Family

Zoë Killed Herself

Zoe-jenny

Today was my niece’s funeral. Her former band teacher gave the eulogy. His words were lovely, the passages fitting. I sat behind my stepsister and her husband and their children. My six-year-old on my lap, so someone else could have a seat I told her, but because I needed to feel her body, alive and warm.

The concert band from Zoë’s school played three pieces. The third, near the finish had a mournful note drawn out so long I was breathless by its end. A final gathering of notes trailed off, driven out by the grief of that one. The band director was motionless for a moment before he broke, his sobs uncontrollable for a few seconds. This day, that song, the reason. He quieted, but those few seconds were too much for the band composed of children, playing music for their dead friend. They sat in their chairs, or stood behind their instruments, alone but all together, except one.

The band director gave instructions. Some kids moved chairs to the side where family and friends were gathered. Some kids reconfigured the arrangement on the side where the band played. Zoë lay between, in a pine box, polished and perfect in its simplicity.

My nephew Evan, stood, waiting for this part to end. He tucked his shirt again and held his hands still in front of him. He was handsome, like a man too soon. His face betrayed an attempt at stoicism, every emotion shown, breaking my heart. He spoke clearly. “The last time I saw Zoë was a Thursday night.” He told us they’d argued and said awful things to each other, but had made up before the night ended. “I told her I loved her, and she said she loved me, too.” Then he was in his father’s arms, crying for us all.

The seats on the other side of the grave were occupied by a string ensemble after that. They played pieces of which I remember nothing but that they seemed the perfect soundtrack for the grief of my stepsister’s family, incomplete in front of me, the rest of my family behind me, all the strangers to me who knew Zoë, and for myself, waiting for it to end.

Her  father spoke. “I thought I had a lot to say.” I was amazed he could speak words at all, could function in the world. “From there to here,” he pointed to the hearse, “was the longest walk of my life.” How was he standing upright, breathing? “Thank you for coming.”

I wanted everyone to leave. I wanted to sit there with my family and watch my niece be lowered into the ground. That’s not what was planned. The ensemble played as we all watched Zoë pass into the earth together.

A man from the funeral home announced the location of the wake. People dispersed. I collected my daughter, who’d gone to stand with her grandfather. I said goodbye to my stepsister, told her I wasn’t attending the wake, but to let me know if she needed anything from me. I said goodbye to my sister and my aunt and my stepfather and other faces. I cut the line of kids waiting to talk to the band director and thanked him for what he did and what he said.

I took my daughter’s hand and asked if she was hungry and what she wanted for lunch. Would she like to go out? No, she wanted to go home with me and have peanut butter and jelly before I brought her back to her dad’s house. I buckled her into her seat, and we drove through the cemetery gates, back into our lives.


2013: Bombshell. Marathon. Pen Pals.

2012

Last Year, instead of resolutions, I had two themes, and I called it the "Year of Good Health and Money." There were quite a few goals to accomplish in those areas, but my main focus for the year was getting my health in order and getting our family's finances under control. I give myself a B for Good Health. I worked out pretty regularly for six months and then came to a dead stop, but I got my supplementation worked out, got my anemia under control, found a new dentist, and lost 20 pounds. I give myself an A for Money. I cut expenses, took care of some scary tax stuff, eliminated our credit card debt, and created a budget for 2013 that allows me to continue to work for myself.

2013

This year, as I was contemplating my themes (I was leaning toward Vanity and Business), I came across Chris Brogan's Brave New Year program. It takes my themes idea and goes so much deeper. I am going to accomplish big things this year and I am going to need guidance to do it. So, I joined up.

Similar to my themes, is Chris's idea of three words for the year. The three words you choose provide a framework for your goals and, ultimately, all of your actions throughout the year. As with last year, before making a big decision, or when I finding myself stuck, I will ask myself how does what I am doing right now align with my three words. If it doesn't, then I need to do something else.

My Three Words

Bombshell

There are two definitions of "bombshell." First is something that is sensational, shocking, surprising, or amazing. Second is a very attractive woman.

I hope that I am able to balance my vanity and narcissism with my intelligence, humor, and generosity, but that doesn't make me any less vain. The part of "Good Health" that I failed last year was physical fitness. Fitness is measurable, but it's impact on my overall health is not as apparent, so it was easier to focus on the things I could see measured with a simple blood test.

I know myself very well and I know that appealing to my sense of vanity is one way to get me to do something. (Now you know it, too.) Working out (to fit into a smaller size, to be more attractive, to have slimmer legs) and taking better care of my skin (so my face is prettier), and eating well (to slim down, to keep my hair shiny, to keep my skin clear) are going to be easier for me to do on a regular basis if I think about how it makes me look in the near term rather than how it affects my health in the long term. Is that messed up? Yes, but that's how I work.

Going back to the first definition. I intend to be the sort of person who makes an impact. I am going to be introducing my company and our products to many people this year. I am going to be asking a lot of people for their advice, or assistance, or money. I intend to leave those people amazed and impressed so that they want to do business with me.

Marathon

This word is not about running, it is about continually moving and doing. I intend to accomplish big goals this year and the only way I am going to get that done is continue to take the next step, even when I don't want to, even when it hurts, even if I am pretty sure I am going to fall on my ass when I do.

If I let myself get overwhelmed by the size of my goals or the length of my task list, I freeze. I get stuck where I am and I do not move foward. This word is to remind me that I can't stop. Yes, the goal is big and the steps to get there are many, but I only need to take one at a time. When I am starting to feel overwhelmed, I need to pull back from the big goal for a bit and focus on the next step. A crucial piece to this is to have a well defined plan so that I always know what the next step is.

This word is also here to help me get through those tasks that I simply do not want to do. As co-founder of a bootstrapped startup, there are a lot of those tasks for me to do right now. We don't have the funds to hire someone else to do them.

Pen Pals

This word took the longest for me to decide. I was looking for something about developing deeper relationships with people in my network. I have built a broad network, but I tend to maintain only shallow relationships with the people in it. Sadly, this includes family and friends.

I rely on social media so much for communication because it is quick and easy, but it also allows me to continue on with shallow interactions. Writing real letters is something that I used to love to do, and it enabled me to get to know someone more personally, and share more of myself. I had a pen pal in Lithuania when I was in grade school. I remember so many details of her life, and I can still picture her unique style of printing.

This word is not about having literal pen pals. It is included in this list to remind me to go deeper with my communications. I intend to form deeper relationships with the people in my personal and business networks, no matter the method we use most to communicate.

Your Turn

Do you make resolutions for the year? Do you set goals? Have themes? Make vision boards? Want to try this three words thing? I'd love to hear about it.


Twin Babies

I'm working from home today. While I was on a conference call, the Flickr screensaver came up on the Apple TV. I have it set to show all of my pictures now. (I recently changed it. It was only baby pictures before, so I wouldn't see any pictures of my mom.) A few times, baby pictures came up and I couldn't tell which of my babies it was.

Here's one baby:

Here's the other baby:

Thanksgiving Day

Here's one baby:

Here's the other baby:

Kenna's Bathing Suit


My Dad

My parents' wedding day

My dad was 19 years old when he married my mom. She was 16 years old, and three months pregnant with me. My parents separated when I was five years old, and divorced when I was nine years old.

My dad wasn't known for his lawful behavior. He didn't make court-ordered child support payments. He infrequently took advantage of court-allowed visitations with his children. He did not adhere to laws prohibiting the possession, use, and sale of illegal drugs. Two of the three things on that list caused him to be in and out of jail for much of my childhood.

My dad was book smart without a college degree. After he left the Air Force, he was an engineering technician until the recession of the late-'80s and early-'90s. After that, he drifted from odd job to odd job, preferring those that paid cash so he wouldn't have to make child support payments. It's unfortunate that he never grew up.

When I was in college, I made peace with the fact that my dad was never going to change and never going to be the kind of dad I needed. He was family and I still loved him, but as long as I expected him to act like a father, I would be disappointed. I resolved to treat him like an uncle -- not even a favorite uncle. After that, we had a much better relationship.

Eventually, my dad paid off the back child support with an extended jail term. I was well into my 20s by then. When he was released, he moved to New Mexico to live with my retired grandmother. He had a steady job and had been promoted to a supervisory position when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Eighteen months later, at the age of 50, he was dead. Today would have been his 57th birthday.


Wardrobe In Memoriam

I convinced my mom to buy a green, animal print (sort of) top by Michael Kors a year or two ago. She rarely paid that much money for clothes, but it looked good on her and she needed to stop wearing such frumpy tops on the weekends. I tried on the same top, in a size larger, but it didn't look good on me. It made me look bigger than I was.

Today, I am wearing her top. It is one of the only things I kept from her closet. I'm glad it fits me now. I'll be a little sad when I am wearing a smaller size and it no longer fits, but then I will be able to wear a green sweater of hers that I kept.


Shutterfly Holiday Photo Cards

Every year about this time, I start to drool over the holiday cards on Shutterfly and I dream about getting a professional family portrait taken and being witty for a full page of a family newsletter. That particular dream has never come true. In fact, I don't think I sent out cards at all last year, since that was right about the time that THE WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE was starting. It's over now (I say, definitively, hoping to ward off any other bad things), and I am once again salivating over the holiday photo cards at Shutterfly. This year, I am actually going to do it. I have already scheduled the family photo session. Now all I have to do is choose a card.

Continue reading...


An Obituary for My Mother

Internment Collage for Michelle

Priscilla Jewell died Tuesday, May 18, 2010 suddenly and tragically in a car accident in Camarillo, California.

She was born Priscilla Elaine Buchanan on March 28, 1957 to Stanley and Pauline Buchanan in Oak Harbor, Washington. Priscilla moved with her parents and her four older sisters to Point Mugu in 1959 and to Camarillo in 1962, to a brand new subdivision on Edgemont Drive, which was then surrounded by lima bean fields. She remembered walking home with her sisters one day and losing a shoe in a mud puddle in one of those fields, which is now the Camarillo Community Center on Carmen Drive.

Priscilla graduated from Adolpho Camarillo High School a year early in 1974. She married her high school sweetheart, Joseph Lino LeBlanc, Jr. and gave birth to her first daughter, Michelle, in 1974 in Colorado. Priscilla returned to California briefly and then moved with her husband and her baby to Las Vegas, Nevada, where her husband was stationed with the United States Air Force. In 1977, she gave birth to her second daughter, Marie. Priscilla returned to Camarillo with her two daughters in 1980.

In 1988, Priscilla met Roger Jewell at Harley’s Camarillo Bowl, where he was the manager. They were in high school together and had friends in common then and when they became reacquainted so many years later. Roger and Priscilla fell in love soon after they started dating. After a long engagement, Priscilla married the love of her life in 1997.

There is nothing Priscilla loved more than spending time with her family. She enjoyed the large family gatherings held at her childhood home on Edgemont Drive and later, at her own house, playing games at the dining room table, and watching her grandchildren and nieces and nephews play in the pool. She cherished the quiet moments, too; time spent shopping with her daughters, playing with her grandchildren, chatting with her sisters, visiting with her step-son Chris, and her step-daughter Jennifer.

In the thirty years of her banking career, all of it spent with local banks, Priscilla worked with so many coworkers and customers throughout Ventura County. Earlier this year, Priscilla was promoted to Sr. Vice President at California Oaks State Bank, in Thousand Oaks. Recently, she studied diligently for, and was proud of earning, the designation of Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager. Priscilla was a conscientious, meticulous employee who never left a question unanswered or a detail undocumented.

Priscilla was loved dearly by her family, friends, and coworkers. She was the glue that held her family together and her loss leaves a hole that can never be filled. She was smart, loving, generous, kind, and thoughtful. She would have gladly given her life for her children and her grandchildren, and they are heartbroken to have seen it taken from her. Priscilla was a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a grandmother, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend. This beautiful woman will be remembered and missed be everyone who knew her.

Priscilla Jewell is survived by her husband, Roger Jewell; her two daughters, Michelle LeBlanc Magoffin and Marie LeBlanc Molina; her step-children, Christopher Jewell and Jennifer Colegrove; her four sisters, Patricia Robinson, Peggy Buchanan, Penny White, and Pamela Geisler; her seven grandchildren, Kenna, Olivia, Molly, Liam, Curtis, Zoe, and Evan; and her aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews, mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and sons-in-law. She is preceded in death by her father, Stanley Buchanan, and her mother, Pauline Buchanan, as well as her grandparents.

A funeral mass will be held for Priscilla on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 10 AM at St. Mary Magdalen Church on Las Posas Road in Camarillo. All are welcome to attend the mass. Her ashes will be interred a few days later in a private ceremony at Conejo Mountain Memorial Park. Arrangements are being made through Griffin Family Mortuary in Camarillo.


Call for Opinions: What is your minimum definition of cheating?

I received a comment on a five-year-old post about cheating at The Peevery. What is your minimum definition of cheating? Where is the line between cheating and inappropriate behavior?

This is what I think, but I want to know what you think.

I am now forced to broaden my definition of cheating... If you are in an exclusive relationship and you have a conversation or an encounter with someone else, if you cannot recount that conversation word for word to your partner or you cannot describe that encounter to your partner in detail without discomfort, then you have behaved inappropriately. It's like foreplay to cheating and it is going to earn you a punch in the mouth if your partner is me.

Read the whole post: Exploratory Poonani


More Toddler Tips: Raising a Talker

Oh, my goodness is my toddler ever a chatterbox. Thankfully, she can talk and talk and talk to herself. She does not always require a response. My kid is well ahead of the game when it comes to language development. Most people are confused about her age out in public. They think she is abnormally small for a three-and-a-half-year old, but she is two-and-a-half.

I have some background in early childhood education, and I have read twenty gazillion books on the subject, so I knew what I wanted to do to instill good language skills in my child before she was born. I'm not an expert on it by any means, but maybe you can benefit from knowing what has worked for me.

1. Talk to your baby all the freaking time

I am actually not much of a talker, so this was really awkward for me in the beginning, which is why I started practicing when my baby as barely a week old. I narrated everything I was doing ("Mommy's changing Kenna's diaper.") and everything the baby was doing ("Oh, Kenna doesn't like getting her diaper changed. Kenna is crying.").

I also held conversations with my mute baby. Ask the baby a question, leave time for the baby's response, and then say what the baby would respond if the baby were super freakish and could talk.

Example:

"Does Kenna want to wear her giraffe onesie today?" [pause]

"Oh, Kenna does want to wear her giraffe onesie. She loves her giraffe onesie."

I read something about kids not understanding pronouns until a certain point, so we always used names when talking to the baby, at least until she was using multi-word phrases.

2. Don't correct improper word usage

Once your kid does start talking, don't correct improper word usage or verb tenses. The goal is to get your kid to talk more, so you don't want to do anything that might make her feel bad, like telling her she is saying something wrong.

3. Repeat and model

When my toddler first started talking, I would repeat what she said, or what I thought she said, for two reasons. First, to make sure I understood her and, second, to model proper word usage and verb tenses.

Example 1:

"Jibber jabber cookie blah blah mama"

"Would you like a cookie? Oh, you do want a cookie."

Example 2:

"Jibber jabber cookie blah blah mama"

"Would you like a cookie? You do? Ok. Kenna said, 'May I please have a cookie, Mama?'"

I still do this but now, instead just trying to build my kid's vocabulary, it is also about using proper sentence structure. Also, I still don't know what the heck she is saying sometimes. She speaks pretty clearly, but if it is a word I've never heard her use before, I takes me a few tries to get it.

3. Don't use baby talk

This one is in every book there ever was, but there is some confusion as to what "baby talk" means. Baby talk refers to made-up words. It does not refer to using a high-pitched, sing-songy voice, which actually helps babies with comprehension and helps to calm them.

Example (not baby talk):

"Ohmygod you're so cute, I love snuggle your little neck and smoosh your cheeks and give you so many kisses." (I may have said this every single day that I was on maternity leave.)

Example (baby talk):

"Does my little shmoopykins need her dipey-wipey changed? Someone has a mess on her tushy-wushy."

You should not use baby talk mostly because you sound like an idiot when you do.

4. Have conversations with your child

This is harder when your child is a baby and you are holding both sides of the conversation yourself. It is infinitely more fun when your child can participate. This is a great parenting tip, not just for building language skills.

Have a conversation with your kid. Your entire relationship should not consist of you barking orders at your kid or even instructing your kid in a nice way. Your kid is going to need conversational skills in life and you are going to want your kid to talk to you about things as she gets older, so you might as get her used to having a normal conversation now, before she can resist.

This part is easy and it is enormously entertaining. My toddler cracks me up every single day. She is just starting to really pretend and tells me stories about monsters and her dolls and her friends at daycare.

One last note

I was talking to my hair stylist about some cute things my toddler says and she said she doesn't always understand what her nephew says, but that his mom seems to. She was worried about being able to understand her own kid when she has kids. I reassured her that she would understand her kid even if other people couldn't. It isn't like a psychic bond thing, it is just that your kid uses the word in context around you so you begin to pick up which words mean what because you are much more exposed to them than other people are.


Please and Thank You: Teaching Your Toddler to Be Polite

I get compliments about how polite my toddler is. At two-and-a-half years old, she greets adults by name; she says please, thank you, and you're welcome when it's appropriate (most of the time); and she is very complimentary herself ("I like yours shoes. They're so pretty.")

It isn't by accident that she is this way. This is behavior that I actively tried to instill in her from the time she was born. I have seen conflicting advice about teaching keeds to be polite so I think it might be useful for others to know what I do.

1. Model Good Behavior

I think this is a key step in teaching kids how to do anything. We say please and thank you to the toddler. When I ask her to do something, I say please. When she complies, I thank her. It's not difficult. I started this when she was a newborn so that I would get into the habit. ("Don't roll off the changing table, please. Thank you.") I read in a book that you should only model behavior and never tell your kid to say please and thank you since they will naturally pick it up, but I don't agree. Kids need prompts.

I compliment her every day and I compliment other people in front of her. I tell her she's funny, or I say that her hair looks cute, or I like the picture she colored. She says thank you, and she copies that behavior with others.

2. Remind, but Don't Demand

I read in a book that you should not force your tiny toddler to say please and thank you. You should remind them to do so and let it go. If my toddler forgets to ask for something in a nice way, or to say please, or thank you, I remind her, but I don't force her to do it right then. Using this method, her use of please and thank you gradually increased on it's own.

This was another thing I started when she was a newborn. It was a little ridiculous at first because I would be holding my tiny baby who couldn't even hold her own head up and I would say, "Say hi to Aunt Marie," and then I would say it for her, "Hi, Aunt Marie." But, at her two-and-a-half-year check-up, she greeted her doctor with, "Hi, Dr. Altmann," when the doctor walked in the room so, as ridiculous as it seemed then, it has paid off.

When I started this post, I thought there was more to it, but as I got into, I realized it really has been as simple as that.


Call for Opinions: What do grown-ups do for fun?

Jamie asks:

My husband and I have discovered that we are the most boring people on earth. With every day being a 12-hour workday we don’t have a lot of free time, but what little we have, we have no idea what to do with. When we were younger we loved to go out and party, but we’ve outgrown it. And we never replaced these activities with anything else. Also, all of our friends have either had kids or never grew up, so we don’t really associate with anyone anymore.

So, basically we have no friends (we both work at the same place and everyone here is either way older than us, or has kids, or is weird or all of the above) and no hobbies. All we do is sit and stare at each other going “What do you wanna do? I don’t know, what do YOU wanna do?”

Is there some sort of match-making site for couples in their late 20’s-early 30’s to meet other lame people with no friends? If not, there should be. It’s hard to make friends as an adult.

Anyone have any suggestions for hobbies? We are not athletic and are both very accident prone, so anything with sharp pointy things (like darts) or heavy things (like bowling) or physical activity (like, um, sports) is not good. Also, anything that takes a long time (we have no attention span), or involves weirdos (like Renaissance fairs or Civil War Re-enactment) is out.

This is a good topic, about which I have surprisingly few opinions. My husband and I watch TV, go to the movies, and hand out with family (I have lots) and friends (we have few). We don't have tons of free time, though. We both have long commutes. We have two small children. I am taking MBA classes. I have to blog, and tweet, and post reviews on Yelp or the world will end. My husband plays online games. We're both fat because we don't exercise.

Anybody have some ideas for Jamie?


Disciplining Other People's Children

I confess. I discipline other people's children. Family, friends, strangers. It's a reflex. I don't think twice about doing it and I don't feel any remorse for having done it.

Last night, I had dinner at Souplantation with Amy, from Parenting with Duct Tape, her 10-year-old, her 2-year-old, and my 2-year-old. I came back to the table with a blueberry muffin. I gave my toddler half. She shared a little with Amy's toddler. Amy asked her daughter if she would like a blueberry muffin, too. Her daughter nodded and demanded, "Get me blueberry muffin!"

I immediately responded with, "Excuse me, you need to say, 'Please,'" which is exactly what I would have said to my own daughter. It wasn't until later that evening, or maybe even the next morning, that I realized I had disciplined someone else's kid right in front of her and wondered if she had been offended. As I said, I don't feel any remorse for having done it, but it did make me wonder why I do it.

My large extended family is filled with cousins, aunts, and uncles. Growing up, we all lived in the same town and everyone congregated at my grandmother's house. There was always some mix of kids and adults around. If you were a kid, you were expected to listen to any adult present and you could expect to be disciplined by any adult present. It's still that way in my family. If I ask my cousins' kids or my nieces and nephews to do something, I expect them to do it. If I see them doing something they shouldn't, they should expect me to respond to it.

The kids play area at the mall is the worst. Inattentive mothers let loose their tiny hooligans and glue their eyes to their iPhones. My polite, friendly, small-for-her-age toddler doesn't stand a chance against some of those beasts. It's not like I'd put someone else's kid in a time-out or beat the ass of a deserving mini-thug, but I will point a finger and say in a slightly-too-loud, stern voice, "Watch it!" I will also follow that up with a distasteful look at the mother in case my tone caused her to look up to see what sort of trouble her future criminal has gotten himself into now.

I haven't asked Amy if it bothers her if I discipline her children. (I didn't even tell her I was posting this.) I don't think she requires my assistance and I don't think her children require additional discipline. As I said, it's reflexive, and I don't plan to stop.


Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days - DVD Review

40yrs I am not going to beat around the bush with this review. I LOVE Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days. It is everything I was hoping Sesame Street - Old School would be, but wasn't. I found Old School to be dated, not nostalgic. That's part of the reason I had the 40 Years DVD for over a month before I finally got around to watching it. I am so glad I did.

Watching a full episode of Sesame Street from the 1960s or 1970s is boring, but Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days takes the best segments and puts them all together. There were so many segments that I remembered from my childhood once I saw them on the screen. It just made me happy to watch it and I was thrilled that my toddler enjoyed watching it, too. (She did not enjoy Old School.)

There are a couple different options for watching. You can turn on the pop-up facts and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. This collection also comes with a little commemorative book.

Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days is a joy to own and watch and I highly recommend buying it to anyone who every watched Sesame Street as a kid.

This DVD was provided to me free of charge for the purpose of writing this review.


Can people change?

One of my relatives recently left her husband (again) and my sister and I were discussing the situation. I feel like our relative should divorce him already and cut her losses. My sister feels like our relative hasn't yet tried everything and should give him another chance to change his behavior. I said to my sister that I don't believe people change.

I don't believe that people can fundamentally change who they are. My sister agrees with that, but she does think that people can change their behavior. In the case of our relative, and in most marriages, if one spouse has left before and been fed up before, the douchey spouse saying he is really going to change this time seems like it is just a ploy because he knows she'll stay if he pretends. If he was really willing to change - if it was part of his fundamental nature to do so - he would have already done so.

This is what my sister says about it:

I believe whole-heartedly in the capacity for regeneration of the human heart. The difference is that while our personalities are fixed from conception, our behaviors are learned and can therefore be unlearned or retrained.  I do concede that apart from love, grace and forgiveness, it is an exercise in futility. One has to want to change and be willing to do the work to go after it.

In the case presented, if the parties involved are willing to admit their own part in the situation, forgive one hundred percent of the other person's part and move forward with love and grace.  There is no damage (and I mean none) that cannot be repaired and restored to an even greater level than before.

What do you think? Can people change?


Working Mom Guilt: Dr. Phil Says You Shouldn't Have It

I don't have working mom guilt. I choose to work and that is the best decision for my family. A couple months ago, I attended a taping of a Dr. Phil show on the subject. As he so lovingly put up on the graphics, it was really "Stay at Home vs. Working Moms" with Jessica Gottlieb representing the stay-at-home moms with the opinion that if you can't stay home with your children, you shouldn't have them.

Romi Lassally summed it up nicely on Huffington Post:

Basically, Jessica equates the hiring of a babysitter, or use of a daycare facility for the kids with the hiring of a surrogate (a hooker perhaps?) for the husband. While this is an interesting concept...it's just dead wrong. Working, or staying home full time is [sic] not be the litmus test by which we evaluate the quality of love a mother has for her kids. There are plenty of full time moms who aren't that loving and probably just as many working moms who love with a vengeance.

I responded to Jessica's post about her appearance:

I was in that audience on the Working Moms side. I choose to work and I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t miss my children’s milestones. If my daughter giggles for the first time at daycare, she is also going to do it for me later, when I get home from work. Our wonderful daycare provider is not raising my children for me, she is simply caring for them for part of their day. They thrive under her expert care in ways I doubt they would at home with me all day. They are appropriately bonded and attached to me and their father. And I am certainly a much happier person for being able to use my talents on daily basis in a way that makes us a lot of money that gives us opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have.

One thing that I posted about when Sarah Palin first appeared and was getting so much heat for her choices about work and family, is that some women CAN do it all. Some women are more capable than others when it comes to balancing their lives. Some women can simply do more than others can.

One thing you asked during the show was something like, “You wouldn’t outsource making love to your husband, so why would you outsource mothering your children?” I laughed when you said that because, honestly, if I could get a girl in to take care of the blowjobs, I would.

She responded to me thusly:

Not “making love to your husband”, just “loving him”.

I’m sorry you don’t enjoy marriage or parenthood.

I showed surprising restraint in my follow-up response. You can read the rest on her site. Also, please note that my husband is holding auditions this weekend for the blowjob girl.


I Curse You and Your Baby

I wonder why it is the first instinct of so many people to wish ill upon an expectant mother. When I was pregnant with my toddler, it was the honeymoon period of motherhood. Everyone was so excited for me. They were excited to find out the gender of the baby. They were excited to find out what we were going to name her. They were excited to know how I was feeling every minute until I gave birth. Then, they were excited to see her for the first time.

Once we realized we had a pretty easy baby with no health issues and not a lot of drama about sleeping or eating, the honeymoon was over. As people found out she was an easy baby, we would hear things like, "You're lucky," implying that we had absolutely nothing to do with her behavior. We acknowledge that we are lucky, but we do not feel that luck has everything to do it. We were pretty chill as parents and we believe that helped our baby relax as well.

When I was pregnant with my newborn, you would not believe the amount of ill-wishing I received. As soon as people found out I was pregnant with my second child, they asked how my first child was as a baby. When they found out she was an easy baby, they said, "Oh, this one will be a nightmare." That lovely sentiment was usually accompanied by an unkind bit of laughter. I heard variations on this from so many people that I started to get angry about it. It is such a rude thing to say to a pregnant woman.

There was one exception. A co-worker of mine, when he found out my first child was an easy baby, said that my second would probably be easy, too. He has two kids who were both easy babies. I clung to that thought through the rest of my pregnancy.

When my newborn slept through the night at three and half weeks old, and kept on sleeping through the night, a resounding, "Suck it!" could be heard through all the land. She is even easier than the first one. Yes, I am lucky again, but I am also more relaxed as a parent this time, so I am still going to take some of the credit.

You would think that would be the end of the ill-wishing, but you would be wrong. When people find out that I have had two easy babies and we are not having anymore, they say, "Wait until they're teenagers." Why doesn't anyone say, "That's great!" or, "How wonderful!" No one can be happy for me or say something nice.

The next time someone says something like, "Wait until they're teenagers," I am going to ask why she would say something like to me and why she would expect that we will be unable to raise well-behaved children.

(Please note that I was able to write this entire post uninterrupted in my silent house because my baby is sleeping peacefully in her moses basket.)


Do I Take on Too Much?

Honestly, my assessment of myself is that I am kind of lazy and that I could be more productive in most aspects of my life. My house could be cleaner and more organized. I could be more proactive at work. I could be more proactive with my schoolwork. I could fit working out back into my routine. I could cook more meals at home. I could pluck my own eyebrows. (No I couldn't! I did it this morning because I had to cancel my wax last weekend and plucking hurts way more than waxing.) I could read more books instead of watching TV. I could keep on going with this list.

I feel like I could always do more but, even before getting pregnant with Kenna, I made a conscious effort not to overschedule myself, especially on weekends. I need alone time and I need relaxation time. If I don't have it, I get overstressed and then I start to get depressed. Because of all that, I never had an image of myself as a person who takes on too much but, recently, I have started to wonder if I am wrong about that.

Last year, I began an MBA program. I started out easy with one class that I'd already taken as an undergrad. Then I took off the next term because it was during the first trimester of my pregnancy and I knew I would be too tired. This term, I took only one class again because it would be ending when I would be only weeks away from giving birth and I didn't want to work myself too hard. Still, I feel like I could have handled two classes at a time.

On Facebook a few weeks ago, an old high school friend commented on one of my status updates about how amazed she was that I was taking a class while pregnant. Last week, a coworker who works from her home was in the office for a training. We talked about my MBA program because her employee wants to get his MBA. She, too, was amazed that I started an MBA program with a toddler and another baby on the way. Then, when she found out I also have a 100-mile commute, her eyes nearly popped out of her head. My response was typical. I said that you get used to it (the commute) and that the MBA program was only temporary; eventually I'll be done, plus it is only one night a week for class and I do most of my schoolwork at lunch time (or instead of watching American Idol).

I registered for two classes for the Fall, which actually start a week or so before my maternity leave ends. Today, I registered for one class for the Summer - it crams a full course into 2.5 weekends. My husband is ok with the Summer course even though it means he will be on his own with a newborn and a toddler every weekend in July because the weekend after the class ends, I am attending the BlogHer conference in Chicago.

I think maybe it is too much but the only reason I think that is because I have done nothing but gain weight for the past seven years - the same amount of time I have been married and the same amount of time that I have had a long commute. Clearly, my health is the one area that is getting the shaft. Also, I don't do anything with friends. And I tend to pay my bills late.

I work, go to school, blog, tweet, watch TV, spend time with family, and... well, that's about it.

I have made it my goal to fit working out back into my routine after I have this baby next month, but I am not sure yet how I am going to do it because I haven't identified any other areas where I expect to slow down. I could stop watching so much TV, I guess.

Obviously this is something I have been struggling with for awhile, so if you have some answers for me, I would appreciate them.


Call for Opinions: Should I have a second baby shower?

Since we are having another girl, I can't decide if I should have second baby shower or not. My mom and my friend are pestering me to decide. We don't really need a lot of stuff. We need a few things, but nothing we can't handle on our own. Plus, I did put everything on a registry along with some stuff we don't necessarily need, but would be nice to have.

Two things I am thinking about:

  1. I have so many girl clothes, that I could be having triplet girls and still not need new clothes. At my last shower, I'd say 90% of the many, many gifts I received were clothes. To even think about getting that many clothes again makes me want to cry like the ungrateful, hormonal, pregnant woman I am. If I do have shower, I would really, really like to specify that we don't need any outfits.
  2. If I don't have a shower, I would like to have a "meet the baby" party instead, when she is about two months old.

So, what do you think? Should I have a shower or a party after the baby is born? I really can't decide on this one.


Who should pay the teenager's outrageous cell phone bill?

Daily Piglet has a question:

Our lovely daughter went a little nuts with her cell phone plan and the result was a very high cell phone bill.

Her "friend" is offering to pay for part of it, this friend offered to pay for the phone in the first place but I declined the offer.  This friend continues to offer us money to pay for the bill, even before our daughter thought she was Paris Hilton and texted 1800 times in a few weeks.

The problem, my husband doesn't think we should take this friend's money due to the age of said person, which is 15.  The person earned this money by working a part time job.

My first response has always been to decline the offer, but lately I have begun to wonder if I should just go ahead and take the money, using it to pay towards the bill our daughter created.  The amount being offered is $400 but I think that's a bit too much and would settle for something in the neighborhood of $100.

Since the husband and I are not in agreement, I would appreciate your input.  You're my only hope.

I don't think you should accept the friend's offer to help pay the bill. I think you should pay it and make your daughter work to pay you back for it. I also think she should be grounded from the cell phone for awhile, or at least from texting. It might be beneficial to get an unlimited texting plan and make your daughter pay the additional cost each month. I don't remember if your daughter is old enough to get a part-time job, but even if she isn't, she is certainly old enough to take on additional responsibilities. I know she doesn't live with you full-time right now, but there are probably all sorts of chores you can save up for her. The bottom line is that she needs to be responsible for the bill in same shape or form.