Monday, December 17, 2012

Conversations We Wish We Didn't Have To Have...

When I picked Zoe up from school on Friday, we didn't discuss the shootings.  I'm sure she could see that I was distraught and I definitely hugged her even more than I usually do (which is a lot) but I just couldn't deal with telling my five and a half year old that someone had walked into a school and done the unthinkable - to children her age, to people like her trusted and beloved teachers. I just didn't have the strength to have a calm discussion with her at that moment because inside, I was screaming and hysterical.

We did talk about her day at school. We talked about how much fun she had wearing her flannel pajamas and robe to school. We talked about how she wants to wear her hair the way I did it that morning, at least once a week.  We talked about watching Polar Express and how happy she was that I was able to come to her classroom and make hot cocoa for her and her friends. She told me I make the "best hot cocoa, ever" and requested another cup right then. 

We also talked about the lock down drill her school did (that completely by coincidence happened at the same time as the shootings according to reports and Zoe's teacher). She told me she didn't like the lock down drill. She said that she and her friends don't understand why anyone would come to their school to hurt them. Zoe's voice cracked as she asked me why people are bad. She giggled when she told me she'd just fold herself into her desk to hide or 'do karate on them". I'm told that some students cried during the drill, that it was all too overwhelming for some of them and I am sure my daughter was one of the kids who felt emotional about such a serious thing. It's incomprehensible for a five year old to understand such atrocities. Instead of trying to explain everything in depth Friday, I simply asked Zoe to make sure that she took the drills seriously and always followed directions. I reiterated to her that when a trusted adult asks her to do something like be quiet or to take/stop action, we are doing it because it is our job to keep her and her classmates safe. I tried to explain (for the zillionth time) that sometimes there is no time for an explanation, she just needs to follow directions.

Beyond that, Daniel and I shielded the kids from Friday's tragedy. We did not listen to or watch the news around the kids. We only discussed things in round about ways and hushed tones. We shielded Zoe and Finn from what we were sure would give them nightmares and insecurity.

Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, all I could think about was all the victims. I imagined the horror they went through, but instead of the faces I've seen in photos, I saw my daughter and her classmates, their teachers, their Principal. What would I do if a gunman came into our classroom when I was helping?  I quizzed myself: I always bring my phone in the classroom. There are 22 kids in Zoe's class. Two of those children have special needs. There are 12 cabinets against the long wall - there are six more short cabinets across from the two bathrooms.  I'm not sure if the bathrooms in the classroom actually lock.  There is a train/activity table with two drawers, each large enough for a small child. There is a small window that looks out to the parking lot. I had worked myself into a panic attack thinking about it all. 

And then it struck me - Zoe was going to go to school the next morning and be surrounded by older children in the morning and at recess who probably knew all about the shootings. The idea of her finding out from an eight or ten year old instead of me or Daniel worried me. I wanted to be able to talk to her, as we sat in our home. I wanted her to feel comfortable to react however she needed and to be able to ask questions. I wanted to reiterate that lock down drills are important and serious because someday (hopefully never) her school might need to have a real lock down. I wanted to tell her that if she ever hears loud noises that she should stop what she is doing, look for her teachers and keep her mouth closed until a teacher says it's OK to speak. But I hadn't told her anything. I hadn't prepared her at all. And so I decided I couldn't let her go to school today.

Now, I know that there are people out there who would disagree with my decision. We can't live in fear.  I can't be with my children every second and they deserve to be able to live their lives without being constantly shielded by their mother. I get it and I agree... except, I need to know that I've prepared my children the best way that I know how.  I spend my life protecting my kids, but I need to continue to have those tough conversations too.

So Zoe and I sat upstairs in her bright, sunny room this morning.  I played with her hair as I explained that I kept her home because there was something I needed to talk to her about.  I told her that last Friday someone came into a school a lot like hers and he hurt a lot of people - kids her age and teachers. Her eyes were wide with shock and I could see her trying to process it all.  I told her that she might end up hearing about some of it at school, but that I'd like for her not to get involved in conversations about it because some big kids might not get the facts right. I didn't go into detail about what happened but I asked her to do what we always do - if she hears something at school that makes her feel uncomfortable or confused, that she can ask me or Daniel about it at home and we'll help her through it.  Tomorrow she will go to school,  as will Finnegan.  I still feel sick thinking about them being away from me and I will always worry about their safety - ALWAYS... but I feel better having had a conversation with my daughter to prepare her for what she might hear.  

All I can think is, this is the tough part about parenting. Forget the diaper changes and the tantrums and them not sleeping through the night. This is the part of parenting that rips at your heart as you struggle for the right things to say and do in times like this.  From the time I first found out I was pregnant with each child, my focus has been on their health and happiness. I have been blessed with two sweet children and I have done my best to keep them safe.  Sending them out into a world with so many dangers and entrusting others to care for them... it can be overwhelming and terrifying.  Sometimes I wish they were still babies, safe in my arms at home.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Adventures in Crockpot Cooking

Crockpot Cookin' is all fun and games until you realize that a crucial ingredient is just over 2 months passed it's "Best if used by" date and the clock is ticking for it to cook for 6 hrs so you can serve dinner by 6. So then you grab your *almost 4* year old and toss him in the van and you race to the grocery (while you've got your husband on blue tooth talking you down from the crazy "I am not cut out to do things like this!" ledge. You wrap that up and he's very encouraging and you race through the grocery with your little boy (who has very short legs in times like this and does not run fast enough) and you grab the broth and make a mad dash to the register, but your son almost knocks down a five foot display of fruit cakes that was in the middle of the flipping aisle (for goodness sakes!) like the HULK, but he stops just short of disaster and very calmly says "It's alright, Mama. We're cool." and he gently takes one finger and pushes a stray box back into place.  *Deep sigh of relief*

But then some salesman stops you and you tell him, "No, thanks. We're in a big hurry." He really wants to sell you some package deal for family portraits and he's running his spiel but you keep walking and say "No, thanks!" (again) but he's persistent and he calls out to you that they're great for the holiday... you interrupt him: "Thanks! But I take my own pictures and I have a crock pot meal I'm trying to cook!" and he looks at you like you're crazy (you might be, just saying).

So you finish at the register and your son is jumping up and down encouraging you to "Go, Go, Go!" but you're stalled behind some lady that is walking (no strolling), no weaving in front of you with her cart, slower than molasses, enjoying what you can only assume she thinks is a Marvelous Monday. You almost say, screw it - we'll go out to eat but your boy looks up at you with his big blue eyes and a grin. So you take a deep breath, grab your boy like a football and he puts one fist out in front of you and yells "CHARGE!" as we race by the slow lady, unlock the car and jump in.

None of this is your idea of fun and games, until you look through the mirror and see your son cracking up and you remember that your husband has promised you beer or wine (and appetizers!) while we wait for our soup to be ready. So you drive back home calmly and think about how you can't wait to share this doozy with your friends and family.

The End.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Homesickness

I get at least a flutter of homesickness for Bakersfield once a day. Sometimes it strikes me as funny since there was a time when Daniel and I felt like all we had was each other and we wanted to get the hell out as soon as possible.

We moved to Bakersfield (separately) within weeks of each other in 2003. Daniel, from Texas was starting a new job. I was starting a new life after leaving my ex. After six months in our new city, we met and quickly fell in love.

I don't want to speak for Daniel here, but I didn't feel connected to Bakersfield for the longest time. I felt like an outsider amongst people who all seemed to have a history and it was lonely. Daniel and I would talk about leaving all the time. We were just waiting for his company to move him.

Somewhere in the ten years we were there, we made some strong connections to people and places. We still talked about leaving (and there was a time last summer where I was so ready to leave and not look back) but it felt less urgent. We'd adopted friends as family. We'd adopted a theatre, a community. We'd grown attached to different places and our memories there.

Some connections were so strong, that in the months before our move to Texas, I could not speak of our relocation without bursting into tears. The city we had once felt no connection to had become our home. It was Zoe and Finnegan's first home. Bakersfield was special to us as a family. Bakersfield changed my life - it is special to me.

So, most days I feel like an outsider here in our new city. We have friends in Texas (some as close as 3 minutes away) but this state is kind of big and everyone is busy. I miss going places and running into someone I know where ever I am. As exciting as it is to have this beautiful house and the opportunity to make new memories in an amazing city full of things to do, it's a big adjustment. Again, I feel disconnected and slightly overwhelmed.

This evening, a friend mentioned the cooler temps back home and I told her she was making me even more homesick. She apologized and said things would get better as we settled and made more friends. She's right - I know I'll grow to love it here.

Sometimes I wish I could just not miss Bakersfield. You know, say good riddance... I'm better off here and get on with it. But I know that missing the place I spent ten years in means I did something right while I was there. I chose the right city to start fresh in. I surrounded myself and my family with people worth missing and they miss us right back.

So that's what I keep reminding myself. Someday I won't be able to imagine leaving here and if/when we do, I'll miss our friends and the places we have happy memories of just like I do now.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pick Up the Pace

We're in our 3rd week of Kindergarten with Zoe and so far it's been a learning experience for all of us.

For me, this has been quite the adjustment - turning my daughter over to people I do not know, who have no history with us as a family, for seven hours a day/5 days a week. I miss spending more time with Zoe and it's hitting me especially hard since we're in a new city/state and I know very few people. It's an adjustment, for sure - but I recognize how good this is for all of us.

For Zoe, she's learning to stick to a schedule. She's waking up early and getting ready and focusing on being on time. She's memorized her student number, buys her own lunch and turns in her daily work folder. She's making friends, learning so much and is a little chatterbox when I pick her up.

Pick up is a ordeal. Parents start lining up along the curb well over 30 minutes before school is let out. One teacher signals to the others what student is being picked up and the children are escorted to various points along the curb to their parents vehicles. Its not a perfect process, but it runs fairly smoothly. Zoe has learned to put her own seatbelt harness on and connect it (something I've always insisted on doing, to confirm its done correctly). Last week, when I was still attempting to connect Zoe's belt, a teacher informed me that her four year old knew how to attach their belt. I ignored that the teacher was comparing her kid to mine (in front of Zoe) and took it as an opportunity to teach Zoe to be more self sufficient. It was difficult for me (given our accident) to not take full responsibility for Zoe car seat safety, but I accepted that I couldn't do this forever and Daniel and I worked with Zoe.

As the days have gone by, I've watched this same teacher act annoyed at how slow Zoe moved. Even as Zoe giggled out of nervousness, but went as fast as she could and repeated "Almost. I almost have it!" to let us all know she was focused on her task. The teacher motioned with her arm for Zoe to hurry up, waved me along and then looked at me in disapproval when I waited on Zoe to finish before moving forward.

So the next day, I asked this teacher what I should do if Zoe isn't moving quickly enough. "Well, you could drive forward, out of the way, and help her if you need to. As long as the chest clip is connected, she's OK." First of all, no. Just connecting the chest clip is not OK. It is ineffective in keeping your child safe to just secure one portion of the THREE point safety harness. I took what she said with a grain of salt and encouraged Zoe to keep practicing. Zoe got faster and we ended last week on a high note.

Today at pick up, Zoe was moving slower than usual. A 10 second task was taking 20 seconds. I was doing my best to encourage her, but she'd tangled up the straps. The same teacher stood there watching Zoe and said "We need to keep this moving!" She motioned hurriedly for us to move along and a parent behind me honked. Zoe was visibly frazzled and I was angry at the situation. I pulled forward, with Zoe not secure and then we worked together to fix the problem. Another (maybe the same) parent honked at me, he then cut me off and waved his arm at us. Zoe asked if everyone was mad at her. She asked if I was mad at her.

I was not mad at my daughter. I was mad at the Dad who was driving irresponsibly in the pick up area, who was in such a big hurry that no one else mattered. I was mad at the drivers who were going well over 45 miles/hour in a 20 and then 30mph zone. I was mad at that teacher who had been rushing me and Zoe for the last few weeks, who was encouraging me to drive without Zoe being safe. I was mad at the school for not asking the teachers to value car seat safety. I was mad at myself for wimping out and driving when it stood against what I believed in and know to be wrong.

Admittedly, I am more sensitive to all of this than some people and because of that, Zoe is. We've been rushed before and have forgotten to buckle Zoe in, only to have her scream or cry because she's been taught that is not safe. I don't regret that one bit because for all the negatives our accident brought us, it taught my family to slow down and take the time to wear your seatbelt correctly, because they work. We know all too well how important a seat belt is.

So, I called the school principal and he expressed sincere interest in what I had to say and was very supportive. He said he would talk to all of the teachers that are involved in pick up and relay that they need to be more understanding of the kindergarten students who might need more time to get in their seats. He said nothing was more important than the students safety and he acknowledged that it must be frustrating to feel like something so important as car seat safety was being rushed and belittled. He thanked me for calling and let me know that because of some parents erratic driving, the police would be present during after school hours to monitor driving.

I'm a little embarrassed to be calling the school with complaints, but I also know I did the right thing for us. I'm trusting these people with one of the most important things in my life and I need to know that they're making my child's safety a priority.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Moving Update

After celebrating Zoe's birthday three times, (school, family, party) her preschool graduation, Zoe & Finn's end of school year party, our seven year wedding anniversary, their dance recital and their first play all within three weeks time, we finally have time to focus on our big move to Houston.

Daniel and I have been giving things to friends, and making donations of a bunch of clothing to clear out our closets and cabinets.  We've been pulling our framed photos and knickknacks of all of our bookshelves (per our real estate agents suggestion) and moving furniture around to get ready for the house to be shown while we are in Houston looking for our new home.

We'll be gone for 10 days. Daniel has a meeting and some presentations to make and the rest of our time will be devoted to getting to know the city a bit and hopefully fall in love with an area and specifically, a house.

I'm nervous and excited and completely overwhelmed with everything we need to do to get the house ready. The kids start back to school for the summer on a drop in basis, so I have three mornings without needing to entertain them to take care of things and hopefully make this house so beautiful that someone wants to make an offer.

By the time we get back from our house hunting trip, we'll have a little less than a month to  finish up around here and say good-bye (or see you later) to our friends we've made/family we've "adopted".  It feels like "moving day" will be here before we know it.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Scars

Earlier today, Zoe asked me (for the 1st time) about the scars on her forehead. Frankly, I was sort of surprised she hadn't asked me sooner. Zoe is very interested in her appearance - I wouldn't say overly so, but she is on top of what she will wear daily and she does make hairstyle requests.

I took a deep breath and told her someone was not driving safely and they accidentally ran their car into ours (September 27, 2009). I told her that her and Finn's car seats kept them safe, but glass from her window got her. She asked me if it hurt my heart and I said it did, but that I felt like that day was one of the luckiest of my entire life. She asked me "It could have been much worse?" I said yes and she said: "If I had gone to heaven I would have always been with you still." And my heart broke a little, but I told her she was right and that I'm glad that she's with me now. She said she wished the marks would go away, that they aren't very pretty. I brushed her bangs aside and said I was proud of her and that she was beautiful on the inside and out, with or without the scars. I told her those scars reminded me to drive safely and they reminded me how strong she was and how supportive our friends and family were and are.

She asked me if I was friends with the person who hit us and I told her no, he was a stranger. She asked if I would ever be friends with him and I told her I doubted we would ever see him again or even know who he was if we did. She asked if I was mad at him and I told her I was very mad, but that I know he didn't mean to hurt us and that he is very sorry anyone got hurt because of his driving. I told her that I forgive him. She hugged me and told me she loved me and our conversation quickly switched gears to how she would wear her hair to her first Creative Dramatics class. She decided on two braids and I pinned her too long bangs off to the side to keep them out of her eyes. She looked at herself in the mirror and said, "Thank you, Mommy! I look beautiful!" She was right.

*Whew!* Are we sure she's only just turning 5 this month? So many thoughtful, honest questions about serious things. I think I did pretty well for being caught off guard... and I think I meant everything I said. *sigh*

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

News

This time last week, I was making a formal announcement to our friends, family and acquaintances on Facebook. You know, because it's real once you publish it as your status - which is kind of funny considering there was a time when it wasn't "real" until after I'd published a blog about it. My how times have changed....

In any case, our big announcement was a long time coming: We're leaving California (Bakersfield, specifically) and heading east - to Houston, TX.

And when I say "long time coming", I mean it. For years we've tossed the idea back and forth. Texas friends and family wanted to know if we'd ever relocate (Daniel is from Texas, went to UT, and we got married in San Antonio) and we always said, "Maybe someday." We put it off for as long as we could. On quite a few occasions, people came to Daniel asking him about various locations/positions and his answer was "Not yet." First, I was pregnant, and then we had a new baby, and then I was pregnant again, then we bought a house and we got comfortable here, etc. There was a point last summer where I just wanted to get the hell out of Dodge and I didn't care where we went. I was game for China and Kazakhstan - ANYWHERE. Then things settled down and around Christmas we started talking about staying here in Bakersfield indefinitely... but Daniel was advised that the best thing for his career was to take an assignment elsewhere. In the end, Houston was the best option for us, so Daniel put his name in the hat for a position that interested him and promised to give him some new experience.

About a month ago, we started telling a few friends that a move was likely, but Daniel really wanted us to keep quiet about it until he had a written offer in hand. He didn't want us to tell people and then have our plans fall through. I, on the other hand, was chomping at the bit to tell everyone. It's my coping mechanism: tell everyone, talk it up, and then maybe by the time it's really official, it won't make you cry at the mention of moving away.

From what I can tell, that worked for me. A few select people knew more than others - it helped to have them as a sounding board for my fears and excitement. Of course, I'm incredibly emotional and if I'm not careful, the waterworks can start with little to no prompting, but I think by the time we leave in July, I might only cry for the first 4 hours of our drive.

So, there it is: a blog post about our imminent move. Daniel starts his new job on August 1st, so we'll be leaving here mid-July. Since this is a new chapter in our lives and promises to be full of more changes than just our zip code, I've decided to record it all here on the old blog. It's been my sounding board for so many other big life "chapters", I figured it was time to dust it off and write again.