Friday, January 28, 2011

On a friend's wedding

I am thinking today about a woman who has been my friend since we were 14-year-old freshmen in high school.  When I am feeling particularly down on myself, I have to remember that there must be something redeemable in me because she wouldn't have stuck around so long if I was a complete shit.

She is getting married this weekend, and so she is on my mind.

There is a part of me that wonders if I have anything to offer her in the way of marital advice.  Since D and I are in our fourteenth year of marriage, one would think I might have some sage wisdom to offer, a nugget of brilliance that has served me well.

But there isn't.  I got nothin'.

Because as I've mentioned on this blog, I don't know how I got lucky enough to have a pretty good marriage that has survived as long as it has.

My friend is far more mature than I was when I married (as a wee helpless babe of 24).  She has lived on her own for many years.  She knows she can take care of herself without any man's help.  She has never confused being alone with loneliness (at least to the point where she thinks she needs a man and therefore has chosen just any man for his presence).  

If anything, I think I need her advice on how to be a successfully independent woman.
Because I think if our circumstances were switched, I feel fairly confident I wouldn't have chosen my company as well.
(Of course, when I think about the 4-5 guys I dated with any touch of seriousness prior to marriage, they were all good and decent men who probably would have made good husbands for me, so maybe I don't give myself enough credit.)


Since I have no advice for her, I am sending her lots of wishes.....
For mostly happy times in her marriage.
For fortitude and closeness during the difficult or sad times.
For laughter and travels together.
For, perhaps if they deem it desirable, a little one that I can visit in the hospital the day after his/her birth.
And for her continued friendship in my life.

Love you KL. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nothing of much significance to post

But I'm gonna do it anyway.

This has been a terribly loooong winter due to all the snow days.  I love all of my children, but if the good lord wanted me to have all of them at home at the same time during the school year he would have made them triplets.  I desperately need a return to a "normal" week (as in 5 days of school for N), but I don't even get all that pissed off when school is called off anymore, which means I am defeated and hopeless.

Yesterday G was trying to put his sleeping bag in the bathtub, and M was either trying to help or supervising, but he tripped and banged his face into the tub surround, biting two big chunks out of his lip.  My policy is that if there is hole/rip/chunk that isn't supposed to be there with blood coming out of it, I head to the doctor.  Today, he just has a slightly puffy lip, but no worse for wear.

G has been wanting me to change his pull-up every time he urinates, and I am weary of this, so I sort of abruptly started potty-training him on Sunday, which would be great if he was cooperative in the least.  It really does have to be his idea, so this will be a very.slow.process.  Sometimes he throws a grand mal fit that he doesn't want to wear underpants.  And then there are times like last night when I couldn't get his ass off the pot.  Not that he ever actually did anything into it, but he was eager to just hang out.  And in my hazy memory of potty-training N, I think to myself stupid shit like, "I think she potty-trained in like 3 days."

M loves music, particularly the Wiggles and whines for me to turn on the cd player in the dining room.  He stomps his feet and walk/runs around the table, pulling up his shirt and doing his weird belly-scratching thing.  He has recently discovered that sticking his fingers to the back of his throat makes him throw up.  I keep finding food remnants and wondering where they came from.  Now I know.

N turns 7 in a month and can talk about nothing else.  Seven seems so it's almost a decade, man.  I cannot possibly have a child who is half-way through first grade.  It is true that once kids start full-time school, the years really start flying.

Gee, I think I almost solved my insomnia problem with this here blog entry.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

All this Tiger Momma hubbub

Evidence that I do not actually live in a cultural bubble is that I know about this Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother hubbub.  I haven't read the book yet, although I'd like to.  I've read the Time article about the book, as well as various things from the AP.  She and her publisher should be delighted with all the stink going down.  Even from here I can hear angels printing money.

So what do I make of it all, being ignorant and all of what the book really says?

Well, first, I know I am only about 10% Tiger Mother.  If push comes to shove, my kids know who the boss is and just how miserable I can make their lives if they opt to take it that far.  I can even envision the day when I remove everything from N's room just to remind her that she has nothing without me.....until she has a decent job and makes her own money.  (I might do this with the boys, too, but somehow I expect most of my battles to happen with my girl.)

I have been known to turn into a little hellcat when N has been disrespectful, and I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing.  It has shown her that I'm not a doormat to be walked on.  That I'm not gonna take shit off her just because she is my kid.  That I won't tolerate her showing her ass.  (I only mention N because G has yet to show that particular brand of "sassiness" that his sister was terribly great at beginning at age 3.)
At this point, I haven't had to wage war over grades, and I don't know how much I actually will.  As a former teacher in the public schools, I saw just how absolutely worthless grades were.  I taught sixth graders who couldn't read and got Ds and moved along to 7th grade, and I still am surprised that 1.) they even got to middle school and 2.) their parents never picked up on the fact that their kid couldn't read a lick.  Of course, I assume here that the parents could read beyond a 4th grade level.  I taught students who were smarter than me and got As, but that grade didn't even remotely capture just how talented they were.

Both D and I have master's degrees---mine in education; his in computer engineering, and I hope my kids will follow suit, perhaps even pursuing a Ph.D or an M.D.  But if they are, for whatever reason, not college-track, I want them to go as far as they can and get as much education as they can in whatever field they choose.  As a parent, I want my kids to do what they enjoy and have talent in, but to the best of their ability and to the highest degree their hard work will allow them to go.  A blend of both Western and "Chinese" goals, perhaps?

Moderation in all things, and this goes for parenting.

What intrigues me the most about her book is the discussion it has begun about how each culture values education, or devalues it, as I'm afraid the US does.  We talk a good game, and that it all.  And I think what we think of education has a lot to do with how we parent our kids.  When I was a kid, my parents valued and trusted the authority of my teachers, and I don't think a vast majority of parents do this today. We want to blame teachers (or principals or school systems) for what they don't do, rather than looking at what we as parents are doing or not doing.

I remember being in a conference with a mother who's daughter was new to the school mid-year and within days of entering my class had begun showing disrespect.  The mother wanted to lambast me because I wasn't understanding their culture or her daughter.  Within a few short months of that conference, the girl was in numerous fights, gotten suspended and had failing grades.  A colleague of mine said something along the lines of, "You pegged that kid early on."  And while I totally recognize that poverty and lack of parental education play a roll in a child's education, that mother didn't call her own child to accountability.  And that is, in my opinion, a huge problem with our US educational system.  Parents and students not holding themselves accountable but laying all the effort, blame and responsibility on the feet of underpaid teachers and administrators.  Having been in the trenches, I know what an impossible job it is to do.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Life is what happens when you're busy thinking you know exactly how things are gonna go down

Back in December, I took G to a free developmental screening through the local school district to see about his speech.  D had been saying for awhile that G is a "mushmouth," but what clinched it for me was when my friend in PA reported that her son was delayed in speech.  For some reason, after reading her Facebook post, I thought, "I better call about G."  Also I had begun to pay more attention to his playmates, and I realized just how inarticulate G was in comparison to them.

G failed the screening, which meant he could be more fully evaluated to see if he qualified as "learning disabled" and would be able to receive free services through the district.  He was evaluated about two weeks ago, and today we had our placement meeting.

In my head, I had a plan:  G would attend a church-affiliated preschool this fall where N attended and receive speech services a couple times a week at the public school where N now is in first grade.  Wonderful.  Terrific.  Couldn't Ask For It To Go Any Smoother.  The speech clinician who evaluated him basically told me two weeks ago that G would qualify, so I knew going into today's meeting to expect this, but then.......

other issues cropped up that kind of blew "my plan" to smithereens.

We were told that if G attends a district preschool they can guarantee he will receive full speech services, but they can't guarantee the full time (50 minutes per week) if he only comes for speech therapy.  I was completely caught off guard by this and even had them reiterate it to ensure I was hearing them correctly.

And it seemed stupid to have gone through all this screening and evaluation to NOT accept the full amount of services G needs.

BUT going this route means that he would be in 4-day a week preschool starting like NOW, instead of 2-days a week in the fall.  G has never been in a Moms Day Out program or even in a church nursery.  His only caregivers have been family members or a close neighbor.  So going from "With Mommy All The Time" to "4 Days a Week of Public Preschool" seemed like going from 0 to 100 in 6 seconds.  And he would even ride the school bus.

That is a lot of time away from my baby, which I am willing to do if it is in his best interest, but it hurts my heart.  Because I know from my experience with N that once they are off to school on a virtually everyday basis.....that is it.

(And then there is the feeling I have that G has always been a little short-changed, his toddlerhood spent with me suffering all-day pregnancy sickness and then having to share mommy with baby M.  My time with him seems to have somehow been infringed on.)

Starting him in preschool now would also mean that he would enter kindergarten as a 4-year-old since his birthday is 4 days before the cut-off, which I am adamantly opposed to.  I think it is a bad idea to start boys with late birthdays, but when they have a speech issue on top of it---it seems like a no-brainer to delay and give them more time to mature.  I don't care how much preschool a kid has under his belt.

But again, I want him to receive the full services he needs for his moderate disability.

On top of all this, the school that N attends does not offer free preschool to kids who need speech, so if we did send him to a district preschool now, he would attend somewhere else, we would pull him out in 2013 to send him to where N went for preschool for a year, and then try to get him into N's public school in 2014.  This just seems like an awful lot of transitions for such a young kid.

Still....those full services that he needs to improve his articulation......

So D and I reluctantly agreed to start him in a district preschool since that seemed the only way to get him the full range of services he qualified for in his IEP.

All last evening and during the night when I was up 26 times with the boys and again early this morning, I just couldn't shake the gut feeling I had that this was not right for me or for G.  So I emailed a former colleague who works in the district.  And I called the placement people and left a message for someone to contact me.  And I called a local organization that helps parents deal with special needs children and the district (which I got from another friend).

By 5:00 this evening, I had been told by my new best friend in the early childhood department of the district that G receives full services whether he attends a district preschool or not, which is the complete opposite of what we were told yesterday.  (It is possible I may have misunderstood them, but considering I had them repeat it, I don't think D or I are the ones misinterpreting things.)   And he can still receive services the year I hold him back due to his late birthday in 2013.

At this point, I just sit tight and wait for someone to call to schedule his sessions.

So what do I make of all this?
Am I a good mom who listens to her intuition and considers all the factors of what his good for her son and her family?
Or am I a selfish mom who allows her own feelings and desire to be with her son get the best of her?
Or maybe a little bit of both?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The guilt that goes along with spending money on myself

After my large splurge for an outfit for my friend's wedding, I have been spending more time than I'd like convincing myself that it was okay to spend that much on a dress, sweater and boots.  Among the reasons I have been giving myself are:

1. She is my best friend, and I should look and feel especially nice and wonderful because I have been friends with her for 23 years.
2. I am not going into debt to pay for this outfit.
3. Since it is a sleeveless dress, I will have ample opportunities to wear it all throughout the year.
4. Since I spent so much and it is a size 4, this will help ensure that I stay fit and trim because I want to get every bit of possible wear out of it.
5. The last time I spent anywhere near this much money on an outfit was my own wedding 13 years ago and my brother's wedding 10 years ago.
6. This outfit sort of makes up for wearing slobber, spit-up and crusty-food stained clothing every day for the past 7 years.

Despite my best efforts to shut my inner frugal freak up, it's not working too well.
What is most irritating is that I went out today and bought N her dress for the wedding and K and D's wedding gift, but I don't feel anxious or guilty because I was buying for others.  And apparently everyone besides me is more deserving of something special.  Damn my brain!

As I told my financial advisor today, it is physically painful for me to take money out of an account into which I have put savings.  Even if that account was specifically set up to pay for car repairs or home improvements or medical spending, it causes me tremendous anxiety to hit the confirm button to electronically transfer money in order to pay for a car repair or a home improvement or a medical bill.

All the while I'm hemmin' and hawin' over moving money around from account to account, I am further rankled by my white privilege and utter inability to understand what real money problems are.  Even though I think I have money problems, I do not.  

Sometimes I am able to get a momentary break from finance-induced anxiety and realize that.  But it doesn't last long.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What I will do for a friend....

I am a jeans and yoga pants kind of gal.

This is what I wore out today.....except I did wear real shoes.  Not house slippers.  

But since my dearest friend in the whole wide world is getting married at the end of this month, I wanted to clean up a bit.  Purchase a......(dear me, this is hard to say).....dress.

And so I headed out today with the goal of buying myself a dress, D a new tie and N a dress (the boys will be staying at home with a sitter while us bigger folks attend the festivities).

I went to JCPenney and searched for what seemed like days.  The dresses were either too fancy or too bag-like or too old-lady-ish.  I saw some 2-piece suits, one in a really great apricot color, that I wanted to try on, but I wandered around aimlessly for awhile trying to decide what type of blouse one wears under them.  I eventually went up to a stranger who was dressed far more fashionably than I (on a Saturday afternoon), and she said a "shell."  I had to scroll through the archives of my retail employment memories to understand that she wasn't talking about crustaceans.

I took a size 10, a size 8 and a size 6 into the dressing room with me.  I knew the 6 was a long shot (this was the apricot suit), but I thought what the hell?  The size 10 skirt fell to the floor; the 8 drooped to my knees.  The 6 fit better, but I still looked like Frumpy McFrumpelsteen.

So I said, "Forget suits.  I'm gonna look for a skirt and top."  I found some skirts I liked but didn't know what type of blouse would look good with them.  And, of course, there was no one on the sales floor to help me at JCPenney.

I headed down to New York & Company and found about 3 dresses on a rack and, again, not a single salesperson.

It was at this point, feeling pretty desperate, that I went to Ann Taylor Loft, a store that I normally avoid like the plague.  The clothes are gorgeous; the prices give me hives.  As soon as I walked in, a sales person asked if she could help me.  I think I may have started weeping and said something like this.....

My best friend is getting married at the end of this month, and I need something nice and weddingish to wear, but I hate shopping, and I was just at JCPenney wandering around in circles, not sure whether things were dresses or just tunic tops, and I don't know what looks good together, and I'm not even sure what size I wear.  I never dress up; I mean look at me.  I need to be on that "What Not to Wear" show.  Will you please pick some things out that would look good together?????

And so she loaded me up with a bunch of stuff and got me settled in a dressing room.  One dress I happened to pick out looked good but seemed too big, so I asked for a smaller size.  That size still seemed a little frumpy.  I dropped down to the next size and decided that I would take the dress no matter how much it cost because
1.) I liked it
2.) so help me god I don't want to do this anymore today or next weekend or ever again if I can help it because I was effin' exhausted.

Apparently, my desire to be comfortable means that I normally buy my clothes about 2 sizes too large.  The dress that actually fit me properly today---a size 4.  WTF?

I asked if they sold shoes at the Loft and was told no, which left me stewing about purchasing some nude heels.  But then one of the nice sales-gals who helped dress me suggested I go to Bakers for some boots.

After paying half my mortgage (ok, not quite) for the dress and sweater at the Loft, I marched right down to Bakers and said something like this....

I just bought this dress at Ann Taylor Loft and they said I should come down here and get some boots in a grey or beige color, so will you pick out some boots that will match this here dress because I don't know what looks good with anything.

Thirty minutes later I have new boots to go with my new dress.  Another half a mortgage payment gone. But it is totally worth it because other people dressed me which means I probably actually look good.

I was heady with excitement as I called my friend to share the miraculous news that I just dropped a big ole wad of cash on clothes for her wedding, and I think I might actually look like a put-together kind of gal for once in my life.  Having known me since we were 14, she knows that I am tight as hell with money and hate dressing up.

But I also told her that this marriage better last because I won't do this for wedding #2.
She was a doll and told me I could just wear it again if that happens.

(N and G were so wound up seeing me in a dress and boots that they wanted to get all gussied up too.)

G in his sister's Jasmine wig, her dress and his snow boots.  What a pretty fella!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happenings this week

A lot has been going on this week.

I continue removing wallpaper from the laundry room while the boys nap.  Next week I will select paint and begin repainting the baseboards.

In this fit of home improvement, I mentioned to D about replacing the light fixtures in the bathrooms as well as having frames put around the mirrors.  Twenty-eleven (2011) marks 10 years living in our home, and I'd just like to do some small, relatively inexpensive changes.  D said something along the lines of, "They're fine.  They're not broken."  To which I replied something like, "Well your iPhone wasn't broken but you got a new one."  To which he said, "Well it was almost broken."  (Is this like being almost pregnant?)

Me wanting to replace light fixtures is akin to him wanting to buy Call of Duty Version 45.5; I am simply tired of/bored with/have played out the current lights.

M is now 15 months old and has been successfully night-weaned.  He usually doesn't make a peep from 7:00 pm until 7:30 am.  He is still a big day-time nurser, but that is perfectly ok with me.  He loves to bring books to me or D and be read to.  He says "ball" and "ack" for snack.

I have been remembering that it was January 2 years ago, when G was 15 months, that I got pregnant with M.  I don't remember thinking to myself, "MY GOD, G is just a baby himself," but maybe that is because I was just so stunned to be pregnant.  How did I manage a toddler and being pregnant 24/7 sick?

G was evaluated for his speech issues on Thursday, so we will find out in about 2 weeks if he will qualify for services through the local school district.

After 2 days of being back at school N managed to come down with strep throat---her 6th bout in 10 months.  I think a tonsillectomy will be in the foreseeable future.  I hate the idea of her having surgery, but I also know from experience how awful it is to have chronic strep throat your entire childhood.  To this day I still wish my parents would have had my tonsils taken out.

(Unfortunately I had chronic strep and 3 sets of ear tubes, adenoid removal and a hole in my eardrum that eventually had to be patched.  I am hoping that since the boys have ear trouble they will avoid the throat problems.  Perhaps my ENT problems will be split somewhat equitably among my kids.)

The two days she was home from school she was quiet and low-energy.  But once she got that 2nd dose of antibiotic in her, she was back to the very chatty phase she is going through right now.  She just drones on and on.....diarrhea of the 1st grade mouth, which isn't cleared up by Omnicef, much to my dismay.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Laundry room project, Take 1

Today I began stripping wallpaper from the laundry room, which made me think of my childhood.

When I was a kid, my parents and my uncle jointly owned some property in the southend of the city---a house and a small apartment building.  I remember spending what seemed like oodles of time watching my parents paint walls when tenants would move out of the apartments and cut grass.

The house they purchased was in serious disrepair---as in there was a giant hole in the floor on the 2nd level which my brother and I were forever instructed to, "Stay away from."  As if we had any desire to break both legs plummeting onto the wood flooring below.  And whomever had owned the house had never, ever removed wallpaper before putting new wallpaper on top.  I can't scrape wallpaper and be anywhere near white vinegar without remembering helping my parents pull like 7 layers off.

There was exposed electrical wires everywhere on top of everything else, which made rubbing rags soaked with white vinegar and water a dicey activity.

It was with these memories floating through my head that I began one of my 2011 goals:  the laundry room redo.

We have lived in this house almost 10 years, and I put the wallpaper up shortly after closing.   Aside from being tired of it, it is just too cute for my personal taste.  Ten years ago I was a wee babe of 27--a person changes a whole heck of a lot in a decade, and choice of wallpaper is no exception.

I have slowly made practical/efficiency changes to the room--the bench, the shoe cubbies, the cabinets.  But now it is time for an aesthetic change.

This is the wallpaper, which is on one wall, and the border goes around the room.  It is country/cutesy and has to go.

This is the flooring.  Um, those 2 designs do not mesh well.  And it only took me almost 10 years to realize it.  I had thought about replacing the flooring, but that seemed an awful lot of expense.  

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolving not to be resolute

I don't usually make resolutions because of the way in which they are kaput by Feb 1.  I don't like to fail, so resolving to do or not do something seems like asking to have my self-esteem mangled.  I think, though, if I refer to this entire process as "goal-setting," it seems more do-able.

So what are some goals for 2011?

1. To use the treadmill more regularly (with the goal being once a week) in the purposes for which it was intended (walking), rather than just as a massive dust collector and stuff-puter-oner in the office.

2. To go to DisneyWorld on vacation (because even with 3 kids, I still think it would be fun).

3. Remove the wallpaper from my laundry room and repaint the walls a nice taupe-y color.

4. To not do anything board-related (or having even a snippet of responsibility) in my MOMS Club chapter and stick with it.

And that is all.

If I have learned anything since becoming a stay-at-home mom, it is to set my standards fairly low and my goals almost certainly reachable.  So when I am able to go above & beyond, I feel like a completely efficient and amazing rock-star of a person.