Happy Birthday #1

To my Ry:

I cannot hardly believe that I am writing this for you and you will be able to read it on your own.

You are my first baby and only girl.  Having you taught me so many things about who I am, my dreams, and what it meant to love someone more than myself.

You are independent and responsible.  Sometimes I feel like you are more organized than I am!  I don’t have to remind you to do things that are expected of you, you just do them.

Your favorite toy right now is your Littlest Pet Shop pets.  You can spend hours in your room playing with them.

You are a leader for your little brothers.  I call you “little mama” because you are always looking out for their best interest.  You are so patient and forgiving with them.

You are helpful.  I can always count on you to help me out with anything, whether it is folding laundry, making dinner, or completing a project.

You are smart.  Every day you amaze me with what you know and what you have learned.  You are a good student and enjoy learning.

Everything that you do, you do with your entire being.  Sometimes I get nervous because you wear your heart on your sleeve and you get sensitive to things that I want you to be strong enough for.  However, I wouldn’t change a thing about you.  I hope you continue to love with all of your heart and that doing that will bring you great joy.

Seven years have gone entirely too fast, each day blurred with sweet memories and moments that overflow in my heart.  Today, and every day, I hope you understand how much we love you and how much happiness you have brought and continue to bring to our lives.  You have made my world a better place to be.  xoxo

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It’s just my face…

I am sure you have heard of Bitchy Resting Face (BRF).  If you haven’t, don’t worry, you probably don’t have it.

I am the proud owner of a BRF (although why NOT be proud?  There is nothing I can do about it) and it is something I think about semi-regularly, mostly when I am at work, or the mall, or at something for my kids, or anywhere where there might be people judging me.

For those that who are unfamiliar with BRF, you can watch the PSA here, but it is basically a face that looks mad or judgemental when in a relaxed state.  There are pros and cons to this:

PROS:

It saves me money.  I am NEVER approached in the mall to have my hair straightened/take a survey/try this salt scrub from the Dead Sea.  Even though I may have ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD and I am definitely a sucker for a great deal (of course I will buy 3 of these since I will then get 2 free even though I only NEED one), I am not pursued.  My BRF makes me look unapproachable, and no one wants to get cut in the middle of the mall.

I’m not required to make small talk.  Often the seat next to me at showers, on buses, and meetings, etc. is open.  My BRF makes people think that I am angry and they don’t want to chance talking to an angry person.  So I don’t have to waste time trying to think of something funny to say to break the ice, because my BRF has built an ice WALL around me.

I can surprise people.  People are probably often surprised that I am actually a pretty nice person to talk to, and I have also been known to cause a laugh here and there.  I can remember overhearing a former co-worker tell another about how much they “loved how funny” I was-and the other person who didn’t quite know me yet could not believe it.  While that only hurts all the time still, it was nice that some people find my presence enjoyable.

CONS:

It’s hard to find a partner.  Chances are you have been put in a situation at a meeting or training or event where someone tells you to “find a partner.” Guess who can never find one?  You would think I was Medusa the way people dodge eye contact with me when it is partner time.  No one wants to take the chance on being stuck with crabby pants. This is why I find it best to bring a friend with me to these kinds of things, or else I have to partner with the teacher or leader or whoever’s dumb idea it was to partner up in the first place.

Co-workers might think I am bored.  We have a lot of staff meetings and opportunities to work with colleagues.  I pride myself in being prepared and paying attention.  But guess what stands in the way of LOOKING attentive?  If you said my face, you are right.  I literally have to tell myself to “look engaged” and try to make my face more friendly.  I have never looked at my “engaged” face in the mirror, because I am afraid of what I might find. The look I am going for says “interested” but I am afraid it might look “insane.”  I guess its something I should’ve practiced in private before I took it live.

It’s either old friends or no friends.  I don’t have many new friends.  Okay, I don’t have any new friends.  That’s not to say I don’t have a ton of acquaintances, but the people that I make plans with or hang out with on the regular are either family (so they can’t avoid it) or I met them in 1995.  My husband always is telling me about these long conversations that he has with other parents during Matthew’s karate lessons.  Guess how many times other parents have talked to ME at karate?  If you guess never, you would be close.  I think I asked someone a question once and they responded, so that was pretty good.  Baby steps.

I look uninterested in EVERYTHING.  I don’t always wear my emotions on my face. In fact, my friends often joke that I have no emotion when in fact the opposite is true.  I’ve actually wondered if it were possible to become a professional mourner because I can get sad for days about things that happen to other people that I don’t even KNOW.  I just look the same whether I just had a baby or attended a funeral.

While there are many benefits and disadvantages to having a stank face, I wouldn’t change it if I could because it has grown on me.  I guess I’m just trying to do my part to spread awareness and ask people for the benefit of the doubt.  Just assume I am in a good mood most of the time, unless you ask me why I “don’t smile more.” Then you will most likely get the Active Bitchy Face.  You’ve been warned.

Overwhelmed with happiness at the birth of my first child. (on the inside)

Report Cards

This week was a busy week as it was report card time for both my students and my daughter.

As usual, Ryann did AMAZING and received high compliments from her teachers and we of course were very proud.  This is not surprising to us, as she has been always dedicated and very organized (with regards to school, not her bedroom) and willing to put the time in to get better.  She is a people-pleaser.  At age 3 her preschool teacher said she needed to get better at cutting, and I swear she spent hours sitting in the kitchen turning every scrap paper in the house into a pile of shreds.  That same year the dentist told her it was time to lose the pacifier (I know, 2 years after I should’ve taken it) and she never touched one again.  (Of course recently, she told me that when the dentist told her that, she would have dreams that he was watching her through a telescope to make sure she didn’t take one anymore-whoops!)

I often tell my middle school students (when they come unprepared) that Ryann still has every pencil that I bought for her when she started kindergarten.  I am not exaggerating.  She keeps a separate pencil pouch in her backpack with “homework supplies” and she uses it to complete her homework and then returns everything to its spot.  She often does things like pack her gym shoes, piano books, etc. without a reminder from us.  She did not acquire these skills from me. I am always rifling through my purse/car/house looking for crap that I just HAD two seconds ago.

So I am not sure whether to attribute her wonderful qualities to the fact that she is the oldest, or she is a girl, or a unicorn child- but it is not a direct result of my parenting.  If I were to get a report card for that, I would most likely receive average grades unless death stares and teeth baring were graded (A+!).  So I tried to figure out what my grades might be if I were to be graded on MY most important job.

Subject Grade Comment
Domestic Organization D Works hard but has difficulty with subject
Instilling Fear in the Hearts of Children A Would benefit from learning self-control skills
Loving A Demonstrates positive character traits.
Domestic Sanitation C Requires guidance to remain focused and complete tasks.
Wine Consumption A Is an enthusiastic learner.
Culinary Skills C Does well when he/she slows down and checks his/her work carefully.

So as you can see, there are many areas where I definitely have room to improve and others where I feel I am excelling. However, on any given day, this report card could look very different. Like I tell my kids, the most important thing is that they are trying. 🙂

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The Evolution of a Diaper Bag

When I had my first, I was over-prepared for every situation.  I am not exaggerating when I say that our first trip up north included packing my jeep to the ceiling with every little baby thing that her heart might desire.  Was I really SO nervous that I wouldn’t hear her crying in a LOG CABIN that I had to pack her video monitor?  Was a 4 week old baby going to miss her bouncy seat so much that she couldn’t be without it for 48 hours?  Would her grandparents be able to hold her without a boppy?  Those are chances that I was not willing to take.  My diaper bag was jam-packed.  It had the obvious necessities like enough diapers to last a week, wipes, butt cream, pacifiers, etc.  But it also contained a first aid kit, manicure kit, toys, snacks (in color-coordinated containers), burp rags, bibs, sunscreen, tylenol, gripe water, bug spray, stickers, a mini etch-a-sketch, and an assortment of other things I couldn’t imagine living without.  It was always packed and ready to go, and it matched my stroller, purse, and sometimes even the baby.  I had the mom thing down.

When Matthew came along, I lightened the load a little, mostly because my diaper bag evolved into a toddler backpack that Ryann liked to carry.  It had just a few diapers and wipes, a change of clothes for the baby, a few snacks maybe, and whatever random junk she wanted to shove in there to entertain herself or her brother with.  On more than one occasion I opened the bag to find that there were no actual baby items inside, not including the things that were important to my then 2 year-old (who probably could pack a better diaper bag than me today at age 6).  Eventually the backpack became her backpack and I started carrying baby supplies in my purse, or purse supplies in my diaper bag, depending on how you look at it.  My years of motherhood had made me wiser. I found that the secret to parenting success was often the ability to produce a sucker when the kids were losing their patience.

Now Zane is lucky if I ever even have a bag with stuff for him when we are out and about.  When he was a newborn, I would try to remember to shove a diaper and a burp rag in my back pocket as we headed out the door.  Now, he’s 2.  When I realize that we will be gone for long and I don’t have a diaper bag with me, I have been known to ask him to “please not poop” while we are gone.   I have a sad little diaper that probably hasn’t fit him in 6 months shoved underneath my driver seat for “an emergency.”    I have wiped his nose on a receipt from my purse.  I have bitten off his nails in a pinch.  If he is desperate for a snack I reach into the depths of my purse with hopes of encountering at least a dusty mint or pacifier to appease him. I haven’t given up on parenting or being prepared, or even my pride (though it may not appear so).  I just have learned that there are more important things to worry about.  I have found that you can find snacks and diapers almost anywhere, most times a kiss works better than a band-aid, and that last-minute outings with the kids are fun whether we have our bag there or not.  And if push comes to shove,  I can usually throw myself on the mercy of a new mom.  Chances are she will have what I need in her diaper bag.

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Love Me, Love My Van

Like many moms, I always thought, “it could never happen to me.”

I am youngish, hip, fun.  Besides, my mom drives a mini van, and I am oodles cooler than her.

Baby one fit just fine in the back of my SUV, and when baby two came along they had plenty of legroom in the back of my truck.  Enter baby three, and that sexy Dodge Ram seemed silly.  What kind of fool would I look like shot-putting the baby car seat into the back and then crawling through the front to strap in the middle little?  It was time to shop for something more (gulp) practical.

I thought (and still think) a full-size SUV would be perfect.  However, with a two- and four-year-old that still needed assistance getting buckled, the thought of having to crawl in and out of a backseat to help them, (coupled with the fact that 99% of the time I am sweaty and stressed before we get in the car) made an SUV less than appealing.

Next, I considered budget.  I am pretty cheap thrifty when it comes to most things, which is why on any given day you see me dressed in head-to-toe Target.  Even a bare-bones SUV was still a couple hundred more a month than a mini-van lease, and min-van manufacturers know how to turn the heads of the most dedicated “cool” moms.  How could you turn down this deal when leather and a DVD player come standard?  What kind of mother would I be if I denied my children their fundamental right to in-car entertainment?  Did I mention that it comes with headphones, so my kids can watch Frozen 1000 times and I can listen to the radio?  And the cupholders.  MY GOD THE CUPHOLDERS.  There has to be space for 12 drinks in that thing.  And a backup camera, which I can’t imagine living without.  And the doors open at the push of a button.

So that’s it.  For now, and the immediate future, I’m a mini-van mama.  Go ahead and judge, I have enough friends; six of whom I can seat comfortably with luggage and up to two drinks per person.

Do you love your van?

Mom party.
Mom party.

Halfway Parenting

I am tired of halfway parenting.

I don’t mean parents who are not involved at all, or “un-parents” (see also “couch mama“). Those people are on a whole different level.

I mean parents who take their kids places or sign them up for things and then stop parenting as soon as they walk in the door.

For example, Matthew had floor hockey Saturday morning, a wonderful and inexpensive program put on by Goal Sports. It is a nice excuse to get out of the house and give the kids exposure to different sports, the idea of teamwork, commitment, etc. the games take place at a roller rink, which is divided into 3 floor hockey rinks.

We got there about 15 minutes before it started so we could grab a booth to sit in and watch, mostly so I could pin Zane the wanderer (see Brilliant or Lazy?) up against the wall and actually watch the game. This, of course, backfired because he was antsy by the time the kids finished practicing (they practice 1/2 hour and then play a game for 1/2 hour) and so Matt and I took turns holding him while Matthew was playing, and then letting him run around with his sister and I when Matthew was not.

There is an abundance of people there and most were very attentive to their offspring, but here are a couple of things I noticed as I walked Zane.

1. One of the kids from the 3 and 4 year old team running around and playing across every “rink” while his coach had the rest of the team huddled up for instruction. Look, if you are in the program to help your kid get some structure and you are letting him run around like an animal instead of encouraging him to join his team, you are a halfway parent.

2. One kid climbing all over the walls next to the “please don’t climb” sign. If your kid can’t read, the sign is for you to translate for them, halfway parent.

3. Three kids sitting on top of the Skee-ball machines, which is obviously not what they are there for. If your kid does not know about respecting property and the intended use of things, maybe you shouldn’t let them out of your sight, halfway parent.

4. A baby that was barely crawling continuously licking the disgusting carpet while being babysat by her (maybe) three year old brother, no adult in sight. Hope you enjoy explaining to your doctor how your baby was infected with Dysentary, halfway parent.

Almost everywhere I go I continuously bite my tongue. A problem that comes with being a teacher is that I correct behavior all day every day without a second thought, but when I am out in public I feel like I shouldn’t do it because I have no relationship with these kids (and they might have crazy parents nearby). I am beginning think that’s wrong.

In the parents’ defense, perhaps I just happened upon a moment of weakness and the parent was in the bathroom or taking an emergency phone call or just having a quick ciggy in the parking lot (kidding).

We need to stop worrying about the repercussions of correcting the behavior of children that aren’t ours, because sometimes parents might not drop the ball on purpose. Kids need to learn right from wrong, no matter WHAT adult is helping them. We should worry more about kids that are never getting corrected, because if they mess up, it isn’t their problem, it’s all of ours.

If you see one of my kids messing up and I’m not around, help me out. I promise to do the same. In the mean time, do you have an “unparent” story?

Welcome!

I am starting this blog as a way to connect to the outside world from the comforts of my own world. I am a stay at home mother of one and one on the way in July. Staying at home with my children was something I always thought I would like, but seemed like a silly thing to do since as a teacher I had a great schedule that allowed plenty of time for enjoying my family. However, due to the economy, I was laid off last summer and have been off all school year and at home with my daughter (turning 2 this May!).
This blog will create a space for me to blow off some steam as well as maybe connect with other parents in my area (Trenton, MI) that are looking for fun things to do with their kids-hopefully that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Maybe I’ll even make some new friends (not that there is anything wrong with the old ones). Please feel free to contact me! I look forward to getting new ideas for things to do and to build a new network of parents in the Downriver area!