Friday, 18 July 2014

My Mobile Office...

I took a conference call with a potential new client in my car the other morning. It was six in the AM but I still knew that I needed to be out of ear shot of the sleeping kids in case they woke and heard me. They woke up and couldn't find me and S. had to put a movie on. This wasn't the first time I've taken a work call in my car. I've created this, I know that I have, I mean I guess I have? They weren't always this clingy but now that I don't go to an office everyday they expect me to ALWAYS be there.

Z. starts school in September and we are considering if we can afford it, doing 3 additional half days at another preschool, as the local preschool is only two days a week. I also think that a babysitter a few days a week would be better for M. than to go to school yet and would also help me with the new baby when I have to pass her off for a phone call or when she's more than just a sleeping newborn down the road. But at the moment I need to escape the house every time I need to do work unless they are napping. And I can't run to the nearest cafe with my newborn. Which means M. will have to adjust to my being home but not being with him. Does this happen?

There was an article floating around Facebook the other day about a mom who was arrested in South Carolina for letting her nine year daughter play in the playground behind the McDonalds while she worked. I kept thinking that there was a catch to the story, like it was after dark or something. There was not. It just boggles my mind the lack of support there is in this country for families, working parents, single mothers. Particularly if you are a poor single mother, trying your best. How do families cope? How does a single parent cope without the proper support? Childcare is impossibly expensive. A woman working at McDonalds makes less than what a babysitter would cost per hour.

We are struggling with it all and have the advantage of being employed, having savings to fall back on and dividing childcare between us. But we can't move forward without additional help and we can't afford additional help at the moment. I need to add clients in order to afford the childcare I need to be able to grow my business but I can't do that if I have two toddlers demanding my attention all the time.

In my mother's generation there were so many stay at home moms in our neighbourhood that they created small playgroups. Let's say there were five children per group that meant that every morning save the one you hosted you had a couple of hours to yourself while your kid was at the alternate house having playgroup, to do your errands, housework, whatever you needed. And these were women who weren't doing traditional paying jobs outside of the house but keeping the family and home together. They also had babysitting groups and would alternate babysitting for each other's kids so that the couples could go out or whatever they needed to do. I found a lot of playgroups in London which are great of course to socialise the kids and get out of the house for a bit but it didn't help the mom who needed a couple of hours to herself even to unload a dishwasher.

We don't have a lot of screen time at our our house which I've mentioned before, we don't have a TV only our iPad and computer so we watch movies. And I feel badly putting a movie on for a distraction but sometimes it's impossible to do anything like unload the dishwasher, cook dinner, do a load of laundry, without resorting to it. I can't imagine how mothers without the resources I have cope. There is a lot of advice for parents on what they should and should not be doing and how modern parents are all ruining their kids but there isn't a lot of constructive information on how to cope when there isn't an alternative for burned out, overworked and unsupported parents. What am I missing?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Lining Everything Up...

It's never been quite so apparent to me, except maybe when I was first trying to conceive Z., how quickly the game changes and the intervals of life's ups and downs are shortening. It's strange as I worked in the fashion industry for over 15 years and I know, I KNOW, I know EVERYTHING can change. But somehow, now when I am working for myself, when we are creating a new life and suddenly we've got two kids relying on us and another one on the way, the ebb and flow of life becomes more meaningful? Or I feel them more?

But, I also have noted and maybe because I've become so accustomed to change, that change doesn't effect me the way it used to or at least the downs don't get me down as much anymore because I don't have time to dwell on them? Because I've been around long enough to know that it eventually comes back up? Whatever the 'it' is. Maybe not in the way that I originally anticipated but maybe it comes back in a better way. It will come around or up or however you want to visualise being not stuck or worse off. It's also down to how I perceive the downs which makes the difference and I feel so blessed with what I have that the stupid stones I trip over any given day are nothing compared to what I know I have.

I'm just trying to line up my dolls (I mean ducks) and co-participate in creating the life that S. and I always dreamed of. Hard work yes, selfish in some ways of us doing things our way, walking away from perfectly good jobs, a perfectly good life full of friends and opportunity, which also seemed like it was not enough for us and was screaming for us to move on (house being sold, my job being reduced to freelancer in any case). And as my mother asked me, turning the tables on me when I implored her to tell me whether we were we doing the right thing, what is the alternative?

Friday, 11 July 2014

Let's Play...

Our sons are currently obsessed with super heroes: Buzz Lightyear, Spiderman, Superman and Batman. Z. loves dressing up as Buzz and Spiderman and his little brother imitates everything he does but he is drawn to Zurg Buzz Lightyear's nemisis (yin to his brother's yang). They laser beam each other or us with their upheld fists, they use everything as swords and most recently started constructing guns from legos and construction blocks - much to my dismay. I didn't understand how they even knew what a gun looked like but they do see/ play with toy guns at our friend's house who has an older son and we let them watch The Incredibles which also I soon realised features guns.

It was a bit of a shock and relief in a way, therefore to see my older son interested in a box full of my old dolls my mother unearthed in the move the other day. I was also relieved that my husband allowed him to play with them - with men and dolls, you never know. Z. has already gotten bored with them and moved onto the wooden blocks my family has collected from three generations. One block has my cousin's? Uncle's? Initials carved into it. S. has helped the boys construct cities and brick ovens and cathedrals with them.

But those days Z. was playing with the dolls I overheard him creating elaborate story lines not dissimilar to our own mundane days. S. even took out a few of the Star Trek Dolls and put them up on a shelf thinking maybe they were collector's items (not these out of the box ones, they've been through too much) and Z. asked if I could take down one specifically (the one with the beard like S.) as he wanted him as the Daddy.

It feels very healthy to hear him go through different life scenarios with these dolls and his toys in general - its something I used to do and why I love writing - telling stories, rewriting stories, confronting challenges using my imagination. Play and then later writing, poetry, fiction, journal writing was a huge part of my understanding the world and my place in it, I hope the same will hold true for my children.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Long and Winding Road...

We've been getting huge thunderstorms the past week. Our electricity even went out for an hour the other night. So when it cleared up last weekend we tried to make the most of it and went on a hike on a local, old closed road which was perfect for taking the kids as we could bring our stroller when they had had enough. In fact they both fell asleep on the walk back. We ate the sandwiches we packed at a picnic spot where we parked and then headed to our nearest lake where we swam and played in sand. Even though my Fourth of July wasn't the hotdog and apple pie eating, flag waving, firework display occasion I had envisioned, the weekend was even better than I could have hoped for.

On Saturday we managed to find a decent burger place - finally, we've been a little disappointed in the few places we've gone out to eat since we arrived. The kids sat well behaved waiting for, during and after their lunch without anything but a couple of pens and the back of a bill and an envelope to play with, well prepared Mommy... Don't tell him but my husband is always right. I pack a bag full of toys and there is a meltdown over one thing or another but keep it simple and... It was a really nice day without any drama from any of us prone to emotional ups and downs these days (myself included).

Yesterday we went to pick up most of the rest of the furniture that my parents have given us. I feel really blessed and like an adult now. It will be hard to bring any particle wood furniture into the house when it has to compete with some of the lovely pieces of real furniture we were given. I'm not even sure we are grown up enough to have them, but I will try. It was also so nice to be able to see my family just for a few hours (my niece and nephew were staying with my parents for the week) but know I'll see them again soon. And having pieces of furniture in our house from my childhood is like having members of my family come to stay. I woke up looking at a bureau that used to be in my parents bedroom and another which was in my grandmother's bedroom in Vermont and I couldn't help but smile. These are some of my family's heirlooms and I feel privileged that they are now ours.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Happy 4th of July...

Our first July 4th in America should be looking like this:
But unfortunately we've gotten rained out. The fireworks displays have been postponed until tomorrow and S. has to work tomorrow evening. We have so much to be thankful for though, our July 4th washout is nothing even though I was really, really looking forward to it. 

We got the greatest news which we were hoping for, the baby doesn't have Trisomy 18 and her chromosomes are all in perfect order. She is definitively XX. I've also officially transferred to my new Doctors office so will have Baby XX in the hospital that I prefer. We stayed positive throughout our wait that she would be fine but of course nothing is guaranteed in life so when the geneticist called with our amnio results I spent about 5 minutes crying in relief. I now feel like I can truly enjoy this pregnancy and focus on a future with our new baby, a girl - surreal.
Although we won't get real fireworks for the 4th of July this year, mother nature gave us quite a show last night. S. managed to get one shot of the lightening which was going on over our heads last night. The boys and I went to pick S. up from work and as we drove home we drove right into the eye of the storm. The thunder and lightening were spectacular, loud and very frightening. And the torrential rain almost forced us off the road right before we made it to the turn off to our street. We couldn't see anything in front of us which was awful. And the road we live on is eclipsed by trees so we were afraid that one was going to be hit and fall on top of the car, not to mention all the debris that was already on the road from the wind and rain. 

We made it to the house in one piece and an old friendly dog, sopping wet and scared out of it's mind was sitting on our step. We got her in the house and dried her off and found her number on her collar. She was only from next-door (country next door so not city close) but was so old and disoriented by the storm she lost her way. We felt pretty happy that we were able to help out a lost animal and make it home safe ourselves. Of course I left all the windows open, oops, so we had to mop up each room and then we snuggled all in bed and watched the fireworks outside our window. I guess we got our country 4th of July. Oh and the power went out. But came back up again in the early morning. The end.

UPDATE: The power keeps going on and off...

* All pictures by S.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Summer Babies...

I know that I look back at my childhood with rose colored glasses. I know that my life as a child wasn't perfect by any means. There were ups and downs and hard times and great times and times when everything was just OK. But I realise that my being OK as a child was still pretty great in the grand scheme of suck and great. I had everything I needed and then some. I was exposed to a lot in the city and during the summer in the country and seaside. I was a 70s and 80s free range kid allowed to be who I was without constant supervision but with constant love and attention.
And of course S. and I are trying so hard to capture the magic we had as children in our different but similar upbringings while staying true to who we are as parents and as people. And I've come to the conclusion that so much of the magic of my childhood was the ability to be left to my own devices. To create my own world and explore the ever changing and all encompassing world of my imagination. My mother's greatest gift to me was to allow me to be bored and therefore making me rely on entertaining myself.
I am trying to help my kids imaginations grow as much as I can by being present and playing with them but also by letting them be. And their ideas are becoming more and more complex as they work out the world around them. Its not easy to be present but not hover. To let them play and work out their problems without trying to correct Z. as he bullies his little brother or jump to M.'s defence as I sometimes feel like we let Z. get away with so much because of M.'s good nature. Also because they are so little still they can't really be by themselves in our garden as it's not fenced. So I try to stay in the background and blend into the fabric of their life hoping that they sort of ignore me which they generally do and get on with their play.