A few months ago, I took my older two ladies to a birthday party for a dear friend’s one year old. After good food, indoor party games and the sweetest cupcakes an Oliva-themed party had ever seen, everyone went outside to experience the new birthday playground.
Betty followed her best buddy and most certainly the love of her life briskly up the playhouse ladder. His slide-eager foot kicked back at just the right moment to knock out an almost-wiggly top tooth.
About twenty minutes later we emerged into a worried crowd of birthday party players and worried parents.
I don’t know what anyone said for the next five minutes. All I heard was,
Lucy had paint in her hair, on her clothes, along her earlobe.
Mama Merit Badges was started as a response to the dearth of authentic recognition for the very hard work of mothering. Overly sentimentalized depictions of motherhood belie the actual daily duties that alternately feel like drudgery, brave political acts, and absurd performance art. This irreverent award system invites public dialogue about and visual recognition for the unpaid and often ignored labor that is parenting.
The badges are 1½ inches, iron on, and 100% embroidery. They can be worn on your diaper bag, purse, tote, jacket, jeans, scarf or baby carrier. Stick them on your wall, fridge or bulletin board. They make a wonderful shower or blessingway gift. Present one to a friend after a mama-roic episode. Use them when journaling or scrapbooking about your life as a mother. Each badge come individually packaged with a description of the badge included
You can follow along the Mama Scouts blog to read all about a mama of three’s navigation of adventurous family living on the creative frontier.
Baby by the Sea: Tell us about the beginnings of your business.
Mama Merit Badges: I was feeling pretty proud when I took my 4yo, 2yo and newborn out for the first time by myself. I quipped that I needed a merit badge for it. And then, I actually went looking for them – I assumed they had to exist. But they did not, so I created them. They are meant to be funny and irreverent but sort of poignant, too. I mean if you have to hold your child’s face still while they get stitches and you manage to make the kid feel safe and hold back your vomit – you do deserve some tangible recognition. Even if you have to buy it for yourself. Also, I might have been getting a little jealous about the steak knife set my husband got at work.
Baby by the Sea: What inspires you? Is there a quote you’re fond of these days?
Mama Merit Badges: I am inspired by interesting people, the ocean, wind, the golden hour, contrasting elements, worn furniture, anyone’s old family photographs, citrus, the Florida sky, old cast iron bathtubs, walking through my neighborhood smelling everyone’s dinners in progress, but mostly mothering.
I love quotes and have them handwritten in books and journals and scraps of paper everywhere. One that I particularly like is by e.e. cummings. “i imagine that yes, is the only living thing.” It is great advice. As long as I am saying yes, or moving in that direction, good things always happen.
Baby by the Sea: Have you always been a maker? How does design fit into your daily routine?
Mama Merit Badges: I have always wanted to make things, both objects and moments. And I love learning how to do new things, like quilting or stained glass. I remember in junior high altering my clothes into some pretty wacky get ups. Since I could not really sew, they all involved alot of safety pins. Now, I am more interested in making things that are useful or add to our home and family life in some way.
Learning side by side with my kids is probably my biggest inspiration. They are constantly making and inventing things: to play with, to eat, the wear, or to take over the world with. So, I get to do some crafting during the day with them. Also, I keep a journal around and take notes on my personal ideas and then work on them in the evening or when the kids are running errands with their dad. Once a month I get together with grown up friends for a creative night where we share writing and do a hands on project. I really treasure that night and leave feeling super charged.
Baby by the Sea: What ritual/tradition makes your family unique?
Mama Merit Badges: Hmmm… probably that we homeschool in a very relaxed and organic way. Our family spends most of our time together learning, creating and playing. We love to travel and camp, go to yard sales, see plays, cook together, grow things, read aloud and in general follow each others’ interests. My daughter is a big swimmer right now, one son is really into carnivorous plants and the other one spends a big chunk of the day thinking of ways he can use his strength for good (he is the one who brought his muscles to show and tell and said something along the lines of, “I’ve got your show and tell, right here!” and then flexed them for everyone to admire).
I also run a small, neighborhood produce subscription service and my kids help me every other week. They go with me to the wholesale markets, help buy, package and deliver produce. They know alot about fruit and vegetables and have a good sense of how the supply chain works. That is probably unique.
Baby by the Sea: Tell us about your background. What led you to do the work you do today?
Mama Merit Badges: My background is in art history and American studies. In the past, I worked in art galleries and taught humanities and American culture classes. I have always loved material culture, so I find the scouting connection to my merit badges pretty interesting. I also enjoy writing for my blog, mamascout. I feel connected to cool mamas all over the world and love the conversations we are having.
Baby by the Sea: What is your favorite word?
Mama Merit Badges: Wonder.
Amy of mama merit badges is so talented, so creative. Her product validates our parenting peaks and valleys with humor and merit. I spent 46 1/2 months of my life breastfeeding my three daughters. I’ll proudly wear my breastfeeding badge. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a mini-narrative for each image.
For today’s giveaway, mama merit badges is generously offering the following gift to TWO lucky winners:
~ Explain what you deserve a merit badge for. TWO lucky winners will receive a package of badges in the mail.
Check out mama scout on Etsy.
Find mama merit badges on Facebook.
Check out mama merit badges’ awesome blog Mama Scouts. Her life is painted in such lovely prose, sweet pictures.
And if you’re not already, become a follower of Baby by the Sea.
Yippy to Cockeyed Sock Monkey and Rainblissed.
Please send my your contact info, Rainblissed.
Sock Monkey, you talented gal, I already have yours!