Sunday, February 21, 2016

New Normal?

It has been five years since my mom passed.  Five. This year marked my sixth birthday and holiday season without her.  It's amazing that I still struggle to find my new normal.  Every year, something happens that digs in and reminds that there is a time of my life to which I can never return.  That part of my life has been boxed up and passed on.  The last house I lived in with my parents was sold and remodeled, looking unrecognizable.  Most of the pictures are 1,500 miles away. The artwork and awkward projects have been long lost in various moves.  

The breakdown happens every year.  After five years, I am able to control it and really make it mine.  The tear works that erupted without warning now know how to contain themselves until the moment is right.  Five years ago, I ran into another room to break down because someone changed the channel off of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, something we watched every year at my house.  Eagerly, we would wait to see our favorite pop stars glide through the cold weather.  I marveled at the marching bands, wishing that my parent's budget allowed music lessons.  On the first Thanksgiving without my mom, I needed to watch that parade.  However, I felt silly vocalizing this need.  Crying in the bedroom seemed a much saner choice.  

For the first five New Years Eves as a mother, I fell asleep before the ball dropped, sometimes fifteen minutes before the new year began.  Last year, I managed to stay awake.  And, for the first time ever, my mom didn't call to wish me a happy new year.  This year, I vowed to stay awake as well.  About twenty minutes before midnight, a bit in my stomach formed.  This was another year that would begin without a call from my mom.  I was ready to run upstairs and force myself to fall asleep.  That's the thing about the new normal; you never know when it will sneak up on you.  

I've come to understand that this breakdown is a new normal in my holiday preparations.  It surfaces several times throughout the season.  However, after my rookie year, I've learned to control it and release when the right time allows.  This year, I waited until I was wrapping gifts.  My mom never wrapped everything in the stocking.  I always swore that, when I was in charge of stockings, everything would be wrapped.  I've lived to regret this decision.  I am also aware that giving up wrapping everything would provide a victory for my mother.  Every from the grave, I cannot allow that.  

A dear friend of mine lost her mom this year.  In one of our conversations, I told her that it never really gets easier, you just adjust to your new normal.  It is different for everyone.  For me, my first round of holidays without my mom was also my first round of holidays with my son.  While it was difficult, new life made it easier to transition to that new reality.  However, the overwhelming urge to run to another room for a quick cry still hits at the oddest of moments.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Being Present

A few nights ago, Mike and I tried to keep a conversation going with Liam at dinner.  Some nights, conversation is easy.  In fact, we can barely get a word in ourselves.  This was not one of those nights.
  "How was school?"
  "What center did you choose?"
   "How was Tumble Bus?"
   "Did you get a gummy bear at the end?"
   "What color did you get?"
   "What's your favorite activity?"
   "Monkey bars."
   "What does Lukey like?"
    "The slide."
   Finally, I got a bite while inquiring about Tumble Bus, an activity offered through his school.
   "Liam, do you do activities or does everyone do their own thing?"
   His eyes lit up.  "We do a really fun activity! Miss Amanda says our names and then we say, 'here.'"
   Mike and I looked at each other.  We were paying $25 a month for Liam to enjoy attendance.  "This is your favorite activity? Are you sure that it's an activity?"
    "Uh-huh.  Miss Amanda calls me and I say, 'here.'  Then she calls Luke and Luke says, 'here.'"
     Really?  $400 a year for Tumble Bus and his favorite activity is attendance? "Liam, I think what Miss Amanda is doing is taking attendance."
    My five year old rolled his eyes at me.  "No, she jots everything down in a notebook."  At this point, Mike and I were laughing.

   I giggled at my son's misconstrued views of attendance, comparing it to children who play with the boxes of their toys.  As the days passed, I thought about the idea of being present.  As autonomy develops, I become more and more protective of his "bubble."  The days of parental control reigning over almost every moment of his day are numbered.  He may get to choose whether he eats an apple of a banana, which shoes he wears to school, or which toys to entertain himself with in his room.  However, adults control the majority of his daily life.  We take him to school, swim lessons, and play dates.  We provide him with three pairs of school shoes, various character shirts, and (mostly) healthy sweets while preventing him from drinking soda and full octane juice.

   That simple act of attendance on Tumble Bus allows his to be present.  He gets to announce that he is present and ready for new adventures.  How nice with it be if we were allowed that opportunity more often.  As always, I am thinking about how this relates to my students.  How do I allow my students to be present? Sometimes, it is as simple as asking them to take a break, stand up, and say hello to classmates.  I stand at the door to greet my students with high fives and fist pumps as they enter my classroom.  Thanks to our new blended learning model, students get to decide how they learn, navigating their way through playlists on Power Points, articles, videos, and practice exercises.  In a world of limited autonomy, how do I truly give my students, and my son, a voice?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Three is a Magic Number

While I was pregnant, a coworker told me that each age would be my favorite.  So far, this has proven true.  When Liam was an infant, he was my favorite form of entertainment.  I could watch him for hours.  He fascinated me.  I loved the months when I snuggled my squishy baby.  I loved watching him toddle around and re-explore our world, as if seeing it for the first time. 

 I may be in the minority, but three has been my favorite age.  There are many reasons my three year old is my favorite:

* He still loves to snuggle.  When he is worried, tired, or upset, he squishes himself onto my lap and lets me rock him.  I know the time will come when he will not fit in my lap.  I savor these moments.

* He can communicate.  He can tell me if he feels good or yucky,  happy or sad.He can tell me if he wants a cereal bar or fruit snacks.  He can tell he if his neck or ears hurt.  He asks for a snack before his hunger makes him grumpy. 

* We can go anywhere easily.  I very rarely need to bring the big diaper bag.  I keep some fruit snacks and a fruit pouch in my purse and call it good.  I donated our stroller to Sandy relief last fall.  We walk to the playground, walk through the aquarium and the zoo, and through the mall.  Liam is easy to travel with these days. 

* He believes everyone in the world is good.  I fear the day when he learns the truth, that not all people are always nice.  Right now, he is nice to everyone and everyone is nice to him.  Since he expresses interest in churches, I took him the Barnes and Nobel to buy him his first Bible.  He took the story of David and Goliath  out of context.
    "Who's that?"
    "That's David."
    "He's throwing rocks.  We don't throw rocks.  He should go to 'No Thank You.'"
  I didn't know how to tell him that David was the hero of the story.  That David was justified in hitting Goliath with the rock because Goliath was mean.  I didn't know how to tell him that sometimes it's okay to throw rocks at people.  I let him continue:
     "David left his rocks on the ground.  We should pick them up so nobody trips over them.  We can put them int he pond."

The story of Jesus and the beggar confused him.  "He has a boo boo.  Did he fall down?"  I didn't know how to begin explaining to him that his fellow man did this to him.   "Jesus is going to help him," I avoided the question.  The world can be a scary place.  My three year old doesn't need to learn that just yet.

* He makes friends everywhere.  The coffee shop, Target, the supermarket, the playground, and the library are all places for him to make friends.  If he has a Thomas, a funny hat, or a ball, he has a starting point to create a friendship.  Once he's established a bond, he will tell his new friend everything.
  "My grammie's name is Bee.  Just Bee."
  "My daddy makes boats and my mommy's a teacher."
  "I have a hat on.  It has a yellow ball on top."
Someday, he will learn that making friends isn't always this easy.  I treasure this moment while I can.

* He loves to help.  He has to help clean, make the bed, shovel snow, pick up.  His teacher told me he is one of the best students when it comes to helping clean up.  He knows to only make one mess at a time and will clean up his blocks before taking out his cars.  It makes me happy.


* Mommy and Daddy are magic. 
   "That lighthouse isn't working.  My daddy will fix it.  He will bring his tools."
   Mommy's kisses fix everything.  There have been a few instances that liam requests ice instead of kisses.  I know those will be requested more as time goes on but I love that kisses fix boo boos for now. 

* He is silly and has a great sense of humor.  My kid is hilarious!  We make up games.  Our current favorite could be called "Are you a chicken?"    It started after reading the Sandra Boynton book by the same name.  I will ask Liam, "Are you a chicken?"
   "Are you a penguin?"
This goes on a few rounds until he chooses an animal he would like to be.  When I ask, he will randomly start making that sound.
    "Are you a bee?"
    "Buzzzzzzzzzzz," he giggles.  We make a few more animal sound then he takes over.  "Hey, Mommy,  are you a dinosaur?"
    "Are you a cow?"
   This is hilarious.  I promise. 

* He finds humor in everything.  Last night, we played trains.  He let me be Thomas.  Anyone with a toddler knows this is the equivalent of a marriage proposal to the three year old.  As we pushed Thomas around the track, Liam would block his way with pieces of his play kitchen and blocks. 

This is rolling on the floor funny. 
* His logic is easy.  We've been giving him a few more responsibilities now that he is getting older.  He helps set and clear the table.  He helps sweep.  While teaching him to get himself dressed, he announced "I don't want to be three!"
   "You have to be three; you ate your birthday cake."
   "Oh, okay."  He continued putting on his own shirt.

* He is innocent.  Someone was shocked when Mike said Liam had a Thomas cake.  "He's still into Thomas?"  While Liam knows who Spiderman is, he's never watched Spiderman.  He knows who Superman is to point him out, but has never seen any of these action heroes in action.  He knows that Spiderman swings from building to building and saves people, but he doesn't know what he saves them from.  For now, I want Liam to think the worst thing that happen is Thomas being "up there" or Victor falling into the sea (and promptly being saved). 

* He has intuition.  While making Valentines, we made one for our neighbor, who lost his wife last summer.  As we walked over to deliver the Valentine, Liam told me we were bringing it because he didn't feel well.  I tried to tell him Valentines were for people we love, he insisted this was because he didn't feel well.  "Why doesn't he feel well?" I finally asked.  "He is sad.  He is sad because he misses Miss ____."   He is really good at reading people is adapting accordingly.  He is silly when people need a smile and sympathetic when the moment calls.   His father is fantastic at reading people.  I'm glad Liam is as well. 

I'm hoping I enjoy each stage as much as I enjoy the "Terrible Threes."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I Have a Three Year Old!

How did this happen?  He is sweet, smart, and funny.  He makes me laugh and is so generous with his love and affection.  He sees my mom and tells me about Nana.  He makes friends and shows compassion. 

He had a Thomas party.  He claims his favorite part was the cake.  I totally believe him.

How did the time fly by so fast?  It seems like this little guy, Mike, and I were all just getting to know each other. 

Month One

I will begin by admitting I bought Liam some items for his birthday.  Denying him birthday party decorations and a birthday shirt because I made a bet with myself seemed silly.  I spent $25 on decorations for his birthday party and $17 for a custom shirt.  I resisted January clearance sales.  I lost my urge to browse online site. 

He needed this shirt

I was starting to get antsy.  I wanted to buy something new to wear to Liam's birthday.  Obviously, the party would be ruined if I didn't wear something cute.  That afternoon, my Visa bill arrived.  I paid it off after the holidays.  Instead of my usual thought of "Oh, crap,"  I actually "squeed" when I saw the bill this month.  The only items on the bill were gas and my haircut.  That motivated me to find something to wear in my closet instead of the mall.

I took Liam to Savers to pick up some pants.  He's been wearing through knees on his jeans.  Even the Baby Gap jeans only lasted three weeks before he wore out the knees.  I picked him up a bunch of jeans and khakis.  I found a Talbots blazer there for me for $6.99.  While wearing it at school, I found a dollar in the pocket.  Double score!

There are a few things I would like to have.  After seeing the difference a good straightener makes, I have toyed with getting a new hair dryer.  I straighten of curl my hair almost every day.  The Chi saved my hair.  However, I don't blow dry it enough to justify an expensive dryer.  I bought a cheapie facial brush last year to see if it made a difference.  The brush, juxtaposed with drinking eight glasses of water a day and a good dermatologist, has made my skin glow.  The brush just started to slow down.  I am in the process of writing reviews for beauty products on a site I subscribe to.  I have to write a ridiculous number of reviews to earn enough points to get the Clarisonic.  I'm temped to keep up with it just to see if I can. 

As I enter my second month, it is getting easier.  I've been playing with pieces I already have.  I've been working out and lost six pounds this month.  I have about nine more to get to my prepregnancy weight.  (I gained weight back from the fall.  All it took was five days without power to make me lose my mojo.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Week One

My first week of buy nothing year is making changes into habits.  I did a few things to avoid temptation:
    * Deleted my shopping Apps (Target, Zuily, etc)
    * Unliked shopping companies on Facebook (KidsDeals, Hip2Save, etc)
    * Unsubcribed to business emails from companies I frequent
 I survived my first trip to target without any extras.  I had a sleeveless shell from the clearance rack in my hand but wanted to get used to my buy nothing state of mind.  I have two drawers of tank tops and shells.  I do not need another one.  I kept to my list!

Mike and I are back on the wagon.  We were doing such a good job for months then fell off following Sandy.  Five days without power threw a wrench in our routine.  I joined a Sparkpeople group with some friends and, hopefully, we will modivate each other.  Sparkpeople is keeping me honest.  A lot of times, I am too lazy to do the math so I resist the urge to eat one of Liam's chicken nuggets or a single piece of candy. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

With the Internet as My Witness

I have never kept a New Year's resolution.  However, as I look around my house, I am trying to take control of the "stuff" in our house after the holidays.  Over the past few years, I've rid our house of excess books, clothes, and clutter.  Though bittersweet, I love the sense of organization that comes from comes from passing along Liam's toys and clothes.

After over four years of not buying a lot clothes for myself, I revamped my wardrobe this year.  Between waiting to get pregnant, being pregnant, and having recently delivered a baby, I had good reason not to buy clothes.  Knowing I'd only be pregnant once, I bought a limited amount of cheap pregnancy clothes.   Since it only needed to last one child, I tried to buy as much as I could for Liam secondhand. 

This past week, I cleaned out my closet again.  In the past, I would simply pack up items in white garbage bags and send them off to Savers.  For the first time, I am going to try my hand at consigning.  I may try the same for some of Liam's bigger toys.  During some of my Internet time wasting, I stumbled upon a blog entry about a crunchy family who went a year without buying anything new.  "I could never do that!" my inner self exclaimed.  I love yard sales and thrift shopping, but a year without random trips to Homegoods, Carters, or the Gap?  I could never... could I?

Pondering this thought to myself as I put away my laundry, I looked at my organized, full closet and revisited the idea of "buy nothing new" year.  Liam would be easy.  I've found Thomas and Spiderman shirts on consignment.  For the most part, he wears what I put him in.  He doesn't know about the latest toys; he's happy to play with whatever we buy him.   I have all the things I need.  In the past few years, I've accumulated the splurges I've lusted after: a Chi flat iron, Kitchenaid mixer (bought refurbished), etc.   I wore my new winter boots for the first time in the snow today.  I resisted my urge to buy more makeup at the big sale CVS has every December, reminding myself that, even at 75% off, I buy it, never use it, and it is a waste of my money.  Like many people, I get sucked into the idea of a good deal.  I have three pairs of Old Navy Rock Star Corduroy pants because they were fun and on sale.  

 With the exception of Liam's half Peter Rabbit, half toddler bedroom, the house is where we want it.  We have all the things we want. I decided to feel Mike out on my idea of buy nothing new year.  He did what most husbands would do, he laughed at me.

"I mean going a year without buying new stuff: clothes and toys.  I'm not talking about tampons."
The best way to make me do something is to tell me you don't think it can be done.  Obviously, Mike learned nothing from the "You can't visit all five parks in one days" Disney challenge of 2007.  While he doesn't think I can do it, he is on board in supporting me in my endeavor. 

So, here it is.  With the Internet as my witness, I am going to go a year without buying new "stuff."  I know my way around the local consignment shops so Liam and I will always have what we need clothing wise.  I know what makeup and products work for me and what many more do not.  I do not need to buy more junk that sits in my makeup case until I throw it out a year later.  I do love accessories but I will do my best to find what I want within my new parameters, maybe searching ebay for used goods.  I deleted the Target app from my phone.  I am going to hook my Kindle to the library and borrow ebooks.  As I am on book thirty-seven of the year, those $8-12 Amazon purchases add up.

I was hoping to do this to save money and reduce my carbon footprint.  Now I want to do it just to prove I can.