Friday, February 2, 2018


I love the idea of traditions, though I have complicated feelings about them. I am one who detests change. Truly. I dislike change so much that when we took out our disgusting white plastic countertops that were stained and broken and completely embarrassing and replaced them with beautiful solid wood butcher block countertops, I had an evening of regret. I felt sadness that I'd replaced the most awful countertops in the history of kitchens with what was, no joke, my dream countertops.

So, on paper, you might think that I would obviously LOVE traditions and view them as being very important and keep up with them year after year. You might imagine that when we partake in annual activities, we do the same festive things, eat the same festive foods, sing the same festive songs EVERY SINGLE YEAR. But you would be wrong, because there's a catch!

I don't actually have my life together at all. And so, even though I place great value on the idea of keeping traditions, a lot of times when the celebration time comes, I haven't gone to the grocery store, or I forgot what month it was, or I somehow lost all the key accessories to our tradition. Take, for example, some of our Christmas traditions. One is the feast of St. Lucy, for which "somebody" (always Anja) dresses up like St. Lucy and wakes everybody up at daybreak for breakfast.  The breakfast is supposed to be these really beautiful Santa Lucia rolls that have these lovely swirls and are beautiful, buuuuuuuut, our rolls looked a little bit different.

Our rolls came individually wrapped in plastic from the Fresh Thyme grocery store and they weren't even rolls! They were these chocolate croissants that I can never decide if they are yummy or gross! We unwrapped them, stuck some greenery on a cutting board, and TA-DA! Tradition! Another mishap with that tradition every single year is the costume. We used to have this white angel dress and long piece of red silk. Then one of the cats peed on the dress after the first year and the silk made it a little longer but eventually just kind of disintegrated into nothing. We still have it, but it looks more like a hankie now. So the night before the sunrise breakfast, I'm in the craft closet trying to find something red that will fit around Anja's waist. Thankfully I found this bit of reddish linen from a skirt project and the chamises from their costumes for our yearly historic festival we attend in the fall.  But then the whole headwreath thing was another--I didn't have any idea where the one from last year was (I made it out of floral wire and fake greenery) so I took this--literally the centerpiece from the coffee table--wedged some little candles in, snipped off some boxwood branches from outside the front door, and, TA-DA!! Tradition!

And while we're on the subject of Advent traditions......... I've pretty much given up on ever beginning lent with purple and pink candles. It's only happened one year when my sister-in-law sent us some.

So we use plain candles and red and pink ribbon instead.

Let's see, what's another tradition that I totally botch every year? Oh! I know! Waldorf window stars! You might think, if you know me, that waldorf window stars would OBVIOUSLY be something I do with my kids every year, probably I have stacks and stacks of kite paper and all the good Waldorfy books about how to fold these cool stars. Well, you would be wrong again. I've been parenting with Waldorf undertones for ten years and this was the FIRST year we made window stars! And you know what else? I didn't even know what kite paper was! But I ordered some from Amazon, and I am pleased to say I really think this WILL become tradition because I love them and they were loads easier to make than I thought they'd be.

The tradition that made me begin this post though is one of my favorites. Today is Candlemas (or yesterday was, since it's past midnight as I write this) and evidently in France, people traditionally eat crepes on this day. I didn't know that before today, but I do love crepes! We don't make them a lot because they're so labor intensive I save them for special occasions, but we probably make them four times a year. But this is my favorite tradition because of my treasured recipe:
I have only ever used the crepe recipe from Strawberry Shortcake's World of Friends storybook. It's a very long, very boring book, but when Anja and Greta were toddlers they LOVED IT, and it's what made us start making them in the first place, and so now every time we have a craving for crepes, our fate hinges on whether or not we can locate the Strawberry Shortcake book. Now this is a real tradition.

I guess what I'm saying is, sometimes traditions can be less than picturesque, or sometimes the picturesque traditions (like my window stars) aren't really traditions at all. They're just fun things we did on a Sunday afternoon before a party.

We do have one other winter tradition, which is going ice skating. It's always fun and it's always exhausting, but this year there was a little twist on the old tradition because I brought my elephant along!
Here's to all traditions, beautiful, junky, or pachydermic

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Downtown Gratitude

Every Thursday evening at 4:45 I hustle all four kids out the door and down to the Ballet School, which is exactly four blocks away from our house, as the crow flies. On leisurely days we cross at the lights and round the corners to get there; sometimes we see a police officer friend, sometimes we get honks and waves from familiar drivers. We always check the time and the temperature on the theatre marquee and all four girls love to stomp across the metal grates in the sidewalk that make the loudest noise. We pass the salon where the girls typically get their hair cut once a year before Christmas (except we didn't do that the years we lived away) and the candy stores where we have lunch with friends or ride our bikes for chocolates in the summertime. These are the things we pass if we take the long way. However, when we're running late, or when it's very cold, or very rainy, we take the more direct route, which is straight across the library parking lot, down the alleyway between the apartment buildings, across the police station/pizza joint parking lot, not crossing at the lights, then finally through the big parking lots to Main Street, where the ballet school is.

One night shortly before Christmas, Martin was home from work in time for me to walk Anja on my own, but we still took the short cut (which is easier with only two people.) It's always nice to have a little one-on-one time with my oldest. I dropped her off at the door of the school--a little white building nestled between a large old building that houses our favorite brewery, and the food co-op, (which at one time was a gift shop where I worked.) Anja delivered safely, I turned and began the walk home the same way we'd come, using the shortcut across the parking lots and through the alley. As I was coming across the parking lot, I was met with a view that really made my heart sing. It was such a blend of modern warmth and Dickensesque charm--ahead of me was the pizza shop, all lit up with neon signs and twinkle lights on the trees outside, then behind that, rising above into the twilight sky were the tops of the old apartment buildings, then to the left the very beautiful stone Presbyterian church. I could see just the top of the library roof, and a ways beyond that, out of sight, would be my little house. It was such a comforting view--the city where I was raised, the downtown neighborhoods where I've lived for fifteen years--such familiarity in this urban setting.

I was so grateful to see that and to know that we are back downtown. It's a feeling of great contentedness, to feel like I'm where I am meant to be. I was never unhappy when we lived in the country--I loved it. We loved the lifestyle there, and it suited us really well. But it's funny, in those three years away, I never stopped referring to this downtown house as home.

Later in December it snowed on a night I was meeting some girlfriends out for a birthday dinner. We were meeting at a new Japanese restaurant on Main Street and had I not been only four blocks away, I probably wouldn't have gone because I don't like to drive in the snow. But instead, I put on my snow boots and walked. When I arrived there were seven of us total, and four of us had walked through the snow to meet each other. It was such a neat experience. As we were getting ready to leave it started snowing again, the most incredible snowflakes, so perfect they were unreal--it was like being on a movie scene, the snowflakes were so light and powdery. Being a Friday night, there were lots of people out and about, and as we parted ways everyone was so cheerful. The groups of strangers making their ways to the restaurants and bars and theatre were all so happy. It was one of the most magical walks home I've ever had, like walking through a perfect snow globe.

And maybe I'm biased. Maybe I look at this area with rose tinted glasses because it is home to me and everyone loves their own home the best. But I really think this place is something special. More than that, I'm just grateful that these views are mine, every day.

Monday, January 8, 2018

I'm Late to my Resolution (surprise, surprise)

It's a new year! 2017 is in the past (I know a lot of people who are pretty glad about that) and a shiny new year has begun. A clean slate. An opportunity for fresh starts and second chances. For resolutions! It shouldn't surprise any of you that I don't do New Year resolutions very well. Some people choose a word to see them through the year, and I've read a lot of really good ones in recent weeks. Some people step into the new year intending to make good, healthy changes to their lives, in their bodies or in their relationships, or just for their own pleasure. I really admire those people who can stick to something, who set high aims and do their very best to hit their mark. I think that's great! However, I am not that way. I try to be sometimes, but as the years go by it's becoming glaringly obvious that I'm really, really far from being an even vaguely organized person. In the kitchen, in homeschooling, in my music, in my resolutions. My life is messy and disorganized, and somehow I don't think people would feel very inspired if the word I chose for 2018 was "Chaos." 

So I did something different this year. Instead of saying, "This is the year that I WILL...(fill in the blank)," I said, "This is the year that I WON'T." This is the year that I'm just going to take what comes and try to use every situation as an opportunity to savor the moment. I'm not going to pile expectations onto myself or my kids. I'm not going to spend the year wishing I had more things or wondering when we can ever do such-and-such around the house.  I'll seize opportunities for action as they arise, but I'm not going to go looking for challenges. Because I'm lazy. Maybe that should be my word of 2018!

Here's really what I AM going to do: I'm going to remember that my kids will only be the ages they are at this time ONCE. I'm going to remember that this day is not plural. I'm going to remember that we seldom get warnings ahead of personal tragedy so if I'm not experiencing something devastating at any given time, I will be thankful. I'm going to remember that my kids are totally awesome and I'm the luckiest to be able to spend every day with them.  I'm going to remember that even though it can be a challenge to get everyone dressed and out the door, spontaneity ALWAYS makes memories. And I'm going to remember that we all have raincoats for a reason.

2017 was actually a really good year for us. We came back to our downtown house and settled in to stay. None of us wants to move ever again, not for land, not for chickens, not for a cow, not for a bigger garden. We love our house. And we've made some shifts and changes within the house that make us all love it even more, but mostly it just feels so much like home to all of us, even to Ingrid who was born when we were living on our first homestead.  Her first experience with this place was as en empty rental (that never rented)!  This year I just want to enjoy what we have. I want us to work our little urban garden boxes together and ride bikes and eat popsicles on the stoop and watch birds. 2017 was filled with all of those things and I think I did a pretty good job of appreciating what I had. I want to do it again this year, that's my only resolution. If I look at my days through the lenses of an outsider, it looks like this: The kids do their school work, we play games, we sew doll clothes, we make music, we draw and cook and talk and learn words and stories and history and myths... and our days just go by like that. There's no reason I shouldn't be looking at my own days just like that and thinking every day--despite the tantrums and the difficulties and the juggling of little girl emotions and bad habits and struggles-- "this is the good life." That can be my word for 2018! Or phrase, I guess. Because it's so true! This IS the Good Life.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Bear Season

Well, I stepped on the scale this morning. 

Not really! I just thought that sounded like a good opening line. I don't have a scale because I get too married to the numbers and forget what it means to have a healthy body despite the daily weigh session. However, I do judge my body by the way my clothes fit, and even though I didn't set foot on a scale this morning, I did put on my skirt and made a sad face when I couldn't get the zipper all the way up. (solution: wear a longer shirt that hides the half-open zipper.) And then I thought to myself, “Here it is, at last. Bear Season.” 

“Bear Season” is what my husband and I call Winter. It's kind of a pet name for the part of winter that we don't like so much—the part where we both eat too much food, don't get enough exercise, and therefore become fat. Like bears. Calling it Bear Season makes it easier to accept the changes that come with the season and keeps us from being bitter. (Not really. I mean, that IS the idea, but it doesn't really work. I'm still totally bitter.)  

Now I'm going to tie Bear Season into a thought I posted briefly about on Instagram recently:

mamapossum: Do you ever feel like no matter what you do as a parent, you're bound to be screwing up your children? It's just picking and choosing issues and baggage to load upon them before they're adults. We're all doing it wrong, we're just doing it wrong in different ways. Nobody turns out normal. Everybody's doomed. 
This is how I'm feeling today and I can't decide if I'm being a pessimist or an optimist with this line of thought. 
#honestmotherhood #parenting#baggage #doomandgloom#everybodyssomekindofcrazy

This is something I think often and really believe. When I think about the people in my life and all the issues and baggage we carry with us as adults, raising children seems almost hopeless. I look at the parents of my peers who did a great job raising my friends and family, and despite that, we still get together to talk about our issues over lattes or wine. And the scary thing is that the ways we can screw up our kids come in all sizes and shapes, some will go unnoticed, while others are obvious no-nos. Some are supposed to be off-limits, but we just can't help ourselves--it happens. Despite our best efforts, we pass on our insecurities to our children on a daily basis. And that's when I get to feeling hopeless. 

I'm sure you can take a moment and list off a handful of things that could be considered "baggage" that were loaded onto you by your parents. Maybe you feel like you can only run the dishwasher once a day at a specific time. Maybe you feel guilty whenever you choose to drive your own car instead of using public transportation. Maybe eating Taco Bell is a sin equal to cannibalism. We all have these little things, it's okay. And the baggage containers come in a wide array of styles and colors. So many to choose from! So many ways our well-meaning parents screwed us up! And we say to ourselves, "I'm going to do it differently. I'm not going to give my kids these issues. I'm not going to make them feel guilty about not riding the bus. I will not!" So we just choose different guilt trips to plant in their malleable little brains. (Not on purpose, of course. That's what makes this such an optimistic post. We're all trying really hard, this garbage is just going to happen anyway. That doesn't sound very optimistic, but it is.)

Here's what I know I'm passing onto my children despite my ENORMOUS efforts not to: NBI. Negative Body Image. 

I'm probably not the only one striving to raise daughters who feel beautiful in their skin no matter what, while staring into the mirror at our stretch marks and crows feet and muffin tops and cursing ourselves for "allowing" those "imperfections." And here's the really crazy part. I see other women and I think, "OMG YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE LIKE A GODDESS." Then I look in the mirror at myself and I think, "OMG YOU ARE A TROLL, PLEASE, FOR THE SAKE OF THE EYES OF HUMANITY DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE TODAY." These are my actual thoughts! Isn't that terrible? And I know my girls see it. I know they hear me saying aaaalllll the negative phrases we aren't supposed to say in front of them. "My nose is too big." "My hair is so limp and thin." "My skin is so terrible, what am I, thirteen?" (So, in that case, I'm doubling up on the insecurities: Not only is it unacceptable to have pimples, but also being thirteen must be the worst thing ever. I am such a sucky mom.) But the whopper of Negative Body Image Phrases that Must Not Be Said is any variation of: "I'm fat." 

"Do I look fat in this?" "Ugh, I'm so fat." "I need to lose weight." "These clothes make me look fat." "Look at my fat face." "Look at my fat arms." Fat fat fat fat fat fat fat. 


I heard/read a quote recently that was so brilliant I have kept it at the forefront of my mind, not just as a reminder for myself, but also to be able to say it in appropriate situations. The quote is: "Fat is not something you are, it's something you have." So perfect, so true. Fat is something we have and it's something we need to have. And yes, obesity is a problem, and yes, we need to live healthy lifestyles. But guess what? Fretting about whether your bottom looks a little bit "too round" in your jeans is *not healthy.* Standing in front of the mirror and verbally putting your self image through a shredding machine is *not healthy.* 

What is healthy? Loving our bodies the way they are at their healthiest. Loving our bodies even at their less-than-ideal level of healthiness and trying to get to that place. Not hating ourselves for the natural changes that our bodies go through, be it through pregnancies, surgeries, age, or seasons. We are grownups now, we're going to have some scars that mark us as such. Some are easier to be proud of than others, but really, every mark is a symbol of our story, every line on our face, all the fading elasticity of our skin, each gray hair is part of who we are today. And you can say, "You know, I love that I am 35 and have this peppering of grey, but I really like how I look with red hair," and you can dye it and fall in love with your hair again. Or you can say, "You know, I've noticed my favorite shorts don't fit since I've gotten into the habit of having ice cream every night at midnight," and you can move that habit to a time earlier in the day when your metabolism is working more efficiently. There are always things we can do to help us reach or maintain our best health, but even if we're falling short, we're still US. The scale doesn't tell you who you are, just as fat isn't an adjective. 

This all leads back to our current season, Bear Season, when maybe it's natural to put on a few pounds. During the summer I walk a lot and I prefer walking as my main form of exercise. In the winter, I mostly hang around my warm kitchen and eat. Yeah. The natural outcome of this lifestyle is that I tend to plump up in the winter months, then I work it off when summertime rolls around again. I've always really had a problem with that, and felt that no matter how much I try, there's nothing I can do to not gain weight in the winter. (Somebody might have mentioned at one point in my life that baking cookies every day wasn't an effective weight loss regimen, but whatever.) Truly though, my husband and I often talk about "eating the seasons" and the rhythm of our diet at home. In the summertime we eat a lot of greens and raw veggies. I think most days our lunches were just a plate of vegetables and fruit, with a popsicle for dessert. And between those types of meals we ran around outside all day and worked in the garden and played hard and walked everywhere. These days, as the weather cools I want warm food. I want heavy food. So I make stews and curries and big steak and potato meals. We still eat our veggies, but we cook them so they warm us up. We add them into the soups and have them with big chunks of bread. And while we're eating that yummy, heavy food, we're sitting around the table talking to each other. After dinner, instead of rushing out to ride bikes before bedtime, we stay in together and draw, knit, or read. It's turned to a quiet, slow, warm existence; quite the contrast from the burn-all-the-calories Summertime. But definitely not something I would categorize as bad.

So here I am, at the beginning of Bear Season, unable to zip up my blue skirt with the cute eyelet edging (waaahhh) and I'm thinking, "Am I really going to spend another winter loathing my body? Is it really worth it?" I know I'll likely shed the pounds when spring rolls around again when it's easier to get outside. (And maybe this will be the year I don't, because I know that year is coming.) In the meantime I'll do boring inside exercises that keep me healthy and active enough, but I'll also eat a lot of yummy wintery foods, and I'm going to work really hard this year to love my body during Bear Season. Bears don't practice self-loathing. They don't stand in front of the mirror whining about their tummies and wondering if they look "too heavy" in their fur. I have never seen a bear do anything like that. So, I'm deciding right now that I'm not going to either, because I want to try to love my body through all the seasons, just like the bears do. 

My hope in all this self-love jabber, of course, is simply that the baggage and issues my kids take away from their years with me will be different from my own. My optimistically doomed little bear cubs! 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

O Unifying DST

It's that time of year again! Last night we saw 1am twice (Or 2am? I was actually asleep, so I missed it!) and we all relished that extra hour of sleep that was so rudely stolen from us back in March. Well, some of us relished it. Likely the people who didn't have kids who just woke them up an hour earlier than had been the usual wake up for the past eight months.

Being a Hoosier, Daylight Saving Time is a relatively new experience for me. We didn't jump on the bandwagon until 2006, so I was an adult, and it really threw me off those first few years. While I'm used to it now and not so bothered by it since my kids are older and we homeschool (homeschooling offers a perfect schedule for people who have a hard time with schedules,) still every year at this time when we "fall back," I feel like my internal clock is snapped back to normalcy. I don't mind the sun going down so early and I love the earlier sunrises. This is the time when my body rhythm is peaceful again after feeling off all summer, even though it's more subconscious these last few years than it was when DST was first introduced.

Even though I'm used to it, though, I still think Daylight Saving Time is dumb. I think it's a silly practice and while Ben Franklin seems to have been a brilliant person in many matters, this one idea I consider an epic fail. Every year on the dates of falling back or springing forward my husband recites the Native American bit about the blanket-- "Only a white man would think that by cutting off the top of a blanket and sewing the piece back onto the bottom you'd get a longer blanket." I don't know if that's exactly how it goes or even where it came from, but it's so true!

HOWEVER, there's a bright side!

--Oh! Last night I read this article (ahem, "article" might be a stretch) on Facebook about how people who are always late are not actually terrible humans, but we are OPTIMISTS and ENTHUSIASTS! We tend to remember only successes, even if they were few, and forget about the massive piles of failures we've collected in trying to squeeze too many activities into a limited amount of time. We live in the moment! And get this--we are MORE SUCCESSFUL (I really can't understand how that's possible) and WE WILL LIVE LONGER than all you timely pessimists! Which really just means all of humanity has to put up with our tardiness for an extra long time. Tee hee! Sorry!

Oh gosh, last night I was supposed to play a show from 7-8:30. And we really would have been on time, everything was going well, but then my friend showed up and she had randomly adopted a dog from the animal shelter that day! And it was hard to leave. (She got this dog and said it was a "boxer mix of some sort," and it was CLEARLY a boxer/pit bull, and it was growling at us so much that we just admired it through the screen door. I'm not saying I don't like Pit bulls, but the stereotype irony of the situation was hilarious.) Anyway, I ran up the steps to play the show at 7:05 while the (albeit small) audience just quietly stared at me as I frantically unpacked my instruments and hoped none of my dress buttons had come undone during my frazzled run.

Where the heck was I? Oh yes, unifying events. Remember how the Solar Eclipse this summer really brought people together? The whole country was so excited and very few of us had experienced it before and it was so neat and unifying. Well, that's kind of how Daylight Saving Time is, except it's twice a year! It's practically like Christmas! We wake up one morning in March and share our yawns and gripes about losing an hour of our lives over social media. "WHAT IF I DIE THIS SUMMER," we say, "I'LL HAVE LOST THAT HOUR OF MY LIFE FOREVER." Since it's always on a Sunday that the clocks change, on that fateful Sunday in Spring EVERYBODY is late for church. I mean, everybody. One of the first years of Indiana being on DST we actually missed like four Masses throughout the day because we just could not get it right. And we didn't know if we'd gone backward or forward. It was very confusing. (This was before we had smart phones that switched automatically for us.) Some years I wouldn't change the clocks at all, I'd just do the math in my head for the off months. (That was a bad idea, I don't suggest trying it.) And there are so many clocks! Just today I saw a friend posting on Facebook that she was staying at a friend's house and didn't know if the clocks had been changed and what time was it really?! We've all been there. These are unifying experiences.

And then in the fall, when we gain back that hour, we are all so joyous and on time for everything, possibly even early! Sometimes a whole hour early, haha! We still gripe together on social media, of course. "Little Johnnycakes woke up at 5:00 instead of 6:00. Doesn't understand DST. I'LL NEVER GET MY LOST HOUR BACK." More yawns in parental unison. *sigh* It's so hard.

Now, you might think that where I'm going with all this is to advise that we all embrace DST and be happy that it's something a nation can experience together and stop whining so much about it. Not quite! I'm not going to suggest than anyone stop complaining about Daylight Saving Time. That's exactly what's so unifying about it! Instead, I'm going to ask that we recognize our vexation and celebrate it! Fix up some hot buttered rum and toast with the rest of the perturbed, yawning citizens of Standard Time Zones across the nation--Daylight Saving Time knows no race, religion, or political party! Daylight Saving Time is nondiscriminatory! Cheers to Daylight Saving Time, the best worst thing to ever happen to a Nation!

Per mug:
-Dash each of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice
-Spoonful of Brown Sugar
-Thin pat of Butter
-1 Jigger of Spiced Rum
-Add Hot Water to fill mug and stir.
(personally I prefer a tad more rum and a tad less butter)


Friday, September 15, 2017

Hearing from the Village

This week has been filled with the parental exhaustion that comes from overanalyzing every situation. To be fair, the issues at hand are a relatively big deal—considering putting the kids in regular school, debating the continuation of speech therapy for Anja, and the big one—Ingrid's teeth. After a few days of keeping things light on the old Insta (Knitting orange sweater! Coffee! Emerging butterflies!) today I chose vulnerability over the safety of a(nother) nicely cropped photo of my coffee with the #happymorningtime hashtag. (Not that those posts aren't genuine.... they just aren't always complete.) But today I'd just reached my limit and I needed to confide in my Instafriends. And so, I put up a caption about Ingrid's teeth.

Ingrid's teeth are terrible. They've been in a state of decay since they came in, except I didn't realize it was decay when she was a baby—I thought it was staining. I thought it surely was from some medicine I'd taken while pregnant or something. Or maybe the dTap (or tDap?) shot I'd gotten at the end of my pregnancy with her had caused the white stains. They never brushed off. Then one day, some months ago, they all came off over the course of a few days. All those white spots broke away and underneath was yellowish decay. Now, to be fair, it doesn't look awful. And I think the whole issue has to do with the weird way she holds her mouth.... but still. It makes me feel like a horrible mother. I took her to our regular dentist and the visit was super traumatizing for her. Lots of forcing things in her mouth, so many strangers... it was very difficult and resulted in the kind of three-year-old trauma where they talk it out daily. “I'm never going to the dentist again,” she would say every day. But if you asked questions about her experience she'd just start screaming. We were referred to another dentist who does work under sedation and were given a file folder with her X-rays. I'd made the appointment earlier this summer, but it just happened at the beginning of this week. They were very kind to her. They didn't force her to do anything, she sat on my lap the whole time (screaming and burying her face in my chest,) and the dentist was very nice to her and assured her that he wasn't even going to look at her. He looked at the X-rays and determined how much time he needed for the procedure, then told me that he would try to salvage the teeth if possible, but if the decay was too severe, he'd have to extract them. They do the procedures in Indianapolis and they take a lot of time to set up with insurance, so we may not even be able to schedule it for another month. In that time, I'm going to get a second opinion and hope we can find someone who can work on her gently and maybe not go the extraction route. In the meantime though, I'm feeling suffocated by Mom Guilt. Especially since while we were leaving, one of the gals working there asked me, “Do you brush at home?” Goodness. We aren't actually trolls. We do practice basic personal hygiene. Being asked that was so disheartening. She thinks I don't brush my children's teeth. At all. I wanted to show pictures of Elka's beautiful smile, and give them the rundown of Greta's very specific brush-and-floss routine that she does every.single.night. (And still gets cavities, by the way.) But I didn't. I just went home with Ingrid and felt sad.

Until this morning when I posted on Instagram. And do you know what happened? I got forty comments from other moms—some of them just showing sympathy, but many many many of them sharing their own similar stories. SO MANY MOMS have felt exactly the way I am feeling, as they've watched their little ones struggle with bad teeth that don't have any obvious explanation. It made me realize how much we all keep quiet about these subjects which make us so vulnerable. It's so easy to judge the mom whose toddler's teeth are rotting out, isn't it. Just like it's easy to judge... well, pretty much everything. But by opening up a little bit, where I expected harsh criticism, I was instead given all these virtual hugs by other women who really do know how I feel. It touched me so much, not just to have people care enough to comment, but that they would open up the way they did—that the sharing of my own dental woes prompted them to courageously share their own. It was very much a village moment and it eased my mind tremendously.

Similarly, but more privately, I experienced this over the summer when Anja, Greta and I all got head lice. Let me just tell you... I was absolutely horrified to discover we had lice. And it totally caught me off guard. In fact, it went on for longer than necessary because even though Greta was complaining that her head itched, I never imagined it could be lice until a friend (not even a local friend!) mentioned online that his daughter had gotten lice. Reading that turned the lightbulb on in my head (it wasn't a soft white lightbulb.... it was a red tinted one like in horror movies, suggesting imminent doom) and I Googled Image Searched “lice” then compared my pictures to what I saw on my girls' scalps, and sure enough.... * shudder *

Anyway, this isn't supposed to be the story of the head lice (which cleared up quickly and easily, thank goodness—though I still fanatically check their hair for nits every day and probably will until they go to college,) this is about how people don't talk about these instances that make us targets for criticism. Mention lice and most minds think dirty. I thought the same thing, which was why I was shocked that the dirty, bath-hating preschoolers in our family NEVER got it! (neither did Martin! And he's a total dirtbag!) Nope, that's because, evidently, lice prefer clean hair. Luckily, I had been texting my sister in law when this discovery took place, and her girls had dealt with it too. She told me what treatment worked for them and I started in immediately. The next day the girls were having a friend over, so I alerted his mom that we had lice and if he didn't want to come that was understandable. Turns out, she's had it twice and was totally not worried about it! Later that day when we were at their house, her in-laws were there and her mother-in-law was talking about when her daughter had had it! And when Martin told his coworkers that we had it, they responded, “oh, we had it last week,” and then they shared their own personal ways they've learned to prevent it. (Like wearing hair gel, or using tea tree oil shampoo.) I'd gone my whole life thinking I had never known anyone to have had lice, and then within twenty four hours, I encountered a boatload.

Sometimes you're just unlucky and you get lice. It doesn't automatically mark you as a disgusting human being. And sometimes your kids will have bad teeth for no apparent reason. That doesn't mean you put Mountain Dew in their baby bottles. Sometimes these things just happen. And they happen a lot more often than I'd realized. I don't know why we shy away from sharing the less-than-perfect with people. Maybe it's the age of the internet that has made the vulnerability level increase to an amount that makes us unwilling to divulge in the unfortunate bits of parenting, since it's out there for the universe to read instead of being muttered about over coffee cups. I wish it weren't the case. But at the same time, I'm so happy that the opportunity arose today for so many to commiserate as a group of moms who had been through such similar situations, and from all over the globe!

To all those moms who spoke up yesterday in the comments of my post, THANK YOU. Your words of comfort and experience meant so, so much to me. And to those of you who ever think that you must be the worst mother in the world because of something like this, be assured, you are definitely not alone. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Reminder for You

Ooooooh, parenting. Good, fun, joyous, hard, baffling.... choose your adjective and it will fit. I don't know about you, but there are days--many days, really--when I think I'm not cut out for it. When I KNOW my kids would be better off being raised by somebody else. Somebody smarter, more well read, who can explain more articulately the ways of the world. Somebody with all their ducks in a row, one of those organized moms who packs cute bento boxes full of healthy food (actually, healthy food is one of the only areas where I really feel like I'm winning at parenting, or at least running a good race.) I don't even know where all my ducks are, let alone having them in some kind of formation.

Often I feel like my kids would benefit from having a mom who is less sporadic. Who goes to the grocery on the same day every week, who meal plans with cute pages in a cute planner, and then writes the meals for the week on one of those cute chalkboards in fancy letters. I don't do any of that. I see what veggies we have in the fridge and I serve them with either pasta, rice, or eggs.

Sometimes I feel like my kids should have a mom who works, someone who can show them the benefits of being a woman in the workplace, who follows her dreams and is ambitious and is a breadwinner. I'm not even a bread BAKER. That would be beneficial to them too, to have a mother who can keep a sourdough starter alive. Or who could run a business, or be a part of someone else's business. A community leader. A member of a team outside of the home.

It would be good to be somewhat fashionable, to wear trendy clothes, cute shoes, maybe not cut my own hair over the bathroom sink every six months and call it good. I'm raising four daughters who don't know much at all about feminine style and trends.

Maybe I should be a mom who runs 5ks and trains for something I want to do and shows them that anything is achievable, even if the achievement you're striving for is just DOING something. That's really honorable. It shows dedication and commitment and hard work.

All of these things sound like such good things to add to my parenting resume. They would make me a better, fuller person and a stronger role model for my kids. But they are things I know I'll never do (except maybe the sourdough, someday, with practice.) Those things aren't ME. I'm not organized. I like to buy cute planners, but I don't USE them... I rarely even know what day it is. Meal planning--Ha! I've tried it so many times, and it always ends in failure. Because even though Thursday Dinner might say "Chicken Parmesan," if I don't feel like cooking or eating Chicken Parmesan on Thursday, there is no way I'm going to be able to make it.  When it comes to running organizations, that's just as laughable as meal planning. I can run a vacuum and a garbage disposal and that's about it.

It's so easy to feel down on yourself. It's so easy to see the moms around you doing so much, achieving so much.

But here's what I was thinking today. I was thinking, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that I'm not a sports mom. It doesn't matter that I don't get my nails and hair done. It doesn't matter that I "just" stay home and homeschool my kids. It doesn't matter that they aren't exposed to big, enormous achievements by their mom. That doesn't mean I won't encourage them to reach for high goals. That doesn't mean I don't love them. It doesn't mean I'm doing anything wrong--it just means that my life doesn't look exactly like the lives of the families around me.

And here's the really important thing, for anyone who might be reading this and thinking the same thing sometimes:

YOU are just right for YOUR children. You are disciplining, feeding, teaching, loving your children in the way that fits your family, and you can be sure of that because they are yours. You are leading by example in things that they will grow from, no matter how big or small your achievements are, because everything a parent does can foster the growth in their children. You are being a good example for your children because you are showing them love in your own special way. You are making them into special, unique people, just by being uniquely you!

And really, the key point in all this is the fact that your children are yours. Just like when they were babies and you could recognize the difference between a sad cry and a hungry cry, you can tell when your older children are hurt, or embarrassed, or elated.... usually without any words at all. You can look at their faces and see when something is bothering them. You can hear a tone in their voice that says someone has hurt them. You can tell when they are lying to you, when their tears are genuine, when their joy is at it's deepest. These are the things that make you a parent, no matter what car you drive, no matter what planner you use, no matter if you cut your own hair or visit a salon, use bento boxes or brown paper bags.  You have a recognition of your own children that is irreplaceable.

It's great to be a parent, sure. But what makes it most special is that your children are very specially yours.