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Archive for September, 2010

The teacher’s response to yesterday’s email was short and sweet:

“Thank you for letting us know.  I’m sure she will learn it is hard to go out for recess in a tank top!”

Of coure the girl did not change into the warmer outfit. I wasn’t surprised.

I relayed the story of the wardrobe issue to my neighbor at work, who replied by saying, “Why don’t you just hide the summer clothes?”

Oh. Yeah. I guess that would work, too, so last night as Nathan helped Autumn with her bath, I snuck into her bedroom and put every piece of summer clothing into the suitcase I emptied after my trip to Asheville.

Autumn did not realize her beloved tank tops were gone until this evening. For whatever reason, she did not fight me on her wardrobe choice this morning, but shortly after I got home she asked if she could change into a tank top.

“I put all your tank tops away,” I said.

“No you didn’t,” she replied.

“Yes, I did, and they’re not coming back out until next summer.”

She didn’t believe me and ran upstairs to her bedroom.  A moment later I heard her pull the drawers open.

“MOMMY! WHAT DID YOU DO?!”

What I had to, dear. What I had to.

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Maestra,

Autumn is having a little trouble letting go of the tank tops and shorts from her summer wardrobe. Rather than continually fight to get her to wear something more weather-appropriate, I’ve told her she can wear what she wants as long as she can sit outside in her outfit of choice for five minutes. She’s very stubborn, and you will see her today in a tank top and skirt.

I’m sure she will become more agreeable as the days get colder, but until then I will be packing an extra warmer outfit in her backpack.

Thank you,

Heather N-

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I’m back in Michigan!

Unfortunately I’m not yet home. My flight departing from Asheville was delayed so Delta booked me on another flight that has me waiting for a few hours in Detroit. Hello, Motor City.

I decided to grab a bite to eat at one of the astronomically priced establishments in the terminal. I told myself I wasn’t going to do this, but the last leg of my trip has me arriving later than planned. I just want to kiss and hug my family and not worry about where dinner is coming from. Tomorrow I’m back at the office and it’s business as usual.

The place where I chose to eat is a favorite. We have the same restaurant on campus and I’ll go there whenever I’m in the mood for something other than Subway.

I placed my order, picked my jaw up off the floor after hearing the total and scooted my way down to the register at the end where two girls were ringing up customers and chatting.

One of the girls commented to the other how busy it had been all day. She gauged this busyness by the number of credit card transactions she had processed so far. She started rattling off numbers-37 MasterCard, 45 Visa 28 Discover blah blah blah. And as she handed me my credit card and receipt, she said, “It pisses me off.”

I do not profess to have virgin ears unfamiliar with such language. Hell, I say shit like that all the time, but one does not work in a service-related job and use such language in front of customers.

Or at least they shouldn’t.

So I sat down to eat my order, which they got WRONG, and thought about how the cashier was essentially complaining about her livelihood in front of the people who make it possible for her to take home a paycheck.

Where’s the gratitude?

Granted, everyone complains about their jobs from time to time (guilty), but this is Detroit, a city that has, perhaps, felt the ugliness of this economic climate more acutely than any other city in Michigan. And Michigan? WOW. Let’s just say we’re not attracting any homesteaders. People are leaving because there’s nothing here for them anymore.

But the cashier has a job. She has a job in a dinky overpriced eatery in a major international hub. Seriously, this place is freaking huge, and I would bet there are countless people in this city who would don her apron and visor in a heartbeat.

Does she know that? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe I just caught her in a bad moment. All I know is that she displayed an attitude of entitlement that runs rampant in the workplace. Guilty again.

So here’s what I’m going to do. From the moment I sit down at my desk tomorrow to the moment I leave it, I’m going to appreciate what I have there. No matter what my feelings are about where I work and what I do for a living, I’m going to work my butt off and be thankful I have a job that allows me to help provide for my family.

I challenge you to do the same.

Let Tuesday, September 28 be National I Appreciate and Value My Job Day.

This shouldn’t be too hard for any of us to do. All we need is to envision a life without the work and what that would mean for our families.

Better yet, talk to someone who has lost a job and see what it has done to them. Unfortunately there are many, many such people out there.

If I wasn’t at the airport right now I’d totally take this all the way with a Twitter campaign and sidebar buttons. I guess we’re just going to have to keep it simple. If you’re with me, feel free to let a comment indicate your support for my Completely Made Up But Awesomely Inspiring Holiday.

And no, you can’t have the day off.

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El cinco de blogo

Five years ago today I published the first post on this blog. Back then I was a mom-to-be waiting for the birth of my daughter. Now, as you well know, that daughter is now a kindergartener.

Nathan and I recently cleaned out the kindergartener’s bedroom. It was in dire need of a purge and we spent an entire Sunday afternoon filling a thirty gallon trash bag with things we probably would not have been able to throw away had Autumn not been watching a movie downstairs. When we were done, Autumn walked into her newly cleaned space and exclaimed, “Thank you for my new, room!” She thought what we had done was amazing and continued to thank us for days afterwards.

It made us feel good knowing she appreciated our efforts, but I wasn’t sure how long Autumn was going to be able to maintain her clean quarters. She is my kid, after all, and my mother could tell you a story about how she tried to navigate through the mess in my room once and wound up squishing an unopened chocolate pudding cup into the carpet. And, um, I think I may have been a teenager at the time.

Last Tuesday I decided to take some pictures. The room was still clean so I pulled out my iPhone and started snapping away. As I took one picture after another, it occurred to me that I was repeating a process I performed exactly five years ago when I documented the state of Autumn’s finished nursery for my very first post here.

To celebrate my blogversary, I wanted to post the pictures for you, both the ones I took last week and the ones I took five years ago. I thought it would be cool to see how the room has changed over the years and how some of it has stayed the same.

This is what the room looked like from the doorway five years ago:

cribAll the furniture is new and the walls are freshly painted. I did it all, yo. The paint, the furniture assembly and the dragonflies were all me. Nathan helped with the tree, but I’m very proud to say this room was what it was because of me.

Here’s how it looks now.

The tree is still there, the dragonflies are still flying towards the closet and the framed ultrasound is hanging in the same place as in the previous picture. But this is not a baby’s room anymore. In place of the crib is a bed, my bed from when I was a kid.

The changing table…changing table

…has made way for cubed storage that holds most of Autumn’s books.

We still have the rocking chair, but it is no longer used for nursing. It sits out in our living room, a stained and mismatched remnant I can’t bear to part with since it’s the only piece of nursery furniture we haven’t sold.

rocker

Don’t even ask me what happened to the pig. I have no idea.

In this same corner we now have a little vanity where Autumn applies the sparkly lip gloss my mother bought for her.

Above the rocking chair hung the lighted Ikea dragonfly mobile.

mobile

Autumn asked me to take the thing down about a year ago. It gave off a soft, yellow light that lit up the room without being too overpowering. When Autumn was an infant and I was still nursing, it provided just enough light to help me see what I was doing.

Autumn thought the dragonflies were real, however, and the thing was banished to a box in the basement. This plaque now hangs in its place:

The armoire, the edge of which you can see in the first picture,  was the one piece of furniture we could have done without. It held blankets that we never used and that could have been stored in the closet.

This dresser, however is very useful.

This was my mother’s dresser. Then it was mine. Now it is Autumn’s. It’s also cluttered with stuff, but hey, we’re not perfect.

Speaking of stuff, remember the closet?

closet

I was quite proud of this closet. It was full but organized, and whenever I look at this picture I am reminded of how blessed I was to have had such generous friends and family.

Here is Autumn’s closet now:

No more onsies, sleepers or footie pajamas. Big girl clothes and big girl shoes and boxes of big girl games have taken over and all signs that a baby ever lived here have disappeared.

These past five years have gone by so fast. They’ve also been amazing. Like my daughter, this blog has helped me grow in ways I would never have expected. I’ve made some wonderful friends through it and have been able to awaken a creative side of me that had been dormant since finishing college. When I published that first post five years ago, it never occurred to me that I’d still be doing this five years later.

I’m glad I was able to surprise myself.

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A working mom's lament

For five years I have convinced myself that I wasn’t missing much by not being a stay-at-home mom.

I am not the kind of person who can tackle a day without structure. I’m by no means saying that a SAHM’s day is without structure, just that if I were the one staying home, my day would be sorely lacking in organization and check marks next to the items on my to-do list. I work better working for someone who isn’t me.

I spent most of my maternity leave watching back-to-back episodes of “ER” and “Law & Order” on TNT, and when the time came for me to head back to work, I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t a teensy bit relieved to pass on the task of baby caretaker to someone else for nine hours a day.

Autumn has had excellent care since then, and I have occasionally felt that acute pain and guilt that mingles with a mother’s thoughts as she works her way through mortgage payments, grocery bills and credit card debt. I knew my child was in good hands, even if they weren’t mine, butI figured whatever internal conflicts I’ve been dealing with for five years over not staying at home with Autumn would dissipate once she started school.

I was actually kind of wrong about that.

I have taken this whole week off work to prepare for my trip to North Carolina and the Type-A Mom Conference, and in doing so I’ve been able to walk my daughter to and from school. It’s something I always hoped I could do, and in my fantasies in which I am a SAHM, I do this every day. Up until this week, our mornings have consisted of hurried drop-offs by car on my way to work. I pull up to the curb, get a quick hug and kiss, and wave goodbye as I try to navigate my way out of a parking lot ill-equipped to successfully handle the morning traffic.

This week, though, we have walked together and enjoyed the stroll to and from school. Monday I actually dropped her off by car even though I was just heading back home, but yesterday we hoofed it both ways. She held my hand, and on the way home we talked about her day, what she had for lunch and how the neighbor boy (yes, that one) invited her over to play.  The experience was everything I always thought it would be.

My heart aches when I think that I only get one more day of this before I leave and that I’ll be coming back to the regular routine of rushed drop-offs and too little time with her in the evening. I always thought working full time would make more sense and be more practical once she was in school full time, but now that she is, I realize there’s so much more to her world now that I’m not experiencing because I’m stuck in my own.

2011 is poised to be a good year for us financially. Even though Nathan and I probably aren’t going to see raises in our salaries this next year, we’re on the cusp of paying off two very large loans and our child care expenses will only be a fraction of what they were this year. I keep thinking that if we work hard, stop using the credit cards and pay down all our debt, there should be no reason why I can’t make my fantasy a reality, even if it’s only part time.

I’ve never felt such a strong pull to stay home as I do now. Maybe it’s because I know that next year Autumn may not want to hold my hand or give me a quick kiss as I drop her off at school. I mean the kid is already pulling shoes out of her closet and asking if they’re Sketchers. Before I know it, she’ll be perusing racks in the darkened caves of Abercrombie and Aeropostale, begging me to wait by the food court so she can flirt with Brody or Kyle or Devin or whatever the hell their names will be then.

I just want to be there for her while she still wants me around, but my window of opportunity only gets smaller the longer I wait. Some day there may be no point in trying to slip through at all, especially if there’s no one waiting for me on the other side.

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Abracadabra

And just like that the skirt reappears.

She was very excited to tell me she found it and was completely willing to pose in the middle of the school hallway so I could take this picture.

Hopefully this means things are looking up.

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Barbaric yawps

I have a confession to make.

I am a yeller.

I yell at my child. I yell at my husband. I yell at my dog.

I don’t yell at the fish because we’re cool.

Yelling is how I respond to stress. Note I did not say it’s how I “handle” stress, because the yelling does not help me deal with the stress at all. Yelling actually adds to the stress because I feel like a piece of shit when I’m done barking at everyone.

I was born of two very different individuals, but one thing they had in common was that they were both yellers. Nathan’s parents were both yellers and he has become one, too.

We’re just now starting to realize how awful all this yelling is and that it is the most ineffective parenting tool ever. Our daughter does not respond to yelling. The only thing she has learned from yelling is that it’s ok for us to raise our voices to each other. She is becoming a yeller, too.

This past week has been incredibly stressful. The transition to kindergarten was not at all what we thought it would be. I’m not at the point where I want to write about it in depth, mainly because we’re still working through some things, but also because I happen to know one of Autumn’s former preschool teachers has been a regular reader of this blog for a year now. She has never mentioned the blog to me, but I know she still keeps up with us (hi, btw) and if she was able to find me here, it’s entirely possible Autumn’s new teachers could find this blog as well. We just need to get on the other side of this before mommy starts discussing it with the interwebs.

When we lost our daycare provider last year, I was worried how Autumn would handle the transition to preschool. Our provider had lost her license and I was forced to leave work one morning and pick Autumn up from her house. It was a horrible way to say goodbye to the woman who had taken care of our child for three years and Autumn still remembers how we cried that morning. That was on a Friday and by the next Monday she was enrolled at the preschool where she would spend the next sixteen months.

She adapted incredibly well to the new environment, and now that I look back on how smoothly she handled the transition, I think it was because she was ready for something new. She was ready for someone to bring her to the next level, to nurture her inquisitiveness and creativity and help manage some of her more diva-like tendencies.

And since Autumn handled the transition to preschool so well, I wrongly assumed she would take on kindergarten with the same chutzpa and fearlessness.

Which she has. Sort of.

Getting used to kindergarten has been a challenge for all three of us, and one thing it has taught us so far is that Nathan and I need to change the way we do things. Autumn isn’t a special needs child, but her absolute defiance, stubbornness and inexhaustible reserves of energy require some creative parenting. She makes things incredibly difficult sometimes, both for herself and for those of us who care for her, and now that we’ve seen some of her more explosive personality traits through the less forgiving eyes of her kindergarten teachers, we have realized that the yelling has gotten us nowhere and never will.

But, oh, the girl does know how to push our buttons. I have a feeling that is one thing about her that will never change.

Yay, us.

So we are trying our best not to yell. We had a couple slip-ups this past weekend, but I am happy to say I have handled at least two atomic tantrums without raising my voice above a stern warning. And you know what? The calmer I am during these events, the crazier Autumn gets.

I haven’t figured out yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I am proud of being able navigate through her cyclone of hysteria without losing my cool. It takes some doing, but if I can find my happy place, I am able to retain a Zen-like calm that wins out in the end.

The other day I asked Nathan if he felt like we were all of the sudden having to play catch-up in the discipline department. We’ve been lazy and a little too indulgent. We have spoiled Autumn in ways we never intended to spoil her. What we need now is structure. We need to establish clear rules and even clearer consequences.

She’s not two anymore, even if she does act like it sometimes.

And I guess that’s the part of this whole thing that really breaks my heart because we also need to help her grow up.

This is just the beginning of letting go, and I never expected it would be this hard.

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