Sunday, September 23, 2012

This is not good-bye...

It's been a long time coming.

More than three years ago my life was changed for the better by a tiny little plus sign on a test.  During my Claire pregnancy I was working for a law firm that was run by a pile of worthless jerks.  So, when I went on bed rest, they fired me.  "It's not that you aren't a good attorney," they said.  "We think you're great!  It's just that you're pregnant."  ".........(silence)" I said, in response.  We referred to it as medical leave for all intents and purposes, but what had really happened was that they were too stupid to run a successful law firm, but they were smart enough to know that there is this tiny little loophole when it comes to firing pregnant chicks just because they're pregnant.  It says they have to have more than a handful of employees.  They didn't.  I used to be really angry about the whole situation, but now I'm really grateful.  Sadly, the firm closed shortly after they let me go...coincidence? 

So, I went on bed rest and unemployment.  It sucked.  Shortly thereafter I found a great job teaching online.  I just spent the last 2+ years of my life staying home with my babies.  I won't lie, it hasn't been sunshine and roses the whole time.

Now, on the eve of my re-entry into the working world outside my home I am full of emotions.

I'm excited.  I have a big kid corporate job now.  I get to wear all those suits and heels that have been taking up space in my closet. I'll be retiring my yoga pants and using them only for their intended purpose(yoga, not trips to Target, who knew?).

I'm scared.  What if they don't like me?  What if I miss my train?  What if I totally suck at this job?  Clearly this portion is just me being irrational and dramatic.

I'm happy.  I am really looking forward to getting back out there and working with other adults.

Mostly, though, I'm sad.  I am going to miss my daughters so much I can hardly type this through tears.  Tonight I rocked Zora to sleep and told her we would still be best friends.  I kissed Claire on the head and her tiny plea for "more kisses, Mommy," were enough to rip my heart right out.  I'm so sad that I won't be the one picking Claire up to hear about her day at school.  She's always so excited to sing her new songs with me and if I don't sing it correctly she says, "no mommy! No singing!"  I'm sad that when Zora wakes up from her nap, it won't be me that scoops her up and cuddles her while she stretches her little chubby legs.  I'm sad that they probably won't remember these years that I spent at home with them.

These feelings are countered by my knowledge that I am showing them with my actions and not just my words that they can do and be anything.  That they must work hard and that it won't always be easy and fun.  Now, I'm not saying that you, as a mom or dad, can't show your children the same thing through staying home, I'm saying that for me, this is how I am showing my children. 

So, through the tears, I'm taking this first step towards my goals.  But, I know that every step I take tomorrow will be with my girls in my heart.  They are my biggest motivation to achieve my own goals so that I can help them achieve their own, someday. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dear Claire and Zora,

At the risk of sounding like a country song, I wanted to share with you a few of my hopes and wishes for my daughters.  I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  So, what better place to get it out of my head!

These are mostly just moments when I say to myself, "Man, I really hope Claire and Zora don't do _____."

Here goes:

I hope I don't impose my dislike for things on them.  I didn't like cilantro.  I had the idea that it was gross.  I told people that I didn't like cilantro.  Then I actually ate something with cilantro in it and now I love it.  Can't get enough cilantro.  I didn't like it because a member of my family who shall remain nameless said she didn't like it.  It turns out that she does like it and her dislike of it was based on someone else's dislike of it.  See how this happens people?  I also love brussel sprouts.

I hope that they stand up for others.  Yesterday I was talking with the BFF about my mistrust of Vienna sausages.  They just freak me out.  They might be delicious but they're so off-putting with their gelatinous goo and paleness.  Plus there was a girl that I went to elementary school with who ate them at lunch.  She was overweight as a child and through high school.  People made fun of her.  In hindsight it was awful.  The only thing I know about this girl is what she looked like and what she ate at lunch.  I regret that.  I hope my children don't have the same regrets. 

I hope they never equate self-worth with appearance.  I've talked about this a lot in this blog.  But it might be one of my sincerest hopes.  This country is out of hand.  Little girls don't dress like little girls anymore.  They dress like trussed up ponies to be put on parade.  We are robbing them of a time in their lives when they shouldn't be worrying about being pretty or what brand their jeans are.  I have to say, and I apologize if you're included in this but it has to be said, I was sickened by some of the back-to-school outfits I saw on my Facebook feed.  Why parents?  Why are you dressing your child in something strapless?  Why are you putting them in something that has spaghetti straps so that I, and the rest of FB, can see at least one of your precious daughter's nipples. (I wish I was joking on this one)  Damn it I know tiny versions of grown-up clothes are cute.  But so are pandas and they'll attack the shit out of you given the opportunity.  My point?  Just because it's "cute" doesn't mean it's appropriate.  Why do we have to make our girls look so "sassy" all the time?  Can't they just look like little girls?  Put them in something that they can run and climb and jump in.  What's that you say?  Your daughter picks her own clothes and you can't do anything about it?  Ah, you're right...oh, wait, nope you're the parent.  And seriously, if I see another sassy/sexy pout on a little girl, I'm going to lose my mind.  Sick.

I hope they don't run for student council.  Weird, right?  I think student council is awful.  It's purely a popularity contest.  Maybe things have changed, but at my school that's all it was.  The winners weren't selected because they were good at something(I'm sure they all were but that's not why they were chosen).  They didn't really even do anything for the students. I think they just got to get out of school every once in awhile.  They certainly weren't out there advocating for a cause.  Frankly, some of them weren't even that nice.  Thankfully, later in life, popularity stops being a measure of worth, unless you're running for office.  I hope they don't do that either, honestly.

I hope they choose their affiliations based on their own ideas.  I don't want my girls to pick a side because Rob and I are on it, whether it be politics, religion, or otherwise.  I want them to go out and explore their world and then make their choices based on that exploration.

I hope that they are bold.  My sister and I suffer from an affliction.  We blame our mother.  Yes, mom, we blame you.  We are really weird about calling people.  Not friends or family but anything else, we get anxiety.  My mom was the same way and that's where we get it.  (No, you didn't do it on purpose mom, yes, we love you)  For instance, calling and ordering pizza.  This was a task that was delegated to us at an early age because Mom just didn't want to do.  I think it's her middle child-ness.  Now, as an adult, I cringe when I need to call a student, the Chinese place we order from, my insurance company, or anyone at all.  I just don't want to do it.  I get that weird topsy-turvy feeling in my tummy.  I think it's a form of social anxiety, but only as it relates to phones.  At any rate, I'm not handing this one down to my children.

I hope they do not procrastinate.  When I was in school I put things off until the last minute.  It was silly and pointless and generally made me more stressed and more tired.  Now, as an adult, I am much better with my time.  I know kids have to learn things the hard way, but this lesson, I just want them to skip.

I think I'll end my list there for now and maybe continue it in a later blog.  To be continued...right Sarah?

Well, Claire is officially television obsessed again.  She cries and melts when she doesn't get her daily dose of Mickey Mouse.  It's an addiction and we're about to have an intervention...with Daddy.  Like the sucker that he is, he gives in.  Last night I came home from the gym to find my children eating pancakes for dinner (eh-hem) and glued to The Letter Factory.  I like this particular factory, but Claire had already gotten to watch her one episode of Super Why so she was supposed to be on TV hiatus.  I think we may need to go cold turkey again.  I'll keep you posted.  I smell mutiny. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Zora's Bee Day Party!

Somehow a year has passed since we met our precious Zora Robin.  I can hardly believe that our baby isn't really a baby anymore.  It makes me excited and heartbroken all at the same time.

Over these last 12 months she's grown in so many ways.  She's gotten taller, smarter, funnier, happier, so many things in such a short time.  

I thought I'd share her first party with you because I found some great deals and even saved some money here and there. I'm actually pretty proud of myself because I did almost every bit with my own hands(and the hands of my family).  I even recycled.
We decided to celebrate Miss B's big 1st birthday with a "Bee Day" party.  She earned her nickname, "B," when we introduced her to Claire.  Claire had a knack for only saying the hard "ee" sounds of words for a long time.  So, kitty was "T" and baby was "B" and so on.  Claire had always had the very proper title of Miss Bear and so Zora was promptly dubbed Miss Baby or Miss B.  That name evolved or devolved rather into B-B, Biddley B(my husband is weird, who knows), and a few others I can't recall.  Claire had a ladybug 1st birthday so it seemed only fitting that Zora have a bug-theme as well.

Thank God for Pinterest.  After spending several months compiling a lovely pinboard, I was ready to get crafting.

The invitations were pale yellow checked paper with a solid yellow overlay that I printed on my own printer.  It's actually not that hard to set your margins, paper-size, and the like and print your own invites.  I think I spent a total of one whole dollar on the invites.  I don't count that I bought a snazzy paper cutter to make them because I'll use it a lot.  Sarah should be very proud of me for breaking down and buying my own after so many hours spent sitting at her dining table using hers.
They read:  "Buzz on over for some fun.  Our Sweet Little Bee is turning 1!  Join us for Zora's Bee Day, (date, time, place)  RSVP to the Queen Bee."  I googled and found this language on other invites and sort of compiled my own.

I had seen several table-scapes on Pinterest that gave me some great ideas for banners and such.  I purchased a few sheets of scrapbooking paper in the same color of pale yellow but with varied patterns, i.e. polka dots, checks, etc.  I then printed out letters in the size and font I wanted(in light gray to save ink), taped them to the paper and cut them out.  I didn't bother cutting them out before putting them on the paper, why cut twice?  Then, I used my paper cutter to make triangles out of paper bags.  My sister is an avid Whole Foods shopper and never uses her paper bags.  I had her save them from recycling for me.  I think I used two total.  I used a hole-punch to punch two holes in the tops of each triangle then threaded yellow ribbon through.  
 Luckily, my brother-in-law has a green thumb and a love of all things floral (except maybe couches and shirts, I'm sure he draws the line somewhere).  He picked up some lovely yellow and white flowers and my sister arranged them in varying vessels.  I found some adorable yellow and stainless little buckets at Target in the dollar bins and they worked perfectly.  Thanks to my pinning addiction, I also made a few yellow and white tissue paper flower balls to hand from the ceiling.  Those were a royal pain in my ass and I don't recommend them unless you like to be frustrated and yell at tissue paper.  I really don't know how these people make them look like they do in their pictures because I followed the directions to the letter and ended up with some very lovely balls of crumpled tissue paper.
 I found a great bee fabric at Hobby Lobby that was on sale 30%.  I purchased two yards and ended up cutting it length-wise and using half for a table runner and making the other half into two pillow covers.  They looked great on the black sofa and were easy to make since I basically wrapped the pillows like gifts and used small safety pins to secure them.  They only needed to last two hours and they did their job well.
We served a relatively easy menu from the standpoint that not much was cooked.  We had tea sandwiches; pimento and cheese, peanut butter and jelly(I made sure none of the attendees were allergic), and classic cucumber.  We even cut off the crusts.  My sister and mother dipped pretzel rods in yellow-tinted white chocolate and then striped them with dark chocolate.  We had fruit and veggies, chips and dip, and a cheese platter.  Zora's first cupcake was a banana cupcake with peanut butter buttercream frosting with a Hershey's Hug in the center.  They were decorated like bee hives so we needed something for height.  I found some little candy bees at Hobby Lobby that we put on the hives.  If you didn't like cupcakes we also had lemon cheesecake bars striped with dark chocolate.

For favors I purchased headbands at the dollar store(six for a dollar), black pipe cleaners, and black puff balls and made my own bee antennae.  That probably took the least amount of time of any of the projects.  The kids and adults enjoyed them.  The guests also received a little terracotta pot with a bag of flower seeds and a note that said, "Bees love flowers because they're sweet like you.  Thanks for coming to my birthday party."

 I wanted to keep with the bee theme and the only other thing I could think of was giving out honey, so I went with flowers.  I printed the little notes on my computer on regular white paper, cut them out and used left-over paper from the invites make them look fancy.  I hope the guests liked them and I hope their flowers grow.   

Our serving dishes were primarily white and we used a few rugged-looking cutting boards for cheeses and the cupcakes.  I had intended to make the cupcake stand that was featured on Squash Blossom Babies but after everything else, I just didn't have time.

 We kept the kids entertained with a giant inflatable pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and also put together two sets of pop-up tunnels(Rob calls them the Viet Cong tunnels).  I even climbed through a few times.

Overall, I think they party was a success and more importantly, Zora was happy all day.  She even got to wear a little dress with bees on it that I found for 60% off at Kohl's on a whim.  

I can't wait until Claire's birthday, but I guess I'd better get's only 6 months away.

Here's the totals:

Invites:  $1 for the paper ($3 for the glue dots I had from a previous project and I also had envelopes left over from Claire's birthday that I paid $1 for 12)

Banner:  $2 for the paper, $2 for the ribbon, $0 for the paper sacks

Decorations:  $4 for metal buckets, $4 for tissue paper, $3 for fabric (1/2 made into pillow covers, 1/2 used as a table runner)

Favors:  $2 for headbands, $3 for pipe cleaners and puff balls, $4 for two packs of 6 pots

So, if you don't count food costs we spent $25 on supplies for the party.  Not too bad.

Friday, August 3, 2012

You're Hired!

Well, hell hath frozen over.  If by hell you mean Texas in August and if by frozen over you mean a chilly office in a North Dallas highrise...

Momma got a job.  Yep.

So here comes the mixed emotions.  I'm really excited to get back into the workplace.  Rob and I always assumed that I would stay home with Zora until she was 1 and then go back to work outside of the home.  Of course he said a few nights ago that he actually hoped I would stay home with her until age you tell me.

This job is a perfect transition back into the wilds of corporate America.  It's at a law firm and it's a writing position.  So, I'll be getting paid to do what I largely do for free.  I won't be practicing law, yet.  I say yet because I'm still on the fence if that's something I'm looking to start doing here in Texas. 

Yesterday when I arrived home from my interview I was basking in the joy of having a job offered to me on the spot.  Then I heard a tiny emanating whimper from Zora's room.  She was waking up from her afternoon nap and ready to be extracted from her crib confines. 

When I saw those little pink cheeks, big blue eyes, and tiny hands-one reaching for me, one holding on to Miss Monkey-I just lost it.  I scooped her up and apologized for leaving her, even though I hadn't.  I told her that I love her and that I was so grateful for the year that we had spent together.  I assured her that my going back to work wasn't because I don't like spending time with her.  I sobbed, "Mommy loves you so much. We'll still hang out all the time. I promise." 

It was awful.

We played together for almost an hour before Claire woke up from her nap.  She was distraught because Daddy had picked her up from school instead of Mommy.  If I asked her about her day at school she cried and said, "Mommy not coming. Daddy pick me up." 

Okay kids, you're making your point. 

So we spent the afternoon making up for hugs that will be missed, having giggles that I won't be here to hear, and generally enjoying each moment.

Look, I know they'll both be fine.  Claire will get used to going to school all day and Zora, well, as long as whomever is watching her feeds her regularly and makes sure she has Miss Monkey, she'll be fine.  I know all the things.  They'll be fine.  They'll get used to it.  They'll even like it.  No one needs to tell me these things, in fact, don't patronize me.  I know all of these things, but I don't have to like it. 

So, starting in a few weeks, I will be working outside of my home.  I'm not sure my emotions will ever be anything but mixed and I hope that I will look back on this decision and mark it down as a good one.  We shall see.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Coffee With a Side of Reality

Since moving to Texas I've been lucky to make a few new friends.  Some have been through my sister, some have been on my own.  I'm pretty proud of myself to be able to make new friends at this age, because sometimes, it's not easy.

One of my new friends is the mother of a classmate of Claire.  In addition to her Claire-age child, she also has a son who is just one month and a handful of days younger than Zora.  She's super nice and very intelligent.  It's always nice to chat with her when we drop off the kids at school, so I was obliged to accept when she invited me to coffee.

We met at Starbucks and found a nice set of comfy chairs situated around a low table for the babies to walk around/destroy.

Dear patrons of Starbucks,
This is a coffee shop, not a library.  My child does not have to be quiet.  If you want quiet go buy some hipster giant headphones and put some anti-establishment stickers on them.  But, also realize that you can't get more establishment than Starbucks.  You are not ironic in the punk rock kind of way.  Get over yourself.  Thanks.

My friend and I landed on the predictable topic of child development.  It was all me, as it usually is.  I just feel this compulsion to talk about how everyone's kid is doing.  Not because I want to take anything away from anyone as far as kudos go, but because I need reassurance that my children are doing okay.  Even though I have two children, I consider myself a first-time mom because Claire isn't old enough to have taught us what we need to know to raise Zora without a few questions.  We're learning as we go here people.

So, anyway, my friend did her masters work in the area of child development(I know it was actually called something else, but I can't remember now).  She has many friends who are in the field.  A lot of these women work in the field because they have children with special needs.  I was fascinated by what she was saying because now I have a virtual expert in my presence.  What she said though, stopped me in my tracks and shifted my focus.

She said that for her to share her children's milestones, like walking and talking, was unfair to many of her friends.  While they would of course be happy and proud for her and share in her excitement, some of them would never have those milestones.  Their child might never speak a single word, let alone "mommy" or "I love you."  They might never get to have that hug that comes at the end of the run down the hallway.  That's not to devalue what they will experience, but it puts life in perspective, at least for me.

It's another one of those moments we are given from time to time that bring you back to reality.  I say "given" because I think these moments and the people that share them with you are a gift.  A gift sent to remind you that even the smallest thing is important when it comes to raising kids.  The smiles and giggles, the hugs and kisses, the moments.  Those are what matter.  The ABCs and 123s?  They have their place and I couldn't be prouder of Claire and Zora when they learn something new.

There's a middle ground, though, right?  There's something between enjoying every second and not caring and obsessing over achievement?  I'm working to find that balance.  I suppose it depends on how you measure success.  Today success for us equals a baby who took two steps in a row and a big girl who decided it's "unda-weaws" from now on...good luck to her teachers today...tomorrow success might be a new food sampled or a new song learned.  I like this success.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Two in One Week? Don't Get Used to It

I wanted to update everyone since I received so many helpful comments yesterday after the Pushing Incident of 2012. 

Claire had a great day today.  She didn't push a single child at school.  I was so proud, I can't tell you.  This morning Rob and I spent most of breakfast talking to her about sharing and taking turns.  We also played with her laptop and practiced sharing and turn-taking.  I know we're not out of the proverbial woods on this, but it sure was nice to hear she had a great day.

On another note, I've been wanting to share this with you all for awhile but I always forget to get it out of Claire's room before nap (when I blog).

Here's the text of my favorite book to read to my girls.  It's called Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You. (BTW this is not a reprint, it's a quote)

"I wanted you more than you ever will know,
so I sent love to follow wherever you go.

"It's high as you wish it.  It's quick as an elf.
You'll never outgrow stretches itself.

"So climb any mountain...climb up to the sky!
My love will find you.  My love can fly!

"Make a big splash!  Go out on a limb!
My love will find you.  My love can swim!

"It never gets lost, never fades, never ends...
if you're working...or playing...or sitting with friends.

"You can dance 'til you're dizzy...paint 'til you're blue...
There's no place, not one, that my love can't find you.

"And if someday you're lonely,
or someday you're sad,
or you strike out at baseball,
or think you've been bad...
just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.
That's me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

"In the green of the the smell of the sea...
in the clouds floating the top of a tree...
in the sound crickets make at the end of the day...
'You are loved.  You are loved.  You are loved,' they all say.

"My love is so high, and so wide and so deep,
it's always right there, even when you're asleep.

"So hold your head high and don't be afraid
to march to the front of your own parade.

"If you're still my small babe or you're all the way grown,
my promise to you is you're never alone.

"You are my angel, my darling, my star...
and my love will find you, wherever you are."

Tillman, N., (2010). Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You.  New York:  Feiwel and Friends

I couldn't have said it better myself.  Now go buy this book because the pictures are amazing and you will tear up every time you read it to your children. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Life Lesson: When to ask for advice

I need some advice.  Like actual advice.  Like don't sugar-coat this advice.

Today when I arrived to pick up Claire, I was greeted by an Incident Report.  She had pushed and scratched two children. 

As this was explained to me several feelings washed over me.  First, embarrassment.  Second, sadness. Third, fear.  I was embarrassed because it seems like this is something I should be able to deal with.  I shouldn't have the kid that pushes people.  I'm not violent.  My husband isn't violent.  I felt like a failure as a parent.  I was sad because I don't want Claire to be marked by teachers and other parents as "that kid" and become the outcast.  I don't want people to think that she's anything other than the loving, caring, friendly kid that she is.  I was afraid because what if this is an emotional problem that is going to only get more difficult from here?  Do I need to have her evaluated?  What do I do?

On the way home, I cried on the phone to my husband who is out of town on business this week.  I wanted him to give me the answers.  I wanted someone to tell me, "oh, all you have to do is _____."  This is not reality.

When we pulled into the garage, I turned to Claire, sitting in her seat enjoying her bunny crackers, and said with tears streaming down my face, "it makes Mommy sad when you hurt people at school."  She said, in response, "Mommy crying?"  Then we talked about how hands don't hurt, they help and that we give hugs and kisses with hands.  She will tell you adamantly, "No pushing!  No scratching!"  She'll even show you what to do with hands.  She'll stroke the baby's back and say, "sweet hands." 

So, how do I solve this Rubik's Cub of child development?  I've done my research, I know this is normal 2-year-old behavior.  That doesn't mean I'm just going to stand by while she's becoming the class bully.

It broke my heart today to see her sitting at a table by herself eating her lunch because she was in trouble.  I don't want her to have another day like today.  I certainly don't want her to have a life of isolation.

We do "time out."  We re-direct.  We pay attention when she's playing with other kids (as much as possible) to try to catch the behavior before it starts.  But I'm not Super Mom.  I don't have psychic abilities and I can't predict how things will make her react. 

So, any suggestions are welcomed.  If any part of you just smiled a smug smile of congratulations because your kid never hit, pushed, or bit, get off my blog.  You're an asshole.

While writing this, Pusherman is playing in my head.  But it's not Curtis Mayfield singing it.  It's my brother-in-law, Ryan.  If you know him, he's now singing in your head, too.  You're welcome.