Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two Years In The Making

Today marks the 2-year anniversary of the day I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom. It is at this time I sit back and reflect on the last 2 years. I have to say that I feel like I have finally settled in to my role as a SAHM. I am even so cool that I can use the acronym for it.

In some ways, deciding to quit my job and stay home was an easy decision to make. I remember my first day back at work after having Madelyn and crying for approximately 5 of the 6 hours I was actually away from her. I remember so distinctly turning to my husband with tears in my eyes, the feeling of despair as I got her ready to go to the daycare facility. I knew we had made the decision that I would be a working mom, but once I looked down at my little creation, my whole world and perspective on it changed.

Every day got easier and soon, it was all just part of the routine...as long as I didn't look through the window of her classroom one last time before I left. That sight made my heart ache a pain I cannot even describe. Tom and I finally decided that once we had a second child, I would either work part time or stay home.

The twelve months Madelyn was in day care consisted of an array of infections and illnesses that kept me in the pediatrician’s office on a regular basis and Madelyn on anti-biotics for at least 7 straight months. Napping at daycare became non-existent which didn't help her sickness and I felt like the only time we spent with her she was crabby and miserable.

Work for me at the time was a "job" as opposed to a career. I was selling advertising at a local newspaper. With the economy hitting the skids and the newspaper industry crumbling, it wasn't like I was raking in the commissions each month. Daycare was so expensive it seemed most months I was working to have someone else raise my kid.

So, Tom got promoted and I gave my notice and so began my journey as a SAHM. The first thing Madelyn and I did was take swim class. I cried during class because she used to "pretend swim" at daycare. Two weeks after my last day, I got pregnant with Colin and it solidified our plan for me to stay home once we had two, just a few months before we actually "had" two. I would have to say being pregnant and adjusting to my new role was pretty challenging since Madelyn was 15 months old and was really IN TO EVERYTHING!!! It made for really long days, especially as winter approached.

I couldn't get the thought out of my mind of what I would do next in my life after I was done with being home. I knew I needed to push that thought aside and focus on the task at hand, raising my children.

I have always been the type of person who is looking to the next thing and has a hard time enjoying "the now." Once Colin came around, all that changed. Juggling two was and is challenging, but soon the days began to fly by. There was not time to think about what I could or should be doing because all I could do was focus on the kids. I also got to experience all the moments of Colin's first year that I missed with Madelyn and couldn't believe someone else was able to have them with her. I knew I was in the right place.

Despite this, I continue to struggle with my identity and sometimes feel guilty for not doing enough. I look at working moms and feel like I am taking the "easy way out." Although sometimes I think it would be easier for me to go to work based on some of my days at home! I look at my peers accomplishing things in their careers, writing books, opening restaurants, traveling and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I go to the grocery store, remember my reusable bags and buy everything on the list without having to go back to get the 3 things I forgot that I needed to make dinner that night. That's why I am doing this blog and it seems to be serving its purpose as a way for me to at least keep my brain going.

Each year my high school has alumni achievement awards and this past year happened to be 3 people that graduated either the year before or with me. They were all people I knew fairly well. It occurred to me that I will likely never get an alumni achievement award, because let's face it; they just don't give those out to housewives. I may not fly fighter jets, but I have mad baby cereal out of my own breast milk. I may not have a high power job, but I can negotiate anything with Skittles. I solve world peace on a daily basis, even if it is just the world of Madelyn and Colin. I'm not a financial wiz, but I can save $30 at the grocery store using coupons and shopping sales. I haven't produced an album, but I have produced two beautiful children.

And for now, those achievements are what I will take. My reward? Cuddle time in the morning when they wake up instead of rushing out the door. Trips to the park, the library, the zoo, swim class, tumbling and any variety of things we do together. Healthy kids. What are the best rewards? Hugs, kisses, and yes even "look Mom, I just picked a REALLY BIG BOOGER!" Who needs a plaque on the wall when you have all that? Not me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Adventures of CowPants

Do you know what a "Cowpants" is? Or what Cowpants look like? Or who he is? Or she? Or how to Cowpants? Or where Cowpants is?

It all started one day when Madelyn came home from preschool and I was battling with her to go potty, wash her hands and head up to take a nap. She was being sillier than usual and kept making faces at herself in the mirror and that was the first time she uttered the word "Cowpants" (pun intended)

She kept saying it over and over and when asked what it was, she had no answer. She just kept giggling. I asked at school to see if maybe there was a story involving Cowpants? Nothing. I asked if that was her name for Colin? Nope. I even tried to figure out if she was really saying something else, and it just sounded like she was saying "Cowpants." Whatever the case may be, she loved saying it and over the next couple months she would use this term in so many different context, we were baffled as to what it could possibly mean. Finally a few months ago she told me Cowpants was indeed a girl and said she wears pink pants with cows on them and as far as we can tell it is her imaginary friend.

A child's imagination is a curious thing. I think initially Madelyn was just babbling and being silly, but she ended up creating this image of her friend as time progressed. Why? We aren't really sure. We are hoping it is just a phase, but for now we play along and even go so far as to come up with Cowpants favorite part of the day at bedtime per her request.

I can relate to the whole imaginary friend thing as I had one when I was little. His name was "Amer" and it was a boy with reddish hair and freckles. I was about 4 or 5 when I created him and I knew full well that he was fake, yet I had a clear image of him in my mind. I used to sit at the kitchen table and put my foot on the chair next to me and swivel it making believe it was Amer sitting there. I would also yell at people who tried to sit there because they would crush Amer. I can't really tell you why I created this friend, but I am sure a psychotherapist would have a field day analyzing based on my childhood!

I certainly hope there is nothing more to Cowpants than Madelyn's active imagination. She is constantly pretending to be something. For a long time now when I call her Princess, she retorts, "I'm not a Princess, I'm a baby kitty cat." And just the other day we were playing at the park and she told me I had to pretend to be an angel. Then I called her an angel, she informed me she wasn't an angel. "Oh, you're not? Then what are you?" Her response? "I'm God." Active imagination indeed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Pessimists Take On Optimism

Jaded. Bitter. Pessimistic. Skeptical. Sarcastic. These are all words that have been used to describe me. I prefer realistic, but the truth of the matter is, I have always been a "half-glass empty" kind of gal. My excuse is the old cliche, lower expectations and you might just be pleasantly surprised. Well, I've learned a lot over the years and matured. While I still have a sarcastic side, I've softened a bit. These days, I'm just glad I have a glass to put something in.
I will give most of the credit to getting married and having children. They have brought me the greatest joy of my life. I will likely embarrass my husband with most of what I say, but the good news is most of the people who would give him a hard time are with him getting drunk in the middle of a cornfield in Wisconsin right now (Country Thunder). But I digress. Tom is what some may consider a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. He's a lover, not a fighter. He is my best friend and the ying to my yang. He and I have created two beautiful children together and he is the best dad a kid could ask for.
My children are incredible. Raising them is the most challenging thing I have done, but every day I learn something new from them and about myself. I have never smiled so much in my entire life.
The bottom line, I have everything to live for right now.
About a year ago, Tom and I were watching a documentary that Michael J. Fox did in conjunction with his book "Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist." He was talking to people who were optimistic through adversity. One of the people had talked about was his wife, actress Tracy Pollan.
It occurred to me that I needed to change my ways. At the time, I was still trying to balance having two kids and hormones, but I was still finding myself caught up in the "harried housewife" role too often. I decided I wanted better for my children. I wanted to be a good role model for them. That was one of the things Michael J. Fox said he admired so much about his wife. I needed to focus on my blessings and how much I have in my life. It was then that Tom and started sharing "Positives" every night before we go to bed. We share at least 3 things that happened during the day that made us smile, laugh or just sit back and reflect on how lucky we truly are. This way, no matter how frustrating the day was between kids, work, money, family, we could end the day on a positive note.
Now that Madelyn is older, we started doing something similar with her and have her tell us her favorite part of her day. She sometimes uses this as a stalling technique by haveing 5 or 6 favorite parts, but you can't fault a kid for having so many favorites! Then Tom and I share our favorites with her. They usually have to do with things we did with her and Colin.

I wanted to create a bracelet that I could wear that would be a constant reminder of my blessings. One day I got a package in the mail with a braided bracelet made of rainbow colored string. It was from a friend of mine whom I had shared my idea about the bracelet with. She found it while in Hawaii and it reminded her of me. Probably one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received.
I will never trade my sarcasm or biting sense of humor. I will never stop being realistic. But, I will try to keep my cool, not get caught up in unimportant matters and keep a level head and at the end of the day always have some "Positives."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Word The Wise

I will now climb up on my soap box in the sky to vent. I have noticed over the years, that people pulling out of neighborhoods are pretty oblivious to pedestrians, but today was particularly unnerving. I would say 90% of the streets that we crossed, I saw my life flash before my eyes. Now mind you, I am not running by myself at dusk wearing grey. It was 9:00 am and I was pushing a bright yellow double jogging stroller. Some people just weren't paying attention. Fine. But then there was this one lady who saw me and then pulled out in front of me anyway. I didn't flick her off, but I wanted to. Instead I raised my had and mouthed "What the heck?!" She ignored me.

I have noticed in the past that people pulling out of gated communities are by far the biggest offenders of this. I'll leave that observation at that.

In addition to my issue with drivers. I would also like to call out those who walk their dogs, let them take massive dumps on the sidewalk and not bother to pick them up. Seriously. Now, maybe the person didn't have a bag with them, which has happened to me, but I usually go back with a bag and pick it up. I have to admit, there has been an occasion where my dog(s) did their duty and it was pitch black and I couldn't locate it in the grass. But let's be honest, if a dog shits in the dark, it still stinks, especially if it is in the middle of the sidewalk.

And to top all this off, I got stung by a bee while running.

Ok, now I feel better.

I recently had a friend forward me an email of an advice column by Carolyn Hax from the Washington Post. It was from a woman with no children who asked why women with children are always so busy, never have time for themselves and specifically wanted to know what stay-at-home-moms do all day? She even went so far as to accuse stay-at-homes moms of lying. Carolyn Hax basically ripped this ding-bat a new one, which gave me great satisfaction. And then I lived the article ( I will attach a copy for full effect).

It started off like most days, except I got up somewhat earlier than usual, 4:30 am instead of 5:30 or 6 am. My husband was getting ready to leave on a business trip. I couldn't get back to sleep after the alarm went off which is on my side of the bed despite the fact he gets up before me 5 of the 7 days of the week. He requested that I go out and buy more white t-shirts for him because his are all yellow and disgusting. (That is a story for another time)

Anyway, I got up and ate breakfast and then did my Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred workout video. 5 minutes before I was done, Madelyn woke up and agreed to watch a show in my room while I finished. Then I made breakfast, took the kids for a 40 minute run, came home and put Colin down for his nap. While he was sleeping I did some cleaning up around the house, threw a load of laundry in, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, printed out picture so Disney World and a calendar to make a "Countdown to Disney" for Madelyn. I showered and then it was time for lunch. Lunch was just wrapping up and I was relieved that we could get out of the house at a reasonable time in order to get back home for afternoon naps.

That was until I had to get the kids ready to actually leave. Colin wouldn't let me change his diaper and kept running away. Madelyn was lying all over the place and refused to come over to me so I could put on her shoes and throw her hair in a ponytail. I finally got all of the above accomplished only to have Colin make his way upstairs, not one, not two, but three times before I finally was smart enough to put up the gate. Then came drama #576 of the day. Where's my shiny necklace? Madelyn wanted her silver necklace that she has been carrying around for the last week. It happens to be an old necklace of my grandma or great aunt or someone. The bottom line is, she wanted and had to have it. I ran up and down the stairs another 4 or 5 times and then finally gave up and got the kids in the car. Then I remembered she had slipped it into my purse the day before while we were shopping. Ah. Happiness. Oh wait, gotta lock up the dog so she doesn't pee on the carpet while we are gone. Back up and down the stairs...again. Why do I bother running 5-7 miles a day?

At this point, it was already 12:30 and we were off to Marshalls to find the elusive white t-shirts for Tom. Must be Tommy Hilfiger crew neck XXL. Normally they would cost $30 for a pack of 3. I was looking for a better deal. Found 3 packs at Marshalls for $12 each only to find that two were actually v-neck. Meanwhile, Madelyn is droning in my ear, "Can I get a toy?" and Colin is pulling clothes off of every rack he sees and throws his Elmo phone out of the cart about a dozen times. Madelyn then starts hanging on the cart and Colin starts screaming. Madelyn wants Cinderella socks, never mind, she wants a toy. OK, fine. Check out the clearance rack for some toys. Everything she picks out is crap or we already have or happens to be more than I care to spend on crap. I try explaining that it isn't worth buying something here and we can look at the next store. Temper tantrum ensues.

Somehow I convince her to leave the store without a toy and manage to look at the clearance shoes for myself without buying anything.

On to TJ Maxx, the ghetto version of Marshalls as far as I am concerned. Madelyn picks out pink, silver or beaded flip flops for me while Colin grabs all the shoes off the rack. Forget it. Let's check out the t-shirts get out of here. No luck.

At this point, it is 1:55 pm. I had originally thought I could leave the house by noon and be back by 1:00. No such luck. Time to get home and put them down for naps. We get home, Madelyn has to go potty before naptime and Colin needs his milk, diaper changed etc. Everyone is finally down by about 2:20 pm.

Now it is time for me to do some more picking up and then go to type my mom's resume. Her computer is broken and she is unable to send out resumes. In addition, she has been spending each of her days at the nursing home where my 90 year-old grandma is recovering from pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

Once I battle with the auto format on the resume I can barely keep my eyes open and decide to take a quick nap. When I wake up I see that Tom called me 6 times in 6 minutes. I call him back to have him yell at me for not answering my phone. He had an important question to ask...what size t-shirt does Madelyn wear? He was at the Louisville Slugger plant and was trying to pick out souvenirs. He also informed me he almost bought them each $50 bats that they could never play with. Good thing he used his better judgment on that one!

The rest of the day is blur, but at 8:45 when the kids went down, I poured myself a glass of wine and folded laundry and watched a show about a couple getting a divorce and had to live together because they couldn't sell their $1.2 Million home and realized it could be worse...much worse.