Bad Mommy

**This is a disturbing rant on my part about my mothering “skills.” If you think that it is going to be too offensive for you or change your opinion of me, please don’t read it. All of the things that I mention in here are being worked on and changed. Originally I published this only as “private” but I want other people to know that they are not the only ones who struggle with successful mothering. Above all, my children know that I love them and I always will.

Why are mothers constantly plagued with guilt? It seems like there is not a thing that I am going to do right in my kids’ lives; no matter what choices I make, they are going to end up messed up and incomplete and they are going to have every right to blame me for it. Why? And why do I automatically accept this guilt, recognize it and allow it as though it were some prize?

I know I’m not going to win “mother of the year” and I know that I will probably never be as good a mother as my mother was to me, but why do I feel insecure all the time about the skills that I have as a mother? Is it just my insecurity in general or am I subconsciously admitting to a lack of parenting prowess? Is my guilt justified?

This isn’t exactly a new thought and I am confident that I am not the only mother who feels the same way. In fact, several months back I bought a book called, Motherhood: The Guilt That Keeps On Giving, by Julie Ann Barnhill. I never read it because at the same time I bought another parenting book from the same author that dealt with anger. Though I never finished the book (in fact I barely started it) it has stuck with me and I think I have made some changes, though I know I haven’t made enough.

I want my kids to grow up happy and healthy with a sincere love of Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. I want them to be well adjusted and confident, intelligent and capable. So far, I feel like I have laid groundwork for lazy, unintelligent beings who only attempt at obedience yet are incapable of achieving the lofty goals that have been set by their authoritative parents. I don’t think they feel safe or wanted at home, in fact most of the time they are sent away to their rooms to watch a movie on the small set they each have in their room. A TV, in a toddler’s room??? I don’t know how to teach them, at their level, even the most basic of things. I fight with their father in front of them until they are confused and upset and yet I don’t know how to change. These kids are not going to grow up the way that I want them to and I’m the one who can change that, yet I don’t know how.

The answer that came to me is this, “Lose yourself in them.” A thought that I’ve had before, in reference to my mother. She lost herself raising us girls and now that we’re gone she feels like she has nothing. We all see her enormous skills and talents, but she feels like she is worthless. I never wanted to lose myself like that. I somehow thought that I could be a stay-at-home mom and still keep my identity. I would be able to sleep in, read books, watch movies and “work” on the computer all day long. Sure, I get up to feed them when they mention that they are hungry or I am ready for a nap, since I know that feeding prior to a nap ensures a better nap for them. Am I even a parent? Maybe the reason I always feel like their babysitter is that I am their babysitter. I am not the one that is invested in their education or training. I am merely marking time until I can do something else. But how to change this? Everyone says that it is easy, that you just include them in what you are doing, but what I do is a solitary activity and doesn’t want help, in fact their version of “helping” only frustrates me further and then I dispatch them to their rooms to watch a movie. Oh when they were babies and required so little! I was able to continue my activities because they would sleep most of the day. I would hold them and nurse them and pray over them. Sometime between 15 months and 24 months, that changed. Now they require constant stimulation and activity and unless I am prepared and am doing it with them, they are restless and the only thing that seems to entertain them is a movie. They ask, and I provide. But every time I turn on that TV in Jordyn or Noah’s room, I feel like a piece of me is dying. They aren’t happier because of it, I’m not happier because of it. The only thing is it is easier. It requires no thought, no planning, no skill and IT WORKS!!! If only it didn’t work.

I have an idea: I can start the day with a movie. I usually have a hard time getting up and ready, so the movie is easy distraction while the family rises. We eat breakfast, they get dressed (since I showered right away), and we do some morning chores. The movie will still be on, probably, so they can either watch or join in my chores. I don’t have too many chores to do when I do them on a daily basis, so this should be easy. After that, we can have “active time”. They can choose an activity from a jar that usually requires activity. Examples are: play a game, play outside, sing songs, take a walk, ride bikes, go shopping or to the park…whatever. I really don’t want to commit a lot of time to this activity, but some of them are long (like shopping or the park). When we get done with active time, we can have quite time, again they can choose from a jar things like, read a story, practice in a workbook, do a craft, bake something, play a quiet game. After that, it will probably be time for lunch and naps. In the afternoon we can follow the same pattern….

Hmm, wonder if that would work…I’ll have to find out.

Bad Mommy!

**This is a disturbing rant on my part about my mothering “skills.” If you think that it is going to be too offensive for you or change your opinion of me, please don’t read it. All of the things that I mention in here are being worked on and changed. Originally I published this only as “private” but I want other people to know that they are not the only ones who struggle with successful mothering. Above all, my children know that I love them and I always will.

Why are mothers constantly plagued with guilt? It seems like there is not a thing that I am going to do right in my kids’ lives; no matter what choices I make, they are going to end up messed up and incomplete and they are going to have every right to blame me for it. Why? And why do I automatically accept this guilt, recognize it and allow it as though it were some prize?

I know I’m not going to win “mother of the year” and I know that I will probably never be as good a mother as my mother was to me, but why do I feel insecure all the time about the skills that I have as a mother? Is it just my insecurity in general or am I subconsciously admitting to a lack of parenting prowess? Is my guilt justified?

This isn’t exactly a new thought and I am confident that I am not the only mother who feels the same way. In fact, several months back I bought a book called, Motherhood: The Guilt That Keeps On Giving, by Julie Ann Barnhill. I never read it because at the same time I bought another parenting book from the same author that dealt with anger. Though I never finished the book (in fact I barely started it) it has stuck with me and I think I have made some changes, though I know I haven’t made enough.

I want my kids to grow up happy and healthy with a sincere love of Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. I want them to be well adjusted and confident, intelligent and capable. So far, I feel like I have laid groundwork for lazy, unintelligent beings who only attempt at obedience yet are incapable of achieving the lofty goals that have been set by their authoritative parents. I don’t think they feel safe or wanted at home, in fact most of the time they are sent away to their rooms to watch a movie on the small set they each have in their room. A TV, in a toddler’s room??? I don’t know how to teach them, at their level, even the most basic of things. I fight with their father in front of them until they are confused and upset and yet I don’t know how to change. These kids are not going to grow up the way that I want them to and I’m the one who can change that, yet I don’t know how.

The answer that came to me is this, “Lose yourself in them.” A thought that I’ve had before, in reference to my mother. She lost herself raising us girls and now that we’re gone she feels like she has nothing. We all see her enormous skills and talents, but she feels like she is worthless. I never wanted to lose myself like that. I somehow thought that I could be a stay-at-home mom and still keep my identity. I would be able to sleep in, read books, watch movies and “work” on the computer all day long. Sure, I get up to feed them when they mention that they are hungry or I am ready for a nap, since I know that feeding prior to a nap ensures a better nap for them. Am I even a parent? Maybe the reason I always feel like their babysitter is that I am their babysitter. I am not the one that is invested in their education or training. I am merely marking time until I can do something else. But how to change this? Everyone says that it is easy, that you just include them in what you are doing, but what I do is a solitary activity and doesn’t want help, in fact their version of “helping” only frustrates me further and then I dispatch them to their rooms to watch a movie. Oh when they were babies and required so little! I was able to continue my activities because they would sleep most of the day. I would hold them and nurse them and pray over them. Sometime between 15 months and 24 months, that changed. Now they require constant stimulation and activity and unless I am prepared and am doing it with them, they are restless and the only thing that seems to entertain them is a movie. They ask, and I provide. But every time I turn on that TV in Jordyn or Noah’s room, I feel like a piece of me is dying. They aren’t happier because of it, I’m not happier because of it. The only thing is it is easier. It requires no thought, no planning, no skill and IT WORKS!!! If only it didn’t work.

I have an idea: I can start the day with a movie. I usually have a hard time getting up and ready, so the movie is easy distraction while the family rises. We eat breakfast, they get dressed (since I showered right away), and we do some morning chores. The movie will still be on, probably, so they can either watch or join in my chores. I don’t have too many chores to do when I do them on a daily basis, so this should be easy. After that, we can have “active time”. They can choose an activity from a jar that usually requires activity. Examples are: play a game, play outside, sing songs, take a walk, ride bikes, go shopping or to the park…whatever. I really don’t want to commit a lot of time to this activity, but some of them are long (like shopping or the park). When we get done with active time, we can have quite time, again they can choose from a jar things like, read a story, practice in a workbook, do a craft, bake something, play a quiet game. After that, it will probably be time for lunch and naps. In the afternoon we can follow the same pattern….

Hmm, wonder if that would work…I’ll have to find out.

Not So Great Wolf Lodge

Eric and I had only been married a year or two when we took a summer vacation to Wisconsin. It was the Fourth of July weekend and Eric had been talking about how great the “waterpark city” of Wisconsin Dells was. It’s wasn’t an incredibly long trip, maybe 4 hours I think, from Racine so we visited. We had planned on camping, but when we got there, it was busier than we expected and the campground that Eric was familiar with was sold-out. Once we knew that we weren’t going to be staying at the “perfect” campground, we looked for hotels. One of the first ones we checked out was Great Wolf Lodge. Eric said that it was incredibly cool because everything was done in theme and there was a huge indoor waterpark. Coming from California, the idea of an INDOOR waterpark could only mean one thing: SMALL!!! So I wasn’t interested and though there was availability at an exorbitant rate, we chose instead to drive to a less popular campsite and stick to the original idea. We enjoyed our time; the camping was pleasant and I found out that in Wisconsin, an indoor waterpark is a great idea, since it rained that weekend. We still had a good time, but there has always been this desire in Eric to stay at a Great Wolf Lodge.

Fast forward several years, and two kids later and Eric got word that a Great Wolf Lodge was opening in Washington! He was so excited about it-sure that it would just be this master success. It did come in, and we are staying there right now, but I’m not convinced that it’s claims to “great-ness” are so accurate. Eric was still so desperate to go that we decided to give it a shot the week before Memorial Day Weekend. Knowing that facilities are best tested during the busiest times but allowing for a new staff, we decided to go during the week. We saved on the rates and avoided the crowds. The indoor waterpark closes an hour earlier during the week, but it’s nine o’clock closing was past our children’s bedtime anyway.

We booked a “medium-scale” room- it is called the “Kid’s Kabin” suite and is really designed for a family with young children. The kids have a small room (with no door and two windows) that has a bunk-bed and an extra bed. The walls are all set up to look like a little cabin in the woods and the design is really charming. The characters (a squirrel and other forest creatures) are cartoon-like without being cartoon images in that they maintain most authentic qualities without being scary. Outside the kid’s room is the other part of the room which holds a queen bed (it feels smaller than that), a pull-out couch and a fireplace. The walls are painted a nice warm brown but are sparse, with only two relatively small pictures. There is a large TV, but it is placed awkwardly on a granite countertop that provides a poor view from the bed and even worse from the couch. There is no cable TV, what you want is what you are willing to pay for, and for the low-low price of $11.99 you can “rent” a movie that is still in theaters, though it is not a new release. For varying lesser prices you can purchase movies that are a bit older. You can also rent TV programs: we rented Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for the kids each night for $2.99 each. Pathetic! The gas fireplace has a timer on it so that while it is on you hear the constant ticking of an egg timer, waiting to stop- it kills whatever mood you were trying to accomplish, unless you are able to drown it out with a movie or TV show that you will have to crane your head to see. On the whole though, I have found the hotel room to be adequate. The shower water got hot almost immediately and there was a rip-cord that you could string up in the bathroom to dry swimwear. The room had a full size ironing board, coffee-pot and coffee, microwave and refrigerator. Did I mention that we had a balcony?

As for the general facility, I can say with complete sincerity that it is well done. The decoration is themed to the hilt, you can stop wolves in this hotel almost as frequently as you can find “Mouse Ears” at a Disney theme park. These creatures look quite authentic and are usually set up in some sort of “scape” to create a home for the them and atmosphere for the guest. The lobby is a large two-story affair with large rustic couches centered on checkers board coffee tables. When we checked in, they gave each of us a red wristband. In both mine and Eric was placed a microchip. Fabulous invention! The wristband is entry to the waterpark, your room key, and it is linked to your account so that, should you be in the arcade and wanting to play a few games, you can zap your wristband and you have just put $20.00 cash onto your room. We have charged every meal this way, along with plenty of snacks, spa service, pool-side lockers and gifts. It alleviates the need for the guest to carry around a wallet and also enables a person to spontaneously purchase whatever his heart desires only to hear about it at check-out. What a great benefit to the hotel and truly, it really is nice for the guest too except for the fact that you are stuck with this wristband for the duration of your trip and if you are not a person naturally disciplined in your spending habits, not even having to whip out a credit card will do tragic things for your bill. It is completely optional to using it to charge things, but the option is always there. Having the wristband is not an option as it acts as your room key and allows entry into the waterpark, but if you don’t allow yourself to ever use it otherwise, you should escape unscathed.

We ate every meal on the property for a few reasons, the first of which is probably the most important to note. There is no where else to eat. The hotel sits in what will probably be completely developed in 10 years, maybe less, but for now, your only other dining options are McDonald’s and Dairy Queen. There is plenty of land open for development and every reason to expect a number of restaurants to go into the area, but at present, there is nothing without a drive. This is a huge shame because the food is not spectacular and while adequate, is not dazzling my tastebuds or pleasing my pocket. The food is significantly overpriced as is the norm with resorts, but the quality is not up to par. The service we received in the Camp Critter Bar & Grill was short if not rude. I don’t think our waitress knew how to smile, if she did, no demonstration was made. Children’s meals ranged from $5.95 for a plate of spaghetti to $7.95 for some of the other choices. The average adult entree ranged from the $9.95 plain burger to upwards of $20. The following day, we chose to eat in the Loose Moose Cottage which was significantly better in service and selection. While the price was still expensive, young children eat free so it cost our family less and we ate more. The items are your standard breakfast and dinner choices. They are closed for lunch but there are two other lunch choices near the water park.

As for the waterpark, Bear Track Landing is a 60,000 square foot indoor waterpark. They have four waterslides, a wavepool, a play-pool with floating basketball hoots, floating snakes, and a leap-pad run, Fort McKenzie, a 4-story water fort, with a 1,000 gallon bucket of water that dumps down on unsuspecting (and some eagerly waiting) swimmers every few minutes. It is quite a rush and a lot of roar. There is also a small-child play area where the water gets no deeper than 18 inches. Noah was able to walk through it and it came up to his waist. They have spray toys and a small climbing structure with a water slide (think playground slide with water running down) that the kids enjoyed along with a slightly larger slide that my kids were too chicken to attempt. In a cute homage to the great bucket, there is a rascally raccoon that dumps a smaller bucket (maybe 200 gallons) onto the little heads. One of my favorite features is the mild alarm that sounds before the raccoon spills his bucket allowing aware parents to remove their children from the deluge in time. It isn’t loud enough or sharp enough to bother even if you are standing or sitting nearby for a long length of time, just enough to alert you of the significant splash coming. Well done. The lifeguards seemed mostly attentive and professional, watching and looking and there are free life-jackets for children. My children weren’t interested and they truly weren’t needed in the kiddie pool, but when we travelled into the deeper pools, they wore them. After only a few minutes letting your reserve fall away and you began to feel like a kid again, a feeling I relished since I had not been looking forward to having to don a bathing suit. On that note, it seemed that most people (if not all) were there to have a good time and were not worried about appearances. Even at my weight, I didn’t feel overly self-conscious about my body or my suit, except that it is cut rather low, so getting out of deep water was a little concerning, but had nothing whatsoever to do with the other people. Since it is indoors (and heated) you don’t have to worry about the weather or the sunburns. However, when you first walk it, the room seems almost too warm, but after a few minutes it begins to feel chilly. I am sure that it would cost them oodles to raise the temperature a degree or two, but it would be appreciated. They do provide towels, but the ask you to not remove them from the water park. I would recommend bringing your own towels or planning to change in the changing rooms (they even have showers) because exiting the waterpark makes for some very cold children. Even still, my children managed fine without extra towels or added clothing (we were too cheap to pay $5 for a locker)

Today I had my appointments at the Elements Spa. Once you walk through the doors that lead you to the spa, you are in a different world where everything is in low light and there is relaxing music playing. The double doors open to a small store sells Aveda Elements products. I walked to the counter to check in and they had me sit in a cozy room painted a dark shade of brown with a large chair, loveseat, and chaise lounge in it. There were two dim lights and attractive but minimalist artwork on the walls. The only connection I saw to Great Wolf Lodge was the Wolf Almanac sitting in the book rack next to the end table. There were no glossy magazines. The receptionist handed me a clipboard with an information sheet on it asking me various things today, like the way my skin felt and my anxiety level. They asked me to disclose relevant injuries or conditions and sign a waiver. The lady offered me a choice of tea or water. I asked for water and was surprised to find cucumber water. It was room temperature and though many people have commented on the refreshing taste of cucumber water, I was not wholly impressed. I drank some of it to help calm my nerves. I had scheduled a Foot Reflexology and Caribbean Manicure and Pedicure. First was the Reflexology and Heather took me back to another sparsely decorated room, this one with a massage table centered on an angle, covered with sheets and a brown blanket. First, she had me sit on a stool and soak my feet in a warm tub of water. She tested three different aromatherapy blends until I settled on the third one. It was a mix of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, and Orange and smelled both invigorating and relaxing, if that’s possible. After a brief foot scrub, I climbed into the “bed” and under the covers. Heather came back into the room and I laid back onto a pillow before she put an eye cover on me. It was warm and heavy and helped me relax even more. Starting with my left foot, she wrapped it in a hot towel scented with the aromatherapy blend I chose before beginning her massage. It was at times relaxing and painful but as I lay there letting my mind wander, my other foot began to feel pain. It wasn’t until she finished my first foot and moved on to the second that I was completely relaxed. The manicure and pedicure were nice, but not as fancy as I had hoped. If I go back again, I would purchase the Foot Reflexology and on a recommend, a Facial. I think that is what I will use as part of my incentive to lose weight. Going to a spa is a luxury I can’t afford, especially if it’s going to be a frequent thing but it may be what I need to get moving. [Of course, as I am writing this, I have just finished a bag of Fritos chips and am munching on a Snickers bar while drinking a sugar-packed soda.]

On the whole if I had to characterize this hotel in one sentence, I would say that it is a pleasant break from mundane life and while it’s resort aspects are not fully executed to high standards, they are adequate for the average vacationer and enjoyable for children of all ages, even the grown-up ones.

Love, Kristi

Reading Writing

Whenever I face an obstacle, I read a book about it. In this way, I am usually more informed and therefore more at easy since I have some form of an understanding of the particular situation at hand. For example, pregnancy scared me. There were so many variables: what the baby was doing developmentally, what the proper ways of childbirth were, how to stimulate a baby, what was changing in my body and how soon it would change back, which direction to face when sleeping, how to name your child so that they won’t hate you forever…the list when on for days and I eagerly devoured stacks of books and magazines on every parenting topic I could get my hands on.

The problem with this approach is that planning and preparing for something are quite different than actually doing it. While reading maternity books, I was able to intelligently say that I preferred a “natural” childbirth process and wanted no part of an epidural. Ten minutes into labor however, and I was glad to have them stick a giant needle into my spinal cord.

My newest distraction is reading books on writing. I have one called Story Structure Architect that is really helpful. It has chapters on the major types of story structures and different stories to add conflict. It really is a “plot reference book” and I enjoy looking through it and can see my characters experiencing some of the tension that they listed. I can also see things that wouldn’t work in my story and the structures have helped me to clarify where I will need to go in the story, elements I will need to change to make it more suspenseful or even more predicable. It really is a great book.

I also have a writing tools book that has 52 chapters, each devoted to one aspect of good writing. I can easily get lost in this book too and learn plenty of new things. At the end of each chapter is a list of exercises to do to perfect the writing tool, but I easily skip those.

The problem here is that I don’t WRITE! I just think about writing. Even right now, when I could be actually writing pages of a story, I am working on a website that most likely, no one will look at besides me. I enjoy putting my thoughts on the page but every time I stare at my story I question whether I am just another person with some story in my head because I’ve read to much fiction or if I’m a writer because it’s what I’m supposed to do. It’s terrifying to work so hard on something and still question whether or not it will be any good by the end. Enough chatter on the subject of distracting myself. I am getting sleepy and it is only nine in the morning. Must do something productive now, though I think I will let my kids distract me this time.

Writing Sabbatical

My husband and I had challenged ourselves to have no “screen” time this past weekend. I had anticipated plenty of family games and activities, giggles and activities, and of course, plenty of family bonding time. Things didn’t go exactly as I had planned.

Morning was difficult because that is when the kids usually watch most of their TV; they love the Nick Jr. shows like Dora, Deigo, Max and Ruby, Backyardigans, and Lazy Town. Added to all that are the Disney shows (on TV) like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and all of their full-length movies like Peter Pan and whatnot. Basically, they will gladly watch anything geared for children. Eric and I held them off for the morning though, we managed to interest them in a puzzle and then there was breakfast. It looked like it would be a good day, but then Eric left, mid-morning and left me alone with the kids. We still survived and made it to the afternoon.

That didn’t go so well, since the kids didn’t sleep and I was exhausted. Anyway, long story short (and to get to my point…) the kids ended up watching TV that afternoon and evening, but I included computer into the concept of “screen time” so I haven’t been on my computer since then…

It’s always funny when you don’t want to be on the computer, how many writing ideas you get. I made a few notes so that I would know what to write later, but I just haven’t made time to do it today. It’s already afternoon, but I feel like I want to do something else today. I might actually do a little sewing. I am hoping to make a few skirts for myself to wear instead of shorts this summer. Anyway,

All I really want to do is get something done today. Whatever it is…

Yesterday’s Writing

So, I have started writing again. After losing over 50 pages of writing, I didn’t want to actually put it all on the computer again but since paper is probably easier destroyed or lost than any computer file, I figured I might as well give it another shot. After all, I keep telling myself that I am a writer, but if I am indeed a writer, then writing is what I need to do to feel productive during my day. I have settled on a simple 30 minutes a day; 5-10 in freewriting at the beginning. I will do my free-writing here, just to keep track. Maybe I will talk a little about what I wrote yesterday or how I want the next section to turn out. I might even try an actual exercise. It all remains to be seen.

Right now, I am actually concerned with going back to school. I want to go to school to teach, but I just missed the deadline at Saint Martin’s, which means I might need to go to Evergreen…though I think their standards are much the same. In the end, I know that I can graduate from Evergreen in about 1 year, but then I will need to go through the Masters in Teaching program. I wonder if potential employers will look at my Bachelor’s degree if I have a current MiT. How strong of an emphasis do I need if I want to teach in Washington. Do I want to teach in Washington? Would it just be better to pursue a straight MFA in English and attempt to teach community college? Gosh, I really wish that I had someone that I could talk about these particular issues to. Mom just says, “get the degree,” like it’s some item I can check off my grocery list. I have to pick something that I can use in the future or the degree is just a waste of time and money.