Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Caught Stereotyping

This is our version of the stick people seen
on the rear windshields of cars.

I’m at the mall with my daughters, Kelly and Mallory. We’re in Justice, a store that is very popular with girls that are my daughter’s ages – eleven and nine.

After some ooos and ahhhs, they choose a few items to try on. It’s a weekday, which means there is homework waiting and dinner to be figured out and eaten, but I’m feeling pretty good, so I’m giving them about twenty minutes in the store, instead of my usual ten. (See my post titled, “Was I Born Without the Shopping Gene?” May 29, 2009)

Kelly gets earrings and a shirt, and Mallory gets a knitted shirt that will be good for cooler weather. We go to the register desk with the clothes and our forty percent off coupon, where we get in line behind a woman with several children. (My definition for several children is at least four, because it’s one more than what I have.)

The oldest child could be the boy who appears to be about eleven; or maybe it’s the tallest girl. And then there are all these other little people. Two are standing beside the stroller, one is in the stroller, and the mom is carrying one that looks about eight months old. The picture is completed with mounds of merchandise bags on top of the stroller near the handle.

I look around the store and do not see another adult, so I figure they are all hers. She is young - thirtyish, maybe older - average height, and thin. My eyes take a quick peek at her mid-section - flat. So now I’m impressed and decide that she must be breastfeeding and that the others must have been breastfed too, because that’s supposed to help the uterus return to pre-pregnancy size and to also burn extra calories.

My initial assessment is done. It’s time to open my mouth to start a conversation.

“I was just telling my kids…”

The mom finishes my sentence and says, “…that I need a lot of hands.”

I continued with a friendly smile, “Well I guess you do, but I was thinking of how you all remind me of the Smith family. I almost thought you were them. They have one boy too, but they have six girls. My kids had piano lessons at the same studio as them.”

The boy proudly says, “Oh, they have one more than we do. We only have six kids.”

I stop talking so that she can finish her purchase, while thinking, “That’s a lot of kids to be shopping in Justice; not that it’s a very expensive store, but you can get better deals at the larger discount stores. (Stereotype # 1 – Can she afford brand name clothes?)

“She’s probably a stay-at-home mom.” (Stereotype # 2 – With six young kids, how can she be employed?)

“I’ll bet they’re home-schooled.” (Stereotype # 3 – Young woman, six well mannered kids – gotta be home-schooled kids!)

“I wonder if she makes and bakes bread.” (Stereotype # 4 – I know five or six home-schooling moms that make bread.)

She’s now ready to leave, but I quickly get in a question, “Do you home school?”

With a slight smile, she answers, “No, but everybody asks me that.”

I smile and she walks away so that I can buy my things; or, is it because she wants to hurry and get away from me before the barrage of questions come.

“Maybe I should not have asked her that. Hmmmm.”

The whole incident was harmless, but it made me realize that I was stereotyping. I frequently talk to people when I’m waiting in a line, but next time I’ll….....no, I’ll probably be a little too nosey again!

What do you think when you see a mom with “several” kids? Be honest. :)

Ps. I think there are many women and men that are born to have large families, and in that case, why not!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


The sound of rain splattering on my roof and driveway, and hitting against my window, was a pleasant addition to my sleep during the night and early hours of morning. It was like rhythmic music – a soundtrack to my dreams.

When I woke up, I looked out my bedroom window and felt gratitude. Attracted to the beauty of the rain, I found myself outside trying to get a picture that would capture its essence.

Usually I prefer the rain to happen in late evening or at night, but today when I saw it, I thought of grass, trees, flowers, food – everything that grows; how the rain is replenishing it all.

I thought of the four seasons in Virginia, how the temperature ranges from twenty degrees to one hundred degrees; how, just as boredom with a season creeps in, it changes. (Still LOOOVE the sun, though!)

I thought of how people retreat (if they can) when it rains, and that song, “Rainy Days and Mondays” [always get me down]. Sometimes I give into that too, but not today. Just got my umbrella, raincoat, and camera, walked barefooted down the driveway to the curb, breathed in the crisp morning air, snapped a few pictures, picked up the newspaper, and came back in.

It was refreshing, and it started my day off on a good note.

How does rain make you feel?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Field Hockey Family

I'm a field hockey mom! Hayley, my thirteen year old eighth grader, made the high school JV team.

Seemingly out of the blue, she developed an interest in the sport at the end of seventh grade. Paperwork in hand, she announced “her” plans for “our” summer - a week of field hockey camp in July and tryouts in August. And then, making the team lead right into Monday thru Friday practices for the rest of August.

After a few bumps in the road, we made adjustments to accommodate her new schedule. Now, we proudly watch her play this sport that I played a week or two in sixth grade, inside my elementary school’s gymnasium, in the cold state of Michigan – which means I know little about field hockey. But after attending four games and listening to veteran moms and dads cheer and coach from the sidelines, my husband and I are beginning to learn some of the dos and don’ts.

I’m seeing another dimension of my daughter. She’s a real team player and team bonding sorta girl. Her personality is broadening. I like seeing her commitment, which for me translates into being an adult who is a responsible employee or entrepreneur, i.e. working successfully and happily, and “living on her own!”

How have sports been a benefit to your child/children and family?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Vaginal vs. C-section

“I’m glad I could experience a vaginal birth,” said Mary, after I told her my three girls were born by Caesarean section.

Mary and I were with three other women. Another conversation was going on, causing her comment to be unnoticed; plus another distraction prevented me from responding. We were heading to our different cars, so that was the end of that.

Or was it?

As I drove off, I reflected on what she said, taking me back to the days when my kids were infants and toddlers. The means by which our kids were born was major! The other moms and I discussed epidurals, home births, natural births, pushing, labor time, etc. The Academy Award of childbirth always went to the mom that had a home birth, all natural of course, with no tearing, and delivery within a few hours of the first labor pains. The runner-ups were those that had the same experience, but in a hospital. “Wow, Whada Woman!” the audience would rave.

The sympathy award, complete with “aawwww…” went to the mom who had a C-section. No questions were asked. It was assumed that it was a horrible experience. I always felt the need to tell everyone that I did not need drugs afterwards and that I was up walking within six hours or so after the birth. That was the way I competed.

It’s so nice to be beyond that!

I still like hearing childbirth stories, but now my focus is so much on being happy that I don’t have to have another baby! I don’t need a “vaginal experience” and I don’t “need a boy.” Too late anyway. ha ha

To mothers of young children who still find yourselves having the birth conversation often, that’s part of motherhood. My seventy-six year old mother still remembers and talks about what she went through to have my brother and me.

Whether your baby just popped out effortlessly, or caused you to not want to sit for days, or came via an incision in your uterus and belly, or was handed to you with adoption papers…trust me, you get over it if he or she didn't come to you the way you planned. You’re blessed to have her, him, or them.

I appreciate all birth/adoption stories: good, difficult, or in between. Tell me about yours.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Another mid-life adventure I’m having is learning how to play tennis. My first “real” lesson was a year ago and I love it!

My friend Robin asked me if I’d be interested in taking the lessons while the kids were in school during the 2008-2009 school year. Without hesitation, I hopped on board. She’s the friend that also assembled a group of moms for the horseback riding lessons. When our friends and relatives express surprise at our new interests, we laugh and say that we’re having our mid-life crisis together. “Next…golf!”

Monday was my first lesson of this 8-week session. I headed out appearing legitimate, donned in my new tennis skirt. Seven more girls (some stay-at-home moms; others employed part time or flex-time) met to practice and play together. Under the guidance of our teacher, we tried to get our skills back to where we left off in the spring. I had wanted to play during the summer so that I would have come back noticeably better, but opportunities were few. I hope to make up for it this fall by playing in between lessons and by using the Tennis Tutor that is owned by the neighborhood association.

What I’m learning from doing these sports is that the body is capable of doing more than we think it can do. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but if you didn’t catch it, I’m fifty-one. “Aghhhhh!!!”

To those of you who have gotten a little sedentary, you don’t need to jump on a horse; just try a walk to the corner and back. Or, pull out your bike and ride to the corner and back. Play ping pong. Fly a kite. My seventy-six year old mother has a Wii.

To those of you who thrive on physical activity – great! I’m working on being like you. Recently, I spoke to a neighbor as he walked his dog, and he told me he is eighty-eight years old. Let’s all stay in the game as he obviously has.

Any tennis players out there?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Day Off

Do you ever go to bed with a list of things to do the next day in anticipation of productivity, but instead you wake up with a, “I’ve hit the wall,” feeling?” That’s what’s happening to me today.

While my kids are at school, I HAD planned to:
- walk a couple of miles
- go to a saddlery store to buy a helmet and half chaps
- go to a blood drive and make a donation
- do a load or two of laundry
- straighten up something in the house
- pay a couple of bills

What I WILL do is:
- Have a day off!
(by the way, which will end at 2:45 when Mallory, child #3, gets home from school.

I’m rarely lethargic, but this morning, I’m feeling it. After hitting the snooze twice, I sat up in bed, then felt the stiffness in my body as my feet hit the floor. Everything’s been in slow motion since.

Three contributing factors:
- It’s dreary, with off and on rain
- I haven’t exercised in a few days
- It is only the third day of school and I’m adjusting to
the new routine

I’m going now - to have a cup of tea. Then I’ll get dressed - only because I have to take Layla (my dog) for a walk to the corner and back. By that time, I’ll be more alert, and hopefully, I’ll allow myself a true day off.

Gotta run…2:45 will be here soon!

How often do you "hit the wall" and how do you recover?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Family Time at the Football Game

University of Virginia
Cavalier Mascot

I was presented with a big decision: go to the first UVA football game of the season with my husband and three girls, or stay home alone (well, not totally alone; Layla the dog would be with me). You may wonder, “Why was that such a big decision?”

If you’ve followed this blog, you will recall my post about losing thirty minutes of solitude (July 13, 2009). Yes, I’m a girl who likes to be alone sometimes – in my house; not out on an errand! As a stay-at-home mom, that scenario does not happen often during the summer. When my husband told me he was taking the girls to the game, I had immediate visions of uninterrupted reading on the porch, a meal of my choice without anyone ogling it (except the dog), and completion of a household project.

But then…I was struck with GUILT!

Only a day or two before, I had just lectured my daughters about our lack of “family time,” partly because of circumstances beyond our control this summer, but also because we haven’t planned much, and that we need to get better at it.

And then, what happens? We get an opportunity for all of us to do something together. It took a couple of days for the words, “I’ll go” to come out of my mouth, but it did. My husband was pleasantly surprised at my decision and the girls were happy.

The five of us, and Aunt Carla and Uncle Adam, loaded into the SUV and off we went. I don’t see our friends much, so I found it enjoyable to socialize with them, too.

UVA lost the game, but it was a fun outing. The weather was great and the pre-game show was entertaining. Paratroopers floated through the sky above the stadium where they eventually landed. Soon after, the Cavalier mascot galloped onto the stadium on his horse. No big deal to the faithful who come to all the games, but a thrill for me as I have recently become a fan of horses. (See my post dated August 9, 2009.)

We stuffed our faces with concession food, as the team sunk further and further into defeat. I varied my interests by watching the sky turn into a cloudy midnight blue, the color of a Crayola crayon. It was beautiful.

Family time that includes everyone can be challenging for some households, so think twice before passing up an opportunity.

How does your family rate at spending quality time together?