Friday, July 31, 2009

Behind Closed Doors & An Open Window

First, I want to start off by saying that I adore my neighbors. I honestly do. The strong sense of community is one of the key factors that keeps us in our home. There are definitely times when I regret not having a garage or a driveway, and there are moments when I am envious of the community pools, brand new parks and the smooth stroller-friendly sidewalks of the suburbs. However, we have proximity to local restaurants and coffee shops, and very neighborly people all around us. Our neighbors have become a large part of our social network. We share backyard bar-b-q's, celebrate the birth of babies, gather at block parties and support each other in the face of tragedy. Most of our neighbors have small children and if we or our kids are bored all we need to do is open the doors of our homes and step out onto the sidewalk for an instant play-date.

I must admit there are times that I do wonder what is going on behind the doors of our neighbor's renovated Victorians. How does the mother of three girls under the age of five manage to host such lavish parties- pouring beautiful pitchers of sangria and serving HOMEMADE ice cream sandwiches? Where does she get that kind of energy? Is she always Martha Stewart? And how about our organic, whole grain-eating neighbors? Do they have a secret stash of ho-hos and beef jerky in their pantry? Do our lovey-dovey always newly wed friends ever bicker?

Well last night we got a little more information about the neighbors across the street than we ever wanted. She is a renter who moved in approximately six months ago. An average looking, conservative 30 something, single mother with a four year old daughter. When she first moved in we were excited to learn that it was someone with a child. Dave rushed over when he saw the moving van pull up and offered his help with hauling furniture, her boyfriend thanked him, but turned him away saying they had plenty of help already. A few days later I saw her as I was heading out to take Zack to preschool. I gave her a warm "hello" and asked her about her daughter and tried to make small talk. She received me coolly and appeared to be in a rush. We said goodbye, and that was the last I have spoken to her.

Yesterday, I arrived home after running some errands with the children in tow, it was about 6:30pm. Dave was watching from the window, and came out to greet me before I reached the door. He told me to turn around and look across the street. I did so, and was instantly smacked in the face with a larger than life image of a buck naked woman in the throngs of passion with an equally naked man. Yes, this single mommy and her boyfriend have one of those monster big-screen TVs positioned directly in front of their living room window, so that anyone walking by can look in and see very clearly whatever they happen to be watching. Usually it is Dora, or the evening news, but not tonight. Nope. Tonight was something SPECIAL. Hard core porn. Now let me remind you that it is 6:30 pm, and everyone was outside enjoying the evening. Pretty soon we had a group of adult neighbors looking on at the unexpected display of x-rated material in shock. We giggled like school kids, one of the guys actually got out his camera promising to leave a photo in the offending neighbors mailbox as a discrete reminder to close their blinds. We scratched our heads and hoped that their daughter was at her father's home. Finally the crowed dispersed.

I never would have taken this woman as the "type" to enjoy x-rated movies, or who would be so careless as to leave her blinds wide open for the world to see. My guess is that there are all kinds of things going on in all kinds of houses that I would rather just not know about.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lessons Learned at The Pool

Yesterday I had some quality Mommy & Me time with Zachary, so I decided to take him to Splash, a mini-water park in Golden. With no Evan to watch, I figured I could take Zack down as many slides as he wanted and that I could fully pay attention to him while keeping nice and cool. Splash is an experience. Think giant wading pool, then add about 4 million screaming, splashing, out-of-control babies/toddlers/and 10 year olds, then add spraying fountains, a gigantic automated water dumping pail, a jungle gym equipped with sprinklers and tunnels and finally water slides. The result- utter chaos.

We were both totally overwhelmed when we arrived. There were no chairs left so we found a grassy spot to lay our towels down. After lubing Zack up with sun block 200 (okay so I exaggerate a little), we head in. Zack ran straight for the jungle gym. He climbed up and started toward the big kid covered water slide. He hesitated. He turned back and informed me it was "too scary". Okay I shrugged, so we hung out in the sprinklers, got dumped on by the gigantic pail, and eventually even went down the adult-friendly water slide together. At this point, we had been at the pool for approximately 35 minutes, and I had already had enough. It is a little chilly unless you were submerged in the water, which was hard to do when the pool level is one foot high. I was having a difficult time keeping my eye on Zack, as he was diving in and out of the pool, and water sprays from every direction kept obstructing my view. At one point Zack had gotten a fair distance away from me and started to panic. He looked around, wiped the water from his eyes, and called "mama?" "I am right here Zack" I yelled, but he couldn't hear me over the shrieks of ten thousand other kids and the roar of the sprinklers. I saw him twirl around to look in back of him, and then around again, a look of shear terror slowly crept across his face "mommy!!! I can't see you!" I somehow heard him shout. I was trying to head toward him, but my progress was thwarted by a chubby ten year old boy in goggles who barreled into me and knocked me right on my behind. Once I regained my composure and stood up I saw Zack was near hysterics. "Zack!!" I yelled again, he seemed to hear me but he still couldn't find me. When I finally arrived at his side his fear melted away and he gave me a quick smile. "Mommy I was scared cuz I couldn't find you!" And then " Let's go down the slide again!!"

This got me thinking. While I know it is perfectly normal for a child to feel comforted by his parents, and afraid when they feel alone, I am still amazed that I make someone feel safe. Me, who is afraid of any type of bug or rodent, me who probably couldn't fend off a flea and was recently knocked over by a ten-year old, and me who is secretly slightly still a wee bit afraid of the dark myself, I am what reassures you and makes you feel safe? When I think about how Zack must view me it amazes me. He has such a different perspective than I do. I don't think he notices my poochy belly, or my tendency to talk too much. He doesn't see my newly appearing laugh lines, or worry about my inability to keep a clean house. He sees MOMMY. His mommy. And for right now, I am second only to daddy. The truth is Zack loves me unconditionally and trusts that I know best, and that I will keep him safe. I wish he would believe this forever. I fear the day that he starts to see me as more than mommy and as a person, with flaws and imperfections. In the future he will make judgments and have opinions about me just like everyone else. But for a short period of time I can be a HERO. I can be Zack's Mommy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Unplaygroup

Playgroups. I think we all must have some preconceived idea of what goes on when a bunch of mothers and their offspring get together for such an event. We envision babies sitting on play mats sucking on teethers, and toddlers laughing at each other while eating graham crackers and cheerfully drinking apple juice in sippy cups. Kids making friends and learning social skills. Moms chatting over cups of coffee, sharing the war stories of parenthood. Kids happy. Moms happy. Its a winning combination, think recess peanut butter cups. If only.

I attended my first playgroup when Zack was just about two months old. While I would never have admitted it at the time he was really, well a blob. He nursed, he slept, he cried and occasionally made a face that somewhat resembled a half-smile. Yet, off I went, armed with a fully packed diaper bag and a loaf of homemade banana bread. I was ready to face the world, join a playgroup, get out of the house. The playgroup was a disaster, or at least it was in my mind. It was a group comprised of 6 or 7 women and their infants. We met at the designated home and sat on the floor, babes attached to our breasts, or wailing in a car seat. We made polite conversation between diaper changes and spit up episodes. One mother boasted about how she made her own baby wipes, another explained the benefits of "attachment parenting" and proclaimed that co sleeping was the "only way to go". I decided not to share that my baby wipes varied depending on what brand was on sale at Safeway and that Zack had been sleeping in his own crib since the day we brought him home from the hospital, I thought I might get voted off the island. After about an hour had passed we all collected our diaper bags and babies and said our goodbyes. I thanked the hostess and left knowing I would never be back. Playgroups just weren't for me.

I stuck to my vow and never attended another official "playgroup" again until Evan was born and I made the decision to stay at home. At that time I had enough self awareness to know I would go crazy sticking around the house 24/7 and that I had to fill my days with a variety of kid-friendly activities. I found the group through the Highlands Mommies email list. The group was just getting started and members were all women having babies in June 2008. Most of the mothers had older children as well so there would be playmates for Zack. Our first gathering was somewhat awkward. We got together with our newborn babies and compared notes about their development and our lack of sleep. I hosted. I was a little concerned that these ladies would be less than pleased with my hyper dog Bascom and my non-organic snack offerings. Nobody seemed to mind. In fact, over time we all grew more and more comfortable with one-another. We started meeting weekly, the wine began to flow, the topics of conversation began to switch from 100% child focused to our crazy in-laws and our future goals. Real friendships actually began to form, all in the backdrop of shear chaos. (The kids). As we chatted away and sipped our wine, the children created all kinds of trouble. As the kids became more comfortable in our homes, we would find bigger messes. They would find the cheerios and spill them across the kitchen. One child got into my cat box and play with the "sand", another poured a box of baking soda all over the attic floor. But it was okay, because in fact, mommies were happy and kiddos were happy. I have actually been about just how much I get out of playgroup, more than I think my children do!

This was perfectly illustrated at last Thursday's get-together. Moms were blabbing away in the kitchen, venting about the past week's events, and the kids were, well having a "tuff time". Particularly Zack and a little 3 year old named Jamison. Zack had insisted on bringing Mr. Brown Doggie to playgroup. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Brown Doggie, he is a shabby, poor excuse for a stuffed animal. He is well loved and accompanies Zachary almost everywhere. Zack had temporarily lost interest in Mr. Brown Doggie and was focused on a plastic something-or-other. Jamison grabbed a hold of Mr. Brown Doggie, and Zack lost it, and I mean lost it. He ran chasing a boy nearly one year younger than him around the room, arms outstretched, mouth open wide in an ongoing wail. Jamison's mother and I turned from our conversation to attend to the boys and redirect. All was well in the world for approximately two minutes when Jamison and Zachary were fighting over something once again. Frustrated we again turned our attention to the boys and tried to defuse the situation. Just as we were refilling our glasses, another cry from Zack-"Mommy, Jamison is being mean to me!" Now although I want to raise a sensitive, empathetic child, there is a large part of me that wants to tell my son to "suck it up! Your bigger than all the kids here today, and given your genetic make up and physical stature this is the last time in your life that this will be the case, so quit your crying!!". But I kept my mouth shut. It was Jamison's mother who whirled around and said "Jamison, just stop it! Can't you just.... play by yourself?" At this I had to burst out laughing. Wasn't this after all, PLAYGROUP??????

Yes, our playgroups are messy, chaotic and noisy, but so are our lives. I found that it is far better to share this experience with good friends, rather than to go it alone. Thanks to my ladies in the June Babies play group.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Corporate Speak

Decisioning. Not a word listed in any dictionary that I know of, however the term was a beloved buzz word at my former place of employment. I remember the first time I received an email containing that "word". Said email came from a Senior Vice President, informing me that he and his leadership team intended to do some "decisioning" on their candidates over the course of the next several days. I looked at the email, scratched my head and resisted the strong urge to reply "perhaps you meant make a decision?" Now in all fairness, while I never myself used decisioning in my vocabulary, I did easily adopt much of the corporate terminology. I have in fact described a compromise as a "win-win situation" or discussed a new idea as being "innovative and out of the box". Ultimately I have found that corporate speak actually bled into my life as a stay at home mommy. Even after quitting my job to be with the boys, I heard myself telling my husband that we should touch base about dinner plans later, or that we should circle back about our plans for a friday play date.

After a year of being out of the workplace, I have discovered that it has been quite easy to slip right back into corporate culture. Yes, my neck and back hurt after a few hours of staring at a computer monitor, however I heard myself chirping "Happy Monday!" to my coworkers without thinking twice about what I was saying. Happy Monday? What the hell is happy about the beginning of the work week? Why do we patronize each other with this phony cheerfulness? I thought about this recently as I listened to a voicemail left by an overly enthusiastic staffing vendor. "Rachel!" she sang into the phone "we have an amazing candidate that we cannot wait to share with you. Call me soon so we can touch base on where we are in the search! Can't wait to talk. Make it a great day!!" Make it a great day? Beyond annoying. Perhaps had I not spent 90 minutes in my car fighting traffic, and if I didn't have goosebumps all over my body due to the over air-conditioning, and I suppose if I was in Mexico, drinking a pina colada instead of listening to your stupid voicemail it would be a great day. But as it stands, I would say, mediocre at best.

This rant would not be complete if I failed to mention the greatest offense in corporate proganda -succesories. Yes, succesories, the self-proclaimed way to "make every work station an inspiration station." Hmmm. Please tell me how on earth a framed glossy photo of two figures gracefully paddling a canoe into a pink and orange sunset with the words "TEAMWORK" spelled across the bottom is going to motivate me to toil away on a process mapping project in a windowless conference room? I have such a negative reaction to these offensive posters, that I immediately judge any individual who has one hanging in their office. I briefly consider giving that person the benefit of the doubt, maybe their boss gave it to them, maybe it came with the office... but ultimately I know that I could never really be friends with anyone who would willingly hang this "art" in their space.

Okay, well it is late and I must turn into bed. Besides I have some decisioning to do about what I will possibly wear to work tomorrow.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Daddy's Boy

I have a Daddy's Boy and no, it isn't a phase as people have tried to convince me over the past three years. I have really never been part of that club, that one where women sit and chat over coffee, nodding knowingly at one another as one mother describes how her Jonathan "won't go, to anyone but me, it's exhausting", or another woman shares how Madison has such intense stranger anxiety that she howls in protest when even her husband enters the room. This has never been my story. From somewhere around 8 or 9 months Zack has always seemed to prefer Daddy. My mother in law has tried to console me by telling me that kids get different things from each parent. Father's provide the fun, but in the face of fear or sadness, children rush to their mother's arms for comfort. This is definitely not the case in our family, as illustrated once again by the events of last night.

Daddy tragically, and erroneously turned off the hallway light outside of Zack's bedroom, leaving Zack in utter darkness, (save the two night lights glowing in his room, but I digress.) Zack awakens in the middle of the night with shear terror. He screeches and cries, and I jump out of bed and rush to him, Daddy rolls over, adjusts his pillow. I find Zack standing sobbing in the hallway. I throw my arms around him and reassure him "Mommy is here. Everything is okay". Zachary wails "Daddy! I want Daddy!" "Hush", I tell him, hugging him harder "Everything is okay, your okay, I am here". More sobbing, "Daddy, I'm scared! Daddy!". "Mommy is here" I say again, and start to think to myself: MOMMY. Remember me?? The very mommy who underwent months of hormones and dozens of blood draws and embarrassing doctors appointments just to conceive you boys? MOMMY who's post pregnancy body has more round bits and sagging parts than I would like to admit. MOMMY who cried her eyes out when she dropped you off at daycare when you were three months old. MOMMY who took you to music class every Friday morning, since before you could even talk. MOMMY who arranges your play dates, shops for your clothing, plans your birthday parties, and has daily popsicle breaks with you. MOMMY??? The wailing grows louder. He is going to wake up his brother. So I stand up, take him by his little hand and walk him into our bedroom, where is father still lays in bed. I bring him to the side of our bed, next to his daddy, who places a hand on his son's head, and in one moment makes everything right....

Friday, July 10, 2009

All about me

Apparently, I wrote too much for the "about me" section of the blog. I am brand new to blogging, so I am just figuring it out. So I decided to use this as my first posting. Here it is...

So who am I? Well first off, I am not a writer, that will be easy to see. But it seems that just about everyone has a blog these days, as if we were all interesting enough for anyone to want to read our personal diary, but I have always adored attention and I have been posting minute details about my life on Facebook for months now anyways. So I am almost 35 years old, have a loving husband of almost ten years, and two kiddos, Zachary (3.5) and Evan (13 months). I recently went back into the workforce after spending nearly a year at home with the boys. I decided it was time to get back to work as I was depleting our savings on lattes and Target runs multiple times a day. I am now working as a part-time corporate recruiter for a mortgage company.
The idea of GetRealMama came to me when I noticed that most of the blogs I read make me consider upping my dose of Zoloft. They are either Super Mom's posting recipes for a no-sugar, non-dairy birthday cake, or pictures of their darling angels in their pottery barn nurseries, or they are athletes discussing their next 20 mile run and crazy fitness accomplishments. I fit into neither of those categories. Now I realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with these accomplished bloggers, that my own insecurities are what causes me to feel the sting of inadequacy and the surge of annoyance. But I thought, as I looked over at Zack, eating Kraft Mac & Cheese and cheap hotdogs, with ketchup spilled all down the front of his shirt, and Evan playing in the dog water dish on the floor, wouldn't it be nice if there was a blog I could relate to? I decided to write my own. I promise to be brutally honest and to never, ever share a vegan recipe...ever.