Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday’s Love and I’m Better Off Without Lists…

Love List…
·         Myles telling Ben after reading the latest chapter in his chapter book, “Why do you always look at the next chapter when you know 9 will be after 8, just like 60 will be after 59, Dad?”
·         Gabbing with my sister for an hour on the phone instead of running tonight.  Priorities.
·         Wandering through aisles and aisles of gorgeous slabs of granite to find just the right ones for my countertops.
·         March is reading month and my kids cheer every time they get to add a sticker to their reading chart (thank you Erica!)
·         Peeking in on Jillian cuddled in her princess sleeping bag surrounded by books and stuffed animals, fast asleep napping.
·         Myles and Jillian elevating us to heroes just because of some old trophies from our early years.  Myles asked, “Mom, if we do good deeds, can we earn these trophies?”  After taking one to school for show and tell he reassured Ben, “Dad, I told them you earned this playing basketball.  I didn’t earn it.  I borrowed it.  But I’ll earn my own someday.”
·         Jillian asking for “Jacks” today for a snack.  Apple Jack’s.
·         Wilson cleaning up 90% of the “Oops!!” in our house.

I’m Better Off Without…
·         Toddler snot bubbles.
·         Soapbox discussions.  Do people just like to hear themselves talk?
·         Germs.  Actually, I believe I am officially a germophobe.  Hand sanitizer anyone?  How ‘bout some Lysol?  Oh, we need to shake hands?  Hope you don’t see my hand sanitizer rub down immediately following.
·         Dust.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wilson! Wilson! Wiiilllsooonn!

You have met everyone in our family, except our furriest member that walks on all fours…Wilson.
We adopted Wilson during a pet adoption drive.  He was the only blonde puppy in what looked like a litter of tiny labs.  They were only five weeks old and were cute as can be.  As soon as we saw him, we knew we had to have him.  We weren’t ready for kids, but we could handle a puppy.  A couple hundred dollars later, we left with all of the “accessories” for our tiny ball of fur.  We brought him home to our new house and shortly began to understand a bit about caring for another creature and loving it so much. 
I loved Wilson.  I did anything for him.  I remember sleeping with him on the floor after he had his little boy doggy surgery.  He was my roller-blading partner (this gives you a clue to how old he is…does anybody roller-blade around the neighborhood anymore?  He is eight and a half).  We would watch TV cuddled up together.  He chewed up my shoe?  No problem, he is a puppy and he could do no wrong.  We took him to obedience school and he became a star student.  We were proud parents. 
I remember sitting on the stairs of our first house petting him and talking to him.  He was still a puppy, but he was getting bigger.  I was telling him not to grow up.  I liked him just the way he was.  He did just that.  Our lab / border collie mix never grew taller than 18 inches.  He still, at a doggy age approaching sixty, looks like a lab puppy to me.
Wilson in the midst of our Chicago move.  Working hard.
Onward to Chicago and our condo search downtown was limited to condos that allowed dogs.  Wilson needed to love our condo as much as we did.  He braved the big city and loved to take walks.  He was top dog of Chicago, as soon as he got used to peeing in a dog run.
Back to Kalamazoo, Wilson made the move back home and gained a “brother” when Myles was born.  I remember crying when I was pregnant that Wilson would be sad when Myles was born (I cried at commercials too).  He wouldn’t be our little boy anymore.  We brought home our brand new blue bundle and I was thrilled that Wilson was protective and curious of Myles from the beginning.  He was very good around him.  A crawling baby pulling on his ears, tail, trying to ride his back… it didn’t matter.  Wilson was so gentle with Myles.  Yet, my sadness during pregnancy wasn’t unwarranted.  My fears came true.  Friends had warned me that it would happen, I just didn’t believe them.  Despite my attempts, Wilson became a dog.  I still loved him and cared for him, but he wasn’t my “son” anymore.  He was our dog.  It was the first time that he actually had non-human status in our house.  My television evenings were spent bouncing a baby on an exercise ball, instead of petting Wilson.  When I came home from work, despite Wilson jumping at my feet, I ran to greet Myles first.
Fast forward a few more years and we were bringing Jillian home from the hospital.  Now there were two human siblings for Wilson to “compete” with for attention.  A screaming baby or preschooler yelling to go potty always trumped the little blond furry friend.  Don’t get me wrong, we still loved him, but when all is quiet in the house, the dishes, laundry, or other household duties were always calling.  I found that less and less of my time was spent petting and playing with Wilson.  Myles was old enough to play with him and they would spend time chasing balls and each other during the day.  I could rationalize that at least someone was playing with him.  Of course, Wilson could always find a way to make me play with him.  A snagged baby toy and the chase is on.  It still happens sometimes today.  I have to put on my man voice to get it from him.
Teenage Years.
Today, Myles and Ben attacked me and started a tickle fight.  As I yelled and yelled for Jillian to come to my rescue, Wilson came running like my knight in shining armor.  Playfully, he growled and nuzzled the boys, trying to free his mom.  It worked.  They turned on him and started wrestling on the floor.  It made me think…  Wilson is not unhappy with his dog status in our family.  He is one of us and even though it sounds weird, I think he gets it. 

When I think of Wilson, I just smile.  He has been with us for the majority of our marriage.  He has lived through all of the major events of our lives…the great times, the terrible times, and everything in between.  The kids love playing with Wilson and I really would be hard pressed to find another dog that would be so gentle with our kids.  As he has gotten older, he has slowed down quite a bit.  He isn’t the best running partner anymore (let alone roller-blader).  Now, he is more suited for a walk and the kids love taking him out as much and he does.  He will always be special to us.  He was the first creature (other than fish) that Ben and I raised.  He turned out pretty well if you ask me.  Wilson, my dog, this one is for you!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When Mommy Is Away the Kiddos Still Play: Traveling for Work

I’m on a trip for work this week.  Before kids, I used to travel all of the time for work.  Now that I am part-time, the trips have decreased a great deal, but occasionally I need to be away from home for a few nights.
When the kids were younger, the trips were hard.  Not only would I need to cover care for the days that I would normally be home, I had to figure out whether I had enough milk to be away, how I would store it while I was gone, and how I would sneak out of all day meetings to find a hidden room to pump.  Fun stuff, I know.
Now, the kids are older, but we have new struggles.  I have found that being honest and explaining the trip to the kids a few days in advance is the best tactic for preparing them for my absence.  Let’s be honest, Jillian is a Momma’s girl.  We are working on letting Daddy do more things for her, but overall, she prefers mom for everything.  It may be a phase, but thus far it has lasted…her entire life.  So, I walk through who will be with them each day and we talk about being able to talk on the phone or FaceTime.  I get extra cuddle time in before I leave and I am sure to give them their nightly kisses for each night that I will be gone.  I always wait until the last possible minute to leave and go back and kiss each of them ten extra times.  They are good sports about it.
Typically, I have not even left the driveway before I want to turn around and go back.  (This time I actually did have to go back.  Probably not a good idea to take the car seats with me all week, huh?) What if they need me?  What if they get sick?  What if something happens to them while I’m gone?  What if something happens to me while I’m gone?  The typical freak-out.  It can’t be prevented and typically is not at all rooted in common sense.  I’m a Mom though, I think I get a pass. 
The first night is always the worst… for all of us.  For me, I have the whole trip still ahead of me.  It just seems like a long time that first night.  For the kids, they are getting adjusted to me being gone.  This week, Jillian had a total freak-out the first night.  Ben was trying anything he could to calm her down.  It resulted in one of the worst things for a mom on a work trip…the dreaded sobbing phone call from your two-year old daughter.  Sobbing.  A blubbering mess.  I’m in the car with three men, driving through Toledo, Ohio…half-way to Cleveland, trying to calm down my adorable little emotional daughter sobbing in her bedroom in her pink footie pajamas.  Luckily, talking to her helped.  It doesn’t change how terrible I felt about putting her through it.  Thank goodness for Ben.  He sent me a text a few minutes later.  It read, “Well… I offered Myles a Breathe Rite (he was stuffy) and he freaked out (the kid is afraid of band-aids).  I told him it’s what you wear and when she heard that, she wanted it.  So, as of right now, it’s what’s keeping her close to her mom.”  The text included this picture. 
As bad as I felt, I laughed out loud.  Dad and Jillian had found a way to work through my absence.  She was happy (or at least not crying).  As much as I wanted to be there to sing to them, tuck them in to bed, and hug her through her tears (that probably wouldn’t have even been there had I been home), at least Ben and Jillian were bonding.  Find the positive in everything, right?  I don’t leave often, but when I do, the two of them have to be two peas in a pod.  He has to read her story, give her a bath, and do all of the things that she always prefers mom to do.  This somehow helps their relationship, right?  I think it must.  I also hope that the kids seeing me travel on occasion gives them an understanding of the work responsibilities of a working mother.  Someday, Jillian might have decisions about working outside of the home, staying home, or working part time.  Trips like this week could give her a frame of reference for how her mom tried to gain balance while working and parenting (it may be a stretch to think she will actually remember this trip when she is older, but I’m sure eventually she will have a memory of her nights with Daddy running the house).
Since this first night tear-fest, everything has been fine.   I have had wonderful, super-excited phone conversations with both kids.  I have seen them on FaceTime jumping and screaming in excitement.  They have had fun days and are happy when I talk to them.  Jillian tells me how much she misses me and loves me, but she is able to move on to tell me all about when she did today.  Tomorrow, I will get to hug them, kiss them, and make them dinner myself.  We will all glow in the euphoria of excitement of my coming home all night.  Absence makes the heart grow even fonder, right? 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Helpers...of the tiny variety.

Myles and Jillian love to help (at least for the time being).  As long as it is on their terms, any task that helps mom is somehow fun, exciting, and rewarding.  Wish laundry and sweeping seemed that fun to me, but I’m happy to have the help, even when it takes longer to get things done.  I need to enjoy it now, right?  As they get older, I’m sure it will be harder to get them to help.  I doubt at 16 Myles will offer to organize the shoes in my closet like he did the other day.
This week, my handy helpers enjoyed doing laundry.  Here is a picture.  (Disregard my beautiful laundry room.  After a year in our house, we have not made it to remodeling this room yet.  It is a priority for me though.  If you have to do laundry, it might as well be in a cute room, right?  Maybe this summer.  For now, it's the kitchen.)  Myles got creative with a step ladder.  He could actually reach the clothes!  Jillian was the “pusher.”  They both love this job of pushing clothes into the dryer.  We must not forget the “runners”.   These are those tiny feet that run the clothes to my bed to fold…one by one.  This can keep them busy the entire time I fold a load.  It is so fun to see the pride in their smiles when they are done helping and I thank them.  A true sense of accomplishment…over doing laundry.  Somehow, that feeling has faded over the years and loads for me.  Nice to see it in them though!
Baking is always a top helper project.  Our family’s favorite…banana bread.  You can’t get any more fun out of baking than squishing those brown bananas, right?
I can tell you though, I think that having them help me has created somewhat of an understanding for what mom does for both kids.  Often, they thank me for dinner or other things that I do for them.   It definitely gives me a lift when trying to get through the list for the day.  Their help with the little things is encouraging too.  Myles always brings his plate from the table so I don’t have to go and get it.  I am still amazed that Jillian keeps her room so clean.  She wouldn’t have it any other way.  Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I have to think that having them help me will help them become wonderful housemates for someone else someday!  Although, it may not matter for Myles.  He tells me all the time that he and his wife will live in this house and I can take care of their kids too.  Can’t wait.
Hope you all have a great weekend!  Thanks for stopping by!
Gotta travel for work next week.  I’m sure I’ll post about it.  Leaving the kiddos (yes, you too Ben!) is already on my mind, days in advance…

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tuesday’s Love and I’m Better Off Without Lists: Valentine’s Edition (Warning: Sap Alert)

Love List…
·         Ten years ago this summer I married my high school sweetheart and best friend.
·         Every major milestone through my life has included my love.  College, marriage, buying our first (and second, third, and fourth) house, and creating a wonderful family to love.
·         Through the best times of our lives and the worst times of our lives, we always have each other.
·         Our kids are mini-me’s.  We have a little Ben (Myles) and a little Nicole (Jillian).
·         I suck at keeping a secret from my Valentine.   I’ve tried.  I’ve failed.
·         My Valentine believes I can do things I’m not even sure I can do.
·         Ben has that entrepreneurial spirit and I know that he can and will be successful at anything he ventures in life.
·         I love my Valentine more each year that passes.  Is that even possible?
·         By the time I am 33 years old, we will be together for longer than we were apart in our lives (Yes, counting from birth).
Benjamin Alan, will you be my Valentine?

Better Off Without…
Anything on the Better Off Without list, especially on Valentine’s Day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Balance: Working Inside and Outside of the Home

Being a mother is a tough job.  Whether you work outside the home, inside the home, or both…our job is hard.  We make decisions for tiny people that put all of their trust in us.  We take care of sick kids, change diaper after diaper, and somehow make it through those early months of sleepless nights.  So…when I see or hear mothers talking like we are on separate teams (between working and stay at home) I am so sad.  Instead of banding together and sharing common ground, sometimes we look at the other side of the career / home mix with negative viewpoints.  Working part-time outside of the house, I sit somewhere in between those two groups, so I hear both sides of the career statements… “I don’t know how you stay home that many days a week.  It’s just not for me.”  Or, “I don’t know how you can leave them to travel for work.  Don’t you miss them?”  “Don’t you worry that you will miss a milestone while you are at work?”  Is it possible that it is just our own insecurities about the decision we made (or may not have had the choice to make) that causes disdain for the other “team”?  I think we need to support each other through the tough parenting decisions that we have to make.  In today’s world, is one choice better than the other?  Of course not.  Working outside of the home is a very personalized issue that only has to be right for one person.  You (and your family).  My decision to work part-time works for me.  It may not work for you for a dozen or so reasons, but for me…it works. 
Over the last several years, I have been asked a countless number of questions about working part-time.  How did I get them to let me do it?  How could you get off the “career track”?  How can you do your job part-time?  What made you decide to do it?  Will you ever go back full-time?  And the list goes on…
Before I had Myles, my career was my top priority (along with my marriage).  I had held four positions in five years and I loved every minute of it.  A corporate relocation to Chicago had let us live our dream to live in the big city for a while, and brought us back home, just as we had hoped.  I wanted a baby, but there was no way it would change how I felt about work.  I wondered how I would manage all of the travel that I did, but I knew I would find a way.  A great husband and a daycare I trusted, and I could continue to climb the corporate ladder with a baby in tow, no problem.
Then, I saw him.  I still cannot fully explain what happened to me.  Maybe some sort of short in my system.  I tried, but I couldn’t fix it.  I had to find a way to stay home with him, at least a few days of the week. 
Looking back, I still can’t believe what I did next.  Despite the exhaustion of a newborn, I decided that becoming a real estate agent was the only way I could stay home, at least part-time.  Honestly, I assumed that working part-time for my current employer just wasn’t an option.  I travelled quite a bit, and as a product manager for the largest accounts that my division sold to, there was just no way (at least that I could see) that they would allow me to work part-time.  What if my customer called?  It’s not like they could just wait until tomorrow!  So, during every sleeping moment Myles had, I studied and took an online class to get my real estate license.  I took the test and made a plan to leave a company that I loved, for more time with Myles.  Financially, it was going to be tough.  Really tough.  BUT – we could work it out, I was sure of it.
All too soon came the dreaded day that I would have to resign (I can’t bring myself to say quit) from my job.  I had talked through the meeting in my head a dozen times, came with a formal written letter, and was as prepared as I could be for the meeting.  All the prep in the world didn’t change the fact that I was preparing to leave something I loved, but I was sure that I wanted more days at home with Myles.  What I wasn’t prepared for was their response.  They wanted some time to work out a position that I could do part-time.  I never expected such a progressive response.  They could tell I was having a hard time with the decision and wanted to try and make something work that would be mutually beneficial for both parties. (Just as a side-note… I would never advise resigning from a job with the hopes for a counter-offer to stay part-time.  Only quit if you truly plan to quit.  I have heard of people trying to use leaving after maternity leave as a way to negotiate something further.  Quite a risky venture if you ask me.)
Fast forward four years… I am still loving my part-time working arrangement.  As a Market Development Manager, I love my job, the people I work with, and the company that made it possible.  I have “pulled over” on the career highway, but I still feel like I am on the road (with carseats in the backseat). 
Sometimes I think that working part-time just makes both parenting and working harder on me.  Conference calls and emails can make my days at home harder.  Trips for work or extra meetings can make scheduling care for my days off extra hard as well.  It almost seems like if I worked full time (the care would always be there) or stayed at home all the time, some things would be easier.  Yet, I wouldn’t trade the balance I have found for anything.  It works for me.  That is what is important.  Just like each mother has to find a balance that works for her.  I’m sure someday I will return to work full-time.  My husband asks me at least once a month when that will be… not yet, Ben.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday’s Love and I’m Better Off Without Lists…

Love List…
·         My latest dose of Vitamin D.  I was able to do my long run this week OUTSIDE with the sun shining on my face!
·         Tiny painted finger and toenails.  I love it even more that she wants them painted and has a strong opinion on the color.  In fact, when I don’t have mine done, she asks if I need her to do them for me.
·         New library books each week for the kids.  Something new to read to them…not just for the kids, but the Mom too!
·         Gerbera daisies.  Is there a more friendly and sunny flower?  I don’t think so.
·         My guilty pleasure…curling up on the couch with a blanket and watching mindless drama…the Bachelor.  Don’t judge.  This is raw honesty.
·         Amazing conferences with Myles’ teacher.  My big boy is ready for kindergarten!  The best thing she said wasn’t about academics at all, “Myles has a compassion for other students that I don’t see very often.  It is refreshing.  He cares so much for his friends.”
·         Watching my kids play together, hug, discuss the world around them, really anything but bicker.
·         Our spring-like winter this year in Michigan.  It’s darn weird, but I’ll take it.
·         Peppermint tea.  I’ve loved it since I was a little girl, thanks to my Oma (Grandma in German).  Actually, Jillian had a sip during a tea party last week.  “It tastes like…candy canes!!”
·         Three words.  Heated. Mattress. Pad.

I’m Better Off Without…
·         Witnessing senior road-rage as a 90+ year old woman pulling into a handicap parking space honks and harasses a 90+ year old man trying his best to get out of her way.  No, she didn’t hit him, but it darn was close.  You could tell…she wanted to.  (Actually, it was so funny maybe this is on the wrong list??)
·         A work day trumped by a “fire drill” of a project.
·         Whining… I was referring to children, but I suppose the adult variety isn’t all that pleasant either.
·         Coffee.  I try and try to like it.  It sure smells a lot better than it tastes.  I thought I would finally acquire a taste for it at 30.  Nope.
·         Running, running, and running some more…and weighing, weighing, and weighing…the same.

Monday, February 6, 2012

First Love Heart Flutters...

Best question of the day yesterday:  “Mom, When Is Cupid Coming?”
It has happened.  Already.  There is another woman (maybe I should say girl) in my tiny boy’s heart.  He’s five.  FIVE!  I thought I would at least have until second grade before dealing with this.  Yet, the pre-school class cutie has captured the puppy love of my son.
I’ve always known Myles was a romantic.  Any little boy that thinks you go to college to meet your wife probably has a disposition for love.  I just didn’t know we would be finding little loves quite so soon.
It all started with this sudden need to look cool.  I’m all for looking your best, no matter what your age.  Yet, suddenly my boy who never wants to do his hair, wants to?  Something is up.  “Mom, can you do my hair with dad’s gel today for school?  I want to look cool for Jane*.”  Well, there you have it.
Since then, we have had several conversations about Jane and how special she is.  “Can Jane come over for a playdate?”  Every night I sing to him (poor kid) before he goes to sleep.  Last night he said, “Mom, tomorrow night will you make up a song about me and Jane?”  She is a definite lock to be his Valentine this year.  He picked some fun Cars valentines with candy to pass out to all of his classmates next week.  After the big decision was made, he wanted one more special valentine.  “Mom, Jane likes My Little Pony.  Maybe I can get her a special Valentine that has My Little Pony on it.”  This is coming from a kid, MY kid, who has never even seen a My Little Pony.  Sweet boy, he already is recognizing her interests and wants to get her something she would like.
I supposed I can handle this puppy love, right?  I just don’t want my little boy’s heart-broken.  Sounds over-dramatic, I know.  Well… I have heard, “Mom, Jane was playing with two girls in class today and didn’t have much time to play with me.”  And then the real big one, “Mom, I told Jane I loved her.  She made a funny face after I said it.  I’m going to ask her why she made that funny face the next day I go to school.”  So…we have been having lots of conversations in our house about friends, family, love, and saying those three magic little words.  Certainly timely for Valentine’s Day. 
I know my little boy is a romantic at heart.  He is going to make some woman very happy someday.  He will be a great husband.  In the meantime, I hope I can edge Jane out and be the main woman in his life…at least for a few more years.
*Name has been changed to protect the tiny heartthrob.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Self Diagnosis: Mild Baby Fever

Definition of Baby Fever:  That feeling in the bottom of your gut that you want a new baby in your family to cuddle.

It’s back again…but this time it appears to be a mild case, if that’s possible.  I’ve had baby fever twice before.  Both were acute cases and resulted in nine months of pregnancy before going into remission.  Symptoms of baby fever include staring at cute bellies, talking to new mommas, (especially ones that just had their third), daydreaming about how it would be with three (could I handle it??), and wanting to hold babies…any baby (don’t worry - I’m not one of those crazies that asks to hold an unknown babies in a restaurant or groceries stores.  I always wanted to make a ‘Don’t Touch’ sign for my babies.)

I’m currently using home remedies to ward off the symptoms of this “illness”.  This includes cuddling with friends’ babies (warning: sometimes this can cause side effects and increase baby fever temperature).  Also, during times both of my kids are screaming or fighting, I am sure to take notice.  Would I want a baby crying in this situation?  Probably not.  There is also the family outing…when we are able to go out without a diaper bag, stroller, and all baby accessories and it is just so easy.  Let’s not forget the other very important player in this decision…the second half to our parental team… 
It appears that baby fever is not always contagious.  Ben has been able to avoid feeling any symptoms…whatsoever.  He has told me that going from man-to-man defense to zone defense just is not in our family playbook.  Ben also reminds me every time Jillian has a meltdown that a third would be (sarcastically) just so much fun.  He has this friendly way of putting up three fingers when we are on our second trip to the bathroom while out to dinner.  Most times during his friendly reminders I agree – three would just be too much.  Typically, he is simply verbalizing the doubts I have in the back of my mind.  In fact, if he said today that we should have a third, my stomach would probably flip!  Baby fever just lingers and always keeps me wondering…what if…

I will continue coping with this mild condition with home remedies for now.  I’m so happy with the two that we have and I am so grateful for the happiness they bring to us every day.  If your pregnant or have a new baby, I may pat your belly or hold your little one just a bit too long.  Humor me.  I’m dealing with the symptoms of baby fever.