Monday, August 19, 2013

Pressure cooker

Here we are in the last days of summer! There are still so many things I want to do with the kids and I am feeling anxious about Ben starting preschool five days a week. I keep thinking - these are the last days I will have to spend time with BOTH of my children. Which is, of course, ridiculous and not the slightest bit true - because we will still have every afternoon together.

In addition to time slipping right on by me, our funds appear to be going the same way. We had an AC leak this summer that led to exorbitant electric bills and an increase in our expenses. Also, I quit my job which eliminated that additional income (a pittance, but still...). So, I am continuing to check and recheck our  budget to try to find ways to eliminate additional expenses - staying home more, cooking rather than eating out, renting movies instead of downloading them, etc.

Of course, this is the time of year for spending. A's birthday is on the horizon, as well as the hubs milestone birthday, multiple in-law birthdays and (of course) Christmastime. However, my children want for next to nothing so I am hoping this will give us a chance to experience a leaner holiday season and hopefully help them to truly appreciate what they receive rather than being so overwhelmed by everything they get that they never play with any of it.

Recently, I've been debating getting another job. I think I am a person who does well with structure. As much as I would hate the additional demands on my time, we could definitely use the money. And the longer I go with out working, the more anxious I become that I will never be able to fully return to it. Of course, these thoughts are always followed by the subsequent guilt of "the kids will only be little for so long" and "If I work, I might miss out on so many important things" and "I should at least wait until BOTH kids are in school before finding a job" etc. It's the old familiar pull between work and family that I know we all have. Well, those of us with the XX chromosome at least! I am not sure men feel this conflict as acutely and I don't know that I will ever fully understand why. Whether it's societal or social or whatever, there is always this anxiety around making sure that I can catch every moment and milestone with the kids and still feel like I am not falling behind in my professional life. It's an impossible decision to make but one that we all must grapple with eventually and sometimes over and over and over.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Nap Treaty

One of the members of this household has given up napping. And it's not me. We have discovered recently that when Ben naps, he doesn't want to go to bed at night. He can stay up as late as 9:00-10:00 on a nap day but will go to bed by 7:30-8:00 if he skips his nap. I knew this day would be coming, I just didn't know when. I guess by all accounts, I should count my blessings as Ben is 4+ years old and many of my friends have reported letting go of nap time as early as 2 or 3. So, we are practicing quiet play. I get to write and indulge in my new favorite show - Call the Midwife - and he gets to play in his room with his hero toys, his tag reader and his leap pad. It is a learning experience for all as he continues to want to come out of his room to "ask questions" or for other various reasons. I am hopeful that after a few weeks of practice, he will be able to entertain himself for a minimum of an hour without interruption.

Meanwhile, the lack of downtime has caused me to struggle with finding time for myself and things I would like to be doing. Blogging is at the top of the list, obviously, but so are a lot of other things. I have many projects around the house that I would like to accomplish this summer - organizing my cabinets and rearranging my kitchen, purging the playroom (and the house in general) of detritus before our garage sale, rearranging furniture, painting multiple rooms, etc.

I have also really been wanting to spend more time in spiritual study. We have recently been having some struggles with our church and it has caused me to feel very disconnected from the Lord at a time in my life when I feel like I need more of Him in my life rather than less. I find myself feeling lost and detached during a time that we are struggling with the impending loss of a family member and my own medical issues. Times that I would ordinarily turn to bible study or worship on Sundays and find that I currently have neither. Our church has recently elected a new Senior Pastor and while I found him to be very engaging at first blush - that blush has worn off. He is what some would call a "visionary" and others might describe as "micromanaging". As a church employee, I was struggling to manage the needs of my family and balance the demands of my job and I was finding it difficult to adapt to all of the changes in the church. So, I resigned a few weeks ago. I was sad to go but I knew it was the right time for me to return to being a parishioner rather than an employee. I was hoping to get back to a place where I could enjoy worship, but unfortunately, the church politics is starting to make that difficult. Such that my husband and I have started considering another church. This is a very difficult decision for our family as we have many friends in  our church and have always thought of it as home, but have continued to feel marginalized by many of the recent changes. We are continuing to pray about it. The hubs (who was raised in a more conservative setting) is excited to try a new church and continues to point out that it can't hurt, it can only help. If we go to a church and love it - then we know we need to consider changing, and if we don't - then we know we are blessed to be where we are and will maybe feel a renewed connection to our own church. I won't deny he has a certain logic but I am still on the fence. In the meanwhile, I am going to continue to forage my own spiritual connections by setting aside time for personal bible study. I am currently reading "Real Moms Real Jesus" by Jill Savage and following along with the bible scripture as well as trying to keep up with my prayer journals as best I can.

In addition to all this - I have started a couch to 5K program. At the beginning of this year, the hubs and I entered a "biggest loser" contest with some friends in my mom's group. And at the end of the 90 days - he placed 1st and I placed 3rd! I ended up losing like 25 lbs which was great! I was also really focused on working out and eating better. However, once the contest ended, my weight loss stagnated. I even gained back a couple of lbs. I have found that I seem to do better when I have a goal, so I saw an ad in town for a free couch to 5k program and I signed up! We have scheduled runs 2x weekly and we have to work out on our own in between. My thinking when I started this was that I was going to "learn to love" running. Three weeks in, I must confess that may have been an error in judgement. I think I hate running. I am not sure that I will ever love it like I had hoped. But, I am determined to complete the program and run the race, just to prove that I can do it. After that, I have decided that I NEVER have to run again if I don't want to. There is a tiny piece of me that still hopes that by the time I hit mid-July, I will be a super awesome runner and will somehow automatically love it, but I am doubtful. I am learning to be okay with that. If I finish the summer and determine that I am not a runner, that's okay with me because at least I know I gave it a shot and I didn't quit. Sorry to get all "after school special" over here! On that note, I better get to those midwives before I miss my chance to get my Netflix fix.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Long Time

I haven't blogged in almost a year. I have no big reason for this. There was no life event that caused me to stop posting and, likewise, no similar event that caused me to return to it other than the realization that I feel better when I am writing. That and the fact that I like going back over past entries and remember various events that might otherwise be forgotten. I am regretful that I have missed that opportunity this passed year. We have had so many wonderful experiences that did not get documented as I would've liked.

Alex's first trip to Savannah

Ben's 2nd year of Preschool

Halloween with Cinderella and Iron Man

Alex's 1st Birthday!

Our Family's first trip to Disneyland!

So many important things and probably so many more that went unnoticed, unobserved. I can't promise that I will blog every day or that I will be able to record every milestone but I have decided to try harder. To carve out time for myself to write about whatever is happening or nothing at all. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Square peg, round hole

This week was VBS week which I love. Every year I get anxious and stressed right before the week starts and I get incredibly nervous all week about making sure I know my script and everything goes according to plan. And every year, right before it starts and I am at the peak of my stress, I say something like "Next year, I am not going to sign up for this. It's too crazy." and every year after it's all over and the kids have gone home and the decorations are put away, I start thinking about next year's theme and how much fun it will be.

But this year was different. This year, I was not in charge of a station. This year I was a crew leader. This was Ben's first year of VBS. And I was his crew leader. I cannot begin to describe my excitement. I have looked forward to this week for months. I potty trained this kid with VBS in mind, knowing that he had to be potty trained if he wanted to participate. He also was just a teeny tiny bit shy of the age cut-off for registration. But strings were pulled and exceptions were made.

And this week was...well...awful. It was just awful. I almost want to start crying again as I write this because it was so stressful and I felt like such a terrible parent that I couldn't get my OWN child to behave in my group. Finally, today - on the last day, just forty-five minutes before the finale, I reached the end of my parenting rope and I called his dad to come and get him. I then spent the rest of the morning silently berating myself for not being more patient. For not sticking it out longer and trying harder with him so that he could've finished the week with his group.

Over a bottle (or maybe two) of wine, I shared my anxieties with my fellow moms who were also VBS volunteers and they each consoled me and validated my decision to send him home. They also assured me that they would NEVER be group leaders with their own children for this exact reason and that children always behave worse for their parents than they do for strangers. And one of them said to me "it might just not be his thing".

I've been turning that around in my head all evening. How do you know? How do you know what their "thing" is? We had a similarly distressing experience this year with T-ball. Again, I was so thrilled to take Ben to his first practice. I had talked to him about it repeatedly after we registered. We practiced in the backyard. He seemed really excited at his first practice. At his second one, he said "I don't want to play anymore".

Maybe it's his age. Maybe he's just not developmentally ready for activities that involve a lot of structure and following directions. His dad says he's an introvert. Which makes his extrovert mom extra-anxious. I start to obsess about nature vs. nurture and wonder how much of our skills and preferences are inherited from our DNA and how much can be shaped or learned. Neither my husband nor I are athletic. My husband is more likely to know the names of the aliens in the Cantina in Star Wars than the name of any player on a football or baseball team.  This has always been fine with me. In fact, preferred by me. I grew up in a competitive family and was always more comfortable with my nose in a book than chasing a ball around the soccer field or (in my dad's case) the golf course. 

But as a mom, I start to worry that my own lack of athleticism and my husband's lack of interest in a majority of social activities has combined to create these preferences in my son. I agonize over whether it's better to let him stay home in his shell or push him to do more and try more. I obsess about the coming year at school and whether he will respond well to structure and whether we will find something besides super heroes that are interesting to him. And then I remind myself that he's only three. I take a step back, a deep breath, and I give myself a break. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Potty Diaries

After months of dancing around the potty training issue, crossing our fingers, praying that our preschooler would just magically walk up to us some day and say "Yes, Mother and Father, I do believe that I may need to use the facilities", we have finally had to bite the proverbial bullet and start official potty training.

Initially, sometime last summer when we thought it might be coming up soon in our toddler's development, we did what all over-educated, over-zealous parents do. We started reading lots of books about potty training. So for the last several weeks/months we have done multiple potty training techniques in the hopes that something would "stick" and we would somehow have potty trained our child without much effort. We had done the M&Ms, the stickers, the stickers that go on a chart and lead to a reward, and the training pants. We had done variations of potty apparatus - the singing potty chair (no joke), the padded seat, the stool, and the plain ol' potty all by itself. Needless to say, nothing has really clicked for our boy.

He'd much prefer to pee in his diaper and continue playing on the floor than to be bothered sitting on the potty. I'm told this is common. But he's three. And I feel like he has ALL these reasons to be potty trained. Or maybe it's just me who has all these reasons. You know, because diapers are expensive, because we have all these activities this summer, because I hate our diaper genie, because most of our friends kids are around the same age and potty trained, etc. And also because it's clear to me that he knows HOW to do it, he'd just prefer not to.

So this weekend, we decided to celebrate the National holiday by learning to use the potty. I found a book ("That's How I Roll by Rachel Jacques") that talks about wearing cartoon underwear as an incentive for using the potty. Essentially, you start out with super cool cartoon underwear and explain that Spiderman (or whoever) hates to get wet or dirty and if they get wet or dirty they have to come off and you have to wear plain underwear until after a certain time when you can try again. There's a few more detail than that but that's the technique in a nutshell. I knew the cartoon underwear would be a winning enticement for Ben so we decided to give it a try.

Day 1 - So far so good. We wore Mr. Incredible underwear all day long. Many trips have been made to the potty and multiple M&Ms have been earned. We even wore underwear at nap time and stayed dry. This may or may not be attributable to the fact that we also did not sleep during nap but just laid in our bed talking. The only negative so far is that no poop has occurred. There have been several times when it seemed like we were on the verge and would run the kid to the potty but nothing would happen. It's somewhat unclear at this point if this is because he doesn't want to go in the potty or if he is physically stopped up. Currently he is in bed in his undies and we are crossing our fingers to make it through the night without a major incident (though I think this is highly unlikely given it's our first night without a diaper - EVER!).

Day 2 - Woke up soaked. Ben was discouraged. Poop made an appearance finally and NOT in the potty. Mommy was discouraged too. But we stayed dry all day and managed to make a few pee stops and stay in our Super Hero undies once we got them back after nap time. We also slept during nap and managed to stay dry!

Day 3 - Woke up soaked again. Ben appears surprised by this every time so I think he must be a heavy sleeper. Dry again almost the whole day. Called Grandma and Nana and Poppa to share our successes and reap the rewards (Spider-man toy is on it's way in the snail mail). Put in time out for misbehavior and while in time out, he peed his pants. Took him upstairs to change and set him on the potty. While I was getting dry clothes, he pooped! Finally discovered what may be the secret to pooping on the potty = privacy! Who would have thought?

At the end of the weekend we had only had two actual accidents. I would call us "potty trained". He has even told me when we were out that he needed to use the potty. But, he still cannot stay dry at night. The book says to wait a full week until going back to pull-ups so I think we will keep trying. I am not sure what to do if dryness doesn't happen though. He's so "anti-diaper" at this point and SO proud of his success, I am sure it would feel like a step backwards to put on a pull-up.

UPDATE: Today (Thursday) we woke up dry! Out of the blue! I hope we can keep it up. It will be a week on Saturday and I am kind of tired of washing sheets twice daily.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I hate school

I didn't used to hate school. I used to love it. I was an honor roll student who loved my classes and most of my teachers. I loved reading and learning. I loved the sense of accomplishment from studying and doing well on exams. I particularly enjoyed knowing the information and having the correct answer when I was called on.

I wanted my son to love school as I did. I wanted him to have great experiences. To make friends and to learn all kinds of new things. When the school year started out, that seemed to be the path we were on. But as the year progressed, things took an odd turn. He stared to become less excited for school. Less interested in the activities. In making friends. In seeing his teachers. In leaving the house.

Thinking back to the beginning of the year, when Lightening McQueen was the object of our obsession, I remember him saying "Jacob and Hank say these are stupid cars". I remember my ire at these little boys for calling something my son loved so dearly "stupid". I remember my husband reassuring me that it was probably a comment taken out of context and that it might have been unrelated to the beloved Mater and McQueen but, in fact, other cars entirely. So, I brushed it under the rug and tried not to obsess about it too greatly. 

Over the year, things changed. The kids in his class changed - some left and new ones came. The dynamics changed. My son's love of Lightening McQueen dissipated and morphed in to a love of all things superhero. I also noticed a change in behavior. Along with the third birthday came more limit testing, more button pushing, more aggression. I was told at school on a few occasions that he had hit another kid. My initial reaction was "normal 3 year old boy" and "it's a stage" and "he'll grow out of it" like so many other stages. But in the last few weeks, getting him to go to school has been harder and harder. It has become obvious that he is having conflicts with these two other little boys. It is unclear whether he is the instigator of these conflicts or if they are, but there is definitely something happening. My little buddy who was so secure and self-reliant has become clingy. He has started asking us to stay with him when he goes to bed at night. He has started waking in the night and calling for us. He cries when we take him to school and says "I hate school" and "I hate the other kids. They are not my friends". My heart broke for him.

I blamed the superheros. Wrong or right, I saw them as the most recent variable in our lives and the possible source for all of this aggression. All of these discussions of "bad guys" and fighting. I blamed my husband for not being stricter with him. For not setting limits and sticking to them. For making me the bad guy who has to explain that we don't hit people. I blamed his school for not telling me that he was struggling. That he was having a problem. That maybe one or two of the other boys in school were bullying him or that he might be bullying them. But most of all, I blamed myself. For not being more attentive. For spending so much time with his sister and not seeing that he was having a rough time. For maybe sending him to school before he was really ready and not keeping him safe at home where no one can call what he likes "stupid". 

And now school is over. School is out for the summer and while I can breathe a little easier knowing that I won't have to fight him on a regular basis about going, I still have a pit in my stomach because I don't really know what the problem is. And therein lies my dilemma - if I don't know the problem, how can I fix it? How can I make it so he likes school again? How can I change his perception of school from being something negative that we HAVE to do to being something positive that he really enjoys?

I have talked to his teachers who seem surprised that he isn't having a good time in class. I have talked with other parents who assure me that it's "not a big deal" and "all kids have issues like this sometimes" and "it will pass". And maybe they are right, maybe it will. Maybe it's just part of development and growing as a person and learning who you are. I've gone so far as to make an appointment with his teacher for next year to talk over the summer so I can get her impressions and give her a heads up as to what we have been working on at home (it helps that she's a friend and someone I already kind of know). I've scheduled more play dates and signed up for other activities so I can see him interacting with other kids first hand. But, after all of this - I still don't know if any of it will make a difference. I guess I'm not really a fan of school when I no longer know the right answer.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Danger, Will Robinson!

I must apologize to anyone who visited my blog these last few days and saw the google warning. Apparently, my adorable free template also could have possibly contained malware. Perhaps that's why it was free? Hence the change in appearance. It's still a work in progress but I think it's much safer to stick with the templates provided on blogger for now.