Monday, January 30, 2006

We got in the CSA food basket program!

Yay! We were able to get into the community supported agriculture food basket program at Hardin's River Merchantile in downtown Little Rock! I called this morning and talked to the nicest man who was just as excited as I was to be applying for the program, which will only serve 100 families in this its second year of operation.

Families in the program get a great big basket of naturally-grown produce and meat every month. Raised by local farmers, these fresh seasonal items don't contain any of those harmful chemicals that coat the food that is widely available.

The program is available on a subscription basis with participants prepaying $180 for three months at a huge basket a month. That works out to $60 a month. Those who prepay for a year get a 10 percent discount; the helpful Mr. Robbie told me that I can still get the 10 percent discount even if I wait a couple months into my first subscription to prepay for the year. Baskets are picked up the week of the 20th and we got in for February!

This is so exciting and exactly what I've been wanting for my family. We eat as healthy as we can with the limited time and money that we have but our food choices of late haven't been very good. Here's a list of what came from local farmers in the January basket:

Baby arugula, spinach and spring greens
Organic jasmine rice
Half-pound of shiitake mushrooms
Acorn and butternut squash
Cracked pecans
Sweet potatoes
Vacuum-packed beefalo jerky and sausage
Honeysuckle eggs
Raw milk cheese

Vegetarians of course skip the meat products and opt for more herbs, greens and grains.

Doesn't that sound like the bulk of the grocery bill for the month? It sure does to me. You just go pick up your food, eat and enjoy for the rest of the month. It'll be rather like getting a present since you don't know exactly what you are getting until you get it. We'll be eating much better and supporting local farmers. I didn't realize there are so many growers of natural produce in this area, which has got to be the pesticide capital of the country. I'll be proud to support them and improve my family's health all at the same time.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Working toward a healthier family

For the past few years, I've tried to make better, more natural choices for my family in terms of food, supplements, skin products, cleaning products, and the like. My time and money are both very limited, but for the most part we've been doing fairly well on everything except food because I've been able to order these things from a company that manufactures nontoxic products. The food part is another story since the nearest health food store is an hour away and I rarely have enough time and money at the same time to shop there.

This weekend, though, I found out about a new community supported agriculture program that I am extremely excited about. A local natural foods market that is very close to where my husband works and is in fact only a couple of blocks out of the way for him on his trip home — I found out about it at the same time I found out about the new food program — is offering monthly food baskets. For $60 a month prepaid for three months, you get a very large basket of naturally-grown produce and grass-fed meat products (if you choose to purchase the whole food basket; there is no meat, of course, in the vegetarian basket) that are raised without the use of antibiotics or artificial hormones.

These baskets contain seasonal fresh foods like greens, herbs, grains, honey, nuts, range eggs and poultry, pond-raised shrimp, and the like from local farmers. The basket for January even included greenhouse tomatoes from a nursery in my own hometown! These healthy items are exactly what I have been wanting so badly for my family to eat. The baskets look to contain enough food to constitute the bulk of our groceries for the month. The thing is, this is only offered to 100 families for this year and one must apply to participate on a first-come, first-served basis.

This program is a win-win situation all around. Families get quality, healthy foods for a good price and local farmers are supported. I will most certainly be on the phone first thing tomorrow morning to get information on how to apply and to get an idea on the possibility of us being able to participate. I hope that soon my husband will be picking up baskets of delicious fresh produce and meats every month and bringing them home to us. I'll be able to rest a lot easier and not worry so much about what I'm feeding my children!

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Friday, January 27, 2006

A tape recorder for a brand new world

When I as a child, my parents said some of the oddest things. One thing my father said struck me as particularly strange. He said he was going to get a tape recorder, record himself saying certain things, and then just push the button and play it back to us.

Now why in the world would someone say such a peculiar thing? My childish mind pondered this but could come up with no answer.

I know now. It was for the same reason my mother said we woke up in a new world every day. A person who wakes up in a brand new world every day would need to be told the same thing as he was told yesterday, or maybe even earlier that same day. Enter the tape recorder.

When we go in the house, be calm and quiet and do not act like you are outside. Put your sweaters where they go and your bags where they go. Put your night clothes on, brush your teeth, pee, and go to bed. So it goes night after night. They must be told each step to take as if this night were completely unique and they have never heard of this before.

Thing is, they can remember the parts they want to. I didn't mention eating a snack in my little spiel. Are we not going to eat a snack? comes the query from the back seat. Goodness. Here are some more sayings I find myself uttering several times a day:

Just because I say something nice doesn't mean I don't really mean it. Answer me when I say something to you. Look at me when I'm talking to you. Worry about yourself, not everyone else. I won't even get into, pick this up, don't do that, you're supposed to ...

The list goes on an on. The wisdom of my father I truly appreciate now. I really do need a tape recorder so I can just push a button and the device will spout my directions to these poor children of mine who wake up in a brand spanking new world every single day.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Daddy day (and night) care

As changes occur in families and in society as a whole, fathers are taking on more and more of an important role in the daily lives of their children. For the most part, gone are the days when the father came home from work and flipped open a newspaper, asking, "What's for dinner?" He comes in the door now and spends some time playing with the children.

Dads make great babysitters, but things go even further than that sometimes now. Fathers at least share equally in the care of their children and are sometimes the main care providers. This is the case at our house. I proudly tell people, "When he's home, the children are his." It's true, and I am forever grateful. He feeds them, plays with them, reads to them, and puts them to bed just about every night, and pals around with them most weekends.

Some of the best times our children have are with their father. They get to go places and see people. Of course they do that with me but usually it is a trip to the store or to interview someone for a human interest story. They are expected to be as quiet and still as possible during these outings with me. Not so with their daddy. They get to really be kids with him, and always come home with beaming smiles on their faces.

For about a year after I started freelance writing, I had a night and weekend job making sandwiches. My shift sometimes started before he got home, so I took them with me and he came to pick them up. He took them home and put them to bed every night. Never once was there a single complaint about having to tend to the children after a long, hard day at work on his part.

When I was away at work on this job on the weekends, the world was theirs. I don't think they stayed home one single day during the time I worked outside the home on this particular job. They came to see me many times with uncombed hair, worn clothing, full bellies and the brightest smiles you ever wanted to see. They were happy because their father had taken care of what was really important.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Holding on til Daddy gets back

The girls, who have been sick, have been left in my care on this cold and rainy morning since their father has determined that they are too ill to be among normal people today. Their daddy is gone and will be back in time for me to leave for my work appointment. All manner of fun is surely in store for them this afternoon while their father is in charge, but now we are just waiting until he gets back.

The girls are feeling better so they wanted to go outside. I opened the door to discover that it is REALLY cold and REALLY wet, and promptly closed the door. "You can't go outside, girls," I announced. My reasoning was more than it just the inclement weather. "If your father finds out you've been outside in this weather he'll have my head." It's true. An inept mother I am not, but he's wound up way tighter on things like that and he would most certainly not take too kindly that the girls, still not completely well, had been outside playing. Never mind that they would be bundled up under the porch, and certainly never mind that some fresh air would do them a whole awful lot of good.

With the outside incident forgotten — and books and book lights their father gave them this morning littering the floor from an earlier activity — they go on to the next thing as they wait for their daddy. "Can we watch Toy Story? Can we watch Toy Story?" Relieved, I quickly grant permission. I have another cup of coffee that needs drinking and I need to get ready for my appointment. Yes, a movie will be wonderful.

Their father will be back about the time it goes off. Oh, goody!

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Daddy makes a good mother

The lines between the traditional roles of mothers and fathers are blurred now more than ever before, and that is good news for a mother who finds that she doesn't always enjoy the daily drudgeries of her job. Another good thing is a father who doesn't mind taking over the role of mother!

A good example of this came this morning. I was lying in bed trying to figure out how much longer I could lie there before I had to get up for an appointment while he was tending to a sick child. She was bent over the john while he mopped her brow and gave her sips of water to drink. I admired this scene of fatherly devotion from my horizontal viewpoint before flipping over in the bed, wanting just a few more minutes under the warm covers.

Just a minute or so later, the other child came in the bedroom with announcements of her morning hunger, which was a good thing given the fact that she herself was sick a few days before. I promptly told her to ask her father for something to eat, something I tell her quite often.

A second or two after advising her to direct her need for food toward her father, I thoughtfully added, "Your daddy makes a good mother." Of course she didn't understand that, immediately retorting, "Men can't be mothers. They are fathers." A valid point indeed. "You are right, they are fathers. Your daddy is a good father, but mothers are usually the ones who feed their kids and take care of them when they are sick and he's doing that, too."

He continued looking after them while I went to my work appointment and throughout the rest of the day while I read the paper and wasted time at the computer. He fretted over them getting enough to eat and drink and cuddled with them on the couch as they all watched some mindless television. After their baths he flopped in bed with them and read to them until they all went to sleep.

That sounds like a very good mother to me. I aspire to be as good a mother as he.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Catching up

We had a free day together that we didn't take advantage of earlier this week, but we plan on making up for it today. One child came home from school sick yesterday and the other is probably going to be that way soon. Neither of them went to school today but for the time being no one is violently ill. We got a head start on our connecting time yesterday as we read some books together.

My poor little child who flopped in the bed immediately after getting off the bus yesterday afternoon — she got up only for several episodes of being SICK — got up in a fairly chipper mood this morning and chattered away like a little chipmunk for a while. The jabbering wasn't that well-timed — it's hard to hear a soft voice when there's water running in the sink and dishes clanking around — but I paid attention because I knew I'd be longing for such prattling in 10 years!

We set the tone for a day of togetherness with a brief discussion centered around a scriptural text at the breakfast table this morning. We finished breakfast off with small cups of coffee for the girls, with them savoring the decadent pleasure and me feeling good that I could relax and relent to their coffee request.

It won't be a day for the record books but I won't go to bed tonight guilty because I passed up an opportunity to enjoy my children while I can.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sweet fleeting moments

The sweet days of our children's lives pass by so quickly now. The weeks, months and years of my children's lives dragged on so slowly at first but now I am beginning to realize how fleeting these precious moments really are. It has taken me six and a half years to get to this point.

My girls were home from school one day earlier this week because of a holiday. It wasn't until I went to bed late that night that it dawned on me we hadn't spent any real time together that day. They did some worksheets and other printables and happily whirled around the house playing their games all day while I sat at my desk and worked.

I fed them when they were hungry, comforted them when they got hurt, but I did not take the time to connect with them. We didn't read together, have any group hugs, or even engage in focused conversation. This would have been the perfect time to do these things but I did not take advantage of it.

Normally I would view it as a good day spent together but I saw it as a missed moment, a day spent walking around each other physically but not with our hearts, a precious time we could never get back. I know there will be more of these days but hopefully not that many more for a while. I think I'm finally learning to cherish these moments with my children.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Growing up

There were the days when it was all I could do to restrain myself from jumping for joy when people looked at my beautiful daughters wistfully and said, "Enjoy them now. They don't stay little long." I'm starting to see the truth in those words.

Just the other night I was watching "Father of the Bride" for the first time in a long time, and it struck me how young Kimberly Williams looked, although it was she that was the 22-year-old bride-to-be. I realized that in just 15 or so short years, I'll be Steve Martin looking at my beautiful daughter, seeing a little eight-year-old in ponytails telling me she's getting married.

The first few years of my daughter's life seemed so long, but now I know that 15 years will have passed before I know it. I'm already starting to see proof of it. This child of mine who's feet don't grow is now working on her fifth pair of shoes since school started. That equates to a new pair a month! That's unreal for her. After she got dressed this morning, her shirt sleeve was way up over her wrist and her pants were way too short. I hit my favorite store for an armload of long-sleeved shirts.

My second daughter is growing, too, since she immediately gets everything her sister has outgrown although they are nearly two-and-a-half years apart in age. Pretty soon I'm going to be looking at her and her sister right in the eyes, radiant young women who were just children yesterday. I'll be the one in the store looking longingly at the wee tykes and telling their distressed mothers to enjoy them because they'll be grown tomorrow.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Speaking of cleaning ...

Since we're talking about cleaning up, there's some advice on how to do that easily over at the Happy Slob's blog today.

She's a big fan of using vinegar for cleaning and so am I. Not only is it a cheap, effective cleaner, it's a whole lot easier on everyone's noses and skin, and the environment. It sure is time to break out some good ol' vinegar around my house!

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Kids and clean don't mix

Who doesn't like a nice, clean house? I sure do, especially one that is comfortably clean, as opposed to one that is so spotless and orderly you don't want to sit down and mess anything up. As much as I love a neat house, I don't have one. There are several reasons:

1. Kid #1
2. Kid #2
3. Their daddy
4. I have to work
5. I give up!

Although I was never one of those people who had to have the house spic-and-span 24 hours a day, I had to lower my standards quite a bit once I became a mother. I have come to realize that there is no way to have a house that is put together all the time.

My married-but-childless sisters have immaculate houses and follow my children's every move with a dishrag and a mop. Sometimes I just want to scream, "Stop it! It's impossible!" but I don't. I remember the desire to have a spotless house back in the days before motherhood, so I just keep my mouth closed.

At other times I just want to blurt out, "Relax. Let the kids be kids. Don't run after them all the time." But then I realize that if they don't wipe up after their every step, their house will look like mine! Nobody wants that, especially not the way it is right now after me being sick for a couple of days.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Surveying the damage

After spending a couple of days in the bed sick, I hoist myself up, wash some painkillers down with a couple cups of coffee, and wander around surveying the damage. It's a wonder how two kids and their father, who made it a point to be gone most of the weekend so I could sleep, can wreak so much havoc on a poor little house.

The crusted cereal bowls in the sink, on the counter, and on the table are horrendous. Newspapers are pushed over to the side of the bed -- mostly my fault, since I did attempt to read the news but finding myself too weak to hold the paper up, I dropped my arms and released the papers. They ended up where they ended up with much squirming on the part of a little four-year-old who was supposed to be resting beside me. Pecans still in the shell roll around in the floor and dirty socks turn up in the bed at every flip of the covers. The crumbs scattered here, there, and everywhere absolutely defy description.

I'm facing a bad housekeeping dream turned nightmare. Perhaps the Happy Slob over at can help!

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Moms don't get sick

Everybody knows Mommy can't get sick, right? Wrong! This mom got hit hard with some kind of bug this weekend and has spent a whole lot more time with the pillow than with the kids.

Thankfully their dad is around on the weekends to take over. I helped get them ready for our volunteer Bible ministry Saturday morning and promptly went back to bed. There was a little discussion over who was going to watch them — him or me — that morning but he quickly realized I was in no shape to even take care of myself, let alone them.

They came in around lunch and crawled in bed with me, having been told to take a nap while their daddy went out running. The nap amounted to a bunch of bouncing around on the bed but I was unable to restrain them. He came in from his run and got them ready to go to a get-together with some friends about an hour away. That kept them occupied for a few hours during the afternoon and evening and allowed me to finally get some sleep.

The pain in my head was unbearable but for a long time I didn't have enough sense to take anything for it! Right before they got home I was able to get up and take something for my ever-pounding head and go back to bed; about 2 a.m. today the relief woke me up. The pain was still there in my head but the bulk of it dissipated throughout my body.

This morning I was actually able to drag myself up and brew a pot of coffee and bathe. Another dose of ibuprofen and some muscle rub smeared on my head and just about every body part gave me a little more relief. I got the kids ready to go to the Kingdom Hall with their daddy and will have quiet for a couple of hours.

A fog now blankets my head and a trance-like state has overcome my body, but at least I can function slightly. I have to hurry up and get well because mommies don't get the chance to be sick!

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Friday, January 13, 2006

A volunteering mom

If I fretted about missing an awards presentation earlier this week, I certainly made up for it the past couple of days. The better part of the last two days has been spent at school with my two children.

The main activities I engage in while at school with my children are reading and eating, two things that most people do several times a day. But for these little darlings my reading and eating with them goes beyond that. I come to their school, sit down on the floor with them and share a book with them, exposing them to the great big world that can be theirs through books and to the love and tenderness that can be shared between two people reading the same thing.

Some of them read at home and some don't. Some of them have family members who sit down at the table and eat with them and some don't. Some of them have loving adults who spend time with them at home and some don't. Some will remember me as they live their lives and some won't, but someone will have cared enough about each of them to come to school, sit down and read with them and share a meal with them. Right then and there in that moment, I am special to them and they are precious to me.

Above all, my child will know that she is loved and that her parents care about what goes on in her life no matter where she is. I will feel like I have done what I should have done as a mother.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

A proud moment not shared

Feelings of guilt and inadequacy wash over me as I stare at a little red ribbon declaring my six-year-old daughter a member of the good behavior squad at her school. I wasn't there for the presentation.

When I was a child I always wanted my parents to be involved in the goings-on of my education; while they were always there to pick up my report cards and dutifully signed all the papers I brought home, I wanted more. I wanted them to eat lunch with me and join the PTA, but with so many children, those daily interactions were completely out of the question.

Now that I have two children of my own, I want to be a part of their daily schooling, not to make up for what I didn't have but so I can be there, so I will know what goes on in their lives when they are not with me. I volunteer, I eat lunch, and I go to the PTA.

But I missed this good behavior ribbon presentation. A note came home as always, but I forgot to write it down in my planner. When the day came, it was just like any other in my mind. The thought didn't cross my mind again until I saw a little crumpled red ribbon at the bottom of her backpack this morning, tossed down there and forgotten like it was nothing important.

A small token of an achievement that is one of many in her short life and one that will surely be overshadowed as the years creep along, the ribbon may not seem like much. Still, the winning of it was an accomplishment, and I wasn't there for the recognition. It's the first award I didn't see her receive. Though there will be others she will claim as her education continues, I hope that the times that I am not there for the proud moments are few and far between.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Not the mommy!

Some days I feel as if I'm the child instead of the mother. I'm supposed to have all the answers and know what to do all the time, but I don't.

What do you do when she won't eat? What are you supposed to do when she smarts off? How much television is too much? Should she be doing flashcards or will it be okay to just let her color? What is that spot on her leg? Why is she acting like a baby? Do I give her medicine for a cold or not?

These questions and so many more pound my brain, test my limits, wring me out and fling me to the floor like a rag doll. What happened to all the the answers I had just a few short years ago before I had my first child?

Aren't young children supposed think their parents know everything? Mine don't, or at least I don't think they believe that. They hear, "I don't know," from me too much to think that I have all the answers, or even very many of them, for that matter.

I suppose the one thing that confounds my co-parent and I more than anything else is discipline. I don't mean punishment, I mean the whole thing, the big picture. The raising them up to be loving and respectful, loved and respected, human beings and the day-to-day effort that takes. We try so hard to do right by our kids and then lay awake at night wondering if something we did or said was the right thing to do or say and hoping we're not scarring them for life, or at least not messing them up too badly.

A lot of it just feels like one great big guessing game. Will I get the right answer this time? Will I judge correctly? I want to know, but I just don't. Here I am a grown woman with two little children looking to me for guidance, and often I just don't have a clue.

Sometimes I'd just like to feel like the adult instead of the child.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

The added challenge of two

People who think it's tough to be a mother ought to go and have another child. Now that's what you call a real challenge.

Most first children are sweet little babies who leave their mothers dreaming of more sweet little babies. That was not the case with my first, a demanding little thing who was hard to please. My dreams of mothering four babies were dashed to pieces with the sound of the first piercing scream and crushed into fine powder as the grueling days turned into weeks and I realized that I could not do this repeatedly. But we could not leave her as an only child, so we had another.

Now that one was the sweet little baby you're supposed to have first. Thank goodness, because I was now outnumbered.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

What's a mother to do?

The challenge of motherhood became mine six and a half years ago. I call it a challenge because it was not wonderful and cozy and loving like I had so often fantacized in the days of my puberty and young adulthood. It was terribly, excruciatingly hard, the most difficult thing I had ever done. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks in just the first few weeks of my dear firstborn's life.

Before I became a mother I knew what to do about all the problems children have. Once I became one I was suddenly as helpless as she, my nearly 30-year-old brain a mass of mush with no sense to it at all. I no longer had all the answers; I drew a blank when it came to how to satisfy a baby who was angry with the world.

So I pulled out the books and skimmed through them, looking for clues to my dilemma. All first-time mothers have all the books and have spent hours poring over them, as somehow the authors know more than we do about our own children. I read that a child is to be fed every few hours, lain down in a crib in her own room, and left to cry until she falls asleep.

Something about those cold words staring up from the pages did not ring true. I put the books down and began to listen to my own heart — the one that was confused because this new role of mother wasn't glamorous or even attractive anymore — and it spoke to me.

In the middle of all my tears because the baby was feeding so much and so long, it said let her. Through the fog of frustration because if she wasn't feeding, she herself was crying, it said hold her. It said put her in bed with you; you'll all sleep better.

It said she's a baby and can't comfort herself. That's your job. You're the mother. This is what you wanted, now you take it, all of it, and love it and the human being your love brought into the world. So I did. Or at least I tried.

Six years later, I still hold her, comfort her, and put her in the bed with me. It's a challenge, it's not always something I want to do, but I'm the mother. I may not always love the role of motherhood, but I love her.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Good babies

The hard cold facts of what being a mother is really like sent me reeling, teetering on a delicate balance as a new parent. The shocking discernment that I was not adept at, nor did I particularly enjoy, the very act of motherhood was overwhelming.

That and the fact that I could not make my baby happy.

Perhaps women who have so called good babies, little ones who are easy to satisfy, love being a mother. I imagine the women who beamed at me, "Don't you just love being a mother?" had happy little babies, those who were easily pacified.

In answer to that piercing question, I could only force a weak smile and nod my head when on the inside I was screaming, "NO! I love my baby but I do not love being a mother!" As if on cue to the storm brewing in my heart, just about right then she would break out in a blood-curdling scream.

I had had an easy baby once, right before my child was born, and I had loved being a mother. It was with my niece, and what a wonderful baby she was.

I lovingly and diligently cared for her, even as my own burgeoning belly made getting up and down for diaper changes more and more difficult. I got up in the middle of the night for her feedings as her uncle by blood slept soundly by my side. I sang to her and combed her hair and dressed her so she would look pretty for her mother, who came to pick her up every Monday morning after work. My sweet little baby came back every Friday night.

What wonderful weekends we had together. We took her everywhere, and because she so favored her uncle people thought she was our child. No matter that she is a child of one race and my husband and I are of different ethnicities. She was with us and we loved her and it was obvious to others that she was ours.

Never had a child been so easy to raise. I had loved being a mother.
She spoiled me. I thought all children would be this easy to care for, to love, to bring up to be a person others would love and respect, a child that made her mother love motherhood.

My own child was not to be so. Neither could I pass her off to her mother every Monday morning.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The shock of motherhood

After many years of being the perfect mother, dispensing well-thought out advice and caring for all the nieces, nephews, and little friends I could round up, I was inducted into the world of real motherhood. I was in for the shock of my life.

It wasn't like anything I had ever imagined. I quickly realized something that it would take me years to admit: I wasn't the mother I thought I'd always be. Don't get me wrong, now — I dearly loved that beautiful baby, and am still madly in love nearly seven years later — but being a mother wasn't an easy job, to put it quite mildly.

Before I gave birth to my own child, I had known everything about children and about what it took to be a good parent. I had known what to say to make kids laugh, to make them happy, to make them feel at peace with the world. How could I have not, what with helping raise the younger set of my parents' large brood and then being a good aunt, the best, even?

That all changed when I became a mother. There's a big difference in loving children and being a mother, I was horrified to realize. I still loved children, in particular my own beautiful little girl, but to my chagrin I found that I did not love motherhood.

Six years and another child down the line, it is more often than not a lot harder than my children to love.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Once a wonderful mother

Back when I was a starry-eyed adolescent and hopeful young adult, I was a wonderful mother. I loved children dearly and knew everything there was to know about raising them.

The only problem was, I didn't have any. No matter. There were plenty of nieces, nephews and little friends who needed me, and quite a few dumb parents who didn't have a clue. I advised all my parent friends on what to do about a fussy baby, how to get an infant to go to sleep and stay that way, and the list goes on and on.

Aah, the joys of motherhood. How wonderful it was back then.

In my middle 20s, I married a terrific man whom I knew would make a fabulous father. In fact, that was the first important discussion we had as a courting couple. The fact that we were of different races was of no concern to either of us, but the issue of children was. Satisfied that we agreed on having children — as in more than one, but not a whole houseful, as I had done my share of raising many children — we decided we were indeed compatible and married soon thereafter.

I continued my courtship with motherhood, fantasizing about the beautiful babies I would have with my newlywed husband. What a family we would be.

Soon after our second anniversary, we decided it was time to expand our family. Right away we got our wish and set to making ready for baby. All my dreams were coming true.

I got a rude awakening about nine months after that, and life hasn't been the same since.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back to school

It's time to go back to school after the winter break and I am very surprised to find myself experiencing mixed emotions. I had mixed emotions when school started back in the fall — ecstasy AND glee! I got a little choked up after I put the three-year-old on the bus to head start but after a couple of minutes I was just fine.

I really enjoy my days by myself when I can drink a couple of cups of coffee uninterrupted, read blogs, post on message boards, and maybe even get a little work done. It sure is a lot easier to conduct on-site interviews for my newspaper features without having to say 50 times if I say it once, "Sit down. Be quiet. Get out of that."

The only drawback, which isn't really that if you think about it, is having to get up so early to have them at the bus stop at 7:20 a.m. or so. We only live right around the corner from where both of their buses pick them up, and I'm back at the house before 7:30 a.m., making coffee and getting ready to work.

These conflicting emotions of being happy we are returning to our normal schedule along with wishing they didn't have to leave are new and confounding. I'm sure I'll get over it five minutes after the buses depart with my sweet little cargo on board!

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Monday, January 02, 2006

A beautiful day to be a mother

Today is a beautiful day to be a mother — literally! It's sunny and hovering around 70 degrees outside, and what is more, my children's father is off work today. He set his day aside to spend some time with our girls, and that is a wonderful thing in more ways than one!

They played together inside this morning and then went outside for some bike riding. I'm sure their day will take them to the park or playground and perhaps visiting friends.

It would be a good day for me to spend some time with the kids, I know, but I've scheduled today as a regular work day. I'm going to enjoy the silence, post on my blogs, check my message boards, and actually even work.

The doors and windows are open, the sunshine is streaming in, and I can hear the leaves rustling and the dogs barking outside. Today is a great day!

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My share of children

Growing up in a large family, I was constantly asked if I were going to have several children. Having been the oldest of all of my parents' progeny, I felt like I had contributing significantly to their raising and therefore believed I had done my share of bringing up several children. Four would be plenty for myself, I thought.

Having children was the first serious discussion I had with my future mate, pointing out that we'd need a house with three or four bedrooms for the four or so I was planning on having.

Since we weren't spring chicken as the saying goes when we got married, it was time to get started on kids just a couple of years into our marriage. The pregnancy went smoothly, the delivery was tough but nobody ever said that would be easy.

Another thing nobody told me was how hard it was to be a mother. I guess it wouldn't have fallen on understanding ears since I was so enthusiastic about mothering my very own own brood. Within the first few days I decided that four would never do. I couldn't handle it. There was just no way I could do this three more times. My emotional stability, or what little of it was left after my first child entered the world, would be shot all to pieces. I felt like I was teetering on the balance, barely hanging on, and too many more would knock me clean off.

But we never set out to have just one child. We wanted our children to have each other. One more was in order. For the first year and a half, though, that thought stayed as far back in my mind as I could push it. I couldn't even think about dealing with two children when this one I had ate up my every breath, sapped my every single ounce of strength. There was no room in my foggy brain to make concrete plans for more children.

Just as soon as I felt like my head was clearing and I could finally fathom bringing another child into the world, we learned that another child was indeed on the way.

Now they are six and four and we get that question quite a lot — Are you going to have any more? I don't know how to answer that question. I am torn on the inside, knowing full well that right now two is all I can handle while still hanging on to a thread of sanity yet I can't help but think ahead to the future.

Will I regret having only two children? Will I mentally beat myself up for being so selfish during my childbearing years that I couldn't see the big picture, the one where those four or so children would grow up and have each other? Am I cheating my two precious children by not giving them more siblings, by denying them the beautiful experience of having several siblings whom they will treasure in their adulthood?

Even with those thought of the future in mind, two seems like my share of children on days like these.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Cheaper by the dozen?

Everyone knows the saying "cheaper by the dozen." There's a movie by the same name playing in theaters now. It happens in real life, too, and the effect on everyone involved is something worth exploring.

I met a sweet woman recently with five young children and another on the way. I know a young newlywed woman who wants to have 10 children.

Here I am fretting over my two, struggling to balance family and work and maintain my sanity. I feel silly for this when they can handle so many more, and want to.

I have an interesting perspective on their burgeoning families, and it's not just that I feel overloaded with two most of the time. It's that I'm a child of a very large family.

There are 10 of us, 18 years apart, born to loving parents who provided food, clothing, shelter and love. All 10 of us weren't home together for a whole year, as the second child married while the 10th was still being carried around in our mother's arms.

Now that I have my own two, one might think I would naturally admire my parents for taking such good care of all of us. Look at how we've all grown, married, and had children of our own.

That's true, but all I can think of is how can two parents manage that many children, here when I can barely handle two? The truth is, we the children took care of each other. The older ones of us pretty much raised the younger ones. All the loving intentions in the world can't spread two parents out over that many children with near enough to go around.

That's what I think of now that I am a parent. I wish that I could have a closer relationship with my beloved parents, but the reality is that so do several other people, all clamoring for the attention any child would want.

I do not set out to say how many children a family should and should not have, only to say that from my perspective, two well-meaning parents can be greatly outnumbered.

The saying "cheaper by the dozen" may be true, but at whose expense?

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