Thursday, December 16, 2010

Re-frame it

Lately it seems like all I do is complain. I complain about money, about our house, about my relationship with my husband, about my lack of “time off”, about my son, about work, about it all. So many of the conversations I have in my head and aloud end in “why me???” and people, let me tell you, my mother never allowed us to act that way growing up. She wouldn’t stand for it. Her stock answer whenever one of us started complaining: Guess what, kiddo? You may think you have things pretty bad but someone out there has it much worse. Guaranteed.

So it was with some measure of comfort that I learned about “re-framing“ through Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Ms. Rubin gave a name to what my mother always tried to teach us: take the negative way you think about things and “re-frame” those thoughts into something more positive. Perhaps you’ll realize you don’t have it so bad at all.

Here is my attempt at “re-framing”, Sara-style:
  • COMPLAINT “I hate walking to the train in the snow every morning, my feet are frozen, and my hat makes my hair look stupid when I get to work.”
    • RE-FRAME “At least I don’t have to sit in traffic for an hour to get to work and I get to spend 20 minutes ALONE on the train with my book/magazine/iphone with no one bugging me."
  • COMPLAINT “We’re constantly broke and why the hell did I go back to work if we still never have enough money?”
    • RE-FRAME “Though money is tight, I’ve learned quickly how to spend more wisely and what’s really important and necessary for my family. I am a budgeting MASTER."
  • COMPLAINT “My husband works 24/7/365 and we don’t get enough ‘family time’.”
    • RE-FRAME “My husband works 24/7/365 for US so he can make life better and more comfortable someday. Plus he really, really, really loves me and our son and tells us everyday. Oh, and he takes care of the morning routine with our son and that is absolutely priceless.”
  • COMPLAINT “I hate laundry. And emptying the dishwasher. And cleaning the bath tub. HATE.”
    • RE-FRAME “At least I have a washing machine that works. And is on the second floor next to our bedrooms. No lugging full baskets up and down stairs. At least I have a dishwasher that washes the dishes for me and it truly takes 5 minutes to unload. The tub though? That really does suck.”
  • COMPLAINT “My son drives me crazy when he takes 20 minutes to get out the door/refuses to put on shoes (or PANTS! why no pants? it’s WINTER)/takes a frillion hours to eat a simple meal and then demands a cookie.”
    • RE-FRAME “My son sleeps through the night in his big boy bed and DOES NOT GET OUT OF BED. That’s right, I said it. All night long, no visits out of his bed into ours. HIGH-FIVES FOR ME.”
  • COMPLAINT “My ass feels like it’s getting bigger from sitting at a desk all day (and office holiday treats are in abundance...helllooooo, cookies)  and there is no time to work out.”
    • RE-FRAME “My aunts told me I looked skinnier at Thanksgiving so let’s just believe them. And my pants still fit.”
  • COMPLAINT “Our calendar always feels full and like we’re constantly rushing around to this or that or the other event.”
    • RE-FRAME “A busy calendar means people like us...we have friends and family who want to see us and spend time with us.”
  • COMPLAINT “My house is drafty and leaky and old and needs new windows/furnace/garage/basement re-do and why the hell did we spend so much money on it?”
    • RE-FRAME “I have a pretty house on a pretty street in a really awesome neighborhood. It needs some work but my husband and I are handy-types so we can tackle some of it ourselves. We can walk to every possible store/restaurant/amenity you can imagine plus we have some fantastic neighbors. We have a good school at the end of the block. It’s the perfect size for our small family. It has beautiful moldings and built ins and creaky floors. And at least we’re not homeless."
I feel better already. I am not advocating Pollyanna-ish behavior because I think that’s ludicrous and people who are always looking at the bright side live in a fake universe. But maybe, sometimes, it helps to look at what’s bugging you and try to think about it from a different perspective. Perhaps a new view of the same old is just what you need.

How about you? What can you “re-frame”?

Monday, December 13, 2010

A little charity

My lovely friend and neighbor, Miss Pseudostoops, is hosting her annual "Give My Money Away" Extravaganza! Hooray! In her words, this is how it works:

I write a post each day featuring a charitable organization that I like to support, to which I plan to make a donation at the holidays.  I guarantee a minimum donation, then I add 50 cents for each comment I receive on that post that day, up to a predetermined limit.

If you want, in your comments, you can leave me some info about one of your favorite charities.  On Friday, I’ll choose five organizations that were mentioned in the comments and we’ll have a good old-fashioned vote to determine which one of them will receive a $50 donation.
I really like doing this: some small and dear-to-me charities receive a little spotlight, you make me feel all warm and fuzzy with your comments that lead to donations, and one of you will see one of your favorite organizations get a bonus $50 at the holidays.  Everybody wins.
So hop on over there and leave a comment. Help her help others! Isn't she so special? Don't you just want to squeeze her? 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's a baby snowman, Mommy!

Winter's first snowfall + one bored toddler = a miniature snowman.

He was so proud even though he didn't help one bit.

The time honored tradition of catching snow on your tongue 
as demonstrated by a reluctant toddler.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hook line and sinker

I totally bought into this Elf on the Shelf idea. 100%. I will not apologize for my blatant love of all things Christmas-y. I love Santa. I love twinkle lights (I call them Christmas lights, however they're used). I love swags of garland and holiday music that starts playing the day after Halloween (yes, that is stretching it a little but that's a-ok with me). I love the smell of fresh cut evergreens (or candles!) and the big, red blooms of the poinsettia. I love that I get to buy my son ornaments every holiday season, reflective of what he loved so much that year. It's a train this year, naturally.

When I heard about the Elf on the Shelf idea a few weeks ago I knew it was right up my alley. The idea is that this elf reports back to Santa every night to tell him whether the little one was naughty or nice and then returns to a different spot in the morning, perhaps causing some mischief along the way. Extra Christmas-y? Check. Totally ridiculous and child-like? Awesome. Extra good behavior reinforcement? Count me in.What I didn't like was the price: $35 for a little elf and a book? Not going to happen. And that one is slightly creepy looking. Agreed? Last weekend I struck gold at Hobby Lobby and found an adorable stuffed elf for $4.99...and then 50% off that. Scrounge around the internet for some "elf" ideas and I have a $2.50 version of Elf on the Shelf.

Meet "Dabo the Elf", as named by Noah:

We're two days into our mischief and I'm pretty sure Noah is going to be in tears when Christmas comes and goes and so does our elf. So far "Dabo" has found his way into Noah's stocking, Noah's boot, on the shelf with the dinner plates, and up on the chandelier. Tim thinks I am getting far more enjoyment out of this elf than Noah. Perhaps. But I don't mind one bit.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No time to blog or just lazy? Take your pick.

What do you do to entertain your toddler while you are making dinner? I'm dead serious when I ask this. Frankly, Noah has been spending far too much of the hours from 5pm until 6:30pm in front of the television and I am appalled at myself. I was never the mom who swore her precious future Nobel prize winner would never watch television but I'm concerned it's getting out of hand. Add in the On Demand feature and we have the makings of a addiction brewing around these parts.

I've tried coloring, playdoh, trains, cars, puzzles, and even bought him a step stool high enough so he can reach the counter and play sous-chef. Except then he wants the knives and to fiddle with the stove. I hear that's frowned upon. What is your magic formula for making dinner while entertaining a 2 1/2 year old?

So you know how I tore up the carpet on our stairs and then never updated about having them refinished? Yeah, that's because I haven't done a thing about it. They sit there in all their paint splattered glory just begging me to take a belt sander to them. However, this working thing is totally getting in the way of me getting ANYTHING done around the house (and here you thought if I had mastered laundry then I must have mastered the rest of LIFE). Alas, I have not and my stairs are neglected. And I didn't like the price I was quoted to have them refinished. That is, until I went to the carpet store today to investigate having them re-carpeted.

This time I was looking at pretty, patterned carpets...kind of like a runner. The lovely saleswoman must have thought I live in a golden palace with diamonds on my sink faucets and precious gems embedded in my floors because the carpets she was showing me? They were EXPENSIVE. Think around $2,500 for carpet, pad and install...for the STAIRS. Umm. No. Sorry. The stair refinishing is looking mighty nice right about now.


Noah doesn't need a brace! Or special shoes! HOORAY! The docs think he just has a gross motor developmental delay that may resolve itself by his 3rd birthday. MUCH better than I thought. However, they suggested I look into physical therapy for him if I want to be "proactive". Have they met me? Obviously that suggestion meant I called the state early intervention office immediately and we have our first evaluation next week.


Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I CANNOT WAIT. Turkey and a subsequent nap on the couch? YES, PLEASE.  Enjoy your holiday, friends.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Queen of shortcuts and canned soup

Laundry sucks. There, I said it. Folding clothes and unloading the dishwasher are my two most hated chores. Sadly, the other adult who lives in my house doesn't seem to be programmed with the need to wash clothes or dishes. If we want clean clothes then this woman is the one who gets it done. But it doesn't mean I like it. (Side note: don't marry a man whose mother did his laundry and then his first wife did his laundry and then his cleaning lady post-divorce did his laundry because he will never once take an interest in learning how to run the washing machine and dryer. But I have learned to pick my battles.)
I feel like I can never catch up and have all the laundry washed, folded, and put away. We only have 2.5 people living in this house and yet it's never done. It drives me insane to have full laundry baskets within days of doing five loads of laundry. It will sit sorted on my bedroom floor for days until I can get it all done. Inevitably I will leave a wet load in the washer overnight and have to run it again the next night after work (where another load will get left unfinished because, damnit, I'm tired and don't want to be folding clothes at 11 pm).
The lightbulb went on early last week when the laundry was threatening to take over my upstairs hallway. My fancy pants, front loading washing machine has a DELAY TIMER. A little, tiny button on the front of it that I never paid much attention to until Noah pressed it last week and I saw the timer clock climb from 1 hour to 12 hours. Do you have any idea what this means? I DO. This means I can put a load of laundry in the machine before I go to bed, add the detergent, and then set the delay timer to go off an hour before I wake up. Then, when I wake up? The load is clean and ready for the dryer. I toss it into the dryer while I am showering and getting ready for work. Since that routine takes about 45 minutes (I'm slow in the morning and my coffee maker doesn't have an auto switch...I'm looking at you KEURIG) and so does my dryer, my clothes are dry and ready to be folded after I'm dressed. So I fold it because it's only ONE load and I don't feel OVERWHELMED by FIVE (seems like FORTY) loads that need to be washed, dried and folded. I don't have time to put it all away in the morning so I still have to tackle that part but I am seriously impressed with myself. Or with Noah for pushing that button and showing me the light.
It sounds like a million more steps but this has made the laundry process in our house less frought with anger, despair, and mildewy cottons. I'm in love with that little delay timer button.
And about the canned soup: go buy two ready made pie crusts, 1 bag frozen mixed veggies, 1 rotisserie chicken, and 1 can cream of chicken soup (lower sodium so I don't feel so bad). Put it all together. 30 minutes at 375 and you have chicken pot pie. It's a few steps above pre-made frozen pot pies and about a frillion steps below (but way EASIER) than homemade crusts and sauces. I may be feeding my family this multiple times a month for the rest of winter. I hope they don't mind. And I bet you all totally already knew this recipe.
What are some of your short cuts?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Falling and I don't mean the leaves

So I write a post all about striving for balance and this weekend my tenuous grip on that balance was thrown off yet again. As many of you know, when Noah was 6 months old, I fell down the stairs while carrying him and broke his left leg. The break was relatively clean but was positioned on the growth plate right above his knee. (More here and here.)

That was a really difficult time for me. However, I moved on, we moved on, and Noah seemed to be doing fine. That was until last week when I got to preschool pick up a little early and had the chance to watch Noah run “races” with his little buddies. Now, I KNOW parents cannot, should not, compare their child’s development to his/her peers. Every kid is a unique snowflake, each develops at his/her own pace, yada yada. But what I saw watching Noah and his friends run after each other showed me, without a doubt, that Noah lags behind his classmates when it comes to running and walking. He falls down...a lot. He twists his legs while running when he should have more fluid movements. His gait is very unsteady. Although he was having a blast chasing after his friends, I nearly started to cry watching him run. I knew the next call I made was going to be to his pediatrician.

You know what the most wonderful thing is about a pediatrician who also happens to be your neighbor? House calls. Noah’s doctor stopped by yesterday afternoon and observed him running and walking. In five minutes and with almost no hesitation, he determined that it was Noah’s left leg that was causing the gait issues. And most likely a result of the break. Do you want to know what happened immediately after he left? TEARS. Lots and lots of tears. That visit broke the wall I had so carefully constructed around that day in February, 2009.

Our doctor hypothesized as to what possible treatments may be in store for us:
-A leg lengthening brace
-Special orthopedic shoes with a lift in one heel
-Physical therapy
-Nothing, depending on the outcome of x-rays

None of these options are life-threatening. None of these options will reduce his quality of life. Each of these options has the potential to help him walk and run better over time. I know deep down that this is just one of the many tests we face as parents and that he’ll be fine. Just fine. But, damnit, it doesn’t make me feel better. None of this would have happened if I wasn’t in such a hurry that day, if I had slowed down and paid more attention. I hurt my son that day (yes, unintentionally but still, I hurt him) and we’re still paying for it.

As time has gone by and separated me from the pain of that day and the days that followed, I found my resolve to slow down and focus on what’s right in front of me begin to weaken. Our calendar filled back up and we started rushing to get here, there, everywhere. We started cramming our weekends full of obligations from beginning to end, especially after I went back to work. I can’t do it anymore. My attention gets diverted from my family too easily by all the obligations and events and visits. I KNOW what happens when there is too much going on and not enough time to do it all. I’ve been in the emergency room’s x-ray room holding my six month old infant’s legs straight while the tech takes pictures of his fractured femur. I can still hear his frightened screams of pain. They haunt me.

I don’t mean to sound so “woe is me”. There are children with much more difficult trials and parents who are shouldering it all. I know Noah will be ok. I just thought I had learned my lesson a year and a half ago but it’s becoming clear to me that I didn’t learn anything. So, where do we go from here? We make the necessary appointments with the orthopaedic doctor. We listen, we learn, we help Noah the best way we can. We clear off our calendar a little more and spend more time taking care of our family. At the end of the day, this little guy is why I do everything I do...he really is my heart walking around outside my body.

I am the cutest fireman this side of the Mississippi, didn't you know? 
And don't even TRY to touch my candy.

(P.S. As I was getting off the train this afternoon a damn pigeon shit on my coat. I heard it "plop!" on my arm and I about lost my mind. It really was the icing on a craptastic day.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How do you balance it all?

Balance. It's a touchy word. Not touchy in that it's difficult to define but touchy in that it's incredibly elusive. For a minute or maybe two you feel like you've found it, you've reached that place where things come together and you're doing it, perhaps really rocking it out. And then poof! It's gone again.

It's on her mind. I bet it's on yours too. We all strive for some sort of balance in our lives as parents, as employees, as friends, as children, as productive members of our society. Yet I know I feel like I don't give 100% to anyone or anything. Like K, I spend some (ok, a lot) of my work day accomplishing tasks that fall outside of work...I schedule doctor appointments, research new recipes, make grocery lists, write blog posts (ahem), read up on random weird toddler behaviors, and manage our calendar. I also do my work-work. When I'm home I am attending to a child, making dinner, answering emails, answering the phone, returning calls, walking the dog, cleaning up after the child and dog (and husband), sorting laundry, doing laundry, folding laundry, putting away laundry (sense a theme?), all the while trying to sneak in as much quality time with my son as I can in three short hours a day. Oh and my husband too. He deserves a little attention from time to time.

No one person or task gets 100% of my attention and time. It frustrates me because I know I could do better. I could be more productive with my time. I could focus more on my daily work at my job and put aside all the "home" tasks during the day. I could not care so much about the state of my house or if the laundry is all done every week. I could ignore the pile of dry cleaning for a while longer or say OK to boxed mac and cheese for dinner a little more often. Most importantly, I could play with my son rather than stew over the dirty dishes in the sink or the bill that needs to be paid.

I know there isn't an answer, or at least not a perfect one. Most people just try to get through each day with their heads still screwed on and so many of us fall into bed each night wondering how we can do it all again tomorrow. But we do. We do it because that's life. And we keep seeking the magic formula and the perfect alignment of the stars that will keep it all together.

I don't mean this to be a complaint because I know we're all there, we all feel it and understand it. So let's celebrate the fact that we all made it through today...GOOD JOB, YOU! Treat yourself to something nice tomorrow, even if it's only a pumpkin spice latte at 2 pm (don't mind if I do). You deserve it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Parenting Test #1,863,954

You’re not going to judge me, right? You’re not those kind of people are you? The judge-y kind? I mean, unless you are a JUDGE in real life, and then I will address you as Honorable Judge So-and-So from this point forward. I trust you, readers. You’re nice people. Right?

Noah bit at preschool yesterday. For the third time. He’s on “watch” with his teachers. WWWWAAAIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.  

The first time he was provoked by another child and responded by biting. We started our reinforcement of “No biting, biting hurts. Use your words to say “No! Stop that!” or walk away. Biting is never ok.” He got really good at parroting what we wanted to hear but I wasn’t so sure he really understood.

The second time was completely unprovoked. He and another little guy were playfully shoving each other while waiting their turn for the balance beam. Two minutes after they stopped playing, while still waiting, Noah turned to him and laid into his arm with his teeth. Why did he do that? Was he upset that his little friend had stopped playing with him? Did he, two minutes after the fact, decide that he didn’t like his little friend having touched him earlier? The toddler brain is so confusing. We went home and began again with the reinforcement of no biting. Again, he parroted.

The third time, yesterday, was again provoked. The other little guy was draping himself all over Noah during their planned “centers”. The teachers noticed, and knowing how Noah has some personal space issues, gently asked the other child to stop touching Noah and removed him. The kid went back for more and Noah had obviously had enough. Noah turned around and bit him square on the arm. Did the kid deserve to be bitten? No. Did Noah have the right to defend himself? Yes. I asked his teachers if Noah felt remorse afterwards and if he understood that biting was unacceptable. They were clear that he gets very upset after it happens and repeats to himself “No biting! Biting hurts!” but he has problems controlling himself in the moment.

Yesterday I added major emphasis to “using your words when you get angry” to our daily behavior discussions.

I will not classify my son as a “biter”. It is not a serial problem with him. He is not biting everyday or even every week. However, he does have impulse, or temper, control issues. Noah’s temper flares quickly but dies down just as fast. He has always been this way. As an infant, if he was hungry and I wasn’t able to nurse him within 30 seconds of his wails starting up, I could have sworn his head would begin spinning on its axis. His face would turn so red and his little fists would ball up and he would just lose it. As a one year old, when he didn’t yet have such a great grasp on language but needed to express himself, he would use a high-pitched scream to get my attention and then keep going until I figured out what it was he needed. At that time I had hoped and prayed that once he could communicate he would find more patience and use his words to express himself when he was angry or frustrated.

On one hand, he’s two. TWO. Two is tough any which way you look at it. Every two year old has their “issues” whether that be temper control, inability to share, lack of communication, not playing nicely with others, defiance, etc. On the other hand, aggressive behaviors are not a proper way to express anger or frustration at two or beyond. I want Noah to understand that biting does not make him “bad” so we never use the words “You’re a bad boy for biting” or “You’re naughty for biting”. The action is bad, not the child who is doing it. However, he does need to understand the appropriate way of handling his anger.

We’re proactive parents. We’re addressing the biting immediately and consistently. As we see a ramp up in his imaginative play, we’ve begun acting out good behaviors, bad behaviors and the proper responses using his favorite toys. We ask him “We don’t use our mouths for biting. What do we use our mouths for?” and he responds with “For eating! For talking! For kissing! For making funny sounds like Beep Beep Beep!”. We say “It’s ok to be angry or frustrated. But what do you do when you get angry or frustrated? Do you hit? Do you bite?” and he answers “Nooooooo, no hitting, no biting. You walk away! You say “No, stop that!” and tell your teacher”.

Now, I’m pretty sure he gets it. He knows that biting is not ok. He feels awful after it happens and remembers to apologize. But how do we address his temper control without making him think it’s bad to feel angry or frustrated? I know we continue to reinforce “walking away” and “using your words to say “No, stop that!”.

I’m trying really hard to not let Noah’s recent biting episodes reflect on me as a parent. I know we’re doing our best. I know in my heart that he’s a good, smart little boy with a whole lot of love to give. I also know that he inherited his father’s quick temper and we have some learning to do. This is one of many parenting tests we’ll be faced with in raising our son and I really hope we’re doing the right thing.

We were at the grocery store the other day and I looked at Noah in the cart and said “Buddy, Mommy really doesn’t feel so good today.”

His reply? “Mommy, you need a vacation.”

Damn straight, kiddo.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Straight outta Chicago

The following conversation was had between myself and a lovely employee of the Alderman's office, read: Chicago accent straight out of an SNL skit.

Me: "Hello. My name is Sara Smith and I'm a resident in your Ward. I'm looking to do some minor debris removal from our basement this weekend and would like to use a Bagster as our dumpster. How do I go about getting the proper authorization to put the Bagster on the street?"

Alderman's employee/life-long Chicagoan: "Yous gots to call the dumpster place, ma'am."

Me: "Right, but I am not using a dumpster. It's a Bagster. It’s a giant waste bag that you can buy at Home Depot, put it out on the street, fill it up, and then call Waste Management to pick it up. It's smaller than a dumpster. I assume I need a permit or authorization to have it on the street?"

Him: "I’s don't know about this Bagster business. You don't need no permit. Eh, yous gots to call Streets and San. Yeah, theys over der can help yah. At Streets and San."

Me: "So you can't help me figure out what I need?"

Him: "That's whatta just told yah. Yous gots to call Streets and San. Call Marty, yeah, Marty Casey, he's your guy."

Me: "Ok, do you have a number where I can reach Mr. Casey?"

Him, shuffling papers: "Here's the number xxx-xxx-xxxx. Ask for Marty."

Me: "Right, ok, thank you."

Him: "You prolly just put it out der on de street and see what happens."

Me: "Yes, that is an excellent plan. Thank you for your wonderful assistance."

Me: "Is Mr. Casey available?"

Lady on the phone: "Who?"

Me: "Marty Casey? I was told to call him by my alderman's office."

Lady: "Oh yah, Marty? I don't know where he is. Call back in an hour."

Me: "Right. Obviously."
The End.

Marty never did call me back...I'm just so SURPRISED.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Such a Lush

Just in case you haven't checked in lately, Style Lush has a brand new look and some fabulous new posts! 

Also from the creators of Style Lush is the just launched Food Lush
From their first post: Food Lush isn't just a recipe blog or a blog written by a bunch of expert foodies, but if you love eating, cooking, or just straight talking about food, we think this will be the food blog for you.

Hop on over and say hi! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Apple Pickin'

Two years ago, Labor Day 2008. I am STILL getting that look on a daily basis. Things don't change much, do they?

A friend and I took Noah apple picking this past Labor Day and it was by far one of the best days he and I have had together. He loved running up and down the rows of trees, picking out the best apples to put in the bag, and devouring freshly baked apple cider donuts (deep-fried heaven, seriously). 

He insisted on pulling the wagon for about a foot until 
he was realized the odds were against him.

His thought process: Wait. You mean I can actually 

I love this one. Just LOVE it.

He pulled on this one for a good five minutes 
before it gave in and popped off the tree. 
I'm pretty sure he almost fell flat on his butt.

The apples were soon forgotten once 
he spied this tractor. Boys and their toys. 

This weekend it's pumpkin pickin' time. And my birthday. Just in case you forgot. I sure love fall!

Tell me: what are your favorite fall activities? Are you an apple and pumpkin pickin' fiend like myself or do you prefer your fall weekends full of football and perhaps a pie? Oooooh pie...

Friday, September 17, 2010


Thank you for all your fun answers! It seems most people change into comfy clothes right away, are mixed on the exfoliation (though I know for sure a couple of you use this as do I...two birds, one stone and whatnot), prefer flats to heels, and wear simple jewelry for day-to-day and chunky for fun. We are all alike, are we not?

Noah and I are home today. He had quite the stuffy nose yesterday and didn't nap at all at school so I figured today was a good day to lay low and get some solid rest in. What is incredibly foreign to me is being home when I feel FINE. It's like I called in sick to work but am really lying about it and am watching crap daytime tv instead. I feel a little...sneaky. Obviously SOMEONE has to stay home with a semi-sick kid and being his MOTHER it makes sense that person is me, but it still feels like I'm taking advantage.

So instead of trotting off to work and school this morning, Noah and I lounged in bed for a while, watched a little Sprout and Disney, showered (I amazed myself with that one), and headed out to do some errands that have been put off for weeks. It's wild what you can get done in two hours when you're not at work. And now Noah is sleeping for what I hope will be a multiple hours long nap while I finish laundry and vacuuming and the dishes and general merriment on the home front.

I miss this a little...the being home with my little guy and getting stuff done. The grind of working outside the home and being a parent wears you down so it's days like this when it feels good to recharge. I know working is the right option for us...but these reminders of days gone by are slightly bittersweet.

Enjoy your weekends, friends. I'll definitely be enjoying mine.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oooh fun! *clap clap*

I'm stealing this from Not Raising Brats who stole it from K who got it from her big brain and now it is here. If you would, humor me and answer the following questions:

1. If you work outside of the home, do you change your clothes right when you walk in the door or not until you get in your jammies?

2. Do you exfoliate (pertaining to your facial routine) on a regular basis?

3. What is your very favorite pair of shoes? Links are encouraged.

4. Do you prefer chunky jewelry or simple and understated pieces?

Have at it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lil' stinker, seriously

Noah's taken a slight interest in the potty so we've been doing some diaper-free time lately to encourage the using of the potty. Also, the dog has taken to pooping (would you prefer doo-dooing?) in my family room on a regular basis because she's pissed at me for going back to work or something ridiculous...regardless, she gets yelled at a lot. Keep both of these developments in mind. Also, who wants to come over HERE for dinner? Anyone? No?

So the other day we arrived home from work/school and did the whole "No, Lily! No pooping in the house!" dance while wagging my finger back and forth at her and cleaning it up. Later that evening, Noah was having some diaper-free time while playing with his toys in the family room and Tim and I were on our respective computers in the dining room. All of the sudden I hear Noah's fast footsteps coming toward us and I hear him start saying "No, Lily! No pooping in the house!" Noah arrives in the dining room, buck naked, saying "Mommy, Lily pooped in the house. No pooping in the house!  Bad girl!"

Of course I immediately jump up to investigate and I see the dog come trotting into the room from the OPPOSITE side of the house from the family room. Hmmmm. Lo and behold, I find a small mess RIGHT where I left Noah after removing his diaper. Seems to me someone has learned the time-honored tradition of lying to the parents and blaming it on the dog. Lil' stinker, indeed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Great Daycare Debacle: Part 3 (and The End)

We went on like that for a few weeks: text messages from our caregiver every time Noah so much as threw a fit and negative reports when I picked him up in the evenings. Our energy and "bullshit handling" reserves were dwindling fast. On Wednesday, July 21st, the day after Noah's 2nd birthday, the shit hit the fan, the straw finally  broke the camel's back. I received an urgent text message that Noah had hit the baby with a wooden block and had left a bad attention was requested that evening to address the matter. When I arrived to pick up Noah, she thrust the baby at me and pointed out his bruise. There was a small cut and bruise and of course I felt terrible that Noah hit him. I expressed how sorry I was and asked what I could do to remedy the situation.

She informed me that she was concerned about Noah's aggressive behaviors, that she had two more infants starting in a couple of weeks and she was worried that Noah would hit the infants and how was she to explain that to the parents? This is the point when I nearly lost my shit with this woman. Instead I clammed up while I listened to her tell me she needed to see a major improvement in Noah's behavior by the time the infants started or...but she never said what the "or" result would be. Good thing I heard it loud and clear: we had two weeks to shape up or (implied) ship out.

At this point I gathered up Noah, mumbled some more apologies (like a big ol' wuss) and loaded Noah into the car to head home. Once home, I broke down. I called Tim crying that our son was aggressive and anti-social and what happened to our sweet, kind baby? Being the smart man he is, he gently asked me why I thought the problem was only with Noah and perhaps had I considered SHE was the one with the issues? Good point. I decided to write her an email asking, as clear as day, how she planned to keep the infants and toddlers safe, separate and engaged at the same time. I figured that was a good question to ask (again). Her answer: there is only one of her and they will all play and be together other than at nap time. Well then. Do you think she had considered the ramifications of having three immobile infants and two highly active toddlers in the same room all day long? How would she ever be able to manage all the children and meet all their needs, alone? I know there are some in-home caregivers who are masters at this...ours was not.

Tim set his mind to looking for a new daycare for Noah while I was willing to work it out with her (again with the desperate, sheesh). We went back the next day, Noah was a good boy all day, but when it came time for me to pick him up, we had another (and I didn't know at the time, but final) discussion about Noah's behavior. Her tune changed and drastically. Rather than telling me we had to change Noah's behaviors in a matter of days, she began to say how she thought Noah would really benefit from a more structured, school-like setting because he's so smart and she felt she wasn't going to be able to give him the attention he needed what with all the infants coming soon. Now, instead of us getting fired, we were being pushed to resign. Sneaky.

That very next day I called two daycares thinking there wasn't a chance in hell we would get in. Remember, wait lists are the norm. One daycare called back. They had a last minute opening for August 1st in their 2 year old "preschool", would we like to take a tour? Hell yes we would! The tour was that Friday, by Friday afternoon we were turning in our application, by Friday evening we had informed our caregiver Noah's last day would be the 30th. He started at his new school on the 2nd of August and we haven't looked back.

We are absolutely in love with Noah's new "preschool". It is clean, bright, structured, well-appointed and most of all, Noah has great reports everyday (well, he did bite a 3 year old one time but that was totally in self-defense...the kid is like twice his size). And you know what? The teachers handled it. They didn't freak out and call me. They didn't let that one instance affect how they perceived Noah moving forward. They adore him and tell me so. They tell me how he's thriving and learning so much and how they enjoy him. Noah skips into his classroom without a backward glance or any tears. He brings home art projects and can spell S-T-O-P. He can count to 20 and recognize the numbers. He can sing his alphabet and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He's growing. He's learning. He's doing so very well.

Maybe she was right in the end. But that's not the point. The point is that SHE was the caregiver, SHE was the one who positioned herself as the expert in childcare, SHE was the one who decided to open the daycare with mixed ages. And yet, we were the ones made to feel terrible about our poorly behaved child. There were so many things that didn't happen the way I wished they had: I wish I had taken more time vetting her out, I wish I had interviewed more caregivers, I wish I had allowed myself to look at "centers" rather than thinking an in-home would be a better environment for Noah, I wish I had paid better attention to WHY Noah was acting out rather than trying to quickly "fix" him when nothing was broken. I can't take it back, but oh how I wish I could. I wish I had trusted myself a little more and listened to my instincts when they said to "walk away" after that first day.

I'm constantly learning and evolving in this new(ish) role as Mother. I don't have all the answers, I don't always know which way is right or wrong, but I do know that I my son depends on me to take the best care of him that I can. I am so grateful to his new teachers for helping me do that...and in a way, I am grateful to our old caregiver for pushing us to leave. We never would have ended up where we are otherwise. I am learning to trust myself a little more and feel more comfortable in these shoes I wear. If Noah's happiness is any indication, then I'm doing a pretty good job.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I have to interrupt the daycare saga for some very important, Grandma-requested, photos. It seems I have been remiss in posting enough photos to satisfy the weekly quota. My deepest apologies (to my mother as she's the puppet master).

Chicago Air & Water Show 2010:

Yes, son, it was loud. Your father was in heaven.

Goober alert!

Who doesn't love a pair of ill-fitting, neon orange shades?

Friday, post-work, pre-dinner:

Why yes, this IS how city children run through sprinklers.


Almost made it!

Annnnd, PAUSE!

See ya, Mommy!

How was YOUR weekend?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Great Daycare Debacle: Part 2

Where were we? Oh, right. I wasn’t feeling so confident with our decision to put Noah at the in-home daycare. I spent many hours convincing myself this was a great decision and convincing everyone I told about it. My mother was dubious once she heard there would be three infants, two toddlers and one caregiver. Hey, Mom, next time? A little louder, please. Mothers always know. 

Alas, we moved ahead with our decision and the first day of daycare was upon us. Now, what would you expect from your care provider on your first day taking your child to her home? Even more specifically, HER first day being in business? Would you expect that she would be showered and dressed? Would you expect her home to be immaculately clean? Would you expect her to answer the door looking bright-eyed and chipper? Call me crazy because that’s what I expected but it wasn’t what I got. Instead, I was greeted by a sleepy, pajama’d woman with a floor covered in Cheerios and cat hair (warning no. 6). Looking back, now I know why leaving Noah that first day made me want to curl up in a ball. 

Here’s the thing: she seemed to be a really nice person. I truly did trust her to take care of my child. I just happened to overlook the things that should have been bright red warning signs in the name of securing childcare and getting my life sorted out in a quick fashion. The first week went by relatively smoothly. We had talked up going to daycare so Noah was excited every morning. I was getting great reports each evening when I went to pick him up: he was napping well, eating well, and having a fun time playing with her little one. There were walks to see the trains go by, and park visits, and art projects. By the end of the first week I was feeling better about our decision...Noah seemed happy, therefore I was happy.

How soon things changed. The second week started off well but by the end there were tears and they were all mine. You see, I was starting to get reports during the day (by text message) that Noah was having some behavioral issues. Reports that ended in “we need to talk when you get here this afternoon.” I don’t know about you but being on the receiving end of those messages was like a punch in the guts. What was happening to my mellow, easy-going baby? Who was this toddler with “behavioral issues”? Of course we were having our share of not-quite-two year old behavior--shrieking, acting out, tantrums, etc. All actions I considered perfectly normal for his age and development. Then why were these actions worthy of “discussions” every afternoon? Why wasn’t she handling it? In my opinion, that’s part of the job as a caregiver: you handle the issues.

Then Noah started to hit. And then he bit our caregiver. Twice. My heart began to race on the train ride to pick him up, never knowing what kind of report I was going to get at the end of the day. Some days the text messages would set me up for disappointment in Noah’s behavior. Other days she would wait until I stepped into her home and unleash the day’s events on me. She was never cruel or heartless when talking with me about Noah but something started to change over the course of the next couple of weeks. I began to hear more negative reports and less positive ones (warning no. 7...I’m sure you’re now wondering why the hell I wasn’t catching on. Hindsight is always 20/20, is it not?). We exchanged emails and had conversations about how we could all help improve his behavior and yet each day was getting worse. Noah was acting out more and more and her attitude towards him continued to worsen.

I hate to admit this but MY attitude towards my son was worsening as well. After a long day of work, of commuting on a crowded train, I would receive an endless monologue of Noah’s transgressions from that day: hitting, ramming himself into walls, throwing wooden blocks, acting aggressively towards the baby, not listening, refusing to obey in time-outs, interrupting naps, so on and so forth. My reserves were drained by 5 pm so hearing all this just made me mad, mad at Noah. That was so wrong of me. I know that now. But in those moments, I just wanted to scream “Mommy had a hard day too! Can’t you just listen and make this all easier???” Instead, I called friends, some of you. I called my mother. Tim and I spent hours talking about it at night after Noah was snuggled in bed. I’m pretty sure I was the only one who thought the problem was with Noah and not with our caregiver. I wanted to believe that the place I had chosen to send my baby, my darling son, was the right place for him. Sadly, that was so far from the truth.

To be continued...

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Great Daycare Debacle: Part 1 (of who knows how many)

Noah started at his second new daycare on August 2nd. That’s two daycares in three months. This is a lesson in listening to your instincts, in following your gut, in paying attention to your “mama” radar. It’s true...when you give birth you also grow an antenna on your head that is on full-alert mode 24/7. It flashes green or red depending on the circumstances and is a constant buzz in your ear. I didn’t listen to that buzz and I wish I had.

I got my job back on May 9th with a start date of June 7th. We had one month to figure out childcare for Noah. One month in a city where daycare wait lists are two years long, decent nannies are hard to find, and lord help you if you don’t have Grandma living nearby to come watch your kids. Nothing like a little fire under your ass, am I right? But let’s back up a week, shall we? Before I went to my meeting with my former employer I started looking into childcare. I knew I would be working SOMEWHERE, I just didn’t know it would happen so fast. I found our first daycare provider on Craigslist. I know some people think Craigslist is populated by serial killers but I have had great luck with it as a resource. Why not give it a shot for childcare too?

Her ad was well-written and linked to the well-designed website she had built for her business. She was a young, seemingly energetic woman who was just starting out in the in-home daycare business (warning no. 1). She had a background in elementary education and art. She had a young, infant son who looked cute and well-cared for. Her home was a mile from our house and a mile from the train I would need to take to work. She was taking two infants and two toddlers in addition to her son. She had one toddler spot left. This is me thinking “Score!”. I called right away and set up an appointment for the following afternoon, May 8th.

I walked into her townhome and right away noticed that it wasn’t in the best shape (warning no. 2). She had told me over the phone that it was a rental but had permission from her landlord to run her daycare out of the space. Perhaps I am too forgiving because then she told me her townhome was for sale and they may need to relocate come March. I forged on. She took me to the dedicated play space set up for the looked cute and well-appointed with toys and activities, if a little on the small side for a couple active toddlers and three babies. She was sweet and reminded me of one of my good friends. On a personality level, we clicked pretty quickly and fell into an easy conversation. Her rates were affordable and she would be feeding the kids two meals and all snacks. She said there was a deposit if we wanted the spot and warned that she had a couple more appointments set up with parents for the toddler spot so I should let her know right away if we wanted it. She wasn’t taking kids until July 1st at the earliest because she hadn’t gotten her DCFS license yet (warning no. 3). I told her I had an interview the next day and would let her know.

I went home and told Tim that I liked it, it would be fine (warning no. 4), we should secure the spot. We decided to wait until after my meeting with my former employer before deciding what to do. The next day I went to my meeting and got my job back with a start date one month away. And then I went home and panicked. I knew we would never find anything we could afford in such a short period of time and that we should take the in-home spot. But I didn’t feel 100% confident that the in-home was the right place for Noah (warning no. 5). To be honest, I didn’t know what it was, I couldn’t identify the feeling I was experiencing. I chalked it up to being terrified about someone else taking care of Noah in my absence and needing to adjust to the idea of working again. In hindsight, it wasn’t going back to work or the fear of change that was really nagging at me.

I called her the following Monday and asked to drop off the deposit and contract. We secured our spot at the in-home daycare with a start date of June 21st. My first day of work was June 7th so my sister took one for the team and stayed with us to help take care of Noah for those two weeks. We love her for it. I was waiting for the wave of relief to wash over me. I got my old job back in a matter of a week, we found a daycare solution for Noah that seemed perfect (on paper), and things should have been falling into place. That wave of relief never came.

To be continued...