Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday's Five: Michele

Welcome to Friday's Five, my weekly feature in which I ask a fabulous blogger five questions.

I'm talking today with the delightful Michele from The Stefo Crew. She's the mother of eight children, including identical twin daughters. She homeschools her middle four kids, dabbles in portrait photography, and bakes extraordinary birthday cakes. Michele writes her blog with wisdom, candor, and humility; her posts range from heartfelt prayers to funny videos to insightful pieces on such topics as seeing teenagers through the difficult period of adolescence.

1. What are your children's ages and what kind of extracurricular activities do they enjoy?

Sarah, 17, on the cusp of high school graduation and a concert aficionada, likes discovering new music and hanging out with friends.

Scott, 15, a runner, is currently rehearsing a leading role in Funny Girl, the upcoming school musical.

Brian, 12, is a First Class Boy Scout, football fanatic, swims competitively, and generally enjoys anything that involves climbing, jumping, or shooting.

Conor, 10, also swims and plays football.

Clare, 7, swims. (I love swimming and football, because that means multiple children at the same place/same time!)

Theresa, 5, and Noelle and Natalie, 2, don't have any formal activities, though we drop in at Kindermusik now and then. All four youngest girls also think dress-up is an Olympic sport for which they have to train extensively. Seriously, we don't encourage activities too young because our family is already going in so many different directions. Any given night there are at least two empty places at the dinner table.

2. Speaking of the dinner table . . . so many of us deal with picky eaters in our families. How do you approach mealtime at your house?

As hard as it may be to believe, I don't have a solution to this one. My husband's approach is: This is dinner. Eat it. I'm not as comfortable with that, but it does simplify things. We have a few kids who will try anything, a few with clearly defined dislikes, and a couple who don't eat at all. I try to be sensitive to their dislikes, but within reason. Some nights you're a winner, and some nights you're not. I do try to have at least a side dish and vegetable that they like, even if they can't stomach the entrèe.
          I also insist that they at least eat a small portion of whatever is served. Somewhere along the way I read that you have to introduce a food seven times before you can definitely say you like it or don't. True or not, our tastes do change along the way, so I keep forcing them to reevaluate their position. I wouldn't eat onions or pepper until I was in my late 30s!

3. Because you are in the midst of raising both boys and girls, I'd love to hear your opinion on the commonly-held belief that raising boys is a lot different than raising girls.

In high school we had a biology teacher who told us that boys and girls are wired differently—if you give a group of children a block of wood, the girls will cuddle it, and the boys will go vroom-vroom and crash it into something. I scoffed at the time (think early 80s, "equality for women in the workplace" in full swing), but now I believe there is some truth to it. I have yet to see one of my sons cuddle and diaper dolls and stuffed animals, and the girls don't share the same obsession with explosions and all things military.
          I have observed that so far, my girls have learned to read (and enjoy reading) earlier, but the potty training has been about equal. Both sexes like to cook, and nobody likes to clean. They all break things. They all cry, some more easily than others. The boys all like to have smack-downs and wrestling matches with their dad and each other. The girls tend to hang back, but that might be more a function of the age grouping. They can't hold their own against the bigger boys.
          Are they different because they're different, or because we've made them that way? I wish I could tell . . . Do I think either sex is easier? (It's too early to cast my vote, but shhh—I'm leaning toward the boys.) And when I asked my husband this question, he snorted and said, "Infants." You have to remember that we're also raising teens, who have shattered many of our illusions about parenting.
          My favorite piece about the difference between girls and boys comes from Erma Bombeck, which I posted on my blog to share. She really nails it!

4. What have you learned about yourself through the process of blogging?

The most surprising thing I've learned is that I'm a latent attention hound. Sadly, I am a lot more concerned with how my writings are received than I'd anticipated. The blog's original intent was for the grandparents, and to start keeping at least a sporadic journal again. Then I started finding blogs I really liked to read (like Kim's), and I discovered blog rings. I also discovered that some blogs have followers. (Followers?!? I want some!!!) My first comment was a delightful experience, and I eagerly looked for new ones every time I signed in, feeling disappointed if there weren't any. I even installed a live traffic feed to show me where the visitors were coming from. I didn't expect to care so much and I'm ashamed to say it, but there's a virtual Michele jumping up and down, waving her arms, shouting, "Look at me! Look at what I've written!" which is totally unlike me in person. Why does it matter so much to me what other people, whom I will probably never know in person, think about my blog?
          I've also noticed how many of my sentences begin with the pronoun "I." Bor-ring. Sometimes it's necessary, but now I frequently restructure many sentences to avoid this.

5. What did you have for dinner last night?

This is a fun one! I just signed up to be a Pampered Chef consultant (in all my spare time!) and so I've been field-testing lots of new recipes. Sweet & Sour & Pineapple Stir-Fry went over really well—they licked the platter clean.

Thanks, Michele! You may have just written the slogan for my next T-shirt: "DINNER. Some nights you're a winner. Some nights you're not." And I can totally relate to what you've said about blogging, especially the cracklike addiction of comments. I have to guard myself against valuing my writing based on whether or not a post receives a comment.

Meet y'all back here next Friday for a different blogger and a new set of questions.


Michele said...

That Erma Bombeck piece is from her book Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession. The whole thing is either hilarious, poignant, or both, and has been in my favorites collection almost since I became a mom.

3 Bay B Chicks said...

Fridays and Saturdays are usually big commeting days for me. I *try* to visit everyone who has commented on our blog during the week, as well as everyone in our reader.

One thing that I love about this schedule is that it allows me to re-discover the Friday Five on your site each week. What fun!

Today I find another great blogger to introduce myself to. Thanks, Kim!


Helene said...

What a great interview! 8 children? Wow, I could probably learn a thing or two from her!!

I'm gonna go check out her blog right now!

Dawn Parsons Smith said...

Great interview! Wow! She's my hero! 8 kids! I love the whole "It's dinner...Eat it" philosophy! I just wished it worked at my house...heavy sigh...

twinmamabee said...

I completely understand what Michele was saying about being concerned about what others think about her blog. Mine started out as a way to creatively express myself, but I, too, bite my fingers wondering if my stuff is well received by others.

I love these articles getting to know other bloggers!

Heather~sheaaa6 said...

I love your Friday Fives! :)
Michele is a fellow home~school Mom in my area and truly a sweet lady. Although I have only personally met her once, I consider her a true friend already. :)
I enjoyed reading her answers and learning more about her and her family! :) I LOVE her down to earth personality. :)
I also can relate to the blog comment thing.... lol :)
Thanks for posting these. :)