Friday, March 28, 2014

Purging

I just archived my entire blog (again) and purged over half the posts.  I use this system because I still have the posts and comments in an XML file and can (and do) re-import them to a super secret location to be stored forever.

I also do it because I like to keep the publicly-visible blog tidied up in case weirdos wander through.  I don't keep a lot of pictures of us up long-term.  It just makes me feel better.  Paranoid?  Perhaps. But I don't regret it.

What a long week.  Work was challenging and the kiddo is not only getting over a cold, but now getting into seasonal allergies AND experiencing some sort of cognitive explosion.  Way cool and way annoying all at once.  I figure by this time next week he'll be doing pre-algebra...

I need to blog about a new adoption case that I am trying to help out with.  Unfortunately, it's almost midnight and I'm literally nodding off at my keyboard.  It'll have to wait for the weekend!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

No One Tells You About Three...

As another weekend full of family bonding time comes to a close, let me tell you something about three year olds.

They are brilliant, adorable, charming, cuddly, energetic, cute as heck, independent, adventurous, inquisitive, sweet, lovable, and hilarious.

They are apparently also part mogwai.

You remember, mogwai, right?  They were the irresistible little creatures in the 1980s movie, Gremlins.  All day they looked like this:


Cute, cuddly little things.  Then, at midnight (actually, I think it was if they were fed after midnight, but whatever), they would transform into this:


I'm willing to bet my next paycheck (except my Starbucks money) that the guy who dreamed up mogwai had most definitely raised a three year old.  Except you don't have to feed them after midnight for this to happen.  Seems the only criteria for transformation is the presence of oxygen.

Bedtime tonight was a perfect example.  The kid behaved well for 95% of the rest of the day, which is really impressive for a three year old.  Then bedtime comes, and his head starts to spin in circles.  I swear.  He did okay through jammies and toothbrushing, but as soon as it was time to - GASP - lie down, all bets were off.  Cute little fuzzy creature becomes scaly, toothy monstrosity in the blink of an eye.

So, I used the system that has been working for us.  I left the room.  I calmly told him that he needed some alone time to think about things, and I left.  I set a timer for three minutes, which doesn't sound like very long, but for him it is.  Much sobbing ensued.  And the kid was upset, too.  Ha!  Okay, I didn't cry this time, but sometimes I do.  I hate this whole process and I won't miss it when it's gone.  (Please tell me it will be gone someday?!)

When I went back in, we continued our routine of singing bedtime songs together.  He started getting edgy again and just as I was about to give him a second period of alone time, he lunged out of bed and said, "I wanna huuuuug!"

In that moment, I realized he actually did need me to show him some affection.  Though he can be a difficult little thing at times (and only at times, we are so very fortunate that way), he still needs me to be the person he can always call on for a dose of comfort.  And though I was still a little riled from his previous outburst, and was trying to hide it, I couldn't deny him that.  He asked me to sit down.  He crawled up into my lap and snuggled up to me with every inch of his body that he could.  He sighed contently as I rocked him back and forth in the dark in the middle of his bedroom floor.

And then, the creature who'd been screaming at me minutes before and demanding that Daaaaaaddy do night-nights... whispered to me...

"Mommy?  I love you to the moon and back."

He'd never said that to me before.  Hubby and I both tell him that all the time, but this was not a reply to a statement from me.  It was completely organic and quite obviously genuine.  And in that second, I was confused, because I was completely melted by his sweetness, and also feeling like it must be a trick.  I rocked him a while later, set him gently in his bed, covered him up, told him I loved him, and was delighted at the lack of protest as I left the room.

In fifteen minutes, we'd run the full gamut of funny, cute, hyper, sweet, furious, devastated, and back to content again.

And that, in a nutshell, is what it's like to parent a three year old.

Monday, March 10, 2014

They Should Call it Murphy Day...

Yes, this.  This day right here.  The Monday after Daylight Savings Time.  They really should call it Murphy Day.  As in Murphy's Law.  As in, whatever can go wrong, will, and so will twenty other things.

Seriously!

Daylight Savings is difficult enough with a toddler.  Here you have a creature who lives and breathes by structure and routine.  Suddenly and for no apparent reason, you change his clock and just expect him to automatically be ready to nap, eat, bathe, play, or throw his normal tantrum... an hour earlier than normal.  No explanation and no transition, just BAM.  You're going to bed an hour early.

This all goes over like a turd in the punch bowl, people.

Naptime and bedtime were both a fight yesterday, but we got through it, as we always do.  Fast forward to this morning.  I normally get up entirely too early (by my standards), which is 5:15, but today was basically 4:15.  That should be a crime.

And the day sort of went downhill from there.

I started to write a lengthy and detailed account of my day, but then I changed my mind.  Who wants to read every painful detail of a crappy day?  Not even me.  So here are the highlights.

  • The dryer guy didn't call as promised, and the lady at the office was completely rude to me when I called to check on things.  
  • She insisted they called me twice.  They did not.  This same company fed me the exact same line two months ago with regard to a dishwasher repair appointment.
  • I had computer problems at work.
  • I ended up taking a 2-1/2 hour lunch break because of the poor organization of the repair company.
  • I accidentally sat on a banana.  (Who does that?)  Baby food, anyone?
  • On my way back to work, I noticed the gas gauge in the car was on "E," which just completely agitated me, because I was already absurdly late and I am not the one who usually drives the car.
  • I decided to stop at Costco for gas for the first time, only to be rudely informed by a machine that my PIN was invalid. 
  • (I'd used that pin 10 minutes prior with no problems.)
  • Costco does not take credit cards, so I continued on to work, hoping not to run out of gas.
  • When I got back to work, a co-worker who was in the parking lot and saw me drive by walked over to my car and I watched in my mirror as he put my gas cap on and closed the gas door.
  • SIGH.  
  • Now I'm that idiot woman who drives two miles with her gas cap flapping in the breeze.
  • I almost fell over in the bathroom thanks to my ongoing ear issues.
  • I sped to another gas station after work - by this time the warning light had come on - and once again I was told that my PIN was no good.  Thankfully this time I was at a regular gas station that took credit cards.  Best I can figure, I had a half gallon of gas left.  No bueno.
And then... I made my way to daycare.  I walked out on to the playground where a half dozen rosy-cheeked little people played as snow flurries fell.  My little person spotted me immediately, yelled "MOMMY!" and ran all the way across the playground, arms outstretched, and flung himself around my legs.

Suddenly every one of those bullet points up there was forgotten.  

Sometimes in a total crapfest of day, that's all it takes.

I'm so lucky.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Things I Miss


When it came to contemplating the move, as we did so intensely for such a prolonged period of time, I really thought that I had anticipated everything.  I thought it all through from start to finish.  Nevermind the fact that I'd never done this before; I was going to think of everything so that there would be no surprises.

I don't like surprises.

Well, except maybe flowers.  Or jewelry.  Or celebrations in my honor?!

Oh... ahem.  Sorry.

Apparently, my thinking-of-everything didn't work worth a hoot at all.  Look what happened with the house, and the daycare, and a bunch of other little stuff.  Overall though, I think we rolled with the punches pretty well.  And as much as I know it's obnoxious to pat one on one's own back, I am actually really proud of how I handled most of this move.  I am a creature of stability and routine and I don't like surprises (except, well, you know)... and I tend to get really off-kilter fairly easily when those things get disturbed.  For the most part, I think I held it together fairly well, with the exception of a few brief dark periods that I now realize were just little fits of "I hate change" oozing out.

Now that we've been here for several months, new routines are developing nicely, and a level of comfort is returning, I'm starting to realize that there are things that I miss that I never could have anticipated.

For example, I miss my favorite radio station from back home!  Sure, I can hear the same music anywhere, but I miss the DJ's so much, particularly the morning ones.  I guess I took them for granted before, with their perfect mix of news, weather, and funny banter.  The DJ's on the two similar genre stations here are... meh.  You know, whatever, they're fine, but they aren't the ones I'm used to.  Thankfully I have an iHeartRadio app on my phone that allows me to listen in, but it's just not practical to do it every morning.

I've also learned that for the past thirty-(mumble) years, I have taken for granted the fact that everywhere I would go back home, I would see at least one familiar face, and often a whole bunch of familiar faces.  Because I'd always had that, it never occurred to me that I might miss it.  In fact, it used to irritate me.  I remember telling hubby during the pre-move frenzy, "won't it be nice to go grocery shopping and not see a single person we know?!"

And as much as I do enjoy that sometimes, other times it kinda bums me out.  Everything is new for me lately.  New job, new company, new house, new city, new school for the boy, new traffic patterns, new neighbors, new routines, new schedule, new doctors, new grocery store... and it turns out I really miss... familiarity.  A few times I've seen people from back home at work (some people in our industry tend to travel between here and there a lot to work), I've been so excited to see them.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I've apparently taken to hugging people I normally would not randomly hug.  One guy I've known for 15 years, but have never been friends with per se, rather just a customer of mine, surprised me at work the other day and before I knew what happened, I had actually thrown an arm around him.  Oops.

I miss our coffee ladies back home.  I miss the cashiers at my favorite grocery store.  (Heck, I miss knowing where everything is!)  I miss the comfort of knowing that if I needed help with something, even just some company, I could call any one of dozens of people and they'd be there in ten minutes or less.  I do have some awesome relatives in the new city and I know they'd do the same, but even they seem... new.  I miss Aidan's pediatrician and the comfort of knowing she's there if I need her.

I miss places with special meanings from my past.  Like the house I grew up in, the hospital where Aidan was born and my friends and relatives had their babies, the place hubby and I had our first kiss, even the place where I whacked a sea gull with my 1985 Toyota Camry when I was 21.  (Long and funny story... I am an animal lover for sure, but I still maintain I was just cleansing the gene pool of a terribly idiotic bird.)

Most of all, I miss my friends and family.  Especially my parents.  I hate feeling like I ditched them.  They were supportive - they always are - but they were also honest that they were sad.  I hate that.  I remember calling my dad one night shortly before the decision was made.  I was fighting tears and told him I didn't know if I could leave them like that (as they don't really have anyone else nearby to help with things, or if something happens).  The self-inflicted guilt was pretty intense.

You know what my dad said to me?

"Honey, if you stay here because of us, then we are keeping you here, and that's not okay.  You have your own life and your own family and you need to do what is best for you now.  We'll be just fine."

I lost the fight with the tears!  That is typical of them - encouraging me even when it could be to their own detriment in some way.  That made me feel both better about our decision and worse for taking Aidan away from them (and them from him).

But the decision was made shortly thereafter and we've tried not to look back.  I once heard that your car has a big windshield and a small rear view mirror because you are supposed to spend most of your time looking forward, not back.  I've never been extremely good at that, but I'm working on it.

I think what's keeping me going through the rest of this time frame full of realizing what I miss... is making plans to go back to visit all those people, places and things.  In less than three months I should be back home for a few days.  I'm a little nervous that it will make me more homesick, but mostly I'm really excited to get back to that familiarity, even if only briefly.

Maybe I'll go grocery shopping while I'm there, just so I can bump into a half dozen old friends.

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Second Favorite Holiday?!

I have a confession to make.  

I spent today in bed instead of earning my keep.


Don't worry, I won't leave you hanging like that.  If you've been reading for a long time, you may remember that I have extremely sensitive ears.  Yes, in terms of hearing, but even more so in terms of the other functions of ears, like balance and equilibrium and not feeling like you're falling off a flat surface all the time.  My balance issues come and go, swinging wildly from no problems at all to landing in the ICU a decade ago with atrial fibrillation brought on by acute labyrinthitis.  Good stuff.

One of the things that worried me about the move was what would happen to my ears.  I was moving from a very dry climate several hundred miles from any sizeable bodies of water, to a town right on the ocean.  I wondered what the humidity and elevation changes might do to my ears.  Much to my delight, I had almost no issues for the first couple of months after the move. 

Unfortunately, that didn't last.  I've had several bouts of vertigo lately and have been generally wobbly, bumping into things here and there and feeling a little unsteady.  I've just been riding it out, because eventually it always goes away.  Sometimes it takes hours.  Sometimes it takes weeks.  This morning, though, I woke up to a severe bout of it, and I just could not force myself to try to stay upright.  So as much as I hate to do it, I called in sick, which is something I hate to do and that I haven't done in many months.

I'm not at liberty to discuss the day's activities (*cough* naps, Lifetime movies and HGTV *cough*) except to say that for the first time in a long while, I hopped on to Pinterest.  Ohhhh, Pinterest.  You know, the place where we all pin outfits we love, recipes we can't wait to try, and craft ideas we have no intention of ever actually doing anything with?  Yeah.  That.  I only made it through the first half dozen pins in my feed before I ran across something that made me grin...

So we made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas (which I should blog about - since they were my first holidays away from home, ever) and Valentine's Day... which means that my second favorite holiday of the year is coming up.  I didn't even think of it until Pinterest pointed it out.  

EASTER!

Okay, yes, it's two months away.  (Who decided it should be so late this year?!  I'm going to write to the committee.)  I can start getting excited now.  Executive decision.

I love Easter!  I love the meaning of the holiday, the explosion of pastel everything in the stores leading up to it, coloring eggs, picking out goodies for baskets, having excuses to bake and eat adorable things... I love it all.  And this year will be exceptionally fun for our family, for reasons I will blog about later.


So when I saw this picture of Bunny Bum Pancakes on Pinterest, I nearly squealed in delight.  Quietly, you know, so as to not upset my ears.  But still.  I'm thinking Aidan will need to have these soon.  He'd love them!  You should go grab the recipe from The Chick'n Coop and make some too.

What's your favorite thing about Easter?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dun Dun Dunnnnn... (The Daycare Saga)

One of the biggest reasons I was hesitant to commit to the move is because Aidan was in an incredible daycare/preschool back home.  He'd been in the same place since he first entered daycare at four months old.  The teachers knew him, the administrators knew him, and a bunch of the other parents did too.  This school had the perfect mix of structure and freedom for him.  His teacher (from when he turned two until we moved) absolutely adored him and obviously loved her job, too.  It showed.  She pretty much potty trained him for us.  I trusted her implicitly with my child - and the number of people on that list is very small.

I battled with this, constantly, for a long time.  What if we moved and didn't find another good school for him?  What if uprooting him from this school damaged him or set him back in some way?  Sure, he's only three, but you just never know.  There was so much around the corner, beyond where I could see, that I began to wonder if I could be sure of anything at all anymore.

But what was the alternative?  To stay where it was familiar and predictable and stable... and where we were hemorrhaging money each month, with our reserves rapidly disappearing?  Where he could only play outside for half the year?  Where we'd be choosing to stay in the rut we were in, with no opportunities to better ourselves on the horizon?

Ultimately I had to take the plunge, but the anxiety and guilt involved was immense.  I had a friend tour a couple of daycares for me ahead of time.  I also learned that an old friend from high school had her kids at one of those two centers, and absolutely loved it.  She gave me details about the place, the teachers, the atmosphere, and it all sounded perfect for us.  Between those two very strong recommendations, I went ahead and paid a deposit to save a spot for him.

The plan was to arrive in the new city on Sunday night and to visit the new daycare on Monday to let him get used to it.  In fact, we planned to visit each day that week so he would (hopefully) feel comfortable attending all day on our first day of work, the following Monday.  As you know, that's not how things happened.  I believe it was Wednesday before we got to go visit.  We were invited to come for lunch time and stay with him while he ate.  I loved this idea!

The admins at the new center were very friendly and welcoming.  The classroom was clean and brightly decorated, which made me happy.  The teacher seemed very nice.  But within five minutes of walking in, we both felt uptight.  The room was just in chaos.  Of course, if you put 20 three-year-olds in a room together, you're going to have a lot of activity going on.  But this was beyond that.  They were just sort of running around like crazy people, with no direction at all, and the teacher didn't seem at all bothered by this.

We watched this same sort of thing continue for almost an hour.  I noticed the kids were rough with each other, and there was one kid in particular who was downright violent.  Within 15 minutes of sitting down in the classroom the first time, I saw him pull a little girl's hair, chuck a toy halfway across the room, shove another kid down to the floor, and club a kid over the head with a plastic airplane toy.  My stomach knotted.

Aidan was nervous and didn't feel comfortable jumping in to play.  This was a red flag, of course, but as I always seem to do, I second guessed it.  "We can't compare this to the room back home because that was a two-year-old room and this is a three-year-old room."  "We need to keep an open mind."  "We're just extra anxious because of all that's happened with the housing situation."  "He's just thrown off because of the move."

When it was time for lunch, the kids all scurried to the tables and sat down.  The teachers donned plastic gloves and passed out paper plates and cups.  Then out came the food.  I was excited to see what the food was like.  I found myself displeased with the menu.  That first day, it was bologna sandwiches consisting of white bread, a slice of bologna, a slice of cheese (the Kraft singles, individually wrapped type).  There were also baked beans straight from a can and pineapple rings.

Once again, I forced myself to try to have an open mind.  "It's only one meal a day."  "I grew up on food like this, it's fine."  "We're saving over $150 a month from the old school, they have to cut costs somewhere."  But I just never quite got over that.  At the very least, couldn't they use a whole wheat bread and some sort of real meat?!

I spoke with both the teachers in the classroom as well as both of the center's administrators about the aggressive child's behavior.  The teachers acknowledged there was a problem and said they would talk to the child.  The administrators only offered an explanation of, "well, his mother works here..."  I didn't see how that was relevant, and I also thought it was inappropriate to use that as an excuse.  But again - we were sort of stuck without any other options for a short time at least, so we reluctantly decided to go ahead and enroll him, and see how it went.

The next two days' visits went very much the same as the first... including extremely similar lunch menus.  I noticed that the food being served was not the same as the food on the menu that the school sent home each month.  The menu suggested there were hot meals being served, but I never saw anything like that in the classroom.

We eventually made it to our first day of work.  Much to my shock and relief, Aidan didn't cry when we dropped him off.  He seemed a little nervous, but the teacher was ready to help and he seemed okay.

That would be the very last time he willingly accepted being dropped off at that school.

To make a much longer story short, we started seeing red flags all over the place.  The biggest problem was that the violent kid we had observed in the first visit was actually even worse than we had seen.  Over the next few days, in just the few minutes we spent at the school picking Aidan up, we saw this child:

  • Throw another child on the floor, climb on him to pin him down, and hit him repeatedly in the head
  • Chase another child around the room until that child gave up and stopped, then make a fist, rear back on one foot, and throw his full body weight into a punch to that child’s face
  • Follow a child around the room kicking his legs
  • Grab a child’s wrist and hit the back side of his elbow repeatedly, trying to bend it backwards
  • Throw a child on the floor, place the child in a head lock and hit him repeatedly

That wasn't the worst of it.

We found ourselves particularly disturbed by the fact that the way these incidents were handled – if even seen by teachers – was a simple, distracted, non-emphatic, “don’t do that.”  We never once saw this child engaged in a conversation with a teacher about his behavior, nor in a time out or other disciplinary action.

Once again I expressed concerns to both teachers and administration.  One teacher did inform me that there are problems at home.  She went on to tell me that the child’s father was absent when he was born, then came into the child’s life, then left again recently. While we had sympathy for this child and what he must be going through, the center appeared largely uninterested in actually addressing this very inappropriate and unsafe behavior which, to us, was unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Aidan was in a constant state of agitation and anger that we'd never experienced before.  He stopped sleeping well and cried out in the middle of the night a lot.  One evening during his second week there, our barely three year old told us, "my new friends not nice, my new friends hit me.  I want a new school."  That was much more direct and articulate than he'd ever been before.  We were stunned.  And then I couldn't stop it.  I lost it.  The guilt was ridiculous.  I'd known better, and I'd shoved my gut feeling to the back of my mind instead of listening to it.  And it was having a negative impact on my kid.

Parental guilt is the absolute worst.

The morning after he told me he wanted a new school, I began frantically calling all over town looking for new places.  We drove by three different centers after we picked him up that night.  We both instantly got a good feeling from one of them.  We toured it the next morning and enrolled him that afternoon, a Thursday, for a start date of Monday.  The new place reminded us a lot of the school he attended back home, which was a very good sign!

The guilt struck again as I realized that he would have no transition period at all.  We were both in our second week at our new jobs and I knew that taking time off would not go over well.  So that day and the next, we raced to pick him up after work, then raced to the new school to hang out there for the 15 minutes prior to closing so that he could at least see the place and meet his new teacher ahead of time.

Monday morning came and, once again, I was a ball of nerves and guilt.  I remember repeating to myself, "this cannot possibly be a step down from where he's been for the past two weeks."  I remember reassuring myself that at least NOW I was following my gut, which had to be a good thing.

Right?

Right!!  We dropped him off that morning and he was happy as a clam to be there.  The relief was almost as powerful as the guilt had been.  At pickup, same thing.  Happy boy!  The sleeping problems, attitude issues, hitting, and general difficulties with him vanished almost immediately.  It became really obvious that it wasn't the move that had caused those issues.  (Wouldn't you be pretty cranky if you got the crap kicked out of you at work every day and couldn't tell anyone about it??)

He's been there for three months now.  His language skills have completely exploded and he's learned so much new stuff!  He loves all of his teachers and tells us every night what kind of fun stuff he got to do that day.  And whether he was the line leader or not (that's his favorite!).  I can't quite explain how much easier it is to concentrate on work when I know my kid is happy and well cared for.

Another moving complication bites the dust!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The New Design is Up!

Well, how do you like the new look?!

First, my hat's off to Ashbee Designs and Custom Blog Designs for the custom characters and blog design, respectively.  I'd never worked with Ashley at Ashbee before, but I was blown away by what a great job she did capturing all of our appearances and personalities!  She was super easy to work with and obviously loves what she does.

And, this is probably the 5th or 6th blog design that Diana at CBD has done for me and she always does such a great job.  Plus, she's a super nice lady who once drove a motorhome all the way to Alaska to meet me.  Okay, maybe that wasn't the purpose of her trip, but we did meet in person while she was here.  So she's extra special to me.

I was actually kind of sad to see my old design go.  I had that basic design for over 3-1/2 years and I kept it that long because I loved it.  However, as the kiddo has gotten older, and some other things have taken place, I have become more concerned about privacy and making sure that I'm not rolling out the red carpet nutjobs on the internet to find my family.  Therefore, I decided that the photos of us in my header image had to go, and that custom characters would be a fun substitute.  And because of their more 'cartoony' appearance, they just wouldn't have looked right with my old header and design.

I also abandoned my old tagline, which was "enjoying the gift of parenthood through open adoption."  This also wasn't a decision I took lightly, because in a way it's accurate.  In another way, though, it's not entirely true.  We do still have an open adoption (and would never change that) but it doesn't look like I had hoped it would.  We don't have as much contact as I'd like and... well, to respect everyone's privacy I suppose I shouldn't say much more.  I also found myself feeling pigeon-holed into only writing about parenthood or adoption, while also feeling awkward and sort of guilty about writing about nothing else.  And that's a big part of the reason I haven't blogged much the last year or more.  

The new tagline, seen in the header above, makes me feel much more free to write about a variety of other subjects, which makes me really happy.  I wanted badly to write about my involvement in the Baby Veronica case, for instance.  And I'm excited to feel like I can write about something in the news, or something I saw on TV, or whatever.  Writing is enjoyable for me and it's cathartic, but for a while now I haven't felt like this was the right place to do it.  So I changed that.  

Which brings me to a quick comment on our Valentine's Day. We're not huge Valentine's Day people anyway, but this year we didn't even go to dinner or anything.  We had to work all day and then decided to spend the evening as a family, playing trains and eating take & bake pizza.  Romantic?  No. My favorite way to spend an evening?  Pretty much.  Besides, nothing could have outdone the gift I received the day before.  Aidan (who is 3, for any new readers I may have) was standing at the bathroom mirror brushing his hair.  When he was done, I asked him how he looked.  He said, "happy!" So I flashed a cheesy grin in the mirror myself and asked, "how does Mommy look?"

"Pretty!!"

Cue the melting.  That's not a word we use a lot, so I'm not sure where it came from, but it hit me hard!  Just the other day, he told me that he got hurt and went to the doctor (we are big on making up stories lately) and that the doctor gave him a big bandaid, and then I kissed the owie and that made him all better.

My little boy thinks I'm pretty and that my kisses can fix him up better than a doctor can.

Hate to say, no amount of flowers or candy can top that.

Happy belated Valentine's Day!