Pregnancy Update!

vacation

Before I get to the update, the above picture was taken today from our hotel balcony in Wrightsville Beach, NC. We honestly don’t mind that a tropical storm is headed our way. We’re just happy to be here! =)

I think this is the first update I’ve done since announcing my pregnancy, and I’m kind of proud of myself for that. If you guys only knew how often I go onto the BabyCenter website and forums each day… Needless to say, pregnancy is always on my mind, even if I haven’t FELT pregnant up until recently.

I don’t think I’ve made an official announcement here, but we are having a BOY. =) After two girls, we would honestly have been thrilled to have another one. But both hubby and I think it’s nice to be having a boy because we’ll have something different to experience–and, yes, hubby is thrilled at the idea of having someone to carry on the family name. As for the girls, they’re excited to play in the baby’s room for now (they put their dolls in his crib and swing), and they’ve already said they want to dress him up as Batman for Halloween. =)

In terms of the pregnancy itself, I started feeling kicks around 20 weeks and seemed to “pop” around 24. I still don’t look that pregnant to myself, but it must be obvious because I now have strangers ask when I’m due, which is always a relief to know that other people can tell you’re pregnant! lol

We did have a bit of a scare at 28 weeks, when I started experiencing regular contractions every 2-3 minutes for a couple of hours. Went into L&D to be tested and monitored, and thankfully there was no progression, although the contractions definitely were real and not just Braxton Hicks. However, since the contractions weren’t progressing anything and since I had something similar happen when I was pregnant with WonderGirl at 28 weeks, I was released and told to just monitor them to see if they became more painful. Those went away when I woke up the next morning, and though I’ve had more contractions since then, they’ve either just been Braxton Hicks or haven’t become painful. I think I might have what one would call an “irritable uterus.”

Which is funny, because sometimes with this pregnancy I just feel irritable in general. =)

Besides the VERY frequent need to use the bathroom (something which is supposed to be common, I know, but I never had this with my girls), my only “symptom” is the sometimes near-paralyzing pain I get in my hips/legs. But mostly this just means it takes me a while to get up from a chair/sofa/bed and then I hobble for a few minutes, so I’m sure it’s amusing to anyone watching.

Otherwise I’m just ready to meet this boy. I don’t have that “get him out of me!” feeling yet that comes in the third trimester, which is a good thing, I suppose. =) But I am ready to see how our family dynamic is going to change and to hold him in my arms. I wonder if he’ll look like either of my girls, and if he’ll look more like my husband or myself. I wonder if he’ll be my biggest baby yet since my second one was bigger than the first and since he’s a boy…and because my husband weighed almost 11 lbs when he was born! And yes, I can’t wait to put him in his cute boy clothes. And shoes. I can never get over how adorable baby shoes are! =)

But for now, as I write this post, I’m thankful that we do have a little more time until he comes. We’re spending a week and a half on the beach–the girls’ first time at the ocean, our first family vacation, and hubby and mine’s first vacation in 10 years. Plus, we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary next week. Many things to celebrate, and I can’t IMAGINE after today what it would be like to have to travel with THREE children, not just two. =)

Now that school is out for most kids, I hope that you guys have a great summer with your children and grandchildren, too!

Until the next update,

Elise =)

Loving Myself: Part II

Last week I wrote about my lifelong (it seems) food addiction and how a plant-based lifestyle completely changed my perspective; I also wrote about my recent struggle with self-doubt and emotional overeating.

Today I want to give a little history to what I think may have influenced my food addiction at the beginning (note: I am taking full responsibility for my actions as an adult, but I DO think there is a family root to this). The main reason I’m writing this second part is because I believe that MY choices regarding food can influence my children’s lives for the better or worse.

My parents divorced when I was 5 years old. While I don’t think this traumatized me or affected my attitude toward food directly, it did split my family into two categories: my mom’s side of the family and my dad’s side of the family, whereas before I considered them all my family.

Growing up, my mom’s side of the family was consistently skinny, many were always on diets, and well, there was a lot of family bickering, talking behind each other’s backs, and just good ol’ infighting. I guess the typical dysfunctional American family.

On my dad’s side, in contrast, all of the adults were overweight, many obese, and some morbidly so. They ate food with pleasure, laughed all the time and enjoyed one another’s company, and because of this, I think I grew to associate food with love.

At home, my mom was obsessed about her weight. In my memory, I never knew her to be fat, but apparently she’d been overweight as a teenager before she went on a soup-and-tea diet that got rid of the excess weight.  There was no love lost between my mom and dad, and she and my stepdad didn’t censor themselves from talking about my dad and his family’s weight in front of me. I had a cousin on my mom’s side who was larger than everyone else (mostly because she was very curvy), and my mom and stepdad would talk about her after they would see her, always about how she needed to lose weight.

One of the clearest memories from my childhood was one day when my mom was sitting on our kitchen barstool in a t-shirt and shorts. She always had lovely tan legs (to my way of thinking), but seemingly out of nowhere she looked down at her legs, pinched the inside of one of her thighs, and complained about how fat they were. Another consistent memory–something she did over and over–was talk about the stretch marks on her stomach from being pregnant with my brother and I and wish she could afford plastic surgery.

So from early on there were a few constants. When I was with my mother’s side of the family (the fighting, bickering side), I felt like I needed to watch what I ate and felt bad for eating too much. When I was with my dad’s side of the family (the laughing, loving side), I could eat whatever I wanted and however much I wanted. And when I was home just with my immediate family, I continually heard from my mom and stepdad about how bad it was to be fat and how my mom was always unhappy with her body.

When I grew up? Well, I got married at 19 and gained about 50 pounds in the first few months of marriage. I guess those lessons of associating love with food continued. On the other hand, I loathed myself for getting fat and hated the way I felt and looked.

About a year after my marriage, I was able to return to Texas on a short trip. I desperately wanted to see my mom (we’d become best friends once I moved out of the house), but I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I seriously considered not telling her I was going to be home. Finally, when it was close to the time we would be traveling, I did tell her, and that I had considered not telling her, and she couldn’t believe that I would be afraid to see them because of my weight. She assured me of her love no matter how much I weighed and I never heard her mention my weight in a negative way again.

As I write this, I’m actually kind of surprised by how my mind as a child interpreted all of this and how great of an affect it had on me, even until now.

You guys, my mom was one of the most loving, wonderful, generous people I’ve ever known. Yes, she had her faults and she wasn’t perfect; I think that’s a given. But it doesn’t negate any of the rest, either. However, like most women, she had insecurities. TONS of them. As a woman now, I can only love her more for those.

But as a child, I can’t help but think that even with the tug-and-pull of the two sides of my family, if I had experienced something different at home; if my mom had been careful not to express her insecurities in front of me and had instead just chosen to lead a healthy example, I think there’s a great chance my attitude toward food would be a lot different than it is today.

Moms of daughters (and even sons), I beg you not to discuss your body insecurities in front of your children or with your children. I beg you not to talk negatively to your children about how fat people are bad for being fat and for not being able to control themselves (not the same thing as talking about how being overweight is unhealthy). It’s perfectly normal to weigh yourself to keep track of your weight, but please don’t let your children see you doing it excessively, and please don’t talk about your weight incessantly.

I try not to do any of this (although the weight scale thing is hard), and I really need to work on some of the things I say in front of my children, too. I want to show them by my example that it’s possible to lead an active and healthy lifestyle and LOVE yourself, despite what other people and the media out there may say.

Because my biggest hope now is that if I can learn to love myself and show my children that I love myself, they’ll grow up loving themselves and one day, when social pressure gets to be too much and they need to re-learn to love themselves, they’ll be able to draw strength from everything I did right instead of wrong.

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead: The Documentary

fatsicknearlydeadOn Netflix I just watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, the documentary about the Australian man, Joe Cross, who had chronic hives and was overweight and got better by going on a 60-day juicing fast. I’ve heard so much about this film, and I’ve always rolled my eyes because of the title. It’s so melodramatic (the movie poster doesn’t win me over, either). I decided not to watch it. Almost nothing annoys me more than quick fix fad diets, general food quackery, and the people who try to sell you on these outrageous “nutrition plans.” It’s personal–when you have someone in your family who’s gone through an eating disorder, you get protective. I don’t like the word “fast.” I don’t like anything involving food that is extreme.

So anyway, I only watched the movie because yesterday, our youngest son Dragon, a teen, was diagnosed with hives that may or may not be recurrent. The whole idea scares me…he already has a dangerous tree nut allergy and mild asthma, and now, it seems, when Dragon’s core body temperature heats up, his brain gets his histamine levels going and he responds with hives. This is my beloved athlete son. I hate that health issues could stand between him and his soccer dreams in any way. Already his other dream of going to the Naval Academy, where his dad and grandfather went, has pretty much bitten the dust. They don’t let anyone in with asthma or food allergies (we’re still hoping he can get a medical waiver, but chances are slim to none).

When I got home from the allergist, I started reading about other people with this recurrent hive problem that Dragon may have, and it wasn’t pretty. It got me more and more worried. I have to stay grounded and believe that Dragon’s case won’t go that far. You know how the internet can scare you. But one thing leaped out at me in my research: someone recommended the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.

It was a sign. I had to watch it, even though when my own beloved sister asked me to watch it last month, I said no. I had no idea that Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead had anything to do with hives until yesterday’s perusal of the internet after the allergy doctor visit. I thought it was only about weight loss. I downloaded it immediately and watched it avidly because let me tell you–it’s fascinating. It’s also uplifting and inspiring.

It’s not just hives that may get better when you consume a lot of micronutrients through juicing vegetables and fruits: many illnesses can essentially be cured or alleviated. Think diabetes, heart disease, chronic migraines, and a host of other health problems.

The content of this documentary is grounded in good science, too. Dr. Joel Fuhrman was on it–he’s the guy who wrote the national bestseller Eat To Live, which Elise has talked about before. I read that book a year ago and decided that I couldn’t go as far as what Dr. Fuhrman recommends, which is an all-plant diet, basically. But he’s right, and everyone in the medical world agrees: a plant-based diet is the healthiest diet. It’s just that many of us don’t want to commit to that lifestyle.

So, back to the movie, it’s really given me hope that maybe if we incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diet–in a major, semi-extreme way–that Dragon’s hive symptoms might be seriously alleviated. Plus, going from 5% of our diet being fruits and veggies to anything higher can only help. That statistic applies to almost every American: only 5% of what we consume is fruits and vegetables. Sixty percent of what we eat is processed foods.

I never realized it, but I am living an extreme life already–an unhealthy one. I want to flip flop those percentages. I want 60% of my diet to be fruits and vegetables and only 5% processed foods!

As I begin this journey, which will start with purchasing a juicer today–an inexpensive one under $100–I’m a little scared. It’s costly, juicing. But the farmers’ market opens this weekend. I should be able to buy huge bundles of kale and spinach at a reasonable price. And as the documentary points out, we spend much more money on prescription pills and getting better from horrible things like heart attacks than we would if we’d only try to prevent these diseases from happening. And I especially like that Mr. Cross makes very clear that we need to move our bodies. At the end of the movie, he says it’s about so much more than juicing and/or fasting–good health is about balance.

Watch the movie. I think you’ll enjoy it. One thing that struck me was how every single overweight person on it admitted that it’s his or her own fault that they keep choosing to eat fast food and chicken fried steak. Some wanted to change their habits but were afraid or didn’t know how. Others decided that they’d rather die young and happy, so they planned to keep eating themselves to an early grave, consuming truly unhealthy foods because it brought them pleasure. Everyone has to decided for themselves how they want to live. This documentary reminds us that it’s not about the food–it’s really about us, what we believe, and what we want from this one, precious life we’re given.

Do you juice? Have you seen this documentary? What percentage of your diet is fruits and vegetables?


Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 23 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job.

My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a junior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college sophomore; and my youngest, Dragon, is in ninth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.

www.kierankramerbooks.com

Starting One Parent, One Child Traditions

Every year when it comes to holidays, our family tries really hard to continue past traditions and think up of at least one new tradition to start. For some reason, before now I’ve never really thought of starting a non-holiday tradition for an individual child.

It all started when, about a month ago, 3.5 year-old SuperGirl stopped taking naps (I still cry a little over this). I think it took a full week of trying to put her down and having her get up for my husband and I to realize that this was it. The day had come. Naps were a thing of the past!

Then, it took me another week to realize that this was something I could take advantage of in terms of building my relationship with SuperGirl, as every other time WonderGirl is always with us. I actually only have one shift during the week with SuperGirl during naptime–Tuesdays, the day when I go to Bible study in the morning and our usual schedule gets shifted around.

I finally thought of something we could do every Tuesday together, something that would not only bring us closer together because it’s something only she and I do, but something that’s good for the entire family: cooking!

Specifically, cooking desserts. In my continual effort to keep my husband from bringing junk food into the house, it seemed like a good idea to make a sweet treat once a week that could last us until the next week. And since SuperGirl already has a sweet tooth, this way I can teach her how to make better-for-you desserts (for us, that means vegan; although we try not to use oil in other recipes, I’ve found that some desserts just aren’t the same without it, so I make an exception).

Last Tuesday was our first Dessert Day–a new tradition for just SuperGirl and myself. We looked through some of my cookbooks, and she chose to make a Blueberry Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Walnut Crumble Topping (from Let Them Eat Vegan!, if interested). It was delicious!

This coming Tuesday (tomorrow) she’s chosen to make a Red Velvet Cake with Buttercream Frosting (from The Vegan Table…just typing that recipe name is making my mouth water). So far I approve of her choices! 😉 And I have to say that on my own, I might never be so adventurous; in fact, the coffee cake was the first “cake” I’ve ever made!

But Dessert Day is not the only tradition I’m creating with SuperGirl; I decided to also take a picture each week with SuperGirl and the dessert she creates, a sort of photo collection we’ll be able to look through in the future and see not only how much she grows over time, but all the different things we’ve created. Since I’ve come up with a million excuses in the past for why I always forget to take pictures now that the girls are toddlers, this is a great weekly reminder.

Here’s a picture of SuperGirl with her first creation, the Blueberry Coffee Cake. =)

SuperGirl blueberry coffee cake

Do you have any specific traditions you practice with your child apart from the holidays? Or if you haven’t gone so far as to call it a tradition, what is something special the two of you do together?

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I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (3, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (2, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until morning. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com

It’s Not About Favorites

siblings

I think we all know as parents that if we have more than one child, we’re not supposed to have a favorite. Or, if we DO have a favorite, we’re certainly never supposed to admit that out loud. My mom was very good about this. Every time my brother and I would ask something along the lines about who she liked better or loved better, etc., she would say she loved us equally. (Of course I kept asking. I guess I thought one day she would admit it was me. 😉 )

But the thing I’ve come to realize, unfortunately, is that it’s not about favorites–at least not for me. Instead, it’s about ease of interaction.

I can say with 100% honesty that I love my daughters equally. But, with the same amount of honesty, I’d also have to admit that it’s so much easier for me to get along with my youngest, WonderGirl, than it is SuperGirl. I know they’re only 3 and 2, but their personalities really haven’t changed that much since they were babies.

The thing is, SuperGirl is SO MUCH like me. She’s quiet, she’s observant, she’s independent, she’s moody, she’s rebellious. She’s fun, but it takes a lot of effort to get to the heart of her. An introvert through and through.

In contrast, WonderGirl is definitely an extrovert. She’s advanced in her speaking abilities, she’s almost always smiling, always saying she loves me, always ready for a hug and a kiss–such a people person. Yes, she has her flaws: she’s stubborn as heck (I have never seen a child throw a temper tantrum like she can), but in comparison to SuperGirl, she’s so much easier for me to get along with and, well, to parent.

I don’t LIKE this feeling. I want to feel like I’m as good of a mom to one as the other, that I will have as good of a relationship with one as I do with the other. It’s even harder to have special time with SuperGirl because I’m WonderGirl’s favorite, so if we’re in the same room together, WonderGirl immediately claims me and gets upset if I try to show more attention to my oldest. Beyond that, if we’re with my husband, too, HE is SuperGirl’s favorite and he’s very permissive with her, so I always look like the bad guy.

It’s exhausting and frustrating. My husband was gone this past weekend for a short trip, and while the single-parent thing was definitely a challenge (hats off, as always, to you single ladies!), I actually found that my interactions with SuperGirl went better because there wasn’t the constant pull-and-tug with her favoring my husband and not wanting to listen to me. However, these kinds of trips aren’t going to happen very often, so I need to find another way to connect with her.

I’m going to talk to my husband about scheduling one-on-one time with each kid each week for the future, and see if that helps. But I’d really like to hear any ideas and experiences you guys have for this kind of situation. This mama needs help!

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I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (3, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (2, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until morning…usually 5 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com

Happy New Year!!

The close of one year and dawning of a new one is such an awesome time for reflection. We’ve taken a quick look back at the year that was and then turned our attention to the year ahead of us. Lots of fun and excitement, and several things we’re really ready to leave behind.

What about you? What’s your best of 2012? What are happy to leave behind? What are you most looking forward to in 2013?

Shana Galen

  • Best of 2012The Hunger Games movie. It exceeded my expectations.
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  All the talk about 50 Shades of Grey
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  The Host movie. I loved the book.
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  The fiscal cliff. I need my deductions!
  • Biggest wish for 2013:  That my family and friends stay healthy.

Maisey Yates

  • Best of 2012The Hobbit. It took me back to high school. I loved Lord of the Rings so much and this evoked the same feelings.
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  The election year. GET OFF MY FACEBOOK WALL. 🙂
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  I’m going to Australia, and I’ve never been! So exciting
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  Honey Boo Boo’s show still being in existence. Why is this a thing?
  • Biggest wish for 2013:  For my family to be happy and well-taken care of. For my kids to move forward and keep growing and developing. For my husband to be joyful in his new role, and me to be happy and responsible in mine. And for me to SHOW them how much I love them. Every day.

Kieran Kramer

  • Best of 2012:  The Summer Olympics
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  The ceaseless media coverage of the Presidential election
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  Kate and Will’s baby (babies?)
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  Not a thing. I’m Irish. We believe in self-fulfilling prophecies, so I’ve decided 2013 is going to be a great year all-around!

Ellie James

  • Best of 2012:  20th anniversary trip with my husband, ten amazing, sun-filled days, just us!
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  The whole nightmare of Saints bounty-gate and the excruciating season that ensued!
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  A tie between getting date night back on our calendar and bringing a new Young Adult series to life!
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  Seeing my former favorite baseball player playing for our arch rival L
  • Biggest wish for 2013:  For softer edges. For more compassion and forgiveness. For the world to take a step back and a simultaneous deep breath. For less hate and aggression. More gentleness. More understanding. And love. Lots and lots of that.

Elise Rome

  • Best of 2012: SuperGirl becoming potty-trained.
  • Happy to Leave in 2012:  That ridiculously hot summer without A/C
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  WonderGirl becoming potty-trained (hey!
it’s the little things, right? =)
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  The next Downton Abbey season ending
*cries*

Robyn Dehart

  • Best of 2012The Hunger Games trilogy – I was late to the party, but the 2 weeks I spend reading these books were a highlight!
  • Happy to leave in 2012: The election (living with a political science professor means election years are like superbowls that last for months)
  • Most looking forward to in 2013: I have 4 books coming out! I’ve never had that many books out in one year
  • Least looking forward to in 2013: Whatever new reality spectacle will be next – I wish our culture wasn’t so intent on getting their 15 min of fame
  • Biggest wish for 2013:  That I would become at all the roles in my life: wife, mother, writer, housekeeper.

Emily McKay

  • Best of 2012:  The release of The Farm, my first single title YA. It’s been super fun. YA fans aren’t like romance fans. Romance fans just kind of quietly read and enjoy the books without a lot of fanfare. YA fans find you on Goodreads, email you privately and follow you on Facebook. It’s such fun!
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  The presidential election! I just could stand the stress. Plus, I hate feeling like the country is divided.
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  The movie Warm Bodies. Years ago I had an idea similar to this, but could never make it work, so I just can’t wait!
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  My baby starting kindergarten. I’m just not ready for that!
  • Biggest wish for 2013: To manage my time better. I’d like to be more efficient.

 

Creating Holiday Traditions

2011 Christmas

(SuperGirl and WonderGirl last Christmas)

I think even before we were pregnant with SuperGirl, my husband and I were talking about traditions. Specifically, the traditions we wanted to create with our kids to continue on down the years. You see, if we had any traditions growing up, they were either inconsistent (didn’t happen every year) or something that happened rather spontaneously–not something that we put thought into and declared: “this is our family tradition!”.

Last year, when I asked online friends what kind of traditions they celebrated during the holidays with their family, I received tons of great ideas. Of course we couldn’t incorporate all of them at once, but I’m hoping that each year we might add one more tradition to our family holidays.

The first year we had a child (2009), the first tradition was simple. My husband and I had been picking out a Christmas ornament each year for the two of us since we were married, so it seemed natural to get a Christmas ornament for each child each year, too.

In 2010, I don’t think there was a conscious effort to develop any traditions. SuperGirl was only 18.5 months by that point and WonderGirl just 1.5 months, and honestly, we may have been too exhausted to even think about it. =) No…wait. I think I’ll count putting up a nativity as the tradition we started that year–one of my favorite traditions, too.

In 2011, thanks to some awesome reader friends, I discovered that it’s semi-normal for families to exchange gifts of pajamas on Christmas Eves. Since we’re a pajama-loving family (I even recently bought a pair of adult-sized footie pajamas–ahhh, my feet stay so toasty now! 😉 ), this seemed like one holiday tradition we could definitely indulge in.

And now, in 2012, I’ve decided that the new tradition we’ll start this year is to throw a small birthday party for Jesus on Christmas morning. I actually stole this idea from my amazing, supermom sister-in-law, who is always coming up with really creative and awesome ideas, and then recently found out (as in last week) that other people do this, too. (There must be a list of traditions somewhere I’m missing! lol). I have to admit, my husband kinda thinks the birthday party idea is weird, but since I’ve been trying to convince him that we’ll make it a breakfast cake instead of a birthday cake, he got all excited about it. You know men. The way to a man’s heart… =)

And I’m already thinking about possible future traditions! So please share–what holiday traditions do you and your family enjoy each year?

And in case you’re interested in more details about the birthday party for Jesus (if Christmas is a holiday you’re celebrating), I’m including a picture and symbolism given by a friend below.

A birthday cake for Jesus:

  • It must be round, symbolizing His love which encircles me in the world
  • Chocolate cake—preferably devil’s food; denotes human sin
  • The star and angel on top are bearers of the first glad tidings
  • Twelve red candles represent the twelve months of the year that He is our light
  • Red color for the blood He shed for us
  • Circle of evergreens around the cake remind us of the everlasting life He has given to us when we receive Him into our hearts and lives

bday cake for Jesus

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I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (3, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (1, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until morning…usually 5 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com

The Question of Gender

First off, I have to say that this post is a blatant excuse for me to be able to post up pictures of my kids on Halloween night. Yes, I said it.

Here’s the first one, in which the girls pose to get their picture taken for a costume contest at the local candy boutique store.

You will notice WonderGirl on the right there is dressed up as Dora (okay, we substituted her Dora heels for frog boots and purple Boots monkey for our puppet monkey and the Dora backpack from a hand-me-down from SuperGirl, but you get the picture. Gender appropriate…and so stinkin’ darn cute, if I may say so myself). =)

And, on the left, SuperGirl. But instead of being dressed up as SuperGirl or any other gender appropriate costume (“gender appropriate” is a term I plan on discussing below), my lovely 3yo daughter has been in love with Captain America all summer and desperately wanted to be Captain America for Halloween. And so she was.

I have to admit, I was a little surprised that we didn’t get questions on Halloween as we went trick-or-treating through our local downtown during the day or around the neighborhood at night. Questions on why she wasn’t dressed up in a more “gender appropriate” costume. She was definitely the only girl I saw dressed up in a “boy” costume. And I think only one person the entire day referred to her as a “him” (I guess the long hair wasn’t a tip-off). For the most part, everyone oohed and ahhed over her as you would expect, and some people I think even got a kick out of seeing a girl wearing a “boy” costume.

Still. As a mom, although I was perfectly happy letting her dress up in whatever costume she wanted, as soon as we were out among strangers–especially women–I kept tensing, waiting for someone to ask about her costume, why she chose to wear the Captain America outfit.

I know–who the heck cares, right? Still, the tension remained. Me, waiting, believing I would have to defend my 3yo daughter’s femininity.

Such a beautiful girl, even in her Captain America costume. (And look at those pecs and biceps! 😉 )

It made me think of those parents you hear about every few years. They have a child and no one knows the gender except immediate relatives, and they cut their hair and dress them in such a way that it’s truly a guessing game whether they are a boy or girl. Even the child doesn’t know. Until they have to go to school. And then…

And then, honestly, it must be torture for that child. Because here’s the thing.

Barring the entire argument about kids and at what point they explore their sexual orientation, I know some people let their girls play with army men and their boys play with Barbie dolls and even let their beautiful little girls dress up as Captain America for Halloween (like me)–just because, hey, why not let the kid enjoy something if they think it’s fun? Imagine and play, yes?

But I think the actual *encouragement* of the child by the parent to lean toward the opposite gender–not where you’re letting the child choose how to act or play on their own, but where you’re actively directing them away from their own inclinations–and where the parent purposefully refuses to identify the child as a specific gender to the child or to anyone else–is wrong.

Wrong? I know, it sounds harsh. How can I be the judge of another parent? You all know how imperfect I am. It *is* just my opinion, but I feel strongly about it.

Because when we leave out any religious or moral issues, things I know we all have strong opinions on, it seems that most of us would agree that setting our child up to be strong, independent, but also in a place where they can flourish socially on their own, is what we strive for as parents. And in a world where we still relate to one another based on our perceived gender identities, it’s very important that our children are able to determine who they are and who they want to be for themselves. Parents should not be experimenting on their children for the purpose of social justice and gender equality!

I believe all of this. Letting my children just be children is important to me.

So yes, SuperGirl wore a Captain America costume. Not because I felt like she had to break the gender box and show the world that she’s woman and she can do anything she wants! Not because I’m steering her toward exploring her masculine or tomboy side because I don’t want her to look back on her childhood when she’s an adult and regret that her parents only gave her Barbie dolls and play jewelry and that was it. But because, on Father’s Day this year, our family went to Comic Con, my husband wanted the girls to pick out a little wooden figure each to take home and, because SuperGirl’s favorite color is blue, she picked out Captain America–the only blue wooden figure.

My daughter likes blue. Hence, a Captain America, gender-defying, in-your-face, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar Halloween costume. =)

Seems rather silly for me to have tensed up about needing to defend my daughter’s femininity now, doesn’t it? Makes the entire discussion on “gender appropriate” seem ridiculous, doesn’t it?

While we adults go on worrying about how we can encourage our children in their interests while at the same time worrying about how the world will perceive them–and, then, of course, us as parents–they just want to wear their favorite color.

While I still believe the gender discussion is important, it makes me wish that I could see the world in such uncomplicated terms, too.

(By the way, my favorite color is red. You know, the color of sex and passion. Does that make me a harlot? 😉 )

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I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (3, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (1, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until morning…usually 5 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com

Teaching Gratitude

Recently, I had The Talk.

If you haven’t done this yet, I’m sure you’ll do it soon. You know what I mean. In the moment when you offer a perfectly acceptable toy/snack/play option, etc. to your kid and they melt down because they wanted something else or they wanted it differently or they’re just in a bad mood and NOTHING WILL DO.

Yes, The Talk.

Granted, some moms might have taken the opportunity to see this as just a part of being a child. They get cranky, they want to express their independence, they want to be in control of their own lives. I get it. And I can completely understand and I’ve even let my girls get away with this in the past.

But on this particular day, I’d had enough. And so I put on my serious Mama face *grins*, the one that comes complete with a serious low voice and raised eyebrows and “listen to me”… “are you listening to me?”… “do you understand?” when I want to drive in my points, and I went at it.

It went something like this:

“Girls, you know how we have a house to live in and food to eat? How we have clothes to wear and toys to play with and a car that takes us places? Well, there are some children who don’t have ANY of those things.”

Then I asked them (well, actually, at this point it was just SuperGirl, the 3yo, because almost 2yo WonderGirl had already strayed away by now) if that made them sad or happy, and SuperGirl agreed that hearing that other children didn’t have all the things she had made her sad. (Cue the Mama pride that she GOT it.)

Then I asked them (SuperGirl) how she felt and how she should feel to have the nice things that she has. Answer: happy. (Yes!!)

We had just recently decided to start going through toys (because they are about to suffocate us…everywhere we turn, there are more boxes of toys; of course, it seems like Christmas to the girls every day now) to decide which ones the girls want to keep and which they want to give away. We had talked about how giving away toys was a good thing because other kids could benefit them, and I used this as an example in my gratitude monologue on how we could help others who were not as fortunate as we are.

I also pulled up some pictures from a Facebook group called The Eyes of Children Around the World to show them pictures of real children who were less fortunate. (Moms, I’ve also done this in the past to just show them children who look differently than they do in terms of clothing and piercings and race. I like to think this is a helpful thing for opening their minds to different kinds of people down the road.)

And I have two things to say about this experience, in having The Talk about gratitude.

1) Yes, I feel a little corny in starting sentences with, “Other children in So and So Country do not have…”, which reminded me of how parents used to try to convince their children to clean their plates.

2) But I also realized that I don’t want to be the kind of parent who just points fingers for reference when I want to make a parenting point and who just talks.

Before we had children, my husband and I would spend hours talking about the kind of future we wanted to have with our kids: family time that included volunteering, holidays where we would serve others, expressing our gratitude by giving others something to be thankful for. And somehow, after three years of sleep deprivation and potty training and temper tantrums, those things seemed to have lost their importance as ideals in our lives. I know it’s possible that when the girls are teenagers we’ll do those sort of things together, but I don’t think it’s enough to wait until then. I want to start now, even if it’s small. And I want to hear from you other moms–because you’ve been through the various ages and because you are amazing women with wonderful ideas. I have a few thoughts of my own, but I’d love to hear from you.

In terms of teaching your kids (no matter what age) about gratitude and community engagement, what suggestions do you have for how we can get involved? Ideas that immediately come to my mind include the holiday Angel Tree and the various programs where you sponsor a child monthly. Any others, and maybe some that include face-to-face interaction?

And, if you have experiences to share, what differences have you seen in your child/children after becoming involved in these types of activities, if any?