To Job or Not to Job, That is the Question

Back when the time came, the choice was easy. I was dying to stay at home with my children, and although we weren’t quite ready to live on one income once Harrison came along, we always knew it would be the ideal situation, for our family at least, to have me stay at home while our children are young. I continued working another year and got pregnant with Ella in the meantime. It was the summer following her birth that I resigned from teaching.

I loved teaching. I loved my students. I loved my colleagues. I know, however, that I couldn’t have possibly been the mom I want to be while being nagged by a bag full of spelling packets that needed grading. And I wouldn’t be able to focus in those staff meetings when my kids were staying late at day care.

I remember the freedom and excitement when I came home that last day. I was finally JUST Mommy and Wife (ha!). No longer would students (whom I loved dearly) occupy my mind as I drove home from work. No longer would parents of other people’s kids be calling me at 8pm to question the validity of my assignments. No longer would staff meetings and data collection take up any more space in my brain. All that space was now for my children and my husband. And it was amazing. For about two weeks.

When you can stop all of the chaos of your professional life so abruptly and turn to the simplicity of watching a child at play, a certain type of euphoria is met. Amidst all of those precious moments, of course, one might simply lose his or her mind in the redundancy of it all. How many times can one person hear the same book? Do we really have to go through this teeth brushing routine again? Even on the days when I truly believe I’m going to lose my mind, I know how incredibly lucky I am to be able to stay home with my children.

But there is some part of me that constantly seeks out other opportunities. Sometimes they fall in my lap. Others, I’ve found on job search sites. I don’t know why I even go there. I know in the end that this is where I want to be; that this is where my family needs me to be. I think it has something to do with my anxiety; constantly needing to know the next step, always looking forward. Sometimes that makes me miss what’s right in front of me.

As my kids sat for story hour, we all patiently listened to the elderly librarian read a book to the group, and then we participated in arts and crafts. I smiled at her comfort and happiness; she truly enjoyed this job. But, looking around, I could tell the children’s area needed a LOT of help. Many books were not appropriate for children; others were torn and tattered. Most of the titles were decades old, and I struggled to see any award winning books anywhere. I’m no expert, but as a former English teacher, I know what to look for in a library. My mind got to working…

“This would be my dream job,” I mused to Ms. Mary, the librarian. “I taught reading and writing for ten years and it would be a dream come true to be able to work on this end of things, you know, fostering a love of reading in young people.”

“Well you’re in luck! I’m retiring in April!” she responded.

I left the library feeling euphoric. This could be just my thing! I emailed the director of the library with an inquiry about the position. In response, he sent me the job posting.

I had the qualifications!
I had experience!
I had motivation!

Should I apply? Up until now, I had gone no further in my perfunctory efforts than browsing job postings.

And then I looked away from my laptop to see Harrison and Ella playing in the living room. Harrison was trying to figure out fractions (God bless him, he’s only 3!), and Ella was sitting down in just her diaper, negotiating with her dolls. “Would it be so bad?” I thought. “They would probably love going to daycare with all of the other kids and fun activities.” I got up from my computer, sat on the floor, and called them over to me.

“I have a question for you.”

“What is it, Mama?” Harrison asked. Ella just eyed me inquisitively as she sucked on her pacifier.

“How would you feel about Mommy going to work at a job!” I smiled, trying to make it sound really exciting. Perhaps this would seem like a great adventure. I turned my attention to Harrison. I wasn’t sure if he’d understand the implications, but apparently I don’t give that kid enough credit.

“Oh wow, Mama. Really sad. I’d feel really sad.”

It’s not always easy for me to “live in the moment” but looking at his big round blue eyes telling me now was not the time, I knew he was right. Now is not the time for me to be planning story hour; it’s the time for me to take my kids there. It’s not the time for me to take my kids to day care; it’s the time for me to take care of them myself.

I smiled at my children, and kissed them. Ella, more than a little perplexed, shook it off and went back to her dolls. Harrison decided now was not the time for fractions, and that snuggling would be a better use of his time. So there I sat, with a little boy in my lap, living in that moment. I soaked up the smell of his hair, freshly washed in baby shampoo, content that, at least for right now, I didn’t have to look any further for happiness, especially not in the classifieds.

They Let Us Back in the Country!

We just returned from Puerto Vallarta. It was an amazing vacation with the whole family. Luckily there are not too many catastrophes to report. I was amazed that we all managed to get on the plane (at 5:30 am!) uninhibited by crisis. Our flight from Boston to Detroit was relatively peaceful, save for Ella’s initial discontent over having to wear a seat belt. I found this interesting seeing as the airplane seat belts are much less restricting than carseat seat belts. Our flight from Detroit was delayed, then delayed again, then un-delayed. I think they took a look at the ten of us and went and found a plane real fast so they could get us out of their city. We flew Delta and they were so apologetic about the delay-un-delay situation that we even got free drinks. Not the kids though. That’s against the rules, even in the sky.

Our room was a special room for families with kids. It came with bunk beds but unfortunately they were even more dangerous than American bunk beds. Somehow in the middle of the night, Harrison managed to slice his lip open on the ladder. I didn’t bother to turn on the lights but I put him in bed with me and he eventually stopped crying. It wasn’t until I woke up and realized there was blood all over both of us and the bed that I realized how bad his cut was. It swelled up pretty bad, and unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of Harrison’s misery.

The next night the poor kid was attacked by some kind of bug that bites. He got bit once on his eyebrow and once  right below his eye. On the same side of the face. By the early afternoon, his eye had swelled shut. Between that and the lip cut, he was a sight for sore eyes (get it?! because his eye was sore?! ok. moving on…) Any time that Harrison gets hurt (stubbed toe, paper cut, etc) he demands an ice pack. It can’t be just a bag of ice; it has to be one of those fancy blue ones with the gel inside. He wanted an ice pack for his eye which we thought might actually be a good idea because it was pretty swollen. We found the safety person walking around the pool and asked for an ice pack. He explained that we’d need to get that from first aid, and implied that HE was going to get the first aid guy. Mind you, we’re at a huge all-inclusive resort, and it’s Mexico, so it’s hot, but for some reason, neither the first aid guy (I’m still surprised there was only one) nor ice could be found.

Somehow the language barrier resulted in us ending up in the infirmary. I didn’t really think we needed to see a doctor over some bug bites, but if this was the path we had to take to get that kid an ice pack, I was ready to take it. An hour later, we had two prescriptions and a bag of ice with a hole in it that Harrison refused to let touch his face. This is how we knew he was going to be alright.

I had to go back later in the day to fill out some paperwork .After I gave the doctor the information he needed, I asked, “So how worried should I be about the Zika virus?”

“Oh, not very worried,” he said. “Our bugs are friendly bugs here in Puerto Vallarta.”

“Well,” I countered, “they can’t be that friendly if they attacked my kid’s face in his sleep.”

<Awkward chuckle> “The bugs here usually don’t carry viruses. I’ve only seen two cases of viruses from bugs in three years! You’d have to have really bad luck to be one of those cases!”

And that, my friends, was supposed to make me feel better.

The kind doctor went on to explain that it was probably a mosquito or a spider, but nothing worse.

“I mean, it could be bed bugs. But usually bed bugs lead to a lot of bites and not just two. You probably don’t have bed bugs in your room. You might, however want to switch rooms. But it’s not likely that there are bed bugs.” It seemed at this point that he suddenly remembered he wasn’t supposed to tell resort guests about the probability of bed bugs, because he told me there would be no charge for Harrison’s visit and said I could pay for the prescriptions any time I wanted to, and then quickly shuffled me out of the office.

If you have the pleasure of knowing me in real life, you know that my athletic ability is close to non-existent. This fact was exemplified in the presence of my family over vacation. The first day we were there, Justin convinced me I should play beach volleyball. I glared at him and asked if he even reads my blog. Apparently he doesn’t because he did not recall the post about how varsity volleyball scarred me for life in the areas of personal confidence and athleticism. So much for being my biggest fan, Justin. I reluctantly agreed to play, but only because I didn’t want everyone to think I was lame and boring, although it WAS vacation, and I was dying to be lame and boring.

Anyway, we played against my sister in law, McKayla and her boyfriend, Zack. I think Zack mentioned something about playing college level baseball, so we were at an unfair disadvantage from the get go. I know baseball and volleyball have like nothing in common, but if you’re good enough to play anything in college, you kind of have an advantage over the person who wasn’t even allowed to play sports in high school. The game didn’t last too long, but I still had the opportunity to embarrass myself several times.

The first time, I went to serve and I hit some people sunbathing about fifty feet away. There were bushes obscuring their view of the court so I don’t think they knew it was me.

The second time, I went to dive for the ball, except everybody thought I was just showing off because the ball was actually three feet over my head and I didn’t need to dive. I am pretty sure, though, that I looked pretty cool doing it.

One time it was my turn to go retrieve the ball, and before I got to it, a cute little girl picked it up and toddled away with it. So there I was, having to wrestle the ball away from a small child, and I am sure that looked great. I had no way to ask for it back because the girl and her family didn’t speak English. Her parents were saying something to her but I couldn’t tell if it was “Give that lady her ball back” or “Kick that lady in the shins and run!”

At one point in the game, Justin said, “Are you serious right now?” And I looked at him and asked if he was going to ask me to play any more sports during our trip. I can’t tell if he really thought I was that terrible of a volleyball player or I was pretending just so I didn’t have to participate in any more activities. I was totally not pretending though.

We spent most of our time in the pool, and although I love swimming, I hate getting my face wet, so I made it all the way to the last day without going under. It was at this point that I was playing around with one of those small floating tubes. I realized that if I hooked my feet into it, I could do sort of a boat pose in the water, and it was actually a really great ab workout. When my sister in law got in the water, I was eager to show her my new exercise move. She happens to be a fitness instructor and health & wellness blogger, so I knew she’d be impressed. Except, she wasn’t because, instead of the graceful water yoga demonstration I had planned, I got my foot stuck, flipped backwards, flailed around, and ended up completely under water with my mouth wide open while inhaling. I came up splashing and sputtering like an idiot, which was harder than it seems because one foot was still stuck in the tube. And that, my friends, is why I never joined the swim team.

Harrison and Ella did not leave their antics back in America. They must have snuck them in the suitcase when I wasn’t looking because they were on full force all week. At each and every meal, Harrison sang, in his outdoor voice, “You Are My Sunshine”. He chose a different person to sing it to each night, and most nights he chose my sisters-in laws’ boyfriends, who just smiled awkwardly at him throughout both verses.

Ella found an iguana that she was obsessed with, and which she looked for the entire trip. The thing was about three feet long and it didn’t look very friendly, but Ella wanted to be sure it was getting enough food and rest. I had to restrain her from petting it on several occasions.

There was no shortage of temper tantrums, but my favorite was the time Harrison broke down in the marina. If I recall correctly, he was upset about not getting a souvenir in one of the 15,427 gift shops we visited. We dragged him out of the store, and all the while he was yelling “Taco! Taco! Taco!” I assure you that, even in Mexico, that kid has never had a taco in his life.

Of all the plentiful fauna we saw, Harrison was fascinated by the pigeons that were everywhere. He thought that the same ones were following him every place we went, and he’d announce happily that “his friends had come to find him”. I was kind of happy at that point that we didn’t speak the native language.

I have this friend, Ivy, with whom I’ve worked in the past at various places. Somewhere along the way, we had this mascot named Porky who happens to be a plastic horse. I’m not sure exactly how he came to be, but we don’t question it. So there I was, in a gift shop in the airport and I saw this tiny sombrero that would be perfect for Porky. Nevermind the fact that I bought no souvenirs whatsoever for any living beings, but I felt the need to purchase one for Porky. So, I went up to the counter and prepared to pay for this sombrero. I was even going to pay in pesos. The woman behind the counter said, “I’ll need to see your passport.”

“But I’m just buying a sombrero.”

“You still need a passport.”

“But it’s for a plastic horse.”

(Imagine her facial expression here-it was priceless) “Umm, you still need a passport.”

Well, some of you might be asking why I didn’t have my passport with me since I was, after all, in the airport. And the answer to that is that Justin does not find me responsible enough to have those kinds of things on my person. In fact, the entire trip, I was not allowed to hold my passport, money, boarding passes, or room keys. He would like you all to know that I also lost my sunglasses 4,359 times during the week we were gone. I don’t know what that has to do with anything.

So anyway, I didn’t have my passport, which in turn, meant that I could not buy Porky a sombrero. When I found Justin, I asked if he knew that you need a passport to buy a sombrero for a plastic horse and he seemed incredibly relieved that he’d made the decision to confiscate it from me.

We are now safe and sound back in Maine (by the way, most foreigners do NOT know where Maine is) and I am completely exhausted. I can’t wait til Harrison sees some pigeons here though, because his mind will be blown that “his friends” made it all the way here from Mexico.

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My first ever book recommendation

I’ve been away from writing for over a week and I can’t decide if I should jot everything down about my fantastic vacation in Mexico or catch up on all the other blogs I follow. Because I was on vacation, I also kind of forgot to take my medicine regularly so I am teetering between being super anxious that I will never read all my email (I’m one of those people who gets hives when the number of emails is over ten-it’s at 439) and super depressed that I let Justin have my laptop to watch seasons of the Sopranos the whole time we were traveling, thus setting me so far behind in my internet endeavors.

Since I was not technologically connected for ten days (Facebook doesn’t count guys), I had the chance to read a real book. If you haven’t already, you should check out Jenny Lawson on thebloggess.com. I read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened because I’ve been a big fan for a while now and I just hadn’t gotten around to reading her actual books. I thought this would be as good a time as any. Well, the people who were poolside watching me laugh until I cried are probably still wondering what the heck is wrong with me but I really enjoyed myself. And, I am happy to report that my bladder is in excellent shape. Anyone who’s had kids or is over 50 knows that when you laugh a lot sometimes things get out of control, but that didn’t happen once while I was laugh-reading. My father in law picked my book up at one point and said, “This looks funny. I’m not sure if that lady’s alright, but her book looks funny.” Probably the best surprise ever was that my all-time favorite blog post was actually IN THE BOOK so I got to enjoy it for the 3,457th time in paper form. I like to call that post “knock knock motherfucker” (you’ll see why when you read it) but apparently its real name is “And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles”. If I haven’t made you read it already, you should go do it now: http://thebloggess.com/2011/06/and-thats-why-you-should-learn-to-pick-your-battles/. You’re welcome. I will be writing all about my vacation and the adventures we had, but this should hold you over for a few hours. I need to go take care of that email.

The Peaks and Valleys of Parenting

Yesterday was Meltdown Monday. Today is Terrible Tuesday. I’m not sure what is going on with my children, however, I am sure that they have conjured up a plan to make stay at home parenting a very difficult task.

I know I’m not the only one. One of the stay at home parents I know was dragging his feet to pick up his daughter from preschool today, because he feared what evil plans she had in store for the rest of the day. Some days are just like this.

In the past week, Ella has managed to bypass the baby gate obstacle and just climb over the counter to get into the kitchen. Harrison has decided he is going to boycott naps and make sure everyone in the house complies with his plan. His intense screaming and repeated jumping from the headboard of his toddler bed are enough to land me in the loony bin. But then both kids joined forces to figure out how to take pictures of themselves on my laptop (I truly am baffled by this because I do not yet know how to do it myself, but there is a green light now on by the camera lens on my screen that I never noticed before. Are we filming?) There was also an incident with paint on the kitchen floor but I cleaned it up and I shouldn’t go further with that one because Justin reads this sometimes and he doesn’t need to know any more than that.

There’s also been some severe diaper rash action, along with two new teeth, and a paper cut that required seven band-aids. You guys, I’m exhausted and it’s only Tuesday.

AND THEN, just to realllllly mess me up, those two stinkers went and did the unthinkable. They were sweet. They were loving. They showed appreciation. Miss Ella, for the first time in several months, chose to take her nap in my arms. Of course I ate it up because we’re just at that point in life where I kind of miss rocking my babies to sleep (BUT NOT ENOUGH TO HAVE ANOTHER, so don’t even go there). And Harrison, snuggling in my lap, murmured, “Mama, you’re the best mama ever.” And of course, with that, all of his antics were forgotten. I forgot (for a minute) that he’s refused to sleep for a week. That he skipped lunch on Sunday to throw a temper tantrum about putting his sock on. That he ran out in the middle of the parking lot twice in one day. And, as Ella nestled herself in my arms, I forgot her obstinance towards all rules and regulations. So, yeah. This parenting thing is just a series of peaks and valleys, folks. Some minutes we’re up, some minutes we’re down. We go to bed exhausted, but with full hearts.