I constantly feel the pull of work vs. life. It’s a strong one, but luckily work allows life to win as often as it can.
One such example was Friday, when I was able to take the morning off to be a chaperone for my son’s first field trip. I had about two weeks left of work before maternity leave and at least a month’s worth of work, the only other reporter in my department was on vacation and my editor was doing her best to prepare to be gone for a week of vacation herself. But without hesitation she said, “Go, take the time off. Have a great time and be careful!”
Not only are my co-workers pretty accommodating, they all are a bunch of mother hens to this pregnant chick.
I’m not sure if Miles will remember moments like this in 10, 20 or 30 years, but I know I certainly will.
When I heard that St. Theresa’s preschool through second grade would be taking a field trip (Miles’ first-ever) I quickly asked his teacher if they needed any chaperones. I’m not sure if they really did, but thankfully the kind Mrs. Bartley graciously said, “Of course,” giving me permission to tag along.
The students all piled onto a big yellow school bus, another first for Miles. We talked about that part of the field trip the night before because I wanted him to be prepared. I was trying to squash any potential fears of doing something different. But there was nothing even remotely scary about the school bus, well unless you count the frighteningly ridiculous number of times he asked about when he got to ride it between bedtime Thursday and school drop off Friday morning.
All the parents were to meet the kids and the bus at the destination — Goebel’s Farm in rural Vanderburgh County. I was anxiously waiting outside of my car, camera in hand, to catch the bus pulling in and Miles descending the steps. Of course life happens and the bus was about an hour late. I made the best of it and pulled out my laptop and whipped out a story while I was waiting. (See, work won there!)
When he hopped down the steps with his teacher’s help the smile on my guy’s face was visible from across the parking lot. He spotted me and started to run toward me.
Gah! That sound of pure joy and glee at seeing me. That has got to be one of the best sounds and feelings in the world. We all filed inside and learned about how pumpkins were grown, the difference between the different kinds and even met a chicken. It was fun to see Miles interact with the other students and for the other teachers to tell me how sweet and cute our little dude is, reassuring to hear because you always wonder how well behaved they are when you aren’t around.
The whole group piled onto a straw ride (it wasn’t hay, we learned) out to the pumpkin patch where we got to traipse around all the growing pumpkins. It was magical watching Miles discover things he found, hearing him excitedly proclaim his discoveries of “punkins.” The group headed back to the main farm, home to the amazing barn slide. We’d gone to Goebel’s a few times last year and spent quite a bit of time playing on the barn slide.
This thing is no joke. It’s pretty high up and has some challenging steps to tackle. Last year, when Miles was still just 2, he definitely couldn’t navigate his way around up there alone and Michael and I took turns going up and down with him. But with the whole class lining up to go up the slide I thought Miles would be OK. So my nearly 37-week pregnant self decided to watch from the ground with some of the other teachers and parents who skipped the slide.
But after Miles made it all the way to the top, I saw him coming back down with one of the teachers. He was too scared to do it by himself and wanted his momma. Heart melts, of course, and I quickly start to climb the stairs with him. When I get to the top a parent and teacher exchange glances with each other and then eye my now pretty obvious baby belly.
“Are you sure you should be doing this?” one of them asks.
I laugh, “What, go down a slide pregnant with my son? Of course I should do it!”
So Miles and I zoomed down the slide.
What a fun morning. It was just a few hours but it was full of memories and moments I’ll treasure. I’m not sure how many field trips I’ll make, but I’m hopeful I can do at least one a year. I’m grateful to have a kiddo that is happy and proud to have me tag along and an employer who values the importance of family time.
I’ve talked about Project Reveal here a time or two. My recent absence from regular blogging can be attributed directly to this amazing nonprofit organization and my role in planning its first-ever event.
The organization’s creator, Stacey Godbold, and myself have been working on birthing the baby that was named Embrace Your Body. This baby was a fundraising event Friday night and an outreach event on Saturday. We certainly are not the only two involved; lots of other people played big and small roles in bringing this baby into the world. But I’m not sure if anyone else went through the “labor” that Stacey and I experienced with this amazing event.
I’m not going to lie though, it was pretty painful. Remember, I’m just three weeks shy of birthing another baby (this one actually is a human!) I was so tired and sore when I dragged myself home after 11 p.m. Friday night that I couldn’t even walk upstairs to bed; I slept on the couch.
Let me first say, baby Embrace Your Body came into this world at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 at 56/58 Adams Avenue and was a healthy, happy and super inspiring gal. OK, enough with the metaphor … The event was fabulous. There were more than 200 people that came through the door; we raised a lot of money; we had a great time; and, most importantly, we touched and inspired a lot of people! That was the most important part of what we did.
The super-talented photographer Erin McCracken took hundreds of photos of women from the Evansville area of all ages, shapes, backgrounds and ethnicities back in June. And let me point out that these women were in their underwear! They were truly embracing their bodies and entrusting us. We narrowed the photos down to 24 and made huge prints (seriously huge — two feet by three feet.) Those photos were then displayed in a swanky feeling gallery space in Evansville’s Haynie’s Corner Art District. Add to that live music, a fun photo booth, delicious food, a bar, an amazing green lemonade and the inspirational words of Stacey and Erin and you have a perfect night.
We also made sure those that attended the event (and also supported us with their positive words, encouragement and donations) felt like they could be a part of Project Reveal. They participated in our interactive art piece that will forever be a part of Project Reveal and then also had the opportunity to either “embrace their body” or “reveal” something about themselves on luminary bags that meandered and glowed around the Haynie’s Corner fountain.
I’m not going to lie, when I walked outside and saw that at the end of the night my eyes got a little wet. It was beautiful. Not only was it just an impressive site seeing all the luminary bags glowing and the words written on them but it was validation for what we’d worked so hard to do.
Each of those bags represented someone that believed in something that I’d invested so much of myself into recently, something I’d made so many sacrifices for in recent months and something that I too really believed in.
It meant a lot that my mom, twin sis, family friend and boss all took their time (and money, this event wasn’t free folks, it was a fundraiser after all) to support me by showing up. There were other co-workers there supporting the organization as well. It really meant a lot.
I know my husband is so very, very tired of hearing me say, “I’ve got to work late tonight on Project Reveal,” “I won’t be home until 10 or 11 because of set up for the event,” “I’ve got to leave to do a radio spot for Project Reveal,” “We’ve got a Project Reveal event all afternoon, sorry I won’t be home.” But every time he said, “Go, have fun. It’s fine.”
Without him completely taking over all of the house maintaining and child care duties the last couple weeks I’m not sure what would have happened. I certainly couldn’t have done what I was able to do with and for the event.
I know I wasn’t the only one making these sacrifices. Stacey, mom of triplets who just turned 1 and a 4 year old, made even more sacrifices and put even more blood, sweat and tears into the planning. And Erin, who got married in the midst of all this event planning craziness, also was super dedicated and involved.
And the most important thing to stress here is that I WANTED to do it all. I’m the kind of person that likes to be involved in something. I want to channel my passion and energy into something I believe in. I hadn’t really had that in the last few years, especially since I’d had Miles. I’d get involved with specific events (I was on the planning committee for Relay for Life in Madison County, was on the Heart Walk team here, etc.) but had not really found a place where I really felt I belonged and could have an impact.
But I think Project Reveal is it. The mission of the organization is to create a forum where “women can help other women by sharing their stories, strength and hope about a defining time in their lives.”
So until I hear otherwise from Stacey, she and Project Reveal are stuck with me.
But I have to say, now that baby Embrace Your Body has made it’s debut it is time for me to focus on the other baby I’ve been working on for the last eight-plus months — baby Owen. His debut (if all goes as planned) is in 21 days. It’s been hard to focus on preparing for his arrival with all the event details and deadlines. So now my focus is on this baby and back on my amazing and supportive husband and kiddo Miles.
If you want to learn more about Project Reveal visit projectreveal.org.
My first pie ever!
There are days that I struggle to find a blog topic. Today I have about four swimming around in my head. But this one, the one where I ponder the letter I just received suggesting I quit my job and pull my son out of preschool, well it made its way to the top.
I want to stress that I really do appreciate this reader’s feedback for a number of reasons — it tells me people are actually reading (yippee), it gave me a chance to once again examine why we’ve made the schooling decisions we have, it’s renewed my confidence in those decisions and it gave me something to blog about.
Every couple weeks my editor will choose one of these blogs to run in the newspaper as a column. She chose to run the blog I wrote about being anxious about Miles’ first day of school on our education page just before school started for the two large public school systems. In the column I talked about my free-spirited little guy who loves to play with trains on the floor with no pants on, and who’s favorite activity is to run around screaming random nonsense.
The letter-writer was well spoken and even signed her name. And she was far from mean or ugly (which sometimes people can be.) And I get when you write about this kind of stuff for a public audience you are totally putting your decisions, emotions, family and all that stuff out there for the public eye and scrutiny. And it isn’t a one-way street. I don’t just shout it all out into an empty void (at least I hope I don’t!)
I appreciate hearing feedback, even when it isn’t just a good ol’ pat on the back or, “I totally have been there.” So I welcome this feedback; it’s just kind of jarring. And I’m still processing it all.
The writer pleads for my husband and me to “reconsider” our decision to send Miles to preschool. Instead of doing that, I should quit my job to be at home with him.
“If you feel that Miles needs to start learning — he will do it the best sitting next to his mother — snuggled up reading a book, and then when he has sit (sic) as long as he can — he can get back to playing with his trains, running and screaming not expected to sit quietly a few hours a week, four days a week.”
We spend LOTS of time snuggled up reading books. We do this at least every night at bedtime, and he sits snuggled up to his FATHER reading books throughout the day as well. And he isn’t expected to sit quietly for those three hours a day, four days a week he is at school. They have recess, they have center play, they go on “color scavenger hunts,” they have a castle complete with dress up clothes for pretend play and there is even a train set there! But in the midst of that play he is getting exposed to other children, a lot of dialogue, the concept of listening to someone other than mom and dad and exposure to some organized learning and structure.
The letter-writer goes one:
“Boys are barely able to do that (referring to sitting quietly) when they are 5 and in kindergarten — there is plenty of time for him to learn — there is no scientific proof that pre-school is advantageous — much more important for him to be at home learning with his mother.”
I think it is important for my child (the only child I’m making educational decisions for right now) to be exposed to some structure and order before “real school” starts. Ideas like lining up, sitting in a circle, being responsible for his backpack and other simple lessons could be taught at home before a child enters kindergarten I’m sure. But the idea of doing those in a setting outside of the home, for someone else and with a classroom of peers is hard to replicate inside one’s home.
And the concept of home schooling is one that I think is great. And I’m sure it works really well and is amazing for a lot of families. But for us, it just isn’t the best option or fit. I work outside of the home, a necessity for our family. We are lucky that my husband is able to stay home with Miles and soon our second son but he does a lot of work from home. That schedule just doesn’t work for home school. Plus, I just don’t think it is something that would be a good fit for my husband (or me, if I was able to quit my job.)
The letter-writer says, “Miles will be expected to act in ways that are beyond his capabilities.”
That just isn’t true. He’s been in school for four weeks now and with the exception of one, “Miles had a difficult time listening” note his teacher has had nothing but great things to say. Her words are the exact opposite of this prediction actually where the teacher has said he has exceeded expectations and is doing wonderfully.
Keep reading (and responding!)
This week Miles protested going to school every single day. He screamed, he cried, he even ran from Michael throwing himself into the grass declaring, “I don’t like school!”
Today, his day off from school, he wakes up excitedly at 6:15 a.m. (30 minutes earlier than I had to drag him out of bed every other day this week) saying, “I can’t wait to go to school!”
When I informed him that today was NOT a school day, that’s when the tears started falling.
Hey, at least he’s mixing it up!
I am far from wishing away time and moments with my little guy who I love SO very, very much. But I’m going to put it right out there — I’m wishing away the tantrums! They can go the way of the doo-doo (is that the old cliché), and I won’t protest a bit.
Here’s to the weekend full of promise and fun times. Hopefully he’ll wake up all smiles tomorrow and declare, “I get to spend ALL DAY with Mommy!”
Have a great weekend.
Way back then the hubby and I did actual touristy things every once in a blue moon. This trip to Memphis was our version of a one-day vacation. Most of our vacation time back then was spent driving up to Indiana from Louisiana to spend time with my family.
These days most of our vacation time is spent driving down to Louisiana to see his family.
During those trip five or so years ago we would try to make an overnight stop midway somewhere different so we could have a little mini-vacay.
This trip to Memphis in 2009 was a fun one. Here’s some of the memories from it. We look so young. And I still wear that shirt ALL THE TIME!
This isn’t the first (nor will it be the last) time I talk about a need for patience and grace when it comes to my son. I love him; I love him so much I can’t even put it into words.
He is precious; he’s sweet; he’s amazing; he teaches me something new every day; he brings the biggest smile to my face about a hundred times a day; he’s curious; he’s independent; he’s magical. I honestly cannot imagine life without him.
But you know what, he’s also stubborn, cranky, fussy, loud, rambunctious, downright mean, disobedient and so, so, so obstinate.
That’s the reality of kids I suppose. Who am I kidding, that’s the reality of relationships with everyone — friends, parents, partners, co-workers — there’s a lot of beautiful but with it comes some painful and ugly too.
But when I have mornings like this one when nearly every moment I’m having to “take a deep breath and count to four” (thanks Daniel Tiger for the anger management technique) because I feel “so mad I want to roar” (yell really), it’s harder to see the sweet, loving, amazing kid and not focus on the cranky, fussy one I spent the last two hours with.
“I want Cubby’s coconut cereal!”
Seriously kid, what is Cubby’s coconut cereal? Obviously you’ve been watching too much “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” I tried about everything we had in the kitchen (including cereal where I sprinkled coconut on top) and NOTHING satisfied this crazy, for real the kid was dead-set on Cubby’s coconut cereal, demand.
“I don’t want to wear clothes!”
Mmmm … well you have to. Am I being unreasonable? You can’t go to school, heck you can’t go anywhere, without clothes. Please, put them on. I don’t care what you wear; you just have to wear something. (He decided on pulling his fish socks ALL the way up to his knees, insisting, “They have to be bigger!”
“Daddy, you need to say you’re sorry!”
This was said with tears, desperate tears to be exact. Our morning routine is for Miles to go upstairs and wake his daddy up just before he goes to school. Miles crawled into bed with Michael and in his typical crazy, hyper fashion was playfully beating on Michael to get him up. Michael rolled away from Miles and accidentally (i.e. barely) elbowed his stomach, and Miles collapsed into tears.
“I need my rescue. I need it; I need it now!”
This, this was repeated at the highest volume possible for several minutes. His rescue is a particular train that happened to be in the basement. And this was in those last few “we’re running late for school” minutes of trying to get everyone out the door.
Some weeks we just have glimpses of that mean kiddo that kicks the furniture and then throws himself to the floor slamming his fists on the ground with a TV-style tantrum that I seriously didn’t think happened in real life until recently. And then other weeks I feel like the good night snuggles and “I love you Mommy!”s are few and far between.
Like everything, there are seasons. But during this season when this mama is dealing with a not-so-easy pregnancy the ability to stay cool, calm and collected during these major meltdowns and downright mean Miles moments is getting harder to come by. I don’t like to label parenting techniques/methods/styles or whatever you want to call it because we all are really doing the best we can for our family. But if I had to try to describe it, or put a name to it, the “peaceful parenting” method is closely what Michael and I follow when it comes to discipline with Miles.
We do our very, very best not to yell. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen because unfortunately it does. And our tone and volume of voice certainly changes as the situation changes. We also don’t use any kind of physical forms of discipline (hitting, spanking, etc.) When Miles was little redirection was the No. 1 method we used to try to change/correct misbehavior. These days we direct Miles to his bedroom for a timeout (or some other area if we are out of the house) where he can stay until he can calm down and apologize for the misbehavior.
But back to mornings such as today where from the moment he woke up he was screaming, crying or whining all the way to school I really, really, really have to work hard to find that peace that is coming harder and harder to come by deep down to practice our peaceful parenting.
So, here I am, nearly two hours after dropping the kiddo off at school still twitching a little. (OK, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, this stuff is exhausting.) And searching my dwindling reserves of patience and tolerance. But I’m reminding myself of the moments last night where he snuggled up in my arms and we rocked for a few minutes before he ran off in a bundle of energy.
Ah ha, that’s where I’ll find it. When I feel like I’ve got nothing left — no more energy, no more patience, no more grace — I’ll turn back to those catalog’s of the lovely, amazing, magical memories of my baby bear and I’ll get refreshed.
What’s your renewal strategy?
Wednesday, as Miles and I were rushing to make it to school on time — it doesn’t matter what time I get up or get him up, 7:45 a.m. always creeps up on us — my little guy seemed fine. Not a single complaint or whine. He barely touched his breakfast, but that isn’t all that unusual.
I lift him up into his car seat and start to buckle him in when he looks at me with a bit of a pained expression.
“My back hurts,” he says with a whine and a squint.
My first thought isn’t, “Oh no, what’s wrong with him.” It’s, “oh crap, my big ol’ pregnant, sore self must be whining too much. I have got to cut that out!”
I make sure he’s not sitting on anything and say, “You’ll be OK. Let’s go to school!” and buckle him up. We drive the two blocks to his school, and he hops out of his seat, grabs his backpack and runs up the sidewalk like he does every other morning. We smile to the woman holding the door open and make our way down the hall to Miles’ classroom.
About four steps in he grabs on to my legs and starts to whine.
“Mama, don’t leave. I want to stay with you ALL DAY LONG!”
I keep moving across the classroom with him attached to my left leg and hang up his backpack on the rack. I look at the teacher who seems as puzzled as me at his clinginess this morning. He’s been going to school for three weeks now and not once has he even acted like he notices I leave, let alone does he seem affected or upset by it.
I kneel down, “Honey, I love you but I have to go to work and you have to go to school. It’s story time. That’s exciting! Daddy will pick you up soon, and I’ll see you tonight. I love you.”
The whines quickly turned to tears (real-live wet tear drops) and then tears to screams as I peeled him from my leg, and with a heavy (and somewhat concerned) heart I left the classroom. I could hear his shouts, “No, mama come back,” as I walked down the hallway.
ACK! It was terrible.
I went to work and did my best to put the thoughts to the back of my mind as I worked on finishing up a story and made a few phone calls for future stories. A co-worker was at my desk and we were mid-conversation when I see my cellphone flashing, “St. Theresa’s School.” Uh-oh!
I apologize and pick up the phone.
“Miles threw up in the classroom.”
“Eww that’s gross” and “Aww, my poor boy,” are the thoughts running simultaneously through my head. I call to alert Michael (who is much closer) and he retrieves our poor, sick kiddo.
After I know he’s home and is OK, just feeling terrible and pukey, I can start the inevitable, “You’re a terrible mom” guilt trip. Sigh. Will it ever go away.
“How did you not know he was sick?” “How could you leave the school when he was screaming for you?”
You get the picture.
Miles spent most of the day sleeping and whining about his tummy hurting. “I need to get the pukies out but I can’t.” Michael had him all set up with fluids, his blanket, “the real Thomas” (aka trains on YouTube) streaming on the television and an ice cream bucket from the recycle bin, just in case.
At one point Michael thought Miles was fast asleep, and he went to move the bucket to the side.
“No Daddy I NEEEEED that bucket.”
When I got home there was lots of snuggles and a few tears when the stomach cramps hit him. But by 9 p.m. whatever it was that had hit him had seemed to have left and the kid scarfed down some toast, blueberries and even an egg. He was asleep by 10 and when he woke up this morning he seemed fine.
So, the moral of the story — eh, I don’t know. I certainly can’t panic over every little complaint of an ache or a pain. Maybe the biggest lesson learned was the importance of the ice cream bucket. Yep, that’s it.