset with myself for allowing the situation to get to this point.

When I instituted the allowance thing I thought I was teaching them the need to save for things they want. I had successfully eliminated any tendency my kids may have had to ask me to buy toys for them. But by giving them allowance and allowing them to spend it as I had, they had become even more focused on material possessions than they would have without the allowance.

I immediately placed a moratorium on spending the allowance and asking to save it for things. I explained to my girls that we can’t always have the things we want, and that they have more than enough toys already. I talked with them about the importance of being grateful for what we have instead of always wanting more. I told them that we could go to the Nature Center when we visited Grandma and Grandpa, but that we would not be buying a toy in the gift shop this time. They were a bit upset at first, but then they had a great time and didn’t push the issue.

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They looked at the toys in the gift shop, but did not make a fuss about not being able to get one.


However, after getting home from our trip, we did have some push back for a week or two about not being able to spend their allowance anymore. I got through this partly by just not giving them their allowance for a few weeks while they got out of the habit of focusing on buying and asking for things. During this time I tried to figure out how to implement allowance in the future, and I started packing up boxes of toys to put in storage.

We packed up a lot of toys from our playroom. I decided not to take all the girls toys away, but rather to pack up many of them and put them in the basement, to be in a rotating system with the toys we kept out. I organized toys in big plastic bins by type.

DSC_0114We kept out a little bit of dress up, the small plastic dolls (mostly princesses, but many others as well), the magnetic building tiles, and the play food and dishes (and books, of course). The girls also have about three other bins or boxes they are allowed to have upstairs at any one time. Right now they have the stuffed animals, the plastic animals, and the baby dolls. If they want something from downstairs they have to make a trade of one full box for another.

This system has worked out so well for us. Clean up is easier and they seem to really enjoy and play with their toys more.

DSC_0109 DSC_0113As for the allowance issue, after much internal debate and discussion with my husband and Super Friend, I decided to begin giving the girls their allowance again. They still put money in our giving jar. Miss still puts some of her allowance in her piggy bank (which we never take money out of). And they understand that they are not allowed to buy toys with their allowance right now.

I intend to have them simply continue to save their money. If there is a situation in the future where I think it is appropriate to allow them to spend their money on something, I’m reserving the right to do so, but for now, no buying.

It’s amazing to me how seemingly innocuous decisions of parenting can sometimes lead to completely unintended consequences. I thought I was teaching my children financial responsibility, and it seems all I was really doing was fostering greed and materialism. My kids were just being kids, but I had unintentionally allowed a habit to develop that was not good for them.

As a mom I find this somewhat terrifying, seeing how something so well-intentioned could go so wrong. . . Fortunately, it’s usually fairly easy to change course when something isn’t working as long as I explain to my kids what we are doing and why (I like this post about How Parenting is Like Following a GPS). Who knows? I may need to change this system again in the future.

I’m sure I’ll need to change directions many, many times as a mom in trying to guide my children down the best path possible.

Princess vs. Barbie

We have lots of princess dolls at our house.


^^ Thank you to my Mother-in-law for that storage idea ^^

My girls ask for them as gifts. They save their allowances to buy them. They love their princess dolls.



Of course, they have lots of toys they enjoy, and they tend to go in cycles with them. Baby dolls, animals, building toys, etc.

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Princesses are always in the rotation though, whether the big princess dolls or small ones or both. We’ve got lots of them.


In contrast, we have only one Barbie. She was given to Miss as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago.


The drastic difference in the number of princesses and Barbies on our house is deliberate. I don’t buy Barbies for my girls. I don’t take them in the Barbie aisle at the store. I’m just not a fan of Barbie.

I realize, those may be bordering on fightin’ words for someone who grew up in the 80s. I have heard lots of women around my age defend Barbie. Because we played with Barbies as kids and some ladies still love her and are excited to share her with their daughters/nieces/etc.

True, I played with Barbies. I loved playing with Barbies. I am not, not, not trying to criticize anyone who loves playing Barbies with or buying Barbies for their kids. My girls play with them when we go to the Farm or to their aunt’s house, and I don’t mind, of course. But. I still won’t buy them. Why?

I can specifically remember as a little girl, playing with my Barbies and thinking they were so pretty. I walked around on my tiptoes (like her) and wished that I had blonde hair and blue eyes and a super skinny waist (like hers). I just don’t want my girls to feel that way because of one of their toys. And maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe I was just particularly insecure about my brown hair and green eyes and normal-sized waist for some reason at that time and they wouldn’t be. But still…

I have some other beefs with B too. Like her clothes. My Barbies never came with clothes like these:


It is pretty hard to find a Barbie to purchase that is not dressed in a way that I find inappropriate for a little girl’s toy. I know this, because I stood in the Barbie aisle at Target staring at the array of dolls for way too long one day when buying gifts for some families at our church, trying to find a doll I felt comfortable purchasing for a little girl who requested one. It’s not impossible to find one, but not easy. Though recently I did come across this funny Homeschool Barbie.

In general, princesses just seem more innocent to me. Barbie is marketed as sexy much of the time. No thanks.

Of course, I do have a few issues with the Disney gals, mostly with the earlier princesses’ tendencies to fall in “love at first sight” and in general be rather helpless (not characteristics I want my girls to cultivate). But the later stories, of Belle, Mulan, and Merida for example, feature heroines who aren’t solely focused on finding true love (though they aren’t opposed to it when they do).

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And even the princesses who are a bit overly dependent on Prince Charming or lacking in gumption still have some good qualities that I can talk to my girls about. When my girls say, “I like Snow White because she’s so pretty,” I can respond with something like, “Oh, I like Snow White too, but do you know why I really like her? Because she is so kind and thoughtful.” And if they say, “Cinderella is my favorite princess because she has a beautiful dress” I can say, “I like Cinderella too because she is a really hard worker.”

I like that the princess dolls don’t all look the same. They have different skin colors and different face shapes. I can even get into discussions with my girls about other cultures by talking about the stories of the princesses. I know some Barbies have different colored skin and hair, but they all seem to have the same face. Weird.


When my girls ask me who my favorite princess is, I say, “Belle, because she loves to read and she is very loyal and brave.” Sometimes I mention that I also really like Merida “because she’s also brave and strong and very protective of her family” or Anna “because she is a really good sister.”

What does Barbie have besides her looks and her clothes? A pink car, a mansion, and a boyfriend named Ken.

I’ve come a long way in the past three years. I can tolerate princesses, and sometimes I actually enjoy them (Brave and Frozen are really good movies!). I can even find some good in my girls’ love of princess stories and dolls. The princesses have decent clothes and some positive characteristics that I can discuss with my girls.

I won’t say I’ll never let my girls buy Barbies. But for now, the princesses win.

More On Yoga Pants. And Kindness. And Being Judgmental.

I have had an interesting response to last week’s “Yoga-Pants-Wearing Mom” post.

The post was featured on BlogHer, and it has received quite a few comments over there and on their Facebook page. Apparently lots of people have opinions about the matter of whether or not moms should wear yoga pants and/or what it says about us if we do.


Most of the comments in response the post weren’t bothersome or even surprising to me. There were people who mentioned their beliefs that people who wear yoga pants: look like “slob[s],” don’t “have respect” for themselves, or disappoint their husbands with their clothing choices.

Meh. I’ve read it all before, which is what prompted me to write the post in the first place.

The one thing that kind of bugged me though, was the comments suggesting that, by wearing yoga pants, I (and other moms who do this) am somehow not setting a good example for my children.



I have a hard time understanding that one.

I do lots of things to try to set a good example for my daughters. My choice of pants is not something that I see as a big example-setting opportunity.

So then, just what kind of example do I set when I wear yoga pants?


Maybe I’m letting my kids know that I’m not overly concerned with what others think of what I wear.

Maybe I’m telling them that I value being able to have fun with them more than I value wearing a certain type of clothing.

Maybe I’m showing them that I am confident in myself regardless of how I look.


Does wearing yoga pants send the message to them that I don’t value myself? That I think it’s okay to not take care of oneself?

Um, no.

My kids might get that message if I frequently criticized myself or made self-deprecating comments, and I happened to be wearing yoga pants while doing so.

It might send that message if I wore dirty yoga pants and also never showered or brushed my teeth or exercised.

But I don’t do those things. Crisis averted.


Perhaps my wearing yoga pants tells my girls that it’s more important to be active and embrace life than to dress up and then worry about getting dirty or rumpled.

Maybe it tells them that it’s okay to wear what makes them feel good instead of what everyone else says is “fashionable.”


Who knows? Honestly, at this point I doubt that my girls are taking any kind of “message” from my choice of pants.

However, I know that they do and will always get the message from me that, except for a few times in life when it is appropriate and prudent to be concerned about how your clothing is perceived by others (i.e. during a job interview), it’s okay to just be yourself. And it’s important to let others do the same.

My kids dress themselves every day. Aside from an occasional veto for seasonal inappropriateness or a stain, I let them choose what they wear, and I don’t interfere. I don’t care if they match. Except when we’re going to church or for certain special occasions, I don’t care if they’re dressed casually. I intentionally only buy them comfortable clothing, because I don’t want them to feel constrained by what they’re wearing either.

I want them to feel free to run and climb and get dirty and play.


But more than that, I don’t ever want them to get the message from me or anyone else that’s it’s cool to judge other people based on how they look or what they wear. I want them to get that it’s more important to be kind than to be wearing the latest fashion fad. That what they do is more important than what they wear, and likewise for those they encounter in life. I hope they will choose their friends and mates based primarily on how those people treat them and not on how popular those people are, what kind of car they drive, or if they wear the “right” clothes.


A random little boy helped Lass on the hay bale fort yesterday. She was so excited to tell me about this and how kind he was to her. She never once mentioned what he was wearing or what he looked like.


I like talking to them about how to be kind and helpful to others. About how good it feels when someone else treats them that way.

I don’t spend time talking to them about what others look like except when they occasionally ask, as of course young kids do.

And when they say, “Mom, why is that man so fat?” or “Why is her skin so brown?” my response is simply, “Because people come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s okay.”


So there you have it. What started out last week as a glib post about wearing yoga pants has morphed into a commentary on kindness and trying not to be so judgmental.


That said, I’ll add that I’m not a Pollyanna, and I know that it is human nature to judge. I’m certainly no saint when it comes to having judgmental thoughts about others. I try not to act on them, and I don’t discuss them with my kids.

They will have plenty of time to learn about the judgments people tend to make about each other. I’ll do my best to help them make good decisions for themselves and to treat others with respect and kindness, regardless of differences.

But for now, we’ll wear comfy clothes and just play.