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.   

Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's Time

I am using Mike's football game as an excuse to update.  My new schedule at school juxtaposed with Liam's nap boycott does not leave a lot of free time.  We had a fantastic summer that flew by in a blink.  We rented a beach house, went camping, and had all sorts of adventures.  I became a little more comfortable with myself and tried some new things.  Here are a few summer highlights:

We rented a beach house in Jamestown.  From our window, we were able to watch America's Cup, Tall Ships, and fireworks.  It took Liam three days to notice there was not a TV in the house.  It was beyond nice to relax and unwind for a week.  Hopefully, it will become a new tradition. 

We took Liam on another camping trip in Maine.  My folks used to take Kristy and I to Acadia when we were kids.  It seems fitting that we take Liam camping there.  He loved it more this year. 

I made "mom" friends.  I was driving myself silly trying to actually have a social life.  Being one of the only ones in my group with a child is very lonely.  After too many times of whining and crying to Mike about it, I decided to actually do something about it.  I joined a mom's group and made a few friends.  I also asked some of Mike's co worker's wives to get together.  They are a great group.  We had almost weekly play dates over the summer.  Liam loves his new friends.

I made time for me.  Thanks to Kindle, I always have something to read.   This year, I've read 33 books.  I forgot how nice it is to lose myself in a book.  I also started working out again.  It finally happened: I hit my "Oh, poo, how did I get this big?" weight.  Other friends joined Weight Watchers, went to personal trainers, and other such comradely filled health endeavours.  I can barely make it the gym with my schedule.  Liam hates his jogging stroller.   I feared running into people I hadn't seen in awhile.  Somehow, I managed to get fifteen pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight.  Mike and I ordered a treadmill and take turns running on it.  In the past month, I've lost six pounds and I'm within nine pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight.  Since Liam is almost three, I can not use him as an excuse.  I feel better and I'm just starting to see the results.  My goal is fifteen more pounds for now. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Two Years and One Day

Two years and one day ago, Mike and I had a lot of firsts.  I made Mike watch Zoolander for the first time.  I feel asleep at Fenway for the first, and hopefully last, time.  Two years and one day ago, I had to go to sleep for the first time without a mom. 
We knew that was the day she was going to pass away.  Three days earlier, I had my last coherent conversation with her.  I offered to postpone Liam's blessing.  Mom insisted it go as planned, promising to "try my best to hold on."  Saturday night, I was able to tell her it went well before she spaced out.  The day before, she entered hospice.  Mom told me it was a beautiful place but was a bit upset that they expected her to die soon.  Other times, she would tell me she was ready.  She was tired. 
The next day, Kristy boarded a plane to Florida.  Mike and I were staying behind.  We had gone to see mom to say goodbye earlier.  We had tickets to see the Sox play the Phillies.  Mike's folks offered to stay here and watch Liam.  We headed up to Boston, wondering if the fateful call would come while we were at America's most beloved ballpark.  Something about Fenway lulled me to sleep around the fifth inning.  Maybe it was the warm sun.  Maybe it was being in a place that held so many warm memories for me.  Maybe it was just the white noise of the crowd's murmur.  Maybe it was pure exhaustion.  Whatever it was, it made me sleep for two innings. 
I knew the call would be coming and checked my phone often to see if I missed a vibration.  We made it home, said goodbye to Mike and Bee, and set forth to waiting.  Kristy arrived at the hospice center about 7:30  She sent me a text at 8 saying mom hadn't woken up since she got there and the nurse said she is declining.  We went back and forth while Zoolander served as a background buffer.  I needed something silly to fill my mind.  At 8:25, the phone rang.  "She's gone," was all Kristy could say.  Kristy took care of Dad.  I made the calls and arrangements. 

It is hard to believe two years have passed.  Liam was the reason she held on as long as she did.  "I just want to see that baby," she told everyone who would listen.  The first year contained mixed blessings.  Every first holiday or birthday without mom was the first holiday or birthday with Liam.  There was sweetness with sorrow.  Now, reality sets in.  My mom is gone.  The woman who used to ask me to put her on speaker so she could listen to her three month old grandson noisily suck down bottles never got to hear his actual voice.  She never saw him take a step.  She never received one of his trademark sloppy kisses.  She never saw him dance to Adele or Beyonce nor was she sucked into singing "I Love You" seven times in a row.  I couldn't call her when he had a temperature of 105 and I was petrified or when he sang his ABCs for the first time.  I couldn't ask her about my milestones so I could compare myself to my son. 
There are signs that she is with me.  They tend to come when I expect them the least and need them the most.  When Liam had a horrible ear infection last year, hadn't slept more than three hours straight, and had thrown up on every piece of linen we owned, she came to me in a dream as Liam slept on my chest under three of his baby blankets.  She just held me, which is really all you need of your mom sometimes.  As I watched Liam's aw of seeing fireworks for the first time, I wished I knew my mom was with us.  On the way home, a shooting star flew across the bright sky of Providence. 
I haven't watched Zoolander since the day my passed.  I walked away from it to make calls letting people know about Mom's passing.   Yesterday at school, a few of the male tteachers randomly started throwing out Zoolander quotes.  Maybe I am overthinking this one, but it just seemed like too much of a coincidence. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Looking for "My People"

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden remarks that he enjoys the Museum of Natural History because it never changes.  As I introduce Holden to a new generation of teenagers, it becomes clear that Catcher is my Museum of Natural History.  Holden and I have been friends for over twenty years.  He spend time with me when I was a high school student, college student, student teacher, and expectant mother.  I considered naming my son after him.  His creator, JD Salinger, died the day my induction was scheduled, signifying the ultimate end of my teen angst. 

Something I discuss with my sophomores is the changing dynamic of friendships beginning in adolescence.  For Liam, making friends is beyond easy.  All he needs is a ball, some crackers, or an Elmo shirt and some other toddler has an instand starting point for friendship.  By our teenage years, it is not that easy.  by adulthood, the road to friends is even more difficult to navigate.

Like many other things regarding parenthood, I was niave in thinking that a child would not change the friendships I have among my childless friends.  We would still be included in get togethers, gym dates, and other fun activities.  When Liam was two weeks old and we were yet to see many of our friends, reality set in.  We now see most of our childless friends two to three times a year.  Some we see even less than that.   An email I sent to two friends about trying to get together for brunch went unanswered.  The promise to get together "soon" band aids the fact that we are all growing apart.  It isn't anybody's fault; it's just the way it is.

When I was on Facebook, a friend of mind complained endlessly about her weekends not being hers.  Her family took over her weekends.  For Mike, Liam and I, we have the opposite problem.  On Thursday, Mike or I will check the weather forcast in what begins the panic known as "What the hell are we going to do this weekend?"  Friday at 3:00 starts sixty-four open hours with nothing to do.  Sometimes, we have a project around the house that will eat part of Saturday.  We weed the lawn, get to the cleaning we didn't do during the week, or some other project.  We try to plan at least one outing for Liam: zoo, aquarium, park, feeding the ducks in Wickford, ect.  Our weekends are relaxing, quiet, and 100% ours. 

Then came the seemingly simple task of finding new people to hang out with.  We've made plans with the people Mike works with a few times.  They are very nice and welcoming.  Mike has gone out with the two guys a few times.  I am glad he's made good friends.  He has his R/C airplane club.  The are older gentlemen but at least they get togehter to fly or talk planes.  He still gets together with his friends a lot more than I do with mine. 

This left me.  I haven't really had to make friends in years.  In Rhode Island form, I kept running into the same girl everywhere: Lowe's, the hair salon, Trader Joe's.  She had a son a little younger than Liam.  Because they are toddler boys, they needed nothing more to create a friendship.  We finally exchanged numbers.  She called me four times a day until I started intentionally declining her calls.  She was as desperate as I am for mother companionship I guess.  She scared me off.  There are a few mothers in Liam's daycare and in the neighborhood that have suggested playdates but I am too scared that right now; if the playdates didn't work out, things would be awkward forever.  I signed up for playgroups and music classes to relieve Liam of his awkward only child stigma.  Upon walking through the parking lot to the first music class, panic hit me as I realized, too, would have to make friends.   Some of the other moms were super hippy organic moms and others let their kids run wild in the playplace while they drank coffee and talked.  I made small talk with a few nice moms but never connected well enough to take it to the next "Hey, can I call you?" step.  Sometimes,  moms were elliminated on looks alone.  Liam made friends with a boy at the pediatrician's office.  His mother was about my age and nice enough.  Here's the catch: she was in her mid thirties, wearing a matching Victoria's Secret Pink tracksuit, and drinking a fruit Coolada with whipped cream at a doctor's office.  I may not feed Liam the best food all the time, but I don't bring evidence of it to his doctor, much less with whipped cream on top.  When I told Mike about her during a conversation about friend making in our thirties he replied, "Yeah, she's not our people." 

I feel like I'm back in the dating scene again.  Playing the field and feeling things out.   It's awkward and nerve wracking.   Recently, I befriended a girl at the local playground.  Her son is three months younger then Liam.  They played well.  She was attentive but not hoovering over her son.  We made great conversation.  Upon leaving, we exchanged addresses and expressed inteterest in getting together again.  She lives on the main side road in our neighborhood and I pass her house a few times a week going to the market.  I have been overthinking all of this the same way I would stare at a piece of paper with a number on it back when I was single.  How to play it?  Beause I know that sometimes I am still not wearing a bra at one in the afternoon sometimes when I am home over the summer, I feel stopping by randomly would be awkward in case she was having a me moment.  Do I leave a note with my number when I notice there are no cars in the driveway? I am going to stick to walking the neighborhood and going to the park in hopes of running into them again. 

With summer vacation seven weeks away, I am starting to panic about how Liam and I are going to pass our days.  Why can't friend making in your thirties be as easy as it is for toddlers?  If only a ball and a bag of animal crackers were still the best conversation starters...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Liam's To Do List

For the weekend:
Play outside
See cows
Eat rolls
Play blocks
Touch ladybug

I hope it is always this simple.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Old Soul

Rarely a day goes by that I don't at some point wish I could call my mom. When I was pregnant, I called my mom every day on my way home from school. As soon as I got on the highway, I picked up the phone and called her to tell her about my day and what wonderful things Baby Day was doing in my tummy. As her health deteriorated, she often said "I just want to see that baby."

As much as I miss my mom and wish I could rely on her for baby advice, I know we would have battled over everything, just as we always did. She fought time and again for Mike and I to get married at Wright's Chicken Farm, an all you can eat family style chicken restaurant known for hosting high school homecoming dances and little league awards nights. It is good, but I really didn't want to serve my wedding guests bowls of french fries. She persisted until it was an argument. That sums up Mom and I: two stubborn women who think they know best.

Two years ago, I was getting out of the house with a four week old Liam. I had just purchased some Bath and Body Works hand soaps to help my bleeding, over washed, new mamma hands. Dad called to tell me we needed to get down to Florida. Dr. Martinez suggested we get down there while Mom would still know who we were. We booked the flight that afternoon and headed down two days later. Mom spent most of the weekend thinking Liam was my thirty-four year old sister. She saw who she had fought so hard to see and signed a very strict DNR the morning after we left.

Liam has this picture on his dresser. Photobucket It was the only time he ever met his nana. I've often asked him who the other people are on his dresser. One afternoon this past summer, I decided to ask him "Where's Nana?" I hadn't really said much about her to him. He pointed right to the picture. Intrigued, I took him to the living room to show him a picture of Mom and her two sisters at a cousin's wedding. "Where's Nana?" Again, he pointed to my mom. Mike was very matter of fact about the matter. "We would be naive to think that your mom isn't watching over him."

We had a few little things happen here and there. Liam would wave at no one. Liam and I were brushing our teeth over the summer and the whole area began to smell of lilacs. Again, Liam began to wave at no one.

Last night was Kristy's birthday and the anniversary of us going to down to let Liam meet his Nana. It is hard to believe it has been two years since I have seen my mom. Last year, I tried to plan a night with my friends to keep busy and that flaked out on me. This year, I kept it simple. I planned a birthday dinner for Kristy and her closest friends. We had a great time. Kristy has been blessed with keeping a close group of friends since middle school. They are fantastic people.

They left about eight because we are all old and lame and they realized Liam was ready to dreamland. Usual, uneventful night time routine follows: train books, bath, teeth brushing, run across the room for PJs. We're in the living room putting Liam into his adorable fleece footed PJs when he starts looking up and zoning. He is looking past Mike and I towards the ceiling. He clenches his fists and hold his arms close to his body. He has a weird smile on his face and his eyes are gazing ahead. At first, Mike and I assumed he was being silly but, as it went on for a minute or two, we started to get concerned.

"He sees something."
"Liam, do you see someone?"
"Liam, who are your playing with?"
"Apple pie," he tries to tell us several times before we figure out what he is saying. I don't make apple pies because I don't eat them and Mike can't resist temptation of apple pie so it is never in my house. We tried to give Liam a piece of apple pie at Thanksgiving in Maine and he wanted no part of it. Therefore, I have no clue why he decided to say apple pie.

At this point, I am almost in tears as the epiphany hits us. "Liam, is Nana here playing with you?" I ask. Mike repeats the question. Liam is now standing up and dressed in his footed snowman PJs. He randomly puts away a giant stuffed lion that happened to be on the couch. We ask him the question a few times. He points to the doorway of the living room and says "Nana door."

Now there is no stopping the tears. He is waving to the empty doorway and saying "Hi, Nana." Since Mike's grandmother, who also went by "Nana," passed away when Liam was two months old, Mike asked "Who's Nana is here, Liam?"
"Mommy's Nana."
I asked again to be certain. "Who's playing with you, Liam? Who's here?"
"Mommy's Nana. Door." He points again to the doorway.

After a few minutes, he stopped. "Of course your mom would spend the night with your girls on Kristy's birthday," Mike explained. We were awestruck while it was happening but now left with the time to let the events sink in. I'm not sure where to go from here. "Ask his teachers if they play a game and do that motion," Mike suggested. We both knew the answer but felt the need to through it out there anyway. I asked his teachers, stopping several times to beg them not to think I was crazy. Both said this is fairly common and they usually outgrow it. "He has a guardian angel," one summarized.

Mom and I often revealed dreams in which people long gone would visit us. We've both had experiences that can not be merely coincidence. I never thought that it would pass on to my son. I'm still letting the news sink in, trying it on like a new coat. I am beyond glad that she watches over us. I have only experienced two dreams with my mom. One, I was sick on the couch napping and she visited. The night before my birthday, I had a dream that we all got together for dinner for my birthday. That afternoon, as Mike and I drank beer at Game On across from Fenway, I told him about my dream as tears streamed down my face. "She gave me one last family dinner for my birthday."

I inquired Dr Google to tell me about toddlers and spirits. There are a lot of various theories about it. Most sources claim they simply outgrow it by the time they turn five. At this point, I am not sure if I am happy of concerned. As a mother, seeing Liam with this ability creates a mixed blessing. I'm not sure what is going to happen with all of this. Maybe he will outgrow it. Maybe, like my mom's blue eyes, it is another trait that carried on to him.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Scarlet O

A few weeks ago, Liam's teacher pulled me aside with the dreaded "Do you have a minute?" She continued that she was concerned that Liam was not sharing well at school. He even hit another boy over a book. Mortified, we left with promises to improve. To be honest, it never crossed my mind to share toys with Liam at home. I certainly didn't care if I had a turn with his Thomas toys. I called Mike in tears on the way home, certain that I had broken the child before his second birthday. When we arrived home, I decided to try this sharing thing and see how Liam fared. Usually, I let him hit the wiffle ball on the T for as long as he wanted. I didn't want a turn. He was less than thrilled when I asked for a turn and tried to take the wiffle bat.

I sent a picture to Mike with the comment "I guess this is what daycare is talking about."

This marked the beginning of "Sharing Bootcamp." It seemed Liam could have nothing he loved for more than three minutes without being asked to hand it over for a minute/bite/sip/turn. Gradually, Liam came around to the joys of sharing. His teachers are noticing a difference as well.

Throughout "Sharing Bootcamp," I was told several times that part of Liam's issue with sharing may come from him being an only child. Mike and I do a lot with him. With have memberships to the zoo and aquarium. We are on constant adventures. Liam rarely watched TV during the week. However, he does these activities with Mike and I. Our parents are out of state. Kristy comes down when she can. A few of our friends just had children of their own but most do not and the gap between us grows bigger daily. Besides daycare, Mike and I are Liam's socialization. I started taking him to the library one afternoon a week for socialization. We spend another afternoon each week at a music class. Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App Some days he gets into the music
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Other times he just wants to color.

How do we remove this stigma of the Scarlet O from Liam as well as Mike and I? At work, I have several ladies who remind me weekly that Liam will grow up ill adjusted because Mike and I are too selfish to have another child. "You can make it work if you really want to," they tell me.

This is the truth. We could. I'd have to give up my career because daycare for two in this area would eat most of my paycheck. In this economy, it would be impossible to get rehired. Who wants to hire a ninth step teacher when there are thousands of freshly graduated first and second step options available? I worked hard to earn my degree and establish myself as a teacher. I enjoy teaching.

Why does one have to justify these decisions? As I cried to Mike that I had broken our kid, I asked him if we were selfish for having one. Am I selfish for wanting a 401K and a Keurig?

As Liam gets older, I get a little nostalgic about the baby days ending. Over the summer, my hormones started going AWOL. A few doctor visits and tests suggested that I needed to go back on the pill to level things out. Having another child just got much more difficult. Maybe this was a sign that we are fine just the way we are. In the meantime, I need to ignore that Scarlet O that some are trying to stitch on Liam's chest. I'm sure another form of Momma Guilt will grow in its place.