Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Stay at Home Debate

As a preface to this post, this was extremely difficult for me to write.  This is such an emotion driven topic for me, which is why I feel that it needs to be shared.

I was very fortunate to be able to stay home for two years with my T Bear.  From the moment that I became pregnant I knew that I wanted to stay at home with my baby as long as I possibly could.  If it was possible I would be a full-time stay at home mom until my children start school; it is clearly not possible.  With T Bear, due to the hip dysplasia that she was born with, she was in a harness for seven months and then was in a full cast until she was almost one.  Hubby and I knew that she needed me to take care of her.  Then she needed special attention to catch up with her gross motor skills, so it was obvious that I needed to be at home.  When she turned two years old I had to return to my teaching position.  It was by far one of the worst days of my life.  We were able to manage because my mother and Hubby's mother alternated days and watched T Bear.  I was beyond a basket case when I returned.  I was so angry that this was the path that we were on.  I remember clearly that first morning back to work.  T Bear always slept late, but this morning she happened to wake up (I am sure she could sense that her world was changing), so she wanted to be rocked, which I did as long as I could, but we had to leave.  My poor mother-in-law had to take her from me, T screaming for Mommy, and me sobbing as I cursed Hubby out walking out of the house.  That ride in to school was a somber one; I don't think I uttered one word to Hubby (and if I did I am certain it was not a pleasant one!).  I saw one of my favorite colleagues as I made that long walk down the hallway to my office; he made a comment about me looking like I was walking the Green Mile and I started crying again!  Poor guy!  I mean I was carrying a box of tissues with me.  When I had to get up in front of my first period class I was beyond emotional.  I remember hearing my voice trembling as I attempted to explain how positive it would be for them to have a new teacher half way through the school year (needless to say I was trying to convince myself as well).  We did survive the next five months, but I did not enjoy it at all.  I literally had an upset stomach every morning; it did not get easier for me.

I believe it changed my relationship with T Bear.  She had to grow up a little bit, become independent from me, and her world was different.  It was not as consistent and routine as it had been.  Obviously children are resilient and being watched by two devoted grandmothers is pretty special, but they are not Mommy and do not do things the way Mommy does.  I felt like I didn't necessarily know what she needed, because I wasn't with her every second of the day.  It was extremely hard on me, and probably on her as well.  I would call every single day at lunch, and she either didn't want to talk to me, or became upset and wanted to see me.  Most of my calls ended up with an update from a grandmother and that was about it.

When I returned to work in the fall it was a little easier, because I knew what to expect and I was pregnant so I knew I would be at home in five months!  T did get to experience new things with Mima and Gramma, and they each play and interact with her differently than I do, so there were some benefits.

Flash forward to a few months ago when Hubby and I started talking about my inevitable return to work.  I had requested an extension to my maternity leave which was viable until the end of January.  I had no interest in returning to work.  I am not one of those women who is a better mother while working.  I fully respect every mom's needs, but being a working mom is just not my thing.  I do not not need to work to feel whole.  In fact I had never felt more like me than when I first had T Bear.  Currently, I believed wholeheartedly that neither I, Mad Man, nor T Bear would benefit from my return.  Hubby did not necessarily see things the same way.  He also felt that the kiddos were better off with me being at home, but he was well aware of the bottom line: financially we needed my salary, and there are serious discussions about my position being cut due to budget issues.  Also, we purchased land last year and have been making strides toward building (which is something we both really desire - we have definitely outgrown our house!).  None of this really seemed to matter to me.  As we discussed and discussed this issue it always became a hot bed for disaster.  I would become overly emotional, he would get frustrated, and nothing would get resolved.  This brought us to the last possible moment for me to request another extension.  Now along with the fact that we had to decide what the best thing for us would be, we received so much solicited and unsolicited advice.  Everyone seems to have an opinion on my return to work.  I have to ponder how it affects anyone besides the four of us??

It was finally do or die time, so to speak.  So we had an actual adult conversation and laid out all of the possibilities, pros, cons, hypotheticals, etc.  Even though financially it is not the best decision, we decided that I would request the extension.  So it is official:  I am home with my babies for the remainder of the school year.  I felt alive for the first time in months when I received the confirmation.  We don't know what will happen with my position, but no matter what happens I know that we put our family's emotional welfare first.  I have never been one to let finances guide my decision making and I wasn't about to start now!  We know that sacrifices will have to be made, but the pay off is huge:  our babies get Mommy all day.  I love being at home, in spite of the craziness!  I am so very grateful for this opportunity.     

High:  Knowing I have at least eight more months as a stay at home mom.
Low:  The stress of living on one salary.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Update: Holiday Mommy: Grinch or Spirit Master?

Well, the holidays are over and the jury is still out!  I think I pulled out as Spirit Master, but I'm sure some would say Grinch.  You be the judge!

After much debate we decided to make the trip to my sister's house for her holiday party.  The kiddos and I joined Mima and Poppi for the trip; Hubby met us there.  A five and a half hour trip turned into an eight hour trip.  Wow.  We met at my favorite restaurant On the Border for dinner and got back to my sister's house late.  So kiddos are going in to this weekend tired.  We had a full day of getting the house ready, and doing party prep; T Bear was on the go all day and we didn't get her to rest (even though I really wanted to!).  The party was lots of fun, so I let the kiddos stay up.  Mad Man dozed on and off, but T kept going until almost midnight.  Even though I knew that T should be in bed, I let her enjoy the party.  Big mistake.  Huge, actually.  She was a real bear the next day for our lovely trip home.  I have never been so happy to get out of our van.

Christmas shopping.  Some would probably view this excursion as crazy, but to me it is just par for the course.  Mima, Poppi, the kiddos and I decided to go to Binghamton shopping for the day.  It is about an hour drive.  We left later than we wanted to (again par for the course), and managed to see Santa prior to eating lunch.  After T had a few meltdowns deciding what she would eat (which ended up being a bite or two of Cinnabon, some yogurt, some Doritos, and some bites of a soft pretzel) we were ready to shop.  Mima took T and Poppi and I headed out with the Mad Man.  We were able to get a few things accomplished before meeting back up.  Did I mention that in between lunch and meeting up we had one potty break, one diaper change, a short nap for the Mad Man, and some snacking for T?  I know.  We made our purchases and by 4:30 were beyond ready to sit down and have dinner.  Now, there was a time when I could do marathon shopping trips - those times are seriously over (for now)!  There was even a time when T Bear and I could do some serious shopping, but throw another child into the mix and all bets are off!  I was proud of T because she picked out gifts for everyone all on her own (courtesy of Mima's wallet!), and she was so proud of herself and what she purchased.

The many days of Christmas.  Now in a perfect world there would be some amount of relaxation during the holidays; this is not a perfect world.  The festivities began on Sunday with breakfast with Santa at The Neptune Diner.  This was actually relaxing.  T and Mad Man were happy and we were able to enjoy a late breakfast with Mima and Poppi.  Then the rush was on.  We went back to their house so T could wrap her presents and Mad Man's finger prints could be used to make some gifts!  Then to our house for Mad Man's nap, gathering stuff for the evening, and baking pumpkin bread.  Not usually a big deal, but Hubby was at softball practice (yes, I know it is December, somebody forgot to tell him), and Mad Man only sleeps while being held (we are working on it!).  I did manage to find a quiet moment to give T an early Christmas gift:  a gold heart necklace which was mine when I was little.  I had no idea how excited she would be to wear it.  She brought tears to my eyes, and in that moment the magic of the season was upon us.  Then back to reality.  After some exhaustion we were off to Hubby's dad's house for hors d'oeuvres.  We were home by nine, too late for a bath, then off to bed. 

The next day was Christmas Eve.  We began the day attempting to find our living room floor, which was covered with toys and God only knows what else!  My sister and her boyfriend arrived and we visited for a bit, while I continued to clean-up.  Then lunch, followed by a bath for both kiddos.  Not sure where Hubby was for all of this fun.  Then putting curlers in T Bear's hair (I had secretly been dying to curl her hair - it is so long!  I mentioned to her that when I was little I always curled my hair for holidays and birthdays, and she was in!).  I then tried to locate the correct presents for the evening amidst our mountain of gifts piled in the Disney room (our spare bedroom/playroom/catch all room).  Mad Man wasn't having it,  so it was time to get him to nap.  Following his nap we quickly gathered the presents and necessities for the evening.  Now let's face it, it practically takes a miracle just to get myself, T and Mad looking presentable, so this was no easy task.  We did manage to pull ourselves together, then Hubby took T outside to spread her Christmas Magic for Santa and the reindeer.  At this point I was having my own fit because Hubby had snapped that I was going to burn the house down by accidentally putting a piece of paper on top of the stove.  Argh.  Now, let me mention that I was emptying the diaper bag while wrestling Mad Man and answering T's abundance of questions!  Had he lent a hand perhaps this could have been avoided.  Then we were off to Hubby's mom's house for a Christmas Eve dinner and presents with Hubby's family.  Following this celebration, we were off to my parent's house for their Christmas Eve party.  Mad Man lasted a while, but then conked out.  We stayed and did get to watch my favorite Christmas movie 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, which is my Christmas Eve tradition.  We were home by 11:00.  We got the kiddos to sleep and then I set up the presents.  Once asleep, I was awakened by a feverish, crying T Bear who climbed into bed with me and proceeded to vomit.  Lovely.  She did manage to ask if Santa had come as I was cleaning her up.  She woke up again with a little more vomit and then we were able to sleep. 

Now my children are not early risers, thank God they take after me on this, but on Christmas they were up and ready to go by 7:30.  In spite of T's sickness she tore through the presents under the tree.  This was much different from last year where she took her time and examined each and every present!  Mad Man was not really into the present thing, not even the paper.  He would peruse some of the toys after they were opened (by T) and then cruise around.  After presents we had cinnamon buns for breakfast and then relaxed for a while on the couch, while Mad Man napped.  Then off to the next stop.  We showered, got ready, packed the van, and headed to Mima and Poppi's house for more Christmas.  The day was very slow going. We had our traditional Christmas breakfast when we arrived and then started opening presents.  T was definitely not feeling like herself, but was a trooper.  Dinner time rolled around and we were still not finished opening presents.  We opened a few more and then headed home.  The next day we were back at it and headed back to Mima and Poppi's to finish opening and to have our traditional day after Christmas, Christmas dinner.  By this point T's nose did not stop running, her fever had not diminished, and her exhaustion level was at an all time high.  Since there was also a snow storm brewing the kiddos and I stayed over - frankly I couldn't imagine packing up our stuff one more time, just to have to return the next day.

Through all of the madness I maintained some sanity.  Keeping my patience level where it usually is was a challenge to say the least.  I hope that my children enjoyed the holiday in spite of vomit, fevers, and Mommy's occasional meltdowns.  I know I did.

High:  Seeing the excitement on T Bear's face when I gave her my necklace.
Low:  T Bear's illness all through Christmas - just not fair.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

December: The Month that Keeps on Giving

Keeping track of all of the things I was thankful for last month was so gratifying I decided to do something similar this month.  I absolutely love this time of year.  Christmas is a truly magical time and with two little ones I definitely try to savor every last drop!  The following is a compilation of all of our holiday experiences!

  1. Oh, Christmas Tree!  Every year on December first we go out and cut down our Christmas tree.  This year we went back to the tree farm that Hubby and I first went to when we lived in our first apartment, better known as "The Shack".  T Bear so enjoyed choosing the perfect tree and watching Daddy cut it down.  This year it is a bit shorter than usual, but maybe twice as fat!  Love it.
  2. Let the decorating begin.  Now, my rule is to have the house decorated on December 1st.  Well, this was completely impossible with the Mad Man.  He was in to EVERYTHING!  We got a few things out yesterday, a few more this morning, still more this afternoon, and will hopefully continue tomorrow.  I will say that T is an awesome decorator!  She helped decorate the tree (of course, I did have to move several breakable ornaments from the bottom branches, and we lost one due to the Mad Man), and she put decorations around the house.  She especially loves my Rudolph collection!  She had to watch the movie and re-enact each scene.  Adorable.
  3. Let the decorating continue.  We are still searching for some decorations, as well as Eli our Elf on the Shelf
  4. Still decorating.  Enough said.
  5. Christmas card photo.  After several attempts I finally got the pictures I wanted!  Mad Man just wasn't in to sitting still; imagine that!
  6. Christmas tree lighting.  Hubby, T Bear, Mad Man and I headed to Main Street to see the tree lit.  Mima and Poppi met us.  We basically ate dinner, missed the actual tree lighting, and dealt with several fits courtesy of the Bear and my inability to give in to her every desire.  Ugh.
  7. Road trip to Auntie's.  T watched several holiday movies as our six hour drive to Maryland took eight hours.  Good times.
  8. Auntie's holiday party.  We had a great time listening to Christmas music, setting up for the party, and then celebrating the night away!  Both kiddos stayed up way too late!
  9. Road trip home.  Torture.  More holiday movies, but still torture with two over tired munchkins.
  10. Music Monday.  In my attempt to engage both children I try to do musical activities every Monday.  T lost interest in my Christmas song singing, but Mad Man liked playing with the instruments. 
  11. Let the wrapping begin!  Although I am not finished shopping I thought it would be a good idea to get started wrapping.  Let me say it is slow going.  T has been helping put bows on, but Mad Man just wants to grab the paper and ribbon!
  12. Cookie time!  T and I made some cookies.  Of course she only ate the store bought reindeer sugar cookies!  I cannot believe that she wouldn't try the yummy caramel apple cookies!  Mad Man enjoyed the reindeer cookie - perhaps too much, because he spit it up about half an hour later! 
  13. Arts and crafts.  T and I made some ornaments!  She is so crafty!
  14. More arts and crafts.  We broke out the red and green sand and T went to work!  She wanted to make something for my Nana.  So sweet.
  15. Christmas movies.  T is partial to Rudolph, my favorite is 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.  T Bear has also been into Arthur's Christmas.  Truthfully, we have been watching Christmas shows and movies every day, and will continue to right through the rest of the month.  Love it!
  16. Watching the reindeer.  I heard of a really cool website on the Today Show: reindeercam.com.  T Bear loved seeing the reindeer and watching Santa feed them.  So cool!   I will admit that I probably looked at the site much longer than T; seriously so cool!
  17. Shopping trip to Binghamton.  Quite the all day excursion, but we got a picture with Santa and completed most of our shopping.  Thank you Mima and Poppi!
  18. Organizing presents and wrapping!  Luckily, Mad Man enjoys the ball pit so that gives some time to wrap presents fervently!
  19. Wrapping presents...takes forever!  T finally finished composing her letter to Santa!  It only took her two weeks; she certainly is a girl who knows what she wants!
  20. Trip to the Post Office to mail Christmas cards.  Dinner and presents with two of our favorite people!
  21. More shopping.  Luckily, we only had to venture out to two stores.
  22. Last minute shopping = done.  Wrapping = done.  Let the fun begin!
  23. Breakfast with Santa at The Neptune Diner.  Super sweet Santa.  Good time with Mima and Poppi.  Then, Christmas with Hubby's side of the family (well his Dad's side).
  24. Christmas Eve.  Most of the day we were able to relax and hang out.  T Bear wanted her hair curled for the first time: so cute!  Then we went to Hubby's mom's house for a celebration, and then my parent's house for another celebration.  By the time we got home we were exhausted and T Bear woke up in the middle of the night super sick.  Poor thing.
  25. Christmas day began around 7:30.  T was so sick but tore through the presents!  Mad Man was not very interested in the whole thing; he would play with the toy after it was opened.  After our Christmas we headed to my parent's house for more Christmas!
  26. T Bear was still quite sick, so we lounged at home and then went to my parents house for our traditional Christmas dinner (always the day after Christmas).  We also had a few more presents to open!  The kids and I decided to have a sleep over since it was so snowy!
  27. Relaxing and spending time with family!  In spite of a sick T Bear (who had spread the wealth, so to speak, to most of the family), and a borderline sick Mad Man, we had fun!
  28. More lounging.  Brooks dinner take-out and games:  Bezzerwizzer.
  29. We spent the day re-cooperating, and saying good-bye to Auntie, who had to brave the elements to return to Maryland.
  30. Kiddos and I headed back to Mima and Poppi's to play with Christmas toys, relax, and have a yummy dinner courtesy of Mima!
  31. New Year's Eve.  Our day consisted of playing in the snow, relaxing, Chinese food for dinner, and games with Hubby and T Bear.  We also decided to ring in 2013 as a family at 9:00.  We did a countdown and cheered as the clock struck nine! 
This month was awesome, but also exhausting!  Still, I can't wait for next year!

High:  Experiencing the magic of the holidays with my babies.
Low:  Still feeling like there is just not enough time in a day (when do we relax?)