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December 2006
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February 2007

Free at last

    I have to say that living in Germany has been a real voyage of self-discovery for me, and we've only been here six months.  Can't imagine how enlightened I'll be in three years!   (Actually I'd settle for just "lightened", but we'll see.)  And what have I learned today?
    Well, here's the story.  I have three kids, ages 14.5, 12.5 and 11.  (You will note that the ".5"s are very important.)  With the exception of my oldest one's kindergarten year, my kids have been homeschooled.  All of 'em.  All the time.  Sure, there were days when I wondered if I was going to lose my mind before dinner, but for the most part I liked having the kids home.  I'm one of those moms who'd rather have all the neighbor kids in my backyard than have to wonder where MY kids are or what they're doing.  So homeschooling worked for us on every level.  But it's illegal in Germany...which meant that, not only did my kids have to go to "real" school for the first time, they were going to do so in another country and another language.  Heavy stuff, huh?  Well, after a really lousy start (and I do mean LOUSY), we've got them in a Montessori school and they're all doing fine.  They've got friends, they're learning the language, they know the's all good.  But what does that have to do with me and my moments of enlightenment, you ask?  Oooh, SO much.
    You see, when we first found out we were moving here, I fought like a crazy woman to find a way to continue homeschooling.  I thought that putting the kids in school was just going to be too much change and stress for them.  I was afraid they'd be beaten up or picked on (which they were, in the first school, but that's another story).  But now that they're settled in and doing fine, I find that I actually like sending them off to school every day.  I come home from dropping them off every morning with hours to spend doing, not just what I need to do, but what I want to do.  Uninterrupted.  If I don't fix myself lunch until 2:30, no big deal.  If I want to listen to music really loudly, I can. I have the most time to myself that I've had in over 14 years, and you know what?  I LIKE IT.  In fact, all three kids were home sick last week, and by Thursday I was beyond ready for them to go back to school.  I never thought this would happen.  I was really freaked out about the whole situation at first, but (as usual) God knew what He was doing.  So now I'm least until 3:45. 

Not a teenager

    Well, we finally got our first snowfall of the winter, and it was a doozy!  Around 6 - 8" of heavy, wet, white stuff.  Absolutely gorgeous, if you're just looking at it.  Not so much if you're shoveling.  I hauled my chubby little self out yesterday to attempt to clear the drive, so hubby would have a place to park when he got home from Belgium last night.  Now, we're living in Germany, right?  The land of the smaller everything?  Ha.  Yeah.  Tell that to my back muscles...and arms, and shoulders, and...I spent over an hour out there, freezing my arse, and barely managed to clear enough space for a (very little) car, along with a path to the curb to put out the trash.  I came in puffing and blowing and red-faced as an elderly Russian vodka-addict.  Clearly I am not a teenager any more.   Very sad.  Okay, so that's not news, but really, who wants to think they're middle-aged?  Sigh.
     On the other hand, I apparently still have my moments of teenage angst.  Confession time:  I love American Idol.  Love it.  I am so disappointed that I can't watch this season, words don't begin to describe it.  I've watched intermittently for the past several years, but last season I was obsessed.  There was just SO much talent, and such intriguing personalities to go with, that I couldn't tear myself away.  And while I liked several of the contestants, I quickly joined Taylor Hicks's fan club.  He was quirky, fun, and - well - I was a Hicks before I got married, so who knows?  We might even be distantly related!  And to top it all off, the guy can sing.  Needless to say, there was great rejoicing here when he won and became THE American Idol, 2006. 
    Well, once Taylor won, the waiting began.  I watched for the odd television appearance, bought the single, and fretted about how I'd get the album if it came out after we left for Germany.  Which it did - duh - how many people turn out full-length albums in two months?  But when we went home for Christmas, I snatched it up and waited with bated breath to see what it would sound like.  I was not disappointed.  Great album all the way 'round.  There's only one song that I'm not supremely crazy about, and even it is okay; it's balanced by several songs that I can't stop singing, to the point that I'm beginning to annoy myself.  There's just one problem.  Last weekend someone scratched the disc.  As in, now Taylor stutters severely whenever I try to play it.  It's toast.  I was SO mad.  Oldest son is (almost tearfully) taking the blame, but we don't really know how it happened, so I can't  be too hard on him.  After all, there were three other kids in the house over the weekend, one of them only 6 years old and very curious.  But I'm crushed.  I mean, I listened to Taylor every day.  He was my clean-the-house, do-the-dishes, bop-like-a-crazy-woman companion, and now he's gone.  I almost cried, I was so upset.  This time I do feel like a teenager.  And again, it's very sad.

What am I worth?

    I had a very interesting conversation with a friend this morning that reinforced a long-held theory of mine, to wit: the general public seems to perceive all stay-at-home moms as useless, lazy, bonbon-eating couch potatoes who have no intelligence, interests, or capabilities of note.  Why is this the case?  The vast majority of the moms I know are sharp, capable women with wide-ranging interests and valuable skills.  Yet telling someone that you're a stay-at-home mom immediately earns you the dismissive look or pitying comment usually reserved for the mentally challenged (and don't get me started on that, either!).  So where does this disregard for moms come from?  I wish I knew. 
    Part of the problem is the media's portrayal of traditional families as being old-fashioned and out of touch.  Part of it is the fact that many women are now holding down jobs outside of the home.  That in itself is not bad, but it tends to produce the "Why aren't you working?" question, as if work is only work when it produces a paycheck and a 401k.  Some of the problem is, quite frankly, pure ignorance on the part of those who have never been in this position.  But sadly, part of the problem is us.  We stay-at-home moms.  Yep, that's right.  Know why?
    We don't value our own work enough.  Oh sure, we groan and complain about laundry and dishes and "oh my gosh, we have three soccer games this week and when am I going to clean the house?", etc. But how often do we really sit down and think about the value of the work we do?  Any mom who's ever left home for a few days can vouch for the fact that things go awry when her place is empty.  There are many men out there who step up to the plate and do their best, but let's face it: it's just not the same.  My husband is an intelligent, talented man, but faced with the running of our household, he cringes.
So why aren't we proud of our work?  Managing a household, caring for children, planning and creating meals, operating a budget, perhaps even caring for elderly parents or others with special needs - these are valuable, worthwhile pursuits.  And certainly not everyone is capable of fulfilling all these responsibilities - you have only to look around you to see that.  I suspect  that if we moms put a dollar value on everything we do, our families couldn't afford us.  Good heavens, think what a taxi costs just to go across town, then multiply that by the miles and hours spent picking up or delivering children, groceries, etc. - it boggles the mind!   Really, if all the moms on this planet went on strike, the world would grind to a halt in no time at all.  We are a force to be reckoned with! 
    Really, for me, it all comes down to this: I am a stay-at-home mom because I choose to be.  I choose to be responsible for the children I brought into this world, rather than handing them over to someone else to raise.  I choose to care for my home and family, because it's mine. No-one else is ever going to love my kids or care for my home the way I do, just because of that simple fact.  I hope that in the future my family will say that my choice made a difference for them.   If they do, that will all the "value added" I'll need.  Until then, I'll keep doing what I do, and praying for a day that's empty enough to allow me TIME to lie on the couch and eat bonbons!

I ROCK (just ask me)

    I think I should get the "Awesomest Mom of the Year" award, I really do.  I made two transatlantic flights without strangling any of my kids: I bought them each something they really, really wanted for Christmas (note I did NOT say something they needed, although that happened too): I let them stay up late and eat waaaaaaaaaay too much sugar at Grandma's house, without arguing too much with said Grandma or other relatives in residence there: and now - now - NOW, I have made the Grand Slam of Motherhood.  This is the big one, at least for kids not old enough to even think of driving yet.  What is it, you ask?

I have gerbils in my house.

Gerbils.  Small rodents, that squeak and chew and constantly poop in an amazingly nonchalant fashion whilst doing - well, whilst doing just about anything else gerbils do.  Kinda like babies, but littler and hairier, with long tails.  Four of 'em.

Our kids think we are the greatest parents in the world, and I'm THE greatest, because I'm the one who said "yes" first.  What the heck kind of medication was I ON?!?  I mean, these are rodents!  Little bit cousins of rats and mice and all those other chewing critters that you don't want in your house...and yet, not only did I invite four of them in, I provided food, housing and entertainment.  I must have had a moment of temporary insanity, and you know that when that happens, you simply canNOT be around your children.  They're like piranhas - they smell a little blood and wham!, they're in for the kill.  Clearly I forgot this most essential rule of parenting: when in doubt, always say no.  It's generally the safest thing (and usually the right answer anyway). 

Still....the wee beasties are sort of cute, in a rodent-ish way, and the kids are completely enthralled.  Who knew watching a gerbil sit up and wash its face could be so much fun?  So I guess I'm okay with being Mom of the Year for this one, at least until one of them escapes its cage and takes up residence in one of my shoes.  Then we're moving on to Exterminator of the Year.  Gotta move with the times, folks.