Thursday, June 30, 2011

The beauty battle.

A long time ago (probably close to three years if my math serves me correctly) I read quite often. I read books about parenting, marriage, and God. I read about Narnia and other nonsensical places that could captivate me for hours. I didn't really stop reading three year ago. My books just changed a lot; C.S. Lewis was cast aside for Sandra Boynton. I did not begrudge my new reading material.
However, over the last year or so I have found myself capable of finding time to read again. And so occasionally I will find something from the library, borrow a book from a friend, or reread something that's on our shelf. My latest read is what brings me to write this evening.
I probably put way too much thought into parenting and why we are choosing different things. Perhaps it's not possible to think about it too much, I don't know. I think about everything though. What I'm feeding Abigail, and why. What I want her to learn about eating and how what we are saying and so on plays into that. I think through what type of morals, life skills, and empathy I want to build into her. We intentionally read books, talk about things, and discipline in a way that we hope will instill these things in her.
One of my biggest fears though is having a daughter who grows up not knowing how beautiful she is. I tell her. Constantly. I don't just tell her she is beautiful. I tell her I love her hair, her eyes, her nose, her ears, her legs, her arms, her hands, and so on and so on. I even mention her armpits sometimes. I want her to know that each and every part of her little body was made fearfully and wonderfully and that I love every bit of it.
I will always vividly remember having her in a stroller when she was a little less than a year, and walking by a group of girls who were probably junior high. One of them very loudly proclaimed, 'Awwww look at the baby, she's so ugly...I mean cute.' Her and all of her friends laughed. When the laughter stopped (and I pushed aside the feeling of wanting to drop kick a 12 year old) I bent down at Abigail's level, and making certain that all the girls heard me said to her, 'You are beautiful, and don't EVER let anyone tell you otherwise.' We continued our walk after that.
I want to be certain that our voices, her parents, are much louder than societies voices who will tell her that she doesn't look like the magazines, or her friends, or the people on television. I want her to know that those woman who are airbrushed or a size 2 (and yes I actually am a size 2, more on that in a minute) are NOT the definition of beauty.
The other thing that I realized over the last few years was that if I wanted her to think she was beautiful, I was going to have to work on finding myself beautiful, or at least enough so that I wasn't bashing myself in front of her. Because as a woman who is 5'2" and 105 pounds, I still look in the mirror sometimes and see parts of me that I think are 'fat.' For quite some time in my life I could sit and pick myself apart telling you every last thing about me I didn't like.
But as I deeply contemplated how I wanted my daughter to view herself, and how I could go about parenting to make that happen, some things came up in my mind. I have always been quite petite. My family was made up of my mom who has struggled off and on with her weight, my older sister who has mostly always been a happy medium, me, and my younger sister who has also always had a battle with her weight. We were a family who talked about things we didn't like about ourselves. We said things about other people's weight, whether they be too big or too little. I had people make comments to me (and still do occasionally) about needing to eat a sandwich. I went through a time period where if I went to the bathroom after a meal one of my sisters would sit outside the door certain that I had an eating disorder (I didn't, nor have I ever).
Although those things are still painful for me sometimes, I don't think they even come close to the pain I watched my little sister experience. The name calling, teasing, being left out, and what it did to her self esteem is probably part of the reason it's been so important to me to make certain that I gave my daughter the self-confidence she needed. Because although we didn't tease her at home, she still dieted with my mom from a young age. She knew that she was thought to be overweight even by her closest family members. The strangest part about it for me has always been that if someone has asked me to describe her, her weight would not have come up. She is a strikingly beautiful woman, and always has been. Dark hair, bright blue eyes, tall, and a personality that draws everyone that meets her to her. I spent a large portion of my high school years being jealous of lots of things about her.
But, here is where things really clicked for me. After Jason and I got married I gained weight. Obviously not much because I'm still pretty small. However, there was still this voice in my head that was telling me that gaining weight is bad. I had to daily tell that voice (and it still comes up) that weight gain is not bad. If I am eating healthy and getting exercise then I'm fine. Even if I had stayed at the 95 pounds I was when we got married for the rest of my life, if I sat around eating junk and watching television all day, that would be unhealthy. I realized at this point that because I had watched those around me talk about being upset that they gained weight, needing to lose weight, and constantly dieting, it became ingrained in me. I don't think my mother was a bad mom. Don't read that into what I'm saying. I just think that by her saying negative things about herself and constantly battling with her weight I learned that as a woman that was just what we did.
So I declared when Abigail was born I would not say bad things about myself. I would not make jokes about my small chest, or any other body part I didn't like as much. I would not sit with my friends and talk about how much I hated my hair, my thighs, or my belly. I think, for the most part, that I have been able to hold up to that.

As I meandered through the library the other day searching for something to take home with me I came across a book entitled, Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How weight obsession is Messing Up Our Girls and How we can Help Them Thrive Despite It. I have devoured the book. The woman who wrote it has done tons more research, and is probably much better at explaining it, but her point expounds on what I have suspected.
She goes so far as to say that even if your daughter is overweight, you don't need to be the one to tell her. Society, kids at school, and lots of other people in their life will take care of that. She talks about lots of other things, and specifically mentions how parents negative self talk about themselves passes on to their daughters. She talks about how even small side comments like 'you really don't need that dessert' cut into a little girls self esteem quickly and can lead to eating disorders.
There is so much information in this book that every mother who has a daughter should know. Some of the things are mind blowing. 50% of 3-6 year old girls believe they are fat. Abigail is almost in that age range. I'm pretty certain she doesn't even know the word fat yet. I can't imagine my daughter coming to me sometime in the next year and telling me she thinks she's fat.
For now Abigail still likes to dance in the full length mirror in her room and make up songs. She often can be overheard singing things like 'You so butiful, I wub youw haiw, i wub youw eyes...' to herself. I know that people worry about their daughter's being conceited if they tell them they are pretty to often (we also tell Abigail she is smart, wonderful, fun, a joy, a great daughter, and so on and so on...we aren't only focused on her looks). I promise you that at some point the world will tell your daughter something different. So if you have a toddler, or even elementary aged daughter who knows she's beautiful, just keep telling her. Hopefully it will be enough to overpower the other voices that will come along in her life. Heck, I'd be okay if Abigail was still telling people she was beautiful when she is 25.

I decided to post this picture because it is the closest things to a full length shot of me that I have. I would NEVER be comfortable posting a picture of just me on here, or probably anywhere. But I think it's time I start learning to love me.

I would really love to hear other people's thoughts on this. Do you struggle? Do you see your daughter's struggling? Have you seen friends with eating disorders, and can you pinpoint what they might be from? Even if you go read the book and come back when you are finished, I would love to hear thoughts today, in a week, or in a year.

Still battling,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


All right, this post may not make me very popular. However as a woman who worked in a daycare setting, nannied, and is now a Mama trying to figure out what we want to do about schooling I get tired of hearing the same arguments over and over. So I decided to share my thoughts with the world.
Let me start by saying we have friends who have kids in public school, private schools, charter schools, and homeschool. I am watching the whole gamut available to me for education in the United States. We have NOT made a decision about what we will do with Abigail for schooling yet. We are having lots of conversations with each other and friends about what they like and don't like about each option. This is where my thoughts come in.
There is this thought process that lingers out there that children need to be with their peers so that they will be socialized. I think it's a load of manure. Think about all the things that you must do as an adult to be a functioning part of society. Go grocery shopping, go to the bank, pay your bills, wait in line, make phone calls to set up appointments, the list goes on and on. How did you learn to do those things? Did some one sit down and give you a hand out on how to grocery shop, or did you learn by going to the store with your parent, helping her get the things on the list, put stuff on the belt for check-out and then helping to pay (and learning about money and making change)?
I'm going to assume it was the second thing. Whenever someone tells me I need to send my kid somewhere for socialization I respond with this illustration. Lets say a group of aliens show up and want to learn to speak English. Most ESL teachers will tell you that while you can stick them in a classroom and have them practice with each other, it goes much better if they are immersed in English. Sticking 20 aliens in a classroom with one or two teachers who walk around and oversee them while they try to figure out how to talk to each other in English is not going to get the quickest results.
The other thing that maddens me about this is that the things they are being socialized in are bizarre to me. Here's my other example. Two toddlers in a preschool classroom both want the same toy. The teacher hears them arguing over it. The response is a) one gets it for two minutes, then the other, and so on and so on. or b) if you can't share the toy I'm taking it away. Let's project that out twenty + years. My neighbor comes over and says, I don't have a car, but you do so I want yours. Do we take turns with it? Does someone come and take it away from me because I won't let them use it? No. Do we have people who we share our car with at times. Absolutely. Do I want my daughter to learn to share. You bet. But the example above teaches my child nothing about sharing and the way it works in our society. It's not a social skill lesson, it's a convenience reaction (let's stop the fighting the easiest way possible). My daughter is best going to learn to share by watching the other people in her life (parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and so on) share. When Abigail sees us let our friends use our car she is learning about sharing.
So let me follow my rant up with a couple of things. I whole heartedly believe children need peer interaction, and to learn how to obey adults outside of their parents. I don't think sending children to a preschool, or school with a regular classroom setting is bad. I just don't believe that this is how our children are 'socialized.' I mean in reality how is a child sitting in a classroom for eight hours listening to a teacher even a social setting. Their twenty minutes for recces and twenty minutes for lunch where they get to talk to their friends doesn't add up to much.
So next time someone tells you that they homeschool, or are thinking about homeschooling, don't make the socialization argument. It doesn't hold up if you put any thought into it. The reason you know homeschooled children who are socially awkward has less to do with them being homeschooled and more to do with them (likely) being either sheltered or from a family that is socially awkward anyway.

Just getting some thoughts out there,

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Papa.

This is Jason's third Father's Day as a Papa. He fell in love the moment he first laid eyes on our little girl. And from that point on there has been nothing anyone could do to stop the natural draw of a Papa and a daughter to each other. She is her Papa's girl. And he is wrapped around his little girl's finger. It is something that brings me more joy than I could ever have imagined. Watching him be a Papa made me fall in love with Jason in a whole new way. And there are still so many times that I just sit back and watch them together, in awe of the family that God created for us. For Father's Day this year we went camping for the weekend. I got to sit back quite a bit and just watched my husband and daughter delight in each other's company.

We hiked with Abigail giggling the whole time because she got to ride on Papa's back.

And while this picture may look like Jason and Abigail are pushing an empty swing to the innocent bystander, in reality Jason was pushing pig and elephant (Abigail's imaginary friends) on the swings. It was one of those moments where I knew that even though Jason has times where he will fall short as a Papa, our little girl will grow up with wonderful memories. I don't know many men who would spend twenty minutes pushing their daughter's imaginary friend on a swing. Especially not in public.

And after elephant was done swinging alone, Abigail decided that Papa should sit on elephant's lap, while she sat on Papa, and pig sat on her lap. And they swung, and they giggled, and my heart filled up to overflowing at the amount of love I was witnessing.

And at the end of the night, Abigail sat and watched the fireflies make their 'buns' light up as Papa wandered around the woods a little trying to catch more for her, or pointing them out as they lit up.
In a world where lots of Papa's are absent from the home, would rather work, or are striving to achieve the 'American Dream' I am beyond thankful that Jason is Abigail's Papa. He works hard to provide for our family financially, but knows that being able to buy stuff will never make up for spending time together. And for that reason he has a little girl who believes that he can fix anything, makes the world go around, and who holds him up to be a hero.
To be honest though, he is a hero. There is nothing more heroic than giving a little girl the security, love, and adoration that she needs to grow up to be an amazing young woman. There is nothing that deserves more adoration in my book than a man who can love his child unconditionally, play with her, and discipline her, without ever causing her to doubt his love for even one second. Happy Father's Day to the best Papa I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I am so grateful that our daughter has you to walk through life with.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Adoption thoughts.

Jason and I (along with lots of our friends) have had lots of funny things said to us pertaining to the fact that our daughter was adopted. Most of them are funny in the sense that I never know what to say, but we laugh about how ridiculous it was later. Some of them are funny in the sense that I can't believe people have the audacity to say things like that to others. I have written a post here before about the many things that adoptive families don't want to hear (especially in front of their child). That is not so much what this is.

An example of what I mean is the time when we were walking through the mall, all three of us hand in hand, a woman asked if Abigail was our grandchild. She couldn't figure out in her head how two white people ended up with a black child. But seriously, we were 28 and 30 at the time. And neither of us looks old. I get mistaken for 16 regularly. My husband has a full head of hair, and is pretty trim and fit. We definitely do not seem old enough to be grandparents. The woman just didn't know how to phrase the question so she said something ridiculous instead.

We also have a set of friends who have a biological daughter who is white and a son who is black. They are a little over two years apart in age. Someone asked this family if their children were twins. I promise you that there is no way that they could possibly be mistaken for twins. It's one of those moments where you walk away and just choose to laugh about it.

So this past week Abigail and I were at the store together. The woman who was running the register had this conversations with me.

cashier: 'how old is she?' me: 'she will be three in september.' c: 'she's really little. i guess you are petite too. are you her mom?' m: yes, but she didn't get her smallness from me. she's adopted.' c: 'she's adopted? you can't tell.'

I posted this on facebook because it was one of those awkward moments that made me laugh, and I thought I would share it. At the end of the post I wrote, 'that's right friends, abigail looks just like me?!?!' I wasn't really angry with the cashier. I was annoyed that after I shared that she was adopted that she felt like she needed to smooth things over with, 'you can't tell.' But mostly it was meant to be a good laugh.

I ended up getting lots of people letting me know that people could assume she's biracial since Jason wasn't with me that she could be my biological daughter. And then I get the messages about how people have adopted, or know people who have adopted who's kids look like them. I get all that. I really do. And daily I see Abigail do things, hear her say things, or hear an inflection in her voice that is Jason or I. I'm not trying to debate the nature or nurture thing. Heck there was a family I used to babysit for that I didn't realize their son was adopted because he looked so much like his dad.

But come on people. I am a very light skinned, blue eyed, straight, light brown hair, narrow faced young lady. And Abigail is a dark skinned, extremely kinky, black hair, round face, brown eyed (one of my favorite features of hers) little girl. To be quite honest, I don't feel like she could even pass for biracial. But beyond that, there is not one feature that we share in common. I'm fine with that. I don't need my daughter to look just like me. I think she is the most beautiful little being I've ever seen.

And when I get all those people who defend the cashier I want to tell them that they aren't helping people to see why adoption is beautiful. It's different than biological, not a sad secret to try to sweep under the rug or blend until it's all smooth and could pass as biological. Part of the reason some people have such a hard time accepting adoption is because they want some family trait passed on, or they believe that an adopted child doesn't truly share in the inheritance the way a biological one would. My real 'problem' with what the woman said was that it was obvious that she was trying to make me feel better that I had adopted. Obviously adoption is a last ditch effort, to be pitied, because someone 'can't have children of their own.' Amiright?

That is not the case with us. No, we haven't gotten pregnant. But frankly, at this point in the game, I'm fine if we never do. I'm so excited about getting to adopt again. Giving birth is not what qualifies someone as a real parent. Biological is different than adopted. Not better, not worse, just different. I don't need, my family being formed different than someone else's, to be washed over so that we can pretend it's all the same.

While our family of three may have been formed through adoption, my daughter is still my own. I have held her in the middle of the night. I have been to more doctors appointments than I can count. I have read books, sung songs, danced, gotten angry, and most of all fallen completely head over heals in love with the little girl whom I was chosen to parent.

Yes, you can tell my daughter is adopted. Adoption is one of the many things that I really love about our family. And if you ask her she can tell you all about her tummy mommy, Miss Rebecca (our lawyer for the adoption), Judge Feick (who finalized it), and how Mama and Papa, 'dopted you.' Adoption is not a point of contention for us. It is what God did for us so we could be called sons and daughters and share in the inheritance with Christ. And it is what took our family of two and made it a family of three. And for that we are glad.

Abigail and Mama reading a book together...and not looking alike.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Mondays are already my least favorite day of the week (I imagine that is true for most people). Jason goes back to work and I count down the days until the weekend when we will get to spend all day together again. But yesterday was a particularly yucky Monday.
We had to be to Riley by 9 a.m. This meant I had to get up early, and leave my house by sevenm as well as deal with rush hour traffic. On the way to Riley Abigail got carsick. I hadn't brought extra clothes. So we get there, I wipe her down best I can and we go to the appointment (smelling like vomit).
The doctor comes in and talks to me. She has officially diagnoses her with mastocytosis. I ask lots of questions, but in the end all that came of the appointment was the fact that she has it. There was no follow up as to what I should be doing, where to go from here, and the doctor said she didn't need to see us back.
So I left feeling a bit disheartened that she truly has masto, and frustrated beyond belief that I still don't have any answers, and don't know what to do or where to go from here. I have read and reread the two website available for masto and can't seem to wrap my head around the fact that she doesn't at very least need someone following her masto and a simple blood test to check if there is anything systemic.

I was hoping that the 20 groupon I got for Old Navy for free would make my day feel better. We stopped on the way home and bought a couple of things and then went to lunch. Abigail still smelled like puke, I was tired and exasperated, and was doing my best to redeem the day.
Instead we are sitting outside eating lunch together. Abigail is not eating a lot (which is very typical when we eat somewhere other than home) and is talking about the cars, the people, the noises, the cookie she wants after she eats her food, and on and on. I was interjecting reminders to eat her lunch every so often and she would take a bite and go back to whatever she was talking about. It seemed like a typical two year old Mama and daughter lunch to me.
But, apparently the lady sitting behind me did not approve. After she finished eating she came over and said, 'She doesn't like to eat does she? But she sure does like to talk a lot. I have two great grandchildren who are 1-1/2 and 3. They eat really well. They really love macaroni and cheese. Their parents give it to them all the time. Didn't they have macaroni and cheese in their? I know I saw it on the menu. Maybe if you had gotten her macaroni and cheese she would have eaten.'
Yes, that's right. I chose a healthier alternative to mac-n-cheese for my kiddo who doesn't love it anyway and was chastised for it. The only responses I could think of at the moment contained explicit language due to my state of already being tired and frustrated. And if she had stayed around a little longer she would have seen her finish her lunch while still happily chattering away about life.

Today is Tuesday though, and I'm determined for it to be a much better day! Because a day like yesterday has to be followed with something better!!