A Stop on the Tour…

Blog tour, that is!

I’m excited to share with you MomSense: A Common-sense Guide to Confident Mothering by Jean Blackmer.

First, let me tell you a little about MOPS, the organization responsible for this publication. “MOPS” stands for Mothers of Preschoolers.  MOPS International is a Christian-based organization that serves mothers of children from birth through kindergarten by providing informative speakers, a chance for conversation and friendship, mentorship from experienced moms, and refreshment.  I don’t just mean coffee and doughnut holes.  MOPS offers a chance for refreshment of the spirit.  A rest.   I attended my first MOPS meeting on the same day that I received an e-mail asking me to participate in the 2011 Blog Tour.  Weird coincidence?  On to the book…

Ms. Blackmer’s book is not a hard-hitting text for a child development course.  You probably will not find yourself shocked by a completely new, astounding revelation.  Instead, it is a cup-of-coffee-with-a-good-friend kind of read.  It’s a I’ve-had-a-really-hard-day-and-I-need-to-know-I’m-not-alone book.  Instead of feeling your jaw drop at pages and pages of revelatory information, you will be nodding at the familiarity of Blackmer’s observations and anecdotes.  Any revelation will not come from the content; it will come from YOU, inspired by the author’s warm tone and her ability to draw you close and expose those shadowy places in your heart where you beat yourself up, question your worth, and feel certain that everyone is better at mothering than you are.  This book does have the potential for epiphany if you dive into it as a tool for self-reflection, not an instruction manual.

MomSense isn’t meant to be prescriptive.  This is not the kind of parenting book that tells you how to parent.  You won’t find tips for diapering, breastfeeding, or making the perfect tuna noodle casserole.  MomSense isn’t that kind of book.  It doesn’t ascribe to a particular parenting style, and in that, the book becomes accessible to mothers in all their wonderful variety.  But because of the potential breadth of audience, readers should be prepared to take what fits and leave the rest (good advice for most decisions regarding the raising of a family).  More about that later.

So if MomSense isn’t a how-to-parent book, what is it?  Jean Blackmer makes good on her title; the book guides you toward confident mothering, not just going through the motions, not just accepting what’s good enough.  She points readers toward a loving, mindful mothering that comes from a place of certainty in one’s place of authority in the home but a humble willingness to learn.  Authority and humility — now that seems like a good mix.  Blackmer reiterates the need to openly acknowledge our weaknesses and see them as places for growth.  The author won my heart when she advised and repeated that moms find the humility to apologize to their children.  In doing so, they model the healthy practices of apology and forgiveness.  In my own mothering, I have seen the value of saying I am sorry when I do not use my voice kindly or my hands gently.  I expect the same from my kiddos.

Early in the book (page 39, to be exact), Blackmer offers an anecdote that is, for me, the essence of her concept of confident mothering.  Here, the author uses the story of “Ben and Betsy” to illustrate values-based parenting.  Basically, if your parenting decisions are made in response to pre-selected, shared values, you can be confident in the choices you make.  In other words, principles that drive your family’s way of life can be the road map for the daily choices we all face.  For instance, if you value quiet evenings, drop a few extracurriculars and choose a novel to read together as a family.  If you want to emphasize physical fitness, cancel your Netflix membership and redirect those funds toward the YMCA.  See what I mean?`

The very accessible “Ben and Betsy” story and other real-life anecdotes (including great ones from the author’s own experience) are the strength of MomSense.  They succeed in welcoming readers, saying “you are one of us, and we aren’t perfect.”  I find the early segment on critical thinking and decision making less strong.  On one hand, this section serves to define “MomSense,” and the author’s careful, sensible attention to these rather academic ideas does well to elevate the call of motherhood to the status of any other career.  I truly appreciate that!  On the other hand, the issues were necessarily watered down for the style and length of the book, making me feel like the book was trying to be something it is not–a sort of literary identity crisis–at the risk of losing my attention and making me question the author’s intentions.  Luckily, the book came to life when Blackmer launched into Section 2.

Section 2 makes up the bulk of the book, and this section outlines some of the characteristics that many of us wish to bring to our mothering.  Patience, respect, calm, joy, and love are among some of the qualities of note.  The segments are filled with stories, tips, and questions to probe reflection.

The book closes with Section 3.  This section steps beyond the rather private, internal world of mothering to the external reality that we are not alone in the process…or we shouldn’t be!  Blackmer discusses the relationship between a mom and her husband or other parenting partner, and she goes on to reflect upon the value of friendships.  She does not hesitate to acknowledge God’s partnership in meeting the challenges of parenting. The entire book touches upon snippets from the Bible to encourage moms and an overarching faith-based focus, and this section in particular rings with the sound of scripture and Biblical principles.

So let me get back to the “take some, leave the rest” concept.  Because the book uses stories and quotations from real moms, there is the risk of “butting heads” with one of those real moms.  Please don’t allow that to turn you away.  My husband and I have chosen to parent our children in the vein of Attachment Parenting (kind of a hybrid version, I admit).  One of the stories was a breastfeeding success story.  Yay!  I teared up and cheered aloud.  I even read the anecdote to my husband.  On the other hand, I was so sad when one couple chose to let their child “cry it out” in one example (page 42).  I actually had a physical reaction to the story of a mom who was trying to get her daughter to go to bed.  The child pounded at her mother’s bedrooom door, screaming for her momma.  The section was about consistency.  I’m for consistency, but I would never be consistent in that manner.  No.  I would have chosen a different approach and been consistent in my own method.  Reading the story, my stomach clenched, my face flushed, and my palms got clammy.  I almost put the book away, but I stopped myself.  I reminded myself that this book is not the end-all be-all answer.  What my husband and I value simply does not align with what the mom in the example valued.  That’s okay.

I don’t know what kind of reader you are, but I’m the kind of gal who keeps favorite books  at hand for frequent reference.  I re-read many books many times but rarely in full.  This will be one of those books that I keep around for a reminder.  Despite some differences of opinion, MomSense: A Common-sense Guide to Confident Mothering lifted my spirits and renewed my belief that I’m up for this most rewarding and blessed assignment–being my kids’ mommy.

I would love to hear how your own “MomSense” has come into play in your life.  Do you recall a time when you just knew what was right for your child?  Jean Blackmer emphasizes that our MomSense is a combination of heart and education and experience.  What inspired you to make the decision?  Information?  Someone else’s opinion?  A gut reaction?

If you aren’t a mom, think how you’ve seen “MomSense” at work in others or how you’ve felt a kind of quiet wisdom inside yourself.

When you comment, you’ll be entered to win a copy of Blackmer’s book.  One entry per person!  Comments will close on Sunday at 11:59 pm.  Thanks for participating!

Project: Food Budget (Week #4)

{Don’t forget my giveaway tomorrow!  You can win a copy of MomSense: A Common-sense Guide to Confident Mothering by participating in tomorrow’s blog post.  Just leave a comment, and you’re entered in the drawing.  Comments will close on Sunday at 11:59pm.}

Hey, food budget fans!  Week 3 was a tough one.  In my last post, I was at $120 for the week, and I was at a loss as to what we would eat over the weekend.  We went out to dinner at a little fish place on Friday.  We were a bit surprised to leave $50 lighter.  Ouch.  I was determined to not head back to the grocery store, so I opened the cupboard and turned on the creativity.  On Saturday, we did a breakfast supper.  I made these pancakes using ingredients we had in the house and a big batch of scrambled eggs.  We had only a drip of maple syrup on hand, so I defrosted some frozen blueberries and made an impromptu compote. The boys thought this was the greatest supper ever!  On Sunday, I made spaghetti with items we already had.  So $170 for the week.  Not great, but I was really proud of us for not going out to eat for two full weeks (ignoring the quickie drive-through run last Wednesday).

This week I spent $108 on groceries.  I will have to return for some drinks to take to a pot luck on Friday night.  My $108 includes two splurges: real maple syrup ($4.99) and Breyers ice cream ($5.99 BOGO).  Here is our menu for the week:

Monday: Chicken stir-fry with brown rice

Tuesday: Egg salad on yummy bakery rolls, cantaloupe, and homemade oven fries

Wednesday: Dinner at church ($8)

Thursday: Roast beef subs and white bean salad

Friday: {Pot luck}, bringing beverages

Saturday: Baked ziti

Sunday: Fried fish, mixed veggies, and brown rice

Week 1 ($168) + Week 2 ($90) + Week 3 ($170) + Week 4 ($108 + $8) = $544

After a month of being mindful of my food budget, I came in $56 under budget.  I’m pleased, but my goal is $400 per month.  I’m $144 over.  I’ve got 48 weeks left to accomplish my goal.

Please check out my fellow bloggers:

A little peek!

We are in the process of buying a new home.  This is an exciting and nerve-racking time.  We’re waiting on a closing date, but I can’t resist showing you a little bit of the house.  *Important Note*  I know this house doesn’t belong to us yet, and as much as I want it, I feel at peace, knowing that if this house isn’t going to be OURS there is another one out there for us.

The entryway is one of my favorite parts of the home.  I love the wainscoting and the open stairway.

And this is the livingroom.  I prefer much slimmer furniture, so the room will have a very different feel if we move in.  I’m planning a light blue/gray paint for the walls, keeping clean white trim.  I love this big window.  The deep sill will be the perfect place for our nature table.

One of the major draws of this home is the outdoor space.  There is a small front yard, a pleasant side yard (pictured above), and a nice sized back yard that I know we are going to love if this house becomes OUR house.

{Don’t forget my free giveaway!  You can win a copy of MomSense: A Common-sense Guide to Confident Mothering by Jean Blackmer.  Just stop by and leave a comment on Friday’s post.  You’ll be entered in my drawing.}

Feeling like fall (and a heads up!)

How about that little scarecrow?  Pretty cute, huh?  J’s whole class dressed as scarecrows for the preschool’s annual Fall Fest.  It was a sweet day of games and treats and wonderfully cool weather.  I have always loved autumn.  It is, by far, my favorite season, and I am definitely missing the colored leaves and the chilly weather.  But on the morning of the Fall Fest, I had to go buy Charlotte a little jacket.  It was seriously brisk.  Brrr!  And I say that with a big old smile on my face.

A bit of exciting news!  About a month ago, I was asked by MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers) to participate in the “blog tour” of the organization’s latest publication, MomSense: A Common-Sense Guide to Confident Mothering.  I am so excited to participate in the blog tour.  I will be posting my review on Friday, October 28.  Here’s the best part:  you can enter to win your own copy, right here on Warm As Pie.  Leave a comment on Friday’s post, and I will enter your name in a drawing to win MomSense. 

Project: Food Budget (Week 3) {Post #200!!}

Don’t wise people, sages and people like that, talk about the connectedness of all things?  Yeah.  Well, this week I had a nice illustrative experience along those lines.  Our Jeep was misbehaving over the weekend, and that simple fact screwed up my food budget for the week.  So here’s the story.  On Friday, the Jeep seemed off.  We noticed a smell.  Not good.  On Saturday, we noticed significant noise and weird shimmying.  That’s never good.  As we jiggled down the highway, I had a sinking feeling in my gut.  When we prepared to move, I had two things on my “Please NO” list:  illness and car trouble.  On the way home from the botanical gardens, the “check engine” light blinked steadily like some kind of red S.O.S.  Car trouble, great.  We decided to risk the drive to Sunday School and church, and that evening, my hubby asked if he should run to the store to “get some things” in case the Jeep ended up in the shop for a time.  Normally I make my weekly menu and grocery list on Sunday night, and I grocery shop on Monday.  I didn’t have a menu or list ready, so I quickly jotted down some of the basics and a quickie menu for Monday and Tuesday.  We have dinner at church on Wednesday ($6), so I figured I could get the rest of the week figured out later.  Error one:  I let one impromptu shopping trip alter my whole routine.  I like routines, and apparently, a routine is essential for food budget success.  Cory came home with the items on my list and a few “extras” for a grand total of $75.  Hmm…not great for a menu of only two dinners.  Error two: I let someone else do our shopping.  I’m stating that but not complaining one bit!  I’m thrilled to have a husband who shops.

So anyway…I just never got on track.  We made several stops at the store, accumulating about 30 extra dollars and only a vague sense of how accurate that number really is.  When you aren’t mindful about shopping, money seems to slip from the bank account like spaghetti through a too-big collander.  (How’s that for a foodie simile!)  Error three:  Too many stops at the store.  I’m currently reading Save More Clip Less (available for download from The Peaceful Mom), and the author discusses the relationship between time spent in stores and money spent.  I learned about that relationship this week.

And I still don’t know what we’re eating on Friday or Sunday, nor do I have the food to create anything.  More money will be spent.

So far, the project looks like this:

Week 1 ($168) + Week 2 ($90) + Week 3 ($75 + $30 + $6 + $9 {quick lunch out}) = $378 (for now)

Let’s see how the others are doing:

Botanical Gardens

Over the weekend, we enjoyed a nice dose of nature at a nearby plant sale event.  The weather was gorgeous.  Sunny, not too hot, and we finally got to see one of the treasured highlights of our new community, a botanical garden.  The garden hosts an annual plant sale combined with all the fun of a traditional Oktoberfest.  You know…German food, pumpkins, polka.  Here are some of the scenes from our weekend.

International Babywearing Week

2011:  Charlotte in a Sleepy Wrap, almost 2 months

2009: J in a handmade Mei Tai (*from Etsy), 11 months

It’s International Babywearing Week!  I think most people in my life just think I have some nifty baby carriers but “babywearing” has become an important part of how we parent and how we operate as a family.  Mothers (particularly but certainly not exclusively) have been wearing their babies for centuries.  We’ve all seen pictures of women of long ago or of other cultures securing their babies to their backs as they work in fields or tote water from a well.  But babywearing is about more than convenience.

Many studies and articles illustrate the ways in which being “worn” benefits babies and the act of wearing benefits caregivers.  A baby who is held close fusses less and interacts with the world more.  The skin-to-skin contact that often accompanies babywearing has tremendous health benefits.  The practice of holding a baby close to mother’s skin is called Kangaroo Care.  While the practice is often prescribed for preemies, all babies can benefit.  The closeness stimulates oxytocin in the mother, the hormone that stimulates bonding and plays an important role in the supply of breastmilk and the let-down reflex.  All good things!

With our third baby, babywearing has become both a joy and a necessity.  I’m not sure how parents handle more than two children without some way of toting around the littlest one.  I’ve enjoyed wearing my boys in a ring-style sling, a pouch, and a Mei Tai, but the Sleepy Wrap (name recently changed to Boba Wrap) gets my highest accolades.  It is my absolute number one piece of baby gear, perfect for a newborn.

If I needed any more evidence of the wonders of babywearing, I got it when our family went to a major theme park with no stroller.  No stroller!  And last night we washed our Jeep as a family.  It was wet and messy, and guess who was happily tied to my chest?  Miss Charlotte joyfully took in all the festivities.  I love having her so close.

I would love to hear your babywearing stories!

_______

* I wish I could remember the Etsy shop that made my beautiful Mei Tai.  For a long time I carried the business card in my purse, but I’ve misplaced it.  As soon as I figure it out, I’ll direct you to this mama/seamstress who did such beautiful work.

Project: Food Budet 2.0 (Week 2)

I’m back with a Food Budget update.  So here are a few things that I learned this week:

:: It’s a little embarrassing to spontaneously go out to dinner on the very day that I put up my first Food Budget Post.  But we did it nonetheless!

:: We drink a lot of milk.  We should buy a cow.

:: Even with careful rules about juice consumption (only a small amount at mealtime), we go through juice pretty fast.

:: Homemade cookies go a lot faster than the store-bought kind.  Especially pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

:: Just because you are excited about going under budget does not mean you may forgo buying actual food.  Evidence: I had to return to the grocery store on Wednesday after having just done my big shopping on Monday.  Not good.

:: Cheese is tricky.  A block of cheese costs a lot more than the bag of shredded cheese, but you get less shredded cheese than if you shred the block yourself.  True.  But when you are trying to meet a particular goal for weekly grocery spending the $2.50 bag of  mozzerella looks very tempting in the face of the $6.00 block.  I know the block is a better deal, but I can’t get over the up-front “investment.”

So here’s where I stand two weeks into the project.  Week #1 groceries cost $138, and we ate out last Thursday for $32.  That’s $160.  We returned to the store for milk and a jug of iced tea on Friday.  That was about $8.  So $168 {groan}.  This week’s groceries rounded up to only $67.  I quickly realized that I didn’t have enough things for school lunches and “snackies.”  So we made a Wal*Mart trip.  Of the $29 I spent there, $23 was spent on food.  That brings me to $90 for Week #2.  I’m happy about that!

{And we are saying NO to store bought iced tea, a habit we only started when we moved and my iced tea maker stayed back home.}

How’s everyone else doing?

The Week 2 Participating Blogs:

Change

{Written yesterday.}

Right now, it’s a little after 1 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon.  My three-year-old fell asleep across my lap as I nursed my three-month-old.  Then the baby fell asleep, so while I snuggled her in the crook of my arm, I managed to reach over the little man and grab my laptop.  These are skills I never imagined I would have prior to motherhood.  With the laptop balanced precariously on my knees, let me tell you a little about my life before anyone wakes up.

If you’ve been visiting my blog much lately, you know that my family has gone through a lot of change lately.  A lot.  Most of these changes have been positive (when I have my rosie glasses on).  My husband got a job, one that he has been preparing for his entire adult life.  The job is in a setting that is truly ideal for him.  We’ve been embraced by his co-workers.  We’ve found a new church with lots of wonderful families with children near the ages of our kids.  I’ve met moms who have been warm and friendly.  We are in a climate that is hot but beautiful, and we are in the process of buying a house that we love.  Both of the boys are happy in their new schools.  Blessings abound.

But change is hard, even when it is good.  We miss our families terribly.  I miss having lunch with my mom, chatting with my dad, running over to the in-laws on the weekend.  I miss scrapbooking Saturdays, card parties, our old library, and our church family.  I even miss our pediatricians’ office.  How weird is that?  I miss my La Leche League group so much.  {Girls, if you are reading this, I wish you were here!}  I miss my vegetable peeler; I know that’s very silly, but it was a really great peeler.  Honest.  I miss my knitting book.  I miss ALL of my books.

So if I’m feeling the pinch of all this change, just imagine how it feels if you are only three or six years old.  Nothing seems to be the same.  Our bedtime routine feels different.  Sleeping through the night has turned into many, many wakeful moments at all the wrong times.  These moments often come with unexplained tears, and I can only imagine that these are tears of sadness, frustration, and even a little fear.  One night–absolutely exhausted and about to completely lose my patience–I said to my three-year-old, “Everything feels different now, but what is still the same?”  He paused, then said, “God made me.”  Yes.  I immediately thought about my post from a few weeks ago.  I was surprised by J’s answer.  I hadn’t prompted him to think spiritually on the matter.  I certainly wasn’t in the teaching frame of mind at 4 o’clock in the morning.  I was nowhere near the “God has a plan” frame of mind when I was snatched from my sleep by an unhappy preschooler, but J’s quick answer cleared my head and brought me back to something I’ve been considering for awhile.

I know that not everyone who reads this blog shares my faith or practices it in the same tradition, but stick with me.  I often think that in calling my little family away from our extended family at this point in our lives, God is calling me to rely on Him.  To find in Him comfort, connection, strength, patience, and stability.  He wants me to trust Him.  I’m not expected to understand or even like it all, but I need to trust that He has a plan that is better and more fitting than my own agenda.  That’s hard.  I spend all of my time planning and dreaming.  I’m always browsing the internet for the next graduate school program, the next course I can take, the next book I can read, the next organization that I could join or start or research.  I forget to live and be.  Life might be totally willy-nilly, but God made me.  He made me with a purpose; He made me with love.  Those concepts don’t change.  I can feel free to dig in and be still in the present without fear of the future.

A not-so-great picture of my attempts to make our new rental feel like home. I love autumn!

Small Town Fun

There are moments when I feel like I’m living in a movie.  I have always thought of myself as a country girl stuck in a city life (over the last 7 years), but I could definitely get the hang of small town living.  Yesterday we went to the homecoming parade.  It was great fun!  Highschoolers threw candy to kids lining the curbs.  We saw the marching band, the school clubs, and floats by the elementary schools.  While the boys scrambled for Nerds and Dum Dums and Tootsie Rolls, hubby and I chatted with new friends.  It was a beautiful, breezy afternoon.  I left feeling relaxed and grateful.