Friday, March 20, 2015

It Takes a Village...

It Takes a Village..

For me to pee apparently.

Every time I go into the bathroom my toddler and our dog have to follow me in there. FrenchFry (toddler) can be in the middle of an intense puzzle session and not have uttered my name for twenty minutes but the second I sneak off to the bathroom he's running down the hall yelling "Mommy!" and busting right in. And for some unknown reason the dog is usually right behind him.

My "Village" knows nothing of privacy... but they are cute.

If I do actually make it into the bathroom alone then you'll find me sitting there long after I'm done taking a break from my little "village" and catching up on my Facebook and Twitter or maybe this blog.  Yes I take my iPhone into the bathroom just like everyone else does - I just admit to it.

Just five minutes of no one repeating my name over and over can feel like a mini vacation.  It's funny how much we push and are excited for them to say our names for the first time and then well... it can get a little old sometimes.

I started out as "Momma" when FrenchFry was around um... hrm, I may need to consult the baby book on that one (if I filled that part out).  Eventually "Momma" morphed into "Mommy" which was somehow even better.  Recently though my name has become "MommyMOMmyMOMMY!!!!" in a high pitched tone which just doesn't have the same sweet ring as the first few times my name rolled off his sweet little baby lips.

Before I became pregnant with my son, my biggest fear was that I would regret giving up my independence.  I lived on my own for many years and bought a house by myself before my husband and I lived together.  Independence and a sense of freedom have always been very important to me, and it was scary to think of giving that up.  For me, it was hard to imagine what it would be like to be a parent before I had my son.  Intellectually I knew that it would be rewarding but it was hard to imagine such intangible benefits without actually having been a parent.  It was much easier for me to imagine the very real and tangible things that I did have in my life that would in many ways go away once we had a child.

Yes, when you are a mom you do give up most (all?) of that independence and freedom.  And while I haven't peed by myself very often in the privacy of my own home in the past two years... I don't regret it for a second.  Since the day that FrenchFry was born, I haven't wanted to be too far from him for very long.  In part it may be because I work outside of the home that I am always wanting more quality time with him.  Or maybe it's because one of my top Languages of Love is just that - quality time.  (You can read more about my and my husband's love languages here). 

I wouldn't give up being a mom for the world.  Though I still wouldn't mind peeing without the village a little more often...

Yeah... it's worth it.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

We Went Tent Camping with a 2 Year Old... and Survived!

So after months of cajoling, I finally got (forced) my husband to agree to go camping with me and our two year old.  Unfortunately, the state park we wanted to go to was flooded out so we made a last minute call to the first close campground that Google found and they had a site available!  Actually - they had all their "sites" available since I'm pretty sure no one actually goes to this place to camp on purpose but we'll get to that in a moment.

The Brave Campers

We pulled all of our camping stuff out of the shed then ran around to a few stores including Dick's Sporting Goods with a disgruntled toddler who proclaimed "I don't want any Dicks!!!" while we carried him in.  Ahem.  Yeah, that's not at all embarrassing.  After letting him pull as many flashlights off the shelf as he wanted while we found a tarp and a grate for cooking over the fire, he calmed down, we checked out, and were all set for our trip.

We got on the road and after a quick hour and fifteen minutes we found ourselves at Lizard Creek Campground.  We were greeted by the owner, who we knew immediately was the "jolly old man with the white hair and potbelly" from the one review on Yelp I read before we headed out that way.  Usually I do a lot more research on these types of things but this was plan B and I didn't want to give my husband any excuse to back out so I made the executive decision to book the place without checking into it too much.  And it worked out..... mostly.

Jolly old, potbellied man took us over to our campsite, which was about 20 yards from the row of RV's parked ten across who would be our only neighbors that night.  It wasn't really roughing it given we were under the orange glow of the RV camp lights, but it was roughing it enough that it was filled with perils for a two year old.

Welcome to Toddler Death Island...  I mean - our campsite.  And really it wasn't a Death Island, as much as it was a Death Peninsula. 

Toddler Death Peninsula

We were surrounded on three sides by water - deep river water (bayou?) on two sides and a creepy creature filled swamp on the third.  And of course the RV's to our back.  We definitely had a moment where we questioned whether this was still a good idea.  Not to disparage, but the whole thing had a bit of a back woods feel that us city folk weren't quite ready for.  We were ready for nature and the woods but not like the BACK WOODS, ya know?

Honestly though, we had a blast with it being only psuedo-primitive camping.  It was probably a good first step into camping with our son without actually being too far from some sort of civilization.  We did a pretty good job of packing (we have a camping tupperware we created years ago that provides most of the basics) but we forgot beer for the adults so it was nice for my husband to be able to run down to the mini-mart and get a six pack for after FrenchFry went to sleep.  It was a good test run and we are going to try to get back out in the next couple of weeks for a full weekend a little farther away.  We definitely have a few lessons learned under our belt for the next trip.

A few things we will do a little differently next time:

1. Do more research!

Distracting FrenchFry while putting up the tent so he wouldn't jump into the body of water directly behind him.

Next time I will definitely ask if our camp site will be on Toddler Death Island or Peninsula or Isle... or any other setting that is dangerously close to waterways, nuclear waste dump sites or orange-glowing RV Parks.

2.  Inventory the camping gear before the day of the trip.

Bacon and eggs took a bit longer without any cookware so FrenchFry enjoyed some cereal while we worked through that.

We were definitely missing some of the essentials and even more of the extra conveniences we would have liked to have had.  We were missing cookware and utentsils though we made due with plastic cutlery and aluminum foil.  I meant to bring extra pants for FrenchFry but somehow they didn't make it into the bag.  He did of course make it into the big puddle of mud TWICE requiring us to scramble and find an emergency pair of pants in the bottom of the diaper bag (only one size too small).

I also thought of things we should have had with us like some Benadryl since we don't know what, if any, types of allergies FrenchFry may develop and wouldn't want to be out in the woods without it.

3. Bring more toys/activities.

FrenchFry giving us a reprieve from chasing him from dangers by reading Pout Pout Fish in the tent.

 FrenchFry was pretty entertained by running around (scaring the crap out of us) and helping us collect sticks for firewood, but there were a few moments where it would have been good to have a more reliable source of entertainment for him.  We were also only gone for less than 24 hours so next time on a longer trip we will likely need more than just a few books and his harmonica to get through.

And the thing that we did right:

1.  We made the best of it!

Woke up like this - in a tent.  Take that Beyonce!

In spite of the campground not being exactly what we expected or having all the right gear with us, we had a blast.  We remembered how to put up our tent with getting into an argument (marriage WIN), we taught FrenchFry how to swing on a big kid swing for the first time, we looked at the stars while we held hands with FrenchFry on my lap and we ate S'mores.  What more could you ask for?

FrenchFry and Momma by the campfire.

Have you taken your kids camping?  How young were they when they first stayed in a tent?

Any other advice for our next trip to the woods?  Share your comments below.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Happy International Women's Day - Five (+1) To Recognize Today

Today is International Women's Day and a good time to reflect on our own accomplishments as women (and for many of us mothers) as well as the women who inspire us. For myself, it's hard not to get caught up in the day to day feeling of being "not enough" so frequently.  That feeling that many of us have that we aren't enough for our children, our partners, our jobs, our contributions to housework, our (lack of) contributions to women and children causes across the globe... the list goes on.

But today I will be proud of my accomplishments - as well as recognizing the accomplishments of all women - specifically a few of the amazing women who are either out there today making a difference for women across the world, have made a difference in my life or who helped get us where we are today. 

It was of course incredibly hard to choose just a few of the millions of amazing women that accomplished so much and advanced women's rights but here are my 5 (+1) Amazing Women to Recognize today:

1.  Malala Yousafzai - Yousafzai is an international voice and symbol of strength and determination. Born in Pakistan, she started advocating at a young age for education for girls and paid for it by being the target of a brutal attack in which she was shot in the face in 2012 as she walked home from school.  She survived the attack and continues to speak out for her cause and in 2014 she became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

2.  Maya Angelou - The world lost this amazing woman last year at the age of 86 when she passed away on May 28th 2014.  She was a prolific writer who gave voice to women, particularly women of color.  Her first autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) was a coming of age story that brought her international acclaim.  RIP, Miss Angelou

3.  Frances Perkins - As all the women from my generation in America know from the movie Dirty Dancing - Frances was the first woman to become a member of the Presidential Cabinet in 1933.  She served as Secretary of Labor under FDR and as Secretary helped to establish the Social Security Act,  many child labor laws, the minimum wage and countless other rights that have helped workers in American for the past 80 years.  (We actually share the name Frances as it is my middle name - though technically she was born Fannie and changed it later.)


4.  Emma Watson - Watson is an amazing role model for young people across the globe and uses her fame as an actress to push for equality for women across the world.  Her speech for the #HeForShe campaign was inspired, and she continues to clear up the misconceptions about what it means to be a Feminist.


5.  My Mother - My mother has overcome obstacles and challenges that - because of her - I have never had to face.  She was fiercely protective of her children and a strong advocate for us - especially my sister and me as girls and women.  She taught us to work hard and love even harder.  It is because of her that I never gave up on getting my degrees or set limits on myself in my career.  And it is because of her that I always knew that I would be a good mom who loved my kids with all my heart.  It's also a very high bar to live up to sometimes but having that bar as a model pushes me to work harder and love even harder every day.

Me and my Mom after seeing Hillary Clinton speak in 2014.

+1  Me - Yes, I need to take a moment to recognize my own accomplishments and you should too.  Take a moment to take stock in what you've done up to this point in your life - whether it has been in your schooling, your career, your family and children, your activism or your perseverance in the face of challenges you are presented. 

I am proud of who I am and of being a woman.... now a mother as well.  I have worked hard to earn my two degrees, much of it I did over 8 years of working full time as well.  I started as a temp at my company over 12 years ago and have advanced through 7 different positions climbing through the ranks to being a Manager of Analytics where I am valued for my mind and intelligence in a male dominated field.  I worked hard to establish myself as an independent woman buying my own house as a single woman 5 years ago.  I work to be a good partner and while I am not much of a homemaker I don't think that I need to be in order to be a good wife.  I am now the mother of a 2 year old and that makes me one of the millions of working mothers that work to balance the demands of a job outside the home and raising a family.  I am also a breastfeeding mother who pumped at work until my son was 14 months old, which is no small feat!  And now I've ventured into the world of blogging about my life as an imperfect mother who is trying her best to balance all of these things.


We still have a long way to go as we all know that true equality is still far away.  The theme of this year's International Women's Day is "Make It Happen."  To the women who have come before us and those of you out there right now working to Make It Happen, THANK YOU.


Monday, March 2, 2015

How much do moms actually have to give? Or: Why I'm a terrible mom.

Today is my birthday, and I have planned a luxurious and relaxing day for myself.  I booked three hours (THREE HOURS!) at the spa and plan to go to the movies by myself afterwards.  I've been walking around telling everyone that for the first time since becoming a mom, I'm taking a day off just for me!  This is the first vacation day I've taken since FrencyFry was born where we weren't going out of town or daycare wasn't closed.  This really is a first for me to just take the day for myself, and I can't tell you how much I've been looking forward to this.

This morning, after the husband left for daycare drop off and work, I started the day by watching some House of Cards, Interneting and general lazy-bumness on the couch while drinking my coffee.  Off to a great start!

And then the phone rang...

FrenchFry threw up on the way to school.



Yes - I actually cried.  Not tears for my toddler but tears for ME.  (See: terrible mom.)

I just can't believe it.  My day, my spa treatment, going to the movies, my ME time... it's all slipping away from me with one simple phone call.  My husband is actually on the way home right now with him and he's volunteered to take the day off from work to take care of our son so I can still have my day, but I feel so conflicted.  If FrenchFry is not feeling well then I do want to be there to comfort him.  Ugh.  <whimper>  But it was supposed to be MY DAY!!

And now the question is - can I leave a sick kid and even enjoy a spa experience?   Will I hate myself if I stick with the plan?  Moms are bombarded with messages that tell us to take care of ourselves while simultaneously living up to these incredibly high standards we are given. When we do try to take time for ourselves it's hard not to feel that familiar mom guilt. 

Coincidentally, last night Tim was reading FrenchFry the Giving Tree, and I was telling him that I really don't like the book.  I think it's because it feels like it's about the martyrdom of motherhood - and that's really not my favorite part of being a mom.  It seems like we are expected to be happy giving all of ourselves over to our kids, but how can we be?  Don't we have to preserve ourselves somehow through this thing called motherhood?  Can we give all of our love without chopping off our limbs too?

Is the little boy an ungrateful little jerk or is it just me?