Saturday, May 27, 2006

In Case You Were Wondering.....

I have been on a CD buying spree lately. Over the last couple of months I have made a whopping 4 CD purchases, very unusual for me. Anyway, if you are interested in checking out something a little different, this is what I have purchased (these links take you to Amazon where you can listen to samples, if you are so inclined):

Imogen Heap, Speak for Yourself
This can get a little pop-py, but 'Goodnight and Go' and 'Hide and Seek' are good tracks. Not my best purchase, and I will confess to some buyer's remorse, but it's mine now, so I'll make the best of it.

Mexico and Mariachis
This is the soundtrack to all three of Robert Rodriguez's Mexico trilogy. Wonderful music, no buyer's remorse at all with this one. If you feel up to it, listen to the sample of 'Malaguena Salerosa' - it rocks. Most of these tracks are quite enjoyable.

Etta James, The Definitive Collection
The queen of blues, a voice like silk. 'W-O-M-A-N' is great, a classic sing along at the top of your lungs while dancing and driving song. Really, the whole CD is quite good. Again, no buyer's remorse.

Prince, 3121
Do I need to say anything? Prince, in all his short, oversexed glory. 'Satisfied' is among my favorite tracks of this CD.

And now, for music that I do not own yet but plan to purchase at my earliest convenience:

Hoodwinked the Movie Soundtrack
There's unfortunately no way to listen to this, and I have discovered that it is virtually impossible to find this here in town, and still quite difficult on the internet. Cute movie, I would recommend it. Well, interesting movie.

Damien Rice, O
This is melancholy, acoustic, plantive music, good for when you're feeling a little down and need to wax dramatic.

That's it, my recent music purchases and my musical desires. I don't think there's any defining (or accounting for) my musical tastes, but I thought I would share. I have learned, thanks to a good friend of mine, that you never know what you might like or even obsessively love, so if you have time check it out.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

And the Living Is Easy

Jacelyn has no hobbies. This concerns me from time to time; especially this time of year, where an endless stream of children parade into the store for recitals. 6 year olds plunking out five finger arrangements of the 'Star Wars' theme, their parents and grandparents beaming from the audience or from behind a videocamera. Am I denying my daughter? While I want her to have interests, and hobbies, I also want her to learn the value of free time. Of getting lost in thought, of laying on a blanket and looking up at the stars or the clouds.

She does things, don't get me wrong. She loves swimming, and playing outside. She enjoys being read to, and will peruse books on her own and make up her own story (although all of her stories seem to involve Cinderella and poo). She loves her V-Smile video game system, and her Leapster handheld games. The love of video games makes me mildly uncomfortable, but the educational value of these games allays my maternal fears. She does do things, she doesn't just lay around on the sofa like a 34-pound throw pillow, but is that enough? Aside from the obvious need for her to be around other children, I find myself rather comfortable with her lack of scheduled activities.

I enjoy being unfettered. Having tasks, errands or activities scheduled in my free time gives me a feeling of dread. Accomplishing these things on my own at my own pace and schedule is fine, but give me a schedule or a timeline and I get all grumbly.

I also want her to decide what she wants to do, as opposed to me or someone else deciding for her. I bought her a violin two years ago for Christmas, and I still haven't put her in lessons yet. I wanted to, and still occasionally entertain the notion, but I want that to be her decision. I am waiting for her to come to me, to say, "Mommy, I want to _________". Then we'll go from there.

I think it's important for children to be allowed to be children. To enjoy the years before school begins, not spend them being shuttled between soccer practice and dance class and french lessons. Just the other day, picking up Jacelyn's forms for school, I heard one mother say to another mother, "He's never been in t-ball? Oh, my, he'll never make it into little league if he's never played t-ball, he'll be eaten alive". What? I was talking to a mother one day about putting Jacelyn in dance class, and she told me, "If you didn't start her at three she'll never have a chance, there's almost no point in starting her now". What? I'm not trying to turn her into a prima ballerina, I just want her to have fun doing the things she enjoys. Of course I want her to try, and to dedicate herself to the activities she pursues, but you don't have to master a skill or art to enjoy taking part in it.

There is freedom and joy in occasionally having nothing to do. The days that I am off work, Jacelyn inevitably asks me, "So what do we have to do today, mommy?", and there is nothing I enjoy more than to say, "Nothing but spend it together".

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Curse of the Black Thumb

Jacelyn and I, in a combined effort, have managed to kill off the sunflowers we so lovingly nurtured into seedling-hood. A cat (or something) ate our morning glories, and our bachelor's buttons never even sprouted. This leaves us with one drooping citronella plant on the front porch. I'm trying to be extra attentive to it, and will probably over-water it until it, too, dies a withered death. Here's to the survival of our only remaining plant! Keep your fingers crossed!

To Hell With Me

I've re-discovered religion, all in the name of quality preschool education. Horrible? Yes. Possibly blasphemous? Indeed. My heart is in the right place, for what it's worth. We don't fit the qualifications to receive the discounted tuition for practicing Catholics at the preschool Jacelyn will (hopefully) be going to. I've come to terms with that; it's only an additional $50 a month. I say that like I'm rolling in fifty dollar bills, which I assure you I'm not, but when it comes to Jacelyn's education, I'm not going to mess around. There is a woefully inadequate preschool system in place here in Pensacola; actually, there really isn't a system. Jeb Bush has entitled us all to state-funded preschool at assorted day care centers, while the public schools with Pre-K classes (all four of them, no less)have waiting lists for miles. There's many things about the private education that appeal to me at this level, but I won't get into them right now.

I called the catholic church where we are registered earlier to obtain offertory envelopes. That is one of the things they check for when deciding whether or not you can receive the catholic discount - or, the 'Parish Participation Grant'. We missed the boat this year, but next year, all we have to do is: 1.) be registered members of the parish (which we are - one down!), 2.) Attend mass every Sunday, 3.) Tithe either via numbered offertory envelopes or with a personal check (for proof, I suppose), 4.) Participate in the Annual Catholic Sharing Appeal (a church-wide stewardship event), and 5.) in their words - "volunteer use of your time and talent to the various ministries and organizations within the parish".

I don't have a problem with the above - after all, if you attend a church, that is what you are supposed to do, correct? My problems are the motives behind suddenly becoming such active, tithing church members. For school. Not for any greater, spiritual reason - for the class size and test scores. Granted, I have been wanting to get back into a church, and I want Jacelyn to go to church. But I'm still not 100% certain on the catholic thing. For myself. Jacelyn....well, she can decide for herself later in life.

My issues with the catholic church are theological, mostly. I also don't think that the parish we live in is very kid-friendly. They don't have a nursery, for younger children, and they don't have any kind of junior church or anything during mass. So going to church is difficult with a child Jacelyn's age. It's hard for me to sit through a sermon sometimes, I certainly can't expect her to. I was raised Baptist, where for every service, regardless of day or time, there was a children's service. Jr. Church, Sunday School, Youth Group. The only thing Little Flower offers is a crying room, a small soundproofed room with a window that looks out onto the pulpit/altar area (whatever you call it). If your kid gets whiny, you go in there where they can't bother anyone else.

I think having children's services enhances the churchgoing experience for everyone involved. The days I have attended services with Jacelyn were trying; forget any attempts to listen to a sermon. She fidgets, and acts out, and I spend an entire service trying to keep her quiet and entertained. It's stressful. On any given Sunday we will make two trips to the bathroom. She will try and show the nice couple behind us her 'My Little Pony' panties. She will 'read' out loud, usually during a prayer, from the bulletin. I always bring two baggies of fruit snacks, which I reserve for moments where loud whining (or reading aloud) seems imminent. It's hard, and neither of us glean anything from it.

That being said, maybe this is an opportunity. To change things, or to recommend change. Maybe help to make the church more child (and parent with child) friendly.
Who knows. I'm going to try all this, and see how it works out, and keep my options open. I'll let you know how it goes. I can only hope that I'm making the right decisions.

A side note: a friend of mine recommended Pensacola Christian's preschool, and I just laughed and laughed. Anyone who knows my mother knows how fast she would be spinning in her grave if I did that, and I have no desire to do that anyway.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Part 3: Working Mother

I am not very fond of that term, 'working mother'. It implies that some mothers do not work, which is not true in the slightest. I would have changed the title to 'Part 3: Mother Who Works Outside the Home' but that seems a little fussy and slightly long, so I left it as it was but with this disclaimer.

Despite my qualms with stay at home motherhood, I could not envision myself doing anything else. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to stay home with my child at least until she started school. I wanted to be this cool, do-it-all myself super mom. I wanted to say things like, "It's almost time for playgroup! Let me grab the homemade flaxseed cookies. Everybody into the minivan!". When the harsh realities of economics forced me into a job search after two years of stay at home motherhood, I was horrified. Work? Leave my baby? Be out of the house? Then I was accepting and almost eager. Work? Get out of the house? When can I start?

My first foray back into the working world was cleaning offices part time at night. I went to work around five, and got home a little after nine. It was hard work, and more than a little dirty, but it paid decently and I was really enjoying getting out, being around other people, and helping out with the finances. I did miss Jacelyn's recently instituted 8 o'clock bedtime, but trusted in Brian and his family to make sure she stayed on her schedule. Working part-time wasn't too bad, and inspired very little separation anxiety for Jacelyn or myself. Michelle and Joe had recently moved back into town and in with us, and she suddenly had two new and doting relatives around to keep her busy. I didn't have to worry about paying anyone to watch her, because Brian was off by 6pm at the latest and he could watch her.

The novelty of working again wore off fairly quickly. I found myself watching the clock more during the day, thinking, 'I only have 3 more hours with Jacelyn until I have to leave for work' and so on. Working in the evenings caused me to miss out on family dinners, and I found myself missing bathtime, storytime and bedtime with Jacelyn more and more. The bedtime schedule that I had so strictly adhered to slowly started slipping away, a victim of well-intended yet slightly indulgent family members. I felt a little frazzled, even with Michelle's help after she moved in, trying to get everything done around the house during the day.

A convenient excuse to find another line of work arose when my boss called me at home one morning, yelling about me stealing clocks, of all the ridiculous things. I was devastated and very upset by the angry accusation, made without merit or proof, and even though the clocks were found and my good name restored, I didn't want to work for the company or the owner anymore. I was secretly pleased that I had found a reason to leave the job, and wondered if staying home again was a possibility. It was not.

Opportunity arose in the form of dear Jen, who got me a job working part-time with her at Dollarhide's. Michelle, who had not yet found a job in town, offered to watch Jacelyn while I worked, so I had in home childcare. I enjoyed the work, found it interesting and different, but despaired about money. After paying Michelle and putting gas in the car, there wasn't a whole lot left over. Working part time was not paying off, and when the opportunity to work full time arose, I hesitantly agreed. I'll never forget that first morning. Since Michelle was watching Jacelyn and living with us, I didn't have to worry about getting Jacelyn up and dressed and ready for day care, which saved me considerable time and trouble. I do remember how bizarre it felt, that first morning of going in early, to know that when Jacelyn woke up, it wouldn't be to me. When she climbed out of bed and went down the hall calling out my name, I wouldn't be there to answer.

It's a balancing act - just like everything else in life, only with motherhood the stakes feel higher (to me). I'm half the mother I want to be, half the employee I could be, and none of the wife I should be. And I understand fully how easy I have it - living with family eases the burden considerably. I don't know how real working mothers do it, much less single mothers, yikes. I feel wrung out, overextended. Upon arriving home in the evenings, my daughter needs my attention. And so does the laundry, and the bathroom. There are dishes to be done, toys to pick up, everything is covered in dust, Jacelyn's room needs a thorough bulldozing to clean up the crap on the floor, there are errands to be run, bills to be paid, and the weeds in the front yard are up to the baby's waist. There's a neverending stream of dull activities and tasks to be accomplished, and in the middle of it all is a precocious little toddler who doesn't understand why her mother is never home anymore, and why when she is home she's so grumpy.

I lose sight, now and then, and find myself buried in the stress and drudgery. Overwhelmed and fraught with woe. Jacelyn always manages to help me throw off the doldrums, somehow. She'll say something funny, or she'll give me a snuggle, or she will say, "I need a big smile, mommy. Show me a big smile". How can I refuse?

For some time I always considered myself to be something of a feminist. Maybe a more conservative feminist, but I held some feminist viewpoints. While I appreciate the work of our foremothers to assure us of the rights we have today, I don't really affiliate myself with the movement (I'm certain they're devastated, ha-ha). Women became increasingly free to pursue higher education and careers. Liberating? Yes. Empowering? Certainly. It's also dangerous. The underlying message is that women can have it all. We can have careers and husbands and children, and because we are strong, giving and powerful we can balance it.

As the economy weakens and the two-career family becomes the norm rather than the exception, having it all often means having too much. I'm certain that there are women out there with careers, children, and good, healthy relationships with their husbands and they are sailing through, feeling fine. I'm not handling things with that much grace, but I'm certainly trying. And as I've said before, and as a dear, dear friend of mine likes to remind me, that is what matters. That I'm trying.

And I will continue to try.

I'm constantly reminded of Jacelyn when I'm at work, and I think of her all the time. I know she's safe and well cared for. But I miss her, greatly. I will leave work for lunch, and the weather will be beautiful, and I will think sadly about what she and I could be doing at that particular moment were I not at work. At a park? Swimming somewhere? Maybe blowing some bubbles? When there's a loud thunderstorm, I will think longingly of the mornings we would snuggle in my bed on rainy mornings, watching Sesame Street and singing, 'Rain, Rain, Go Away'. I also consider that those home-together-all-day times are rapidly drawing to a close with the start of pre-school in August. My baby is growing up, and I'm tearfully standing by and watching it happen, and can almost feel time passing me by.

I want a balanced life. John Boland once told me, "You work to live, you don't live to work". Amen, John - I want to work enough to live and enjoy the rest of my time. I want time with my daughter, while still allowing time for household tasks and maybe even for myself. And sometimes, when there's grass to cut and laundry to wash and my beautiful daughter says, "Mommy, let's go to the playground!", I'm going to go. And forget about the grass and the laundry and remember that my little girl isn't going to be four years old much longer, and we'll never get this time back. I will gleefully and shamelessly shirk responsibility for the sake of love and lasting memories.

Mothers, Daughters, and Ladybugs

I like to remember my mother as the strong, downright feisty woman she was when I was in elementary school. For someone who cannot remember much of her childhood, I can recall a surprisingly large number of occasions from that time. As for the woman that my mother became, after the recovered memories and the diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, I can only say that she tried. Which is more than I can say for myself. I'm not proud of my behavior; on the contrary, I'm very ashamed of it, and hindsight being what it is, would love to go back and change it. That being said:

Mom and I got very close after I had surgery my sophomore year of high school. I was admitted into the hospital right at the end of school before Christmas break began, and we spent the following two weeks of my recovery together, staying up late, getting up early, putzing around in general. Before school started again I remember sitting down and tearily writing her a thank-you letter, telling her how much I enjoyed spending that time with her. I can't remember if I ever gave it to her or not. I would like to think that I did, but I can't remember.

Then we moved. And I turned, viciously and suddenly, into a sullen, angst-ridden, defiant teenager. I rebelled with fervor and passion, dropping out of school, picking up bad and dangerous habits and friends. I remember the last few months that I lived in Jacksonville Mom and I went at each other almost nightly. I would waltz through the door, usually rather late into the evening, all full of attitude and swagger. Mom, who would sit up and wait for me, would find something to pick a fight about: the late hour, my appearance, I smelled funny, was I on drugs? We would argue for hours, and sometimes, despite our best efforts, would get a little too loud, and either Dad or Teresa would come into the room, squinting in the light and sighing heavily, either asking us or ordering us to quiet down. "Just stop," I remember Dad saying one night. "Just stop, you're killing me". It was in the midst of one of these fights that she said, "One day, I hope you have a daughter just like you and then you'll know how I feel right now".

After she returned to Pensacola our relationship had cooled down. We no longer fought so bitterly, but there was nothing. I pitied her. I pitied her choices in life, pondered what made her the way she was, and, in a way, grieved for the woman that she had been. I have always wondered about the nature vs. nurture theory. Did her upbringing and incidents in her past make her who and what she was? Or was she just that way? Could she have changed, if she wanted to, and did she want to change? Did she like the way she was? Of course, I never thought to ask her. I remember the day she and dad were supposed to close on the house, she was over-medicated. She would fall asleep anywhere, at any moment. She was sitting at breakfast at Grandma's house, a biscuit in her hand, snoring and slack-jawed. Dad was wringing his hands and fretting and trying to wake her up. "Vicki, we have to be around people for this, you can't be like this". I left the house and drove around, angry, smoking cigarette after cigarette and hating her, just a little bit, for the way she was. And hating myself for hating her.

The months before her death are sort of vague and blurry. In my own defense, I was pregnant and in the throes of completely rearranging my life. It became as though she was on the perimeter of my life, just someone who I passed by occasionally. Her hospital bed was in the living room, immediately to the right when you opened the front door. I would come in the house and she would immediately start throwing down rapid fire questions. I would offer vague responses, generally over my shoulder as I walked down the hall to close myself in my room. That was how we communicated: short questions from her, shorter answers from me as I walked into the kitchen, or to the garage, or out the front door.

When mom died, I was numb. I didn't expect her to die. I remember how crowded it seemed afterwards, how wherever I went there just seemed to be so many people around. At our house, and Grandma's house, at Brian's house. I would escape by driving around, slowly and with no destination. I would listen to music and cry, and would occasionally say, out loud, "Oh, mama". Always 'mama', never mom. And I would hope that she knew that I loved her, always, despite how I may have acted or what I may have said. I still hope that: that she knew, and knows, that I love her.

And now I have a daughter, a daughter who, according to my mother, is going to be just like me. And I'm scared. I want so much for her, and I want so much for us. I want her to have a good sense of self worth without thinking the world revolves around her. I want her to develop her own dreams, and I want her to be ambitious but patient. I understand that she has her own personality, and I want to impart standards of behavior and morals while allowing her to maintain that shining personality.

I once said, in the throes of self-pity and woe, that the only good advice I have to offer my daughter is to not turn out like me. While in some ways I still feel that is true, she has picked up some of my habits and personality traits that I don't mind imparting. She cares deeply about other people, and can't stand to see the people she loves mad at each other (Teresa can vouch for this). She's creative, and imaginative, and has a sense of whimsy that I find breathtaking. I might not have practical advice or skills to offer, but whimsy and imagination I've got, and it's delightful to see it in my daughter.

I said in my first paragraph that I can only say that mom tried. Before I had a daughter myself, I didn't think that was good enough. Now, however, I give her more credit. No matter what else she was going through, mom still tried. And she loved us.

There have always been ladybugs around mom's grave. Every time I'm there, there are a few ladybugs buzzing around. And I seem to attract ladybugs. In the spring and summertime they like to perch on me. Just the other day, I left work for lunch, spent the entire time in the car running errands, and when I went back inside there was a ladybug meandering around on my back. There was one on the windshield of my the other night. Jacelyn attracts them as well; when she sees them on her and freaks out, I'll calm her down and tell her the ladybugs are from her Grandma, so she will know that she loves her. Now, when she sees them on me she'll brush them off and say, "Grandma's giving you bugs again". Incidentally, whether or not I actually believe they are from mom is completely beside the point, to me. I find the idea to be lovely.

Happy Mother's Day to all. Live well, love much, laugh often, and all those other cliches about life. And, I suppose, don't let the little stuff get in the way of the bigger picture. I love y'all.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Every day is an adventure

Last night, I was standing in the kitchen drying dishes when Jacelyn went waltzing past me on her way to the restroom. She looked up at me and said, while still walking, "Mommy, I just put the biggest boogar on the wall, go look". What?! She went into the bathroom and did her business while I went to check the wall in question, and there was indeed a very large boogar placed at 4-year old height. Upon her return from the restroom she stood back and admired her placement. "Big, isn't it" she commented proudly. I directed her to get a napkin and remove the boogar from the wall, while instructing her as to proper boogar removal and discarding procedures. She did not seem convinced; she seemed to think display to be far more appropriate. Only time will tell if anything sunk in, I suppose I'll just have to keep checking the walls.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bedding Bonanza

I bought this duvet cover yesterday. We got our tax return and I decided to be a good American, GW style, and return a little of it to the economy. :-) It was on sale, and I liked it, and it actually means quite a lot to me, as goofy as that sounds, for reasons that I can't really get into right now. Anyway, here it is: my horrid taste in bedding. I did not buy the flowery sheet set or the white bed skirt - didn't so much like those, but I love the duvet cover and shams.