Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A "Working" Woman in Her Thirties*

*Disclaimer:  This post is about my experience teaching for the last two weeks.  This is my first time as a 'working' parent since Anna was born. I do not pretend to understand the true trials of a working mom, however I did get a taste.  A small taste.  An amuse bouche, if you will. However, if you feel yourself getting hot under the collar that I would dare to talk about the ups and downs I -a mostly at home mom- faced in the last two weeks, relax. I know that I don't know.  Hao ma?

There's a place here in Minnesota called The Loft. I've tried to explain it to people out of state, but they usually don't understand what it is because it really doesn't exist anywhere else that I know of.  Basically, it's an organization that funds, sponsors, teaches, and collaborates with local artists, specifically writers.  It's kind of paradise, at least to me.

Last year I applied to teach there in the summer, and my application was accepted.  My class was a Young Writers Workshop, where for two weeks, two hours a day, I worked with kids to create, outline, and draft short stories.  Then they read their work, and we had fancy snacks. I had been looking forward to teaching this class for a long time, and it didn't disappoint.  It was awesome, professionally speaking.

Most of my class- I loved them all.

Personally speaking, it was eye opening.  I've 'worked' plenty in my time home with my kids, but most of that has been in my own 'free' time, at my own discretion.  This was downtown, a place I had to commute to, and I had a whole lot of people counting on me to make the class successful.  And it's summer, and so much going on, and yeah, I had two little kids to figure out in order to make it happen.

Here are the things I took away from my two weeks as a 'working' mom:

1.  Reliable childcare is the most important thing in the whole world

This was a two week class, people.  TWO WEEKS!  And I had it set and planned down to the minute, months in advance.  But then you know what happened?  Life.  Cancellations.  Frantic calls to my mother-in-law to pretty please come over for a couple hours, because I'd been let down. I can't tell you how many times over the last two weeks that I prayed that my kids would stay healthy, because I had no idea how I'd figure out a sub.  God bless our teachers who are parents, as I can only imagine this is a daily occurrence in their homes.

2.  Traffic will turn even Mother Teresa into a fire breathing monster

My commute was into downtown Minneapolis, a drive that can take me 10-15 min.  Some days it took me that long.  And some days it took me 3x that.  Know what I did on those days?  I said some really horrible things to myself, about the people around me.  Namaste my butt-- MOVE IT PEOPLE!!!  MY KIDS ARE WAITING FOR ME!

3.  I'm really good at teaching

It has been a long time since I've been in a formal classroom setting, with Powerpoints and new students and the bit.  I'm really good at that stuff.  And it was so great to feel really good at what I do, because, let's face it, as a mom I often feel sub-par.

I know I shouldn't. But I do.

4.  Paychecks are awesome

I was paid for this job.  It's that amazing?  I went to work, worked, and THEN GOT PAID.  I love my work as a mom, obviously, and there are certain things you can't put a price tag on....
But did I mention I got PAID?  For working?  That feels pretty good.  I'd forgotten.

5.  Mom guilt: It's a thing

I'm sure this was magnified because my kids have never known a life where their mom goes to work every day.  But pretty much every day after the first, when we sat at the breakfast table, Anna asked, 'Mom?  Why do you have to go be a teacher today?'  And then I answered, in my head, 'Bubbie, why do you have to stab me in the heart?'

6.  If something can go wrong, it will

Guess what happened on the second day of my class?  My computer broke.  Of all weeks, of all days, my computer crapped out on me when I actually needed it for work.  Thank you Jesus, for creating the iPad.  And thank you, brother, for helping me figure out how to use it in my classroom.

And thank you, good old fashioned white board.  You've never let me down.

In the last four and a half years at home, there have been plenty of days when I've fantasized about going back to work, for all different kinds of reasons.  Some of those fantasies have been warranted-- there are some AWESOME things about working outside the home.  

And yet, of course, there are wonderful things about staying home, too.  So I guess my biggest lesson over the last two weeks is that there's no easy way to have a family.  Being a parent-- specifically a mom-- means sacrifice and choice and acceptance of life, as it is.  A woman in her thirties does that, and no matter how many hours a day she spends with her kids, makes time to teach them to accept life as it is, too. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties has a Weight Problem

Last week I took Aaron for his three year check up.  As I already blubbered about in his birthday letter, Aaron is awesome in every category, if you ask me.

The doctor agreed, except in one.  His weight.

A few things before I begin.  One, Aaron is a peanut.  Always has been.  When he came home from the hospital he wasn't even ON the chart in terms of percentiles, and in the last three years has hovered in the single digits, at least weight-wise.

And two, food has ALWAYS been a struggle in parenting for me.  From breastfeeding agony to pickiness to downright refusal to eat certain foods, neither of my children have been good eaters (though Anna has made significant improvements-- she's eaten salmon the last two nights!).

I consider myself above average in the mothering department, but the food issue is a major sore spot. It feels like a constant battle, even though I know that seeing it that way is only perpetuating the issue.  I seethe with jealousy when I see other kids eating whatever their parents put in front of them. In the last couple of months, L and I have gotten more serious about the 'they'll eat when they're hungry' philosophy, and that worked a bit, if only to tone down my own neurosis about constantly being worried my kids weren't eating enough.

But then, last week, the doctor told me that Aaron hasn't gained a single pound in six months.  And when he's already so little, this is concerning.

I think most moms would take this information and say, 'Oh.  Okay.  More calories.  Thanks, doc!'  But for me, it was a punch in the gut.  I big, fat one (pun intended), that brought tears to my eyes.  My child is too skinny.  Not, 'oh, isn't it cute how skinny he is?' but 'um, getting him more calories needs to be your focus.  We want to re-check him in four months and make sure he's gaining.' Ouch.

Feeding my children should be among the most primal, basic needs I provide for them.  I felt like giant mom-failure.

The doctor could see how upset I was, so she tried to make me feel better.  'Just give him more ice cream!' she said, trying to make light of it.  But that only made it worse for me.

Aaron doesn't like ice cream.

In fact, every high-calorie suggestion she gave me just made me more frustrated.  He doesn't like butter; he doesn't like a lot of cheese.  I'd love to put some more calories in his smoothies, BUT HE DOESN'T LIKE THOSE EITHER. He likes yogurt, cereal, and Z-bars.  He likes apple sauce and Veggie Straws, but only when he's in the mood. He's not a junk food junkie in the least.

He just is far more interested in playing than he is eating.

Did I cry about it?  Maybe.  But a woman in her thirties doesn't let her emotions obstruct her better judgement, so after a good hour or so of feeling sorry for myself I set a course of action.  Here it is:

1.  Get a second opinion
The doctor we saw isn't our regular pediatrician who knows Aaron, his history, and us.  (Let's face it, people, L and I aren't destined to have big babies.)  If SHE is concerned, then I'll get more concerned.

2. Smother things with peanut butter
Thankfully, Aaron loves peanut butter.  So for the past few days he's been getting big, sticky spoons full of it, whenever he wants. Same goes with whole milk, granola, and pretty much anything else he'll take.  Eat, child, eat!

3.  Chill out
I'm working on this.  Sure, he's skinny, but he's hardly emaciated.  He's also got enough energy for ten toddlers.  Something is working.  So chill out, mama, and let him eat in front of the TV once in awhile because reasons.  On the wide spectrum of things to bother myself with, this should probably not be top priority.  Everything is going to be fine.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Woman in Her Thirties in Five Short Days

All of my trips back to the Bay Area are too short, but this last one was particularly so.  Not only was I only gone for five days, but two of those days were spent on the Peninsula, and not in the East Bay. To say the trip was a whirlwind would be an understatement, but we had a great time.  Here are some day-by-day highlights:


We flew into SFO.  The flight was... barf-baggy.  Any tips for preventing airsickness would be very much appreciated.  But we finally got to our hotel in Burlingame and were excited to snuggle in our huge bed:


We woke up and walked along the Bayshore trail.  Windy bliss.

We met Mom and Uncle J in San Bruno and took BART into San Francisco.  I thought this trip would be fairly magical, but my kids didn't love the BART train the way I thought they would.

When we got to the Embarcadero, I realized that when I'd said we were going to the Ferry Building, Anna thought I meant "Fairy" Building. It was packed, and a beautiful day for June.

That night was my wonderful Aunt and Uncle's 50th anniversary party.  Aaron was... overtired.  So I don't have a lot of great pics of the night, but here are a couple:


After meeting my cousins for breakfast, we drove back to Walnut Creek and played outside.  I saw one of my old friends for a BBQ at his house that night, and marveled at how great it is to be able to go grocery shopping AND pick up alcohol in one stop.

Mom, of course, had a birthday cake for my birthday boy:


We went to the Oakland Zoo.  I have many fond memories of going to this zoo when I was a kid, but I honestly can say it had been at least 25 years since I'd been there.  Still magical:

Monday was my Mom's birthday, and I had a dilemma.  I really wanted to see my cousins on my Dad's side, but knew that if I tried to organize something that my Mom would be anxious about it (I come from a long line of worriers.)  A woman in her thirties is a good problem-solver, so I decided the best thing would be to surprise my mom and keep her in the dark about what I had planned.  It was a total success: a beautiful night spent catching up over cupcakes.


Anna was already crying Tuesday morning when I told her we had only one more day left with Grandma.  

Thankfully, we had a good pool-distraction.  I met several (but not enough) of my girls in Martinez for splash-paddery.  We got lots of sun but not a lot of pictures.  Here are a few:

It's always amazing to me when I hang out with my friends and their kids.  I just want to go back to the days when we were watching Alyssa Milano's Teen Steam video in someone's living room and tell them just how incredible our lives are going to look down the road.


Time to come home.  The ride home was... barf baggy.  But we made it:

My trips back 'home' always leave me emotional.  I love the Bay, but it has changed so much. It is 'home' to me, but I also feel like I don't fit in there anymore.  Regardless, I was so happy I made this trip happen.  There are some things you can't put a price tag on, spending time with family is one of them.  'Till next time, California!

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties, the Third

Dear Mister Bud,

This week, you are three years old.

Or, in other words:




You'll have to forgive me, but I'm coming from an emotional place right now.  If you haven't figured it out yet, momma doesn't do well with chaos.  And this summer, so far, has been nothing but.  So I've taken some time out of the chaos to write you a birthday letter, and what this means for you is that it's going to be sentimental, mushy goo.

First, let's start with all the ways that this past year has revealed to us the awesome little person you are.  You unattached from your Bubba, only to attach to other things.  (Owlie, of course, and anything shark related):

You are curious, adventurous, and so very smart, which is great for long afternoons walking the block and discovering worms, cool leaves ("Coo weeves!") and amazing flowers ("'Mazing fwowers!").

When people ask me about how you are different from your sister, I always tell them that, other than the obvious, the biggest difference is that while your sister is a people-pleaser, you simply are not. When you want something, you want it.  When you see something, you run for it.  When mom expresses her disappointment, you are mostly unfazed.  In many ways this is a challenge, as this is the face I must contend with when you do not get your way:

But in other ways, I have to be honest.  I'm happy you won't shoulder the burden your sister (and I) shoulder, and that is the impossible expectation to make everyone happy.  The world is yours to discover and experience, and at three years old, you've figured that out.  Good for you, little buddy.  Someday you'll have to let me in on your secret.

I'm not sure when your birthday won't be a time of serious sentimentality for me, but I think it's safe to say it will be many many birthdays from now. This is me, about three years ago:

Those long months of pregnancy are all a blur for me now.  So much fear.  I think I can now admit that I forced myself not to get too attached to you, because everything felt so scary.  And then, of course, the night you came, which is a night I replay in my head often, and never without a lurch in my heart at damn-near miraculous nature of each and every breath we take in this world.

Throughout the course of your life, I'm sure I'll share with you just how much the experience of you changed me, but I'm not sure I will ever find the right words to convey it.  Suffice to say that I don't see things the way I did before I had you.  I don't make decisions the same way; I don't see good or bad times the same way. I think a part of me will always be in the back of that ambulance, craning my neck to see the stars and saying my final goodbyes. 

So maybe it's appropriate that you're as silly and spunky as you are. Maybe, just like how you've figured out that the world is yours for the taking, you've also figured out that your very presence on this earth is nothing short of a miracle.

And I, in all the chaos of the day-to-day with a three and four year old, and despite all that I have been through when it comes to you, need that daily reminder.

So happy birthday to my beautiful, happy, big-brown-eyed boy.  I love you for all you are to me, and what you are to me is just about everything.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties' Ten Things

Since my blogging efforts have been downright abysmal lately, I thought I'd steal that whole 'Ten on Ten' thing and try to get you (and me) caught up on life.  Ready?

1.  It's Summer!  Hooray!

2.  I was a finalist for two super cool awards!  The link to the article in the paper is here.  I'd been in some serious doldrums about the writing stuff, so the news came at the perfect time.

3.  I've completely overbooked our summer.  Not sure what's going to give yet, but something is most definitely going to have to.  The kids love hunting for worms too much to be constantly on the go.

4.  We have passed a major parenting milestone.  Last Saturday was the last Saturday L or I needed to get in the pool with a child during swim lessons.  I was expecting champagne, but everyone just seemed to go about their normal business as though that's not totally life-changing for us!

5.  Anna said goodbye to one preschool and hello to a new preschool this week.  The change has been good, but she misses her old class and teachers.

6.  Aaron's birthday is coming up, and I've got a big, sappy letter coming your way soon.  What I'll say about him is that he's very recently become quite the orator, and that (except for the whining) is pretty much awesome.

"Mommy! I love donuts! I love love love donuts!" (It's a bagel.)

7. My friend just had this baby, and every time I hold this baby I totally want another baby.  (No, I'm not having another baby.  L. Shanna's body is closed for business.)

8.  Anna has been playing soccer, and even though she loves the outfit I think it's safe to say that she won't be winning any Olympic medals in her lifetime.

She's also been dancing, and started a new class last night with her bestie.

9.  We're headed west next week!  I only have minimal amounts of anxiety about the trip and can't wait to celebrate fifty years of marriage for this adorable couple:

(When I get home I'll blog about the most wonderful piece of marriage 'advice' I got from my beautiful Auntie R.)

10.  Potty training is... happening.  Without going into details, let's just say I'd give this sweet face a C.  Some days a C+.  Definitely not in the B-range yet.  But hey, it's summer!  What's a little poop in the pants?

Happy Summer, Blog Friends!