Monday, March 28, 2011

Breast is Best! Now you see them...

If someone had told my husband ten years ago--before he met me, married me, had four children with me-- that he would one day marry a woman who walked around the house half-nude with her rather large bosom hanging out for him to ogle at his will, he probably would have been thrilled.  In fact, I'm quite sure that when he did meet me he had some fantasies that involved coming home from work and finding me wearing nothing but a dressing gown (and heels, his fantasy probably involved heels) with my breasts proudly out.  I've done my best to live up to these fantasies, but it doesn't really seem to be having the effect that I'm sure he imagined it would.  

Maybe it has to do with the fact that he's not the only one seeing them.  Alot of people have seen my breasts over the last eight and a half years.  Most of my neighbors have seen them.  I'm sure all of the neighborhood boys have seen them.  My children's school friends and even their mothers (and one or two of their fathers) have seen them.  They are a common sight at my church, even at my parents' church.  Restaurant owners and restaurant goers-- yup, they've seen them.  One of my brothers informed me last summer that he'd seen more of my breasts than he had his own wife's, so you know they make a regular appearance at family gatherings as well.  A friend called me the other day, knowing I was about to do my first ever Mom's group meetup (a big first for me), and advised me to keep them covered up-- other moms don't want to see your breasts.  I followed her advice, for the first hour or so.  Then out they came.  The mailman, the cable man, the door-to-door salesmen, the Jehovah's Witnesses-- they've all seen them.  Doctors, real estate agents, receptionists, store employees-- pretty much anyone I've interacted with over the last several years has seen them.

It's not that I'm an immodest person.   I was raised with strict guidelines on clothes.  Knee-length skirts, no cleavage, keep it all covered-- and to be honest, by the time I developed my breasts at a rather late age (16) they came so suddenly that I was more embarrassed by them than eager to show them.  But somewhere down the line, well, keeping them covered became more work than it was worth it to keep them hidden.  And that line reduced a little more with each child I had.

When Kayton was born, breastfeeding was amazing, but somewhat embarrassing.  I felt like the whole world was looking each time I put her to nurse, and I was bashful about it.  If I was out to eat, I'd keep a blanket covering me, and do my best to make sure no one would hear her contented slurps and sighs as she filled her belly.  With Mason, I attempted to be equally discrete, although I often found the blanket slipping as I attempted to nurse him while trying to keep an active one year old Kayton from escaping or making a mess. And as time went on and the infant would much prefer to look at his mother while nursing then be hidden under a blanket, I stopped worrying so much about the blanket, and just worried about keeping both children quiet and well-behaved.  So if a little bit of breast showed, so be it.  I was just feeding my child- better that than listening to him scream, right?

With Kayton and Mason, however, I was working full-time, so much of my breast-feeding was done in private, and I also tried to be discreet about the pumping during the day at work. However, in the small office I worked in, well, even that became an issue.  My coworkers knew that a few times a day, I'd be retiring to my assigned pumping location- an empty office- to fill up the bottles for the next day.  They were pretty good about giving me my privacy during that time, but I did manage to flash a coworker one time when, forgetting that I was in there, he barged in to set up a private conference call, only to discover me, both breasts holding forth hooked up to my awesome double breast pump (thank you, Lana), as I relaxed in the chair reading a book.  I'm not sure who was more embarrassed- me or him- but I've never felt more like a cow than at that moment.  And maybe that moment is what started my transition to just not caring.  Or maybe it was more subtle.

By the time Kolbie was born I was wrangling two other children while attempting to keep her latched on to my nipple.  At home, it wasn't a big deal.  My children are so used to my nursing that they don't even blink an eye. Oh, with each new child there's always a little bit of "let me see where the milk comes from again", but it quickly becomes nothing.  Well, nothing to me or to them.  To the "others" who come into range... well...

One time, when Kolbie was a few months old, we went out to Applebees.  It was dinner time for all of us, and of course, Kolbie was hungry.  So I put her on my breast and proceeded to scan the menu.  The waiter, a young boy, probably 18 or 19, came to the table and started to take our order.  I make it a point to always be very nice and polite to servers, since that's how I paid for college, and I was chatting nicely with him about his recommendations when I noticed he'd started to stumble over his words a bit and his face was turning different shades of red very rapidly.  I felt sort of badly for him, assuming that he was, perhaps, new and wasn't used to being asked so many questions (seriously, how hard is it to order from an Applebees menu?), so I went into extra nice mode.  After what was, to him apparently, a painfully long time, he left to fill our orders, and I returned my attention to Kolbie-- only to then realize that she was sound asleep-- mouth turned to the side--and my prominent, recently nursed nipple pointing out and up for all the world-- specifically, my young waiter- to see.  I would say that he got a big tip, but, well, that pun is already pretty obvious.  

My level of modesty just went down hill from there.  Micah came into the world and I just gave up. Besides, there's something about writhing naked on a table in a brightly lit room surrounded by 10 to 15 people moments after giving birth to a child that strips your last semblances of modesty. With my first three births I'd managed to stay somewhat covered up and modest.  With Micah, there was so much blood and so much pain (and so much fear of death, to be honest) that I just went all out naked.  And with people running in and out of the room desperately, heck, I didn't care.  So from the first time I put her on my breast, moments after delivery, surrounded by doctors and nurses and a panicked looking husband, I didn't care who saw my breasts anymore. (or my hoo-ha, at that point, either)

And leaving the hospital didn't cure that problem.  Micah likes to nurse on a whim.  She nurses like she's smoking a joint.  Puff, puff.... pass for a few minutes... then back to puff, puff again.  This means that in order to maintain a level of modesty, I'd be hooking and unhooking my bra and arranging my shirt every three and a half minutes.  And, let's be honest, I'm too lazy for that.  So often, one or both breasts are just hanging out there waiting for her to crawl back over for another drag.  Which explains why so many people have been witness to my ample blessings from God.  (A fact that my mother never hesitates to remind me of since I spent years between the ages of 12 and 15 begging God to please give me breasts so the boys would stop calling me "Flatryn".  Well, He did.  He has a sense of humor, too. Now I pray that He would please take some of this away, since JMahl's not too keen on paying for a breast reduction.)

But while my sense of modesty may be (almost) non-existent, my sense of propriety is not.  Nor is my husband's.  And while he's used to me whipping them out on a moment's notice, regardless of who may be around, he still attempts to keep them a little under control.  For example, when we visited Alabama a few months ago- my first time meeting much of his family- he asked me to please nurse in the backroom.  And I happily did so-- for the first few minutes.  The first time his Aunt told me to just "stay right there, we're all women- we've all done it", I took her up on that offer.  And now much of my husband's extended family have seen my breasts- including the men, since the "we're all women" lasted only as long as it took for the men to come back inside, and by then I had a half-sleeping child and was loathe to relocate and risk waking her.  

I've also got various members of my family who, while used to my nursing, are not quite comfortable with it and tend to drop hints such as "she's almost a year now, so I guess you'll be weaning her soon", to which I normally reply "yup, she'll be four in no time!"  My husband says I will absolutely NOT be nursing a four year old Micah, but I tell him "my breasts, my baby, and you've never tried to wean a child who didn't want to be weaned."  Kayton and Mason weaned pretty easily, but they also were used to the bottle.  Kolbie, not quite as easy, but not hard.  But again, I worked part time throughout her infancy, so she, too, was used to taking a sippy cup in lieu of the breast.  Micah, on the other hand?  She's got no desire, at 11 months, to even try to take a bottle or a sippy cup or any thing other than my breast-- and can you blame her? I've got a friend who still occasionally nurses her two year old child.  I say more power to you!  She managed to keep that baby nursing through a full-time job.  That takes commitment.  And, let's be honest, it's easier to keep going than to stop sometimes.  

And really, why should I tackle the whole weaning thing when there doesn't seem to be a real reason to?  I don't have a job yet (I am looking!), and breast milk is so much cheaper and easier than filling a bottle/ cup with juice or cow milk or formula.  And there's something so comforting and relaxing for her and me both to just sit together and be together.  And besides, many studies say that the longer you nurse a child the healthier, happier, SMARTER**, and better socially-adjusted the baby will be.  And I'm all about healthy, happy, smarter, well-adjusted kids.  Especially when it involves little or no extra work on my part.

And while this may not be the exact fantasy my husband had in mind when he envisioned a bare-breasted woman meeting him at the door each day after work, well, it hasn't been so hard on him. They just came out with a study that said men who stare at breasts 10 minutes a day significantly decrease their risk of heart disease***.  I'm just doing my part to keep him (and you, if you're male) healthy-- and sure, we learned the very uncomfortable way that trying to make out while a baby is nursing is just very very "weird" for me, and somewhat incestuous (never doing that again), but, heck, he wanted big breasts and he got them!  

And one day these breasts will be his again-- and on display for only him.  And if he's lucky, I'll never quite regain my sense of modesty and he'll still come home to me flaunting myself shamelessly around the kitchen-- but maybe by then all four kids will be in school and there won't be a baby hanging from my nipple, and he can actually enjoy the experience. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

History and Hair

I didn't do any laundry yesterday- or any exercising either.  Dinner was on the table by 6:30, but the kitchen wasn't all that clean; and I didn't go to bed until long past my normal schedule.  But I did read a book- start to finish in one day- and sometimes, that counts as a successful day for me.
On the recommendation of a few friends of mine (and NPR), I read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.  (and no, Mom, I didn't "borrow" your copy- I got mine from the library.  

Now, I didn't think this was the greatest book ever written, and it wasn't necessarily one of those books that you just can't put down, but it was definitely a good read and I do recommend it.  What got me about this book was that it delved into a social relationship that I'd never fully considered- that of female black help and their female white bosses.  Sure, we all know about Civil Rights and racism, but this book went beyond that to show the less overt factors that influenced a black woman's ability to feel proud of herself and her position as a black woman.  And I can't say I would have liked it as much had I not constantly envisioned my children's grandparents and great-grandparents in those scenarios.  

JMahl's family is from the South.  His grandmother still lives in Memphis where my Mother-in-law was born and raised; his father is from Birmingham.  JMahl will tell me stories of visiting his relatives in the projects of Memphis, but he never came from that world himself.  His parents met in Baltimore, where they had both moved to give themselves a new start and a new life.  JMahl was raised in Columbia, Maryland, which is often considered to be one of the most affluent, educated, and diverse areas in the United States.  As a result, he is as much like me in that we don't 'really' know what it was like to be poor and black in the South-- much less in the 1960's south.  

I've asked my Mother-in-law about her life, but most of what I get in response is "I could write a book".  But she doesn't ever go into that much detail.  I do know she was one of the first black females to enroll in the University of Memphis, which should tell you something about the courage and fortitude of my Mother-in-Law.  I also know that it was so difficult on her that she chose not to stay there.  I know she was one of ten children and that her father was a truck driver who always expected the house to be spotless (JMahl doesn't fall far from that tree), and that she spent some time working in San Fransisco in the 60's.   But I don't know much else about her life prior to moving to Baltimore, completing a Masters degree, meeting her husband, giving birth to JMahl, and spending the next thirty years teaching in the Baltimore Public School System.  

It wasn't until I read "The Help" yesterday that I began to wonder if maybe her reluctance to talk to me openly about her past isn't that she doesn't want to recall it, but maybe she doesn't think that I, a white woman, can understand it.  

We like to believe that racism is dead, and yet we know that it is not.  This is a frequent discussion in my home, actually.  (Yes, discussion could be code for argument.)  When I mention the amount of racism that I believe still exists in the United States, JMahl is typically quick to argue that most places are not like the small town in which I was raised in which there was, during my childhood, a clear color line; although, when I discuss my desire to move away from Columbia (I get bored), he quickly switches positions and argues that Columbia is the best place to raise an interracial family.  And maybe both factors are true.  Maybe there is a lot of room in between for not-quite acceptance, but not quite-racist. The post-civil rights era seems to demonstrate that... but we're in 2011 now.  Can this still be true?  Or are we afraid that yes, it is still true, and maybe that's why we don't really want to talk much about it?  I went to a small all-white high school, which I'm sure influenced my belief in the color line, even if others did not see it as such, and the one black friend I had as a teenager didn't discuss the issue of race much with me either.  I don't know if we felt it was taboo to talk about it, or what.  Maybe discussing color would make it real, while ignoring the differences would make them unapparent?  

Even with my own children, I sometimes find it very difficult to discuss race with them.  Do I want to refer to my husband and my children as "black"?  That term seems so--- labeling.  And as Kayton was always quick to point out to me (and now Kolbie does the same)- "Daddy's not black, he's brown!"  Oddly enough, my light coffee colored children (except for Micah who is pretty much coffee with a gallon of milk poured in) all tend to relate more to JMahl in regards to their looks.  Whenever someone tells Kayton she looks just like me (which she does), she quickly responds with a No I don't!  I have Daddy's hair and Daddy's eyes and Daddy's skin!  I don't look like my Mom at all!  

And if this is how they see themselves now-- will this change?  Will they recognize that they don't have to choose one race over another on their census forms (like Obama did.  Yes, that bothered me, as the mother of bi-racial children.)  But really, who am I to discuss with them their race when I have no insight into what it's like to be black?  Their father may provide some "black" insight, but he also grew up in a pretty color-free zone.  So it falls on their grandparents, then, to teach them about what it was like... then... before...  

I'd like to think that our history doesn't affect this generation.  And maybe it doesn't matter at all.  Maybe their racial history is as unimportant to them as mine.  Or maybe the fact that they are both white and black will balance itself out and they will feel comfortable with the history they read in books and not feel the need to understand their personal history-- how their grandmother was treated as she attempted to desegregate a state college.  How their grandfather was treated as a Black in the Air Force.  Or maybe they'll be stuck in limbo land... like their hair.  

The hair on the heads of my children could easily become a metaphor for what it's like to be bi-racial.  Each of my kids was born with an entirely different texture, color, curl to their hair.  Kayton's is dark brown, thick and long with nice round curls- but frizzes within minutes of a bath.  Mason has coarser, darker black hair.  When we grow it out in the winter it becomes the perfect replica of a 1960's afro.. with maybe a little less bounce.  Kolbie got a headful of golden tinted light brown spirals that stick straight off her head in all directions.  No need to push her hair out of her face or raise it off her neck--it's already there-- sticking straight six inches into the air.  It defies gravity, that hair.  And Micah, soft, large, black curls.

But as to the metaphor-- many times I have asked my mother-in-law for advice on what to do with their hair.  Here am I, a white girl who hardly knows how to use a hair dryer on myself, forced to deal with four heads of unruly "biracial" hair.  And yet my mother-in-law's response is the same as mine.  "I don't know-- that's not black hair."  Not black hair, not white hair.  Stuck somewhere in limbo.  And sure, they sell products for such hair-- but it doesn't work on all kids-- or any of mine for longer than four minutes.  And do I really want to cake product after chemical on my little girls beautiful heads simply so there can be some "normalcy", controllability to their hair?  Or do I let it go free, wild- this is your hair, love it as it is-- because that's the way for them to understand that they are who they are- a mix of both, and perfect as they are.  

Maybe it's not about solving a problem, fixing their hair;  maybe it's not about educating them on what their ancestors went through to get them to where they are; and how we are the same- which implies there are ways in which we different.  Maybe it's not something that I can ever understand.  Maybe it's not something that any white person can ever understand.  Or any thing any person born after 1980 can understand.  

But I know that if my Mother-in-Law ever sits me down and says "I want to tell you how it was.  I want to tell you what I went through-- so that you will know.  So that you will be able to tell my grandchildren one day".  If that day comes I do want to try to understand to the best of my ability. Because  while it may not be a part of my history, it is a part of my children's.  And even though their hair may not be "black hair" and it may not be "white hair", it is still their hair. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

OH, what a tangled web we weave...

I weighed myself this morning, right after eating three poppyseed muffins and right before stepping into the shower to wash off the crumbs (and two other days accumulation of crumbs... sometimes you just don't have time or energy to shower).  Apparently, I've lost four pounds in the six weeks since I've started to do any form of exercise.  I guess this is progress, but I don't really measure my progress by my weight.  I'm more concerned with minimizing the muffin top that springs up over my jeans which I refuse to replace with a larger size.  But seeing the number did inspire me to try on my skinny jeans (which are size 11- long gone are the days of fitting into the size 4 Arden B's that, yes, are still in my closet).  I couldn't button the size 11, so I went back into my "other" jeans which, oddly enough, are size 8.  Got to love women's sizing.  

Just for the record, I blame my husband for all of this.  

I know all of this squeezing into jeans would not be necessary if we'd followed the advice of my doctor way back when.  And by doctor, I mean my Ob/Gyn.  When I was pregnant with Micah this doctor, who I loved, informed me that my labor and delivery and post-pregnancy weight loss would all go much smoother if I had a lot of sex while pregnant.  She also suggested this in order to speed up my going into labor.  I was well into my third trimester at this point and, dealing with some erratic pregnancy hormones, was ready to do anything to make this baby come on schedule.  Therefore, I thought this was pretty good advice.  My husband, sitting next to me in the examination room, did not.  You see, she said this moments after withdrawing her fingers from my "examination" and exclaiming "I can feel the baby's head!".  The look on JMahl's face said it all:  If she can feel the baby's head with her three inch long fingers, then you better believe I'll be able to feel the baby's head with my ________ inch long _______.

I knew at that point that I wasn't going to be having any sex for the next few months.  Granted, it's probably my own fault.  You see, I took it upon myself after Kolbie was born and JMahl noticed the dent on her head to tell him exactly why that dent was there. (Yes, it was there with the other two- and pretty much all babies the world over, but for some reason he didn't notice it until Kolbie-- maybe because it took him three babies to feel comfortable holding one?)   

And, maybe it was post-partum hormones, or my sick sense of humor, but, well, yes, you can figure out pretty easily exactly what I told him.  

Granted, it's not as though he was dying to have sex with me when I was nine months pregnant with Kolbie-- nor was I dying for that either.  Those women who say they loved sex while pregnant, well, that wasn't me.  And I know there's a big porn base that supports this as well, but again, not me.  My husband did try to convince me that the benefits of sex could be obtained via oral transmission (ahhem), but I'm not quite as gullible as he, so that idea fell through the cracks.  And for those of you who may be offended by that comment, hey, we're married, and it's not like any 9  month pregnant woman is sticking with straight missionary position.  Missionary position while 9 months pregnant is like trying to sink a putt with a yoga ball covering the hole.  But when desperate to try anything to go into labor (which pretty much all women are at 9 months), a pregnant woman will muster up what energy, imagination, and endurance she has and give it a valiant effort.  So, at least with Kolbie, I got "some loving" while pregnant, even if we had to be inventive. But between my (somewhat sick) explanation of Kolbie's fontanel and my doctor's excited discovery of the baby's dropping, well, my chances to get nine month pregnant sex were shot.  

But my joke post-Kolbie's birth completely backfired on me after Micah was born since JMahl, refusing to lay so much as a finger anywhere near where the baby's head may or may not feel it, was not pleased to find a rather large, very soft dent on top of Micah's head.  I had a lot of explaining to do.  Luckily, I had my Doctor nearby to verify that I was, in fact, telling the truth.  

But, long story short, that explains why all of this is my husband's fault.  Or maybe it's mine.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You may be right... I may be crazy.

"But it just might be a lunatic you're looking for...."  If you're anything like me, you can't say the words "I may be crazy" without breaking into song.  And no, this does not mean you are crazy.  Although it also does not mean you are not crazy.  

My husband thinks I am crazy.  Granted, he has many examples for why this is true, most of which I am not going to share with you today, although I believe I have discussed some in prior postings, but the primary reason he thinks I am crazy is that I like to make up stories in my head.  And no, not the good old bedtime stories that a mother is required to tell her children so they can stay up just a few minutes longer.  But real stories.  Manipulations on life.

Now, I think I come by this trait naturally.  It runs in my family, I do believe.  For example, as a child, the best part of Thanksgiving was all the children (16 in that generation) cramming into a bedroom, lights out, to listen to my Uncle Dan regale us with stories of Jonathon the Great.  Oh, we loved Jonathon the Great (never once, in all the stories, shortened to just "Jonathon".  It was always "Jonathon the Great went to the Tower of Stones" and "Jonathon the Great rescued the Princess" and "Jonathon the Great found the magic feather".)  There's something to be said about consistency, constant affirmation of Jonathon's greatness, and my Uncle's imagination and dedication.  I often wonder now how much he dreaded being roped into these hours long story-telling sessions and if he breathed a sigh of relief when we'd all outgrown the stories, although now we've got a whole new generation of children (19 so far, with only half of the original 16 married and producing) dying to hear Jonathon the Great stories, despite the fact that I don't believe, when eavesdropping, that this generation of stories is anywhere near as great as the ones I was raised on.  

My father is also storyteller.  In some post soon I will share with you his talks with the Elves. He is a story teller with a conscious.  A modern day Grimm brother or Hans Christian Anderson.  His stories have value, purpose, and a moral... not just entertainment, but a higher calling.  But I'll share those stories in a later post.  My father has actually written a book on storytelling within organizations; granted, I haven't actually read his dissertation (yet, Dad, yet), and he would probably define it very differently, but in my head, that's the premise.

Many people in my family write- whether drafting novels, marketing blogs, or weekly news-filled letters and emails-- and I think I've learned that the written word is often more powerful than the spoken word.  (There is also likely to be another post on "Mommy letters"-- our affectionate (?) term for the long tirades my brothers and I (and our spouses) would receive from my Mother when she was not pleased with something we had done.)  And hyperbole is definitely a hereditary trait...just ask my father, my brother's wife, or my husband... but sometimes the details of what happened are just more interesting when you embellish them.  (My husband has picked up on this and when I tell him a story he'll typically follow it with "Now tell me what really happened.")

But it is not the hyperbole or the written word that concerns my husband (except for the times I send him emails he does not want to read at work-- and I'm not talking about the risque ones).  The story telling that concerns him- well, I say "concerns", but I really mean "makes him think I'm crazy"-- are the stories that go on in my head.  The long conversations I have with people-- with strangers in the grocery store, with family members with whom I am having an "issue", with him, with my children's teachers, pediatricians, fellow gym members (typically these conversations revolve around how great I look after only seven visits to the gym and how they wish they could be as svelte, stylish, in shape as I am), therapists (should anyone in my family ever need a therapist, those conversations have already been prepared).   I constantly have a conversation ongoing in my head.  Sometimes I create these conversations out of boredom.  Sometimes they are begun because I have something I want to say and no one has asked me my opinion, so I just tell it to the person in my head who asked me (often a prestigious political A-lister who is then so impressed with my level of understanding of the issues that they offer me a job and I am catapulted to instant success; sometimes Dr. Phil or Oprah- same result of instant success, but also including instant fame and wealth).  Sometimes, I really want to propose a specific theory or brag on my children, so those conversations have to come up somehow.  And sometimes, I'm just tired of talking to children and there are no adults around, so, voila, an adult conversation!  It just so happens to be in my imagination, but at least I'm getting some mature and intelligent discussion going.

I've read articles on interviewing (heck, I've WRITTEN articles on interviewing) and they all say the same thing "prepare for your interview before hand by going over your answers to the questions the interviewer may ask you".  Sound advice.  I do do this.  But I do it even when I don't have an interview scheduled.  I just carry on a full interview in my head while doing the laundry.  And yes, they always offer me the job.  

And sometimes, I need to make some very powerful points to my husband about the things he should or should not be doing.  These conversations can get very intense, and this is where the line (in my husband's opinion) gets crossed from normal to crazy.  Because, while it does not happen often, there have been times-- maybe one or two, three at the most-- that I've sort of, somewhat, kinda forgotten whether or not the conversation was real or in my head.  Now, I know this can not be all that unusual. It can't possibly be.  It's just that my imagination is so vivid and our conversations are so intense, and since I know my husband so well, I can pretty accurately determine what he is going to say in a real conversation and, therefore, recreate it in my head.  So when he tells me "That conversation was all in your head"... sometimes I've had to stop, think, and say "oh, yeah.  You're right"; while other times I vehemently deny it... which leads to one of those fights I discussed in a prior post.  But sometimes I can just say to him, "You know what?  Maybe it was.  But it's something you WOULD have said if we had had that conversation in real life".  At which point he is forced to stop, think, and say "oh, yeah.  You're right."

So he may be right, I may be crazy (cue singing)... or maybe I'm a genius.  And if I ever doubt this, I'll just ask someone.  And if I want to get an intelligent and informative take on my own level of genius versus potential craziness, who better to ask than myself?  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Organize. That's how a Mom of four does it.

For those of you who do not already know, I am a Master Organizer. I actually have a bonafide, accredited degree to validate this point (Masters of Organizational Management).  Since I am not currently in the workforce (and even when I was no one seemed to care), I am not using this degree as it was originally intended; however, this does not mean these amazing (documented on a piece of paper with an embossed logo) skills go to waste.  Because I am a Master Organizer.  My husband likes to quote that old saying to me "A place for everything, and everything in its place."  I'm on the ball with that one, honey.  

You ask me where something goes, and I can tell you.  
You ask me where something is, and I always know right away where to look.  
I know where things belong.  
And I've got excel sheets galore:  all my logons and passwords to various accounts;  all my bill accounts with links to the payment page and a year by year spread of each months payments: each in a properly labeled file in a properly labeled folder. 
My father asked me the other day if I kept a car maintenance log-- and yes, Daddy, I do.  
I keep all my medical receipts in one manila envelope, all my tax receipts in another.
All business cards and other important phone numbers-- yup, I've got a place for them.
I have a responsibility chart for my children.  
I have a schedule of chores to be done on a daily/ weekly/ monthly basis- for me and the kids both.  Follow my chart, and you'll always keep a clean house. 
I have an allowance regimen for the children, based on their obedience and assistance around the house.   
I even stole an idea from a neighbor who keeps a weekly dinner schedule, and now I actually can shop for the items I need to create the meals I've pre-planned weekly.  
I have a chart on the wall to update each week with doctors appointments and extra-curricular events and birthday parties.  I used to just keep it on a calendar, but I've found that it's more manageable when the kids can see what they are expected to do daily.  

Other mothers often ask me (I doubt they care, but they ask me anyway) "how do you do it with four kids?"  I usually laugh and say something along the lines of "it's not as hard as you'd think" or "what's one more?"  (Someone once told me going from 2 to 3 was the hardest transition.  He only has three kids, so really, what does he know about going to four?  But he was right.  Three to four wasn't hard at all.  (So for anyone out there debating adding another...)  Or other mothers will see me balancing two kids at the library and offer to carry my books for me and I'll laugh and say "oh, this is nothing... I'm at half-effort today".  But the truth of the matter is, I can handle my four children because I'm a Master Organizer.  

And, as you can probably tell, I'm very proud of my Organizational skills.  What I need to work on is my follow-through.  My maintainability... My consistency... My utilization of these excellent organizational skills of mine.  

You ask me where something goes, and I can tell you. It just may never get there-- which is why there's typically an overflow of items to be put away "waiting to go upstairs", just hanging out on top of my tv cabinet, or on the dining room table-- or maybe having made it to the bottom stair for my next trip up. 

You ask me where something is, and I always know right away where to look.  It just may not be there... in which case, check the top of the tv cabinet, or the dining room table-- oh wait, it's probably on the stairs waiting to go up.

I know where things belong.  They just aren't always where they belong.

And I've got excel sheets galore:  but sometimes I'm just in too much of a hurry to update the file appropriately-- and sometimes that means a bill gets overpaid- which also sometimes means a bill gets skipped.  (Luckily, this doesn't happen too often.)

Yes, Daddy, I do keep a car maintenance log.  It's in the folder labeled "Cars", the file labeled "Dodge".  See?  One entry for "purchased: 8/21/2009: 11,000 miles"

I keep all my medical receipts in one manila envelope, all my tax receipts in another.  But sometimes I just stash all receipts together in my pretty wooden stationary box that I keep on my desk-- I'll sort them all out later.  All business cards and other important phone numbers-- yup, I've got a place for them-- that same pretty wooden stationary box.  I also keep my stationary in that, along with the address labels that we receive four times a week from various charities and anything else that I need to save but don't want to see cluttering my desk.

I have a responsibility chart for my children.  It still has a star for Kayton next to "Feed Tronga"-- our rabbit who died a good eight months ago.

I have a schedule of chores to be done on a daily/ weekly/ monthly basis- for me and the kids both.  Follow my chart, and you'll always keep a clean house. Don't follow the chart, and your house will look like, well, mine.  Except for the days I get really really motivated and run around like a mad woman checking things off the box until JMahl gets home and I sigh, throw myself on the couch and say "oh, honey, I'm so tired... I've been working so hard today-- and I got everything done except for folding the laundry... which I'll do tomorrow.  I PROMISE."

I even have an allowance regimen for the children, based on their obedience and assistance around the house.   Each child labeled and decorated a cup that we keep on the microwave next to a jar of coins.  The cups look pretty.  Every few months I call the children together and advise them that STARTING TODAY we are really going to be using these cups!  

As for the weekly dinner schedule--  Oh stuff it.  There's no way you can expect me to follow that chart on the day I ran around like crazy.  I'm exhausted, and the last thing I'm going to do is make lasagna when JMahl's not coming home til late and the kids prefer mac and cheese anyway!

So don't ever question my organization.  It's there.  It really is.  But the follow-through is another story.  I admit it.  And while my house is only spotless on a once-a-week basis (maybe), it's relatively clean by the time JMahl gets home from work most days.  And we seldom miss a payment or an appointment or a birthday party... so I'm not doing so badly in that area.  The area that I really hurt in is discipline.

I have come up with SO many different techniques to discipline my children-- and many of them work amazingly well-- when I use them.  My problem is, I forget.  For example, a few months ago I implemented a "One is a Warning; Two is Ten Minutes" (by ten minutes, I mean going to bed ten minutes earlier that night).  This worked amazingly well for the two older children.  It was gorgeous!  The moment a bit of a quibble broke out, all I had to say was ONE... and the kids would shush immediately.  I loved this.  The kids liked it (I wasn't yelling as much), JMahl liked it (I wasn't yelling and the kids were well-behaved).  It was a great technique.  And then, somehow, I just forgot about it.  Stopped doing it.  Don't really remember how or why-- but I do occasionally remember how well it worked and think that I need to start doing that again (like now).  Time outs on the tall green stool?  Work well for Kolbie, but am I consistent with it?  Nope-- because I forget.  It's much easier to yell.  

Rewarding kids is as important to me as discipline, but I have a tendency to waffle when it comes to using tv as a punishment or a reward.  Meaning grounding (Kayton usually) from tv if she's bad one day, then the next day telling her she can only watch tv after she's done this that and the other. Then JMahl will come home and ask has Kayton cleaned her room and, if not, why is she watching tv, and I respond with "because she's tired and I haven't reminded her to clean her room and don't punish her-- she didn't do anything wrong!" (while Kayton stares at the tv hoping we'll get distracted and forget about her- which does often happen).

Sometimes JMahl gets frustrated with me. "Consistency is key" is another of his favorite quotes (and as an only child, he is the parenting expert, of course).  But sometimes I get just plain out and out frustrated with my children and give them the "from now on, I'm not putting up with anything.  You will just get spanked!".  It's amazing that that threat still does anything, because when they next act up all I'm thinking is "do I really want to stop what I'm doing to wrestle with Mason for the next eight minutes trying to get him to stand still with his hands on the counter so I can spank him, all the while trying to not let Micah see what I'm doing (she's too young to understand) and trying to ignore Kolbie who is crying and begging 'Don't spank Mason, Mommy!  Mommies are supposed to be nice and hug, not spank!', and when ignoring her doesn't work, trying to hold Micah back with one foot while explaining to Kolbie over a screaming and hysterically begging and struggling Mason that Mommy is only doing this because she loves Mason and needs him to learn that hitting is bad." Geeze, I'm a proponent of spanking, and yet even I can see the confusion for a kid in that scenario. 

And, as mentioned, I also believe in the importance of rewarding children for good behavior-- thus the responsibility chart and associated allowance cups.  But again, I'll remember to reward them for a few days, maybe a week, and then they forget or I forget and they sit, with three our four nickels in them... waiting to be added to... until I need to give the kids milk money for lunch and empty the cups into my hand when they aren't looking.  Hey, in many countries chocolate milk is a luxury, and should, therefore, be considered a reward.

This lack of consistency is one of the things that frustrates JMahl most about my parenting techniques (or lack thereof-- hey, I never claimed to have a degree in Early Childhood Education)... but honestly, he doesn't have a lot of room to talk.  He'll get on a kick early one morning about how the kids need to make their beds before they go to school-- and then he'll forget about it (and, of course, I've forgotten about it) for about two weeks before walking into a bedroom early on a Tuesday morning and asking a confused child why they haven't made their bed-- you KNOW you're supposed to do it. Are you surprised that, no, they don't know this? 

But, you know, somehow we muddle through.  Somehow, we do have dinner on the table every night and our credit is good;  our kids wear clean clothes, take baths when it's obvious they need them, and seldom miss a sleepover.  Sure, I've had to throw together a last minute gift a few times, and we are notoriously late for church (which is why I gave a $150 donation to the church last year in order to win a "jump to the front of the childcare line for a year" pass... it expires next month.. ugh), and the windows only get washed when I'm looking for something to keep the kids busy.  But we do make it.  And my kids are pretty good kids.  No, not perfect.  And I'm sure they'd be much better (and less confused) were I to stick to a discipline/ reward plan for longer than a week... but they know right from wrong, and they are learning what is expected from them, even when I forget to tell them on a daily basis.  

But, most importantly, they get that one thing that takes no organization, no management, no remembering or consistency, that one thing that just happens twenty, thirty, forty times a day and slips out of my mouth, out of my arms, without thinking- regardless of how bad my day is or how high my dirty laundry pile is.  Regardless of how bad they've been or how many nickels are or aren't in their money cup.  They get Love. They get hugs and kisses and tucked into bed with prayers. They get congratulations for jobs well done and support for the challenges they face they next day (because, yes, Kayton, I know it's hard to like your brother sometimes. Believe me, I know.).  So if I only give them one thing consistently, thank goodness it's love.  Because if they didn't get that, they'd have no idea what to make of the rest of this mess.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Back Row Blues

To those of you who await eagerly the details of my exercise regimen, here it is:  Today, at 5:30, I got out of bed and picked up Micah one time.  Then, still holding her, I stumbled back to bed, avoiding the seven piles (one for each person and a pile of leaning towels) of folded laundry scattered haphazardly on the floor last night, when I attempted to go to bed without remembering that I'd folded the laundry on my bed, but not yet put it away.  This is my version of an obstacle course, similar to what you see in movies about boot camp.  If you don't think I can compare these two things, try it.  Keep your eyes closed, hold a 20lb weight if you don't have a baby, be groggy-- if not tired, get drunk first-- and don't knock over any of the piles, since you'll just have to refold them in the morning if you do.

Granted, by the time I got out of bed at 7:30, still holding Micah, JMahl had been up for hours, gone to the gym, showered, and got dressed for work-- all without any heed for my piles.  And Kolbie had come in to see if I was awake yet-- another pile gone.  And Mason, looking for his favorite sweater that he wears three times a week-well, yet another pile gone.  You know what I'll be doing today-- refolding laundry that I just folded yesterday!  yeah!  My favorite!  

And since I have laundry to fold and I've already done my exercise for the day, there's no need for me to go to the gym today.  Because, yes, I have been going to the gym.  Twice since I got my membership last week, so I think I'm on a bit of a roll.  And here is what I've discovered about the gym:

There are two types of people who frequent the gym:  overweight, out-of-shape people and Extremely Fit, Tanned-even-in-March, Attractive people.  I'm not sure what happens to the in-betweens.  The ones who are moderately in shape but didn't manage to maintain their tan, or the ones that are unattractive, yet fit.... I guess they quit going to the gym until they can very easily be catagorized, since there are only two categories-- something that is firmly set in stone... or set in heavy work out equipment.  Because the lines are drawn- quite literally- in the gym.  

You see, your gym may be different, but my gym has the  mandatory big windows so everyone outside can see you, and inside, there are two rows of treadmills.  One row facing the windows, the other row staring at the Extremely Fit, Tanned, Attractive behinds of the people in the row facing the windows.   Because only the truly EFTA are allowed to work out in the front row.  And I get it.  If you've got people walking past the gym, you don't want them to see the overweight, sweating and huffing after three minutes of walking on the treadmill members.  You want them to see the Extremely Fit, Tanned, Attractive members.  And there they are, in all their glory... running for 45 straight minutes with a smile on their face, casually chatting to whatever EFTA is running beside them.  They are so happy.  So beautiful.  You want to be up there with them.  But no, you are in the back row.  

And the back row is for those of us who A/ are not allowed in the front row; B/ don't want other people looking at us as we sweat and stumble; and C/ like to look at the EFTA behinds in the front row.  Now, I may fall in categories A and B of that example, but I will not admit to category C.  That is reserved for the slightly dumpy middle-aged men who work out next to me.  Because it never fails that there is, in the front row, a beautiful girl wearing a sports bra and nothing else on top-- and she fills her sports bra well.  And she's got tight bicycle shorts on-- and she fills them well too.  And she sweats very sexually.  In fact, she doesn't sweat- she glows...  And she tosses her head around as she runs in slow motion (only the front row has slow-mo treadmills) and her hair is shiny and glorious.  And she smells like vanilla and cinnamon (I'm sure)... and the men in the second row stare...  And stare... And stare... as she runs on her treadmill, bouncing in all the right places and none of the wrong. Aw heck, I'll admit it.  I even stare.  It's impossible not to!  

This girl is what occasionally causes an EFTA male to move back to the second row.  He'll enter the gym and walk to the front row, going up and down speaking to all the other Ones, do the secret handshake, clap on the back what-have-you, laugh about just how much fun it is to be at the gym again today!, and then you'll casually hear him say "I prefer the treadmill right behind you... it makes my pecs even bigger" (or something like that), and then he'll come back to the second row-- repeating his excuse so that we realize he does not belong here and that he's just here temporarily-- and he'll proceed to stare at the front row's behind for the next 30 minutes before moving on to EFTA location number 2--the free weights.  To be allowed in the free weights section you have to be Extremely Fit, Tanned, Attractive AND walk as though you've got a  medicine ball in your underwear.  Hey, maybe you do.  I'm a married woman... can't really check that, can I?  To my knowledge, no woman is allowed in the free weights area, although they are allowed to stand on the outskirts and admire their shape in the mirror as they play with little hand-weights and give the men someone to show off for-- when showing off for each other isn't enough.  

I have no desire to be allowed in the free weights section, as I have no desire to be crushed to death.  But ah.. .one day, one day I hope to walk into the gym and have the gym manager walk over to me and say "why don't you try out one of our treadmills on the front row?  I'm sure you'll find them to your liking".  And I can already feel the stares boring into my behind as I run without panting and bounce in only the right places-- as little girls heading to the ($3!) childcare while their mothers head to the back row point at me and say "Mommy!  I want to look like HER!"  Ah...One day, that EFTA will be me.  

But, until that day comes, I will do my 20 minutes of exhausted, wobbly knees and pounding heart fast-paced walking in the back row at the gym, then come home and do an equally wobbly, groggy obstacle course through my bedroom with a baby in my arms- where at least I know my husband is looking at my behind.  

(Of course, after explaining this EFTA syndrome to my husband last night, I should not have been surprised at how eagerly he got up and headed to the gym at 6am this morning. He would say that my gym membership is motivating him to renew his focus on health, but we both know how enthralled he was with my description of the super-hot, half-naked woman working out on the front row treadmill.  And while my husband is super-hot as well, I'm willing to bet he made a conscious decision to work out on the back row this morning.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Family Friendly Fighting (Optional Title: "I need a medicine ball to throw at my husband, since throwing a baby would hurt the poor child, too."

I have a confession to make.  I am not perfect.  Wait, no, I take that back.  My confession is that I married an imperfect man.  He's close, but it will be a few more years before I've perfected him.  But now, while he's still a work in progress, this causes some problems. Because his imperfections tend to conflict with my perfection, and this means we fight. 

I know, I know.  Those of you who know us are shocked right now and not sure if you want to keep on reading.  You're afraid of losing that image of us as that perfect couple that all couples aspire to be. I understand that, and I admit that it is hard to admit to this "imperfection".  You look at us and think "Wow, they are perfect!  They must never fight!".  And on the outside, we are perfect. We are exceptionally intelligent, cool and attractive-- and the fact that we are an interracial couple automatically elevates our cool and attractive rating (or so I've been told).  We drive silver cars (and only cool people drive silver cars. Boring people drive blue and green and even black cars- I made this point up.).  We have gorgeous children.  (Of course, being bi-racial, they are not only gorgeous- because I've been told repeatedly over the last eight years that all bi-racial children are gorgeous- but they look just like [fill in the name of a famous bi-racial baby or a friend or neighbor's bi-racial baby here].)  And our children are extremely intelligent-- just ask me, and I'll give you proof of this.  And my husband has a great job, and I am a stay-at-home mother for the most part, so we obviously have the ideal life.

And no, I'm not arguing any of this.  I would never want to disavow anyone of this notion, because we are, pretty much, the ideal couple and family.  But, nonetheless, we do, occasionally, fight.  And I must say that over the last few years I've discovered that fighting is not as much fun as it used to be.  Because it used to be a great deal of fun.

Back in the day (pre-kids)- fighting was awesome.  It was stimulating, exciting, and really added spark to a relationship.  Plus, to some extent, it helped work out problems that would otherwise be ignored and potentially infringe on perfection down the road. I admit, I was occasionally known to instigate fights over nothing, but, it's cliche and I hate being cliche, the making up part was always worth the fight. But now, with kids?, fighting is not as fun anymore.

For one thing, you have to whisper-fight.  And whisper-fighting sucks.  How are you supposed to get your point across about what an @$$ your husband is being in a whisper?  [Cue low lights and hushed voices]  "honey... honey... can you hear me?  okay, good.  Anyhow, what you said was really a jerk thing to say.  What?  I said, what you said was a jerk thing to say.  Did you say 'go slow'?  I am going slow... oh, you said 'I know'.  Oh.  I said 'Oh', not 'no'.  Why would I say 'no' when you said 'I know'?  What?  No, I didn't ask you if you wanted juice.  Why would I ask you if you wanted juice?  What sense does that make when we are talking about what you did wrong? I  didn't say... what?  are you kidding?  you don't make any sense.  It's orange febreeze?  What's orange febreeze?"

Plus, cursing in a whisper really defeats the purpose of cursing.  I was raised in a strict no-foul-language-allowed household.  And by foul, I mean my mouth got washed out with soap (literally) for using the word "crap" when I was about thirteen. As a result, I get a very satisfactory and perverse pleasure out of cursing when I'm mad.  And that's very hard to do when you are trying to keep the kids not only from hearing you fight, but from potentially overhearing a very bad word.  So, I tend to make a lot of weird sounds and facial movements that are meant to imply curse words without actually saying them- while whispering. Example:  "ffff....ughghghg... you, you zaaaazzhoooeeouu.  I can't believe you actually fffuuugggg-en said that. I said 'I can't believe you actually fffuugggg-en said that.  Said that!  SAID that!  I can't believe you said that!"  

Yeah, not as much fun.  Nor as much impact.  The other factor of fighting when there are kids in the house is the pretend make-up. When the kids walk in the room when you're at your angriest and you automatically have to pretend that you really love each other at that moment. We've become very good at this.  [cue child walking in the room-- normally to ask for juice]  "you fuuuugg... FUN husband, you!  You want some juice, Mason?  Okay.. here you go.  What are we doing?  Oh, we were just talking about how we want to kiss each other.  See?  MUUUAHH.  Oh, that's gross?  Well, then... just run on back out of here while we continue to kiss.  [exit child]  zaaazzzzhooeeeuuu."  

And for the record, the exciting, cliche "make up sex", well, that sort of goes by the wayside when you have kids, too.  Half the time we're just too exhausted to even think about it, and when we do think about it, the planning of it becomes a little too difficult. "I'm sorry."  "I'm sorry, too".  "I'm turned-on".  "Me, too."  "okay... what time will the kids be in bed?"  "Well, we've got to finish dinner first... what's 'turned on' mean?  Were you listening, Kayton? Oops. Turned on means... uhmmm... happy with each other?  But only when a Mommy and Daddy are happy with each other.  It doesn't apply to you and your friends.   Yes, you may have more spaghetti...  so where were we, honey?  oh yes... well, finish dinner, then family time, then pjs... I think we've got about two more hours until... Mason, get your elbow off the table... two more hours until we can, well, you know..."  Of course, by the time those two hours roll by, well, need I say more?  

Now, JMahl and I don't fight all the time, or even most of the time.  Just sometimes.  And if there's one thing he's learned by being married to me, it's when a fight is brewing. And he's a smart man- not perfect, but smart.  He can sense a fight brewing from the tone of my voice on the phone when he calls to say he's on the way home, and he's learned to diffuse that situation. These are the times he walks in the door with a bottle of wine. He has learned that I can't be angry with him for not picking up milk (especially when I drove by the grocery store four times that day and just never felt like stopping) if he does stop and pick me up a bottle of wine.  One statement that you will never hear come out of my mouth is:  "What do you mean you were too tired to stop and pick up milk?  You had enough energy to stop and pick me up a bottle of wine, didn't you?"  Yes, call me selfish if you must, but the kids *could* drink water at dinner, in a worst case scenario.  And when JMahl can't diffuse a situation (with wine), he turns into a master politician.  In fact, had my husband decided to go into politics, he could quite possibly be under consideration for the next Presidential nomination.  

He's amazing, I must say, at twisting my words, at getting me to say the one thing I swore three minutes before I would never say, and, when all else fails, going into denial mode.  "I didn't say that.  I never did that.  Nope.  Didn't happen. How much have you had to drink?" (or, if it's a morning fight "Have you had your coffee yet?")  This has a tendency to drive me insane, which is when I can no longer keep my voice to a whisper- although I still manage to keep my curse words camouflaged.  [cue screaming]  "ARE YOU FARREEGERING KIDDING ME????"   

But, even in my crazy psychotic screaming, there is still a lesson.  For these are the times (after dinner, after family time, after we've ascertained that there will be no make-up sex) that we are able to tuck our children into bed and explain to them that "Mommy and Daddy fight just like you and [sibling] fight... but we still love each other and always will.  Just like you and [sibling] love each other-- even when you're mad at each other.  And you didn't hear this just now, but when you were up here brushing your teeth, Daddy told me that he was sorry and that he loves me very much and that he was wrong and that I was right and that he is always wrong and I am always right .  Wait, you were eavesdropping and you never heard that?  Well, that's because he whispered it.  Yes. He did.  So, even if you didn't HEAR Daddy say he was sorry and that I'm always right, I want you to know that he IS sorry and that Mommy is always right."    

Because even if you shouldn't fight in front of your kids, it's going to happen.  And while it may not bring the pleasure it once did, at least you are teaching your kids a valuable lesson.  Mommy is always right.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Serious Posting: Chicken Noodle Soup For a Mother's Soul

This is a serious post, because yesterday my daughter asked me a serious question.  

Kayton, my eight year old, stayed home from school yesterday- supposedly, because she was sick, but despite the moderate temperature (does 99.3 even count as a temperature?  It wouldn't have to my mom!) and the complaints of aches and pains, I think she was more just emotional and tired and dreading a bad day at school (like she had Monday).  I've become much more lenient about missing school since becoming a stay-at-home mother.  Had I a full time job to go to, you'd better believe she'd have been in school until the school nurse called me to come get her.

So, after enforcing a nap and then forcing her to finish reading her book (I thought PollyAnna may give her some perspective on being sick), I allowed her to watch television.  But Kayton watches tv the way my husband does-- channel hopping through the commercials, always looking for something more interesting.  And in the midst of this channel hopping, she came across a talk show of some sorts with the bold words running across the bottom of the screen:  I WAS RAPED.

And, Kayton being an inquisitive child, immediately asked me the question I'd honestly never before given thought to answering for her:  "Mommy, what is rape?"

I guess I should count my blessings that she had no idea.  Unfortunately, we all know that some eight year old girls know this word only too well.  But I found myself speechless for a few seconds as my mind rapidly spiraled through all the possible answers and potential scenarios those answers could create.  My first response- "when a boy touches you when you don't want him to"-- immediately posed problems.  The last thing I want is for her to run screaming across the playground at school screaming "he raped me!" when a little boy pulls her hair-- which I'm sure would result in a trip in to talk to the Principal and the Guidance Counselor and would probably, in this county, also involve a visit from the Child Protective Services.  So I knew I had to go into a little more detail than that, but how much? 

Maybe some of you reading this have already had this conversation, or have read parenting manuals on how to deal with this, or are relying on sex education in the public school system to deal with the issue for you, but I was not so prepared. I am lucky in that I didn't have to go into the whole birds and bees issue from the beginning. Kayton is already an expert on this, being the oldest of four children.  I know, some of you may think eight is too young (or seven, when she found out), but again, I was not prepared to answer the questions as well as I thought I would be when the questions were asked, so I figured the truth was best.  Granted, I tried to lie.  

When I became pregnant with Kolbie, Kayton asked me how the baby got in my belly.  She was five.  Easy Answer.  Well, Sweetheart, when Mommy was sleeping one night, Daddy sprinkled some magic daddy juice on her belly and a baby started to grow!  Isn't that cool?   (In light of this rape conversation, maybe Mommy shouldn't have been sleeping in that example, but that's what I said.)  And that worked throughout that pregnancy.  Then I got pregnant again.  And at this point, my seven year old child looked at me and said "Mommy, that doesn't make sense- do you really expect me to believe that?"  And what could  I say?  So, I told her a long, boring story about Mommy and Daddy loving each other so much that sometimes when they are kissing Daddy and Mommy like to...  etc.  Her response was, quite accurately, "gross!".  The good news is that she was so disgusted by that notion that she has since that day sworn she will never have children.  She has occasionally shown an interest in adoption, but is very adamant that she will never be pregnant.  Perhaps that will be all the sex ed talk she needs until she's 26 and married, but I doubt it.  

But that returns us to yesterday's question.  It wasn't so much answering the question that bothered me, it was the thought processes behind the question.  I wanted to make sure she understood the gravity of the situation while also not being overcome and terrified by it.  She is only eight, after all; and I found that walking that balance between truth and security was very difficult for me to do.  So, I kept it short and sweet.  A quick recap on how mommy's and daddy's make babies, followed by a "when someone tries to do that", capped off with a "you scream, run, and tell me right away- no matter what they say- and you'll never get in trouble".  I figured this was as good a time as any to reinforce the "no one touches your private parts" conversation since, essentially, that's what rape is.  

And as I sat there, her hands in mine, watching her brain work as she processed this information-- terrified that yet another, more personal, question would spring from her lips and trying to forestall that by coming up with the age-appropriate answers to the question I knew was coming-- Do I lie?  Do I tell her?  How much truth does a child need to hear?  If I lie now, when do I tell the truth?-- I was saved.

For Kayton's eagerness for answers is just like her tv watching- flipping channels, always looking for the next interesting thing.  And the response that fell from her lips was a Godsend.  "That's gross.  Can I have some chicken noodle soup?"

<Sigh of relief>  Yes, chicken noodle soup sounds great.

I know that this was just the first of many difficult conversations I will have to have with Kayton.  And I highly doubt it will get any easier with each successive child as they ask the same questions asked by their older siblings.  And some day I know I will have to initiate the difficult conversations, if they aren't initiated for me, sitting down a teenage child (Lord willing) on her bed, and unveiling the past, the pain, the things that you pray your own child will never have to go through.  The things you cry over when you type, terrified that some day your dear child, so precious, so perfect, so unharmed will shed tears of her own over.  

So maybe I was wrong to be so honest.  Maybe I should have let the innocence and naivety remain a little bit longer. Or maybe, maybe I'm blessed that if a situation ever occurs where she needs to know, she will understand what's happening and know how to react, what to do, long before it's too late.  And, in this blessing, if that day comes, she'll be prepared, but if you ask her what happened yesterday, the only thing she'll think to tell you is that she had chicken noodle soup for lunch.