Isabella is very fortunate to have not one, but two older brothers! They love her, play with her, watch out for her, teach her, and nickname her. Luccio likes to call her Googali and in this photo I tend to agree she looks like a Googali.
The boys are into imagination and creating new worlds lately. One of their favorite games is pretending to be different magical animals. Luccio is usually Big Bear and Vincenzo is either Daddy Dog or Little Horse depending on his mood and whim. Vincenzo is usually in charge of all things imagination related and thinks of endless scenarios. Sometimes they will let Isabella play with them, but she is almost always "Baby" of whatever species they are playing.
So I was surprised this week when Vincenzo bestowed her the Honor of her very own animal name, Gentle Wolf. I think it fits her beautifully! She is a gentle, loving soul and once a friend told us he thought her eyes reminded him of a Wolf. Since wolves have those gorgeous blue eyes like Isabella, I have to agree.
Since entering the Mommy Realm, I have learned there are many different labels and divisions set up. I didn't realize how complicated it would be. I thought you have a child, you are a mother, therefore you have that in common with all mothers. Period. But, it's not that simple. The divisions begin the moment you announce your pregnancy to the world. The questions start and categories are assigned. First, is it a boy or a girl? And are you happy about which ever gender it is? If you are not happy would you admit it? Is it a singleton, twins or more?
Will you deliver "naturally?" This in itself is a whole other realm of categories. Natural can mean a baby will make its way into the world through a vagina. But, it also means with or without pain medications, forceps, episiotomies, other interventions, etc. Will you use a midwife, OB or Maternal Fetal Specialist, or Guru? Will your baby be born in a birthing center, hospital or at home? Degrees of motherhood are assigned depending on your answers, your pain tolerance, your pelvic size. And forget the C-Sectioners (like me) we are in a category all by ourselves. Apparently "unnatural" and surgical means direct separation from the women who "birthed" their babies.
Once the baby is out into the world and takes its first breath a new set of standards begin. Is your child a preemie? Does it need breathing help? NICU stay? Or do you have a "healthy, full termer" that goes home in 24 - 48 hours?
Will you bottle feed? If so, will you use expressed breast milk or formula? If you are nursing, do you nurse exclusively? Use bottle sometimes? Use formula to supplement?
Do you use cloth diapers? Disposable diapers? Hybrid diapers? Or a combo of all of the above?
Even sleep separates mothers. As if sleep deprivation is not hard enough. When you actually do get 5 minutes to close your eyes, it REALLY matters to the world HOW you sleep. Do you sleep in your own bed and your baby is in it's own bassinet or crib? Do you share a bed with your baby and/or other family members?
Do you hold baby for all 24 hours of the day? In a sling? In your arms? If you are not holding the baby, who or what is? Different categories are assigned based on your answers and which crowd you are with at the moment you answer. If you are with the Co-Sleepers, you are placed VERY low down on the Mommy Value List if you say your child sleeps in its own bed at an assigned time and sleeps soundly without interference from you. If you have given said child a pacifier to help them do so, your position is lowered even more. If your child sleeps through the night soon after being born, Lord help you around the other Moms, it could get nasty! If you put your child on its belly to sleep, expect gasps and watch yourself because you may be targeted by all kinds of Mommy Groups.
Once you have figured out how baby will eat and sleep and into what they will poop, next is what will you do with that baby? Will you be a stay at home mom? (Otherwise known as a SAHM.) Or will you work? If you are a SAHM, will your child be in playgroups, activities, and learning to read before age 1 or will you hang out all day while your child eats and watches TV? Can there be a combo of both? Probably, but you may not admit it in mixed company depending on which group you are with. Public Enemy Number One is the mother who lets her baby watch TV. So beware!
If you will work outside of your home, will your child be in daycare? Full time? A center?
In-home, etc? This realm is vast and the questions I can imagine are endless. Since I am a SAHM, it is not my territory and therefore I will not venture into categorizing further. But, you get the idea.
Once baby is fed, changed, and signed up for activities or daycare, the next category is: are you a young mom or old mom? The age range changes as your group does. Are you single or married? What is your socioeconomic background? How much education have you received? How about your partner? Is he educated? Does he work? What does he think about all matters? And do you care? Your placement in Mommy Categories changes based on these answers, so think it through before you speak.
Public activities call into question the achievements Baby has made for his or her age. Do they crawl? Walk? Talk? Read? Count? Feed themselves? Where do they poop?? How often?
Your mothering abilities will be judged according to your answers, again think carefully. Do you potty train or toilet teach? Seriously some people care about this in a MAJOR way!
For the first 3-4 years of Baby's life, language distinctions like this will be a big deal!!
If you have made it through all the levels of infanthood with your self-esteem still in tact-good for you!! Yeah!! But, be prepared. Toddler years will be more challenging to you and your mothering position in society. How will you discipline your Darling? Will you use time out or set up a nest for breaks? Will you use the word No or will that be too traumatic? Again be careful how you answer. This will dredge up every emotional issue from everyone's childhood that you can imagine. You will be judged and critiqued and corrected by people you know and people you don't and given silent stares by other Mommies. These stares will NOT be subtle and will convey messages that you will not miss. Its doesn't matter which answers you give, someone will always oppose them and will let you know.
What will your toddler eat? How much pesticide will be in the food and bath products you choose? Will you allow them to eat fast food (most moms will not admit to this, but check their garbages or cars and you will find evidence to the contrary) When will they be done with that bottle?? Do they know how to drink from a cup? Are you STILL Nursing? Can you nurse a toddler that has teeth? Just know that if your child is over 12 months of age, your answers to these questions can and will be held against you. Your mothering abilities will be discussed and judged accordingly. By everyone.
With that said, I wish you the best. I hope as you navigate your way through the Mommy Realm you be fortunate enough to meet Kindred Spirits as I have. I have been so very blessed by good friends and family members that I can count on for support as I figure out which categories I fit in and which values are most important to me and my growing family. I feel like I have been given a protective cocoon to grow in with a wonderful social circle. And it seems like just when I need it most a new Soul will come into my life or an old Friend will reappear and we will discover how much we have in common. I always gain so much insight from these Kindred Spirits and find so much inspiration to be the best Mama I can be no matter what categories I have chosen to fit into (or not). I always try to keep an open mind because you never know what you can learn from other Mommies. When we can look past the labels and relax enough to be ourselves and not judge what the other Mommies are doing, we can truly see that at the core kids are kids and Mommies are Mommies and all the rest just doesn't matter.
I have created an Altar of Inspiration in my kitchen. It includes some of my favorite mementos like a card with the image of Our Lady of Lavender and a prayer card with a photo of Mother Teresa, an orange slice with a heart shape in it, a little pitcher from my trip to Assisi, Italy, a rock from Luccio, orchids from my Dad, a Bamboo shoot for good luck, and a wind chime made by Vincenzo. I have also made it my personal mission for the last week to keep the sink clean so that when I wake up in the morning and see my little altar I can start my day off right.
I first got the idea for my altar when I read the book, "Soul to Soul Parenting" by Annie Burnside. The author talks about ways to inspire spirituality in your family. She explores different ways to bring faith into daily life. One of her suggestions is to get kids involved in collecting special mementos on their travels like rocks from outdoors, receipts from trips, etc. Small tokens of things you love. I liked that idea a lot and I thought I needed something inspiring especially since the winter blahs have really gotten to me. I find it difficult to spend much time cultivating my own spirituality lately. And I feel like I have been craving inspiration to get back to that place of peacefulness. So I started with the card I found at a local gift shop. I was immedialtey drawn to the image of Our Lady of Lavender. It is unique and beautiful and I love the depiction of Mary. When I turned it over to find the artists name I found a website: kenosiskards.com. I checked it out and the artist happens to be a woman who was my co-worker and Spiritual Director for many years!! Such a "God-incidence."
That inspired me to be on the lookout for more inspirational nuggets. The other day when I cut open an orange for snack and I look down, the first slice had some orange flesh still inside and it was in the shapeof a heart! God-incidence for sure!
So my Little Altar was really coming together and looking beautiful. The only problem was I had built it above my kitchen sink. A sink that is perpetually full of dirty dishes. I feel like it is always time for a meal, I barely clean up breakfast dishes and the kids are looking for snacks and then it's lunch time. So the dishes build up fast and furious and if I don't keep up with it after every meal I have a mess to deal with after the kids go to bed. If I don't get to them after bedtime, the morning is awful because waking up to dirty dishes puts me in a grumpy mood and makes everything seem like it takes longer to accomplish.
A good friend of mine understands my clutter and need to organize the chaos. She recommended a website that she found helpful so I checked it out. www.flylady.net is a wonderful resource for people like me who have many gifts and talents but find that housework is not one of them. FlyLady suggests starting with baby steps like cleaning your kitchen sink out. She said before you go to bed at night get that sink cleaned! I took her advice and cannot even believe how wonderful it felt. I cleaned out every last dish, cup, sippy cup stopper and piece of silverware and even stored away the dish drainer. That sink sparkled! I felt great! I went to sleep feeling calm and productive. I woke up feeling even better.
When I walked into my kitchen I was shocked by what a difference the empty sink made! The beautiful Altar above it was able to be seen. I was was amazed when I finished the breakfast mess and found myself immediately putting the dishes into the dishwasher. It took me just a few minutes. This may seem like a little thing to someone who is organized and loves cleaning. But, to me it seemed so profound. I had an extra 20 minutes that morning to sit and have coffee. I saved time by having a clean sink. How is this possible?? I wanted to have that feeling every morning. So each night I have been making the effort to clean out the sink. I am finding each day its easier and easier because I have been keeping up with the dishes during the day. So at night I usually just have to wipe things down. Love it!!
Now I admit it has only been 1 week AND the sink is often the only clean and sparkly thing in the house at the end of the day. But, it's a start. And it gives me more time to clean up the table and counters. Which then gives me more time to throw a load of laundry in the washer. Simple steps.
As I plug away at taming the clutter and keeping up after 3 active toddlers, I like the fact that I can glance at my kitchen sink and find inspiration. My Little Altar holds such great reminders of how much love I have in my life. When the kids are unruly I see Mother Teresa holding a little child or Mary holding Jesus and I am reminded of what a Grace motherhood is. I see the flowers from my Dad or gifts from my boys and I am reminded of Love.
"After all what was more important in the end than Love."
I went to The Bear's class to volunteer yesterday during their Library time. And a few moments were quite funny, so I have to share. When I arrived, I realized there was an extra adult in the room and it quickly became apparent that she was there to observe Bear's teachers. It was a surprise observation visit - fun times!! Luckily his teacher is awesome and did a fantastic job with the lessons as usual. The kids were singing and dancing to a funny song. Then they read rhyming books related to the letter of the week. But, it's 4 year olds and anything goes.
So during the rhyming story one little boy heard the word "door" and commented that it rhymed with "floor." The teacher said, "That's right, door and floor rhyme." And a little girl raised her hand and said, "And door rhymes with WHORE!" She was very proud of her rhyming skills and beamed a smile. The teacher acknowledge her and kept right on rhyming.
The next lesson was flashcards related to the Letter M. The first card was a picture of a glass of milk. The teacher said, "Milk comes from a cow that says Moo." My sweet son who was sitting next to me looks over and says very loudly, "Ma, that's like the milk from your boobies" And he points to my chest. OMG! I don't know that every single person in the room heard him, but it felt like it. I had to acknowledge him because he was gearing up to repeat himself. So, I quietly looked over and said "you're right." Then I gave him the signal to "zip it" and pay attention.
He is learning important lessons this year like the letter M and that there is some connection between a Cow and his Mama nursing his baby sister. Maybe he is destined for a career in Agriculture or possibly Lactation Consulting?