Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Drawing the line

Before the first child is born, even before you know you are pregnant, we moms begin to plan for the day we are actually parents. Even the non planning types at least have an idea of what type of lessons and traits we will share with our children. What we will do and what we will never do. How we are going to help mold these young lives into the most perfect adults ever. I call this hypothetical parenting. We all do it, come on... a sentence beginning with " my kid will never.." was not formed by you? "I will never let my 3 year suck a binkie." "I will never nurse my 8 yr old." " I will never serve alcohol to my teen."

How about " I will always.." I will always research any medical procedure before it is done on my child." " I will always lock the bedroom door before engaging in adult activities with my husband." " I will always take pictures of and document every milestone."

Sometimes we are able to follow through on our early parenting theories. " I will never do drugs with my child." Pretty easy. " I will never let my 5 year old drink from a baby bottle." Not that hard. " I will always take my kid to annual well child exams." Totally do-able. " I will always stop and listen to my child to show them that I respect them." eeeek... wait... what? Every time? I said that? I was sober? huh.

When hypothetical parenting gets tossed aside for the Actual Real Life Parenting... we learn how to draw the line. " I will never let the TV babysit my child" line actually ends up somewhere! The line forms here-" I will never... unless I am busy with something really important like taxes or taking a shower or a really fun conversation about Girls Night Out." " I will always encourage my child in their interests" line ends up over there- " I will always.. unless it is the drums or I have a headache or oh. my. gosh. ANOTHER painting?"

Real life parenting takes our nice hypothetical theories and shoots them right out of the water. And it doesn't take long either. " I will never get pain medication during childbirth, I want to go all natural" KAPOW! " Get that anesthesiologist here STAT before I yank off a part of my husband that he might need later!" " I will never give my child a binkie" KERPLOOOEY! " Wow, she is really quiet with that thing in." " I will never let my child play video games" PING! " Wow, this wii is pretty darn cool."

Sometimes this line drawing fancy dance goes on all throughout childhood. " I will never lie to my child." Heavy groan. In theory very nice. In practice? Santa Clause? Easter Bunny? Aunt Aggies new 'friend'? A child pleading for candy is so quickly squelched with " mommy doesn't have any money". Oh yeah? How about that 20 you hid behind your credit card? Crank up the tunes, Mamma's doing The Hustle!

" I will always put my child's needs first." oh reeeaaly? When faced with no clean clothes other than that If It Swells Ride It frat t-shirt from college you will quickly put Jr Idealist second. Things have to be done. That is a fact of life. Sometimes Spanky learning to amuse himself is one of them. Sometimes facing that we can't possibly know all the answers all the time is another.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mama's Little Helper

Historically moms have all had some sort of vice that helps break the monotony of thier day. A little some somethin' that adds zip to a life that has a tendency of becoming mundane. Maybe talking on the phone, never ending cups of coffee, smoking, or a glass of sweet vermouth while they cook dinner. Some moms shop, others exercise . I've heard some interesting things about moms who partake in an occasional hit of a joint. And of course, there is the cliche Mothers Little Helpers of prescription drugs that moms use to take the edge off. It's not an easy job, the stay at home-ing.. few quantitative rewards, many challenges. and lots of days that seem oddly just like the last one. Now that the percentage of moms that stay home has dropped below that of working moms, we have an added issue of loneliness. Fewer peers in our neighborhoods that would fill the " I'm with ya sistah" void.

So we come to my helper. The Internet. My name is Susan and I have an Internet addiction. That is what my husband says anyway... and sometimes he is joking. I think " addiction" is a bit harsh. It is not the reason I get up in the morning. I do go days without it ( usually weekend days). I get my work done, kids are nurtured, lessons taught, laundry folded, house ( reasonably) clean. However, most days I feel the need to take an occasional hit off of facebook.. a long drag from my moms message board...a shot of email. Some days this is the only interaction I have with people that are not in my family. It is often my only validation that I am interesting, or funny or smart. I learn about our world, expand my view beyond my rural community and challenge myself. I let my kids go online to explore thier worlds. I show my kids that if they have an interst in something, they can find out more about it, and look beyond what is presented to them to discover what they beleive.

I am pretty sure I am not alone in this. I have taken friendships from keyboard to phone to coffee shop with others who share this activity. It is better on the body than drinking or smoking. It is easier on the budget than shopping. It is legal ( well, the way I do it , it is) and won't send a bad message to my kids Can't say that about that using drugs or alcohol to give a buzz to my day.

My computer is in my family room. My son, who still is at home, can play right next to me while I write this. If the kids are sick they are on the couch, within physical reach of me. I might be distracted for a moment- but I am here and can easily disengage and put my attention where it is required. To my family.

Like all things, moderation is the key, of course. Could I , given the proper circumstance, stay on the computer all day ignoring anything going on around me? Sure, I suppose I could. I never have. I hope to never be able to confirm that. That is when I will unplug the box. The line that I won't cross. How I decide if it has gone beyond activity to addiction: when I have to unplug from the things that are most important to me because of it, I will unplug the computer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I have a dream

Not as lofty or world changing as that of Martin Luther King-- but I do have a dream or two. One is that my children will grow up to be contributing members of society. That they will improve our world and leave it a better place for having participated. That they will grow old with few regrets and leave a wake of happy, productive memories. That when they are thought of it is with warmth and honor to have known them.

In honor of Martin Luther King and the historic inauguration of our 44th President tomorrow, today we concentrated on that message and the realization of the dream. When the kids have a day off I like to have Education Hour. Doesn't happen every day off, but most. They have to do something educational. It's usually pretty open to kid interpretation as to what is educational, but today I gave them an assignment. We talked about MLK and President Obama. Then I gave them instructions to come up with a dream to better the world and how they would achieve it.. a step or 50 steps or a picture of how it happens.

May I present the dreams of three kids, January, 19, 2009:

Noah, almost 4: " I dream that this world would be better if we all had puppies because everyone would have a puppy and everyone would care and all the puppies would have a home." Then he painted the picture above of five puppies surrounded by puppy footprints .

Rebekah, 12:
"I have a dream, that the world may see, all animals should live to be happy, loved, and free. Free from abuse and mistreat. Free from hunger and thirst. I have a dream, that we can get to if we all work hard, be kind to all living creatures that our Lord put us on this planet to care for. From Adam and Eve, to nights and shining armor, to this very day. That in all eternity, no animals will be harmed or mistreated. That all will be loving to the creatures of this earth. That no animal will be left to suffer, and feel alone. That no animal shall EVER be left behind. My dream for the animals."

Like most kids,my children are drawn to and kind to animals, although we have no pets.Not even a goldfish. They began a campaign for a dog months ago and have made little headway. This does not deter them but as you can see, they take every opportunity to fight a battle .Hotel for Dogs is, right now, the greatest movie we have never seen. My kids talk about it A LOT. I will take Noah on his birthday next week to see it. I will tell you why they fixate on this movie. You will realize that I am not some Super Mom who has education hour everyday and every moment is a learning experience.Simply this: They have been watching too much TV. Simple as that. Victims of advertising, nothing more.

Luke, 10: "I have a dream. To make the world a better place if I were a baseball player getting 10000 million dollars. I would have to practice baseball everyday. It would make our world a better place because I would make people happy."

He drew a lame picture of himself practicing baseball. He even laughed at the lameness of it: a stick figure that would have had his art teacher sending him back to his table to redo it. Luke was in education hour today to fulfill my dream of having children who listen to me and do what I ask. Nothing more. It was not his most shining education moment but I appreciate him for having given it some effort. He listened to what I said, gave just enough effort so that I could tell that he took me seriously, participated as a member of the family, and had my wishes at heart.

I know that not all days will steps toward a realized dream, or be Top 10 days, even my basic math skills can come to that conclusion. This was not a Luke Top 10 effort.Later today he might be spectacular. But I know that some days this is what I give him, so I really can't fault him for doing as I have demonstrated. Sometimes the most we can say is that we were present in the moment. The secret to counting the day as a success is to be hopeful that he and I will do better tomorrow. We do that and it doesn't matter where on the list the day falls.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Domino fever

As I overstated previously, when a kid is sick, my feeling is that they need to stay home. From school, from activities, from church... stay home and keep the germs confined to your own house as much as possible. It is for the greater good. But there is a side ailment that can occur because of this quarantine. They can't stay home alone and even if you don't get the illness that is keeping them there ( good luck with that) you can contract a related condition.

They are sick which in turn makes you sick. Like a line of dominoes falling, one topples another and soon what was once a nice tidy vertical collection of standing dominoes falls to become a big mess. I'm talking Cabin Fever. No joke. Not register-able on any thermometer, but one of those ailments that you just KNOW you have. You are bored, although there is a lot to be done you just are unmotivated to do it. Every day looks eerily like the last. You begin to think that the big black box in the corner is a better babysitter for your sick child than you are. You begin to look forward to the Nick Jr lineup-- oh goodie! Backyardigans is on next! That Pablo...

When you do experience it, the first thing you are going to do is check on Web MD... ha ha.. you are so funny. But let me spare you the shock: when you type in " Cabin Fever" on Web MD you get results- mostly for depression. Of course this diagnosis does nothing to cheer you up. NOTHING. As a matter of fact it sends you into a tailspin. I'm honestly not making fun of anyone who might have a serious mental illness such as clinical depression. If you check the symptoms for that and you come up with more YES! points on the symptom quiz, get yourself to the doc. Better living through chemistry, Baby. What I am talking about is what occurs when you are stuck in the house too long with a child. Kids don't get sick when it's nice out, they get sick when the weather is nasty. Going outside for a shot of Vitamin D and letting the sick kid sit on the deck to have the warm breezes blow the funk off of him isn't an option. Usually winter is one long crud fest. If you have multiple kids who share the crud you could be looking at very long stretches stuck inside. Cabin fever is a an inevitability.

Want a symptom checker?
-The walls feel like they are shrinking in.Your house goes from 2500 sq feet of comfy living to doghouse overnight. Maybe birdhouse.
-The hardest household chore is getting up from the kitchen table after ingesting your daily allotment of caffeine.You make excuses to stretch out the slow parts of your day. Someone wrties these classified ads, you might as well honor them by reading them all. You succeed and the whole day becomes painfully slow. Clock ticking backward slow.
-You think going to the mailbox is " getting out".
- You begin to call your pajamas " lounge wear" so that you can justify wearing them all day.
- You have a lot to do, but you just don't waaaaaaannnnnaaaa.
-You have a burst of energy- you clean the whole house in an hour, but your husband comes home to find you in tears because somehow the sick kids messed up every room in 45 minutes and now it looks worse than when you started.

At this point a more evolved mom would come up with a well thought out list of ways to counter attack Cabin Fever. I suppose I could tell you that it will be over with soon. That you will be complaining about your busy taxi schedule in no time. I can reassure you that you will have face-to-face adult conversation again with someone who doesn't share your house. I could suggest that you give your friends a disclaimer before your first outing-- you might have a slightly wild look to your eyes and keep talking about how much you love them all and burst into happy tears when someone compliments your shoes. I could even suggest that you take up an internal house hobby to get you through your confined times. Preferably one that you can put down and pick up quickly and requires little thought and minimal cleanup. Probably not writing because just as you form a thought a kid will have to go to the bathroom NOOOW and you will not be able to f.. I could recommend that you put some structure to your day because kids, as well adults, thrive on structure.

A list like that would be handy , but I would be a hypocrite to write it. Aside from one hour at church ( including travel time) I have been at home for a week and a half with sick kids. At this moment my only non-familial interaction is through facebook and a moms message board. I have an hours worth of ironing that I COULD be doing, a kitchen that needs cleaning up from the breakfast rush, and a kid watching Imagination Movers a few feet away from me... ooh! Imagination Movers... I like this show..... that Mover Scott..

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dear Selfish Parent..ok, maybe you are just ignorant.

This is going to tick off someone but I'm ticked off . Go write your rebuttal on your own blog that I won't get to read because I am busy following my 3 yr old around with a whoopie bucket when he coughs.

Dear Alex's Mom,

Thank you for sending your child who had croup THE NIGHT BEFORE to preschool with my son last week. I hope that you really needed that 2 hrs of solitude and the letter L was so compelling to your son that he just had to go to school that day. Instead of sitting at home, drinking whatever hot beverage he will consume while watching entirely too much Nick Jr, he was playing with my son. My healthy son. During Sharing Time they exchanged not stories of the weekend, but germs. My sons healthy germs, and your sons sick ones. I am very sorry that your sons illness progressed too far and he ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. That is not something that any parent wants to go through but am grateful that he is ok now. I hope that your copay is low and your insurance sufficient to cover most of the costs.

While it would seem common sense to me to not send a kid whose cough woke the entire household to school the next day, obviously this is a learned behavior on my part. Or maybe I'm just parenting gifted. I do realize that there are germs that carry viruses everywhere, that we can get sick from any number of common daily activities. However, just like recycling, supporting a president I didn't vote for and picking up litter --I like to think of the WHOLE rather than just my part of it. All humanity. What is best for the group? Sending a sick kid to school is not best for the group. The end of a cold? Sure. A cough that will disrupt the entire class and make the teacher hoarse from saying " into your sleeve please"? No.

Being inside the petri dish that is a classroom, of course, my son caught this virus. Over the weekend we had to put him on prednisone because of his croup. Come school time on Tuesday it was just a cold, but he had a disruptive cough and runny nose. Did he say " Mom! I feel fine! PLEASE let me go school?" You betcha. Did he go? Hell no. I'm the parent. I decide, not him. I easily gave up my two and a half hours of MeTime that day. Yes, he missed Pajama Day. Well, no, not technically since he did stay in his jammies all day at home. Today he is missing Show and Tell because the virus progressed ( just like your sons!) to bronchitis. He has been coughing so hard he barfs. Yesterday, he barfed up the antibiotic he is on. I've been trying to coordinate his food and beverages to match my furnishings, just in case. When I called the school today to report his absence I heard that there were FIVE kids coughing Tuesday.( Obviously those parents need this letter as well. Please forward it on to them.) That is at least six kids out of the 14 that are in the class. Your son makes number 7. HALF of the kids sick with the same virus that you spread. I did not ask how many were kept home that day, I was too busy easily connecting the dots to your error in judgment.

I am happy that I can stay home and make his days enjoyable and comfortable while the virus lives it's lifespan, but if you know anything about me it comes at a cost. I have few skills that would translate into a decent paycheck at this point in time. I have not been alone for well over a week. ( Not even in the bathroom, but that is a story for another day). I had to miss a volunteer meeting. I had to miss coffee with my friends. I have not been anywhere except to drop off and pick up his siblings from their activities. Oh yeah, and to the doctors office. I know that there is this ONE year that kids get sick ALL THE TIME. Usually the first year that they are in school. I'm glad that this happens when he is 3, not when he is in kindergarten. Nobody likes paying tuition for missed classes. I'm not complaining, just saying that this is what ALL parents have to go through at some point. Just part of the ride.

At the beginning of the school year the teacher passed out the health rules--not suggestions, or something that does not pertain to you, RULES. Obviously there were some some gray areas. Let me fill them in for you:

1. If your child has a fever ,keep them home for 24 hours AFTER the fever breaks. Fever: temp over 99.8
2. If the child throws up ( unless they have a digestive condition that makes this happen frequently) keep them home for 24 hours AFTER the LAST episode.
3. If you child has diarrhea keep the home for 24 hours after the LAST episode.
4. If your child has a severe cold, even without a fever, keep them home until they won't disrupt the class every 3 minutes with a coughing spell or ridiculously runny nose. Take this time to teach them to blow their nose, please. Into a tissue, not on their sleeve.
5. If your child coughs so hard he needs a steam treatment in the middle of the night, keep him home until you and he get a full nights sleep. Croup is deceptive, they are FINE during the day but at night it's not a restful sleep for anyone.
6. If your child stays home for any of these reasons, please give them a bath before they come back to school. Get the funk off of 'em.

These all seem so common sense to me, but obviously I am in the minority. Accept the fact that - especially the first year of school-your child is going to miss a lot of school. If you work, have some back up plan in place. Even following the rules, a sick kid is going to come to school. Little kids don't usually act sick until they are really sick. They play through the discomfort. If my kid gets a virus from a situation like that, I really can't be upset. But when you KNOW your child is sick and you let them go to school for purely selfish reasons-- I'm going to be ( insert curse word) mad.

Let's all just file this incident under " learning experience". Isn't that what school is about after all?

Noah's Mom

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We don't fight about money.

My job has many challenges.... filling my own day with activity, staying connected to other adults, not losing who I am as I get wrapped up in daily kid/husband/household activity... but one of the least challenging is money. How many marriages collapse because of cash flow? I don't know, I'm not a numbers gal-- a lot. Top of any list of Things to Fight about as a couple. How to make it, how to spend it... heck even having a lot of money causes fights. Ever hear those stories about marriages collapsing after a lottery winning? Brian and I actually don't fight a lot about money. Here is why ( and I'm warning you, a lot of people are not going to like the answer): he is the deciding answer to any money questions. ( warned you)

I'm not saying I don't know anything about money-- I do ( although, like I just said, I'm not a numbers gal.). I know how much we have, where it goes, the actual cost of things, and which sock drawer we have it saved in. My name is on every account we have, on all the kids accounts and I can tell you how much we have saved for retirement. Phfft.. like it's hard. Even the 4 yr old can count zero dollars. But we realized early in our relationship that he was a saver and I was a spender. He gave great thought, and then major regret into every purchase. The only thought and regret I gave was color and did it make my ass look fat? I KNEW I was bad at with or to money. Even my mother suggested that he balance the checkbook. I gave up control. I did not give up an opinion. I gave him my trust... ha! not that kind of trust- that would have been long gone. I'm talking emotion. The thing we are supposed to do when we get married. He took over the money. I took over the cooking and homemaking. Why shouldn't married people do what they do best to enrich their lives? Isn't that what it's all about? Not ME ME ME.. but US US US?

So almost 18 years later this is how we " fight" about money:
Me : " Honey, we need a new camera."
Him " why?"
Me: " Because the one we have takes blurry pictures since you dropped it last year."
Him: Heavy sigh" How much is this going to cost me?"
Me: " us."
Him: How much is this going to cost US ( me)"
Me: " How much is remembering your kids childhoods worth?".. pause.. " $300 " ( I always highball)
Him:" let me get the spreadsheets.."
Me: Heavy sigh.
Him : Heavy sigh.

The man tracks every penny that comes into the house. He know exactly how much we spent on diapers in 1998. He has records to show how much we spent on eating out in 2000. he can tell you how much more tampons cost us now vs 10 years ago. He spends hours a month going over every receipt that I have marked up with code that shows him if an expenditure was clothes for Bekah, underwear for Luke or cleaning products for the basement. It is very impressive if you like that kinda thing. Which I don't. I come down with a case of glassy-eyed numbness everytime he brings them up, balances them-- whatever it is he does to them.

( after much paper shuffling, groaning, mumbled conversations skyward, and calculator jabbing)
Him: " We can't afford it this month. Check the fliers and come back to me after our next paycheck."

Now, this is the part where a more argumentative woman would start a fight about the immediate necessity of a new camera. Not me. I know it is futile. I know that it is on his radar now. I know that in a couple of months and some really lousy pictures later he will find the money and we will get a new camera. No fights, no long drawn out He said/ She saids, no I have to win this at all costs. We just can't afford it. I believe him. I trust him. And if he doesn't find the money I'll just get it out of my secret stash, buy a new camera and when he asks where it came from, tell him "Your mother."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not another mommy blogger!

Oh yeah, totally another mommy blogger.What makes me think I'm funnier, wittier a better writer than any other mommy blogger?

 Nuthin. Not a damn thing.

 But I can say this, I have been on the job a heck of a lot longer than some. Going on 13 years this year. Stay At HOME mom.. not even a part time job. I see some moms quitting, heading back to a job that pays some coin early on. Or maybe as soon as the kids go back to school ( when is that exactly because our school district has more off days than on). I hear them high fiving at the bus stop " FINALLY! Jake is in school, I can get out of the house!" Jake is going to kindergarten, he is your only child. By my calculations that puts you on the SAHM job for MAX of 6 years. Congrats, I say. Every woman should live up to her potential, she should use her gifts to better mankind or her wardrobe whatever ways she can. Go for it! Exchange the problems of staying at home with the problems of juggling a career and family. The grass might not be greener but you won't know until you hit the pasture.

What I don't say is this: my mom worked full time. She told me that when I grew up I could be whatever I wanted to be. She was an excellent role model for living your life, not the life your parents wanted for you or society says you should do.The life you want to create with the gifts you possess. While I believed what she said, I saw all the kids who came home to a parent, not an empty house. I saw parents who made their kids sit down and do homework right after school and were available to help. I envied the lunches these kids had, as I ate the one I had prepared the night before. Yes, learning how to cook dinner at age 9 was very responsible and I am grateful that I learned to cook. But we took turns, my 2 brothers and I, cooking dinner. Taught us self sufficiency, for sure, but those mom cooked dinners at my friends houses were mighty tasty in comparison to the fish sticks and chili beans on my plate. Most kids went home to a stay at home mom. It was how things were done. My parents came home a few hours later than we did.

Don't' get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I'm merely pointing out the differences in lifestyles. I had, by any standard a rockin' childhood. To describe it would make anyone say " idyllic" " exciting" " wonderful!" and it was all those things and made me what I am today.

 But I followed in my moms footsteps and went the road less traveled. Now, on the cusp of my 46th birthday I am in the minority. While more moms join the workforce each day, I chose to stay home. In doing so I hope that I teach my three children that they too can do anything they want with the gifts they have been given.

So that, in a nutshell ,is why I am slightly different that just another mommy blogger. I'm an EXPERIENCED mommy who happens to be blogging.

Note: November 2011: Hi! I totally appreciate you going back into the archives and seeing how my blog started. I almost cringe reading this post, but in the interest of ..I have no idea- integrity? History? A step-on-the-path-ability? Whatever the reason, it seems wrong to edit it from this vantage point. I'll leave it. And cringe. :) Susan