Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

Another Revolution, Another Resolution 

Most years I don’t make any resolutions. I tell myself I’m happy just the way I am. I’ve never been a person who said I would try to lose weight, eat healthier  (frankly, my eating habits are none of my business and I should just stay out of it,) or do something about my batwings. (Lord help that arm flab.)

Last year I did decide to try the New Year jar where you write down a happy moment, place it in the jar, and read all the happy memories on NYE. That lasted until spring when I decided to use the jar as a homemade lemonade container. Now it looks like nothing happy happened in our lives after March in 2016. *sigh*


I also resolved to be less of a pushover. The basic definition of a pushover is a person who rarely says no, so in that regard, I failed… but did I? I’ve always taught my children that if someone asks a favor of you and you can do it, by all means do it. A small effort on your part can make a huge difference for someone else. I rarely said “no” in 2016, so I call that fail a win.

I also promised myself I would complete my first book and I did. It was sent to a renowned children’s publisher on November 9th. They said it could take four months to hear back from them so I’m holding my breath until March 9th. Even if it never gets published, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I wrote it and I think it’s pretty damn good.

I’ve started writing my next book in the style of my favorite author, humorist Erma Bombeck. It’s a comedic autobiographical acount of what it’s like for me to be a 20th Century mom raising a 21st Century baby. Basically, it’s just a longer version of some of my funnier blogs and hopefully relatable to parents everywhere. I hope to complete it in 2017 and have higher hopes of it getting published. I don’t have delusions of grandeur. I’m not expecting it make the best seller lists, but I would like for it to hit home for many parents out there.

I do strive to be a better wife and better mother. I don’t need December 31st to make those goals. It’s something I strive for daily.

For the past week, I’ve tried to think of what resolutions I’ll make tonight and I’ve come up empty-handed. I don’t want to set myself for failure, I don’t want to set any meaningless goals, but I do want to have something to strive for in the new year. I’m a list maker and love the satisfaction of crossing something off my list.

So what will it be? Sky-diving? Learn to play the piano? Decide what I want to be when I grow up? Teach myself how to fishtail braid? Clean out the thousands of emails in my inbox?

Whatever it is, I may not choose it tonight and that’s okay. January 1st may represent a clean slate, but you know what else does? Every single new day.

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that having the chance to wake up every morning – no matter the day of year, and have the oppurtunity to make a decision to better your life in some small or significant way is more than some less fortunate are able to say.

Happy New Year, All. Make it a great one!

Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Personal, Relationships, Work

Life After Maternity Leave

Before I shared the news of my pregnancy with the world, I decided to tell my boss and co-managers first, in the form of a five person group text. They deserved that much, after all we were like family – a very, very dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. Apparently, they all found this news to be so unbelievable that not one single person responded. I waited a day before making the announcement on Facebook. That’s when the comments from co-workers flooded in. My boss even called me in to his office to confirm. He congratulated me and I assured him that after nine years of being a faithful employee, I would not be leaving.

Throughout my pregnancy, my employer was amazing. My boss never took issue with me having to leave work or schedule myself off due to doctor appointments or not feeling well. He checked in on me often and was very supportive. After my last pre-natal check-up, I returned to work. He asked how everything went. I told him Doc said I was dilated to three and 75% effaced. It would be any day now, in fact, I could go into labor that night. It was already two in the afternoon, so my boss told me to go ahead and go home. It would be my last day until after the baby was born. That was a Thursday; my daughter came into this world that Sunday morning.

I am not a salaried employee. I don’t have health, vision, or dental insurance, a 401K plan, sick days, vacation days, or paid time off. There is no maternity leave program. I earn an hourly wage and have a company provided (and paid for) cell phone. There are some pretty amazing perks at my job. My family can tent camp for free and float the river in a raft or a tube for free. We stay in cabins at an extremely reduced rate. I’m not required to wear a uniform – tank tops and flip-flops are perfectly acceptable. I have my own office with unlimited internet and little to no supervision as well as my own kitchen. We enjoy company paid for lunches in the summer and my boss is very flexible with my schedule. If you’re an outdoorsy person with no desire for material things, this is a dream job.

I am still humbled and overjoyed that my employer paid me a partial weekly salary while I took my leave. I am grateful for that.

When my daughter was two months old, I returned to work. It was the off-season and I was still nursing, so I brought her to work with me. The rock ‘n play was set up next to my desk and she slept most of the workday. When she was ready to nurse, I just closed my office door. My boss walked in and I held my breath. I was 98% sure he would be okay with my new office mate, but 2% of me still worried. (Yes, in retrospect, I should have asked first.)

He stopped by my office and we exchanged warm hellos as he welcomed me back. He had a new puppy on a leash with him that was very excited to meet my daughter. He fussed at the pup before saying to me, “I’m sorry I brought my dog to work.”
“I’m sorry I brought my baby to work,” I replied and that was the end of the discussion.

My daughter is one now and no longer sleeps most of the work day. I have exchanged the rock ‘n play with a pack ‘n play. She spends her time watching Chu-Chu TV on YouTube (and if I never hear the Mommy Finger song again, it will be too soon.) Sometimes I take her out of “baby jail” and let her crawl around my office as she tries to unplug my computer or just sit on my lap while I attempt to type one-handed. She loves for me twirl her around in my swivel chair.

My boss still brings his dog to work, too. She’s not a puppy anymore and he no longer keeps her leashed in his office. When they arrive, she promptly runs to me, licks my face, then goes to do her “job.” She has become the official “Guardian of the Baby.” She walks in circles around the pack ‘n play, making sure everything is as it should be. She licks my daughter’s feet through the netting, then settles down in place, right next to the play pen. If someone dares enter my office, she jumps up and stands at attention – her ears sticking straight up and her tail pointing straight out. Once she determines they are not threat, she lets her guard down.

Most days my daughter doesn’t interfere with my work, but some days… well, it can be tough. There are times when she is splayed across my desk as I change her diaper while she kicks and squirms. My office now reeks of fresh baby poop. Occasionally I take a call while she is saying, “Mommommomm” in the background. I get tired. So very tired. I wonder how I will ever get my work done while spoon-feeding a baby and wanting to rip my hair out after hearing the “Johnny Johnny” song for the umpteenth time today. It’s times like these that I have to remind myself she won’t always be here.

I don’t know what the cut-off age will be, but I know when she starts walking, talking, and getting into everything in sight, I’m going to need figure something out. Finding childcare makes my stomach turn. I don’t want to let her go. I want her with me until she has to go to school. I have no back-up plan and no idea where she will go while I’m at work. It’s a problem that sits in the back of my mind constantly and it weighs me down. I was not afforded this luxury with my older children and now that I am able to take my child to work with me, I can’t imagine not having her.

Believe me, I know I am incredibly lucky to be in this position. It’s a struggle moms all over the world face when their maternity leave ends. I am so thankful. I love my job and I love living this camplife. I’m proud to raise my daughter in this environment and will probably only retire when my hands are too arthritic to type. Until then, I hope to take my daughter to work with me as long as possible.

camplife

Hashtag camplife.

Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Home, Personal

Call Me Old-Fashioned, but…

I wandered into a local children’s boutique on a mission. I was in full-on nesting mode, decorating the nursery for my soon to be born daughter. The item I was searching for? Crib bedding. It had already been decided that yellow and gray would adorn the walls and decorations. It had been eighteen years since I had a baby and I remembered being able to purchase a bed-in-a-bag with all the matching sheets, crib skirts, blankets, and throw pillow.

“Can I help you find something?” The sales clerk asked.
“Yes, I’m looking for crib sets.”
“You mean like crib sheets?”
“I’d like to find a whole set with blankets and bumper pads, too.”
“We don’t sell bumper pads anymore. They’re too controversial!”
“I didn’t know bumper pads were controversial,” I said, confused.
“Oh honey, what’s not controversial these days?”

She was right. As I began to prepare for the birth of my daughter, I was learning that many things deemed “normal” when I had my older children were now considered taboo. I fed on demand, co-slept, and didn’t abide by a stringent feeding schedule or practice sleep training. Apparently I am a bad parent because of that. How could things have changed so drastically in the course of two decades?

After my daughter was born, my husband and I were excited to get her ears pierced. In my family, girls getting their ears pierced was a rite of passage. In my husband’s Hispanic family, it was a cultural tradition. I had taken both of my older daughter’s to get theirs done after their four month vaccinations. I expected to do the same with this daughter, but I wasn’t sure where to get it done. Naturally, I asked my Mommy Group on Facebook.
Oh boy.

If you belong to a Mommy Group, you know that at times, they can be the most supporting and understanding group of people on the planet. Other times, they can be the most judgmental, mom-shaming gang of mean girls you’ll ever encounter.

“How can you justify mutilating your baby’s body just for your own selfish wants?” One mom responded. Another mom said, “Piercing your baby’s ears is equivalent to child abuse.”

SHOTS FIRED.
Child abuse? Mutilation? Whaaaaat?

There were other moms offering advice, suggesting the local pediatric clinic as well as piercing parlors. I learned that it was better if needles were used rather piercing guns, though I am still not sure why. I did not expect to be met with such disdain. The post turned into a full-on contentious debate between pro and anti-piercers. I had never seen the words “body modification” tossed around so much on one thread. It even sparked an argument about circumcision.  Uh, yes, my twenty-one year old son is circumcized, just as his father and grandfather before him. My ears are pierced just as my mother and grandmother before her.

Call me old-fashioned, but I would like go back to the time when you parent your way, I parent my way, and we all bring our favorite dish to the potluck block party in peace.

…now get off my lawn.

ears

Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

I Dry-Nurse My Granddaughter and I Don’t Care What You Think

She was inconsolable. I tried everything. I had foolishly considered myself an expert after raising four children and step-mothering an additional four, but nothing in my bag of tricks was working. My two month old granddaughter’s uncontrollable sobbing set off my one year old. They cried in unison. Ten minutes prior, everything was fine. I had dinner going on the stove and cartoons going on the television.

When my oldest daughter was twenty-one, I gave birth to my youngest daughter. Eleven months later, my granddaughter was born. Having a child and grandchild less than a year apart certainly has its advantages. I don’t feel guilty spending money on clothes and toys, knowing they will be passed along. We have the same pediatrician, belong to the same Mommy group, and our girls have matching car seats.

None of my children ever had colic, so when my daughter asked for advice, I had none to give. She spoke with the doctor, the pharmacist, and other moms. She tried gripe water, tummy time, swaddlers, white noise, and every pacifier on the market – to no avail. I got a frantic call from her one evening. She was overwhelmed and exhausted. Through her tears, she explained that she hadn’t bathed in four days and it had been longer since she slept. My granddaughter would only rest in twenty minute intervals and they both needed relief. I offered to take the baby for the night.

“No Mom,” she protested. “She won’t take a bottle and I don’t have any pumped milk, anyway.”

A couple of months went by and my daughter was ready to go back to work, just in time for Christmas. Naturally, I offered to babysit. Her first shift was only three hours. This would be the first time they were apart for longer than a speedy shower. She arrived at my house with an over-packed diaper bag, enough pumped milk to survive the Apocalypse, and apologies. She worried that it would be a burden for me, but I assured her I was thrilled for some time with my granddaughter! We hugged, she kissed the baby, and left for work.

So there I was, holding two crying babies, one on each hip, scolding myself for thinking I was an “expert.” I set the babies down, raced to grab the Bjorn, and strapped my granddaughter in. My own daughter was jealous and wailing. I scooped her up to my hip while trying to calm them both. Their combined screams pierced my ears, but there was something else…

…the smoke detector! It blared loud enough to drown out the babies and alert the neighborhood that I burnt the potatoes on the stove. While wildly flailing a kitchen towel at the alarm, I realized my face was wet. As I went to open the back door, I passed a mirror in the hallway. That’s when I saw my face covered in tears. I was crying with the babies and hadn’t even realized. I felt helpless, useless, and defeated. I felt what my daughter felt daily. I wanted to be a good mom and grandmom, but I felt like a failure.

With my head hanging, I worked my way down the hall, singing the ABC song. I looked up and saw my husband standing in the open doorway. We must have been a pitiful sight. I was frazzled, my knees buckling, make-up smeared from tears, and snot across my daughter’s face. He eased her off my hip and disappeared to the bedroom. I sat on the sofa, took off the Bjorn, and cradled my granddaughter in my arms. She was rooting around and I felt the “let down” even though my milk had been dry for months. It was a phantom sensation, but my maternal instincts kicked in and I latched her on my breast. I didn’t think about it really. She rooted, I offered, she accepted. Within a few minutes she was sound asleep.

My husband wandered in the living room and was surprised to see my granddaughter latched on. He asked if it was okay to do that. I didn’t see why not. All my children had comfort nursed. I was used to being a human pacifier and I was sure my daughter would be happy I consoled her, by any means necessary. And she was. When she arrived to pick up the baby, I told her the whole story and we laughed.

“I don’t mind if you don’t,” she told me.
I didn’t mind at all!

I’ve taken care of my granddaughter several times since then and each time, she’s needed a breast. I understand that to some this is seen as controversial, but truthfully, I don’t care. I love my daughter and granddaughter and will continue to do anything and everything I can to help them both – even if it means dry-nursing.

 

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