Friday, August 29, 2014

The Ups and Downs of "Just"

The last week has been a whirlwind of emotions. Maybe it seems melodramatic but adjusting to a new way of life is never easy...for anyone.

It's hard to explain but we have a caste system in America. It's not one we admit to. But we do. It deals less with birth, but has more to do with titles. AKA jobs. When we meet a new person, we don't usually ask what they are passionate about or what makes them tick. We ask them what they "do". Even when people are asked, "Tell me about yourself?" I too was guilty of saying, "Well, I AM a teacher, I have 2 kids......" and the list goes on.

I am guilty along with others of this way of thinking so much that since August 1st when I meet new people (and with 2 kids at 2 new schools and a husband starting in a new practice I have been meeting a LOT of new people) I get asked what I "do". I say I'm a stay at home mom and then proceed to give the rest of my resume that I WAS a teacher for 13 years blah blah blah as if that adds to my worth. And unfortunately, I see the look in people's eyes that it does seem to add to my worth to them.

It's pride. It's pride people. It's caring far too much what others think of my rank in this non acknowledged caste system. I had a friend who I met a couple of years ago as a parent to one of my students. She is a constitutional lawyer. That's the kind of title that makes me go Wow! in my head. She took a couple of years off to "just" be a mom. The drastic change and adjusting to the new role required counseling. It is a hard bit to swallow the way our society or some of it looks at a person when you are "just" a mom. Since then, this mom has returned to work. But her experience was invaluable. Not only the time she had with her children but the way she looked at people after. She was always so respectful and appreciative as my role as a classroom teacher. She never acted towards me like I had a lesser job. I can guarantee she never thought of anyone as "just" a mom after her experience. She valued the role because she experienced it.

That's the thing, how can you have an opinion whatsoever about teachers, moms, doctors, etc. until you have done the job and done it well. I know there are those who get it. It's the older gentlemen who have lived and learned through their own wives. They say to me when I respond that I am a stay at home mom, "Oh! So what you really mean is you are busier than ever!" or women who have done it say, "You will never regret taking this time to raise your children." These people get it because they have done it.

You know when someone has used a lot of child care or has no children when they ask, "What do you DO all day?" And yes, I have been asked this question already.

I still remember vividly the time I was at a meet and greet for new residents and the spouses were along to help tell about Chattanooga. A female resident interviewer was there and the ladies were all talking to her. The possible new resident went around the circle of wives, "what do you do? What do you do?" (I now know assessing their worth) I said, "I'm an elementary teacher." She dismissively moved on to the next-a nurse anesthetist. She said to that wife, "Oh! So you're "really" smart!" I won't lie. I loved my job because I felt God called me to that career because of my experiences as a young child and the joy and stability my teachers brought to me during trying times that sometimes made a turbulent childhood. But in that moment I realized-parts of society think I do this because it is "all" I am smart enough to do? AND that teachers aren't smart?. I won't elaborate ALL that a 4th grader learns in one year in Social Studies, Science, Language, Math. When you are a parent and experience the homework of a 4th grader and up you would never make a comment like that one! There were many years during my cross examination debate squad years (4 years) that I wanted to be a lawyer. I was really great at debate, unusually so with my partner Kristin A, because we were so young and *gulp* female! But in the end, this was not what the Lord put on my heart as my calling.

The point is- I was deflated because of what someone else, a complete stranger thought of me. And now in this unspoken caste system I decided to forgo my 13 years of learning, experience, training, and 2 degrees to "drop a level" to be a stay at home mom. (Please know this is not my way of thinking!) It is joyous. I watch my kids grow. I am not too busy to read and sign every note. To prepare cute and fun lunches, to make so much better breakfasts than when I was trying to fly out the door and get to work on time yelling my head off each morning. I take pride in the little accomplishments like this first ever time fish tail braid my daughter asked for this morning:

At first when my daughter requested the braid I had a moment of panic! But I looked at the clock and realized-I had TIME.

A few days ago someone made a comment to my daughter in front of me that she was going to "be a bio engineer not no homemaker".

The emotions and rage flooded my senses. NOT because this person like the one in the story above insulted me to my face and thought I wasn't "smart" because I AM a homemaker or valuable or worth while, but I was overwhelmed that my daughter may grow up and dream of having AND raising her own children one day and society will frown upon her or think she (my little reading, math genius) is not smart or important.

Even more heart wrenching is how much my sweet son talks to me about him one day being a dad. He is fascinated with babies and asks often, "Mom, do you think I'll be a good dad?" What if HE heaven forbid wants to be "just" a dad??? What if he has to buck the whole dr, lawyer, accountant caste system for men and chooses to make loving his children his life goal? What will he go through to do so if he should choose?

I have to admit at the time of these pics I was teaching them to make my mom's homemade awesome banana bread and pumpkin pie muffins:

I couldn't help thinking if I sold these baked goods for a high price I would be viewed in our society as a talented cooking business genius, BUT if I prepare them to be enjoyed by my family only and maybe a few friends I share with then I am "just a homemaker" to many people's thinking.

The only difference? Money. We use money to assign value to people. The two things have nothing to do with each other-money and a person's value.

So I am fighting a battle in my own head and how I deal with those around me with the preconceived ideas of money=value. To be honest, somedays it is a winning battle in my head and somedays a tearful losing battle.

Somedays I walk around in my nightgown with pure pride!

I even love playing into the role. I truly DO walk around with velcro rollers in my hair now and didn't before because they don't work unless you have TIME to leave them in!

Somedays I am overjoyed that not only am I a stay at home mom, but I AM still a teacher, and when my son misses a problem on his math test I have my own place value kit to tutor him with at my breakfast table.

To be honest I have been approached a few times in the last month with job opportunities in the teaching field. I instantly want to say yes! But for all the wrong reasons. I want to be respected as a "smart" part of the caste system again or a "valuable" member of society. Luckily, I remain quiet and still am thinking on the offers because what I really want in my heart? Is to do this:

Cook a nice dinner for my children and husband when he gets home from a long day at work.

And this:

Chauffeur my kids to their appointments and catch the moments when my son is in awe of his big sister.

And this:

Be a mom.

Regardless of what people think of my intelligence, my talents or lack there of, my business sense, my ability.....I choose and want to be a homemaker.

ps. I saw this on Facebook the other day and it really spoke to my soul:

It spoke to me because I'm 35 and who knows what else I will "do" or achieve in my life. You are never too old to change it up and do what God is calling you to do. Who says God called us to do ONE thing? There are things we will accomplish ALL throughout our lives and we never know what is around the bend.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Trade Scales?

Another day in the life of a stay at home mom....

I woke up and folded a load of towels and put school clothes to wash (trying to get ahead on uniforms for the week)

Then woke the kids up. My daughter has been grouchy lately waking up and she's my morning person. She is still insisting on sleeping in her brothers room in one of his 2 twin beds even though she has the comfiest (queen sized) bed in the house. I know because it was Paul's and my bed after we got married. A parent told me last week as I was helping at field day that she wakes her kids up with music. I made a mental note of that since it is taking me 3-4 trips back to W's room to wake him up.

So after 2 times I found Radio Disney on M's iPad and pushed play! It was like a Christmas miracle. As soon as the song started his eyes shot open like he was in a trance and he got up and got ready fairly quickly for the norm! Will try again tomorrow.

I couldn't have breakfast (which I don't usually eat....I know most important meal of the day starving by noon heard it before) because the Life Insurance man was sending someone today to take my height and weight (gulp), and draw blood to make sure I am a good investment for life insurance. When I heard this last week I immediately wrote down the date on my calendar and I have these "to do" sticky notes that attach to my calendar and I wrote 5 days-lose 5 lbs. I don't know why 5 lbs just thought that would be better than none and 10 well lets not be unreasonable. Now I write stuff like this down all the time so it doesn't matter if it is sound or logical.

ps. The reason we are getting life insurance even though I am not doing what you call a "paying" job is because our financial planner has (to my utter joy) informed my husband with all I take care of and do for him, the house, the kids-it would take $250,000 to replace me. Yes! I finally have at least a monetary an expert no less!

So I take the kids to school and stay for a couple of hours volunteering in the book room. Then I come home and mow the lawn, run out of gas, send racy photo of me in my protective eye wear and sweaty hat to my husband from the "lawn service" noting we are out of gas so his front yard did not get properly mowed.

Then I shower and vacuum because someone's coming to draw my blood!

The man gets here and takes my height and *gulp* weight. I look at his old white scale with a vengeance as he sets it down next to my breakfast table in the kitchen. My own scale said this morning in the 5 days total I only lost a lb. Which honestly is the same lb I've lost/gained my whole adult life. It meant nothing!

Now this is the point of the blog where I know some are having strong feelings and may wish to tell me in which I already know so here I am guessing is what many will say/think

1. weight is just a is age

2. muscle weighs more than fat.....I know I have a healthy balance of both and by healthy I mean hefty.

3. you shouldn't weigh yourself everyday! But I do and always have-It's a compulsion and I probably won't stop. I'm trained as a public education teacher to constantly collect data.

4. You can't lose 5 lbs in 5 days-that's not healthy. Well I wrote it but didn't truly expect to. So there.

Ok I know there are more but moving on.

The man said to get on the scale. My first thought....oh sh...oot. This isn't fair, I'm fully clothed!

But I got on the scale and squinted.....That couldn't be. The scale read a little under 130 (something that truly never happens since I have been married) I am still squinting when the very business like health man says 128 when I take away for clothes...sound right?

I say slowly yes sure. Feeling totally dishonest. I look at my license on the table to see if it matched and saw weight isn't even ON my license! When did this happen?

What I wanted to say is sir I have a scale upstairs...would you like to trade!! I mean mine even tells how many calories you have to eat to maintain that weight (which by the way never works for me).

He's moved on to height and blood and commenting if I get cold due to my lower than average blood pressure. Blah blah I'm still eyeing his very old white scale that looks like the one my grandma used to have. Obviously there's something wrong-like 7 lbs wrong with it...But I WANT it!

Granted I wasn't allowed to eat the past 17 hours before his exam but that didn't make a difference on my scale?

So he left telling me to treat myself and eat something good since I couldn't eat today until he was done. Then he left. Such a nice man. Not just because he was an LSU fan but just a nice nice man. And now I will grab a sandwich and run to check out the kid's so I can take them to the dentist for cleanings.

None the less I did not ask him to trade scales....but I should have!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

It Never Really Goes Away

Today I got to be a teacher. No, I wasn't in a classroom. I was actually playing with the dog between doing laundry and cleaning,

waiting on the cable man ALL DAY (still waiting), picking up the kids. But when I got home I had an email from my old school secretary that a parent of one of my girls called and left a message for me to call them. To tell you the truth it didn't surprise me. Of all things I did right as a teacher it was build the kind of relationships that students and parents felt they could call on me years after they were gone.

So I called and it wasn't really a parent but the Grandmother of one of my girls from last year. The reason she called? She wanted to talk :) She wanted to tell me how much T loved me and talks about me still. She wanted to tell me how surprised she was that her grand baby had THREE teachers this year. We talked for a little while. I asked how the year was going. I asked her to relay a message of how much I missed T. And then we were done.

I realized when you are a teacher. You are always a teacher. No one takes the relationships away, the things you learn about life, the knowledge you acquire. I enjoyed the moment of being in teacher mode. It made me realize that this profession if done right is permanent. It sticks with you.

On another note I have a great Mary story. When I pick her up I always ask about lunch, recess, the fun stuff first. Then we get down to the nitty gritty. Mary brought left overs for lunch today.

Last night was clean the fridge out for dinner night so I invented a new pasta. It has a meat, spinach, garlic, onion base:

With a red sauce then baked topped with parmesan and mozzarella. Don't ask what it's called! I don't know, but the family liked it.

So last night I really was wanting to make homemade peanut butter cookies. When you think you have nothing possible to bake you can alway make these! Who doesn't have flour, peanut butter, honey, sugar, and butter?? No one that lives in the South that's who!

Any way I was so proud to whip up these peanut butter cookies:

The thing I love most about making peanut butter cookies is the fork marks. I don't know who started it but I remember clearly my mom doing it and me wanting to help smash the marks in the cookie as my kids do now.

Well after we were home for a while Mary said, "Oh mom, I forgot to tell you something else about lunch today. I showed K my cookie at lunch and said HASHTAG!"

This tickled me so much. Who knew all these decades we were hash tagging our peanut butter cookies!

I guess it's been around longer than we knew! Love it! I love when the old meets the new. Goes to show again how some things never really go away!

From now on I'm making # cookies

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Because I Want To.

The past few weeks have been insane. We have juggled getting up early again with starting new schools at 2 different locations with 2 orientations, a social and sock wars night that ended at 10 PM, 2 meet the teacher nights, a school-wide dinner to kick off the year, stopped by dad's office before a family night of bowling on a Monday no less, and getting back into the swing of homework.

I have loved it-truly. It has worn me out, but I have loved it. I have had one appointment with an insurance agent, 2 orthodontist appointments, was able to put in about 6 hours volunteering in the book room this week at Warner's elementary school which was so sweet because I know teachers' book rooms so well that I felt totally at home! It allowed me to be in the school with Warner, meet many of the teachers that work there, and even stop by his room to get a hug while picking up more books to take home and work on leveling and stickering for his teacher. Yes I am still taking work home....without having a job. Funny how that happens, but it's good for me. I wouldn't want it any other way.

I have realized all I thought about being able to keep the house tidy and laundry up to date was a farce. But I was bound and determine, so the first full day of school I came home walked the dog and mowed the front and back yard....with a push mower. It was exhilarating to be mowing at 9AM in the morning and it was 65 degrees out. Pure euphoria. I cleaned the house and did laundry.

Then this week I realized I was booked Monday all day and night through Tuesday so if I wanted a clean house it was now or never. I was so tired but thought cleaning the house would be a gift to myself because I really love the feel of a clean house. So at 7:45 Sunday night I moved to mommy tornado mode. I vacuumed the downstairs and upstairs, unloaded then reloaded the dishwasher, scrubbed down the cabinets, folded the clothes in the dryer put in another load. Straightened the bathrooms and cleaned the mirrors. I went to bed with clothes in the washer so at 2 AM woke up and folded the clothes in the dryer and moved the clothes in the washer. It was a gift to myself....but not the rest of the family. The only thing folding towels at 2 AM does is make a mom grumpy the next day or days. Even if it is self inflicted.

Monday came and I was right-I was relieved to get home to a clean house although being there for 5 minutes made it less clean. But I was also very tired. Tuesday came and I was losing steam. Especially when I had to drag the kids back to the middle school for a meet the teacher night that went until about 8 o'clock. So this is what I've learned-Model homes are models because NO ONE LIVES IN THEM. So unless I move us out this home will always be a bit messy.

Here's the deal though. I realized on Tuesday that I had a choice for today. Something I never got while I was working. I could choose to volunteer again in the book room because there was still much to be done, clean the house all day (also much to be done), do the laundry, or take the day off.

Paul brought the kids to school so I was able to meander downstairs and make them french toast and bacon this morning in my nightgown. I got them all packed up and saw them off. Then I went BACK TO BED. I made my choice and stand by it! I was so tired I slept like a rock until 11. I woke up and felt like I had been in a coma-a mowing, house cleaning, road running, back to school, 20 mile bike ride, sore behind from bowling coma. I didn't do a productive thing all day. I stayed in my night gown and looked through old family pictures until it was time to pick up the kids.....all because I wanted to.

Then I threw on my red "dotted" bathing suit (as Warner explains this is what he would have me wear each day as a "fun" mom should) and a cover up, filled a cooler with ice and popsicles, then grabbed towels and the kids' bathing suits and went to pick them up. Because it IS still summer technically.

I left with sunscreen on my face and not a stitch of make up. Funny enough in car line I looked around and guess what? The mom next to me also had not a stitch of make up, so maybe I'm getting the hang of this thing called stay at home mom hood or something like that. However she did not have on a red "dotted" bathing suit so oh well, I still march to the beat of my own SAHM drum. So be it!

I am so grateful that I have had the peace of mind each day to pick up the kids with a smile. Today I was able to pick them up and planned to take them swimming, but it rained. But it's ok because we can try again on Friday! I have the peace of mind each night to be calm and look through Warner's agenda and check over his homework carefully. I mean look what he did on this sheet:

See what he did there :) I had to giggle at his thought process. Hmmmm which one do I think they are ?

I had to show M. She giggled at his mistake and said, "Well, Sonny is his brother?!" Haha W stuck to his convictions and made the choice not to categorize dog and cat as objects. Too cute.

I love that I can focus on the tiny details. That although time is moving at warp speed I can take a moment to be completely aware of what's going on with my sweet kids. That I can appreciate them. That I can actually make choices! That I can schedule orthodontist appointments, or take care of my sick child, or volunteer, or exercise, or MOW in the middle of the morning or just do whatever because I WANT TO!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

First Week as a SAHM

I mentioned a few days ago, Why do they call it "Stay at HOME mom?" I have completed my first week as this "Stay at home" mom and I have never used so much gas in my life. First, there is the driving to and fro to get the kids to school and back. I have to admit the car line was daunting at first. It requires a lot of patience. If you arrive early there is a lot of waiting. If you arrive on time you are at the end of a long line so there's waiting and if you arrive late....well I haven't the courage to even attempt that yet. Having to get to work before the students and leaving sometimes at the wee hours of night did have an advantage-no car line! But I think I have it mastered now.

The best part of my wait is if I score this spot under this great shady magnolia:

I have to say I anticipate picking the kids up each day. I can't wait to see that recognition in their eyes when they see me waiting in the car. I love when they come all aglow to see me after school each day. Then they give me selective details about their day before they resort to the movie or iPad. This is especially entertaining with my middle schooler. She is a new being now that she is in middle school. One that is totally relatable and very dramatic. One that is full of emotion and feelings.

I was in no hurry the first day of school. I relished it for the first time in a while.

I was super emotional and reflective of my sweet babies versus the mature kids they have become.

During the week we dove into spelling words and weekly homework.

I did many things I have dreamed I would get to do sans job, like eat a relaxing breakfast:

Take a relaxing bike ride:

Which lead to me not being to be able to stand upright for 2 days.....

I got to visit friends. I signed up for many many things for the upcoming weeks:

I got to make myself a decent lunch:

I was able to cook dinner without killing myself.

And I have never been more tired in my life. I would say I am equally tired and busy but much much less stressed! I think.

Walking the dog every morning and getting out to exercise was truly the highlight of my week.

Along with this text between my husband and I:

True to form I tend to over do things rather than under do them :) I am learning the hard way that volunteering is good and bad :) I will be at Warner's school a lot next week. At least 3 days helping put together their teacher book room and for parent night. I will also be at Mary's for parent night and field day possibly. We have attended every meeting/social event at the schools so far....we are exhausted. But it is so worth it to me.

Every morning the kids go into school with a smile. At Mary's school every student has to have an iPad and bring it 100% charged each day to work on. She has already shown me things about the iPad that I never knew.

Warner made a 105% on his first spelling test and I've already made an appearance per his request at lunch. I have fallen asleep the past few nights as soon as my head has hit the pillow. I didn't lose a pound last week actually gained the last one back :/ But I am enjoying my life. Every detail. I am learning by trial and error to find a balance. Ironically what I did not get done that I had hoped to have time to do is keep the house clean and laundry done! Oh well, I can try again next week.

Ironically I got this in the mail today:

I had to giggle and say to myself, "Yes, yes it will be my best year yet!" Why would NEA send this after I quit the teaching profession and never before! Haha that's education for ya.

And came home from Church and a movie to this small disaster!

But that's life! You deal as you go!

This is my motto this year and I will do my best to do it-