Why Staying Home (or Going to Work) Doesn't Make You Mom of the Year

It's time we tell our truth.  

It's time we are OK with what makes us feel happy.
It's time we were ok with it not being what makes someone else happy.

It's time we were OK with it not being the same for everyone.
We don't judge kids by the same standards - why should we judge moms this way?  What's 'best' for one kid - might be a total failure for another.  Thinking that ONE thing makes a good mom is foolish.  Does every dad have and love the same job?  Why should moms?  

It's time we realized we are all trying to do what's best for our homes, ourselves, and our kids.
So quit it!  Stop assuming that other moms don't know what's best for their family!  Stop thinking what works for 'everyone' will work for you.  Do the best for YOUR family - assume that's what other mamas are doing too.

It's time we stopped comparing our happiness to someone else's.
When we look on facebook, in discussion groups, and in articles we are only seeing what's BEST in everyone else's lives.  Their highlight reel.  Quit comparing your average day to everyone else's best day.  Not.fair.

Bold Statement: It's time we realized there are really great moms who stay home... and really great moms who work - and that doing one or the other doesn't make you great.  

If you're miserable at work because you want to be at home... probably not mom of the year.  If you're miserable at home... probably not mom of the year.  

Happy where you are mamas?  Then mamas of the year you are.

Not happy?  Let's find a place where you can be.

Qualifications for Mamas of the Year (multiple awards are given):
  1. Doing your best (most of the time - there are always going to be days that you sprinkle cereal around the house and hope the kids eat enough to be full and take long enough that they won't find you curled up in your bed/bathroom hiding) - I think many of us compare ourselves to someone else's best.  That's just not fair.  It would have been like comparing my score in high school chemistry to my sister's.  Not.fair.  Her best would be 100% mine would be a 60%.  We're all not great at everything and we can't do better than our best whatever that is for us.  What's best for my family might not be what's best for yours.  I won't impose my 'best' and I will try not to internalize and compare myself to yours.  <side note - just because I talk about what works best in my house - doesn't mean I am imposing it!  I don't judge those who do things differently than I do... especially because most people are smarter than I am!>
  2. Reading and researching but not obsessing - I have said before that this generation of mamas is the most well read and researched one yet.  We read books, blogs (hopefully), studies, reports, and articles.  This can turn to obsession - which keeps us from being happy.  Read a bit, make an educated decision, and move.on.
  3. Not belaboring things that cannot be undone or changed - after we read and research - we wish we could do things over in a new better way.  We hear that condescending phrase "know better, do better."  It makes it sound like we weren't smart enough to know what to do in the first place, and that makes us feel crummy, we should have read and researched more.  Move.on.  Some things can't be changed or done over.  Move.on.
  4. Having a life with and without your kids.  I'm not saying ditch your kids and I am not staying stay with them all the time.  This balance is different for every mama.  One mama might need 20 minutes facebooking every 5 months, another might need 2 hours everyday at Starbucks.  Let's find the amount of time alone that makes US happy, and then spend the rest immersed in the happiness of our kids (or at least some of the rest of the time... or maybe a few minutes here and there).  Happy mama = happy kids.  Modeling happiness for our children, showing them that we love life, we love whatever silly activity we are doing, is what makes them happy - they want us to be happy - they want to make us happy.  Miserable all the time?  They will be too. 
  5. Finding a role that makes you happy.  Again - this is different for every mom.  Some moms might be happy at home, homeschooling, working from home, sewing, running a daycare, making play groups, planting a garden, making snowmen... Some moms might be happy at work, with a career of their own, working in an office, in a classroom, in a factory, treasuring the first 30 seconds they arrive at preschool to pick their ecstatic kids up.  Just because one thing works for one mom doesn't make her better than another.  When a mom is at work - it doesn't mean she 'can't stand' being with her kids.  When a mom is at home - it doesn't mean 'she can't get a job'.  What's happy for one mom isn't happy for another.  
We are better moms when we are happy.  If we resent where we are always wishing we were somewhere else - working at home or working out of the home - we don't be very good at our first job... mommy.  


I share my posts here.  It's an awesome list.  Check it out.  Seriously.  It's a great list and if you visit blog parties you are going to want to check them out!  It's up to date, organized by day, and the links all work <3

Farm School & the Benefits of Learning Outside

So I have talked a lot about 'farm school.'  Last week was our last week of farm school for D at Turn Back Time.  He cried ALL the way home.  He threw a fit about something unrelated - but upon my asking admitted to being so upset that farm school was over. 

Just as a quick aside - if this is the first time you're hearing about farm school - it is 2.5 hours of pre-school.  It's outside, everyday, no matter the weather (we live in central MA).  He started in September and just finished last week.  There is a small indoor shed with a space heater for when it is really cold (it gets to be 20 or 30 degrees in there) - but most days they are outside for the 2.5 hours.  There is a morning meeting, and a curriculum that is teacher directed - however - the learning is student directed.  If the kiddos want to explore a rock and turn it into a pirate ship for all 2.5 hours - learning instead to work as a team, share the rock, make a sail, etc - the teacher directed stuff waits.

Much like girl scout camp was to me, I see farm school as a place where D will spend much of his free time (not on my insistence - which I would - but because he thrives there and loves to be there) growing up.  I see it as a home away from home, a place where nontraditional learning is embraced, and all children are loved for who they are - not for who they are 'supposed' to be.  

As academic standards for kids in school get more rigorous and plentiful and children and further and further removed from learning basic skills of living and surviving - I feel very blessed to have been a part of the first year of preschool at Turn Back Time. As a teacher I value a rigorous and challenging curriculum for my students.  As a mom, I value the same thing.  Turn Back Time changed my perspective however about WHERE the learning takes place and WHAT that curriculum could look like.

As a teacher I know students learn best when they are exploring what interests them.  There are many ways to build curriculum around that.  I have created - choose your own adventure style assignments, choices about what to study, a broad spectrum of possibilities for HOW to display mastery of material - all within the confines of the curriculum I am compelled and challenged to teach.  To watch this happen at the preschool level this year - in the outdoors - was astounding and humbling.

To trust children, small children, children who aren't yet well spoken, who don't walk in lines, who argue, throw stuff, and sometimes don't make it to the potty - to direct their own learning is a leap of faith.  A leap of faith I am SO happy Turn Back Time took.  These children developed and grew in ways I could never have imagined.  There is no way I could list out all of the things they have learned this year.  Many concerned and loving mamas have asked me if I was "worried" that D would be behind, that he wasn't learning conventional preschool curriculum, that he wouldn't be able to walk in a line or sit still.  I have to tell you - that I was never worried - but looking back - it is more than that... I am so much happier with the skills he did learn than the ones that he 'didn't.'

This farm school allows children to direct their learning - and teaches them lifelong skills that are immediately useful in everyday life. Miss Lisa, the director, calls the first three kids, "my pioneers" which I love. They pioneered the program, but have also learned many of the basic skills that pioneer children would have learned:
  1. Plant identification and safety
  2. Growing and planting
  3. Animal identification, safety, feeding, grooming, etc
  4. Harvesting
  5. Healthy eating (we eat what we can care for and grow at the farm)
  6. Egg collection
  7. The food chain and where the meat they eat comes from (ie: mom is this pig we're eating? from the farm?)
  8. To build, keep, and experiment in the mud kitchen
  9. Fire & water safety
  10. How to use real tools appropriately and effectively (he can hammer better than I can...)
  11. To run - really fast - through the woods - without tripping on rocks and roots 
  12. That playing with mud is awesome - and getting dirty is fun
  13. Insect identification - and not to be afraid! 
  14. To climb rocks, trees, hills, wood chips 
  15. Cooperation and group work - because you can't catch a flock of chickens on your own and you can't pick up a really heavy log for your real life Lincoln log project
  16. Resilience, enjoying and playing 2.5 hours in the cold, wet, or super hot weather is a skill
  17. Consequences of our decisions (ie: if you jump in that puddle - it's awesome then - but being wet for 2 hours isn't as fun)
  18. Patience, you can't eat what you planted today tomorrow, chickens don't lay eggs on command, and snow doesn't melt... for a really long time.
  19. Independence & Responsibility, that they are responsible for their actions, for their safety, that their interests and desires matter, that they know when they are ready to do things, and that they are responsible for the choices they make and that those choices have consequences.
  20. TRUST.  This is the most important one (hence the CAPS lock).  These 3 year olds are given more trust and responsibility than high school students.  They are TRUSTED with the safety of their bodies, the safety of their friends, the care of animals, the care of food for themselves and others.  This trust from adults gives them confidence and self-esteem that no trophy, "A" on a paper, or blue ribbon can give.  It's invisible but the most important part of what farm school gave my babe.

These real life skills have been immediately useful - and will be something that the pioneers rely on for the rest of their lives. In addition to all the unconventional things learned at farm school, D learned letters, numbers, sentences, writing, sounds, time and all kinds of 'conventional' preschool skills.

If you're in the area and interested in learning more - or heading to summer camp there (a few days a week - for kids from preschool up!) - give your kiddos the gift of life skills that they will use forever! Check out Turn Back Time.  At the very least - check out Lisa's post about the pioneers and show her some love.

If you're not close - but want to learn more (or start one in your town) Forrest Schools are popping up everywhere... make it happen.  Since this started - my mom started one in the town where she is the Rec. Director :)

Forest Schools International
Forest Education
Wildside Survival 
Guelph Outdoor Preschool


I share my posts here.  It's an awesome list.  Check it out.  Seriously.  It's a great list and if you visit blog parties you are going to want to check them out!  It's up to date, organized by day, and the links all work <3

Orange Ginger Salmon

Orange Ginger Salmon
We use organic, fair trade, and or local ingredients when possible.
Salmon (about 1 pound, wild salmon)

Zest of one orange
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbs brown sugar (you could sub honey if you don’t do processed sugars)
Juice of 1 orange
2 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper
Whisk marinade together and put salmon in it - the longer the better J

Preheat your oven to broil.

Put salmon on greased sheet pan/broiler pan and put it under the broiler until top is browning and fish is firm. Depending on the size and thickness of your salmon this could take between 5 and 15 minutes.

Enjoy with a squeeze of orange!


I share my posts here.  It's an awesome list.  Check it out.  Seriously.  It's a great list and if you visit blog parties you are going to want to check them out!  It's up to date, organized by day, and the links all work <3

Bacon Wrapped, Mushroom Smothered, Surf & Turf

WARNING - this is not a vegetarian friendly meal... this meal includes meat even in the veggies :) 

I am not a huge fan of steak.  Growing up - my sister, cousins and I called it 'long meat' because it took a long time to chew... turns out everyone we knew overcooked it.  Now, cooking it rare/medium - it is a little better - I still don't love it.

My husband does.

My children do.

So... for Father's Day (or three days before because we weren't going to see each other on the actual day) - I made some of my husband's favorite things.

My husband, although he doesn't show up on the blog much, is supportive of my every cooking, lifestyle, and shopping whim.  He works tirelessly to support my family.  Not only is he a chemist, a plant director and a manager in his company - he also fixes our cars in the garage, builds me planting beds, keeps organic grass, totally refinished the floors in our house, takes care of the plumbing and water, and pretty much anything else I ask him to do (or my parents ask him to do... or my grandmother asks him to do...).

He's amazing.

So... he deserves an awesome dinner now and again - even if I don't love the materials.  In defense though - this dinner was delicious :)

<Note: you may have noticed I rarely put times and temperatures in my recipes... it's because I have no idea... I cook by feel.  When I touch the steak and it springs back a certain way - I know it's medium... I don't put thermometers in things, I don't set the timer, I cook through taste and feel... if that doesn't work for you... my recipes might not either>

Bacon Wrapped, Mushroom Smothered, Surf & Turf
We use organic, fair trade, and or local ingredients when possible.
Steak/Bacon.  I’m not great with cuts… they were round and about 1/2 a pound each.  They had very little fat.  It was organic and grass fed.  I used apple wood smoked organic bacon.

2 tbs apple cider vinegar (you could use something other than Bragg – it just won’t be as good)
2 tbs white balsamic vinegar
4 tbs olive oil
Dash of Worcestershire sauce (or a few – depending on how you feel about it)
2 tbs stoneground mustard
1 tsp chopped (fresh from the garden) rosemary
2 tbs chopped (fresh from the garden) parsley

I found organic (EU certified) shrimp.  1/2 pound (depending on the size of the shrimp).  Cleaned, deveined, and butterflied

1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
3 tbs butter melted
1/4 cup of pecorino cheese
Salt and pepper

1 container of the mushrooms of your choice (we used half baby bella, half shitake)
4 tbs butter
1/4 cup white wine

Ok. Lots of things to do.

Mix up your marinade.  Dump your steak into it.  Cover it and put it in your fridge for at least an hour (more is fine).  Take it out 1/2 an hour before you cook it so it can warm up a bit.

 Clean your shrimp.  Mix up the breading for it.  Put them in a baking dish, top with the breading, and bake in the oven until they are firm and pink and your breading is getting toasty.  Maybe 15 minutes at 350 (check though) – the size and amount of your shrimp makes a difference.

Turn on your grill.

Take your steaks out of the marinade and wrap them up in bacon.  I used 2 pieces per steak.  Dump the rest of the marinade over the top and leave it while you make your mushrooms.

Put the butter in a frying pan.  Slice up your mushrooms and sauté on medium/high heat.  Deglaze the pan when mushrooms are brown with wine.  Cook for a minute or two until the wine bubbles away.  Set aside.

Grill your steaks (with the bacon on them).  Cooking time will vary – depending on how you like your steak done.  I take the steaks off right before I think they are done (and I determine that by a very scientific method of poking them and feeling how firm they are) and let them rest for about 15 minutes.

When your steak has rested – smother with shrimp and mushrooms.  Enjoy!

We had ours with watercress caprese salad (fresh from the garden), Brussels sprouts (with more bacon), and roasted fingerling potatoes.  It was a big hit!


I share my posts here.  It's an awesome list.  Check it out.  Seriously.  It's a great list and if you visit blog parties you are going to want to check them out!  It's up to date, organized by day, and the links all work <3

Toppah on Birth and Doulas

Ok - in case you're here for real information - let me speak factually first:

Doula: also known as a labor coach, is a non-medical person who assists a woman before, during, and/or after childbirth, as well as her partner/family by providing information, physical assistance, and emotional support (wikipedia).


Although apparently the computer world doesn't recognize it (it is telling me I have a misspelled word) more and more women today are considering hiring a doula to support them in childbirth.

Births with doulas see:

Other than the statistics here are some of the reasons I wanted to have a doula for my second baby:

  1. Knowing that the odds said I would have a repeat c-section, I wanted someone who could be with me, at home, for a good part of my labor
  2. I wanted to know someone, who was a professional, assure me she would be at my labor - be on call all.the.time.
  3. I wanted someone who was going to stay with me - no matter how long or short my labor was <three days>
  4. I wanted someone who knew about every single medication the hospital may want to give me, the side effects of it, and the pros and cons of using it
  5. My sister seemed to think it was important
  6. Because the first time around things were unnecessarily complicated.

So with that said, I hired a doula.  Doulas (at least in my world) are not covered by insurance.  They charge a flat out of pocket fee for their services no matter how long or short your labor is.  They also typically meet with you before and after you have the baby - and chat with you on the phone at all hours of the night.

Get a doula.


When I told my dad (Toppah - meet him here) that I was hiring a doula, he was dubious.  He isn't ever surprised to see me spend money (I am really good at it) - but he thought this was an unnecessary expense, much like my $5 sbucks, that my sister had spent and therefore talked me into... Below is his changing view on doulas (note the flea market shirt)....

Me: Dad when LL hired a doula, what did you think it was?
Toppah: I thought a doula was a tribal witch doctor of sorts that you hired to sing and dance around the birthing bed and get in the way of the medical staff.

Me: What did you think when LL hired a doula?
Toppah: I thought LL had a lot of extra money and that she was hoodwinked into hiring a doula by her new earthy crunchy friends.  Keep in mind this is the same group that was nearly arrested at Wegmans for group breastfeeding their babies in the Organic produce section of the store.

<maybe a stretch Toppah, I think an uninformed staff member made a snide remark... the store then apologized a few times to anyone who brought it up - and retrained their staff about MA breastfeeding law... no one was 'nearly arrested.'  Also I would LOVE to know what 'group breastfeeding' looks like...>

Me: When LL hired a doula, what did you think about the price?  After her labor - did your opinion change?
Toppah: I thought $1150 for 15 minutes of work was Colombian drug lord pay.

<LL is blessed with VERY short labors... it wasn't 15 minutes, but she almost gave birth in the parking lot... if she had... her doula would have been there.>

Me:  When I hired a doula what did you think?
Toppah: I thought you and Adam had a lot of extra money, but it was probably getting to be what people did,  kind of like spending extra money on 'organic' food.  I thought LL's militant friends had pressured you also.

Me:  When you met Alexis in the parking lot, at the chiropractor  where you took me, when I was a week late and had broken my back, what did you think?
Toppah: Alexis seemed loving and caring and genuinely concerned about your well being.  The $1150 didn't seem like that much anymore.

Me: After my labor, 3 days, 3 nights, 3 hours of pushing... and a broken back, what did you think of doulas?
Toppah: I think doulas are grossly underpaid.

Me: Who do you think should hire a doula?
Toppah: Everyone.  It would be foolish not to.  In fact, I am considering hiring a doula to go with me to have a wart removed from my palm, it can be really painful and I could use the 24 hour support and encouragement.  Does Alexis travel?  Can I send her $1150now?  Do we get a family discount?  Just asking...

Did we convince you?  If not... you may need to read more about why I needed a doula in my VBAC/Birth post.  It's not for the feint of heart.  If you're in MA - here is the doula you should have! 


I share my posts here.  It's an awesome list.  Check it out.  Seriously.  It's a great list and if you visit blog parties you are going to want to check them out!  It's up to date, organized by day, and the links all work <3

Italian Chicken Burgers

Because I am not crazy about grass fed beef (don't get me wrong, we eat it... I just don't love it) - I am always looking for new uses for ground chicken and turkey.  It is inexpensive, less fatty, and I like the taste more.  Unfortunately, because it is leaner, it also tends to dry out really quickly.  These burgers however seemed to have solved that problem.  They were really juicy and delicious! 

Italian Chicken Burgers
We use organic, fair trade, and or local ingredients when possible.
1 lb of ground chicken

1 container of mushrooms (we used half baby bella and half shitake) chopped small (stems removed)

1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (divided in half)

1 tomato sliced thinly

½ cup of mozzarella/fontina/other melty cheese

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp basil

2 tbs butter

2 tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper

Sautee chopped mushrooms in olive oil and butter.

Combine mushrooms, chicken, ½ of Pecorino cheese, thyme, and basil.

Make into patties – I made 7 smaller patties – but you could make 4 big ones.  Fry on both sides until brown and cooked almost all the way through.  I just used the mushroom pan which had enough oil/butter left in it from the mushrooms.

Top with melty cheese, tomato slice, and then sprinkle remaining Pecorino cheese on top. 

Put under broiler to melt.

Enjoy plain, or on a toasted ciabatta bun with a little marina sauce or pesto (I think pesto would be great!)


I share my posts here.  It's an awesome list.  Check it out.  Seriously.  It's a great list and if you visit blog parties you are going to want to check them out!  It's up to date, organized by day, and the links all work <3

That Time I *MAY* Have Imagined the Mommy Wars

So... as it turns out... I think I have been imagining these so called 'mommy wars.'

I mean I have read about them, written about them, but as it turns out... I don't think they actually exist.

I have left facebook groups and hid friends on facebook.

I have debated and defended.


I think....

I *may* have overreacted.

I started thinking <in the shower after I had just shared an article from the toilet> this morning about when I write facebook posts and share articles I have read.

I'm going to be honest, it's never sitting at a desk, after really pondering, taking notes, and thinking about something.

I always do it as part of some form of multitasking... 

Here are some of the places I have updated my facebook status:
Bed after nursing at 3am
The dinner/lunch/breakfast table
The park while pushing the swings
Sitting on the floor covered in legos
The upstairs bathroom
The couch
The car in line at Sbucks
The downstairs bathroom
While nursing a newborn
The passenger seat of my car
Hiding in the garage
The beach
My parents' house
Hiding in my bedroom
Various restaurants
Public bathrooms
Covered in flour while cooking
While nursing a toddler/getting simultaneously kicked in the face and the arm
In the midst of folding laundry

So I got to thinking how much am I really thinking about what I am writing and sharing?  

When I have one hand in raw chicken and am sharing an article about what's wrong with cloth diapers... am I really reading the whole thing, evaluating its validity, checking the source, and then sharing?

Or did I just see the title and press 'share'  because -damn- people care the articles I think might be interesting and they need to read them NOW (or at least read the title like I did).

So... If I'm not thinking about the crap I am writing and sharing - what are the chances that everyone else is? 


Less than slim?

Then I got to thinking about why I left some of the groups I was in, why I hid some of my friends, why I stopped following a bazillion pages.

It was because I was taking people's status updates, shared articles, and comments on child rearing to heart.  I was feeling left out and rejected if I didn't agree with and follow everything someone else is doing.


Lame right?

Not mine... someone else's!  Someone who didn't even know if I was or wasn't reading it!  

I was taking a post so personally... that it was as if when some blogger, I don't know, was taking an awesome dump, and sharing an article about why organic food isn't worth the money, DIRECTED IT AT ME.

Was it?

Nope, proly not.

So then I got to thinking about these supposed 'mommy wars.'

Are moms REALLY attacking each other?

Are they stopping people in the grocery store and telling them to put down the cheese puffs?  Slapping the bottle out of your kids' mouth and shoving their boob in (or vice versa)? Leaping to save your kid from the sunscreen you thought was protecting them?  Are they actually saying TO YOU that your kid is rotten, because YOU didn't start timeout soon enough or because you spanked them too soon?


Or... are moms comparing themselves to what they "see" of other moms on the interwebs? Do they, like me, just have the perception that other people *might* be spying on and judging your every move? 

<if you are spying and judging me... it's not conventional peanut butter I'm eating... it's deliciously, local, chocolate chip almond butter, and if you had some you would eat it with a spoon while your kids are screaming upstairs napping too>

Are you comparing yourself to something your BFF posted... while she was trying to get poop off her knuckles from the latest diaper explosion?  Something she didn't think about, read, or intend to apply to anyone else but her kids?

I posted this picture a while ago when I started brainstorming this post... 

So... I came to the conclusion that nope... these things NEVER existed.  

And... I decided to here and now vow to not take personally something someone I don't know posted from the bathroom, because in the end not only were they not directing it at me... they hadn't even read it.

I vow to remain true to the belief that ALL moms, most of all myself, are doing what they deem is best for their kids.  That no one makes a decision for their kids because they intend to harm them.  

I will remember that just because someone posts something that *may* conflict with how I did something or what I believe in... doesn't mean that:

1. It was intended for me 
2. It was right for my family
3. Was even what that person did
4. Was even read by the poster
5. Is right/accurate/true (it's the interwebs people... you can prove ANYTHING to be true)

I'm not rushing back to all my online groups or unhiding people... I am however; looking at the mommy wars in a new and less personal light.  I truly don't believe mamas ever post something trying to be hurtful of another mama.  So I am going to stop taking things so personally and seriously.  Anytime I start getting worked up about something online, I am going to, for a second, think about the reality behind the post.  The poster, sitting on the toilet, with the door locked, with screaming kids trying to break it down and get in.  Then I am going to take a deep breath and get the hell over something that was never about me anyway.

I am going to go back using facebook for what it was really intended for - playing words with friends and 'poking' people... mostly my sister.

Don't write anything mean to me in the comments though.  That I will take personally.


I share my posts here.  It's an awesome list.  Check it out.  Seriously.  It's a great list and if you visit blog parties you are going to want to check them out!  It's up to date, organized by day, and the links all work <3

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