Friday, April 30, 2010

favorite thing friday

Last month, when the Easter Bunny was at Target looking for things to stuff in Easter baskets, she happened to stumble upon a cool new crayon from Crayola.


What drew the Easter Bunny to this particular crayon were the bright, vibrant colors and the fact that they were thick enough for small hands to easily grasp.


So, the Easter Bunny bought four packs.


And these crayons turned out to be the biggest hit at Easter. Not only did our four children enjoy playing with them, so did our teen aged nieces and nephew, who were visiting from Michigan. On Easter afternoon, right around the same time the magnitude 7.2 earthquake almost knocked everyone down - we were happily coloring.


I'm not exactly sure what is in these crayons (I suppose I could look at the label, but eh, Charlie's cuing up a movie for us to watch) but they are so smooth. If you press too hard, they tend to get flaky - and the flakes are like chunks of oily crayon that can stick to things. I'm sure some might complain that they make a mess, but in my opinion, anything that's really fun for a child is usually also messy. If it's messy, it's fun.

Case in point: finger painting. And Playdoh. And mud pies.

(Need I go on?)

Anyway, a month later, we still color almost every day. And best of all, we have been sending all of our artistic expressions to people, with a little handwritten note that reads, "We're thinking of you. We love you. We hope you are having a wonderful day."


We've dubbed it, "Operation Sunshine."


And it brings us just as much joy as those who receive our creations.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

i'm giving myself a standing ovation

Even though I accepted this transfer to Virginia, earlier in the month, the thing that has been weighing on me the most is that in this new role - I would be required to be in our corporate office, five days a week. Over the past few days, the picture that has been painted for me, from people who work there, is that those who are not the first to arrive and the last to leave, are viewed less favorably than those who commit their entire lives to their work.

And well ... that's just not how I roll. Because while I do work hard and have a lot of passion for my career, it's not my life. My life is made up of a lot of things, and at this juncture, my children are among the most important.


Now that there's been a new "twist" in our situation (and for those 200+ people who have left me comments that I have yet to publish inquiring IS IT WHAT I THINK IT IS? the answer is YES) my priorities have shifted even more, once again.

My current boss called me earlier this week to tell me that because the children are due to start kindergarten in the Fall, this move would happen in June. So that by July 1, I am sitting behind my desk, in my new office, in my new assignment. A new assignment which sounds absolutely wonderful to me. Minus the whole sitting in my new office every day stuff.

Being who I am, ye unable to hold a secret, I spilled the beans and told my boss what is going on. I also told him that I suddenly have considerable hesitation (and heartburn) (and nausea) (and bouts of drowsiness) about taking a job that will pull me away from my family for 40+ hours a week.

He said that he understood. And he called his boss to tell him the situation.

When my boss called me back a few minutes later he essentially told me that the boat had left the dock. I accepted the position, they expect me in the position. In an office. Monday through Friday. Either Seven to Four. Eight to Five. Or Nine to Six. My boss was told by his boss, that he needs to coach me to take this job because it has already been communicated to senior management and there is no backing out. If we need assistance with childcare, we can hire a nanny.

(Or two.)

Now, please. Imagine my response, if you will.

First, imagine me thinking, "Are you seriously telling me that I need to put my CAREER before my FAMILY?" And then, imagine those words coming out of my mouth before I could stop them. Words to the effect of, "Are you telling me that I need to put my CAREER before my FAMILY?"


To some, this might not seem like a big deal, but to me, someone who has worked out of their home for the past 10 years, in an extremely flexible job, it's like being thrown in to a lion's den.

There was more discussion, most notably - my boss telling me that although the expectation is that I accept this job, he does not want to feel guilt down the road for putting me in a position that rips me away from my children.

(My boss is a very good, compassionate man.)

We concluded the conversation and I told him that I'd be in touch.

The next day he called again. Twice. But I never answered my phone because I didn't know what to say. There is a BIG part of me that wants to move and since I said I'd take it, I feel like I should. Moreover, I essentially had us mentally packed and out the door, living on the east coast - two months from now.

But as more information emerges about this job and what the expectations are on me, I feel positively weak. Like I have absolutely no control over how the company is going to use me, and work me, and drag me away from my family, and yuck. I don't want it. Despite the benefits and pension and all things that shine and glimmer.


Because the gain is not worth the loss.

Today, I decided that I just couldn't avoid my boss any longer, so I called him. And because I'm nothing if not open to a fault, I told him that the reason he hasn't heard from me in the past few days is because I have been deliberately hiding from him and screening all calls.

Then I told him that while I want this job and I am more than happy to move, and even though I've already accepted it, I absolutely will not take on a job that will force me to be in the office - five days a week for at least eight hours a day. Especially given my current situation. Ahem.

If, however, the company is willing to allow me some flexibility - such that I arrive every day at around 9 AM, and depart every afternoon at around 1 PM, and continue my work in the early morning, or evening, once the children are down for the night, that would suit me just fine. But I am not going to consistently tell my children that Mommy cannot volunteer in their kindergarten class room because it would be frowned upon by her company.

I am not going to miss out on my children's lives because of WORK.

My boss, a man that I really respect and appreciate, hesitated before saying, "OK, so let me make sure I've got this straight. You don't want this job?" I replied, "No, I do want this job and I want the relocation. But I don't want this job under the conditions that I currently anticipate."

He hesitated again and said, "So, what you are saying is, you cannot take this job and be in the office every day from 8 to 5?" I clarified, "It's not that I cannot take this job ... it's that I will not take this job, with zero workplace flexibility. So if they are not willing to make that concession, I am not willing to take it."

After a long pause, he said, "The problem is, if you want this kind of flexibility, all working mothers will want this kind of flexibility. We can't make a concession for you that we don't make for everyone else."

And I responded, "Well, I don't see that as being a problem. It is my belief that a HAPPY employee is a PRODUCTIVE employee and if you can find a way to merge family life more seamlessly with work life, you might see an increase in productivity from your employees with young children who are silently stewing and biding their time until they can break off the golden handcuffs, snatch that golden carrot and quit."

He was quiet as I continued, "I would bet that the vast majority of working mothers, with young children, and who are locked in an office, are being eaten up inside because they are away from their children for 50+ hours a week. We brought these little people in to the world so what? We can see them two, maybe three, waking hours a day? That is totally unacceptable. In this day and age and in our profession, with computers and cell phones and broadband coverage, it doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't be that way. It's time our management evolves to better accommodate the working parent. There are a lot of excellent employees out there who are simply not willing to sacrifice their family life for their career. However good that career might be."

My boss laughed and said, "I totally understand your position. But let me take it up line and see what happens. I'm not feeling too optimistic that management will endorse your plan."


Eh, I'm not feeling too optimistic either.

But I am feeling a whole lot better that they know full well what I'm capable of committing.

And what I'm not.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

the mood today: cranky, fussy and totally unsettled









Well ... that didn't help much.

breathe, just breathe...

Have you ever had that experience in life, where you can very clearly see that there is a fork in the road coming up and you'll soon need to make a decision which path to take?


And people tell you that the answer will present itself if you listen to God, but God isn't really giving you a clear answer? Or maybe He is and you really stink at reading signs?


And so you struggle with what the "right" path is and you weigh all the pros and cons and you sleep on it, for several nights, and you pray and you ponder and you poll people about what they'd do and then you try not to think about it at all because quieting the mind is supposed to be helpful?


And just when you finally settle on a new course and things are set in to motion, you're traversing along a surreal track of stuff! happening! and suddenly, the whole dang road disappears and now you're floating in a river - like a dream?

But it's NOT a dream?

It's YOUR reality?


And everyone around you is smiling and laughing and full of glee at the changes that are coming your way and inside there is a little voice that is screaming, "OH MY HOLY HECK, WHAT HAVE I DONE?! I'VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE! DON'T SELL THE HOUSE! DON'T MOVE! I MUST TURN AROUND BEFORE I GO OVER THE WATERFALL!!!"



And you don't really know which voice to listen to?

And so you are wrought with fear that you are about to mess things up?

(Or maybe not? Who really knows anymore??)

Today was a beautiful day in southern California. Once again, I was reminded how much I love our small house, our wonderful friends, our community and this area in general. Then, I received a phone call.

I'm due to be in Virginia on July 1.

A place, that I know is also beautiful. A place that will be equal distance between my family in Massachusetts and my family in South Carolina. A place where our children will have a better chance of knowing their extended family and have the joy of experiencing seasons. A place that is new and different and fun. A place where I will be in an office and will hopefully have some better structure to my days. A place where I also hope that I'll have enough flexibility with my career that I won't feel like I'm missing out on the vast majority of my children's lives because if I do ... well, then I'll just promptly quit and we'll all be homeless.

(No pressure there.)

Since I need to be in the office by July 1, that means that over the next eight weeks ... we need to sell (or rent) our home in California, buy (or rent) a new home in Virginia (preferably one that won't make us totally house poor and yet, is close to the office), move our family 3,000 miles cross-country, get settled in, get myself acclimated to a new role, register the children for Kindergarten, find new doctors and a new church and a new recycling facility (unless they offer curbside pickup?), get new drivers' licenses and professional registrations, and drink vast quantities of wine.


Oh yeah.

Wait a minute...

Scratch that last one.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

the father of my children

Last year, on my birthday, we bought annual passes for Legoland.


As we made the rather large purchase for five season tickets (children under three get in free), we justified the cost by convincing ourselves that we would go at least once a month.

For the first two months, we did exactly that. But since Legoland is a solid one hour drive north of us, for months three through eleven, we didn't go at all. About a month ago, we realized that our passes were going to expire on April 20, so we started squeezing in trips whenever possible.

Over the past six weeks, we've been seven times.

During one of our recent trips, Charlie and the triplets went on a ride that consists of a boat, on a track, that traverses through a lagoon type environment. The boat is equipped with small water cannons, so as you move along, you can spray people that are standing outside the ride track. To make things more fun (and wet), just outside the ride track, there are larger water cannons that people can aim at those riding on the boat.

While on that maiden voyage, Charlie was absolutely drenched by a young boy who had him trapped in his sights. My husband tried to defend himself - by squirting the young kid back - but his inferior water cannon didn't rotate, and even if it could, the trajectory never would have been sufficient to reach the smirking boy.

So my husband did what any adult male would do.

Once he got off the ride, he went right over to the larger water cannons and set up camp for the next hour, waiting to drench any other riders that went by on the track. Because if he got wet, he was going to get others wet.




That's just how the universe works.


My husband quickly realized that it didn't look so good for a grown man to be drenching people on a boat ride, so he thrust our small children behind the cannons and then showed them how to keep their eye on the boat - select a rider that they wanted to soak - and then track the rider for as long as they could.





The end result was a large number of riders who were just as drenched as my husband.


And this made him very happy.


Especially since he had our five-year-olds to blame it on.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

the letter of the day

I'd like to blame it on my state of mind at the moment, that I wrote something I most definitely should have waited for at least a little while longer to write about.

We're in a state of incredible flux at the moment. Obviously, details on this topic are further going to emerge, but for right now ... they probably shouldn't. All it took for me to realize my mistake was a rational human being to say, "Are you out of your MIND writing about this on your blog?!"

So the letter of the day is: Z.


As in Zzzzzz, which is something I feel like doing most of my waking hours, Zapped a fairly accurate term to capture my state of mind, and also Zipped, which is what my lips (and fingers) will be for at least another few weeks.

Friday, April 23, 2010

the price for peace? $200.00 plus tax

I've been away at a meeting all week and have had absolutely no time to sit down and update my blog. Although, I have been giving my thumbs an excellent workout each day by updating Twitter with the new iPhone Charlie gave me for my birthday.


When Charlie's Blackberry broke in February and he replaced it with an iPhone, I immediately began to notice that my husband was spending an exorbitant amount of time playing with his new toy. At night, before he'd go to sleep, he'd be fiddling with various applications. During lunch when the kids were eating, he'd be figuring out something new and I'd hear gasps punctuated with, "Oh man. This thing is SO cool!"

While waiting for bread to toast or clothes to dry, he'd be improving his score on the Imbecile Test, he'd search for restaurants, flower shops and golf stores using the map feature. Then, just for fun, he'd check out the traffic conditions in his old neighborhoods. It seemed that he always had that thing in his grasp. He'd even take it on runs using some Nike application that would track his total distance, calories burned, average speed and elevation covered all the while - providing an assortment of music for his motivational enjoyment.

After a few weeks of this, I very casually made a "comment" that maybe if I had a silver apple adhered to my forehead, he'd notice me as much as his precious phone.


Then I commented that people who carry their phones around and are texting all the time are totally obnoxious. I mean, what is so critically important that they always have to have those things out? Whenever I see people with children who are constantly on their phone (i.e., people at Legoland that went on to roller coasters and came off roller coasters, all the while talking and texting), it takes great restraint for me to not yell out, "Put that electronic leash down!! Why not ENJOY YOUR LIFE, even if just for an afternoon, WITHOUT technological interference!"

Right about that same time, Charlie decided that I needed to have my own iPhone. And now that I have one, I can't put it down either because ...


It's a GPS!

It's the internet!

It's a massive music repository!

It's a computer!

It's a phone!

You can play games, check the stock market, the weather, the news headlines, retrieve and send e-mail, watch full length feature movies, pay bills, order plane tickets, pinpoint your exact geographic location, decipher how fast you are moving, latitude and longitude, where you are - where you are going - and order dinner so it's ready by the time you get there.

At night, I've been checking out various applications. And for the past several days, during every break at our meeting, I'm taking pictures, video, and trying to improve my score on the Imbecile Test. My new iPhone makes my old cell phone look about as advanced as a rock.


Because with my old cell phone, I could do nothing except place and receive phone calls. I very rarely sent text messages that were longer than one word, because to do so, I'd have to type using the numerical key pad.

For instance, Charlie would send me a text message from his iPhone that would read, "Hi Love! I hope you are having a spectacular day! We had wonderful time at the park, the zoo, and now - we're heading home to start getting ready for dinner. When will you be here?"

And for me to respond, "I'll be home soon," I'd need to type, "4, 4, 4 (I); 9 (W), 4, 4, 4 (I), 5, 5, 5 (L), 5, 5, 5 (L); 2, 2 (B), 3, 3, (E); 4, 4 (H), 6, 6, 6 (O), 6 (M), 3, 3 (E); 7, 7, 7, 7 (S), 6, 6, 6 (O), 6, 6, 6 (O), 6, 6 (N)."

Yes, I know there is an easier way to do this - I just don't know how. So I'd stew when Charlie would send me another text message that would read, "I've been thinking, what do you think you'd like for dinner tonight? We have fresh salmon I could throw on the barbecue, or we could have tacos or fajitas. What sounds good to you my precious buttercup?"

If I didn't abhor talking on the phone so much (even to my beloved), I'd just call him back. But instead, I'd shoot over a one word answer that always bothered my husband. Instead of typing, "The salmon sounds divine, thanks love!" I'd write back "fish" which was really "3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 7, 7, 7, 7, 4, 4." My one word response would inevitably prompt yet another text message from my husband that would inquire, "Are you having a tough day? Why so grumpy? Does someone need a vacation? WINK!"

Alas, now that I have my very own iPhone, I haven't stopped texting my husband complex messages about topics ranging from the impetus for the Boston Tea Party, to the statistical correlation of earthquakes around the world relative to dense population centers, to our five-year-olds who are trying to rid society of cigarettes, one smoker at a time and much to our horrible embarrassment.

Have you ever witnessed a five-year-old admonishing an absolute (smoking) stranger by saying, "You need to stop using those yucky things or you will get THE cancer!"?

(Yep. That is one experience you'd be alright to skip.)

Charlie is thrilled beyond belief to have an iPhone buddy because for the past three days, there have been no less than 100 text messages and photos exchanged between my husband and I. Including one that I really want to share but Charlie is forbidding. (At least for now.)

But keep your eye on Twitter.


I'll be posting it soon enough.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

39 is mighty fine

For the past twenty three years, every time I would step foot - or simply look at a plane - I would think back to the prediction my geometry class mate made during my tenth grade year. That silly little prediction which involved me perishing in a plane crash, sometime when I was 38.

(That silly little prediction made quite an impact.)


Today marks my 39th birthday.

And I'm so glad my classmate was wrong.


Because I'd be so bummed to be missing out on a single minute of this great life.

My mother asked me the other day what I wanted for my birthday and absolutely nothing comes to mind. I've got my health, a wonderful husband and a cherished family.

What more could I ever possibly want?

So my birthday wish this year is for simply more of the same.

With maybe an extra dash of wisdom and less cravings for chocolate in the late afternoon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

like buzz, but bright red and with wheels

Henry is ALL boy.


With the exception of one small doll, that he'll carry around and endearingly refer to as "Baby", he does not like any toy that is pink - soft - or cuddly. He is very rough and tumble. He loves to run - be chased - and wrestle. Henry loves tools. He loves trucks. He loves robots and dragons and dinosaurs. But most of all (and next only to Buzz Lightyear), he loves little race cars.


I accompanied Henry to the church nursery this past weekend.


Based upon what all the workers had told me about how Henry morphs in to a vicious child - ambushing the other children and causing a host of violent problems - I was fully prepared for the worst. Instead, what I observed was that Henry zoned in on a play race track that had several of the "characters" from the movie, Cars.


There was Mater and the Hudson Hornet, the green one whose name escapes me, the blue one whose name escapes me, the yellow one whose name escapes me, and the teal one whose name (also) escapes me. Most of all though, Henry clutched on to the famous red Lightning McQueen and wouldn't let go.


Everything was going great, until a little boy toddled over and tried to pull Lighting McQueen out of Henry's hands and my son went nuts. Although ballistic is perhaps a better word. If his language was advanced enough to include profanity, there would have been some BAD words ditched out right there in the church nursery.


Fortunately, I was there to step in and my mind was reeling with how I should handle this. Henry was playing with the car FIRST and he'd only been playing with it for about five minutes before this other little boy wanted the exact car that at that moment, was the center of my two-year-old's universe.


All the other nursery workers were looking at me, probably wondering how I'd handle this. Debating what to do, I looked at my watch and told Henry that he had played with the car for a few minutes and now, it was this other little boy's turn.

Either he didn't understand.


Or, he didn't like what he heard.


Because once I issued my verdict, Henry went in to a boneless mass of screeching.


Imagine everything, his small hands, his attention, his eyes, his passion, his heart, orbiting around that shiny red car.


And now imagine someone plucking it away.


That someone being his mother.


The one that brought him in to the world and tenderly nursed him for the first 30 months of his life. Only to now do this.


He threw himself on the floor and arched his back and screamed until the windows rattled.


My efforts at distracting him with something else monumentally failed, so I scooped him up and carried him off to an area of the nursery where I made him stand with his nose in the corner for two minutes.


By the time the two minutes were up, he was still screaming, albeit not quite so loudly and when we walked back to where he had been playing, the little boy had already abandoned Lightning McQueen and moved on to something else.


Henry quickly picked the car up and gazed at it lovingly through his teary eyes, and then he gave me a wobbly smile that said, "Can you believe it?! I got it BACK!"


While all the other two-year-olds in the room seemed to have very short attention spans and would bore of something within a few minutes, Henry never once put that race car down.


And so it went for the next hour.


Henry would be fixated on playing with that one single toy - a roving toddler would come over and want what he had - and I'd have to peel his fingers back extract it from his tight grasp and show him how to "share. "


Moments later, the other child would inevitably abandon it, Henry would get it back, and then he'd run and hide somewhere no one would find him.


But they always did find him.


Because the room isn't that big.


Thankfully, it never happened that another child was as unwaveringly obsessed with the same toy as my son, or I would have had to have implemented a five-minute playing and then sharing rule, and from personal experience, I know that the only thing worse than pulling a beloved toy away from one two-year-old is pulling it away from two (or more) two-year-olds.


Although it pained my heart to take a cherished toy away from my little boy, I think this was the right thing to do.


It certainly didn't feel like it would be appropriate for me to tell all the other children that they could take a turn when Henry was done, because I could see that he had no intention of being "done" the entire duration of church.


Moreover, this was a great exercise for my little guy since at this point in his life, the concept of sharing is totally foreign. The triplets generally don't take things that their younger brother is playing with - and they are typically very good about sharing things with him that he wants.

So this was his first true lesson in understanding that just because someone wants what you have, that doesn't give you a free license to eat them for lunch.

But I must admit, it never did get any easier. Each time I extracted the toy from his hands, he would throw a fit unparalleled by any fit he's ever thrown. Except for the one he'd thrown about 10 minutes earlier - and would throw again, 10 minutes later.


You'd think that being IN a church, God would automatically make things like sharing among toddlers easier. Alas, He doesn't. So, I put that request in the suggestion box.

I'll be back with Henry at church next weekend.

Working on reinforcing what we learned this weekend.


From now until then, I'll be praying God gets my message.