Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Letter to My Kids' Preschool and Elementary School Teachers

Dear Teachers,

Since you have asked what you need to know about our children and our family, I thought it might be easiest to just write a little letter with some of the pertinent information.

First and foremost, we expect our kids to be nice. We have told them that they don't have to be the smartest, the most popular or the most athletic but they darn well better be the nicest kids. If they aren't, please let us know. We'd rather find out now than when they're sixteen and in jail.

Next, let's make a deal. I'll only believe half of what the kids tell me about you if you only believe half of what they tell you about me. I'm fairly certain that our three year old never walked down a major street by his preschool alone to help catch a lost dog so you can be fairly certain that I don't practice taxidermy on dead birds that we find in our yard and that I don't go grocery shopping in a negligee or whatever else they may tell you. 

Another thing. My kids are rhymers. If you ask them what rhymes with "truck" or "mitt", be prepared. They will think of *every* word that rhymes. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Along those lines, their vocabulary may contain a few colorful words. Those awful, filthy words have never been uttered by these lips. I won't lie. They probably heard it from me. But just know that if you ever accidentally set something on fire in the classroom or drop a textbook on your toe and utter a profanity, I won't hold it against you. The "Oh no! I shouldn't have said that!" street runs both ways.

About teacher gifts. I won't give you a coffee mug or a Christmas ornament or another knick knack unless you really want one. I'd actually planned to give you a big bottle of that a bad idea? I only have five kids so, having a whole classroom full all day, I raise my glass to you. If you don't drink, I'll gladly gift you a massage or a gift card to a local bakery so that you can still indulge.

I won't do my kids' work for them. I loved preschool and elementary school but I have no plans to repeat those grades. If any of my kids ever submits a science fair project about hydrogen-fueled rocket accelerators or mapping DNA, you can be assured that my husband and I have both died and that their care has been taken over by someone else who is willing to complete their assignments for them. 

My goal when packing lunches is to provide healthy food to be consumed. If any of them ever show up with Pottery Barn-style sandwiches cut into cutesy designs with fruit cut into flower shapes and cheese carved into happy faces, either I've gone off the deep end or I'm out of town and some significantly more creative mom has assumed their care. No working momma of five kids has time for that.

I won't be high maintenance. I know you are busy and have a lot to do so I won't be all up in your grill about how my kid is doing and how their homework was graded and who plays with who on the playground. We try to teach our kids how to fight their own battles and we will only intervene if necessary. That being said, if there is a problem or concern, please call/text/email/send a note and I'm on it.

Education is our number one, tip top priority as far as how we spend our money. We have researched schools, moved across town and spent countless hours and dollars trying to find the best education for each of our children, not because we want to be part of an elite social circle and not because we have a lot of disposable income but because we feel like every dollar we spend on our kids' education is money well spent. We would get second jobs if it meant keeping our kids in the schools that, in our opinion, offer the very best education. We feel like you are the teachers who are most likely to help make that happen and that your school is the environment where are children are most likely to thrive. No pressure, though. If one of our kids grows up to be a XXX-rated movie star, we won't blame you.

We want our children to be tolerant. If a child has two dads or is raised by a single mom or has immigrated from another country or if they have a special need or if English is not their first language, we expect our children to include them and be kind to them. We're raising five children with three different biological fathers, three different citizenships (all of them dual or tri citizens), various native languages, a rainbow of skin tones and a few special needs so this family is up for any friend, any time.

Finally, I will not pretend to know more than you nor do I believe that I can do a better job than you. As long as you don't consult Dr. Google and decide that you have acquired the knowledge and skills of a veterinarian, I am happy to leave my children in your capable hands without question or doubt and go about my business of caring for sick animals. Deal?

Teachers, I've got your back. If you need something, call me. If you have concerns, please let us know. We're in this together. We appreciate all you do and we know that educating and caring for our children can sometimes feel like torture is no easy feat!

One Grateful Mom

Sunday, August 3, 2014

If You're Truly Pro-Life...

The car in front of us has a bumper sticker: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you... - God"
And it had a second bumper sticker: "They are called "illegal" aliens for a reason."

Later that night I flipped through the TV channels and saw a group of anti-immigrant protesters yelling at bus full of Mexican children, holding signs and standing outside a facility where immigrants were being detained. I wondered how many of them also had pro-life bumper stickers slapped on the back of their cars.

I saw a report about an American physician working in Liberia who had contracted the potentially deadly Ebola virus. He was being transported back to the United States, his homeland, for advanced medical care. Several people who were interviewed were upset that he was being brought back to the US for care, fearful for their own lives and for the lives of their friends and family. One person interviewed even went as far as to say that it was better for him to be left to die than transported to the US. I guess it's easy to be pro-life when it's your own life or the life of a friend or family member but maybe not so much when it's the life of someone with a highly contagious disease whom you have never met.

The fact of the matter is, if you cherish life, you need to cherish ALL life. Not just newborn life. Not just white people life. Not just American life. Not just healthy life. ALL life. Not just when it suits your particular agenda or political belief.

In the border state where I live, we have a saying: "Mi casa es su casa." It means "My home is your home." Isn't that a nicer message to send to the rest of the world about our country?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Congrats, parents. We did it!

The other day I was pondering why we have so.many.darn.graduation ceremonies these days. I mean, preschool graduation, kindergarten graduation, fifth grade graduation, eighth grade graduation, high school graduation. Really?

I totally get that graduations celebrate the closing of one chapter and the start of another. I understand that graduations celebrate milestones and achievements. But it's not like kids are going to finish kindergarten and NOT go to first grade. And, after eighth grade, there isn't much else to do besides go to high school, is there? As a mom of a soon-to-be eighth grader, I can't imagine sending her into the real world right now. Common sense? Sometimes. Good judgement? Maybe. Ready to live independently? Definitely not. So do we really need a ceremony to celebrate the fact that they need at least four more years of education?

If you spend any time on social media, all you've seen for the past few weeks and all you'll see for the next few weeks are pictures of kids' graduations. Preschool. Yep, they have a ceremony. Kindergarten. Another graduation. Fifth grade. You know, it's tough to complete elementary school. Eighth grade. Thank GOODNESS they survived those early teen years. And of course the big ones, high school and college graduations.

I looked at pictures and grumbled to myself. It seemed as if all of the "little" graduation ceremonies were spoiling it for the "big" ones. After all, there is a reason that parents don't buy their kids a brand new BMW for their sixteenth birthday. Why elementary school-age kids don't need to ride in limos on their way to the school dance. Why ninth graders don't need to have co-ed sleepovers. If kids get to experience it all and have it all when they're young, what is there to look forward to when they're older? Why grow up when you've already seen and done and have it all?

Then I watched my daughter's kindergarten graduation performance and I realized a little something. Graduation ceremonies are just as much for the parents as for the kids. After all, parenting is HARD work. And, knowing that our kids have made it, that WE have made it, that we have survived, is what keeps us going. I watched my daughter perform a choreographed dance and sing with her classmates, a confident smile on her face and it was like my own personal reward for the times I had to drag her out from behind me to learn to politely answer someone who had spoken to her. It made the fact that she'd told her classmates about the fact that (fill in the blank- we'd had a snake in our kitchen, our dog drowned in the pond, a trash can full of manure fell on and crushed my leg or any of the other hillbilly things that may or may not have actually happened to us) seem almost comical. It made me realize that, sometimes, while I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water that I'm still swimming. Still swimming and raising kids who are happy and thriving.

And if that isn't worth something, I don't know what is. Our kids' graduation ceremonies, however big or small, are food for our hungry parent souls. They are the thumbs up and slap on the back from their teachers that we need to keep going, a reassuring voice telling us that we've done alright and that we can manage to do it all over again next year.

Congrats to all of this year's graduates and an even bigger congrats to the parents of this year's grads. Survival. Success! Job well done. Our kids have done it. And so have we.

Monday, April 28, 2014

We Lazy Women

Today I saw this article. Women, take a deep breath and then read it.

Every day, I am up before the sun rises. I finish packing lunches for our five children and for my husband. I feed our horses, dogs, cats and chickens. I get dressed, hair done, makeup on and, one by one, wake the children and help them get ready for school and preschool. I double check backpacks for library books, homework assignments, water bottles and book orders. Morning commute and drop off begins and, an hour and a half later, everyone is delivered. I'm a mom. This is my job.

By 10 am, I have finished my first few appointments. Some days I work indoors but on other days I'm outside. Just today I euthanized a very large dog outside in the howling wind, holding down needles and syringes so they didn't blow away and placing the IV catheter as sand blasted my face. I've castrated pigs in the freezing cold. Sometimes the work is strenuous. I've pulled 100 lb baby calves from C section incisions and set them carefully on the ground. I've had my entire arm up a horse's backside. I've worked countless overnights, weekends and holidays. As a veterinarian and business owner, it's my job.

By late afternoon I'm wrapping up my appointments, picking up children, shuttling them to gymnastics, track, music lessons, dance classes and various other extracurricular activities. I nurse my baby for the first time since I've left him in the morning. I listen to stories about my kids' days, I help with homework and I start dinner. I give my husband a big hug as he walks through the door. I ask about his day and listen as he replies. We give baths, read bedtime stories and tuck our sweet children into bed. I tidy the house, start laundry and wash dishes. I check voice and text messages, respond to worried clients, return phone calls and often venture out again to see more sick patients as night falls.

By 11 pm I am usually home, bathed and my day is finally winding down. My husband and I spend a few quiet minutes together before the baby wakes up and needs to be nursed or before one of the kids has a bad dream. We watch the news together or look over our finances or laugh about something funny that our kids said or did. I'm tired but I know that this time together is fleeting and special. I'm a wife and it is my job.

None of this is said as a complaint or in self pity. We have a very fulfilling, blessed life and it's just the way we working women balance and coordinate our days. And I'm not unique. Millions of women spend their days and nights just like me, wearing several hats, balancing children and a career, kissing ouchies on knees and suturing wounds on patients, picking up our kids' prescriptions and calling them in for our own patients, cleaning our houses and hugging our husbands and then doing it all over again.

Exceptional? No. Extraordinary? Definitely not. It is our job. But anyone who calls women lazy and who says that we deserve less pay than men, anyone who thinks that women shy away from hard work and anyone who thinks that women choose the easy road career-wise needs to come spend a day with me or with any number of the fantastic women that I know and love.

Motherhood is a full-time, 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job (with no sick leave) and all of the businesses, offices, corporations and workplaces in our country that employ women can vouch for their contributions and value.

I haven't blogged in a while because I've been busy doing life and all of the things mentioned above. But, since apparently I am not motivated by money and do not know the value of hard work, I figured I'd take a few minutes out of my day to share about exactly how unproductive and unmotivated and useless we women really are.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Proudly New Mexican

Having just opened my own practice, I have been slowly and carefully helping design the new web site. Today I told someone that I wanted one header in the "About" section to read "Proudly New Mexican!" He seemed bewildered. Skeptical. Perplexed. Then it hit me. He isn't from here.

Like 99% of New Mexican youth, when I was in high school I swore I'd move away someday. Then, I received a too good to be true scholarship offer to run college track and participate in a neat academic program at the university here in my hometown. So I stayed. I proudly wore the Lobo uniform, I lived in those "classic" campus dorms and I went to the Frontier after late night parties (where I inevitably ran into my parents, my parents' friends, one of my former elementary school teachers or any number of other acquaintances who also happened to be out late). Things like that happen in a town like this.

I did move away eventually, to Colorado for four years and to Canada for five. Those were glorious, wonderful years and I made great friends and acquired a veterinary degree and two children while "abroad". However, like about 99% of New Mexicans, I soon found myself moving back to what so many of us called "The Land of Entrapment". Maybe entrapped but I also had a new appreciation for my home state.

My oldest daughter takes dance class at the same studio where I danced as a child, with the same teachers who still remembered me after 20-something years. My kids' pediatricians are the same doctors who took care of me as a child. Our dentist has cleaned my pearly whites since I was in high school and his son was a classmate of mine. My kids attend preschool with my college roommate's child. The daughter of one of my mom's best friends is the director of admission at our daughter's elementary school (confused yet?). And that's just the way it is here. Six degrees of separation? Nope, maybe two.

When you walk into a store and a lady old enough to be your mom or grandma calls you "Mija", you know you're in good hands. Because, while you may not actually be her hija, you might as well be because you'll find out that she knows half the people in your family if you stay long enough to chat.

If you know who Zozobra is and if you aren't alarmed by the burning of a giant, moaning puppet in Santa Fe every fall, you're truly New Mexican. If you read "Bless Me, Ultima" in school (and then read it again in Spanish class, "Bendiceme, Ultima"), you're New Mexican. If you visited the Candy Lady as a kid and curiously peeked in at the adult confections, you're definitely New Mexican.  If you fill brown paper bags with sand and a lit candle at Christmas time, there's only one place you can be. And if you know why people call it the "505" (or, even better, if you have those numbers tattooed on you), you're probably New Mexican.

When someone owes you money and promises to come back the following day to pay and you know that they will, likely with a batch of homemade biscochitos in hand as interest, you're New Mexican. And when you know that if, by chance, they don't come back to pay that you'll run into them or your parents will know their parents, you're in the Land of Enchantment. When you've grown up hearing the legend of La Llorona and when you're a tiny bit scared of the ditches because of it, you're a born and raised New Mexican. And, of course, all of you New Mexicans know that if someone asks "Red or green?" they're not enquiring about which of the Christmas colors you prefer but rather what kind of chile you want on your food.

If you're not from here but if you've made it your home, we'll gladly bestow upon you honorary New Mexican status as long as you don't slag our state and as long as you make positive contributions during your stay.
There's no denying it. I'm proudly, shamelessly New Mexican. And if none of that made a word of sense to you, come visit. We'll show you a good time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Featuring Our Fam

I just realized that, with everything going on over here, I haven't shared our most recent family photos taken by the lovely Jayme at Jayme Charissa Photography. What better day to share them than on the holiday celebrating one of my heroes?
“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We're so thankful that your vision is now a reality, Dr. King!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

BFF Parenting

There's something I've noticed. I see it at play groups when parents defend their child's behavior instead of correcting it. I've heard it in conversations with other mothers who fear that their teenagers will be upset with them if they discipline. It's evident at sports practices where parents line up to talk to the coach, making the case for why their child should get more time on the field or move up a level or be one of the starters.

I've started to term this phenomenon BFF (a term my girls use, standing for "Best Friends Forever") Parenting. Parents who want, above all else, for their kids to like them. Parents who fear angering or upsetting their child. Parents who put their child's wants, demands and short-term feelings ahead of lifelong lessons and morals.

Recently this blog post has been shared around the motherhood circles. It's well-written and thought provoking and, after reading it, I sat and gathered my thoughts for a long time. I agree wholeheartedly that a child not old enough to know better should never be shamed. Ridiculing a preschooler who poops in the bathtub or mocking a child who spills their drink is just not okay. However, when it comes to older children and more serious offenses, who am I to judge another parent? Who am I to decide if it's more appropriate to quietly and privately ground a teenager who snuck out or to tell her friends and their parents that she was disobedient and that she will be unavailable for a few weeks? Who am I to know and judge if it's better to try and "shame" a child into learning from their poor judgement or to risk even more severe, long-lasting consequences (like jail) if that child is not held accountable in a big, memorable way?

I do know this- abusing a child as a form of discipline is never, ever okay. Regardless of how you feel about spanking, I think most social workers and law enforcement and other professionals would agree that anything more than a swat on the bottom could be crossing the line.

I also know this. In the age of social media, we do have to be thoughtful about what we post and the long-term effects of the photographs and messages that we share with the world. Post a public picture of your son wearing a sign that he smoked pot and got caught? How would you feel if a college admission committee or prospective employer found that photo some day and denied admission or didn't offer a job as a result? Asking for parenting advice on a private Facebook page among a group of friends or sharing a photo that is unlikely to effect your child's long-term self esteem, college or job future (such as fighting siblings stuffed in the "get along shirt") is one thing. Sharing something that could be considered a criminal offense or a lifelong scarlet letter is a different story.

But when it comes to the discipline "method" that works best for each family and each child, there is no one size fits all protocol. There is no rulebook. If there's anything I've learned as a mother of five children, it's that you have to learn and modify as you go. And you have to try and figure out what makes your child tick and what makes them take notice. Several of my children are people pleasers. They would be horrified if I told them that I was disappointed in them and they would be devastated if their teachers or friends or other adults knew their transgressions. And then we have one child who has made us totally re-think our parenting philosophy, who has made us realize that we better step up and parent firmly and definitively NOW or that we're likely to regret it later. For this particular child, small consequences and warnings don't work. This child helps me understand why some parents might feel the need to stand their child on a street corner with a sign around their neck. Sometimes that message that we, the parents, as well as many others in society find a particular behavior unacceptable is the only way to make it hit home.

Last week one of our children who was untruthful had to move a small pile of bricks from one side of our yard to another. You know what? After a few hours of brick-moving, the truth came pouring out. I know that some parents, probably even some of our friends, would disagree with our parenting methods. However, I think it's a shame when we are so concerned about being BFFs with our children and about their immediate feelings and about being politically correct that we miss a learning opportunity, when we fail to teach them that there are and always will be consequences for poor behavior and bad attitudes. I'll even argue that we're doing our kids an injustice by fighting their battles for them, by trying to catch them every time they fall and by trying to soften the blow when consequences occur.

My kids might not like me at this very moment (actually I think they do, though, if the kindergarten notes scrawled with "I love you mommy", the piles of preschool artwork, the jewelry handmade by our teen and the baby who runs up with open arms and a toothy smile as soon as I walk in the door serve as any kind of indication) but I'm not here to be "liked" by my kids. I'm not here to be their pal. I have plenty of girlfriends my own age. My job is to guide them, to teach them, to show them and to do it all over again until they are able to make responsible decisions on their own. I am not here to keep them from falling- I am here to help dust them off and to encourage them to get up and try again when they do fall. I'm not here to fight their battles for them. I'm here to help equip them with the skills and tools to do it on their own. And I'm not in a popularity contest. I'm here to help shape the character of my children and to help instill values that will serve them the rest of their lives. If my own relationship with my mother serves as any indication, some day they'll be grateful. And maybe, someday when they're adults, we'll end up being BFFs.