Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, December 31 was a night full of potential.  It was full of hope and promise, and it was billed to be the best night of the year.  Somehow, for over a decade, I searched elusively for that perfect night.  Here are some examples:

1993-1994: When I was 18 and a senior in high school, I spent New Year's Eve at Sea World in Orlando.  I was performing in the halftime show of the Citrus Bowl the next day.  It was a cold and rainy night, and we rang in the new year watching fireworks from outside the park, waiting to board the bus.

1994-1995: (my freshman year in college) I spent New Year's Eve at First Night Albany (remember that Anne?).  It was again raining, and Albany was a lot colder than Orlando.  After the excitement of college, First Night Albany was very tame.  And cold.

1995-1996: (my sophomore year in college) I was up at University of New Hampshire with my college roommate.  It was actually a very good night, and we spent the first day of 1996 in recliner's in her parents' house, unable to move from all the fun we'd had the night before.

1996-1997: (my junior year in college) I returned back to college early so my roommates and I could attend a party.  The night ended with a bloody guy on the steps of our building, and a call from the police about it.  Luckily, it was none of us, and we never really found out what happened.  Our night was ok, but at least we weren't bleeding.

1997-1998: (my senior year in college) my ex-boyfriend and I went out with his roommate and girlfriend.  It was about 10 degrees in Boston, and I distinctly remember literally freezing walking around.  The highlight of the night was accidentally opening my ex-boyfriend's other roommate's bottle of Dom Peringon (there were several bottles in the fridge, and we didn't realize that this one was special, or worth about $200).

1998-1999:  (grad school) I was home and went out with my brother and his friends.  Highlight of the night was seeing Matt's band play.

1999-2000:  This should have been a special one.  I was in Florida with friends from college.  We had all graduated and were out in the real world, most of us as of yet unsuccessful in finding PT jobs. We were heading to Ybor City, and our limo was very late in arriving.  Ybor City was crowded and chaotic, and I missed entering the new millennium.  I remember looking at my watch and it was about 2 minutes until midnight.  Next time I looked, it was about 2 minutes after.  The biggest countdown of my life and I missed it.  Oh, and the limo left us stranded there for hours.

2000-2001:  Pat and I were together for this one.  We were all dressed up and going to a First Night Celebration in Columbus.  The hotel was crowded, and the lines were long.  Our friend bought a bottle of very very sweet champagne to split.  Drinking it made you feel like you wanted to shave your teeth.

Some of the next years kind of blur together.  Of note, we spent the first night in our house on New Year's Eve 2003-2004.  I was seven months pregnant with Jake.  We had not yet moved all our furniture in, so our mattress and box spring were on the floor in the baby's room, while we finished the floors in our bedroom.  Our TV was on top of a box, and being that low to the ground made it difficult to get up out of bed to go to the bathroom, as was needed multiple times per night.  We watched the movie Angel Heart, and flipped over just in time to see the ball drop.

With young kids, it's been difficult.  A lot of times, it's more pressure to go out than it's worth.  There is all this build up, and, as described above, the evening rarely lives up to the hype.

Plus, it's cold.  Let's not forget the cold.

For the past few years, Pat has slept while I waited up for the new year to ring in.  I luckily have a friend whose husband does the same thing, and we spend the evening texting each other.

This year, we didn't even attempt to make plans.  We took the kids bowling today, and went to the library with them.  We did a family market run and, despite the crowded-ness of Hanniford, it went very well.  Pat and I made fondue, which his family had always had for New Year's Eve.  When it was ready, we sat around the coffee table and enjoyed the fondue, just the four of us.  We talked about high points of the year (end of First Grade for Jake, Christmas for Sophia), as well as low points (losing Mimere).  We talked about our resolutions.  Everyone helped clean up the coffee table, and then we played a family game of Battleship.

So there are about 4 hours left in the year.  There won't be a champagne (Dom Peringon or otherwise) toast at midnight.  I may not even stay up that late this year.  But I can say, I think I finally found the perfect New Year's Eve.

I wish everyone a healthy, safe and happy new year!  See you in 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dear Jake and Sophia,

Today, we had a perfect moment.  It was just after lunch.  I settled in on one end of the couch, while the two of you settled in on the other, and we were facing each other.  We were all sharing the fuzzy blanket.  I was reading my nook, and Jake, you read a book to Sophia.  It was so content and peaceful.  It's how life should be. I thought about getting up to get the camera to immortalize the moment, but knew that would ruin it.

I want you both to know how special siblings are.  You are very, very lucky to have each other.  Some people do not ever get the chance to have siblings.  Some people, like Dad, lose their siblings much, much too early.  Please always try to remember that.  Siblings are the first friends we have in life.  If we're lucky, they stay our friends throughout our whole lives.  Siblings have shared our childhood.  They can laugh at the jokes that only you get.   They remember the hard times too, and help each other get through it.  No one will love you like your sibling does.  They get the first shot at you (that only they are allowed to take), but are also your last defense standing against the cruel, cruel world.

My advice to you two is this:  Cherish each other.  Appreciate each other.  Protect each other.  Motivate and challenge each other.  Be there for each other.  Support each other.  Love each other.

Do not let the world come in between you.  Act appropriately so that neither is forced to chose between your sibling and your spouse.  Do not put Dad and I in the middle of your quarrels.

There will be times when you disagree.  Please, figure out a way to work it out.  Siblings are too precious to cast aside.  Believe me, I know.

Love, Mom

Monday, December 26, 2011


****WARNING:  This is a soap box post.  It is what I think and I believe.  It is me, exercising my first amendment rights.  You don't have to agree with me, but think carefully about what I say.***

Right now, Pat and I are watching a TV show that I like to call the "Feel Good Show of the Year."  In the TV guide, it is listed as Intervention.  For those of you not familiar, it is a show about an addict and the family stages an intervention in attempts to help save the person's life.  The current episode is about a 22 year old addict who has turned to prostitution.  She has a 3 year old son, who is being raised by his father.  This young woman was born to an 18 year old mother who was incapable of caring for her daughter. She dropped her daughter off on her father's doorstep at the age of 3.  Her father cared more about partying and women than of being a parent and his parenting strategy was just to buy his young daughter stuff.  He was on his second or third wife by the time the girl was 12, and, when she (big shock here) developed behavior problems, they sent her to "camps" in Costa Rica and Jamaica for over a year, until the "camps" were closed for abuse and human rights violations. Her father was unaware that his daughter was being abused (he had never even visited, just sent her to one where the brochure looked nice) until a reporter contacted him and told him what was going on there.  So, now, she's a suicidal crack-whore, and the father had the nerve to complain that her expenses (food, hotel, legal costs) has run him about $20,000 in the past year.

What this man does not realize is that money is not a substitute for actual parenting.  If he had actually been a father to this girl, she would not be in this position.

Having the ability to physically reproduce does not make one able to be a parent.  Being a parent is hard.  Really hard. It takes a lot of sacrifice.  It means putting other people's needs ahead of yours. Always.  It means sacrificing, planning.  It is full of heart ache and heart break.  But it is also the most rewarding experience I can think of.

I work with countless children who are underfed, not properly clothed, do not get taken to the doctors regularly (if ever) and desperately need to be hugged.  They are not read to and not nurtured.  Most are not only children.  The teachers are held responsible for 100% of the educational process, as nothing happens at home.  These parents are not concerned with academics, but contact the teachers because they are upset that their Kindergartner's white, $70 addidas sneakers got dirty at recess.  These parents don't bathe or clean their children, and keep having more that they cannot or will not care for.

I am so frustrated by people who believe that they are entitled to everything, and that hard work is something to be ashamed of.  There are children being born into generation after generation of this mindset, with no desire to improve.  Working in a fast food restaurant is demeaning, but collecting every social benefit known to man is not.  And in this season of giving, people were coming out of the woodwork asking for donations.  I know that I am fortunate.  We have a lot and my children do not want for anything. But, asking for a social agency/school/church to provide your Christmas (but we can't even say Merry Christmas...another soap box), but then asking for designer clothes and high tech items...there is confusion as to "wants" and "needs."  If you have an iphone 4S, smoke (at $9/pack), get your nails done or drive an Escalade, you do not need free lunch for your kids. I do not need to be buying your child toys because you don't want to.

In order to adopt a dog, you have to get pass a rigorous screening, including a home visit.  You have to take a test to drive a car or a license to even catch a fish.  But anyone can have a kid.  And you can repeatedly screw the kid up, and the popular thought is that "biological is best" so that if you screw up your kid sooo badly, they might take him or her away to be raised by the people who screwed you up in the first place.

I have been having a difficult time with my daughter the past week.  Her behavior is more like a 14 year old than a 4 year old.  I don't know what to do.  Being a parent to my son has in no way prepared me for parenting my daughter.  I have been agonizing over what to do, and how to get through to her. I have gone through similar periods of agony in parenting my son, especially with his unique set of needs.

I don't know if I would have passed the parenting test, but Lord knows, I try.  I am not the best mother out there, but I know I'm not the worst.  I want to instill in my children a value of responsibility and ownership of one's actions rather than entitlement.  I worry that the society they are growing in will squash these values.

I know that our societal irresponsibility is a major contributing factor to our current economic and educational crises.  Until people begin to take ownership rather than feel entitlement, the situation is only going to continue to worsen. No politician will be able to fix the problem without admitting what it actually is.  People need to take responsibility for themselves. So that means, if you can't afford to feed your child, don't have one.  If you'd rather be out partying with your friends, don't have a kid.  If you can't afford food or furniture, don't buy designer clothes that your kids are going to grow out of in a few months.  If you aren't working, you should not be using your benefit money to buy cigarettes.  If I have to pass a drug test to earn the money to pay for social benefits, then you should have to pass a drug test to receive them.

Almost done with the ranting here.  During the above described program, there have been several commercials for the ASPCA.  See, this is what's wrong with us--we are listening to a story about people who cannot take care of their children and horribly screw them up, but then are asked for money to prevent cruelty to animals.  Now, I am not advocating for animal cruelty, but when we, as humans, can't even take care of the most vulnerable members of our own, does our first priority really need to be cats and dogs?  Thanks to new legislation, such as Buster's Law, people found being cruel to animals are severely punished.  Yet, people abuse their children every day, and nothing happens.

Until we get our priorities straight, we are headed more and more steadily downhill.  It just makes me frustrated.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Not far off...

So, I was really not that far off in my post yesterday...
By Jenifer GoodwinHealthDay Reporter
THURSDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Ever unload the dishwasher while helping with a child's homework? Ever keep one eye on soccer practice while checking your voice mail and trying to figure out what to make for dinner?
That's called multitasking, and in a fast-paced world, American working moms do a whole lot of it -- and seem more stressed by it than working dads, a new study shows.
According to the research, working mothers spend 9 more hours a week multitasking than do working fathers, or about 48 hours per week for moms compared with 39 for dads.
And, when they have to multitask, women don't particularly enjoy it.
The research found that when women are trying to do multiple things at once, they report feeling stressed, while men don't seem to mind it as much. Researchers say it could be because men's multitasking at home more often involves work, while women's involves combining household chores and child-rearing, which may leave them feeling conflicted and guilty.
Among working mothers, 53 percent of multitasking at home involves housework compared with 42 percent among working fathers. Additionally, 36 percent of women's multitasking at home involves child care compared with 28 percent for fathers.
"The hours men spend in household labor have increased, but when you include multitasking, then you are able to see women are still shouldering more of the household responsibilities than men," said study co-author Barbara Schneider, a professor of sociology and education at Michigan State University.
The study is published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review.
Researchers used data from the 500 Family Study, which provided comprehensive information from 1999 to 2000 on U.S. families living in eight urban and suburban communities across the nation. The 368 mothers and 241 fathers in the current study typically have college degrees, are employed in professional occupations, work long hours and report higher earnings than do middle-class families in other nationally representative samples.
Previous research has found that women feel overburdened with work and family responsibilities, and feel they have too little time to attend to both, according to background information in the study.
The percentage of professional women working at least 50 hours a week has more than doubled, from 6 percent in the 1970s to 14 percent in the late 2000s, according to background information in the study, while the increase among men was 34 percent to 38 percent.
In almost 30 percent of all dual-earner couples with children, at least one spouse works a nonstandard daytime schedule, and in almost half of these couples at least one spouse works during the weekend.
Meanwhile, technology and increasing workplace demands have led to a blurring of the line between work and home. All this may be fueling more and more multitasking as parents try to do more than one task simultaneously -- like talking on the phone while folding laundry -- and get done more in limited time, researchers said.
To track multitasking, participants wore a wristwatch that beeped at seven random times throughout waking hours. Participants then responded to a short survey, which asked what they were doing, what they were thinking about and how they were feeling psychologically.
Working moms are multitasking about two-fifths of their waking hours, Schneider said.
What can be done to alleviate the pressure on moms?
Getting dads to not just pitch in more, but to share more equally in the child care and housework would help, Schneider said. In other words, don't just take your daughter to gymnastics when your wife says she can't do it. Make that your job to take her to gymnastics every week.
And for that matter, getting the kids to do more can help. Housework and yard work doesn't seem half as bad when the whole family works together to get chores done. Moms in particular feel positive about working together as a family, she added.
"Doing these things together, whether it's cleaning up or wrapping presents or whatever it is you need to do; when mom isn't the one out there till 9 p.m. trying to get it all done, these are the kinds of things that make a family run smoothly as a unit," Schneider said.
Moms also need to ease up some on themselves. Be aware that multitasking can leave you stressed and feeling pulled in too many directions, so try, as hard as it is, to do just one thing at once and accept you may not be able to do everything you wanted to do.
More flexible schedules and workplace cultures that support families -- whether that's allowing people to work from home or limiting expectations that employees will take work home -- can also help working parents, she added.
"The bar for being a good parent, the normative values of being a good mother, have gotten very high, and that leave mothers feeling a lot of pressure and stress," Schneider said.
Ann Bookman, an adjunct senior lecturer at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management in Waltham, Mass., said there are many anectodal reports of women feeling overburdened by the demands of combining family and work life. The study, Bookman said, suggests that the demands of multitasking may be at the root of some of their stress.
"This incredible focus on maximizing productivity at every moment has tremendous social and public health costs," Bookman said. "That's why a study like this is so important. It's not just that we have a sense that we and others are feeling overwhelmed. If you take a sample and very carefully analyze the numbers, you can begin to see in very graphic terms that women are still the primary caregivers and we are asking them to do just as much in the workforce."
Over time, repeated bouts of stress may take a toll, she added.
"It impacts the body and your psychological state, and the researchers are providing the evidence for really seeing multitasking as a significant public health issue for women," Bookman added.
(I did like the part about multi-tasking stressing women more than men. I think that is because my definition of multi-tasking is performing 2 to 3 tasks at the same time, while my husband's definition of multi-tasking is performing more than one task in the same day.)