Just Call Me Gumby

Disclaimer: This post is going to be a venting session. Here it is, 3 1/2 months since my most recent post, and all I’m going to do is come here and complain. But this is my little space on the internet and my prerogative I guess. So here goes.

 
JD has been on a “normal” schedule for several months now and it has been blissful. I finally feel like we can be a full-time team with household and parenting duties. We cook dinner together, I go grocery shopping by myself(!) while he keeps L at home, I can count on him to pick up L from daycare when I have an appointment or have to work late, and I even get to sleep in sometimes on weekends. You know, normal things that become somewhat of a novelty when you’re married to someone who works non-traditional hours.   (Side note: I have no idea how parents with 2 unpredictable schedules do it).

So one evening, he comes home and tells me that he’s been put on a special project that will allow a small group of officers to focus on a specific problem area in the community. This in itself is great news- JD has felt for some time that something along these lines needed to happen and he is very excited to be included in it. I am happy for him because I know how much it means to him.

 
Of course, there is a catch. He goes on to tell me that he will be working different hours while on the project and will be transitioning to the new schedule in only a few days. Being a planner (and the administrator that keeps our household running smoothly), I immediately start asking questions. What would the hours be? What days would he be working? Would we know in advance? Would we be getting a schedule mapped out? My mind raced with all the things we had coming up, including 2 trips up north for a wedding and a graduation. We had counted on him having those weekends off. We had counted on him being off duty by 4pm so we wouldn’t be up all night driving.

 
He didn’t have those details yet. They were still being ironed out at that point, but he was under the impression that it would be a lot of night shifts. I didn’t say anything for a minute while I processed my frustration, then sighed, kissed him on the forehead, and told him I would do what needed to be done to accommodate his schedule.

 
Just call me Gumby.

 
As it turns out, the new schedule IS mostly nights and evenings, and while it’s not completely sporadic, it’s very difficult to track.  (Want to plan something with us a month from now?  Too bad, I have no idea if he’s working.)  Also, I anticipate it will change at some point- likely at the last minute. Regardless, I will be here to take care of L and manage whatever comes our way because that’s what I have to do. Being a LEO Wife means always coming second to the needs of the city and the whims of the department. When your spouse is assigned something, there are no other options. There is no opportunity to sit down and talk it over. No chance to weigh in on the impacts to your family life. (I can tell that the schedule change is starting to bother L. She sees him less on this schedule than she did on his regular patrol schedule and keeps asking where daddy is.) The demands of the police department make for an unbalanced family life. It gets old.

The real icing on the cake is that he can’t come home with me for my stepbrother’s wedding because he has to work that weekend now.  So I get to make the drive with L alone and I had to call my family last-minute and inform them that JD wouldn’t be coming.

The good news is, I’m not bitter about it.

Just kidding, I totally am.

 

Dear Loralai – 3 Years

Today is Loralai’s 3rd birthday!  She has been excited for her birthday ever since she finally realized Christmas was officially over.  Tonight, we’re celebrating by taking her out for a pancake dinner (her response to this was to throw her arms up in the air triumphantly and yell “yay pancakes!”…. my thoughts exactly, kiddo).  In keeping with my tradition, here is my annual letter to her.

 

Dear Loralai-

My favorite memory this year was taking you to the mountains on our first vacation “just the 3 of us” and it was such a perfect trip.  We had amazing weather and managed to strike a perfect balance between fun and relaxation. The highlight of the trip was our day at Tweetsie Amusement Park in Blowing Rock, NC.

You’d been excited to ride the train for weeks before the trip, so when we finally arrived and boarded the train, you were in heaven!  But, I was surprised to discover how much you loved the “big kid rides.” Once you had enjoyed the carousel and mini-airplanes, you started eyeing the tilt-a-whirl and ferris wheel.  You asked to ride them, and the mom in me hesitated. I was afraid you would get scared and it would ruin the day, but I wanted to let you try, and boy am I glad I did! I still remember you giggling on the ferris wheel and your gleeful yelling on the tilt-a-whirl.  I felt like a kid again, just seeing the joy on your face and hearing it in your voice. Mostly, I was proud of your fearlessness and admired the fact that you weren’t intimidated by anything. I certainly wouldn’t have done any of those things at your age!

To me, that trip really sums up this year. You are confident and assertive but joyful and effervescent. These are things I couldn’t have taught you- they’re just innately you. I’m proud of that, but also in awe of this little person I made, who came along with all these amazing qualities I didn’t have to teach her.

You are a little ray of sunshine and bring your dad and I so much joy. Waking up is easier when you gleefully announce “the sun is awake!” Errands are more fun when you’re excited for a ride in the “wagon” (shopping cart) or eager to help me by putting things on the belt at checkout. Daycare dropoff is a breeze because you’re always excited to go play with friends. You are cheerful and enthusiastic all the time.  We couldn’t have asked for a better kid.

So thanks.  Thanks for making the day-to-day fun, for bringing so much life and happiness to our little family, and for making our parenting journey so, so worth it.

Love you so much,

Mommy

 

 

 

Why I (sort of) Quit Facebook

I have been a loyal Facebook user since it launched.  You know, back in the days when you had to have an email address associated to a college or university to login.  Back before Newsfeeds and selfies and hashtags and social media as we know it today.

The purpose of this post is not to bash social media or Facebook in particular.  It is simply to explain the revelation I had and why I’m happier not using Facebook as much anymore.

I did a social media blackout experiment about a year and a half ago.  That was mostly about wanting to back off my constant need to check my phone and my social media accounts.  I wanted to be more present in my day to day life, so I gave up social media for a month.  What I learned from that experiment is that I didn’t really miss social media once I got used to not using it, though I still couldn’t bring myself to pull the plug completely.

More recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching about life, what’s truly important, and what I can be doing to better myself and my surroundings.  This is in part due to The Happiness Project, a book I’m reading by Gretchen Rubin, who did a year-long happiness project to see if she could make herself happier.  After some evaluation, I realized one of the small changes I can make quickly and easily is to start censoring social media.  When I really sat down and thought about it, I probably got more negative feelings from Facebook than positive.  I like seeing updates from family members, pictures of friends’ kids, or funny anecdotes from friends’ lives… but there is a lot of other stuff people post that bring me down.  Finger pointing, complaining, religion, politics, mom-shaming, memes stereotyping entire groups… I could go on and on about the stuff that I was allowing into my life that only brought me negative feelings.  So why was I allowing it?  Because I was afraid of missing something important?  If there’s really something that important, I will find out another way.

DELETE.

Okay, so I really only deleted the app from my phone.  I still have an account- so I can post pics of L for family members and friends who live far away and still need their L fix (though I post to my Instagram account and it posts to Facebook for me).  Also, it comes in handy for planning events and keeping in touch with groups of people (local police wives, women in my community who are a great source for business recommendations, etc).  I probably login via desktop every other day to check my notifications and do a run through the first 3-5 stories in my news feed, but that’s it.  And guess what?  I feel so free and unburdened of people’s negativity.

I also got rid of my Twitter account, which I hadn’t used in months anyway.  I kept Pinterest (because, duh) and Instagram, but on Instagram I stopped following a few accounts and started following some accounts that post positive quotes and pretty sunrise and sunset pictures.

I am making a conscious choice to remove the negative and surround myself with positive.  The social media is a very small step in that direction, but it’s one that has definitely made a difference.

JD’s New Job

So, JD recently switched jobs within the department.  He’s still a LEO, but moved to the Community Squad where he’ll move away from 911 calls and move towards proactive police work and more community outreach type projects.  After 5 years as a beat officer, he was starting to feel burnt out so he’s definitely ready for a change of pace.  I’m excited to see him pursue something new, especially since he’s so great with people and I think it will be a good fit for him.  Selfishly, one of the things I’m most excited about is the schedule change.

I’ve definitely referred to (code for: complained about) his schedule many times before.  He used to have to work 12 hour shifts every couple of days, including every other weekend and work night shifts every other month.  I got used to it, but it still sucked a lot of the time.  Night shift month was hard on both L and I.  She acted out more when he wasn’t around and I got tired of carrying so much of the burden alone.  Because his shifts were so long, he couldn’t help with daycare dropoff or pickup even on day shift months (he left for work before daycare opened and arrived home after it closed).  Plus, with a non-traditional schedule, there were so many things JD missed on weeknights and weekends that people with “normal” schedules plan- birthday parties, social gatherings, and even the occasional weekend road trip.

On top of it all, a few years ago I had to start traveling for work on occasion.  This added a whole new dimension of complication and frustration.  There are plenty of working moms at my company who travel a LOT more than I do.  I’ve asked a few of them how they manage it with kids at home.  The answer is almost invariable “Well my husband really steps up.  He’s great.”  Whomp. Whomp.  I mean, my husband is great too, but it was nearly impossible to accommodate business travel around those 12 hour shifts and night shift months.  So how did I manage?  JD’s grandparents helped us out a TON.  L did several overnights with them while I was away and I probably owe my job to them to be honest.  And while they were always willing and eager to help (not once did they ever say no or do anything that made me feel bad), I still felt guilty and stressed turning everyone’s life upside down for the sake of work trips.

But all of that is behind us, because with JD’s new schedule he now works Monday to Friday 8 to 4 most weeks of the month (one week each month he has a second shift 4 PM to 2 AM).  And while the transition has been a little strange for both of us (the other night we turned to each other and said “it’s kind of weird being together all the time”) it’s been amazing to have him home on weeknights and every single weekend.  I finally feel like we’re a true team and we can tackle all of the household and parenting tasks together.  I have his help for the morning routine/daycare dropoff and his help in the evenings getting dinner ready and getting L to bed.  On weekends I can go grocery shopping All. By.  Myself.  (ALL BY MYSELF!)  I never have to worry that he’ll miss something a friend has planned or an important event.  This past weekend we drove to Atlanta to visit my sister… because it was a holiday weekend… and we can do things like that now. 

I’m not saying there weren’t some benefits to his old schedule and there aren’t trade offs with the new one.  We both miss the weekdays the JD got to spend at home with L- the new schedule means that she has to be in daycare full-time.  We’re both getting used to the fact that we don’t really have one-on-one time with L or really any of the alone time that the old schedule allowed. Most of these things can be remedied- we talked about each of us doing a mommy-daughter day and a daddy-daughter date once a month so we still get our one on one time with Loralai but allow the other person some time to themselves.   But, at the end of the day Loralai actually loves daycare and gets excited to go play with her friends and it’s totally worth the trade off of having her there full-time to be able to have JD home on holidays and weekends.

I have no illusion that JD will have this schedule for the rest of his career.  His squad could change the way their schedule works or he could move to a different unit- there are a lot of things that could change.  But for now, I will enjoy a bit of “normalness” that’s been inserted into our lives.

My Heavy Heart

My heart is heavy.

After the horrific events in France, there was brief moment where we came together and mourned. People changed profile pictures to the French flag as a sign of solidarity, and I was reminded of a time after September 11th where we felt unified as a nation and as a world.

Then, the finger pointing commenced.

American hasn’t done enough.
Our president hasn’t done enough.
Americans are mourning for the French, but ignoring the funeral bombing in Baghdad and another bombing in Beirut.
Muslims are bad.
The refugee crisis caused this.
None of the Syrian refugees should be allowed to cross our borders.

And then France bombed an ISIS training camp and the world cheered.

I didn’t.

At my core, I still have a hippie heart. While I’m under no illusion that peace, love, and free hugs is going to protect us from a group like this, I just can’t bring myself to celebrate death and destruction. It makes me sad that there are people with so much hate, they will kill innocent people for no reason, but it also makes me sad that we have to bomb an entire group to protect ourselves.

For some, the world is black and white. An eye for an eye. They deserved what they got.

For me, the world is shades of gray. They were still living, breathing souls. It’s sad that it came to this.

Halloween and Life in the New Neighborhood

So, I’ve never been huge on Halloween, but it’s one of those events that has taken on new meaning since having a kiddo. Over the past few years, I’ve rediscovered the fun of dressing up and have had fun coordinating costumes with L. I’m trying to take advantage of it for as long as I can. I know there will be a time in the not so distant future where she’ll pick something I’ll have difficulty coordinating with… or worse, she won’t WANT me to coordinate with her. So, this year I took hers shopping and let her pick which costume she liked. She picked the bumble bee, so I naturally had to be the beekeeper. Fortunately for me, this was relatively easy (I like to coordinate, but I’m also lazy so I’m not the type to spend hours planning and crafting an outfit). I already had rain boots and a straw hat at home, so I ordered a painter’s suit and mosquito netting off Amazon (seriously, I have an Amazon problem… Prime has been worth every penny). Here is the end result:

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While this wasn’t L’s first Halloween, this was the first year we took her out Trick or Treating. We probably could have taken her last year, but she was just as content handing out candy, so we didn’t bother taking her around the neighborhood. Now that we’ve moved, there are a lot of families in our new neighborhood, including our neighbors who have 2 little boys around L’s age. So, we made plans with them and another one of our friends with 2 kids to go out together.

As suspected, L followed the lead of the other kids and picked up on the concept pretty quickly. She followed the others up the driveway and I watched as she politely held up her bag, then gleefully ran back down the driveway to show us her treat. “Mama, look!” she cried as she opened her bag so I could see, “I got candy!”

“That’s great, honey!” I replied, almost equally as thrilled. Her excitement = my excitement.

She ran to the next house, and the house after that, and the one after that. This trend continued for the next few blocks, until she had a half-full bag of candy, which is quite a bit for a kiddo her size.

We headed back to the house, and our neighbor set up his fire pit in the middle of the cul-de-sac and blocked off the street so the kids could run around safely. The adults enjoyed pumpkin beer while the kids had a blast goofing around with each other till L was so exhausted she asked to go to bed (parenting win!)

There’s something about this new neighborhood that makes me feel like our family found the place we are meant to be, live, grow… like we are finally, truly home. Without siblings of her own, nothing makes my heart more full than watching L play with the other kids in our neighborhood. As for JD and I, we’ve made some pretty good friends of our own. We had amazing neighbors at our old house (who we are trying to convince to follow us to our new neighborhood), but now we have a community of people we love.

Need Parenting Advice? Listen To Your Gut.

Warning: This post talks about potty training.  The word “potty” is used quite a bit.  Sorry non-parents, this is just the type of thing you can’t help but talk about once you have kids.

 

 

Parenting.

You can read all the parenting books or listen to advice from all the experts, but every child truly is different. No one knows how to care for your child and meet his or her needs quite like you. That gut, that instinct surpasses any expert.

I have tried to hold on to this and remember it whenever I doubt myself. I had a few baby books in the beginning but gave up on those early in favor of where my own instincts guided me. Still, sometimes it’s hard to drown out the exterior noise, and my belief in myself as a parent has really been challenged over the past few months.

It all started with a pacifier. As L neared 2, I knew it was time to break her of her beloved paci. She was one of the kids who has used it 24/7 pretty much from the day she was born, and even mastered the art of talking with it in her mouth. I originally told myself I would let her use it till she was done with teething, but then the move happened and I couldn’t imagine taking one of her comfort items away from her as her world got turned upside down. But after the move, we had several trips planned and I couldn’t imagine all that time on the road without the one thing that was sure to keep her calm. So 2 turned into 2 ½ and though she wouldn’t put up a fight when her teachers asked her to put it away at school, as soon as I picked her up at the end of the day, the first thing she asked for was “paci?” (or, as she likes to pronounce it, “haci”).

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Here is where the experts would lecture me. I am the parent, I should have/could have just taken it away, but I couldn’t decide where the line was between allowing her to be ready for the next stage and me forcing her to move on because it was in her best interest. My indecisiveness meant she got her way, and I eventually got a reprimand from her teacher.

“She doesn’t need it anymore. It’s bad for her teeth,” she told me one afternoon as I picked her up. “I know,” I sighed, but handed her the paci anyway as we walked out, still contemplating what my strategy would be for making this happen.

The next day, she pressed me on the issue again, a little more harshly. “It’s bad for her teeth,” she said in a scolding manner. “None of the other kids in the classroom use one.”

This is where she got me. When she compared L to the other kids in the class, it was hard not to take it as a personal attack on my parenting. I popped the paci out of L’s mouth and carried her out of the school, literally kicking and screaming. I felt angry and judged, and thought it was extremely unfair that she had compared L to the other kids. I was shaking as I dialed JD’s number, then immediately started to cry. He was pissed, and had some choice words for the teacher, stating it was “none of her business.” He wanted to call the school, but I wouldn’t let him. I actually really like this teacher (this incident aside), and I didn’t want to create any tension.

Maybe she did step over the line. Maybe I took it personally when I shouldn’t have. Maybe she could have presented it in a different way. Still, the thing I kept coming back to was this… Right or wrong, I think her intentions were in the right place. Though she was the one to push me in that direction, it was still my instinct telling me she was right (as much as my pride wanted her to be wrong).  So, this was a little bit of noise that I chose not to block out, and JD and I finally made a step forward. L still uses the paci at night and in the car (I just couldn’t imagine going cold turkey), but we’ve broken her of it during the day.

Just as we moved past this little bump, we were faced with a new beast- potty training. (Spoiler alert: It hasn’t been going well.) L has shown no interest, and similar to the paci, I didn’t even want to attempt this till we were back from our summer trips. I entered into this phase much more decisively than the paci-weaning, and when she didn’t respond to pull-ups, I stuck her in “big girl underwear” one weekend in an attempt to force the issue. I figured after a few accidents, she might be more motivated to pay attention to when she needed to go. Except that she wasn’t, and unlike a pacifier that you can take away, there’s no way to force a kid to use the potty.

Of course, she is the model of forward progress at school, and has no problem using the potty there, so it shouldn’t have surprised me when I went in for pickup one day and her teacher (yes, the same one) emphatically told me that they were reading “Diapers Aren’t Forever” when I came in. She also made a point to compare her (again) to the kids who were out of pull-ups and fully potty trained.

That was the moment I finally wanted to punch her.

So I took a deep breath and defended myself. My parental gut was telling me we were doing the best we could in this situation, and I wasn’t going to let her tell me how to raise my child. “I know she does great here,” I said, “and we’ve been trying at home. I even took her out of pull-ups one weekend but she kept having accidents.”

“It’s okay if she has accidents,” she interjected.

Another deep breath.

“I know that. We weren’t mad about the accidents, but she won’t tell us when she has to go like she does at school. And even when we proactively put her on the potty, she won’t go.”

She didn’t really have much to say after that, so I think I made my point.  L is L.  She’s very smart, but stubborn (a personality trait that snuck in from her father).  I know she knows when and how to use the potty, but she likes being able to control it and the fact that there’s not much we can do to make her use the potty at home (though bribing her with marshmallows has helped, this is a personality trait that snuck in from me).

I know these things because I’m her parent.  I observe her every day.  I know because my gut tells me.  No expert advice needed.