So Much to Say About Being a Mom

(Giveaway Tuesday!!!!  Can’t wait to share the new MOPS book with you.)

In honor of Mothers’ Day and in celebration of the birth of my nephew, Miles, I am kicking off a blog series about motherhood.

Today is Mothers’ Day, and I’m filled with many emotions.  I miss my mom a lot.  Every single day.  I miss seeing my mom-in-law, too.  And my Grandma.  But I’m also grateful to celebrate my own motherhood next to the little snuggle bugs who made me “Mommy.”  This photograph was taken on the day that I first gained that oh-so-special title.

At the moment when I first held my new baby boy, I knew the “why” of my existence.  I felt certain that I had found the work for which I was made.  This arena is where I’m best equipped to impact the world and bring God joy.  It’s also the place where mistakes have a mighty sting and emotions can become painfully intertwined in the practical steps of daily life.  But the rewards are too great to articulate, too sacred to fully grasp.

Where have I been?

(Don’t forget my book review and giveaway on Tuesday, May 15.)

My blog has been really lagging lately.  I struggle to get a food budget post up each week, and I don’t want Warm As Pie to be a blog only about grocery shopping.  I find that I’ve been terribly distracted.

My attention has been pulled to finances, car issues, and mysterious leaking.  We got those things cleared up, and then I was distracted by the birth of my precious new nephew (yay!).

I’ve been going to t-ball games and practices.

I’ve been making library trips and reading the books that we choose.

I’ve been helping with homework and reading logs and wonderful projects of the imagination that require cardboard.  Lots of cardboard.

I’ve been stressing about this organizing project that is definitely losing momentum–more about that later.

I’ve been daydreaming about a real, functioning back porch and even hunting for some low cost furniture.

I’ve been beating myself up about all the things I don’t get done and at the same time trying to pull myself out of that funk so that I can see the light of my children’s faces and hear their joy and watch their growing little selves.

I’ve been feeling down.  I’ve been turning to the internet for a little inspiration, a little pick-me-up, and instead, what I find there is a cycle of discontent–not a place I want to be.

So where I am I now?

I’m reflecting on Zephaniah 3:17.  “The Lord your God is with you,  the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love He will no longer rebuke you,  but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I’m telling myself that if the big Lord of the Universe can rejoice over me, maybe I can decide that I’m alright after all.

I’m watching my baby drum on the fireplace with a crayon and a ball point pen.  I’m delighting in her joy and her enthusiasm.

I’m listening to my preschooler giggle to himself as he plays in the livingroom.

I’m waiting for my hubby to return so that we can pick up a cute little table for the back porch and maybe buy some sunny yellow paint for it.  We’ll see.

I’m making plans.  I’m giving thanks.  I’m zooming in on the important stuff.

Shrove Tuesday

I didn’t even know what Shrove Tuesday was until we joined a church seven years ago that acknowledges the day with a pancake supper.  Now I can’t imagine missing it!  The church uses Shrove Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras) as a wonderful tool for teaching children (and adults!) about Lent and how we prepare to experience the resurrection of Christ at Easter.  Being far away from the annual supper and “pancake fling” (such fun!), we decided to have our own Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper in our new home.

The following link does a nice job explaining Shrove Tuesday:  http://www.faithclipart.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/origins_of_shrove_tuesday.html.  In our version of the celebration, we enjoyed pancakes, sausage, little doughnuts, strawberries, and iced tea.  We played with Mardi Gras beads.  We talked about the different ways that people acknowledge Lent, and we decided as a family to continue our Lenten tree tradition and add some acts of charity this year.  I find Lent to be a particularly exciting time for teaching children about our faith.  It’s bursting with potential lessons!

 

 

Epiphany

Every year, I wish we did more with the celebration of Epiphany.  We always wait to take down our decorations until the full 12 days of Christmas have passed, but I felt like we were missing an opportunity to look at the story of Jesus from a different angle.  Since we didn’t spend Christmas in our new house, it felt good to do more celebrating and more telling of that beautiful story on 12th Night and Epiphany.

Because the little guy fell asleep on the actual 12th Night, we merged all of our activities into the day of Epiphany.  (Maybe we’ll get it right next year!)  During the day, J and I baked a Three Kings Cake.

We had dinner (spaghetti and salad), and after clean-up, we all headed to the livingroom for our “undecorating party.”  We put on the Christmas music for the last time.  The boys didn’t hang around for all of the undecorating, but we gave them some specific tasks to complete.  They removed the ornaments from the tree and carefully placed them in a box for me to wrap and store.

All the lights, bulbs, greenery, and other goodies were removed, but our nativity scene stayed in the big front window.

We talked about the wisemen following the light to find the Messiah, and we went out to the driveway to make our own journey to the manger.

We carried our ceramic wisemen and their camels along the lighted driveway to their proper place next to the stable.

Talked about how Jesus was a surpise –an “epiphany”– in many ways.  He was a tiny baby, not a warrior.  He was in a manger, not a palace.  I loved, loved hearing the boys’ thoughts on these great mysteries.

We closed the evening by putting out straw for the camels in the childrens’ shoes.  (An idea borrowed from Emily.)  Charlotte doesn’t actually have any shoes, so we put out her teddy bear slipper.  The boys thought this fact was hilarious.   We awoke the next morning to a tangerine and a Matchbox car for each boy.  Charlotte received a hair bow.  Lots of fun!

Thinking of Thanksgiving

It felt strange to celebrate our first major holiday without our families.  We received a generous invitation to dine with new friends.  What a sweet offer!  But having just closed on our new house, we wanted to give thanks in our very own diningroom.

(Please pardon Miss Drooly.)

After dinner, we went back to the rental home for apple pie and some Skype time with family.  My sister-in-law took this picture of her younger son “Skyping” with my boys.  Celebrating Thanksgiving in our new town and new house was joyful, but what I would have given to jump through the computer screen into the arms of the people I love!

A Stop on the Tour…

Blog tour, that is!

I’m excited to share with you MomSense: A Common-sense Guide to Confident Mothering by Jean Blackmer.

First, let me tell you a little about MOPS, the organization responsible for this publication. “MOPS” stands for Mothers of Preschoolers.  MOPS International is a Christian-based organization that serves mothers of children from birth through kindergarten by providing informative speakers, a chance for conversation and friendship, mentorship from experienced moms, and refreshment.  I don’t just mean coffee and doughnut holes.  MOPS offers a chance for refreshment of the spirit.  A rest.   I attended my first MOPS meeting on the same day that I received an e-mail asking me to participate in the 2011 Blog Tour.  Weird coincidence?  On to the book…

Ms. Blackmer’s book is not a hard-hitting text for a child development course.  You probably will not find yourself shocked by a completely new, astounding revelation.  Instead, it is a cup-of-coffee-with-a-good-friend kind of read.  It’s a I’ve-had-a-really-hard-day-and-I-need-to-know-I’m-not-alone book.  Instead of feeling your jaw drop at pages and pages of revelatory information, you will be nodding at the familiarity of Blackmer’s observations and anecdotes.  Any revelation will not come from the content; it will come from YOU, inspired by the author’s warm tone and her ability to draw you close and expose those shadowy places in your heart where you beat yourself up, question your worth, and feel certain that everyone is better at mothering than you are.  This book does have the potential for epiphany if you dive into it as a tool for self-reflection, not an instruction manual.

MomSense isn’t meant to be prescriptive.  This is not the kind of parenting book that tells you how to parent.  You won’t find tips for diapering, breastfeeding, or making the perfect tuna noodle casserole.  MomSense isn’t that kind of book.  It doesn’t ascribe to a particular parenting style, and in that, the book becomes accessible to mothers in all their wonderful variety.  But because of the potential breadth of audience, readers should be prepared to take what fits and leave the rest (good advice for most decisions regarding the raising of a family).  More about that later.

So if MomSense isn’t a how-to-parent book, what is it?  Jean Blackmer makes good on her title; the book guides you toward confident mothering, not just going through the motions, not just accepting what’s good enough.  She points readers toward a loving, mindful mothering that comes from a place of certainty in one’s place of authority in the home but a humble willingness to learn.  Authority and humility — now that seems like a good mix.  Blackmer reiterates the need to openly acknowledge our weaknesses and see them as places for growth.  The author won my heart when she advised and repeated that moms find the humility to apologize to their children.  In doing so, they model the healthy practices of apology and forgiveness.  In my own mothering, I have seen the value of saying I am sorry when I do not use my voice kindly or my hands gently.  I expect the same from my kiddos.

Early in the book (page 39, to be exact), Blackmer offers an anecdote that is, for me, the essence of her concept of confident mothering.  Here, the author uses the story of “Ben and Betsy” to illustrate values-based parenting.  Basically, if your parenting decisions are made in response to pre-selected, shared values, you can be confident in the choices you make.  In other words, principles that drive your family’s way of life can be the road map for the daily choices we all face.  For instance, if you value quiet evenings, drop a few extracurriculars and choose a novel to read together as a family.  If you want to emphasize physical fitness, cancel your Netflix membership and redirect those funds toward the YMCA.  See what I mean?`

The very accessible “Ben and Betsy” story and other real-life anecdotes (including great ones from the author’s own experience) are the strength of MomSense.  They succeed in welcoming readers, saying “you are one of us, and we aren’t perfect.”  I find the early segment on critical thinking and decision making less strong.  On one hand, this section serves to define “MomSense,” and the author’s careful, sensible attention to these rather academic ideas does well to elevate the call of motherhood to the status of any other career.  I truly appreciate that!  On the other hand, the issues were necessarily watered down for the style and length of the book, making me feel like the book was trying to be something it is not–a sort of literary identity crisis–at the risk of losing my attention and making me question the author’s intentions.  Luckily, the book came to life when Blackmer launched into Section 2.

Section 2 makes up the bulk of the book, and this section outlines some of the characteristics that many of us wish to bring to our mothering.  Patience, respect, calm, joy, and love are among some of the qualities of note.  The segments are filled with stories, tips, and questions to probe reflection.

The book closes with Section 3.  This section steps beyond the rather private, internal world of mothering to the external reality that we are not alone in the process…or we shouldn’t be!  Blackmer discusses the relationship between a mom and her husband or other parenting partner, and she goes on to reflect upon the value of friendships.  She does not hesitate to acknowledge God’s partnership in meeting the challenges of parenting. The entire book touches upon snippets from the Bible to encourage moms and an overarching faith-based focus, and this section in particular rings with the sound of scripture and Biblical principles.

So let me get back to the “take some, leave the rest” concept.  Because the book uses stories and quotations from real moms, there is the risk of “butting heads” with one of those real moms.  Please don’t allow that to turn you away.  My husband and I have chosen to parent our children in the vein of Attachment Parenting (kind of a hybrid version, I admit).  One of the stories was a breastfeeding success story.  Yay!  I teared up and cheered aloud.  I even read the anecdote to my husband.  On the other hand, I was so sad when one couple chose to let their child “cry it out” in one example (page 42).  I actually had a physical reaction to the story of a mom who was trying to get her daughter to go to bed.  The child pounded at her mother’s bedrooom door, screaming for her momma.  The section was about consistency.  I’m for consistency, but I would never be consistent in that manner.  No.  I would have chosen a different approach and been consistent in my own method.  Reading the story, my stomach clenched, my face flushed, and my palms got clammy.  I almost put the book away, but I stopped myself.  I reminded myself that this book is not the end-all be-all answer.  What my husband and I value simply does not align with what the mom in the example valued.  That’s okay.

I don’t know what kind of reader you are, but I’m the kind of gal who keeps favorite books  at hand for frequent reference.  I re-read many books many times but rarely in full.  This will be one of those books that I keep around for a reminder.  Despite some differences of opinion, MomSense: A Common-sense Guide to Confident Mothering lifted my spirits and renewed my belief that I’m up for this most rewarding and blessed assignment–being my kids’ mommy.

I would love to hear how your own “MomSense” has come into play in your life.  Do you recall a time when you just knew what was right for your child?  Jean Blackmer emphasizes that our MomSense is a combination of heart and education and experience.  What inspired you to make the decision?  Information?  Someone else’s opinion?  A gut reaction?

If you aren’t a mom, think how you’ve seen “MomSense” at work in others or how you’ve felt a kind of quiet wisdom inside yourself.

When you comment, you’ll be entered to win a copy of Blackmer’s book.  One entry per person!  Comments will close on Sunday at 11:59 pm.  Thanks for participating!