Thursday, June 26, 2008

Theme Thursday - What I Want

Stacy's theme this week is "What I want..."

I want -
to feel satisfied, even when I am not going anywhere...

to feel contentment...

to feel peace.

What about you?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ah, the Sweet Days of Summer and Brotherly Love

I’ve been trying to think really hard about how to present this post. I am afraid that once I start writing, I may open up a Pandora’s box of complaints. I don’t want this to be a bitching blog and for me, complaints are like eating potato chips in that I can’t stop with just one. So I am taking a leap of faith in all of you while I share what is on my mind this very minute.

It is week two of summer vacation and the first full week having all three of my sons at home with me. As usual, I had big plans of daily outings, craft projects and tons of time for my boys to simply play and be boys. But by mid-day Tuesday it became clear that by the time school starts again, I will have at least one less child. It seems the two oldest should have been named Cain and Abel and will likely kill each other soon. The youngest would just like to be part of the fray, if he doesn’t kill Abel before Cain.

Each morning starts off the same: filled with potential. With my full mug of coffee, the day is laid out before us like an open road and a full tank of gas. The sun is shining, the humidity is low and the temperature is reasonable. Then the bickering starts. And I know things will be better if we just Get.Out.Of.The.House. But just the idea of getting three kids ready to go anywhere seems like an insurmountable task. And I wonder if it is rewarding their negative behavior to even take them on an outing. Who wants to be out in public with three crabby children anyway, especially when you are feeling particularly crabby as well?

Last week, we had to go to Target to buy presents for the not one, but two, birthday parties we were to attend on Saturday. So due to my lack of child care and better judgment, I took the two younger boys and off we went. Now shopping for toys for other people’s children is hard enough (will this mom ever speak to me again if I buy play-dough?) but add a toddler who has his own agenda, like jumping out of the cart, and a rising kindergartner who keeps picking out the $40 gifts, and a mom who might be slightly over-caffeinated and pressed for time… Well, you get the picture. At one point, a total stranger laughed out loud when I was hissing (too loudly, apparently) to Jess, “This is not about you. We are here to but a gift for your friend!”

Tuesday, it took us until about 3:00 to get out. We went to the pool and twenty minutes later, Dean and Jess had climbed out of the water to argue over a lounge chair. “Why aren’t you swimming?” I ask. And they say, “We’re done.” Well being the type who thinks your stay in the water should be longer then, let’s say, how long it took to get everyone into their swimsuits, I told them to either swim or sit. Logan and I were not done. But they continued to argue and I became Harpy Mom. Why is that my children do not seem to think I mean what I say unless I use the same tone of voice that Carol Anne heard coming from her haunted closet?

Back in February, when all of North Carolina was booking their kids in summer camps, I argued with my husband about over-scheduling the boys. He felt I should be finding something for each week and I felt the boys should be here with me where I can bask in the beauty of their childhood. After all, I am a stay-at-home mom – I don’t NEED camps for the child-care. And children should have plenty of time to build forts in the back yard, sell lemonade, and chase fireflies. It seemed silly, self-indulgent even, to farm them out for $200 per week. So, as a compromise, Dean was registered for two weeks of camp and Jess, who’s never done a day camp before, was registered for one. There were two weeks we were planning on being away (which, we are now not) and that left one week of their being home together before school starts mid-July (hurray for year-round school). Are you laughing at me yet? What was I thinking?

Well Jess is bitterly disappointed to find out that he doesn’t get to be with friends every minute of the day. No, because mommy wanted to keep her precious baby home with her for the last few weeks before he goes away to big kid school ALL day! Go ahead; ask me how many minutes are left before the start of all day kindergarten. And Dean is more than happy to play on the computer all day. And Logan continues to try and kill me with sleep deprivation.

So, I guess I’m saying this isn’t going the way that I’d intended. The kids are watching TV more than I’d like to admit. I am yelling more than I’d like to admit. And I am using phrases that I am sure you would never see in any of my college child development text books. I am not proud of myself at all. It’s a cycle I am hoping to break. After I get a break, that is. Because I think that might be at the root of our problem – the constantness of staying home with kids is getting to me. It is stressful – more stressful than my most stressful day at work.

And I am not blaming my children (entirely). Today it became clear to me that I am feeling snappish more than they are triggering my snappishness. I am unmotivated, uninspired. I know how I want to be with them, but I’m tired and there is no opportunity to recharge. And I have moments where I just want someone to come and pick them all up and take them away for an hour. But no one is coming and I chose this.

My mother stayed home with us because for her generation, this is what mothers did. She didn’t get to choose. But she didn’t complain and she didn’t count down the minutes until school started (at least not out loud, anyway). There were no summer day camps that I know of - either they were unavailable or unaffordable, or both. Play dates (not that we called them that) were few and there weren’t many places to go on daily outings. My dad worked nights so my mother had to keep us quietly occupied during the day and was alone with us all night. She didn’t have much in the way of back up. If she was unhappy about it, she didn’t take it out on us. And while she did have extended family all in the same zip code (which I do not) she didn’t often call them in for help.

So what is my problem? My husband says that I do not give myself enough credit. He gets that it is hard. He knows that I am tired. He is my cheerleader. But I feel bad complaining to him. He likes to think that he goes off to work in the morning and I’m living the June Cleaver life here. And for the most part, I am, minus the pearls. But I’m pretty sure June never used the “f “ word when asking the Beaver what his fifth meltdown was about. Of course, June had the benefit of being a fictional character and I am as about as real as they come. And that reality isn’t always a pretty thing. This week has really made me question my ability to do this.

I do not have easy children, this I know. Parenting even easy children has its difficult moments, this I know too. But I do think my kids deserve better than Harpy Mom. Especially since I am living my dream. Really, I would be less happy if I had to balance a job outside the home with trying to be the mom I want to be to my kids. I just need to find the balance here in my home so I could be the mom I want to be. Wish me luck and let me know how you recharge.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Theme Thursday - Childhood

One of our dear friends has a bumper sticker that says, "Childhood is a journey, not a race." I think this photo is a happy reminder not to rush.

Can you read the Coritz quote on the back of this shirt? It says, "It is only fair that each child be cherished."

Happy Childhood Thursday.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day - the Blog Version

I knew the day was coming. I have been trying hard to think of what to do. But in the end, my small brain couldn’t handle the pressure and I just didn’t do anything. I’m talking about Father’s Day, of course. By mid-morning, I was completely frustrated with my lack of inspiration and my husband’s obvious disappointment. He wasn’t surprised, mind you. The Mother’s Day gifts to our moms are still sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be sent. Nor can he look down on me too much, Oh, He-Who-Once-Forgot-My-Birthday. The problem is that I get so caught up in the day-to-day tasks and I just can’t really focus on anything extra. So, I finally threw up my hands and said to him, “Well, it would have been easier to pull off this Father’s Day business if we didn’t have any children!”

To that, he stormed off to do the groceries. I stayed behind to rally the troops into making a Happy Father’s Day banner and upgrading our home from “pig-sty” to “lived-in.” When he returned, I felt even more horrible. The tears started to fall as I was putting away the groceries. He did the groceries on Father’s Day. A day that should be about him and there he was doing all the things he always does – for his family. This man who does so much for me and his sons, deserves better. And I let him down.

Turning to the one thing I knew I could do, I gave him this.

Dear Husband,

In the past, we have celebrated Father’s Day in a variety of ways. There have been hand-made gifts from the kids, cards, poems, rain barrels, and special foods. But on this Father’s Day, I screwed up. For lack of a better idea of what to do for you, I ended up not doing anything. But not presenting you with a gift or breakfast in bed does not mean that I don’t honor your being the father of my children. I express myself best with either baked goods or the written word. And since it is too hot to bake, I wanted to show you all those little and big things that you do for our family do not go unnoticed. So here is a list, although not exhaustive, of those things that I appreciate so very much:

Coming home after a long day of work and still giving yourself to the kids.
Wanting to be successful at your job because that is one of ways you take care of us.
Doing household chores and not considering it “helping” me out.
Taking care of the kids but not calling it babysitting.
Greeting me every morning with a cup of coffee.
Knowing exactly how I take my coffee and that no one, even me, can make it like that.
Worrying about the gutters, the moisture in the crawl space and the condition of the roof.
Exploring your primal instinct to provide for your family by doing the groceries.
Remembering to bring the recyclables to the curb every other Wednesday.
Understanding my need for space and finding ways to give it to me.
Walking the dog first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Mowing the lawn and watering the plants.
Having an infinite amount of patience with our children, especially when mine is used up.
Respecting all of my contributions to the up-keep of our family and household.
Being such a good sport about Cub Scout and school activities.
Resisting the urge to give me a hard time about tearing the front end off the mini van.
Packing the lunch boxes every morning, even if it means having to search for them first.
Driving the kids to school even though it makes you late for work.
Surprising me, often.
Calling me just to say, “I love you.”
Coming home from work and not asking, “What’s for dinner?”
Cheerleading me through my daily life.
Reading to our sons almost every night.
Finding me fun.
Saying that I’m beautiful when I’m having a moment where I think I am not.
Being open-minded and level headed all of the time.
Loving my parents.
Doing all the driving when we take road trips.
Maintaining your own interests and finding ways to share them with us.
Toting a toddler whenever we go hiking.
Being my partner in parenthood.

Thank you, my love. Happy Father’s Day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fifteen Years in a Nutshell

What, two posts in one day?! Is this Susie’s blog? Why, yes, it is. I have been tagged for a meme, thank you Canape. So here it is, the last 15 years of my life summed up in a nutshell. Let’s see, 15 years ago brings us back to 1993... {insert wavy, blurry lines here}

1993 –This was the summer I started grad school and got engaged. I lived in Boston and worked as a live-in nanny all while having classes, a job and an internship.

1994 – I graduated from grad school, got married, and moved to Kentucky. There I worked a variety of jobs until I finally landed my first job in my chosen career.

1997 – I came to North Carolina for what I thought was my dream job.

1999 – This is the year that I became a Mom. This is also the year that I had my last night of restful sleep.

2002 – I gave birth to my second son. My husband was laid off from one job and started a new one. We bought a new house and moved. Did I say 2002? That was actually just December of that year.

2003 – After a valiant effort to maintain our working schedule of my husband working days and my working nights with two kids (one of whom would not take a bottle and would starve himself until I came home), I left my job to stay home with my kids and re-evaluate my life.

2005 – I seriously thought about going back to work by applying and interviewing for jobs. Then I realized that I was not cut out for balancing the kid’s school schedules, childcare and my own job. So instead, I started my own business. And then, surprise, I’m pregnant!

2006 – I gave birth to my third son. I tried to paint everything pink until I finally accepted the fact that I live in a frat house. Seriously, even the dog has a penis.

2007 – The year I home-schooled. There is a post about this coming when the symptoms of post-traumatic stress subside.

2008 – This is the year that I decided to take my blog obsession to a pro-active level by launching my own. You can learn more about me by reading my inaugural post.

Now I tag the lovely Elena at 1blueshi1 (obviously), Susan at Toddler Planet, Stacy at the Land of K.A. (because the only thing I know about her is that she takes really beautiful pictures), Karen at For The Love of Pete (because I once left her a really nice comment but on someone else’s blog), and anyone else who would like to chime in on this one.

Theme Thursday - Come Friday Morning

I've decided that when I do a Theme Thursday with a photo, I want post a photo that I took the same day. So last evening, when the smoke cleared from the forest fire 200 miles away, I captured these. I never noticed before how many plants have heart-shaped leaves. Happy Love Thursday.

Every Spring, I hang flowering baskets on our front porch and every Spring, some opportunistic birds make one their home. I took this picture by holding the camera paparazzi-style over my head into the basket. Haven't identified the species of bird yet, but we know this is not a robin's nest. I'll have to keep you posted. Happy Wildlife Thursday.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Etiquette Question

The other night, I had a dream. I was attending some type of conference out in the woods hosted by some of my favorite bloggers. We were taking cooking lessons because I imagine this is what one does at a blogging conference (?). The setting was beautiful and serene, complete with a pond and never-ending sunset. At one point, there was a receiving line with our hosts and all the attendees were able to pass through and introduce themselves. I had a speech prepared for my turn – “Hi, I’m Susie. I’ve been reading your blog since, like, forever…” You know, nothing too gushing. But when my turn came, all I could muster was “Oh my gosh! You’re Catherine Newman!” Even in my dreams, I am such a dork.

So, why did I get all 1960’s teenage girl crying and fainting when she spots Davy Jones? If you are the type to put any stock in dream interpretation, I see bloggers, especially the ones whom I aspire to be more like, as celebrities. But I’m not talking about how popular they are or how much money they can generate. I’m talking about how they can put words together in that way that makes me say “Yes, exactly!” It’s about how a story is crafted versus simply blogged. It’s the ability to invoke some familiar emotion, the ability to verbally express the often unspeakable that I find so hard to attain. This is what I admire. This is what makes me swoon.

But if you are more of the type who doesn’t take stock in dream interpretation and you think something just is what it is, then let me present this real life moment. A few weeks ago, I had made a pilgrimage to Trader Joe’s. {For those of you who are not in the know, imagine a grocery store cheaper than Whole Foods but more fun than Kroger’s.} There was a mom shopping with her toddler and she looked vaguely familiar to me. As we parallel strolled up and down the aisles, I half-wondered from where I might know her. Not from school, not from toddler music class, from the hospital maybe? Did I simply just see her at the museum or some other regular destination? Somewhere between the chips and the vitamins, her child pushed their cart into my behind and it hit me (the cart and the connection). This mom is a blogger! I used to read her blog on BabyCenter and I recognized her and her child from the picture. In the checkout lane, I found myself smiling at her and her toddler the same as I would if they were friends that I had run into. I thought about introducing myself. She would appreciate the recognition, no? Who wouldn’t want to hear how much they are liked and appreciated?

But something stopped me. Two things, actually. For one, I didn’t want to sound like my dorky dream-self, gushing like a schoolgirl. And two, it appeared she was having a tough time. She had to go back out to the car for her wallet, she was shopping with a toddler, and I started to wonder if this were really the moment she wanted to be recognized. I pictured her blogging about the moment later – “And OMG, some crazy woman came up to me in the grocery store and I didn’t even have my contacts in!” (To be honest, I didn’t really look up to introducing myself to anyone. {Humidity + Susie’s Hair = WTF?}) So I didn’t approach her. We each pushed our carts out to our cars and I continued to grin at her like some weird stalker.

It’s silly, I know. Seeing this mommy blogger, doing the mundane mommy task of grocery shopping, with a toddler the same age as mine, brought home the point that we forget when we are speaking of celebrities – that they are humans. Even Heather, the Pinky Tuscadero of blogging, shops for groceries. And I’m willing to bet she doesn’t do it with perfect hair and a full face of make-up either. It’s odd that what attracts us to these particular writers, the fact that they are so much like us, is exactly what sets them apart from us at the same time.

With the upcoming BlogHer conference, I notice there is some talk out there in the blogosphere about breaking down these barriers. They say that popularity is fleeting and random and should not be intimidating. These are very encouraging words for a newbie blogger like myself. But I still would feel nervous meeting any of you for the first time, no matter how equal we may actually be.

So what is the etiquette for meeting a fellow blogger? Do you pretend not to recognize him or her? Do you formally introduce yourself no matter how you are dressed and what your hair is doing? Would you like to be recognized? What would you do if you met your favorite blogger? And if you are going to BlogHer, you will probably have such an opportunity so come back and tell me your stories. But if you are not attending BlogHer, I’ll meet you at Trader Joe’s.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Is It Friday Yet?

I started this post on Monday. I managed a few lines that went something like this: This week will be really busy...
And it has been. It is the last week of school for the kids so that means that many commitments and end-of-year To Do's were added to the typically full schedule. And of course, there is the realization that we will now move into Super Summer Camp Mommy mode. So, if you have been wondering where I have been, here is a short list. I have been volunteering in classrooms, buying and making teacher gifts, attending award ceremonies and preschool graduations, I have been crying and having all kinds of end-of-school year emotional moments, planning and hosting last minute good-bye parties for my business kids and doing lots of laundry. Wait, I'm always doing that. Oh yeah, and I have been playing with the new camera - ALOT. Which brings me to my next question. If this were your almost two-year-old, would you cut his hair? I just can't bring myself to do it. It has become a bit of a thing at our house. No one wants to see the hair go - like we would be cutting off Logan's actual babyhood with the hair. He mostly seems to love it. I call him "Breck Boy" as he admires himself in the mirror while he brushes it. But then outside, the breeze will blow it in his face and he really hates that. And of course, there is the issue of folks thinking he's a girl. Did I mention that it's summer and already about 100 degrees here so it seems like it's time to let it go? But then I announce, "This will be The Day" and everyone groans, "No, not his hair!" And it doesn't take much for me to be talked out of it. I'm not ready for the Big Boy haircut - I'm not ready for Logan to be the Big Boy, period.