Are You Mom Enough? 6

Motherhood isn’t a competition.

It’s not a fashion show or a beauty pageant.

It’s not a Cirque du Soleil crowd-aweing performance.

There are no Mother trophies; no gold, silver, or bronze Mother medals.

Yet, this is how motherhood is often portrayed and lived-out.

The controversial Time breastfeeding cover image is a perfect example of this. The picture unsurprisingly created a flurry and jammed up the social media world with all the usual short-term vs. extended breastfeeding quarrels. The typical battles between the I’ll-hide-in-my-closet-to-nurse and the I’ll-stick-my-nipple-up your *beep*-if-you-ask-me-to-cover-up breastfeeders launched on cue.

The photo is an inappropriate way to properly illustrate attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding (the real subject of the article); however it is a perfectly appropriate representation of the worldly “modern” mother. The question attached, “Are you Mom Enough?” sticks its scornful tongue out at all mothers; daring us to prove ourselves in the arena of competitive motherhood.

You’ll find all sorts of moms rivaling in these popular Mom Games.

The Games commence with the conception and pregnancy events. First, watch the prudent waited-till-we-got-married-expecting moms vs. the oops-how-did-that-happen knocked-up gals test out their archery skills. Then find a good spot by the Luge to see the waited-till-we-saw-the-world-together-and-got-to-know-each-other-first moms try to catch up with the expeditious honeymoon-baby-let’s-get-this-party-started moms. If you want to see a good boxing fight, look for the naturally-conceived-or-adopted moms vs. the artificially-conceived moms in ring # 3. Watch out though that one can get pretty darn ugly. And if you’re curious, don’t miss the canoe and kayak races between the one-to-two-children moms vs. the ten-to-twenty-children moms.

After this we move onto getting the baby out. Most of these competitions take place in the track and field area with moms competing in various speed, long-distance, and strength events. Here you’ll see the natural birthers vs. the medicine/c-section birthers. In another area are the hospital-natural birthers vs. the homebirth-natural birthers. And if you stick around a little longer you’ll catch the midwife-assisted homebirthers vs. the unassisted homebirthers.

And now, let the games really fire up with the feeding and child-rearing contests.

First, you can watch the formula-feeding moms duke things out on the volleyball courts with the exclusively-breast-milk-feeding moms. There’s a special cycling event between the I-nursed-my-baby-for-six-months moms vs. the long-distance extended-breastfeeding-my-8-year-old-while-running-the-Pikes’-Peak-Marathon moms. For a change of scene, head inside for a special fashion show/beauty contest between the blushing blanket-over-my-head-while-nursing moms and the topless nipple-in-your-face breastfeeding moms. While you are inside, survey the contrasting skating duets of the graceful sit-on-the-rocking-chair-with-a-boppy-pillow moms and the fancy breastfeeding-while-skating-on-one-foot-and-cooking-a-gourmet-feast moms.

If these events bore you, mosey on over to the rodeo stadium to see contending moms wrangle their bucking toddlers and steer their rebellious teenagers. Too intense for you? Take a peaceful stroll through the nature preserve out back and take a peek at the sing-songy-bunny-loving moms competing for the Gentle Discipline and Nicest Moms awards. For some real excitement, buy some tickets to the fencing matches between the dictator-totalitarian moms vs. the lets-be-best-friends-forever moms. (Can you guess who will win?)

If you have time, check out the working moms vs. the “stay-at-home”-mom obstacle course, the tug-of-war between the eco-friendly-cloth-diaperinggluten-free-cook-everything-from-scratch mom vs. the climate-changing-earth-hating-disposable-diapering-processed-sugar-high-fructose-corn-syrup-partially-hydrogentated moms, and the homeschool vs. public school vs. private school triathlon.

Ok, so there aren’t any Mom Games in real life but sometimes being a mother in today’s world can feel like there are. I was thrust into this world of competitive motherhood shortly after my first child was born. Suddenly, everything I thought I knew about being a good mother didn’t matter anymore; my daughter either hadn’t read or disagreed with all the great parenting experts on breastfeeding, sleeping, and just about everything. I floundered around for a while trying to earn my keep and prove myself in my new role. As I read about and discovered all the different ways of parenting, I would latch onto a new method or idea and stubbornly try to make it work.  And, ashamedly, in an effort to boost my own self-esteem, I developed high-and-mighty judgmental opinions about which ways were the best or better ways to be a mother. Whatever I was doing was the best way and every other mother should do it this way too. Like the image of the woman on the Time cover, mothering was about proving a point instead of following my own instincts and heart.

Thankfully, my children threw reality back in my arrogant face and forced my attention back where it belonged: on them – not on what other mothers were doing or what other children did/didn’t do. Once I started refocusing, I realized many of the ideas I thought sounded or looked cool in theory or worked well for others, weren’t necessarily meant for me. It wasn’t just a matter of if I could walk in those “clothes”, like Simcha Fischer frankly points out, it’s about whether they fit me, my children, and our family.

Now, pregnant with our fourth, I’ve sorted through my collection of parenting techniques and philosophies; some things are worth keeping for now or later and some need to get tossed out for good or given away for someone else to try. I’m still learning, still trying to stand high on my pedestal and still falling flat on my face over and over again. Each time, I am reminded again that it’s not about whether I am “Mom Enough”, it’s about whether I can love and accept my kids and our family as we are and let that be enough.

“Famil[ies], Be Who you Are” John Paul II


Racetrack Alphabet: B 1

We’re racing smoothly along the Racetrack Alphabet! It’s amazing what a huge difference such a small addition in our day has done for my 5 year-old son (and me!). We’ve been keeping it very simple. We practice writing the letter, and making the sound it makes and then we look around the house for Bs or whatever letter we’re on (we are actually on D now but I have to catch up here with B & C first). It’s fun watching him get all excited to find the letter at home and then everywhere else we go. We read the letter page from the books I mentioned and draw pictures of what we saw and then stick them on our racetrack. We make a visit to the library and randomly pick out books with the letter we’re on in the title or subject and read those throughout the week. I could have baked some special bread or played blocks with him during B week but I only thought of that after the fact (of course). Eventually I might add in some special activities but for now what we are doing is working just fine.

For B week, he drew pictures of a Bible, Baseball, a Boat and a Barn.

He’s growing up so fast and I am really amazed at how smart he really is. I’m going to really miss him when he starts Kindergarten next year but I am happy to see that he is definitely ready for it (academically anyway).

Racetrack Alphabet and other things 1

It’s been a while since I’ve posted pictures, aside from my husband’s awesome astro ones…but that’s because he’s been hogging the camera 😉 or maybe I’ve just been a little preoccupied with the ‘joys’ of pregnancy’s first trimester. I’m starting to feel better though and thought I’d better start taking more pictures of our days or I’d never have proof that I did anything but live in a “tunnel” by myself during this time. This has also coincided nicely with the beginning of the 2nd trimester energy surge, the simmering down of an all-consuming 2 year project, and me realizing (again) that my children (especially my 5 year old going into kindergarten and leaving me forever soon) are growing up way too fast and I haven’t done enough with/for them. So here are some things we’ve been doing.


When my daughter was in preschool, we started a fun adventure down Elizabeth Foss’s Flower Fairies Alphabet Path. She was a wonderful student and we both loved it. But I had a lot more energy back then (and had only 1 other child) and second son has been a little…different. It’s true what they say…boys are indeed different. He, or maybe me, or maybe a combination of us both, wasn’t quite ready to do anything “schooley” yet but I decided it was time now, especially since he’ll be starting kindergarten in about 26 weeks. Which is the same number as letters in the alphabet. I wanted to do something a little less ‘flowery’ with him so I came up with a simple Racetrack Alphabet. I’m mostly making it up as we go along but so far he (and I) are really enjoying it.

The first day I drew a simple racetrack and showed him we’d start with A and eventually end up with Z by the end. I had him write a “mama” A and a “baby” a, we talked about the 2 sounds A likes to make and then we drew a picture of an airplane for the first day.


The second day I got a little more creative and made a little racecar (don’t make fun it was the best I could do in the moment) to show what letter we are on. It will be fun to move it along the track as we go.


Yesterday we read the A pages in our R is for Race: A Stock Car Alphabet, Museum ABC and A Is for Altar, B Is for Bible books. Then he wrote and drew pictures for automobile, apple and alter and we stuck them on our track. And he decided to color the airplane too. I am excited about this new race around the alphabet with him and I can tell he is too. He’s also excited to know that when he gets to Z it will be time to start kindergarten! (and for the baby!)


Today we read the first book of level 1 of CHC’s Little Stories for Little Folks. He did a fantastic job and read most of the words on his own, I was surprised he knew so much already!

Some other random pictures:


I had to capture this rare moment of the two boys doing something nice together without any screaming or fighting…it seems like that is really all they do lately. It drives me pretty darn crazy.


Our daughter received a special “girl” lego set from Santa and she finally finished it and was very proud of it.


I can’t believe our little 2 year old is getting so big. He sure has been changing a lot and acting so much “bigger” lately. His independence is good…and tiring! He likes to doing things “by himself”. It’s great fun. 😉


5 year old son loves building with the blocks. He made a special shuttle launch pad for his brother’s space shuttle. Amazingly the launch pad has stayed up for about a week now even though the shuttle keeps getting fought over between the two boys.

Waiting for Superman or Waiting for Us–the Parents? 3

My husband and I recently watched Waiting for “Superman”. It is a documentary film about the state of children’s education in America today. This subject of education always catches my attention so I was excited when its turn in the Netflix cue finally came up. Still I was cautiously optimistic about it since there are so many different opinions about children’s education and what needs to be done to fix its problems.

The movie started out a little boring (honestly I fell asleep and had to try again the next day) with all the same ol’ statistics about how horribly failing America’s public schools are–not to make light of it but I’ve heard it so much that it’s sadly not so shocking anymore. It seemed my hidden assumptions were going to be correct–just another documentary about how bad our schools are and that’s why we have to give more money to the schools and pay all the teachers more and test the kids more–blah, blah, blah.

But then a twist came along when it got to the part about teachers unions. I had assumed this movie would take the same tone as other ‘popular’ education ‘experts’ take when it comes to the teachers unions and rave about them and praise them and basically hail them as the one true solution for all of America’s education problems. To my great surprise, it was quite the opposite so that definitely perked up my attention and I was able to stay awake for the rest of the film. It was refreshing to hear someone else acknowledge the obvious–if teachers are all paid the same based on nothing but ‘contracts’ then what motivation will there be to actually teach–and teach well? What would drive a teacher to not only sit at a desk and ‘babysit’ but to actually do their job and inspire greatness and discovery and excellence in their students if they themselves had no real motivation or incentive?

There were a lot of very interesting points and observations made and the movie gave a lot to think about so I would recommend watching it. I agreed about the problem with the teachers unions but also wonder if switching to an only-merit based pay method for teachers is the answer. A couple of friends who are teachers (and great ones too!) made a good point that while it would be better for teachers to have more incentives to teach well, merit-based pay systems can also be problematic when teachers are being paid more because they are the principal’s pet and they can be paid less if the principal (or pastor in parochial schools) simply does not like him/her. This is one of the reasons teachers unions started but it’s gone way too far. There needs to be a better balance somehow. It’s pretty bad when the most money given for political campaign funding comes from teachers unions.

Aside from the debate about teachers pay and teachers unions and more money from the government to the schools (which the film also seemed to indicate was not the answer either)–there were still some things missing in this movie that I had hoped they’d addressed.

  1. Testing
  2. Curriculum/teaching methods
  3. Parental and family involvement and how it affects children’s education.

1. Testing: I was talking to a 3rd grade boy today and asked about his upcoming school day and what he was going to be doing and his simple answer was “testing”. He had 3 or 4 tests in the classroom that day and then another outside-of-the classroom state assessment of some sort with a catchy acronym that really had nothing to do with what the test is about. Every time I ask what he is doing that day or did, it’s always about tests. I understand that testing has a value and they do serve a purpose.

But I can’t help but feel that maybe our kids are getting slightly over-tested when they seem to spend the majority of their time studying for a test or learning material in order to take a test or even taking a test about how to take a test. Whatever happened to just learning? Whatever happened to serving kids bite-sized servings of knowledge and then leaving them alone to chew on it and savor it for a little while without having to regurgitate it before it was even digested, much less swallowed.

Of course it’s a circular problem stemming from us grown-ups chronic problem with pride. Parents and teachers and school boards want what’s best for our kids, sure, but they also want to prove that their way is the best. We want our kids to learn but then, since we can’t see inside their brains, we wonder if they are really learning or not so then we test them to find out if they are so that we know what we need to keep working on so that we can test them again and it’s just kind of a silly cycle of nonsense and after the ball finally crashes–are our kids really any smarter? More importantly—are they more likely to succeed in life and be happy? There’s only one way to test that and find the answer.

2. Curriculum/teaching methods: Imagine a box. Now imagine trying to fit 20-30 kids into a box that is made to hold 2 maybe 3 at a time. That’s kind of how I envision the problem of trying to use ‘boxed’ standardized curriculums in classrooms that on average have 28, give or take a few, students. I have issues with standardized methods that are applied to people, particularly children–who are each unique and individual. Eventually, someone is going to get pushed out or fall out of the box and get ‘left behind’. This is where the good vs. bad teacher debate comes up. In my opinion, a good teacher will look at the curriculum in the box–take it all out and use it together with other tools found ‘outside of the box.’ But so few teachers are willing to do this, or if they are willing they don’t have time or resources or ‘approval’ to do such new-fangled things such as teach their students something that isn’t ‘required’ for that year. To all you teachers out there who do go above and beyond—THANK YOU.

3. Parents and Family involvement. This is really the kicker and I left the best and most important key to the success of education in America here at the end. Waiting for Superman and other such documentaries and articles and NPR radio programs and politicians love to talk about the failing test scores, the failing teachers, the failing education budgets, the failing administrations, the failing kids—but what about the parents? Why do people forget about them and the HUGE role they play in the success or failure of a child’s education? It’s easy to blame everyone else, it’s easy to say, we need more money for the schools, or we need to fire all those bad teachers (which is true)–but really–the people that consistently show up in research studies as the most influential people in children’s lives are–guess who?—THE PARENTS–the family; the home. It’s the core. It’s where it all begins and ends. It’s where all the numbers and letters and tests and reading programs and math drills and science experiments come together and either sizzle…or fizzle.

Sadly, our families are falling apart–this is the true problem in America. This is where the rebuilding and the reform need to happen–in the families. Good teachers, administrations and schools that are strong and willing to fight against the goliath teacher unions, outside-0f-the-box teaching methods–those are all definitely part of the answer. But until we really delve in past all that and get to the heart of the matter and fix the root of the problem, those answers will only serve as a small band-aid for an oozing open wound in the heart of our country and world.


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