Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Common Myths About Big Families

If I had a dollar for every time that I'm told "You sure have your hands full!" or "Wow, that vehicle is like a bus!" or "Your family looks like the United Nations," or "Do you run a daycare?" when our family is out, I'd be a wealthy woman.

I get it. Big families attract attention and it isn't all that common to see a big family these days (especially one made up of kids of all different sizes and skin tones).

There also seems to be something inherently fascinating about big families. I'm not sure if it's because people just assume any mom with a bunch of kids must be stark raving mad or if it's because they're mentally trying to figure out the logistics of having "so many kids" but, from "Jon and Kate" and their crew to the Duggars and their nineteen kids, somehow everyday family life suddenly becomes interesting when you multiply the "average" number of children in a US household by three or four or more. And, it is true that something like a simple stomach bug that may visit an "average" family for a few days does feel like a major epidemic of horrific proportions when you have half a dozen vomiting children at home.

It also seems as if there are many myths and misconceptions about big families that we often hear. I've tried to address a some of them, both because I feel like many people really are intrigued and want to know and also because I'm sure that other big families get asked the same types of questions (or people in our communities have the same questions but are hesitant to ask).

Myth #1- All big families are poor.
Though we'd certainly have more money if we didn't have such a big family, most big families are big because we choose to have a bunch of children. While the bank account of every family (big and small) is different, there are plenty of big families who are financially stable. It is probably a false assumption that a family is large because the parents are unemployed, can't afford/aren't educated about birth control and spend all day procreating.

Myth #2- All big families are wealthy.
Seriously. I often get asked if we're really rich and if we're poor in the same day (by different people, of course) because we have "so many kids". The other thing that I hear repeatedly is: "Your husband must have a really good job to support all those children!" Thankfully, he does have a good job. But we both work full-time and we both use our degrees to help support our family and to allow our kids to participate in activities and events just like families with fewer children. Again, there are probably some big families who are wealthy but there are plenty of others who have to stick to a budget and whose children wear hand-me-downs and clothes bought off the sale rack.

Myth #3- The husband and wife in a big family must not believe in birth control.  
Statistically speaking, most women would probably have WAY more than four, five or six kids if they didn't believe in birth control.  Some big families may not believe in birth control but that doesn't hold true for the majority of us. Heck, even the Vatican is rethinking their stance on contraception. Most of us realize that a big family is a blessing but that, at the same time, there does come a point where it is probably unwise (physically, financially or otherwise) to continue adding more children.

Myth #4- Kids in big families don't get to spend as much time with their parents/don't have as many toys/don't get to participate in as many activities/don't have as many opportunities. Parenting any child is a conscientious choice. We choose to devote our days and nights and free time to our children, no matter how many we have. As we add more children, we just work harder. And most moms of many kids work REALLY hard to ensure that all of the children have opportunities, plenty of love, special one-on-one time and all of their needs properly met.

Myth #5- If you have a bunch of children, you must practice a certain religion.
Along with getting told that I have my hands full, I'd also be able to buy something new and fancy if I was given a dollar every time I'm asked if we're Mormon or Catholic. While I really like almost all of the LDS and Catholics that we know, we are neither. Usually I reply with "No, we're just passionate Protestants." I do get some really perplexed looks when I park our big ol' van outside of Total Wine...

Myth #6- All moms with a bunch of kids stay home (ie- don't work outside the home).
Lord knows there certainly is enough work around the house that I could justify being a full-time domestic goddess but, like many other moms of big families, I work full-time outside the home. Remember that thing above about paying for school, clothes, food and activities and not being poor? Mmm hmm.

Myth #7-  All moms of big families are really fertile.
We have six kids. One was a happy surprise. One was conceived using fertility treatment. One was conceived through IVF. Two grew in another woman's womb. And one is an exchange student. I know many other moms of big families who have also grown their families through assisted reproductive technology and various other non-traditional methods (adoption, combining households after a divorce, raising foster children, etc). If we were repeatedly getting pregnant solely because we were really fertile, there is that birth control thing mentioned above (and, believe you me, if you have a bunch of kids, no one lets you forget about it).

Myth #8- Large families rely on welfare/"the government"/other financial aid for support.
It seems so silly that I even need to mention this but often we do get asked if Uncle Sam or taxpayer money is helping support "all those kids". Absolutely not. I can't speak for every big family but I do know for certain that most large families are very self-sufficient, incredibly hard working and that many parents would get a second or third job before expecting anyone else to help cover their expenses. When we are asked this question, I always answer with an emphatic no (and then add that when they, as taxpayers, start paying for my children then I will be happy to listen to their input on our family size, if they think we have "too many" and whether or not they think we should add more kids some day).

Myth #9- All big families have conservative values.
Not true, though the majority of big families probably are conservative (due to obvious factors- religion, background, family values, etc). However, I am making it my personal mission to populate the earth with as many little open-minded, hippie, fun-loving, tree hugging liberals as possible.

Myth #10- Big families rarely leave home to go on vacation, don't eat out in restaurants and don't go to friends' houses for dinner (because it's too hard with a bunch of kids).
Though it may not be the most relaxing of meals, our kids are usually on GOOD behavior when we're out. They are used to eating in restaurants and they are good travelers. I've discovered that overall most kids from big families are adaptable and well-behaved, likely because they are used to being self-sufficient and entertaining themselves and also because most parents of lots of kids don't want a whole pack of rude little brats. Oh, and about that dinner at friends' houses thing. We LOVE having people over for dinner and we love being invited to dinner. Most big families understand that it's expensive and a lot of work to cook for so many people so most of us are more than happy to supply several of the dishes (or even bring the whole meal) when we receive a dinner invitation.

Myth #11- Kids who grow up in big families wish they had fewer siblings to "compete with".
All of our kids actually beg for another baby/for us to adopt again. Crazy, I know. Overall, I don't think any of them are too traumatized by being one of several kids in our family and having to share mom and dad.

Myth #12- After you've already parented several children, you know all the ropes and it's not as exciting or fun or "new" the fifth, sixth, seventh....time around.
This I can say with certainty. Every time I've seen that second line on a pregnancy test my heart has been filled with joy. Every time I've received a new photo of a child who we are adopting I am beside myself with excitement. With EVERY child it has been a joy to watch them grow and learn. It never gets old whether you're parenting your first child or your fifteenth. It does get slightly easier (because you know what to expect) but it never, ever gets boring or old.

There you have it. A few of the things that you wanted to know about a big family but were afraid to ask (though some people certainly aren't afraid to speak up!). Have more questions or want to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave feedback in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hey Teen, We Need to Chat (Face to Face)

Hi there teen, can you put down that tablet/phone/computer for just a minute? I know, eye roll, right?

But, really, we need to chat.

I see you sitting there on your device for countless hours, texting friends, watching videos and shows, Facebooking, Instagramming, Tweeting...what I do not see is you sitting IN the same room as your friends and having actual conversations. I don't hear the excited chattering I'd expect from a fun, social teenager.

Can these friends of yours who you spend hours "talking" to tell from your posts and messages when you are sad or upset? Or do your words and pictures convey one message and your heart says another? My child, nothing replaces actual, physical friends and face to face conversations. It does your heart and your mind good.

Will these online friends be there for you in real life when you need them? To celebrate your achievements and to help you up when you're down? I know they may feel like they're just a click and instant chat away but what happens if they don't log on today...or ever again?

I worry about your "high school experience". Are you joining clubs and activities, are you going to dances or are you and your virtual buddies too cool for all of that? Maybe some day they'll make online sports and band and theater so you don't even have to put down your iPad. I kid...sort of.

When I ask about pressing issues facing your generation you list bullying, dating, racism, drugs, cancer and suicide. How do you know if friends are suicidal if you don't look in their eyes and listen to the tone of their voices? How do you learn how to have a conversation with a member of the opposite gender (or the same gender or whatever gender you are interested in) if you don't talk face to face? How do you expect to stay healthy if you don't get up off the couch and put down the iWhatever? How do you know what is on someone's heart if you have to interpret their messages through abbreviated text chat and emoticons?

Please don't take this as another "mom lecture". It is not intended to be. I like gadgets and devices and a reason to sit and look at my social media accounts as much as anyone. But please don't lose your life because you're so busy texting that you walk into oncoming traffic (I actually saw a girl do this today...thankfully the drivers were paying attention and she didn't get hit). Please don't forgo your real, living friends for internet buddies. Please don't underestimate the importance of learning how to read the expressions on someone's face, the tone of their voice or their mannerisms as they speak. And please don't let the world pass you by while you sit inside posting photos of yourself, your meals and the spider that crawled across the floor of your bathroom.

I want you to live a life that is worthy of incredible Facebook posts and awesome Instagram photos and fun tweets. Document the incredible life that you are living, the experiences that you are having an the friendships made along the way. Live extraordinarily, adventurously and then broadcast it far and wide!

I guarantee, you will have a big audience.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Letter to My Veterinary Colleagues

To My Fellow Veterinarians,

Recently there has been some very disturbing news coverage about our profession. If you read this article and several other studies, it sounds as if our profession has a much higher suicide rate than "average", maybe even four times higher than that of other professionals. If that isn't eye-opening, I don't know what is.

No question that our jobs are challenging. All of us have worked hard and made many sacrifices to get to where we are and yet often it seems as if the money and appreciation and sleep are all in short supply. There are always more sick animals, always the wish that we could have done more, always the dream that we could practice without concern for a client's ability to pay.

Treating sick animals and appeasing clients often feels like Holden trying to wipe away all of the "fuck yous" in The Catcher in The Rye. "I went down by a different staircase, and I saw another "Fuck you" on the wall. I tried to rub it off with my hand again, but this one was scratched on, with a knife or something. It wouldn't come off. It's hopeless, anyway. If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn't rub out even half the "Fuck you" signs in the world. It's impossible."

In veterinary medicine, we can't always give a good prognosis, we can't make everyone happy and we don't always succeed. I wouldn't go as far as to say our jobs are hopeless or impossible. We do, however, need to be more conscientious about a few things:

  •  Mental illness still carries a stigma and many people are afraid to get the help they need for fear of losing clients or seeming unprofessional.  Not knowing where to go for help and not knowing the signs of depression/mental illness are also contributing factors. It's difficult to evaluate how we're feeling and to take the time we need to care for ourselves when we spend the majority of our day caring for others.  
  • Vets deal with some heavy stuff and we make life or death decisions on a daily basis. How many of us have done more euthanasias in one day than you can count on one hand? How many of us have witnessed animals who were severely abused or neglected? How many of us have had a patient die on our watch or lost a patient on the surgery table or had to settle for much less than gold standard care because client finances were limited? And these types of cases repeat themselves over and over and over.
  • We live in a society that is heavily influenced by social media. That is a double-edged sword. The same Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and Instagram photos that help build our practices can be used to tear us down. One unhappy client or one poor outcome and a veterinarian or clinic can (anonymously and often very unfairly) be trashed on social media. Many of us do worry about losing the career opportunities that we've worked so hard for and that matter so much to us because of one disgruntled client.
We also need to make some changes in how we live and practice:
  • Many veterinarians are isolated. We are married to our jobs and our practices. How many of us have skipped the gym to fit in a few extra clients at the end of the day? How many of us have spent countless holidays working and away from our family and friends? How many of us see our coworkers more than our spouse? And how many veterinarians had a serious relationship or marriage dissolve during vet school or during our career? It's hard to feel deep contentment and happiness when our hobby is work and when our social circle consists solely of those in our practice.
  • We need to choose our workplaces carefully and, as a profession, we need to make it clear that we won't tolerate ridiculously long work weeks or inflexible, rigid jobs. It has long been an unspoken creed in vet medicine that hard work and long hours signifies commitment to our profession. However, it is in no way lazy or unprofessional to desire a healthy work/life balance. Whether we have 0 kids or 12, whether we have a time-consuming hobby or not, whether we are married or single, we ALL need a healthy balance of work, family/friends and play.
  • We need to take time for ourselves. I can't count the number of times that I've planned to take a day off and then my phone rings and a sweet client is crying on the other end of the line and suddenly my day off turns into another work day. We do it because we love it. But, if we do it all the time and neglect ourselves, we'll become resentful, exhausted and our mental and physical health suffers.
  • Finally, we need to start talking about this. Recently many of my former classmates and I opened up very candidly and honestly about our experiences, our home lives, pay rates, our current mental health statuses, the challenges of our profession and where we go from here. Sadly, after these discussions with my classmates, I don't think that the numbers quoted in the studies about depression, suicide and mental illness among veterinarians are exaggerated in the least. By starting a dialogue, knowing that we aren't alone and supporting one another just as we did through vet school and just as we did in those early days in our career (hello, internship!), maybe the burden will begin to lift for someone. Maybe it will be easier to make ourselves vulnerable and to ask for help knowing that others have done and will do the same. Perhaps we can share a laugh about a story that no one outside of our profession would understand and maybe we can cry together over the losses we endure.

Coworkers and friends, please take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. You are some of the best and the brightest and, frankly, many of us would miss you if you were gone. You are not alone.

Fight on, veterinarians. And know that we're all in this together.

A Veterinarian Who Hopes to See All of My Classmates At Our Next Reunion (so we can de-stress together!)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Advice from a Mother of Five {Usually} Happy Children

I get told at least once a day "I don't know how you do it."

Well, I don't either. Probably with a little luck, a lot of prayer and some really good friends.

The other day a friend who is expecting her first child asked if I could sit down and write a list of things that I've learned as a mother, what I wish I'd known, little tidbits of wisdom that I've acquired. I laughed. Many times I still feel like such a novice at this motherhood thing. After all, I've only been a mom for 6.5 years and many days I feel utterly clueless. However, apparently having five children that are groomed, fed and relatively happy (and a foreign exchange daughter) qualifies me as some kind of expert...or just really crazy.

Sometimes I feel way too sleep-deprived to string coherent words together, not to mention to offer tidbits of wisdom but here it goes.

1.  Many of our most difficult moments are also teachable moments for our children. Our kids observe how we respond to situations of adversity and, though it's not always easy, many of our best parenting moments come from these tough situations. Car breaks down? Our kids see how resourceful we are and how we stay calm and come up with a solution. Wallet gets stolen? They watch as we call credit card companies, call the bank and life returns to normal. Friend doesn't show up for lunch as planned? Their watchful eyes and listening ears take it all in as we handle it with class. Every time a teachable moment occurs, we have two choices- make it a learning experience for our kids or simply react (a.k.a. flip out). Many, many times I've reacted, flipped out and failed to make it a teachable moment. The good news- seeing us react is also a good lesson for kids! It's okay to wig out every now and then if it's the exception and not the norm. It's good for kids to learn how to successfully handle challenging situations but it's also good for them to see us blow it and to watch us recover, apologize and move on.

2. "Me" time and "us" time is important. Don't neglect yourself or your spouse when you become a parent. The other day our kids were complaining that my husband and I scheduled a date night and that it "isn't fair" that we're going somewhere without them. I told them they're lucky that we still like each other enough to go on date nights! That being said, "me" time doesn't have to be a full day at the spa. "Us" time doesn't have to be a weekend getaway. It certainly can be! But when you're parenting in the trenches, when you have itty bitties at home, when time and money and everything else is tight, make do with what you can. A few minutes in the bath tub by yourself- sacred! An evening at home when all the kids are in bed and you can have an adult dinner- amazing! A morning walk together while a neighbor watches the kids- priceless. A few minutes at the gym while the kids are in the gym daycare- do it! Take care of yourself and take care of your spouse. It is a valuable lesson for kids to see that your needs, which will be their needs when they are adults, matter too.

3. Teach your children to become self-sufficient. You are not doing them any favors if you don't teach them to wipe their own bum, if you type their essays for them or if you complete their college applications. If it matters enough to them, they will learn to do it on their own. Let them do it and allow them to feel the satisfaction of having accomplished it themselves. If it doesn't get done (or if it doesn't get done well), let them handle the consequences associated with it. Of course there are times when mom and dad need to step in (bullying, a really hateful coach, special medical needs, etc) but it is our job as parents to give our kids the encouragement, skill set and opportunity to learn to be largely self-sufficient.

4. Self-control. Easier said than done.  Recently I engaged in a dialog with several other mothers of large families and we were discussing how self- control may be the single most important life skill that we can practice and that we can teach our children. If you have red hair and are of Irish descent like me, this one is challenging! When it's tempting to grumble, raise your voice, get a little hateful or lose your temper, rein it in. If you tend to over-spend, mention to your children that you would like to buy more but that you are setting limits on yourself. If you are overweight, be open with your children about how you are trying to monitor your food intake and get more exercise to become a healthier person. If our kids see us modeling self control and learn to practice it themselves, it's likely that they will be successful in social settings, in the classroom and as spouses, parents and employers/employees when they are adults.

5. Laugh. A lot. It's the only way to survive as a parent, especially as a parent of many kids. There are some days when you have to laugh to keep from crying. Recently we spent 10 days in a hotel with five kids and two cats. At one point a cat escaped and five panicked children chased him down the halls of the hotel for a good 10 minutes. I've caught poop in my bare hands when one of our preschoolers had to make an emergency pit stop when I'd forgotten to pack a plastic bag/wipes/extra pullup. One of our kids loudly yelled "So dark!" when they turned the lights down at Christmas Eve church service. Another kid detailed to her entire kindergarten class how a dumpster full of horse manure crushed mommy's leg, resulting in a trip to the orthopedic surgeon. One child wrote "crap" instead of "trap" on their spelling test. One child went missing in Michael's and it took several employees and a team of shoppers to help find him. Thankfully, a few weeks (and a few glasses of wine) after the aforementioned incidents, they were all pretty comical.

6. Know that this stage won't last forever. I swear that just yesterday I was up to my ears in diapers and tantrums and wondering if I'd ever get a full night's sleep with all of our toddlers and now I'm monitoring Instagram accounts and buying One Direction tickets and wondering if I'll ever get a full night's sleep with these teenagers. Whaaat? How did this happen? Just remember that both the good and the bad of every stage is temporary and won't last forever. Enjoy those sweet baby, toddler, childhood and teen moments. And, during those hard moments, remember that this too shall pass.

7. Embrace your tribe. Your mom friends are your tribe, your lifeline, your sanity. They are who "get" you. They are the ones who will give help when you don't even know you need it and long before you've asked for it. They are the ones who are right there in the trenches with you, fighting poop blowouts and teenage sneakiness and preschool backtalk. They are who will keep you sane, who will share your laughter and your tears and your pot of coffee. Isolation and keeping all of your skeletons in your closet is old school, girlfriend, so fling open that closet door and share your crazy with girlfriends who get it.

8. Remember who YOU are and tuck it in your pocket. For now you may be the lactating, bum-wiping, clothes laundering, ouchie kissing, lunch packing superhero but maybe once upon a time you were the workplace superstar or maybe you dream of going back to college when the kids are older. The time to follow your dreams might not be now but that doesn't mean it's never. Don't let go of those dreams. There is a time and a place for everything and, in the meantime, remember that motherhood is one of the most sacred jobs of all.

9. When we know better we do better. Maybe we've made some mistakes. Maybe we have regrets. That's part of the parenting process. We all make mistakes, learn and adjust. The mom we are in our 20's isn't the same as the mom we are in our 30's, 40's or 50's. Most moms aim to do the best job possible. We're all a work in progress. We need to be open to advice and constructive criticism but we also need to have grace with our fellow moms and with ourselves.

10. Prepare for the fact that our kids might not grow up to be the adults we expect. Maybe our son we thought was going to be an engineer goes to art and design school. Maybe our daughter will grow up and be attracted to women. Perhaps our kids will grow up and be professionals who have no desire to have children of their own. Maybe they'll move overseas and marry a foreigner. Just remember- our idea of happiness may not be what makes them happy. I'm pretty sure that my parents didn't expect their only child to grow up and have a half dozen children and to lead a spontaneous, unscripted life. I'm certain that my inlaws didn't expect their son to grow up and marry a foreign girl who was eight years younger. If karma exists, my husband and I have it coming!

11. If you want your children to respect authority, model it at home. If mom and dad complain about the school principal, baseball coach, our President and their boss, it shouldn't be a surprise when the kids aren't listening or respecting authority. We may not always agree with the decisions or morals of those in positions of power but, nonetheless, we need to teach children how to respectfully disagree or, if it is not their place, to stay out of it. Disagreeing does not equal a free license for rudeness.

12. There is nothing wrong with starting on the bottom and working your way up. Instead of telling kids to shoot for the stars, I tell my kids to start at the bottom and to see how far they can climb. Too often kids think that they are going to be self-made millionaires or that the only way to success is to start their own business or to be discovered by a big talent agency. This simply isn't true. I often remind our kids that I used to do laundry at the local vet clinic and that my husband volunteered in the morgue before he was accepted into medical school! There were many minimum wage paychecks, microwave dinners, late nights spent studying, college roommates and years of college in between where we were then and where we are today.

13. Give your children a moral compass. Kids thrive when they have clear, measurable rules. Whether you follow the Bible or the Torah or just have a good, practical foundation of morals, make these rules a part of daily family life. These should not be viewed as stifling and oppressive. Remember, kids crave structure and stability. Emphasize that we all have rules that we have to follow- laws of our country, rules of our workplace, rules of the swimming pool. As parents, it is our job to help our children practice following the rules set before them.

These are a few of the principles that I try to follow and a few of the lessons that I have learned as a wife and mother. I hope that you find them helpful. If not, keep doing what works and toss out whatever doesn't. There is no one size fits all mold for parenting. There is no instruction manual and no script. It's a fly by the seat of your pants, buckle up, hang on and enjoy the ride kind of process.

You know what? It's going to be fantastic. Enjoy!

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.