Monday, September 28, 2009

My Life as I Know It

It’s been awhile since I posted, I know, but sometimes life just gets in the way of the things you love. So, where to begin? Well, let’s start with the most significant incident in my life in the past couple of weeks: I’m unemployed again. The job I took recently suddenly fell apart last week (after less than two months), so I’m on the hunt again. Long story short: The company wasn’t bringing in enough money, so they had to lay off a bunch of people. Enough said.

So I’m looking for jobs again (if anyone knows of anything, you know where I can be reached), and I’m trying my hardest to get myself back into shape. Which leads me to significant incident No. 2: I pulled a tendon in my right foot. To most people, this might not be such a big deal. But for me, it’s a huge deal! I just started a fitness program three weeks ago (shameless plug here: Extreme Fit Training), and it’s an extremely tough program, but even tougher when you can’t use your feet. I’ve gotten used to burning 800 or so calories a class, and I can’t figure out how I’m gonna be able to do that without the running, jumping, hopping, and lunging required to get my heart rate up. But I’m trying to stay positive while also staying off my injured foot for the next two weeks (I’ll still go to class and do abs, arms, squats—whatever I can to burn, burn, burn!). Luckily, after this final week of Boot Camp, our next class doesn’t start for another week.

On to Incident No. 3: My car flooded last week. As long as I’ve lived in the South, I can’t remember a time that we’ve had so much rain! It lasted for more than a month, and it rained every day! And I don’t mean a few sprinkles in the afternoon; I mean full-on, heavy, coming-in-from-all-angles, drops-as-big-as-walnuts rain! It’s only now gotten to the point where the sun peeks through now and again. So last week, Kensie and I were going to a friend’s house to hang out and have lunch, your typical Mom/Daughter play date. So I open the door to my car (not raining at this point, amazingly), and it smacks me in the face. A smell so awful, so rank, so gnarly that I wanted to turn around and run the other way! I literally thought something had died in there. I pulled everything out and began my search. Did I leave a dirty diaper in the car that had rolled under the seat? I’ve never changed a dirty diaper in the car. Was there a bag of groceries filled with fruit and meat I’d forgotten about in the trunk? Not that I could find. Had an animal crawled up into my engine and died? Well, I’ve heard of that happening, but I could find nothing. So, against my better judgment (but with few other options), I rolled down all the windows and threw K in the car to go meet my dad so he could check it out. Almost immediately, he noticed the soaked mats and floors. What I smelled in that car was mold. MOLD!!

So, you know I watch HGTV. And one of my favorite shows is Rental Property. Inevitably on that show, the basement of the subjects is completely swamped with mold. They wear masks whenever they enter the dwelling, especially when they’re working on pulling out the moldy carpets or sheet rock. They make it very clear that mold is not something you mess with; it can make a person very sick. All I could think was that I’d been putting my kid in that car, and that mold could have been in there a month! I mean, how long does it take mold to get to the point of smelling like a dead sea lion that’s washed up on the beach and decomposed for a month? I sure don’t know!

So K and I get to my girlfriend’s house (we were already close, so why turn around now), and I was nearly in tears. But thanks to the level-headedness of my friend who’d just been through a bunch of craziness herself and had learned to deal with it, I called the insurance company who instructed me on what to do. File a claim. Take the car in. Rent a car (thank goodness for reliable car insurance). Move on.

So today, I’m driving a cherry-red Jeep Liberty rental while waiting on my car to be fully cleaned and de-molded. Though the insurance company won’t fix the problem (they say there’s no way to identify it; huh?), at least by day’s end I will be driving a mold-free blue Tucson with my butt imprint in the driver’s seat and the light above Kensie’s head that I can turn off and on at her will (it didn’t go over well that there was no light in the Liberty for her to control). Maybe after a week of me exercising like a maniac hopped up on speed while my car was in the shop, that butt imprint will be just a little bit bigger than the actual thing. A girl can dream!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Digs


This weekend I decided to go ahead and convert Makensie’s crib into a toddler bed. I’d asked some of my mommy friends about it, and most of them said to wait until she showed interest in a big-girl bed or started crawling out of her crib. Well, she’s definitely shown interest in big-girl beds (she loves crawling in and out of my bed and her buddies’ beds), and I don’t think she will ever try to crawl out of the crib being she’s quite careful by nature and knows I’ll come running if she calls. So, with little possibility of her crawling out and her desire for a bed she can climb into on her own (and my desire to not have to lift her in and out all the time when she’s “playing” in her bed), the decision was made.

A week or so ago, my brother called and told me that they had moved my nephew into his big-boy bed, and that’s what got me thinking. My nephew is three weeks younger than Kensie, and although they’re quite different (Bryce was crawling out of his crib) in many ways, I figured if B was ready, so was K. (Turns out B is just on a mattress on the floor right now, which is a bit different than the journey on which we were about to embark.)

So early Saturday morning, I sat down with the conversion instructions and got to work. I assumed that since it was a “toddler” bed, there would be a bit of a rail on the open side so Kensie wouldn’t roll out but could still get in and out on her own, but the further I got into the conversion, the more it looked as if one side was going to be completely open. And sure enough, it was! At first I wasn’t too worried. This is a big-girl bed, after all, so I guess it’s time for K to be a “big girl.” But when my baby looked up at me and said, “Mommy, what happens if I fall out?”, my heart sank. What happens if she falls out!?!

So I went on the hunt (knowing full well I was not about to convert the toddler bed back into a crib, because what I had just done was hard work, and K would never let me change it back now!) for something that would deter her from rolling right off the mattress and onto the floor next to her bed (which now was covered with a doubled-over rug for extra cushioning). I dug through closets and the garage and just about every cubby in the house until I finally came upon my Total Body Pregnancy Pillow, which I slept with in the latter months of my pregnancy. You know, the full-body pillow that looks like a snuggly snake with a hook at one end? Anyway, I pulled that out and stuck it into the slats and along the open side of K’s bed, and voila: instant guard rail (as long as she doesn’t thrash about too much, because it is, after all, just a pillow)!

So at naptime, K was really excited to get into her new bed, but was not too happy when she saw my guard rail invention. “Whazzat, Mommy?” “Nooooo, I don’t want dat piddow!! Move it, Mommy!!” She wouldn’t go down with the snake pillow up, so I had to let her sleep with no protection. I went to my room, listened to the monitor, and waited. Nothing. First attempt in the big-girl bed sans a guard rail: success!

Saturday night, after I put K down (with the pillow rail installed after much back-and-forth between us), I sat down to watch some HGTV and to listen. I was still stressed that she’d fall out because I know what a restless sleeper she is. I went in her room and checked on her at least five times throughout the night, but she made it again! Sunday nap and Sunday night, same. She did great, no falling or rolling or jumping, she didn’t even get up and come into my room (another of my initial concerns—waking with an extra human being in my bed every morning).

So, needless to say, we’ve made it through the weekend and beginning of the week in the big-girl bed, and it’s amazing how “big” Makensie seems to me now. She’s not a baby anymore! She tells me exactly what she wants or needs clearly and concisely (“No Mommy, wait right they-a!” she says with her pointer finger right up next to her chin). She runs and gets things on her own without me having to do it. She’s using the potty (when she wants to, but she’s still doing it). And now, she’s sleeping in a regular bed. When did my baby transform into this little human being?

I’m excited Makensie is growing into such a fun and beautiful little girl, but I’m sad that it’s going by so fast. I guess what Mom always says is right on: “Enjoy your child every single day, because one day you’ll wake up and she’ll be sitting across from you with a glass of wine explaining why she’s chosen to move across the country with her boyfriend of six months who waits tables for a living and can’t wait to teach you how to surf.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another Day, Another Ache

I was assured by our instructor that Day 3 of boot camp would be more “laid back” than the previous two workouts, and I guess you could say it was. Maybe it’s because I’m so sore; maybe it’s because it’s just the first week and I’m not into a routine yet; maybe it’s because I hate exercise, will never like exercise, and am not destined to get fit again in this lifetime. I hope it’s not the latter, but I’d have to say that Day 3 was still pretty tough.

We got a bit of a late start, and we also got a new "boot camper" who was recruited by his boss at work (boy does she feel terrible right about now). This was his “trial” workout, and I do hope he will be back (though I believe it’s iffy at this point). More on that later. So we started a bit late, and we began by doing some “simple” lunges to warm up. Oh, I warmed up alright. My legs were on fire! For every 20 lunges my instructor did, I think I did eight. The warm-up made me feel completely inadequate, and we hadn’t even starting “working out” yet!

Next our instructor set out a series of "stations" and placed each of us at one. Each station was assigned a specific workout, and we were to do two minutes at each station and then move. I’d say the weight and cardio stations were split up pretty evenly. I began at a weight station, which I was happy with because working out my arms really isn’t too hard for me. Must be because I’m a mom and haul around about 30 pounds of gear and a 30-pound kid everywhere I go (“Hode me, Mommy, hode me!!). So while I was on weights, I watched everyone else perform.

Some of these workouts, though fabulous for getting into shape, really don’t make the person performing them look very “fabulous” while doing them. (Nor do they leave much to the imagination, if you get my drift.) Case in point: the mountain climber. You get into the push-up position and then pull your knees up to your elbows back and forth as fast as you can, kind of like trying to run in the push-up position. At least most people faced their backsides toward the fence, but those with lower-cut shirts were out of luck! And the bounce-bounce-bounce-jump, where you spread your feet about shoulder-width apart, do three bouncing squats as low as you can go, then bounce your legs together and jump with your hands pointing straight above your head: I think it was the three dipping squats that made this one interesting. Then there’s the old favorite from Day 2: the praying-position-bounce-to-squat-with-your-arms-out-like-you’re-about-to-attack move. This one’s great if you’re looking for interesting interpretations of a move. Everyone did something different here.

So for the first few stations, I was on weights, breathing normally, and enjoying my surroundings (i.e. making fun of everyone in my head). But then I hit the first cardio station, the praying-position-bounce-to-squat-with-your-arms-out-like-you’re-about-to-attack move. Now, as I’ve said before, I danced for much of my life, so when I do “moves,” I usually figure I can at least look somewhat graceful compared with those who do not have that background. However, it became obvious in this first week of boot camp that grace is nonexistent. But the next move, the sideways-step-hop-over-the-ball-then-squat move, I was sure I would nail being it was much like a step aerobics move (I was a step aerobics queen in the 90s). The apparatus was step-like, but it was topped with a bouncy ball, not just a rubber step. So basically, you sideways stepped, bounced on top of the ball, then landed in a low squat. Not only did I lose my balance and fall off a couple of times, it was so exhausting that I had to actually cease movement completely a time or two! Next was the jump station (are you noticing a pattern here, that all cardio seems to be clumped together, therefore destined to cause as much pain as is humanly possible?), where you basically just jump as high as you can with your arms pointing straight above your head. Seems easy enough, right? After about three jumps, I had to take a break. You just can’t realize how hard this stuff is unless you’re actually doing it (and performing while completely out of shape, as I am right now). The next few stations were also cardio, and by the time I got back around to my original station, sweat was pouring off my brow and I was having to wipe it about every 10 seconds just to see, and my workout clothes were completely soaked and stuck to my skin. But it was over (I thought).

Nope, not done just yet! We still had abs, which was a welcomed relief and much easier than cardio. (I’m starting to see a pattern in myself at this point. Strength training, not so rough; cardio, an ass-kicker.)

So, toward the end of our station exercises, I looked over near the entrance gate and noticed the new “boot camper” sitting slumped over and holding his head. Our instructor had gone over to check on him and proceeded to run about looking for water, a towel, and a mat. It was getting dark at this point and hard to see, but I’m pretty sure he thought he was going to pass out or throw up (and so did everyone watching). Finally, he laid out on a yoga mat with his legs propped up on the bench for the rest of the session. One of the boot-camp members is a physical therapist, and she took over from there.

So we did our abs (not too bad, though the body lifts added in for good measure about took me down), and we were done. Our instructor informed us that we’d have one more week of being sore (to use the word lightly), and then we’d “love it!” So I’ve decided to take her word for it and keep on keepin’ on. It’s tough, I dread it every day, and I’m thrilled today to have a day off. But after each session, I feel so much better about myself and so much closer to my goal: to be as fit and healthy as I can possibly be, and to have completely changed my bad habits into good ones. If this boot camp can get me to that point, then all the pain and suffering (OK, suffering might be a bit harsh, but pain is not) will be totally worth it. Good job Helena Boot Campers (and I hope we see you next week new guy)!

Single Mommylogues Note: I will begin posting blog entries (including photos, so that should be fun) specifically about Extreme Fit Training Boot Camp next week in the blog section of their site, ExtremeFitTraining.com. Check it out!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Boot Camp

So a friend of mine is teaching a monthlong “boot camp” exercise class this month right down the street from my work. It’s her first time to do it, and she recruited people to join on facebook. So I thought, “Why not?” It’s close-by, I know the teacher so she can’t kill me, and I’ve been looking for that perfect jump-start to my weight loss (I’ve been using the “baby weight” excuse for far too long, as you know). A real no-brainer, right?

My friend, a former coworker, is someone who I would consider a “true” athlete. She doesn’t just hit the gym three days a week or walk in the neighborhood with the girls every now and then, she really gets down and dirty: triathlons, marathons, long-distance bike rides, you name it. She’s that adorable lady every woman wants to be: She eats perfectly, drinks her water, has zero body fat, is bubbly and always smiling, and actually loves working out. She is the woman all women want to be but very few have the drive to become. Give up sodas and cheese and bread and red meat and wine and actually have to eat our broccoli and squash? No way! For the past two years, I have been the “No Way!” woman: unwilling to give up the things I loved and seemed to depend upon to get through they day. Despite that, I figured I was ready to go. Who needs to build up to it? I was ready! So I signed up.

Did I know what I was getting into? I thought so. Did I realistically think I could do it? Why not, I’m an athlete (or used to be). Would I stick to it this time and not bug out? Of course. Am I ready to give up many of the things I love so that I can become that “perfect woman” who eats right, loves exercise, and is the picture of health? Yes? OK, yes.

My first class was this past Monday, and a group of us met on a tennis court in a local park. I scanned the group and immediately realized that I was not the only one who needed to get into shape. (Initially, I was worried everyone in the class would be world-class athletes just trying to fit in some extra workouts during training for whatever major race they had coming up.) We all have our own issues, and we’re all there to get healthy no matter what our shape. So I felt pretty good about it.

First, we began to warm up. To me, warming up means sitting on the ground stretching, maybe taking a short walk around the park chatting with the group and getting to know one another. In this class, warming up was more like the calisthenics you see in football training. Ten, then 20, then 30, then 40, then 50 jumping jacks was our warm-up. Then on to the workout: bicep lifting (two eight-pounders, not the normal 2.5- to five-pounders) followed by football feet as fast as you can followed by triceps lifting (again, eight-pounders) followed by left-right lunge plies followed by up-down, up-down, right knee, left knee, followed by . . . well, you get the drift. It was nonstop! (Only one person threw up.) The premise of this training (what my friend kept reminding us as she also reminded us how much we were “loving it!”) is that you can do anything for two minutes. Yeah, but two minutes followed by two minutes followed by two minutes followed by two minutes and on and on and on for more than an hour! Needless to say, I survived the first class.

The next day, I wasn’t too sore when I got up, and I was pumped! But as the day wore on, the pain crept up on me, and in places I didn’t realize I even had muscles! Walking stairs was next to impossible. Getting up and down out of my office chair required a grunt and then a sigh. Lifting my one-liter water bottle in an attempt to get in the half-body-weight amount of water required before class drew a sharp pain in my shoulder. But I made it through the day and headed to Class No. 2 pretty positive.

Ahhhh, Class No. 2. What can I say about Class No. 2? I have never, and I mean never, worked that hard in my entire life! Growing up I danced and played softball, and I played ball in leagues during college and later in life, as well. I once trained for a marathon but got pneumonia and wasn't able to do it. And, for the most part, I have always been an active person. So I really thought I might have a leg up in this “boot camp.” Oh how deluded one can be. Did I mention that this was only Class No. 2? We sprinted and did frog leaps and lunged and ran backward and ran with a bungee cord around our waists with a partner providing resistance and did push-ups and diamond push-ups and triceps dips and Pilate’s abs and rope-pulling abs and, well, some other “challenges.” I have never been so tired and sore in my life!

So, did I really know what I was getting into? Absolutely not. Am I glad I made this decision? Absolutely (I think). I just hope at 6 o’clock I’m able to get up from my desk (period, just get up from my desk), change my clothes without my coworkers hearing me scream in pain, walk down to my car without my legs collapsing, steer my car a mile down the road without my biceps twitching in pain, and get out of the car without bursting into tears at the thought of what lies ahead in Class No. 3.

It’s going to be a long month.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Potty of Gold


This past holiday weekend, I decided that Kensie and I were gonna hunker down and get this potty-training thing licked. I had an extra day off of work, and as advanced as she seems in so many other areas of her preschooler-dom, I was sure three days was plenty of time for Kensie to be up and running (or, should I say, down and peeing). Who needs outdoor barbecues with friends and football or fabulous days frolicking at the beach when you’ve got a naked toddler running through the house with a potty full of urine shouting, “Mommy, I tinkled! MOMMY, LOOK AT MY TINKLE!”

Kensie had shown interest in potty-training last December when visiting my brother’s family in Denver (my niece enjoyed showing K her “old” potty and how she now used the “big” potty as a grown-up three-year-old). So about six months or so ago, when the interest resurfaced, I bought two potties—one for upstairs, and one for downstairs (secretly thinking my kid was a genius not yet being two and already wanting to use the big-girl potty). And for the past three or four months, K’s been using them when it’s convenient and fun for her. When I introduced pull-ups a couple of months ago in preparation for potty training, she was at first excited but soon enough just treated them as diapers with a little bit of pink splashed on them for good measure. Pull-ups proved no help in our house.

So this past Friday, I prepared myself for a tough weekend of gentle coaxing, massive amounts of juice and popsicles, puddles of pee on the carpet and hardwoods, frustration, excitement, and finally, the brass ring—my sweet girl wearing cute little panties, running to the potty at her convenience, and, most importantly, NO MORE DIAPERS! All the money I would be saving; all the guilt about contributing to the degradation of our environment of which I would be letting go. Diaper rashes, poopy bottoms, dried-out wipes all over the house, saggy britches—all GONE! It sure sounded great at the time.

Friday evening went well enough. We hadn’t gotten the big-girl panties yet (the trip to Target was planned for early Saturday morning), so I just let Kensie run around naked for a few hours. She loved it! She went and used the potty when she needed to (and when I urged her to if it had been awhile), and not one accident. Saturday morning, I got Kensie all pumped up about the panties, she got to pick them out herself, she got a bunch of new PJs, to boot—she was a happy camper with a lot of new stuff (and you know how kids love new stuff). When we got home, K pulled all the panties out of their wrappers and paraded around with them (she preferred to show them off instead of actually putting them on, which might have been a sign) as if they were $100 bills she’d found lying in the street (and she actually knew how much they were worth). I finally got her to pick a pair, we put them on her, and not an hour later, I heard Kensie in the other room burst into tears. She came running into the kitchen, urine running down her legs, screaming, “Mommy, I tinkled on the flo-ah! MOMMY, I TINKLED ON THE FLO-AH!!” After much discussion: “Baby, accidents happen.” “But I peed on the flo-ah, Mommy!” “Honey, it happens to all little kids during potty training. See how Mommy cleaned it up? It’s OK if you have an accident.” “BUT MOMMY, I PEED ON THE FLO-AH!!!” Needless to say, I decided that pushing Kensie at this point was not the best idea.

One thing I’ve learned from both my niece (who’s extremely intelligent and quite tall, but who always seems at least two years older than she is) and Kensie (who is also quite advanced and tall for her age) is that I have to remember how old they really are, not how old they seem to be. Kensie just turned two in July. TWO!! Why in the world would I put that kind of pressure on a baby (yes, she is still a baby)? After much consideration (and a framed “words of wisdom” my mother pulled out of some random box in her office waxing poetic about not pressuring people into doing things that are uncomfortable for them), I decided now just wasn’t the right time to potty-train. Though my girl is pretty advanced in many areas of life (all two of her years), she is just not ready to get rid of the diaper. So I’ll keep changing, and wiping, and putting on diaper cream, and tossing dirty diapers, and waiting until the day my baby lets me know when the time is right for her. And when that day comes, I’ll mourn the loss of my adorable baby . . . then I’ll head out and buy that new Jeep I’ve been wanting or maybe even pay off my student loans with all the extra cash I’ll suddenly have at my disposal!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The State of Our States

Right now, there is an uproar in U.S. school systems about Barack
Obama’s (our president) plan to speak to children about education on
Tuesday. Apparently, instead of urging children to work hard and stay
in school, and explaining to them how important getting an education
is, some people believe he will use this opportunity to promote his
political agenda or, get this, to “brainwash” our children. Back up,
what?

"As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education—it gives the
appearance of creating a cult of personality," said Oklahoma
Republican state Sen. Steve Russell. "This is something you'd expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein's Iraq." Cult of
Personality? Iraq? Are we talking 2009 United States or early-1900s
Russia? And this is only one quote I pulled out of the numerous news
stories generated from this “situation.”

Conservative media has been comparing Obama to Hitler. Hitler? Really? Come on!

Never mind that Bush, Sr., did the same thing in the early 90s and
Reagan during his tenure. Never mind that Obama stands for feeding the hungry, helping the sick, and promoting the general welfare of all
residents of this country. Never mind that he was elected by the
majority of United States citizens to lead this country during such a
dire time. Never mind that we live in a country of free speech where
our children are provided the education and have the right to make
educated decisions for themselves, whether shown this speech or not (though, if not shown, they are less educated and sheltered by parents who simply don’t like Obama in my opinion).

Many school systems across the country have already decided not to show this speech in their classrooms, and others are debating the
subject now. The decision those schools have made truly disappoints
me. I remember a time not so long ago when people respected their
elected leaders, Democrat or Republican. I remember a time when
schools let us watch things like, say, the space shuttle taking off
despite the possibility that it might, I don’t know, blow up right
before our young eyes. I remember a time when parents just let their
kids go to school and trusted teachers to make the right decisions. I
remember a country where politics was politics, and at the end of the
day, politicians could part as friends with a common goal—the
betterment of our country. What has happened to our country?

Yes, parents have the right to expose their children to what they feel
is appropriate and shelter them from what they feel is not. I’m a
parent, and I know how important that right is. But not allowing a
child to view the president of his country talk about the importance
of education and encourage him to stay in school just because you
didn’t vote for him and have different political views is going way
too far. That is what I think is going on in this situation, and,
frankly, it’s childish. Grow up America!

This is just my opinion.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

To Flu or Not To Flu


In the parenting world, vaccinations are a huge issue. Whether to vaccinate your child is a very important—and very personal—issue. So last week, when one of our local schools (to which, I might add, one of my coworker's kids attends and has been out sick for days) had 25 percent of its children out with flu-like symptoms, I decided it was time to make the decision: Do I or do I not give Kensie the flu vaccination?

Let me back up a bit. Before Kensie was born, I did a lot of research on vaccinating and came to the conclusion that, for the time being, breast-feeding was the best way to go. When K was born, I did not allow the doctors to administer the Hepatitis B vaccine that they pushed on me right after her birth because it is a blood- and bodily fluid–borne virus, I did not have Hepatitis B myself and could therefore not have transferred it to her, and she was not likely to be sexually active anytime in the near future. I believe strongly that introducing foreign particles into a newborn child’s undeveloped immune system has the possibility of doing great harm, and I wasn’t about to subject my child to that danger.

When it came time for the first round of shots at about three months old, I made sure that all of Kensie’s shots were administered unbundled and spread out (meaning separate shots, not one that contained all three vaccines [DTP], and each spread out over several weeks). I also made sure that none contained thimerosal, a preservative thought to be a factor in the onset of autism. From my research, this decision would prevent overwhelming her under-developed immune system while still giving her the security she needed from the vaccine, as well as helping protecting her from the possibility of contracting an autoimmune disorder down the road. With this decision, I had very little support from the medical community. My doctor nor any of her nurses offered support and, in fact, were pretty ugly to me when I told them to hold off on certain vaccines and asked that they stray from their regular “procedures” for my child; but I stuck to my guns. Again, I chose to hold off on Hepatitis B for the same reason as before, and I also chose against the Polio and Rotavirus vaccines (though a friend of mine’s little one got Rotavirus, and it was not pretty). So Kensie ended up initially getting the DTP and Hib vaccines.

At six months old, Kensie got the routine vaccines she had gotten before (DTP and Hib), but I still laid off on the rest, as I was still breast-feeding and felt she was getting the protection she needed from my breast milk.

At her one-year appointment, I decided it was time to go ahead with the Polio and Rotavirus vaccines, mainly because wild strains of Polio do exist and can spread through the community quickly, as it did in the early 1900s, and become an epidemic if many are left unvaccinated. But also, I was no longer breast-feeding and providing Kensie with the security of my vaccinations. (My girlfriend’s story about her child getting the Rotavirus was all I needed on that one.)

So now, at two years old, I have to make a decision about the flu vaccination. And with all that’s in the news about the flu, the swine flu, wild variations of flu being found everyday, it’s a tough decision to make. I see stories all the time (a recent Dateline episode convinced me I had made the right decision about unbundling and spreading out K’s vaccines early on) about vaccinating and autism—about how the numbers of cases of autoimmune diseases are rising at an enormous rate while no one really seems to know what’s causing these new “disorders” that are affecting so many of our children today. And it's hard to know what to believe!

The first thing I did was call the doctor and make an appointment for K to get the vaccine. All parents know how hard it can be to get a doctor’s appointment (especially nonemergency), and if I decided I want to get Makensie vaccinated, I wanted to be able to do it ASAP. Then I began to do research (as I had done in the beginning). I’m a huge fan of Heather Armstrong’s blog dooce.com, so I decided to check there first. On her homepage was a “Momversation” about whether flu shots will make your child sick (lucky break!). I watched that, and most of those moms, including Heather, planned to vaccinate the entire family.

Next, I googled “Flu Mist” (Kensie’s doctor only offers the mist, which, to me, sounds a lot better than a shot, being my kid’s only two years old). On the CDC site, it explained that the FluMist® is better in that it’s not a shot (score for Kensie), and some studies show it may even be better at protecting from the flu than the actual shot (score for Kensie and Mommy). However, it does contain live virus, which the shot does not (that makes me nervous, as somehow, every time I get the flu shot, I get sick even though they swear it’s not the flu, and that has no live virus!), though it is weakened and supposedly cannot cause the flu. The side effects seem minimal (though nothing is minimal to a two-year-old who doesn’t get why she’s feeling so terrible): runny nose, headache, wheezing, vomiting, muscle aches, sore throat, cough, and fever. But children (up to 9) have to get two doses, one and then another a month or so later, and then protection doesn’t start for a couple of weeks after the second dose. Note from CDC: “If your child needs the two doses, begin the process early, so that children are protected before influenza starts circulating in your community.” Um, a little too late for that here!

So, I’ve decided that Kensie needs to get the flu shot, and right away! Her appointment is Thursday, so about November, when the flu season has been in full bloom for a few months and swine flu has reared its ugly head in just about every school in Alabama, Kensie will be protected.

No matter how hard you try or how early you get a jump on things as a parent, it seems as if you never try hard enough and never begin early enough. And just when you think you’ve got it all under control, the universe hits you with the swine flu!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Little Ahead of the Game


When I was pregnant, I signed up for an e-newsletter from a Web site called BabyCenter.com. It was supposed to help me learn what I needed to know about pregnancy, giving birth, my child at each stage in her life. Although I didn’t and still don’t learn much about my daughter from these newsletters, I do learn about where she’s supposed to be and, inevitably, isn’t. For example: The most recent article I read was called “No Comparison” and discussed where my two-year-old should be at this stage in her life compared with other "normal" two-year-olds. When I first read it, I was all, "Huh!?!":

1. Points to an object that you name. (Let's see, how about she points to it, calls it by name, hops over and grabs it, and hurls it directly at my head.)
2. Recognizes the names of familiar people, objects, and body parts. (How about, "Mommy, Kota wants to go outside potty now. MOMMY, KOTA WANTS TO GO OUTSIDE POTTY NOW!!!” Is recognizing bodily functions sufficient?)
3. Uses short phrases and two- to four-word sentences. (OK, I’ve got a good one: When asked by Nana how she's going to get her buggy filled with all her dolls down the steps, Kensie throws her arms up to her shoulders, palms up in the “what” pose and says, "I have a problem: I just don't know how to do that!")
4. Follows simple instructions. ("Kensie, go get your BB," which is followed by a pensive look, her remembering she left her BB downstairs in her bedroom, her opening the gate, holding the handrail as she walks down the steps alone, closing the door behind her, going into her room, grabbing her BB, and heading back up the same way.)
5. Repeats words she overhears. ("No Kensie, don't do that!" Reply: "No Mommy, YOU DON'T DO THAT!" And, by the way, “DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT!” Does that work?)
6. Finds an object even if you hide it under two or three blankets. (How about finding a paci under three blankets topped by an oversized pillow and being crushed by a 100-pound Samoyed lying on top of it.)
7. Sorts objects by shape or color. (Kensie has a backpack full of balloons, and she'll pull the balloons out one by one and ask, "Which one d'ya want, Mommy?" I say, "Red," and she hands me red [same goes for all colors, books, blocks, pacis, you name it] then forces me to blow that balloon up repeatedly followed by letting it go to shoot around the room like a rocket. I fall for that one every time.)
8. Plays make-believe. (On her toy cell phone: "Hi Alex, how ya doin'? I'm good. You wanna talk to Mommy? Here Mommy, it's Alex," followed by, “I’m busy, you talk to her.” Enough said.)

Needless to say, these articles tend to come a little too late for Kensie, but they’re always nice to peruse and see what I needed to know six months ago—the days when she was a little quieter, more subservient, less mobile, still enjoyed a cuddle, and was a good napper. Yes, those days are gone, and all I’m left with is a beautiful “little tornado” who, in the right light, looks like me through the eyes but always, always reminds me of what a lucky mommy I am.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dieting Haze


If there’s ever a time you don’t want to be around me, it’s when I’m dieting (for those of you closest to me, that’s right now). I started (for about the 10th time in the past six months) a new diet on Monday, and already, I’m miserable. Plus, I’ve decided to hit the ground running, literally. Regularly exercising is a huge part of weight loss, and I know this mentally. But physically, it’s soooo hard to get off my ass! But to lose the weight I want to lose, that’s gotta go hand in hand. To add insult to injury, I’ve decided to keep it to none (OK, that hasn’t happened yet, so let’s just say one) glass of wine each evening. (If you didn’t already know, your liver has to metabolize any alcohol before it can start working on fat, so I figure not drinking wine at all, or only on weekends, is my best route.) However, my daily regime practically requires a glass of wine to make it through the evening. So in a nutshell, diet + enough daily exercise to produce weight loss + no wine = BITCH OF THE YEAR AWARD (just ask my patient parents)!

It’s not that I don’t know how to eat right. I absolutely do! But I love cheese, and I love wine. And it’s not that I don’t know how to burn calories. I’ve always been very athletic and into exercise (pre-K), so when I do exercise, my body seems to remember and embrace it. And it’s not that I need a glass of wine every night. I surely don’t, though after a long day at work and being a single mom of the “little tornado” (as my sister-in-law recently called K), sometimes it’s the only thing that will take the edge off. Apparently I know the ABCs of a healthy life, so why is it so hard to live it?

For me, it’s pretty simple: denial. I haven’t put on 20 pounds since Makensie was born. Eating four pieces of pizza for lunch with a REAL Coke is OK if I skip breakfast and dinner. Walking up and down the steps at work is a pretty good workout if you ask me. I’ll get to the gym at least three times this week. My daughter will continue to eat a healthy, organic diet even though I’m eating whatever I want. In my world, denial is the elephant in the living room.

The saddest part of denial for me is that while I’m “denying” reality, I’m hyperaware of it! I know I’ve gained weight since my daughter was born (um, pretty obvious!). I know skipping meals and drinking alcohol kills metabolism (so does turning 30). I know walking the flight of stairs at work a couple of times a day does absolutely nothing to help me lose weight. I know that if I don’t force myself go to the gym, I’m never gonna get back into a solid routine. And I know if I’m not a better role model for my daughter, she’s likely to spend some if not much of her life fighting the demon that is weight control.

So I’ve made the decision to earn the Bitch of the Year Award honestly and get back onto the healthy living bandwagon. I know it’s gonna be tough (it already is three days in), and I know I may fall off the wagon now and again (I do so love a Coke Icee), but I know that I have to get myself back to the place of pure health and happiness that I haven’t seen in a couple of years, and I’ve got to do it with a blonde, blue-eyed sponge watching my every move.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Glitch at the Grocery


The other day after work, I decided to run by the grocery store for some necessities for Kensie—milk, juice, fruit, cereal, you know the drill. Since my mom had kept her that day, it should have been a quick-and-easy stop for me—no dragging the kid out of the carseat; no walking through the parking lot at a snail’s pace while Kensie checks out everything she possibly can before we get in; no wobbly race-car buggy that is almost impossible to turn and get through the narrow isles. It should’ve been a simple enough endeavor—but then, it’s me.

I was trying to get home somewhat quickly because my mom had left Kensie with my dad for a couple of hours so she could meet some friends for dinner, and I really never know how the whole Kensie-and-Pa-left-at-home-alone situation is gonna go. Will the diaper get changed? Will Kensie get juice and a snack? Will Dad leave the front door unlocked and K walk on out into the yard and then the street before he even notices she’s gone? Who knows what could happen!?! But there were things we needed that we couldn’t live without until morning, so I had to stop. In the back of my head, I knew it needed to be a quick trip, so when I got in the shortest line I could find, I figured I was good to go. But, again, it’s me.

I had seen the woman who now stood just ahead of me in line shopping with her son, who looked to be about three. She was pregnant, but what I noticed most was that her son, a redhead, was wound up! He buzzed up and down the aisles, said hello to everyone he came across (myself included), grabbed items off the shelves and launched them across the store—the usual male redheaded child stuff. If you don't already know, redheads are known for being feisty creatures. But from my personal experience, redheaded boys are downright nutty! And this little guy was behaving true to form (though he was cute as a button). So as I stood patiently awaiting my turn to check out, the woman’s (saying woman makes me feel so old; I’d say she was about my age) bill was totaled up. She swiped her card and . . . nothing. The clerk told her the card had been denied. I remained patient and not too concerned, as sometimes these things are simply a glitch. So she tried it again. Again . . . denied. So the woman pulled out another card (as her little redhead took the front of the store by storm), and same thing. She was noticeably getting nervous (her hands were shaking, and she looked quite concerned). The woman explained to the clerk that she’d need to make a phone call, so he put her tab on hold while she stepped aside and got on her cell phone. (Just a side note: This woman and her little boy looked very normal, not needy at all. They were both dressed nicely, and, well, she had a cell phone. How poor could they be?)

Soon after the pregnant woman with the wild child began making phone calls, my items were being rung up. When I got my total tab, it was within pennies of what the pregnant woman’s was (around $80), and that’s when it struck me: What if she’s a single mom with one child and one on the way who was just laid off and receiving $250 a month unemployment just trying to buy her kids milk? What if she’s just lost her home and has no real home for her family and has just spent her last few dollars on doctor’s bill for her son? What if these groceries are the only items she has to feed herself and her son, and she’s about to be told she can’t have them? What if she has no one and nothing, and two children to support? All of the sudden, I had this overwhelming feeling that I wanted to help her. I don’t have much money; everything I make is allocated for the most part. But I wanted to help. I’d pay for this woman’s groceries to save her the humiliation she must be feeling trying to figure out what to do next. But how? Do I go up to her and offer to loan her the money, thus focusing even more attention on her unfortunate situation? Would that just make it worse? But what about her child? What about those necessities like milk and cereal and bread that I know she needs for herself and her child? Do I just tell the clerk I’d like to pay her bill while she’s on the phone and then leave? How can I help this woman!?!

In the end, I decided that it was not my place to interfere. I decided that it might be insulting to her for a stranger to come up and offer her “charity.” If not insulting, I knew it would be embarrassing. I figured I didn’t know her situation, and maybe she didn’t want me (or anyone else close-by us at the time who would inevitably hear the exchange) to. So I left the store conflicted and wondering if I’d made the right choice.

I thought about that woman all weekend. Was she able to pay her bill? Was she a victim of identity theft and robbed of all of her money? Did her loser ex run off with all the money and leave her with a kid and one on the way to support alone? Did she just get laid off and was hoping that she had enough to cover groceries but ultimately didn’t? Had it simply been a mistake and minutes after I left the store this issue was resolved? I had no way of knowing. All I know is that when I looked at that woman, I saw myself and thousands, maybe millions, of women just like us—doing whatever it takes to make sure our families are taken care of no matter what it costs us.

I thought a lot this past weekend about parents all across our country who are trying their very best to take care of their families in these hard times—many just squeaking by; many creating mounds of debt simply feeding and clothing themselves; many unable to stay afloat and being forced to split apart their families. I realized how lucky I am to have such a strong support system in my family and friends, and I hoped that the woman with the wild redheaded little boy (and possibly another wild one on the way) who touched my life so briefly yet so profoundly was as lucky as I to have people around her who would make sure that everything was OK.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Battles in the Night


In my world, sleep (or the lack thereof) has been a significant issue the past two years. I struggle with sleep on a daily (or rather, nightly) basis. I have always been the kind of person who really needed to get that eight hours a night. In college, when friends were pulling all-nighters studying, I was wrapping up by midnight because I knew I’d crash and burn if I didn’t get enough sleep. When I was working the late shift at various newspapers early in my career, I made sure to make up that lost sleep during the day, even if it took away from the few daylight hours I treasured. In the pre-baby partying phase of my 20s, I slept in on weekends, took afternoon naps, whatever it took to be functional again by Monday morning (no longer an option). But this “baby” thing has really thrown me for a loop! (Kudos to those of you with multiple kiddos.)

Allow me to explain (though for some of you, I’m guessing no explanation is necessary): When Makensie was born, I knew I was in for a little bit of lost sleep (though I really had no idea how my life was about to capsize). I wasn’t working at the time, so I was able to nap when she napped and generally make up for some (though not all) of the sleep I was losing during those first few months. As a stay-at-home mom, it was a bit easier, and I was much more relaxed. I started working again when Kensie was six months old and still waking two to three times a night. This is when the current “night” mare began.

Kensie has always been easy to put down. She never really fusses and generally falls asleep pretty quickly (as long as her “fishies” have batteries) both at naptime and at night. But what she doesn’t do is sleep fully and soundly all night long. So at six months old, she continued to wake wanting milk a couple of times a night. (I now know, many sleep and parenting books later, that I fostered this negative pattern by continuing to give her milk instead of weaning her off of the nighttime bottles thus perpetuating all of her sleep issues.)

At about one year old, Kensie began to “sleep through the night” (a phrase used quite loosely in the parenting world and code for “about 7 or 8 hours,” during which many of those hours the parent is still awake). Since she was going to bed at 7 p.m., I was looking at an initial wake-up time of about 2 a.m. The only time I had to myself was that window between 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (after doing whatever I needed to get done for the next day, including preparing Kensie’s lunch and diaper bag for day care) when I really should have been in bed. At 2 a.m., I’d give K some milk, head back to bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour or so before being able to fall back asleep, and she’d go back down until between 5 and 6 a.m. Doesn’t look too bad on the surface, but for this single working mom, it was quite difficult (especially when she woke closer to 5 than 6 a.m.). I always tried (and still do) to be in bed no later than 10 p.m., and many times I’d be in bed by 9 p.m. But being woken up frequently for someone who has trouble turning off her brain at night in the first place, a cat sleeping on her head, and a baby monitor roaring in the background is rough. During this time, I struggled with weaning Kensie off the one nighttime bottle because it was just easier to give her what she wanted and let her fall back asleep so that I could get a bit more sleep (again, probably not the right thing to do, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do) before having to be up and get to work.

Between one and two years old, Kensie and I had our ups and downs when it came to sleep (mostly downs for me). She’s an early riser and ready to greet the day with a grin, a trait she comes by honestly from my mom’s side of the family. I, on the other hand, am not a happy camper at 5 a.m. (or 4 a.m., or 6 a.m., or really even 7 a.m.); I prefer to sleep late (per my dad’s side of the family), an option that was hijacked on July 3, 2007.

So at two years old, Makensie and I are still battling when it comes to sleep (only now that she speaks in full sentences, the battle has become verbal). I put K down about 8 every night (after our nighttime routine of milk, PJs, teeth-brushing, book-reading, and lights out), and inevitably she wakes around 4 a.m. ready to hit the day head-on. So each morning when the moon’s still bright overhead, my daughter and I are arguing about whether it’s time to get up. “Baby, it’s still night-night.” “No it not! I wan go ustairs!” “Honey, see how it’s still dark outside? It’s night-night. Lay back down and I’ll cover you up.” “Noooooooo! I want in Mommy’s bay-ud!” Some mornings, I win, and she lies down and goes back to sleep for another hour or so. Many mornings, however, she (and the prospect of a few more winks) wins and ends up in my bed thrashing around, making demands for milk or her paci or cartoons or to go upstairs. But, inevitably, I wake exhausted and praying for the day when Kensie sleeps until the ripe hour of 7 a.m. Until that day comes, be wary of the redhead with bags under her eyes wearing her shirt inside-out and incessantly muttering the words, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . . Make. It. Through. This. Day.”

Update: Last night, Kensie slept until 5 a.m. (woo hoo!), woke up and chit-chatted with herself for a few minutes, then went back to sleep until 6:15 (rock on, girl!).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Balancing My Babies


Before I became a “mom,” I had already considered myself a mom for years. I’ve had pets all my life, and I always considered them my children. When I got pregnant with Kensie, I swore to each one of my animals (at the time, four, two dogs and two cats) that they would not be neglected. I swore that they would stay just as much my children as Kensie would be. We’d still go on walks everyday (dogs). They’d still sleep in the bed with me (dogs and cats). They’d still have full run of the house. They’d get all the attention from me that they had always gotten. I promised them and myself that absolutely nothing would change, and I truly believed it. I mean, how hard could having a kid be?

During my pregnancy, my dogs were the happiest I think they’ve ever been. I only worked for a few months in the beginning of my pregnancy and then was at home (a story for another time), so my dogs went to the beach nearly everyday, rode in my Jeep (yep, that’s a thing of my past now) with me everywhere, had the run of the house and the yard (we were in San Diego at the time, so the weather lent itself to doors being opened all day long), slept on the bed whenever they wanted. The cats got the run of the house, too, but they also got to roam the neighborhood, which they loved. They were all in pet heaven! But when the “little stranger” arrived, our worlds were turned upside-down.

Makensie and I left San Diego when she was five weeks old, and I dragged my animals from this gorgeous land with perfect weather and a their beloved beach all the way across the country to a hot, sticky patch of earth with no water in sight and where the only time they got to run was when it was cool enough (around 5 a.m.) or when someone could make time. And usually, it wasn’t Mommy who was taking them. The everyday runs, usually coordinated by my dad, only lasted a couple of months, then they became few and far between. With this move, my boys (all of my animals are male) did gain a bigger backyard and a couple of buddies (my Mom’s and Dad's dogs), but their time spent exercising and with Mommy began to slip away.

My time back home was consumed with caring for my daughter and working to support us. It was all I could do to keep up (being a new mom and a single mom is a major transformation, one for which I was not quite prepared), and when I wasn’t working, I wanted to spend as much time with my daughter as I could. The animals were always around, of course, but my attention was focused primarily on Makensie. There was no more wrestling time, the dogs could no longer sleep in my bed (mainly because Shakespeare snores and Kota wants out when he wants out, and he’ll wake anyone in his path to get out), and I had very little time to take them to the park except on weekends. They no longer got to ride in the car with me, mostly because there simply wasn’t room, and it was such a hassle to get the dogs and a kid into the car and on the road. They had basically been banished from our area of the house so Kensie could nap during the day and I could sleep at night. What I had sworn to my boys and to myself wouldn’t happen had happened; my babies had become animals.

It’s easy to tell people that I’ve had trouble losing the “baby weight,” but in reality, I only gained about 25 pounds during my pregnancy, so the rest of the extra weight I have on me now slowly took residence over the past two years. But I’m not the only one who’s put on a few pounds. Both of my dogs have packed it on, as well, and for that I feel guilty everyday. I try to tell myself things like “You’ve been through a lot” or “You’re extremely busy, there’s only so much you can do” or “Your life is so hectic, you deserve that second glass of wine,” but the truth is, it’s totally my fault. I haven’t made the time for myself or for my pets. We’ve all packed on the pounds together, and I certainly can’t blame them for that. They can’t go out and walk themselves. They can’t drive themselves to the park. Sure, I get out every now and again and walk Kota (it’s too hot for Shakespeare right now, as he’s a Pug and can’t be out in heat over 70 degrees), but going from running free on the beach everyday to walking on a leash in the neighborhood a couple times a week, if that, is quite the shift in lifestyle. (Yesterday, I took Kota to be groomed, which is why he's so gorgeous in this picture, and the groomer was quite adamant in her “suggestion” that I try and get him in a little more often. So he had a few mats!)

Instead of beating myself up for the dogs gaining weight and being ungroomed, for me gaining weight, for banishing my dogs from my room because they disturb my sleep, for not exercising enough, for not eating as well as I should and giving the boys a few too many snacks, for not giving my pets enough kisses and hugs everyday because I’m “just too busy,” it’s time to make a change. For me, sometimes it’s hard to wrap my brain around change. I get into a comfort zone, and I’m the only one who can get me out of it. But once I make a decision, I’m pretty good about sticking with it. I’m in the brain-wrapping mode right now, but soon, there will be a sweaty redhead with a slightly chunky white dog running her ass off on the blacktop. Or I’ll be lifting weights at the gym, or high-stepping in a step aerobics class, or striking poses in my living room to my yoga DVD. Sure, it may take a little bit more time brain-wrapping to figure out when I’m gonna fit in all the changes that must go along with this transformation (including putting my fur babies back up toward the top of my priority list), but until I make time for myself and get to a place where I am happy with the person I am, how can I ever be a good role model for my daughter? She deserves a happy, healthy, fun, laid-back mommy, and that’s just what I plan to be.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Not Just Any House


It’s interesting the way the universe works. When I was 18, I couldn’t run fast enough away from my hometown—the way things always stayed the same, doing the same thing with the same people over and over and over, driving the same roads in the same cars—it was simply stagnating. So I went away to college (Rock Chalk!) and then moved out to the West Coast—Northern California first, then Southern California. I worked, explored, lived, loved—it was an adventure I will treasure my whole life. And after a tumultuous two years back in my hometown (but not because of my hometown), I can walk to the childhood home from which I so easily ran away some 15 years ago from my new job. Ah, the joys of irony.

When I first got my new job, I knew it might be located near my old home because the building is in the same suburb, to which I hadn’t really been back in quite some time. But what I didn’t realize was that it would be located in the dead center of a world I had known as a child and hadn’t thought about in years. The first time I interviewed for my job was when I realized just how close my childhood would be to me while working with this company. A couple of blocks down the road to the right is a swimming and tennis community that my family and others in our neighborhood built. I can still remember what that land looked like before it was constructed. I spent many a summer day at that pool with friends and family. I took swimming lessons, played “Marco Polo” and “Shark,” listened to Hall and Oates blasting from the stereo speakers, played tennis on the court. That pool was a huge part of my life. A couple of blocks to the left is my old neighborhood. Some of my most life-changing memories were created there. I met my best friend when I was four and learned I had lost her at 13 in that house. I raised and buried pets in our yard. I rode my first bike on its streets (and crashed head first into the pavement going down a huge hill thanks to my brother). I made trails through the woods and rode my moped for hours on end. I slept outdoors in sleeping bags counting the stars. I had sleepovers every year on my birthday until I was 17. It probably wasn’t much different than most kids’ lives in suburban U.S. neighborhoods in those days—except that it was mine. And now, just down the street from where a little girl learned and grew and changed and slowly became the person I am today, I while the hours away writing, editing, planning, learning, and growing even more in the same place I did in my formative years.

The first time I decided to drive past my old house since I started work, the memories came rushing back. I teared up when I saw that the house where I had made so many treasured memories was empty—not for sale, not lived in, just empty. The grass and trees were overgrown; the decks were old and dilapidated; the window shades were askew; there was even a window unit air-conditioner in one of the windows (we had A/C in that house when I was a kid; it was the 80s!). I looked up at the window to my old room and saw the Tot Finder sticker I put on it in grade school. Though the other houses in the neighborhood had been kept up and even upgraded since we left, ours had been neglected. I took that to heart.

The night after I drove by my childhood home I had a dream: I went back to my old house, and it was for sale. All I could think was that I had to buy it, whatever condition, whatever the cost—I had to preserve my memories! I went in, and it was beautifully redone and fabulous (way more fabulous than when we lived there). I was so excited that I could save and actually live in my childhood home again all the while working right down the street! But when I woke the next morning, I remembered the reality, and again, I was sad.

There’s nothing I can do about the state of the house I spent so much of my life in. All I can do is remember the good times, mourn the bad times, and go on with my life as it is now—healthy, happy, and blessed in so many ways. And, maybe, shed a tear or two every now and then as I catch a glimpse of my past.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tents

What is it with kids and tents? I mean, you throw a sheet over a chair and drape it across the bed, and you’ve occupied a kid for hours. I guess I just don’t quite get the attraction, but Kensie—boy does that kid love a tent! I thought I’d go out and buy her one to set up in her room since she’s always asking me to make one for her. You know, a cute pink one that has flowers and butterflies on it to match her room (when did I become this girly!). But then my mom (the ever-wise one) asked me this simple question: Why? Of course, how very true: Why? Why would I go out and spend money on a cute little pink tent to match her room when I can just throw a sheet over a couple of chairs and call it a day? It’s like having pets (those of you who know me, you know I always have a few critters around): You go out and buy them all these expensive toys, and they end up gnawing on a box or batting at a piece of string instead of chewing on the $5 bone you bought or playing with the furry fake mouse on which you spent five minutes choosing the perfect color. It’s fitting, really, being that Kensie was raised by dogs and has always considered herself a member of the canine family. Decision made: Save the $40 I would have spent at Target on a tent and throw up a pretty bedsheet covered in flowers and butterflies.

Friday, August 7, 2009

First Week on the Job

Well, I survived, and truthfully, it was pretty painless (minus the stress I caused myself worrying for nothing and the lack of a computer and Internet access the first day, which made things drag). I got to start on a Wednesday (highlight No. 1) because of the lack of computer. Then I got to go home early that same day for the same reason. Sweet deal! Oh, and I got paid for two days when I was actually at home with K. Double sweet deal!

Day 1 started about 6:30 a.m. with Kensie yelling, “Mommy, I wake up! Mommmmmmmyyyyyyyy, I waaakkkke upppppp!” We got dressed, gathered the usual stuff for day care (lunch, snacks, juice, milk, BBs, babies, Bubba), and headed out. After dropping K off and before my first day on the job, I had a training session that I expected to last at least a couple of hours. As the Senior Content Director of my new company, I have to know the ins and outs of the chosen content-management system, and from my experience in CMSs, I knew it could get ugly. But after 15 minutes, I was out the door. Easy breezy!

So I headed to my first day on the job. When I walked into the Southern-style, two-story brick building where I would now spend much of my life, I heard crickets. No one was at the front desk. Not a soul in any of the offices. Conference room: empty. After canvassing the entire building, I found, in a small back-corner office on the top floor, a woman who looked at me like I had tentacles and suckers all over my body. After explaining that I did belong there, she graciously found my boss.

After much discussion about business with my new boss, we broke for lunch. The choice was not mine, but I have to say that The Olive Garden’s salads are fabulous (though I’m guessing not as low in fat as I’d like them to be). And the mints they give you as you leave—get out of here! After a little more chatting about business, I headed out three hours early to get Kensie. I was superexcited about spending a little extra time with her, and I got there so early that I had to wake her from her nap. But she was happy, as (almost) always, to see me.

Day 2 began just about the same way. Up early, got ready, took K, went to work. The differences being I had a computer, and I had a new coworker. I share an office with our Art Director (new coworker spoken of above), so it was important to me that we get along. I’ve been in situations before where there was friction among coworkers, and that makes work life hell. But my new coworker/office-space sharer seems very nice, and I’m happy with our situation. So again, we chit-chatted about work, performed a little work, then off to yet another free lunch. I could get used to this! (Just before lunch, I had to run K’s BB [blanket], which had been left in the car, to her daycare provider’s house, and I was back within five minutes, that’s how close it is. Pure bliss!) Only catch of Day 2 lunch: Cajun. Two things (well, probably more, but two in particular) that don’t sit well with me: spicy and from the sea (both of which are heavily involved in Cajun food). But I survived with a mere grilled chicken salad (the only “normal” thing on the menu) that didn’t taste like either, so it was all good.

After lunch, things got a bit slow, and since we had boxes with chairs but no put-together chairs to sit in (our desks will be installed this weekend, so we’ve been sitting in conference room chairs at folding tables), that’s exactly what we decided to do. I figure, the company’s small, very few employees, trying to build clientele and revenue, why not put together my own chair! (I now have a fabulous black leather chair in which I’m sitting at my folding table, one that I put together with my own two hands. Ah, heaven!) The day concluded with a few introductions, a few discussions, a little bit of work, and finally, home. Oh yes, HGTV!

Day 3: No free lunch today. Bummer! But I enjoyed my Lean Cuisine Chicken and Garlic pizza just fine, and I really got on a roll as far as work. I learned a lot and got a lot done. What can I say, I’m happy with where I am right now, both in my job and in my life. So there are things I really strive for daily that seem just out of reach. It’s OK; I’ll get there. Things happen for a reason, and I guess I’m supposed to stay in my hometown a little longer than expected. It’s comfortable and stable, and I remember a little more than two years ago praying daily for just that in my life. I got my wish then, so I figure my other wishes will come true in their own time. Right now, I can wait.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Have a Confession

Since I was laid off from my last job, I’ve had a bit more time to do some things I didn’t do when I was working full time and raising a child full time. One of those things was watching TV. I mean, I watched television from time to time while making dinner or playing with the dogs and Kensie, and I’d turn on the tube after I put K to bed if I wasn’t too exhausted. But having all of the “extra” time at home has led to an, ahem, addiction. It’s hard to admit, but I’m addicted to . . . HGTV.

Before that day a few months ago, I never knew it existed. And really, not yet owning my own home, why should I care? But from the moment I turned it on, I have been hooked on this TV channel dedicated to decorating, home improvement, landscaping, organization, real estate—whatever topic you can imagine that has to do with owning or renting a home.

House Hunters, House Hunters International, My First Place, For Rent, The Unsellables, Property Virgins, Income Property, Bang for Your Buck, Curb Appeal, Real Estate Intervention. People young and old are purchasing first homes and vacation homes, downsizing and upsizing homes, remodeling and renovating homes, recreating outdoor spaces, having their homes analyzed by professionals. They’re making "life-changing" decisions about pricing, décor, pools, yards, countertops, garages, carpet vs. wood, city vs. rural life—you name it. It’s simply fascinating! I could (and have) sit for hours watching these shows, and yet I have absolutely no reason to be so into them. I don’t own my own home now, nor do I foresee owning my own home anytime in the near future. Hell, I’m living with my mom! Yet every evening, I put K to bed, pour my glass of wine, sit on the couch in front of the TV, and become entranced by HGTV.

For those of you who haven’t checked it out, do it! You’ll learn a lot about yourself from the decisions you make compared with those of the actual people. I’m not living vicariously through anyone! I’m simply enjoying some casual television every now and then focused on a topic about which I should have no interest in whatsoever! Oh, and one more thing, I haven’t missed an episode of Tori and Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood in months. That Candy Spelling—what’s her deal!

Don’t worry: I’m now employed, have survived my first day at the new job, and am aware that time will again become scarce. I’m sure I won’t be sitting on the couch in three hours eagerly anticipating a new episode of House Hunters!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DESTINation: Florida

It started out simple enough: Mom and I decided to take Makensie to the beach and have a relaxing few days together in the sun and sand before I start my new job. Yes, it was a bit of a spontaneous decision (one made directly after I got the job offer), but spontaneity is the spice of life in my opinion, and I’m not one to turn down a trip to the beautiful, white-sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast. Plus, I need some new work clothes, and there’s a huge outlet mall right in the middle of Destin, our chosen location (a spot we’ve gone to at least two to three times a year since I was five). Perfection!

The first decision to make was which car to take, and my young, low-mileage Hyundai was trumped by my mother’s aged, high-mileage Jeep because it had new tires and a recent oil change. Works for me! We chose a little one-room motel we used to stay in when I was a child because it was cheap, right on the beach, and, frankly, one of our only options in the mid-July tourist season. No worries there! I’m sure K will nap whilst we putter about the room. And we chose to go mid-week and be back on Friday because we had committed to being part of a neighborhood yard sale on Saturday, and we needed time to get the garage and sale items in order the night before. Plus, my mom and I had decided that the money we made on the yard sale would pay for the cost of the motel, and that was even more enticing. A paid-for place to stay at the beach: I’m totally in!

The drive down was not bad. We had decided not to worry about a timeframe, and we got on the road just before noon, which was good. Of course, I forgot the camera and Kensie’s toothbrush, so we had to go back for those. But luckily we hadn’t gotten far, and we were still in good spirits. We decided to follow the GPS directions instead of going our old faithful route to make things interesting, and so we got a fabulous glimpse at rural living in Alabama and Florida—complete with vegetable and fruit stands popping up in the middle of nowhere, fields of cows, horses, and goats (and one mule), and the occasional down-home café called something like Millie’s Pie House or Jed’s BBQ—all of which we really enjoyed. K slept most of the way down since it was her naptime, and we got to Destin on a beautifully sunny day early enough to get groceries, check into the motel, and still have time to hit the beach—which is exactly what we did.

Before we left Birmingham (but already on the road), I’d asked my mom if she had remembered to bring a razor. I forgot to pack one, and, as an unemployed single mom who hasn’t dated in at least three years (or really even been out with friends or males of any kind for months), shaving my legs had not been a priority lately. But as a single woman who would like to meet a great guy sometime down the road, lying on the beach with the possibility of males seeing me looking like an overweight bigfoot in a black mommy tankini with a skirt didn’t sit well. But Mom assured me she had a razor, and there was really not much I could do about the swimsuit at this point, last-minute as this trip was. However, when got there and I prepared to shave, no razor. Yes, Mommy Bigfoot would have to appear on the beach this day, especially since the adorable two-year-old in a cute pink polka dotted swimsuit at my feet was begging me to go “svim with da fishies.” So we headed to the beach, and I prayed to meet no one interesting. K took to the water like the fishies she so loves, and we had a great evening splashing and running on the beach. And lucky for me, there wasn’t a cute, unmarried guy in sight!

The next day was dedicated strictly to relaxing on the beach, getting some sun, wading in the lukewarm ocean water, possibly reading a book—the usual beach stuff. But I should have checked the manual I got at the hospital after having K entitled “Parenting 101”. Chapter 13: “Going to the Beach with a Two-Year-Old as a Single Parent: Don’t Do It!” might have been helpful. Needless to say, being on the beach with Kensie was not relaxing. She wanted to be in the water the whole time, and of course that can’t happen without me holding onto her, especially with her love of the water and lack of fear. But then, after being in the ocean, she wanted to be in the “little water” (i.e. the pool), then back to the ocean, then back to the pool, and on and on and on. My mom has bad knees, so she really couldn’t help much in this department, as walking in the sand is kind of tough. So it was all me, back and forth, all morning, until lunch and naptime, then all afternoon until dinnertime. I don’t think I sat on the beach a total of 10 minutes the entire three days we were in Destin!

It didn’t take us long to realize that the motel we used to stay in when I was a child had not changed much since the early 80s—it had simply aged. I think they may have painted it, but that was about it. Our porch had wires hanging from the ceiling where the light should have been and birds living in the walls. In the evenings we watched Momma and Daddy bird feed the babies, which was terribly exciting to K, and Mom and I actually kind of got into that, as well. There were exposed wires behind one of the beds, the phone didn’t work, and the outside grills were those old-fashioned ones you see at campgrounds. The décor left much to the imagination, and the window-unit air-conditioner kept the place merely tepid. I’m guessing I lost about 10 pounds of weight from the amount I sweated in those three days (now that’s a positive!).

We did meet some pretty interesting people. Being that we had noticed the very first hour after check-in that we had chosen to stay in the “Redneck Motel on the Gulf,” we had to try to adjust our attitudes and keep in mind that we were at the beach, directly on the beach, and it was absolutely beautiful weather despite the interesting clientele: smoking lady and her "odd" son, the old couple who wouldn't shut up about their grandkids, the other grandparents who adopted their 16-month-old grandchild because the mother (their son's girlfriend at the time) already had five kids and couldn't afford another (and who knows where their son is), and the bride and groom who actually chose this place to have their wedding (though the beach ceremony, viewed by every single person in our motel, was quite lovely, minus the hooting and hollering from many of the motel guests at its end).

Besides getting very little sleep or relaxation, being forced onto a 3 by 6 deck with the “Bird” family at 8 p.m. every night so K could go to bed, eating pizza and popcorn for dinner and turkey sandwiches everyday for lunch, only watching animated DVDs while in the motel room (which was quite a lot in the afternoons trying to get Kensie to nap), eating out only one night out of three at a place that usually is pretty good but chose this night to be less than stellar, having sand everywhere, including in the sheets, because there was no maid service, and continuous sweating both indoors and out, we managed to have a pretty good time bonding as three generations of Trenary women. However . . .

The day before we left, after a great breakfast at The Donut Hole, we noticed the A/C wasn’t working in Mom’s car. Because it was so hot and the fact that we had to drive home the next day, we decided to get it checked, and the news wasn’t good. The radiator had to be replaced. $500 and the car wouldn’t be ready until the next afternoon, the earliest by 4 p.m. (and we had to be out of the motel by 10 a.m.). Not only that, our afternoon of shopping and dinner at a nice restaurant was now history. It was sweltering out, we were stuck in a hot, one-room motel with an exhausted two-year-old and no car, and all I could think about was a cold beer! Since the closest “store” was a gas station a mile away and I refused to walk there in what looked to be a looming thunderstorm, I called a cab. When a girl needs a beer, a girl needs a beer! The gas station selection wasn’t great, so I settled for Corona without lime (being they didn’t sell lime). With this purchase, I was happy. It was worth the $10 cab ride, to say the least. That evening while pondering what we would do the next day after being ousted from the “Redneck Motel on the Gulf,” I drank my Corona, and we watched the wedding ceremony set up right outside our room on the beach. Boy are those two brave.

The next day, Kensie was over the beach and refused to go out, so we got packed up, called a cab, and headed to a friend’s house to wait out the car repair. Luckily, one of my mother’s friends has a house in town, and she told us where to get the key so we had a place to crash for a few hours. Thanks Jane! So we called a cab, loaded up our stuff (you don’t pack light with a two-year-old, so this wasn’t an easy task), and headed to the house. I’d have to say, this was probably the highlight of the trip. Finally, we could relax in a place that was up to our (I hate to say high, but much higher than what we’d been in the past few days) standards. In this lovely, air-conditioned home off the beach, we ate lunch, watched a couple of K’s DVDs, and just vegged. It was heavenly!

Our car arrived at the house about 4 (they were nice enough to drive it over because of everything we’d been through), and we headed out. The GPS took us an entirely different way than how we had come (I don’t get why GPSs do that!), but again, we had a relatively relaxing drive through the Florida and Alabama countryside, and since K slept a bit, we got to listen to “normal” music, which, out that far, you’re lucky to get one country music channel. As we neared Birmingham, we began to get the radio stations of our area, and the highlight of the evening was realizing that one of those stations was celebrating “Christmas in July.” For the last hour of the trip, we happily sang Christmas music and relaxed—finally.

You’d think that was the end of the story, right? Wrong. After a long and sweltering Saturday of peddling “valuables” that had been packed away in the garage for years and years, and only making half the cost of the motel we’d stayed in at the beach, Mom’s car died—for good. After a few tears shed saying good-bye to her Jeep, Mom’s now driving a new car she purchased yesterday. I don’t know that there’s a moral to this story, but I do know that when you allow the darkness to seep in (which I definitely did a few times on this trip), it begins to permeate your soul and perpetuate negativity. So the positives I take from this experience include the fact that we’re safe and sound at home (the car didn’t blow up with us in it and lived long enough to deliver us home safely), Kensie had a blast on the beach and was unaware of the stress involved for my mom and me, and we three girls spent quality time together while being tested to our unique limits. I also learned to never, ever stay in a one-room motel with my mother and daughter—beach or no beach.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Different Faces of Motherhood

These past few weeks that I’ve spent at home with my daughter, I’ve been privy to a world I always knew existed but had never personally experienced and, truth be told, really didn’t expect to ever experience (unless, in some perfect world in which I’ve yet to live, I meet a man I can depend upon). I have always worked to support myself, and now that I have my daughter, I have been working to support her, as well. This is just my life, and I embrace it for what it is.

But a few weeks ago, when I lost my job, I was suddenly thrust into a world in which many of my best friends have lived for quite some time. I had become a stay-at-home mom. Now, you may not believe it, but there are actually women out there who wake in the morning and are able to decide for themselves (without being told by someone else) how to spend their days. From what I’ve learned thus far, that’s a pretty cool situation—to be calling the shots in your life—and for the past few weeks, I’ve been making my own choices right along with them. What have I been doing, you ask?

Well, despite my reluctance to wear a bathing suit in public, I decided to join my girlfriends and their kids at the pool. I mean, we’re all mothers, right? I can’t be the only one who has lost the figure I had at 18! Who knew people actually did this every day? It’s hot as hell outside, and I’ve been slaving at a job when I could be flopping around in the baby pool with my kid or relaxing poolside with a bottle of water and a bag of goldfish? I could really get used to this! So yes, Kensie and I have spent a lot of time at the pool. I’ve met many moms I barely knew because I was working or not at all, have chatted about life as a mom and a little bit about the outside world (though I quickly realized that, for the most part, talk is relegated to family affairs: kids, husbands, having more kids, household repairs, napping, cooking, etc.). I have watched, listened, learned, and garnered a huge amount of respect for stay-at-home moms and this lifestyle I have never before understood or been a part of.

I’ve gone to lunch with friends and had early dinners out with family. I’ve spent time at friends’ houses for play dates and a little girl talk. I enjoyed a girls’ weekend after which I didn’t have to rush home Sunday morning to prepare for work on Monday. I took Kensie to the bowling alley (the one we used to go to when I was growing up is actually still around, though it’s still kind of dirty and hasn’t changed much if at all). Did you know that they actually have these little bumpers that pop up along the lanes so kids can bowl and not hit the gutter every single time? I didn’t even know they had special days just for kids!

I am truly amazed at this whole other lifestyle that exists while the rest of the world is working. I just received an e-mail from this Website to which I subscribe called MomsRising.org. It spoke on the topic of work/life balance. The former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, stated in a recent Wall Street Journal article that there's "no such thing as work-life balance." The women of MomsRising.org were outraged by this and argued that corporations should implement policies in the workplace that “enable women to advance to the top in their careers and also take care of their families.” As a single working mom (well, most of the time), I would also like to know the reason why companies do not implement more family-friendly policies and why more women, especially mothers, are overlooked for positions for which they are fully qualified and would be crucial in advancing the growth of that company.

In an ideal world, I’d be able to make the decisions that are best for my family without corporate policies getting in my way. As a working mom, I want the option to be able to stay at home with my daughter when she needs me without feeling guilty or pressure about possibly losing my job. I’d appreciate flexible work hours and paid family leave. I’d like to have more than 10 vacation days a year (the U.S. is way behind other countries on this one). I’d like the option of making the decisions for my family without anti-family corporate policy getting in the way.

I’m not sure if I’m meant to be a stay-at-home mom. Maybe someday when I’m blessed enough to have more children. These past few weeks with my daughter have been fabulous, and I am so grateful to have this time with her that I normally wouldn’t have had. I’m lucky to have had so much time with my girlfriends and the chance to get to know their kids better. It makes me so happy to see Makensie play with my best friends’ kids and have such a good time with her mommy sitting close-by to comfort her. I know I will miss all of this when I go back to work. I can only hope that the next job I get will be flexible enough that I don’t think every day about what I’m missing as my daughter is being raised by others while I’m working hard to make sure she is well taken care of. I hope I am a strong enough person to appreciate the blessings I’ve been given and look to the future, to the possibility that I will someday meet someone who can be my partner in life and allow me the freedom I so crave to spend more time with my family and friends, and do more for myself and my soul than I am able to now. For now, I’m just happy to be looking down at this beautiful blonde kid smiling back up at me as she “teaches” me how to properly use a baby monitor.

Bloggers’ Note: As this blog entry “went to press,” I was offered a job. I will soon be a single working mother again. I feel relieved yet sad all rolled up in one.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Klepto

A few weeks ago, we had Kensie’s 2nd birthday party at my parent’s house. It was chaos, but everyone had a really great time, Kensie especially. However, that was the last day I saw my keys—until today.

Let me back up a little bit: Since Makensie was pretty young, she has been known to “disappear” things. I find pacifiers stuffed in toys and furniture, sippy cup tops in her toy box, spoons and forks in the refrigerator, dog leashes in the stroller (which actually isn’t a bad spot being I really need to walk the dogs more), Tupperware on the back porch. Things disappear around here like you wouldn’t believe, and many of them are never found. I am, at this moment, missing two necklaces that are very special to me, and I can’t find matching pajama tops and bottoms for Kensie anywhere.

One day awhile back, I got a frantic phone call from my mother. She’s an education consultant and works out of town quite a bit. When she goes out of town, she always rents a car. On this day, she had to take the rental back, and it had to be there by 9 a.m. But as she walked out the door, she realized something was missing: the keys. She and my dad searched the house from top to bottom, and Kensie admitted that she’d had them (she wasn’t talking as well on this day since she was only about 1, so the conversation went something like, “Kensie, did you see Nana’s keys?” “Uh huh!” and that’s it). She had been playing in the office, so that was a good spot to start. But when no keys turned up, my mom called me in a huff (I mean, she is my daughter, so it must be my fault, right?). I got there as quickly as I could to help in the search. I did the same thing my parents had done, but with a fresh eye and a deeper understanding of my daughter’s klepto ways. She’d been playing in the office, and she loves my mom’s computer case, and though both my parents had checked there multiple times, I had a gut feeling that’s where they'd be. And thus, there they were, easily accessible in the lining of the case (I had to dig down into the opening where the arm extends out to get to them). On a separate occasion, I found my bra in that case, so it’s reasonable to believe that the computer case is a favorite “disappearing” spot.

So the day after Kensie’s birthday, when I headed out the door to go wherever I was going at the time, I realized my keys were not in my purse. Now, when it comes to my mom, it’s understandable that she could have been the one to lose those rental car keys. The woman never knows where her purse, glasses, or cell phone are, and they’re a lot bigger than a set of keys. But with me, it’s less likely to be my fault because I’m diligent about either hanging my keys up on the key hook or putting them in my purse. With a two-year-old, I’m always running behind, so I make a conscious effort to have my keys readily available. But with the chaos of the party, including multiple repositioning of cars, I wasn’t so sure it wasn’t me this time. I did ask Kensie if she’d seen them, and she said “Yep” and proceeded to take me to several spots in the house where she thought they were to no avail. So I searched high and low for two days—in the yard where we’d put up balloons, throughout all the party stuff including pools and towels and sandboxes and multiple types of toys, from the top to the bottom of the house and everywhere in between. Of course, my car was locked, so I couldn’t get in there to look. But they weren’t visible from the window, and I really didn’t think I’d locked them in there.

Finally, I conceded defeat, and I went to the dealership for a new key (luckily it was only $27, though I’ve heard of people who’ve paid hundreds depending on the type of car they had). I declined to get the automatic opener because I was sure that my keys would be found—some day.

So today, as I searched for jobs on the computer (unsuccessfully I might add), my mom was assembling packages for all the Cancer birthdays in my family. She got the bright idea to send the leftover gift bags from Kensie’s party to the kids since we usually celebrate those birthdays together as a family in San Diego but couldn’t this year because my cousin and his wife were due to have their first baby during the same time. As she put each bag into a box, she noticed that one of the bags was a bit too heavy. At that moment, I heard a loud gasp and went running into the next room. Oh yes, my keys had been found, exactly where I should have looked in the first place: a gift bag full of toys, bubbles, hats, and sunglasses that could easily have been picked up by an unaware birthday-goer and carried home.

Well, at least it wasn’t my underwear!