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A Voice

My joy for today is helping to bring a voice to women.

It is a big day!  NPR responded to letters in regards to the gaffe by Mara Liasson, in which she separated educated women and stay at home moms into two distinct groups.  She admitted that she misspoke and acknowledged that NPR re-recorded the interview for later feeds of the program.

My blog was quoted in several news outlets, and a paragraph from my original post (https://myjoyfortoday.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/educated-stay-at-home-moms-an-oxymoron/) was used in many articles.  I am very proud to have helped give a voice to the many women, just like me, that were sitting alone in their cars, or with their families, or around the breakfast table , and were shocked by being labeled into such separate and insulting categories.

In the days following my post, I had a few negative comments, some alleging that I am perpetuating some “war” between stay at home mothers and working mothers.  As I said to this commenter, that is certainly not my intention.  The only “war” I may be waging is against a bias in the media towards women, and in particular, against educated, multifaceted, opinionated women, who may choose to be primarily home with their children.  I believe that society tends to want to label women into distinct categories, in a much different way than we do towards men.  I will not wage a war against the parenting choices of other women, but I will wage one against the tendency to assume that these choices were not carefully and thoughtfully made.

Also, some have said I should “calm down” about this issue; Ms. Liasson only misspoke.  Why is it that women are often told to “calm down”?  If this error in phrasing had happened against a different disenfranchised group of society, no one would dare tell a proponent of this group to “calm down.”  There is a vicious tendency to accuse women of being emotional when we are passionate.  This is unacceptable and insulting in the worst way.  When I have a right to stand up and be heard, I will do so in an educated, informed, and just enough calm manner as is appropriate.

Today, I have changed many diapers, nursed my child, fed that same child a bottle, made a meal for a friend that had a baby, rode my bike with my son to his piano lesson, had lunch with my grandmother, finished several hours of homeschooling, cleaned the kitty litter, played a game with my kids, did the dishes, watered plants, graded some research papers, responded to e-mails, and wrote this blog, among other things.  I am an educated stay at home mother.  It’s not an oxymoron.

Enjoy for your joys for today.

Target Rescue

My joy for today is being rescued at Target.

A few days ago, I went to Target, quite ambitiously, after visiting a friend.  I only had two kids with me, so it seemed like the trip should be a breeze.  It was going well, except for the fact that I had to pick up a few very heavy and bulky items- kitty litter, diapers, a few groceries, and some outdoor chairs.  The chairs were on sale and although I had thought about asking the hubs to get them on the way home from work, I wanted to accomplish everything on the list, all by myself.  That was not in the cards.

I got everything on my list and then went to the outdoor section.  I picked up the handy red phone, asked for help, and was quickly greeted by a Target employee with very little personality.  She was about fifty years old, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant.  I showed her the five chairs I wanted, she put them on a cart, and I met her at the register.

We had to practically sprint to keep up with my cart of chairs and the nonplussed Target employee.  Cart overflowing with kitty litter, diapers, milk, bananas, a ten month old, and being followed by a cheerful but tired three year old, we made it to the front of the store.  I paid for my items with a more friendly Target employee, although I found out later she had not applied a coupon correctly.  Another employee was called to help take my chairs to my car.  He was a young man that worked mostly in the parking lot, with several piercings, a hat, and was friendlier than employee number one.

We walked out towards my vehicle and non-smiling employee number one said that they would wait at the curb and that I should pull my car up to the entrance.  I pointed out to her that my car was right in front of us, in the third or fourth spot from the store, but she insisted they wait at the curb.

I packed my kids and all of my groceries into my vehicle, and pulled up to the curb as instructed.  I got out of the car, and thought for the first time about where all these chairs might fit in my car.  I drive one of the largest SUV’s on the market, but have four car seats inside.  As I opened the back lift gate, I started to think my ambition for this shopping trip was misguided.

Young hipster Target employee:  “I don’t think these are going to fit.”

Tired Mother of 4:  “Really?”

Hipster:  “No, I don’t think so.  I had this same problem the other day with these chairs.”

Loyal Target Customer:  “Oh crap.  Can we maybe get one or two in?”

Hipster:  (Tries pointlessly to angle a chair into the back.)  “Nope.”

Meanwhile, older Target employee stands by silently, looking annoyed.

Me:  “Well, what should I do?”

Not Target Employee of the Year:  “You’ll have to come back inside and return them.”

Annoyed:  “That’s not going to happen.”

And so began an uncomfortable period of silence.  They just looked at me.  I just looked at them and thought about how I was already running late to pick up my second from preschool, half an hour away from this store.  I also thought about the absurd idea of parking again, getting two overly tired children back out of the car, and going inside to return these chairs.

Me again:  “Can you just take them back inside and I will have someone pick them up later today?”

Employee #1:  “No, we cannot keep any merchandise that has been paid for in the store.”

Beyond Annoyed:  “Well, I’m not going back inside.”

More uncomfortable silence.

Me again:  “What if I could have someone come get them now?”

Unimpressed Woman:  “How long until they would be here?”

I proceed to call my amazing, nearly perfect cousin, Jason, who works in the area.  I was praying he was not having a busy day at work or was possibly having his lunch break.  By an actual miracle, he was right across the street at Wal-Mart (which was looking better and better all the time).  He has a very useful pick-up truck.  I told him my absurd predicament, and he said he would be over as quickly as possible.

I turned back to the Target employees and explained that my hero would be here soon.  They were surprisingly unimpressed with my resourcefulness or with my soon to be hero.  By their silence, I sensed they were still confused as to what to do.

“So just leave the chairs on the sidewalk and I will watch them.”

Possibly least helpful employee of the year:  “We can’t just leave them there.”

“Yes, you can.  I paid for them, and that’s what I want to do with them.  I will assume responsibility for them.  I will watch them from my car and if someone tries to take them, I will yell at them in my scariest voice.”

Hipster:  “I’ll be in the parking lot most of the time, I can keep an eye on them too.”

Finally, someone at this store is on my side!

Hipster:  “We could just put them by your car in the parking lot.”

An actual suggestion!  Will wonders ever cease?

Don’t worry, non-helpful woman is just silent.  She seems annoyed that this is actually working out for me.

I get back in my car, drive to an uninhabited area of the parking lot, and the Target force of two brings my chairs over on the flats.  They put them right next to my car, and I sit.

In very little time, my cousin comes to our rescue!  It was quite easy to find me, as I was the one in the huge SUV, with five colorful outdoor chairs next to my car in the parking lot.  All I needed to complete the scene was a grill.  He drove over, got out, and I told him the whole ridiculous story.  We laughed together for a while, as we do so gloriously often, he put the chairs in the back of his truck, and I stood amazed at what a joy it is to have my cousin in my life.  I am certainly not even attempting to summarize how much I adore and admire Jason in this post.  This is just a teaser.

I drove away, with a new story in the crazy times of a busy mom.  Although I am still a loyal Target customer, I was incredibly underwhelmed by the attitude and helpfulness of one employee in particular.  But in frustration and loneliness in a Target parking lot, came a chance to add yet another story in the saga of trying to do it all, well.  Sometimes we just need a little help from our friends, or cousins.

Enjoy your joys for today.

My joy for today is my precious three year old.

Our adorable Tucker turned three yesterday.  With all the traffic on my blog from my last post, I decided to wait a day to tell the world about my beautiful boy.  Anyone who started following me because they thought this was exclusively a political blog, feel free to click unfollow now.  As I elaborated on in my last post, I am not just a stay at home mom, but I am primarily a stay at home mother and wife.  My God and my children are the primary source of my daily joys.

For those still with me, let me publicly wish my Tuck a happy third birthday.  He is an incredibly smart, funny, caring boy.  He is almost always happy and greets us every morning with a smile and a cheerful, “Good Morning” to each member of the family.  He loves Star Wars, Mickey Mouse, Thomas the Train, Caillou, Woody and Buzz, dinosaurs and cars.  He loves to play baseball, do puzzles, play outside, ride his tricycle, and look through books.  He plays make believe with his big sister for hours, pretending to be at school, Disney World, the beach, the store, or the doctor.  He loves to listen to music and is a very entertaining dancer.  He enjoys doing “shows,” singing songs for a small audience, and impressing people with his ability to identify letters and numbers.

I have a special song that I sing to each of my children.  Tucker is quite sensitive, cautious, and would not be described as adventurous.  At this point in life, he cries very easily when he gets hurt.  When he cries, 99 out of 100 times, I only have to sing the first line of his song, “Don’t cry little Tucky” and he stops immediately.  My amazing hubby can also flip this switch almost as easily by singing the one line, “If you’re happy and you know it.”

Tuck spends a lot of time with my Granny.  They are so much more than relatives, they are best friends.  They have a great time together and when Tucker knows Granny is coming over, he always cheers.  I am so thankful for this special bond for both of them.

This post does not have any deep, controversial, or momentous meaning.  It is a simple happy birthday wish for my precious boy.  Tucker, I am so thankful for you and I love you tons little buddy.

Enjoy your joys for today.  

My adorable birthday boy!
Thanks again to Spencer for the amazing picture.

My joy for today is defending the choices of American mothers.

A few days ago, Hilary Rosen, speaking in support of the Democratic Party, said that Ann Romney could not understand the economic problems of women because she, as a stay home mother, had “never worked a day in her life.”  In the time since, the Obama campaign has emphatically distanced themselves from Ms. Rosen, the President and the First Lady issued statements in support of stay at home mothers and the personal choices of women, and Ms. Rosen publicly apologized and cancelled a scheduled television appearance.

This morning, Mara Liasson, NPR’s National Political Correspondent, was discussing the recent media frenzy over Hilary Rosen’s comment.  Ms. Liasson summarized events of the past few days and then was attempting to segue into talking about the differences in female voter support for each candidate.  In doing so, she continued the demeaning and belittling conversation on stay at home mothers.  She began the next part of her commentary with this quote:

“His [Mitt Romney’s] problem isn’t with stay at home moms, it’s with educated women.”

Stay at home moms are not or cannot also be educated?  Ms. Liasson and NPR, is this your official stance on my demographic?

I attempted to find the transcript and audio file of this morning’s broadcast.  The file that is available for the 8 am show does not contain the quote that I have discussed.  Ironically, the audio file and transcript are simply not the same as the one we heard in the car this morning.  I do not claim to understand the intricacies of radio broadcasting and realize that there may have been many versions of the broadcast that we heard.  However, the quote by Ms. Liasson was certainly part of at least one version of today’s program, and many comments on NPR’s website show that we are not the only listeners who caught this outrageous comment.  If Hilary Rosen owed women an apology, it seems only fair that Ms. Liasson and NPR do the same.  In the spirit of honest journalism, why not admit your mistake and apologize to your faithful listeners?  Do you assume that stay at home mothers are so uneducated that they were not even listening and therefore are not even owed a response?  Please do not continue to belittle us with your silence.

The many ways in which this statement by NPR is incredibly insulting seem almost too obvious to list.  But for the sake of my daughters, and in hopes that they will someday read this and know that their mother was in fact, both choosing to be at home with them, and educated, please indulge me while I expound this topic.

Hilary Rosen began this onslaught against stay at home mothers by stating that we do not work.  She was obviously referring to gainful employment, we are not paid for our profession, and so we understand her point, albeit insulting and grossly misstated.  Mara Liasson basically stated that stay at home mothers, as a group, cannot also be educated women.  I find Ms. Liasson’s comment even more insulting than Ms. Rosen’s because it is revealing her own, and possibly the nation’s or large parts of society’s, deeply held, demeaning views on my chosen profession.

Dear National Public Radio, Ms. Liasson, and Society as a whole:

Please stop assuming and propagating the erroneous and discriminatory notion that I am not educated simply because I am a woman and I choose to be at home with my children.  A degree is not required to raise my children at home.  But I have one.  In fact, I have more than one.  I choose to spend a large part of my day teaching my daughter to read and reviewing sentence diagramming with my son, but that does not mean that I could not also discuss the current political climate or the nuclear situation in North Korea.  I choose to limit myself and my career because I believe it is best for my family that I be at home with my children.  This is not sad.  This is not anti-feminist.  This is my choice as an educated American woman.

Enjoy your joys for today.

My joy for today is my birthday boy.

My firstborn is 7 today!  I cannot believe I am the parent of a 7 year old.  Seven seems like a totally different era of childhood than six.  To me, 4, 5, and 6 seem to be grouped together, and then you have 7, 8, 9.  It is entirely created in my mind, but still seems significant.

Since it is his birthday, I will take this opportunity to brag about our amazing son.  I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to downplay his amazing qualities to not make other people feel badly when they are having trouble with their kids.  Not today.  Today the world must know how of his greatness!

Of course, Noah is not perfect.  He recently got in trouble at a birthday party for (playfully) hitting an older boy in the ear while tricking him that there was something on his shirt.  Very random and unusual act for our sweet boy, but I am sure this other boy’s parents think our son is far from perfect.  However, after this act was brought to our attention, and Noah was informed that the other boy was not happy about it, he immediately and sincerely apologized.  But of course, this is proof that he is not, in fact, perfect.  Just nearly.

Noah has an amazingly sweet and caring spirit.  He went to a water park with Chad today, just the two of them.  I told him that I would miss him and was sad I would not see him much on his birthday.  He then proceeded to write me a letter that said, “I will miss you too.  I hope you do not forget me when I am at Aquatica.  You are the best mom ever.  I love you very much.”  This type of event, where it is absolutely clear that he has thought a great deal about the feelings of others, happens at least every few days.  I have boxes full of letters very similar to the one I just quoted.  He was not a snuggly baby, but he has made up for lost time.  Even though he is huge for his age, he will cuddle up on my lap and ask me to rub his back, no matter where we may happen to be.  He is always sure to hug and kiss when parting or saying goodnight.  If something breaks or spills, he is the first to jump in and try to help.  He has a very kind soul.

Along these same lines, he is an amazing big brother to his siblings.  He is patient and sweet with the little ones, and plays with them for hours at a time.  He will often notice Amelia doing something adorable, and if I am not in the room, come ask me to see it and say, “She’s so cute!”  When in the backyard with his siblings that are two and four years younger than him, he will push them on the swings, help them on the teeter totter, and play tag for hours.

Noah is in 1st grade, but reads at nearly a 5th grade reading level.  He reads for hours a day, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night and finishing a chapter of his most recent book.  The book he reads most often is the Bible.  He knows Bible stories much better than I do and has read several children’s Bibles cover to cover.  He is the first to remind us if we forget to pray before a meal.  His love and thirst for knowledge about the Lord is truly a blessing and is inspiring to both of his parents.

If you do not really know Noah, you may find this post annoying or unbelievable.  If you do know him well, you will know that I am just hitting the tip of the iceberg.  He is an excellent athlete, funny, a good conversationalist, outgoing, friendly, and generous.

One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, in his book Reaching Out, says this, “Our children are our most important guests, who enter our home, ask for careful attention, stay for a while and then leave to follow their own way.”  My son is becoming his own person, and I am awestruck that I have been entrusted with such a special being, for such a short and important time.

My sweet Noah, thank you for ushering me into motherhood seven years ago.  You are more special to us than you can ever know.  Happy Birthday my precious Boo Bear!  I love you.

Enjoy your joys for today.

My Birthday Boy as a Pilgrim on Thanksgiving.
Thank you for the picture Spencer!

 

My joy for today is music.

I am the furthest thing from a music snob.  If a band or artist is not played on a Top 40 station, I have probably never heard of them, unless my much cooler brother or sister have introduced them to me.  There is an exception in my repertoire for music from movie soundtracks though.  I usually prefer the genres hip-hop or rap, and I do not really pay attention to lyrics of songs, even though I can sing all of the words.  I am not entirely proud of all the things in this paragraph.

When I get in the car, usually to pick-up a child, I scan my three favorite radio stations.  If a good song is on, I turn it up much louder than my eardrums appreciate.  For a few minutes, I am not (only) a mother of four, not (only) a homeschooler, not (only) a wife.  I am awesome.  Do you know the feeling?  The song is blasting, and all is well with the world.  Anxiety, frustration, anger, loneliness; all slip away for a few minutes, and their influence somehow lessens permanently.  My daughter’s preschool is very close to our home, so I may not even have time to hear a whole song.  But for a few minutes, I am dancing and singing in my car like no one’s watching.

Since I am letting out embarrassing secrets, the most recent song that brought this joy was Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie.”  Yes, an oldie but a goodie.  This song is also on my “Run” playlist.  I run quite often, and I do it for two primary reasons:

1. I run so I can eat.

2.  I run so I can dance.

Obviously, I do not get much time to dance and really have only officially been dancing at an establishment for such purposes a handful of times in my life.  But I really love music.  So when I am running, it’s somewhat like dancing.  I try to run in the beat of the song, and for every awesome song that comes on, I get a few more steps out of tired legs.

A lot of my music is not safe for the little ears in my family, so I listen to it primarily when I am alone.  I am not alone often.  I need to remember to keep trying to work music into my day, by incorporating music that I love that is actually kid-friendly.  Sometimes I stumble across a song like this on the radio, and the kids love listening to it loudly and dancing in the car together.

My parents played a big role in instilling my love of music.  We actually had and continue to occasionally have sing-alongs with my mom playing the piano.  My Dad cannot be in a room for much time without turning on music.  I hope I am passing this love onto my children as well.

And just to show that my music tastes have a great deal of variety, Eartha Kitt’s “Je Cherche Un Homme” is currently playing on my computer, which was preceded by T-Pain’s “5 O’Clock” which was preceded by Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me.”  Your guess is as good as mine as to what might be next.

“There is no feeling, except the extremes of fear and grief, that does not find relief in music.” ~ George Eliot.

Enjoy your joys for today.

My joy for today is answering questions about heaven.

Almost two years ago exactly, when Noah was four, I wrote a blog very similar to the one you are about to read.  As it seems with so many things in life, patterns are followed, cycles continue.  For the past couple of days, my four year old daughter has been asking a lot of questions about heaven, death, and God.  It seems this just must be the age, at least for my kids, where issues of mortality and eternity come to the forefront of their little minds.

When Noah went through this stage, we had a big, gut wrenching, tear filled conversation about heaven and death.  So far, I have not had such a dramatic and emotional experience with Molly, but that seems to fit with both of their personalities.  When Noah experiences an emotion, he experiences it 1,000%, very quickly and intensely.  Molly usually ruminates over something in her mind, and we only get glimpses of what is happening in her beautiful head.  This has been no different.

In the past few days, I have heard so many precious questions from our sweet princess.  Tonight, about an hour after we put her to bed, she was calling for us.

If we die in heaven, will we come back down here?  Oh my.  How precious.  I explained that we can’t die in heaven and that we can’t even get hurt or sad.  She seemed sad after I said this, which surprised me.  Then, with tears in her eyes and a shaky voice…

I’ll miss my doggie and tigger.  Now I have tears in my eyes!  This girl has slept with her favorite “critters,” a stuffed dog and tigger, for every nap and bedtime since she was a year old.  I was so happy to be able to tell her that she will certainly have doggie and tigger in heaven.

Earlier tonight, at dinner, she leaned over to me and said, “Will we have our same hair in heaven?”  I was not entirely sure which way she hoped I answered this, so I paused for a moment and then she said, “Because I really like my hair, and Nana’s hair, and your hair.”  Yes Molly, we will definitely have our hair in heaven.

I am sure that we have not heard the end of these questions.  It is a very precious time in my sweet girl’s life.  Laying with her in bed, after all her siblings are asleep, rubbing her back and talking about God, I could not treasure this time more.  Can God hear us in heaven?  Yes Molls.  So He can hear us down here and up there?  Yep.  Isn’t that great?  He must have really good listening ears.  Yes ma’am, He does.

Enjoy your joys for today.

Contemplative Molly