Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tipping My Hat to Working Moms

I woke up at 5 a.m. yesterday. I hit the snooze button (only once).  I got up and showered and got ready for work. Ahem, excuse me, that's right I said work.  Yeah, I got a job.  I am now a working mom and I have something to say...holy woah, my hat is off to you working mom, my hat is off to you.

Reading to my baby who heads off to kindergarten in a couple weeks which makes it more affordable for me to get a job.

I am tipping my pretend hat in honor of the working mom because it is complicated and interesting and wonderful and exhausting and a balancing act and ahhhhhhh.  I've only been doing it one day and I have so much more respect for you. Look, I've always respected working moms and all the juggling and balancing and planning and multitasking you do. Now I just have a deeper respect, a deeper appreciation.

This isn't some "mommy wars" post about stay-at-home moms versus work-at-home moms. Being a mom is intense no matter what. I've just never done the work-at-home mom job with older kids. The last time I worked full time, Peyton was two years old.  

For the past 12 years, I've been a stay-at-home mom who freelances and blogs and creates at night and during nap times or drags my little kids along to meetings during the afternoon to discuss storytelling shows and political campaigns and church fundraisers. I've loved every minute of it, well I mean almost every minute of it. I didn't know I'd love it when I quit my job at a community newspaper after my second child was born because the cost of daycare was more than I was making.  But man, I loved it. I reveled in the beautiful chaos of having four children and all the finger painting and dancing in the kitchen and trips to the library and the movie marathons and the nature hikes and the bike rides and the hanging out and the lunch time conversations and all of it.  I fell in love with all of it and my children and my life.

But having four children is expensive and I needed to find a job that paid more than my beloved freelance writing and video editing.  And the children are older and not needing all the finger painting fun and they aren't loving my kitchen dancing and hanging out as much.  Over the last year and a half I've applied to JoAnne Fabrics, nonprofits and coffee shops.  At every interview I had, I connected with the potential boss and the interview usually ended with a hug, but no job.  "It's just not quite your time," one potential boss told me during an it's-going-to-be-okay-but-your-childcare-issues-just-won't-make-this-job-work-for-you hug.  "You will find the right job when your kids get a little older and are in school."

That nice woman was right. A few weeks ago, Tim sent me an email link to a job opening at a preschool in our kids' school district.  I jumped at the opportunity to apply for a job that would give me the opportunity to use some of my nurturing skills, not to mention my kickass finger painting ability and love of all things silly and fun and preschool.  I got the job--an assistant preschool teacher to a morning class of three-year-olds and an afternoon class of four-year-olds three days a week.  

And yeah, yesterday was my first day. It was a training day--full of meetings and training and a potluck breakfast and meeting my coworkers and my bosses and learning and talking and learning more.  It also happened to be Lucy's sixth-grade orientation for middle school (um, gulp), meet the teacher afternoon at the little boys' elementary school and a day when I had no childcare options except my teenage son.  

It was a crash course in what it's like to be a working mom and well, it's hard.  It's hard to sit in a meeting and focus when you are wondering if your teenage son remembered to give the kindergartner breakfast and hope they remember that they aren't allowed to wrestle.   It's hard to not seem rude or impatient when you want the meeting to end on time so you can run and get your daughter from orientation from her first middle school event and not make her wait and hate you for forever.  It's hard not to seem like you don't get what a big deal middle school is when you pick your daughter up but don't have time to stay and try out her locker combination because you are on your lunch break and you don't want to be late and make a bad impression on your first day and be that mom employee that's always showing up late because she has so many kids.  

I want to be there a hundred percent for my job. 
I want to be there a hundred percent for my kids.

I'm excited that I have an opportunity to work at a job doing something that I value so intrinsically--early childhood education. I'm excited to pay forward all the care my kids received in preschool and that I received. Preschool teachers taught me so much about being a parent, they were supportive and loving and life changing in some ways. I hope that I can provide that kind of care and love to families. And to my own family at the same time.

I have no answers, I totally screwed up my first day. I know once my kids start school and childcare isn't such a problem, it will get a little easier and I look forward to that. I'll find my groove and there will be good days and bad days and calm days and crazy days.

For now, I am tipping my hat to all working moms and suggesting that maybe we all do some sort of flash mob dance to Donna Summer's classic "She Works Hard For the Money" because you do, we do, and there's all the thinking about so much and juggling and balancing and focusing and multitasking and being a good example and  building careers and paying bills and making a difference and mothering and being there and ahhhhhh. 


(click here to watch the video)

My dream is that the flash mob will include all moms dancing together--working/stay-at-home/work-at-home/grandmas who babysit their grandkids/single moms/married moms. All dancing and supporting and honoring all the hard work that goes into taking care of families and paying the bills and having careers and having jobs and living life and lifting each other up.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reclaiming My Power (A very special episode of the Pinterest Poser Challenge)

I have a confession to make....even though I am a proud feminist and lifelong believer and supporter in the fact that women can do anything men can do, I have some pretty outdated and unfeminist-like habits.  It seems that Tim and I have fallen into some pretty gender traditional stereotypes at home and I don't know how it happened. Maybe it's because I have been a stay-at-home mother for over a decade and proudly taken care of our home and our kids and made it easier for my husband to go for the jobs and stay late at work and all that. And I've been happy.  But somewhere along the way, I came to believe that some jobs around the house were more for Tim, more manly. Jobs like grilling or using power tools and saws. How did this happen?  Well, in the last couple of weeks I have reclaimed some of my power and I'm loving it. 
Not the most flattering selfie, but I don't even care because I'm grilling my own steak. I'm 41 and this is the first time I've ever grilled. Whaaaat? But yeah, I'm the griller in the house now. Boosh!

Since Tim works a lot and coaches all of our kids' everything, he's gone a lot and when I want to make a craft or have a steak I can't wait for him to come home and do it.  Or when a tree comes down in the backyard after a rather windy night, someone needs to take care of it, me. 

This week's Pinterest Poser Challenge* is a very special episode sort of like the funny sitcom that deals with a certain serious topic. This week is about challenging gender stereotypes while crafting and cooking and generally taking care of business. 

*In an attempt at not being a Pinterest Poser,** every week-ish I detail a new project/idea/recipe inspired by Pinterest.
**My definition of a Pinterest Poser is someone who is all pins and no substance.

Two weeks ago, I used my first power tool and well, there's no turning back now.

I wanted to make a sign out of an old piece of wood for the back porch, but the piece of wood was way to long. So I found the power saw and after a few tries figured it out and cut the piece of wood. Honestly, I was sort of afraid at first. But then loved it. I felt powerful.

This project was inspired by a million I've seen on Pinterest and wanted to copy/make.
I had already spray painted the wood with a couple coats of black paint. And taped stencil letters for the quote I wanted and painted over them with white paint.


After I cut the wood, I spray painted the end and set it on my back porch.  The quote is from my favorite, but quite unpopular, movie from the 1980s "The Allnighter."  I 've mentioned the movie quote before because I love it so much. The movie starred Susanna Hoffs (I think that was the only movie that starred Susanna Hoffs) and in it a Cali surfer dude gives the stellar advice that I carried with me into high school and adulthood--"You be you." Love it.



Inspired by grilling and sawing, I wasn't done feeling the power. I decided to use an intimidating tool for a project I've wanted to do for over 15 years. I inherited a great table when I got my first house in the winter of 2000. It is my ex-step-mother's parents' table...it's got history and I love that. But I never loved the black paint my dad's former wife used on the table. Back in 1990 she had the wood painted black and the chairs painted black and I hated it. But I loved the table, it had good bones, good history. For the past 15 years, we've added to that history. When we aren't eating on our front porch door table, we have every family meal on this table. It's a good table. 

With my new found power I decided the wait to take off the paint was over. I used some sort of stripping, heat-inducing, potential fire starting tool that melted the paint as I scraped it off. It was dangerous and awesome. 


Once again, I felt powerful. I get why Tim Allen made all those grunting sounds in his stand-up routine and on his sitcom. I get it now!

Layers of thick black paint on this table. I hate it. I love all the wood furniture on Pinterest and all the refinishing, recovering and reviving tutorials.
The table is almost done and I couldn't be happier.
The natural wood is beautiful and I can't wait to eat dinner on our new old table.

Last week in the middle of me reclaiming my power and fighting gender stereotypes that I created in my own home, a tree blew over in my backyard. It felt like the universe was testing me. Like she was saying "okay lady, let's see if you are a poser."  

I'm not afraid to tell you I cried a little when I looked outside and saw the tree had fallen. It's okay for strong women, and men, to cry. It is. After a few tears and a few calls to the power company, I got to work. The tree trimmers came and took care of the branches on the power lines and left the mess of limbs and branches and stumps for me to clean up.

So, I got out a rusty saw I found in the garage and started sawing.


I got this. It's going to take a while and I will need to borrow a chainsaw (and um, I can't wait), but I got this.



I feel heady with power and like there ain't no stopping me, ain't no mountain high enough, I am woman hear me roar, I've got the power! Ahhhh! And I can't stop talking in song lyrics.  But for real, I feel strong and capable and less afraid and it's a good feeling. 

So here's the what, don't wait, go grab a tool and strip that table, saw that board and go grill and do and make and create and feel your power.

Have you made anything inspired by Pinterest lately? Have a favorite power tool? Let me know in the comments or over on my Facebook page.



Here are some of the Pinterest projects I've done/made/attempted:

Painting Sticks- click here
Homemade Pesto- click here
DIY Map Craft- click here
Homemade Chalk Paint- click here
A Flower Crown- click here
The Rainbow Challenge- click here
DIY Trundle Bed- Click here
DIY Artemis Costume- click here
Taking Pictures of Your Kids- click here
Gluten Free Pretzels- click here
Cinnamon Sugar Doughballs- click here
Painted Lockers- click here
Melted Beads- DIY Suncatcher- click here
Tissue Paper Pom Pom Garland-- click here
A Delightfully Simple Birthday Party--click here
Make An Awesome Omelet--click here
Outdoor Lights Inspired by the show Parenthood- click here
Herb Garden with Chalkboard Pots- click here
Backyard Graffiti Art with kids- click here
Happiness Notecards- click here
Gluten Free Rainbow Cake- click here
Fruit Roll-Up Fortune Cookies- click here
Make Your Own Magnets- click here
DIY Painted Clay Necklace- click here
Dixie Cup Lights- click here
DIY Ornaments-click here
Gluten Free Clay- click here
Make Your Own Stamps- click here
Birthday Shirt- click here
Gluten Free Pop Tarts- click here
Front Porch Kid Art Display- click here
Door turned into Table- click here
Summer Wish List Chalkboard-click here
Peanut Butter Nutella Cookie Sandwiches-click here
Painted Mason Jar Vases-click here
Cinco de Mayo Paper Flowers- click here
Earth Day Cupcakes- Click here
Nail Art-click here
Homemade Photo Booth Fun- click here
Fake Bangs- click here
DIY Subway Art- click here
Furniture Painting and Bench/Chest Makeover- click here
Thanksgiving-y Project/Gratitude/Holiday Countdown- click here
The Smoothie-click here
The Free Printable Turned Artwork in a Boring Hallway- click here
The chalk board-click here
Seven Layer Dip in Individual Cups (my favorite so far!)-click here
The pumpkin address-click here
The Kitchen Dancing Sign--click here



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Zoo With My Fancy New Camera

So I got this fancy new camera for my 41st birthday in June.  A gift from my husband who bought it because he knows I love to take pictures and be creative and learn new things. And I have been loving taking my camera everywhere this summer. I still need to learn to use some of the fancier features and I'm hoping to devote more time to that part when the kids go back to school in a couple weeks.  

Here are some shots from a trip to the zoo a little while ago. 

 

Maybe one day I'll publish a photo book of tween/teen shots. This is just the beginning, I have about 15 more years of these oh-so-thrilled-with-mom looks to go. lol.


I might change the name of my blog to this. 

I have a real phobia of frogs. I hate them, I am scared of them and can't even look at them....so this exhibit is truly my nightmare.

I waited outside during the frog experience and the kids told me all kinds of details about the size and shape and color and sounds of all the frogs. Ahhhhh. 

Wade loves maps and figuring out where are going next. And I love that he let his sister paint his nails and actually asked her to paint them University of Michigan colors. He's such a cool kid. 


The animals at the zoo were active and amazing. 
I love watching the kids watch and see what the older ones want to take pictures of on their phones. 

It was one of those days where all the animals were out and playful and so fun to watch.


It was a beautiful day. We had fun, made memories and learned about gorillas...it doesn't get much better than that.

Check out some other pictures I've taken 
with my Fancy New Camera:
Belle Isle With My Fancy New Camera








Monday, August 24, 2015

Second Opinions, Second Chances, Second Thoughts

A Second Opinion, An update on my son:

We walked into the doctor's office full of fear.  The sign on the door said "hematology and oncology."  The atmosphere was serious, tense, quiet.

"It's your body, if you have questions, please ask, don't be afraid," I told Peyton hoping to empower him and take a little of the fear away.

We were waiting to see the specialist to go over the results of the 20 vials of blood that were taken to rule out everything from Lyme disease to Leukemia to a protein deficiency.  After a bad concussion in May and multiple visits to a neurologist and MRIs and tests, we found ourselves waiting in an office with "hematology and oncology" on the door.

The doctor went over test results, talked with the neurologist on the phone while we were in the room, examined Peyton and then told us his thoughts.  

"He's good," he announced.  "I mean we have to watch him and check his protein levels every three months, but if it's low we'll treat him with medicine. He's healthy."

Tim and I let out a sigh of relief simultaneously. It felt like we hadn't exhaled in two weeks. Then the doctor asked if we had any questions.  Peyton spoke up just like I had encouraged, well sort of.

"Does that mean I can play football?," he asked.

"I don't see why not," the doctor said.  "You are young and healthy and need to live your life."

Peyton sat up straighter and beamed with happiness. I sucked in my breath again and felt like I was going to pass out.

As we left the doctor's office, we told Peyton that we would have to talk and figure things out.  What should have been a joyous occasion (leaving a doctor's office with a "your son is healthy" and feeling grateful about him not having cancer and being alive and ahhhh!) wasn't. I was torn. I was worried. I was scared of my healthy son playing football.

After meeting with the neurologist two weeks earlier and finding out about a potential blood clotting disorder, upon his suggestion we had ruled out football for this year.  But now, doctors were saying it was okay. We called the neurologist who cleared him for play since the test results came back much better than he had originally feared.

The decision was on Tim and me.  

An update on Tim and me:

Tim wanted him to play right away after he heard he was cleared. I did not. 

What I really want is it to be 1978 and nobody knows anything about concussions and all the moms and dads are smoking in the stands of their kids' football games telling them to "hit harder."  Because you better believe I'd be there with my feathered hair and my pack of Marlboro's cheering on my kid louder than the other moms.

I want to be a good mom and a good wife and a good person. I want to make all the right decisions. I want everything to be okay always and forever.

But things aren't okay when you and your spouse/best friend/love of your life and you don't agree on something that involves parenting.  It sucks.  

My knee-jerk/child-of-divorce reaction is always "oh shit Tim this is how it all begins...people fight about __________ and then they start living separate lives and then they get divorced and lives are ruined forever."  Insert "money"  or "working too much" or "how they don't go on enough dates" or "their kid playing football" into the blank space--I am always afraid of divorce no matter how strong our marriage is and has been and hopefully always will be. 

I believe that we (our marriage/our family) will eventually be stronger because of my fear and the fact that we are dealing with the tough stuff and having all the conversations (and I mean all of them because I am a talker about all things) and because Tim is an amazing guy who listens and talks and cares. But it sucks when you don't totally agree on a parenting decision and this is new territory for us.

A Second Chance, An update on our decision:

Peyton is playing football.




Second Thoughts, An update about how our decision feels:

Peyton is happy and healthy and enjoying football practices.

Tim and I are happy that he is happy and healthy and enjoying football.

Tim and I are still having all the talks and working through all of the stuff (and madly in love and staying married forever because, duh).

I am preparing myself for the season--sitting in the stands, watching my boys, cheering for them, not worrying myself into a panic attack, trusting doctors and specialists.  And I am preparing myself for people that think I'm messing up.

Usually I am a pretty confident person, some might say bad ass, maybe.  I know who I am. I can take criticism. You don't like that I dance online, I get it. You don't like that I am a Democrat, I get it. No big deal. Being different is good. If we all agreed about everything the world would be boring. I'm not everyone's cup of tea. I mean I wish more people were Democrats and that everyone liked me all the time, but I get it. 

BUT I feel particularly vulnerable about football and my kid and my marriage and my/our choices.  Because I'm still uncertain and scared and unsure.  Because I don't want to hear your horror story or why you don't let your kid play football. Because if you don't agree with me I hope you lift me and my family up in prayer instead of judgement. Because even if you don't agree with me, I would so appreciate any love or support or high-fives or nods of encouragement right now. Because I know we can't be the only parents that have made hard decisions or disagreed or muddled our way through or were unsure but full of love, I mean we can't be the only ones.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Craftapalooza-Painting Sticks & Making Necklaces (A Pinterest Poser Challenge)


With only a couple weeks of summer vacation left and a bunch of kids to entertain, I am completely out of ideas and out of money.  Thank god for Pinterest. I found some good, cheap projects to keep us all entertained.

This week's Pinterest Poser* Challenge is to keep the kids busy, entertained and engaged and have a little fun and not spend a million dollars.

*In an attempt at not being a Pinterest Poser,** every week-ish I detail a new project/idea/recipe inspired by Pinterest.
**My definition of a Pinterest Poser is someone who is all pins and no substance.

Last week we had family visiting and a few friends over, it was a full house. So after identifying some awesome projects on Pinterest,  I headed to Michael's to pick up some art supplies--paint, paint brushes, ribbon and chalk pens. I sent two of the older boys in the house to the hardware store down the street to get a bag of washers.  I gathered a bunch of sticks and rocks. I covered the front porch table with plain brown paper and set up a real craftapalooza station.  

At first, the crafting was a small quiet gathering of a few well-behaved boys. But the festival of craftiness soon gave way to more kids painting with abandon and the making of necklaces, the freedom of expression, decorating rocks, painting sticks and laughter and silliness and spilled paint and glitter everywhere and all things good that can come from a craftapalooza.



JT painted his stick and pretended it was a Harry Potter wand.  
He ran around yelling "Expelliarmus!" 

Painting sticks isn't a new idea. I have painted stuff, all kinds of stuff, forever--rocks, sticks, lampshades, pots, walls, boxes.  Because painting stuff feels good.  I got re-inspired to paint sticks after seeing this pin from one of my new favorite craft bloggers- ArtBarBlog.  I first discovered this blogger after reading this post on Design Mom's Living With Kids series, it's an awesome home and a really great interview about raising kids.   I know follow ArtBarBlog on Pinterest and Instagram and am so inspired.

Back to painting sticks. All you need is paint, brushes and sticks.  

"There is no wrong way to paint a stick," I told the kids.  "You don't like the way it looks paint over it."


I love painting sticks. It has become my new therapy, like other people's grown up coloring books.

The kids like it too.

Painted sticks are now my centerpiece for my front porch table.

Check out some of our decorated rocks--we used paint and a chalk pen ($3 at Michael's). 


The washer necklace idea came from this pin. The washers cost $3.50 for 50. The ribbon cost $4. You just weave the ribbon through the washers and then tie the ribbon for a pretty awesome necklace. Be careful not to cut your ribbon too short. That happened to us, but we just tied extra ribbon on the back.
I couldn't figure out exactly how to get started, but my niece Charlotte caught on quickly and made necklaces for everyone.


I think it looks pretty rad. I wore my necklace to a party last weekend and got a ton of compliments.

After everyone left for the day, the front porch looked like the house in the old movie "Sixteen Candles" after the big party.  Evidence of the crafting fun strewn about the table, glue bottles without tops, a million paint brushes soaking in dirty water, bits of glitter glistening in the setting sun.  



I sat back and exhaled a sigh full of my-job-here-is-done-I-am-no-Pinterest-Poser satisfaction.  Art was made. Crafts were created. Fun was had. Not a lot of money was spent. Boosh!


I leave paint and brushes on the table outside at all times now in case anyone wants to paint a stick.
It's like everyday can be a
craftapalooza day!

Have you made anything inspired by Pinterest lately? Let me know in the comments or over on my Facebook page.



Here are some of the Pinterest projects I've done/made/attempted:

Homemade Pesto- click here
DIY Map Craft- click here
Homemade Chalk Paint- click here
A Flower Crown- click here
The Rainbow Challenge- click here
DIY Trundle Bed- Click here
DIY Artemis Costume- click here
Taking Pictures of Your Kids- click here
Gluten Free Pretzels- click here
Cinnamon Sugar Doughballs- click here
Painted Lockers- click here
Melted Beads- DIY Suncatcher- click here
Tissue Paper Pom Pom Garland-- click here
A Delightfully Simple Birthday Party--click here
Make An Awesome Omelet--click here
Outdoor Lights Inspired by the show Parenthood- click here
Herb Garden with Chalkboard Pots- click here
Backyard Graffiti Art with kids- click here
Happiness Notecards- click here
Gluten Free Rainbow Cake- click here
Fruit Roll-Up Fortune Cookies- click here
Make Your Own Magnets- click here
DIY Painted Clay Necklace- click here
Dixie Cup Lights- click here
DIY Ornaments-click here
Gluten Free Clay- click here
Make Your Own Stamps- click here
Birthday Shirt- click here
Gluten Free Pop Tarts- click here
Front Porch Kid Art Display- click here
Door turned into Table- click here
Summer Wish List Chalkboard-click here
Peanut Butter Nutella Cookie Sandwiches-click here
Painted Mason Jar Vases-click here
Cinco de Mayo Paper Flowers- click here
Earth Day Cupcakes- Click here
Nail Art-click here
Homemade Photo Booth Fun- click here
Fake Bangs- click here
DIY Subway Art- click here
Furniture Painting and Bench/Chest Makeover- click here
Thanksgiving-y Project/Gratitude/Holiday Countdown- click here
The Smoothie-click here
The Free Printable Turned Artwork in a Boring Hallway- click here
The chalk board-click here
Seven Layer Dip in Individual Cups (my favorite so far!)-click here
The pumpkin address-click here
The Kitchen Dancing Sign--click here