October 4, 2015
Miscarriages are cruel. They steal your hopes and dash your dreams. They silence you with shame and regret. They make you feel unworthy of the gift of motherhood that comes so freely to others. They make you second-guess every decision and fill future pregnancies with dread. They are unkind and unpredictable. And they lie.
The lies my miscarriages told me were silent and woven deep into my feelings about motherhood and my own worth. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate them at the time, but they came to color my perceptions of the world around me. Maybe miscarriages have lied to you, too.
“You are not woman enough.” My miscarriages told me there was something fundamentally wrong with my body and therefore, my femininity. Women all around me were carrying healthy pregnancies to term (and inviting me to their baby showers) and I felt like less of a woman than they were because my body had failed a primary task of womanhood. It could not sustain life. It didn’t matter how feminine I felt, how girlie I dressed, how much I willed my body to do what it was supposed to do, I didn’t feel like a “real” woman when I couldn’t do the very thing that epitomizes the difference between male and female. I came to view my body with contempt and struggled with feeling self-conscious in the company of pregnant women who were apparently so much better at this womanhood thing.
“You would not be a good mother.” Were miscarriages the universe’s way of telling me I wasn’t cut out for motherhood? Obviously a good mom wouldn’t let her kid die in her womb. A good mom would be able to protect her child. I couldn’t even go 7 weeks without total failure in that department. I felt that not only did my miscarriages think I shouldn’t be a mom, I felt that from other people as I shared my story. I could see their need to believe such a thing couldn’t happen to them. They were looking for The Reason this was happening to me, and I think deciding that I wasn’t mother material seemed like the easiest place to land. I could hardly blame them. There were days I felt that way myself.
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September 21, 2015
When I was a little girl I did not dream of growing up to be The Sex Talk Lady. Well. . . maybe that isn’t entirely true. I was the kid in Kindergarten who told all my friends where babies came from in as much detail as I understood at the time. So I guess while my career aspiration wasn’t to talk to parents about talking to their kids about sex, I have always been abnormally comfortable with having that conversation.
Because people know I’m a safe person to talk to about this, I do get a lot of questions. These questions have helped me to understand that we’re not all equally comfortable with this conversation just because we’re all adults. I honestly thought that maybe people just needed a little prompting to know how to have the conversation with their kids, but I’m understanding more and more that some people are looking for ways to actively AVOID the conversation because it makes them uncomfortable.
In my house, we just don’t have that luxury.
Because our family was formed by adoption, where babies come from is an early conversation. In fact, there are a lot of touchy conversations that happen really early in our house. Drug use, unwed pregnancies, jail, racism, poverty, orphanage life– these are all conversation topics that have happened while my kids were still preschoolers. As they get older, the conversations become more detailed, but I will answer any question my child asks me.
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September 14, 2015
A study came out recently about parental happiness. It found that mothers of large families were one of the groups “most satisfied with life.” I am not surprised.
The researchers correlated it with how much effort parents had to go through to achieve this kind of family. They also found that adoptive parents and parents via IVF tended to be more content, which would also support that theory. When you’ve had to work pretty hard to get the family you hoped for, it can be a very satisfying thing. And I think you appreciate it in a unique way.
But here’s the other thing– I think mothers of large families are just OVER IT in so many ways. You know what I mean? You realize about the time that your three year-old feeds your six month-old a corn syrup laden fruit snack while your back was turned that this whole motherhood thing is probably not going to go as ideally as you’d envisioned. I think I gave up competing for the Mother of the Year award about four kids ago and I’ve been happier ever since.
My toddler at a fast food restaurant- where parenting expectations go to die.
Can I just tell you how impossible it is to be a “good” mother? When we adopted our first child 7 years ago, we were warned about the dangers of introducing peanut butter too early. This was on the level of “don’t shake your baby” seriousness. Introducing peanut butter prior to age 2 = instant allergic reaction. Good mothers do NOT give their babies peanut butter. Fast forward to our fifth and sixth babies just 5 and 6 years later (yes, go ahead and do the math. . . we’ve had 6 kids in 7 years so let’s all just be thankful I’m still mostly sane). Now we are told the best thing we can do to prevent a deathly peanut allergy is. . . drumroll please. . . introduce them to peanut butter early. Like, just wait until they’re holding their head up, done with the tongue thrusting reflex and then just shove some peanut butter in there and hope for the best. (Okay, I may be slightly exaggerating how early. Check with your pediatrician or something.)
This is what mothers of “large families” know that is so incredibly freeing– YOU CAN’T WIN AT MOTHERHOOD.
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September 13, 2015
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Me: Okay, now it’s time for everybody to grab a book and read for fifteen minutes.
Bethany (5): Um, Mom? I can’t read yet.
Me: . . . Oh. . . right. . .
Me: So what did we learn? What do you call inappropriate pictures of people without their clothes?
Child 1: Biography!
Me: Um, no. But you’re kind of close. It starts with a P.
Child 2: It’s PIE-ography.
Joel (3): I just got back from work, Mom. I was talking a little and working and I had a meeting.
Me: Oh yeah? Did you have some good ideas at your meeting.
J: Um, no I didn’t. Not today.
The nice thing about throwing up when all you’ve had to “eat” all day is coffee is that it is the same taste and texture coming up as it was going down.
Me: . . .so I teach you to do the dishes, but then when you get older and move out I’ll have to do them myself again. I’ll probably have forgotten how to do them.
Josh (8): I don’t think I’m moving out. I think I just want to stay here.
Me: Oh, when the time comes, you’ll want to move out. When you get older you probably won’t want to live under our rules anymore and you’ll want to make your own.
Josh: Why would I want to do that?
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September 10, 2015
This summer our local movie theatre had a morning movie series for kids. I took a couple of my kids to a few of them and other than the time the three year-old got his shoe caught in the folding seat and started yelling, it was a lot of fun. The last week I took them, the movie they were showing was “Horton Hears a Who” (based on the Dr. Suess’s book). This was my first time seeing the movie, although I had a familiarity with the book. I sat there with four of my kids surrounding me– one internationally adopted, two adopted from foster care and one biological child. I expected this to be another enjoyable movie experience with them, but I didn’t expect it to be so emotional for me.
If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s about Horton (an elephant) that has the ability to hear these tiny creatures (their whole society is small enough to fit on a flower), and realizes they are in danger. Because he is the only one that can hear them, he is the only one who can protect them. He is considered crazy and dangerous for his insistence that his job is to protect something no one else can see. In the last moments of the movie, the little residents of Whoville realize they have to make enough noise to be heard by those big enough to save or destroy them. It takes them a long time to come to this realization, but when they do it is with urgency and passion as they understand their very lives are at stake. They begin to chant “We are here!” over and over.
And that’s when I looked over at my sons and my daughter and saw their rapt attention to the movie playing out before them. While they watched a fictional elephant advocate for his tiny friends, I was was seeing something different. I was seeing my own fight to have the needs of these children recognized when they live in a society that doesn’t always seem to acknowledge their value, their worth, their unique struggles. That’s when I started to cry.
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September 6, 2015
I love a good list. I love how they distill information into quick, bite-sized pieces I can easily digest. But I’ve found that I don’t love lists about marriage. Such a complex topic can rarely be handled well in a handful of bullet points.
I stumbled upon a site recently that had lists about marriage prominently displayed, including this doozy:
“5 Ways You are Unknowingly Destroying Your Husband and Killing Your Marriage”
Yikes. That is a lot of pressure on one little wife. I’m almost embarrassed to say I read that article, secretly hoping it had a foolproof method for keeping my marriage happy or that it would give some new window into my husband’s psyche. Spoiler alert- it turns out there is no simple trick to a perfect marriage, even if a list promises you one. How do I know? Because I’ve done my best to follow the marriage rules from day one and this is still the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It’s not exactly the hand-holding, picnic on a blanket, gazing into each other’s eyes experience the pictures accompanying these “helpful” lists like to depict. At least not most of the time.
I have learned that being really good at following rules and internalizing lists does not mean you are really good at marriage. Marriage is so much more nuanced and complicated than “6 Ways to Show Your Husband You Love Him” can ever actually communicate. So if you need some encouragement to quit stressing over lists about marriage, I am helpfully providing you a list of reasons not to read lists about marriage.
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August 30, 2015
Love to have you with me on Facebook or Twitter.
Putting pigtails on a wiggly toddler requires the skills of a yoga instructor and crocodile wrestler. And that 10 minutes of work lasts approximately 30 seconds until they are pulled out.
While I was documenting how adorable it was that the three year-old picked out such a mismatched outfit, the five year-old was putting on fuzzy boots to wear with her athletic shorts and t-shirt. Did I notice this before we got to preschool? No. No I did not.
Am I the only one who has a hard time watching real estate shows because I feel bad for the people trying to sell their house who are unknowingly getting publicly ridiculed for their bad taste?
#awkward #cringe #goosewallpaper
Youtube has this nice feature where they make a mix of songs they think you’ll like based on songs you’ve listened to there before. I have enjoyed this and also been shamed by the random appearance of artists I looked up ONE TIME because I wanted to know who sang that song.
#DemiLovato #ArianaGrande #ONETIMEYOUTUBE #youtubeshame
I offered my daughter many reward options- special toy from Target, a fun piece of jewelry, a giant pretzel- for some good behavioral choices she’s been making. She asked if she could have a soda all to herself and could she buy one for Daddy, too.
#middlechild #daddysgirl #easytoplease
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August 28, 2015
Well, we both know that “on his birthday” part was kind of pushing the definition of “on” and “birthday.” Sorry this is late, but I feel like a large chunk of my brain was held captive for those couple months the kids were out of school and I’m just now getting it back. Or maybe, I just wanted to stretch out your birthday celebration as long as possible! Yes! That’s it.
It has come to my attention that I am bad at gifts. This was made especially obvious on Mother’s Day when my sisters gave Mom sweet, thoughtful gifts and I gave her a pack of gum because I was feeling sentimental about how she used to buy us that giant bubble gum at the grocery store if we were good. In my mind it seemed like a sweet gift and a reminder of the lessons Mom taught me about self-care (we all knew the bubble gum was secretly for her, just like the ice-cream cones she would buy us and then say, “It tastes better when you share.” until we gave her some.), but in the end, it was just a pack of gum. I say all this as a warning. Don’t get your hopes up.
I got you a sign. I know what you’re thinking– A sign! I always wanted a sign! Okay, probably not what you were thinking. But I wanted to get something that embodied a lesson I’ve learned from you and this seemed like the best way to do it. (I’m putting a picture of it here so I don’t forget what it looked like.)
Have you ever mentioned wanting to go to Australia? No. So maybe this is a weird gift. But follow me here. I pulled the quote from “Support Your Local Sheriff” since it’s a family favorite and the idea here seems to embody part of how I think about you. (I also considered going with an alternate “Support Your Local Sheriff” quote but “Pooberty hit her hard” didn’t look as nice.)
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August 27, 2015
I can go ahead and admit it was a mistake to stumble down the blackhole of comments left on an article about a man who very publicly betrayed his wife. Turns out everybody on the planet knows exactly what they would do if their husband did that to them. Except that they don’t.
I have gotten pretty tired of the phrase “If my husband ever. . .” This goes equally (or maybe double) for the phrase “If my child ever.” Do you know who says that stuff? People who have never actually experienced facing that situation. So you know how much their opinion should count? Not much.
Here’s the thing– I am the type of person who would typically say such a phrase. I have thought through a thousand worst case scenarios. I have read all the articles and a couple books about what to do and not to do in situation XYZ. Such situations could never possibly happen to me because I know all the right things to do, so I’m happy to tell you exactly how I would handle it if the worst thing happened. And it’s so EASY for me to tell you because I am 100% confident that thing will never happen to me because of how awesomely I will prevent it. (can you sense my sarcasm?)
But here’s the thing– in spite of all the books I’ve read, the prayers I prayed, and my personal awesomeness (again with the sarcasm), I have experienced some pretty dark times. I have had to look full in the face my own ideas about what I would do if a terrible thing happened. And you know what? I didn’t do what I thought I might.
My first experience with this was our infertility diagnosis. I had wanted to be a mother my entire life (and while I always had a heart for foster care and adoption, I also had a STRONG desire to experience pregnancy). I watched my older sister walk through infertility and I remember thinking “If I can’t get pregnant I will just die.” But you know what, when you’re sitting there in the doctor’s office and he reads off the results of your expensive testing, he doesn’t then say, “So, would you like to proceed with infertility treatments, would you like to pursue adoption, or would you like to just die?” The reality is that my “I will just die” philosophy about how to handle infertility kept me from actually having to have compassion for someone dealing with infertility. I would just die, but YOU have to handle it because you are some other kind of person than me– the kind of person who wouldn’t just die. That way of thinking eliminates any empathy response.
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August 23, 2015
The party is always happening on the A Musing Maralee Facebook and Twitter pages.
Tried my first exercise class last night. Pretty sure I burned more calories laughing than exercising.
(meeting someone at exercise class)
Her: Maralee? Oh, I know your mom!
Me: Please don’t tell my mom you saw me here.
Mom Guilt- the gift that keeps on giving.
Josh (8): Mom, I have a crush on a Catholic girl. Is that okay?
Child stopped in the middle of the street to brag about how she looked both ways.
Josh (8): Can we go on a vacation this summer?
Me: We were thinking maybe next year you older kids would like to go to Washington D.C.
J: Do they have roller coasters?
Me: No, but you could see the White House and all kinds of awesome museums and national monuments and stuff.
J: I’d rather stay here with my cousins. Uncle Mark takes us to the dog park and there’s a big dirt hill you can climb.
Josh (8): How come it seems like there’s always one parent who is more soft and one parent who is more tough? Why can’t you both be soft?
Me: If we were both soft, who would be the tough one to defend you or handle things like if somebody tried to break in the house?
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