31 August 2007

Thoughts on so-called "Supermoms"

I just read a blog from one of Jen's September Sunbeams group - Emily (hi! we've never met...) - and it got me to thinking about the misperception so many have today about that seemingly allusive title. What IS a "supermom"? Is it Martha Stewart on steroids? Is it the hair-in-place, slim, financially successful wife and mommy who seems to always be about 10 paces ahead of everyone else?

It is so easy to be fooled into thinking we should be something we are not. I'm all for self-improvement, but what exactly are we trying to improve? Our parenting skills or our image (how others perceive us)? I challenge you to examine WHY you do things and how it stacks up against the so-called "supermoms" of the world.

From the day our litt'l darlin's are born, basically, we are working to let them go. This is a hard truth. But think about it - the reality is we are given 18 years (if we are lucky) to supply a child (hopefully with the help and support of a loving husband) with everything he or she needs to function as a responsible, conscientious member of the human race. This entails doing seemingly UN-supermom-like things such as
  1. saying "NO" when necessary. Children actually feel more secure and confident within themselves and their families when they know there are limits. The same limits that sometimes spoils their fun are the same limits that also keep the family unit safe, couples committed, etc.
  2. knowing that stretch marks are our badge of honor.
  3. recognizing that giving your children "the best" of everything is counter-productive. Always insisting on "the best" creates unrealistic expectations of what real life will be like and creates the "me first" monster. You want to DO your best, but when it comes to things or experiences, "the best" can do more harm than good
  4. recognizing that how your child perceives you is way more important than how your friends perceive you. Your children watch you, they mimic you - your actions either build character or tear it down so choose wisely. If you want to be remembered as the mom who was beautiful, slim and popular, you'll miss the boat on things like instilling personal self-worth, self-control, fiscal responsibility, integrity, character.
  5. other than sex, if you don't want them to do it, you shouldn't be doing it either. The "do as I say, not as I do" mentality is called "Congress", not "successful family life". :)
  6. realizing that life is not perfect and your children shouldn't think and then expect it to be perfect. Life is dirty, life is messy - if you are truly LIVING! Things break, hair turns grey, paunches develop, we get tired, we run out of money, we run out of patience - don't whitewash reality because you're just setting your kids up for a fall. Then when reality hits them in the face, they respond with dangerous behaviors
  7. accepting that we have flaws, our children have flaws, our husbands have flaws and our marriages have flaws. We have to get over it and learn to work with what we have and build on that.
  8. giving your children opportunities for growth without you, hard as it is. We want our children to need us, to love us, to want to be with us. But you can overdo that to the point where you will be mommy for all their life and they can't make their own decisions or take actions without your approval. They need to become independent.
  9. letting your kids make mistakes. Now I'm not talking about running naked in the streets or not using a helmet. I'm talking about things like letting them run out of money and not bailing them out - letting them hurt for their actions, let them know there are consequences for their decisions, be they good or bad
  10. recognizing that "keeping up with the Jones'" could also mean putting your children in the same detox center. Keep up with your ideals and your spiritual goals, not the neighbors
Well, I didn't intend for this to become a sermon on how to raise kids, but my blood boils when I see women beat themselves up because they think they aren't a "super-mom". Your family is a garden - it has to be tended, nurtured, pruned - and sometimes some manure has to be thrown on to make the growth better. But when harvest time comes, then you can look back and say, "I did pretty good - I have responsible adult children" and you will truly know what it is to be a super-mom in the best sense of the word.

And what you need from your friends is good advice, commiseration, empathy, encouragement - not envy. So go out there and be REAL super-moms!

Dashing gentlemen

Jennifer and I braved the dreaded 'photo experience' which means we took the boys to a local photographer, someone who claims to be an expert in children's photography (the chain will remain unnamed...but you all know who it is) but then proceeds to take 20 minutes to check you in, then make you wait 40 minutes past your appointment time (with CHILDREN???) and then take you back with youngsters who a) didn't want to come in the first place, b) are fractious by this time, c) are not happy about having to "smile naturally" for a photo they didn't want in the first place, d) don't believe the bribes the photographer offers since they are never delivered once the promised "happy look" is produced...

After all this turmoil, we wait, and we wait, and we wait...to see 95% of the photos taken look like either mug shots or standard head poses from any public school (which is okay except how many 3 month old babies do you see in Kindergarten? Just a little weird!).

The result of this - two cute photos which I'll share with you - I think these were the only good photos out of the entire 2 hour ordeal and Jennifer and I once again wondered, "WHY did we do this??" Because hope springs eternal...and they are so very cute...

30 August 2007

Meerkat Manor and other realities of life

Have any of you watched that show "Meerkat Manor"? I got hooked on it when we lived in London. It's a 9 year study by Cambridge University of a family of meerkats in the Kalahari desert. It's very much a soap opera but not fiction. The little guys are tagged, filmed, followed day and night. Their houses are even under the eye of the camera. It's "Little Brother" instead of "Big Brother". And it's addictive. But what strikes me the most about it is how similar it is to our own human culture sometimes. It's "Roseanne" in the meerkat vernacular. Matriarchal based families, wayward daughters who get kicked out for "breeding without permission", roving teenage boys "infiltrating" neighboring family females, gang warfare, family politics, fierce loyalties and betrayals, inept babysitting and the occasional natural disaster that sends them all either running for their lives or organizing to confront the danger as one. And all with players who are no more than perhaps a foot tall! If you've never watched it, look it up and TiVo it - you might get hooked too!

English - what a language!

The other day, Ben was REALLY missing his Papa Mike. I've been up in Keller a LOT this past year and especially this summer. Mike has been able to come up fairly frequently but obviously not as much as myself. And as most of you know, our main residence is in Katy - the "Chalet" Tim calls it. Beautiful two-story custom home wth an English influence, on the golf course, lots of space. The house in Keller is more modest, a "pied a terre" if you will. But it's the house Ben gets to visit the most.

We decided that anyone who does NOT know our situation has major reservations about the character of his Papa Mike when Ben announced, in public, "I want to go visit Papa in the big house!" Poor Papa. We'll visit you soon...

29 August 2007


After 25 years, I'm a "mother" again. No, I didn't keep this "immaculate conception" a secret from you all, I just am the lucky gran who gets to keep Mirai while Jenjer returns to work - for the first six weeks anyway. And believe me, it's not quite as easy as it was when I was 25 (when Chris was born) physically. Don't know why exactly - could it be the excess weight? The "being 50"? The bad back? The "being out of the work force" mentality? Having said that, it's like riding a bike - you may not go as fast as you used to, but you do never forget how to do it! And Miss Mirai has been a JOY! It's been good to have a baby in my arms again. I will have a rough time when I return to Katy in late September - I'll go around the house rocking my laundry, trying to change the diapers on my bears, wondering if I've left her in the car! I'll even be looking for the baby when I think I hear crying - it does come back to you so quickly once you get back into it. I will say that the "baby stuff" available today sure beats the pants off what we had (or could afford) back in the early '80s! There is more entertainment in one of those music gyms than we used to get on sitcoms in the '80s. While we had this huge cassette deck with speakers that also doubled up as end tables for music, they have wonderful docs for iPods that go on the crib railing! I do find it humorous that when we had babies, a good stereo system cost $2000-3000 and the baby cost $400. Now the stereo is about $400 but the baby costs $2000-3000! So, I guess it all is about the same except WE didn't have insurance to pay for the stereo.

I bought a "HotSling" so I can carry Mirai about. I was relieved to find out that a HotSling wasn't a surgical procedure for incontinence, mind you. And it was much cheaper as well. And it's GREAT fun to walk about in public with her and have people wonder, "Is that her granddaughter? Did she get 'caught' during 'the change'??" I'm so tempted to say I'm a surrogate for a poor couple who couldn't conceive and watch the expression on their face. But I must behave myself - well, to a certain extent.

One BIG advantage, I can tell everyone how hard it's been to lose my baby weight...which is true but who needs to know that was 25 years ago??

Meet the kids (5)

Last, but certainly not least, is little Mirai, grand number 5. She decided to make her arrival on July 2nd, her DUE DATE! (Chris has a PUNCTUAL child??) Ah, another girl - someone to get into kahoots with Kennedy, someone for Gramma to take for makeovers (along with Kennedy), someone to inherit jewelry (again, along with Kennedy!). Not that I favor the girls - I love my boys, I truly do! But you just can't do some things with boys like go to the Clinique counter and get makeovers or shop for dresses with matching shoes (at least I HOPE I never do that with the boys...sheesh!) Miss Mirai (pronounced "meer eye" - Japanese for "future") is a petite bundle of unbridled smiles and glee. She is the progeny of Chris and Jenjer and enjoys "only child" status for the time being. Relish it, my dear - it passes all too soon. Actually, being the 2nd child in my family, how would I know what being an only child was like? Oh well, that's another blog, another day...

Meet the kids (4)

Introducing Mr. Luke (we just call him Luke...no standing on formality with me you know) the 4th grand. He was born on May 26th -- a day late but NOT a dollar short! He also has been known to be called "the linebacker" due to his off the charts length and weight (that must be some milk, mama!) At 3 months old, he is over 15 lbs, 26 inches. (I'm thinking of entering him into the Fair...just kidding!) He looks a lot like Jennifer in many ways (ruining my previous "we do the work, dads get the credit" hypothesis) especially when he pouts! He also is fascinated by ceiling fans but has expanded his interests to door knobs - any shape and size, any color but really seems to enjoy oil rubbed bronze ones. PAIRS of knobs really sets off his excitement quotient! Who needs TV when you have babies around??

Meet the kids (3)

Meet Lleyton - Kennedy's little brother (who isn't so little - he was over 8 lbs at birth!). Here he is back in July when they all came to visit us at Brown Gables (our house in Keller) for the first time. He is definitely Tim's kid (NOT that there was EVER any question - don't get me wrong - it's just that Kennedy looked so much like Tim that I thought we were being unfair to the Iley/Boyea clans). We mothers do all the work and the guys get the credit, right? :) Out of our three, only Tim resembled me in any way...case in point. Lleyton has a crush on a ceiling fan - you'll have to check out Megan's blog to understand his fixation with "Wendy". Lleyton was born April 30th, third grand of our clan.

Meet the kids (2)...

This is one of my fav photos of Ben. It's a year old - now he's older, wiser and bigger - but still cute as can be! He is very verbal (hey, that's an asset in our family if you want to get a word in edgewise) and loves books. He is my Butter Bean, the first of the grands to arrive on the scene, just as his mother was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Ben belongs to Jen and Jason. Sibling to baby Luke. Will be either an architect, construction company owner or professor. Is there a career like "Professional Motorized Rider Outside Wal-Mart"? He could do that too...seriously though, Ben is quite the intellectual and you'd better be careful what you say to him because it WILL be repeated, discussed, dissected - you get the picture. His babyhood is slipping away and Jen and I mourn it while rejoicing at his newfound maturities. Life is full of contridictions.

Meet the kids...

One of my favorite photos - this is Kennedy, grand number 2. She is pure joy and energy. Progeny of Tim and Megan. Sibling to Lleyton. Will be available for dating in approximately 16 years, following background check, $500k bond, full application and chaperone. She's our "little mother" who keeps Ben and everyone else in line - makes sure they eat, drink, come when called, etc. Kennedy loves her Disney fairies, her butterfly flash cards, her little brother! One of our greatest joys is her exhuberant greeting when we first arrive in Pflugerville or she comes to see us in Katy or Keller. At the top of her lungs she'll shout (while running to us), "Gramma Cheri!! Papa Mike!!!!" Ah, be still my beating heart...

You have to begin somewhere!

First blog - kind of like the first essay you have to write in school. Blank "paper" and an accompanying blank mind. But I guess a mind is a terrible thing to waste; or is it "a waist is a terrible thing to mind"? Oh well, both work for me!

I've been in Keller seemingly forever. We finished the build on the second home and closed mid-June. I've basically been here ever since. I run back to Katy to "resume our regularly scheduled programming" (which means I obligated myself to something ages ago and fully intend to honor those obligations). This has been a summer NOT to miss for me! First of all, three...count 'em...THREE grandchildren were born between April 30th and July 2nd this year! If we were a Fortune 500 company, our quarterly report would report record growth. :)

Secondly, we built our vacation home in Keller. "In KELLER?" I hear you say! Well, it may not be a lodge in Montana, a villa in France or something exotic like that - it's more like "oceanfront property in Arizona" as far as that goes - but the natural resources we want to enjoy are right here. Two out of three of our children's families live in the DFW area - the other one in north Austin (which isn't too far from either Keller OR Katy). And after a 2nd tour of duty overseas with Big Oil lasting almost 10 years, it is pure bliss to be able to not only be in the same state as the kids, but also to be able to visit on a more frequent basis. Once KB and BJ came along in '04, suddenly the Atlantic Ocean was about a gazillion miles wide and having the ability to drive by Buckingham Palace lost it's lustre in a BIG way!

So, I hope to keep those poor souls suffering from insomnia up to date on the cute things the grands come up with, things going on in our lives, the weird places MD has to go for business trips (he's in Saudi right now after a FUN FILLED trip to Algeria - ah, the smell of Heathrow in the morning!) and the occasional recipe (yup, I'm a FOODIE). If you like what you read, tell me. If you don't, well, who made you read it in the first place - go read Rosie O'Donnell's blog! (Just don't tell me....I'm feeling "fragile" - ha!)