Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Call Me Maybe: Reasons I Love Staying Home and Why I Need to Go Back To Work

There are a few reasons I am concerned.  First, I have now watched the Harvard Baseball team sing Call Me Maybe on YouTube at least thirty times.  After watching the video, I have spent endless hours thinking about how I could recreate the video with my own family in our minivan.  I have looked through hundreds of random summer 2012 photo albums on Facebook, reviewed Pinterest items, and followed the Sandusky case way too closely.  I have taken yoga, gone for walks, played with my kids, and cleaned my house. 
Now, after 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days at home, it is clear to me that soon it will be time to go back to work. 
There are a lot of things I find amazing about staying home.  I love spending time with my kids without being stressed and having the freedom to do whatever I want each day. But I am also amazed at how long the days seem.  When you are working, the days fly by.  It feels as if you drop your kids off at school or childcare and then suddenly it is 5:30 and you are late to pick them up.  From the moment your morning starts, it is a never-ending race.  Between conference calls, emails, and permission slips, the day doesn’t seem to have enough hours in it.  When I was working there were many times I didn’t look up until 3pm and realize all I had eaten that day was a large coffee and a piece of gum.
The experience of being home is exactly the opposite.  To begin, I have never forgotten to eat. By the time 11am comes around I have already had 10 bowls of goldfish, six chicken nuggets, a frozen waffle and one rainbow Popsicle.  Many days I look at the clock and say, “This is impossible!  There is NO way it is only 11am!”  The reason it is impossible is because I have already done the following things:  mopped the floor, packed lunches, played with Barbie’s, pretended to finger paint, made a snowman out of play dough, watched my daughter’s birth video, cleaned out the linen closet, bought hair replacement shampoo for my husband, and ordered two new dresses on  How is it possible that I still have 9 hours to go?
As much as I have loved my time with them, I realize that when they start school in September, I will need something more. This is something that I have come to realize after much thought, prayer, and cocktails.  When I first quit my work in the medical field, I wasn’t sure if I would want to go back.  But now, after some time off and a break from the sound of a Blackberry, I know that eventually I will want to work again.  The only issue right now is that I have no idea what I want to do.
Well, that isn’t exactly true. I know what I want to do, but I just haven’t found it yet.  It’s really pretty simple, and I have great hope that it will be here soon.  I want a job that fits the following criteria below:
1.     I want to work part-time and make lots of money.
2.     I want a job that requires me to stay in hotel a few times a year.  Alone…in a place that doesn’t have any Disney Characters.  I want to order room service, watch The Notebook, and sleep in the middle of the  
3.     I want a job that doesn’t force me to miss anything important that involves my kids…but keeps me busy enough that I have an excuse to miss PTA meetings.
4.     I want to work with smart people that encourage me, challenge me, and make me laugh…and are older than seven years old. (at least chronologically)
5.     I want there to be enough face-to-face meetings that I have to wash my hair at least three times a week…and enough time working from home that the other days it can be in a dirty bun.
6.     I want great benefits that allow me to take my kid to the doctor without saying, “Are you sure it really hurts?  Our deductible is pretty high…”
7.     I want to have enough work that I have great childcare, but not so much that I miss bath or bedtime.
8.     I want a maid that comes weekly and somehow makes the never-ending pile of laundry disappear. 
9.     I want to make enough money that when I fly to Europe, first class is an option.  These days being able to lie down is very important.
10.  When a high school friend calls and says, “I miss you! Let’s meet in Chicago, Paris, or Daytona!”, I want the flexibility to jump on a plane the next week…even if she chooses Daytona.   
11.  I want to develop a few friendships that endure outside of the office…that means a few friends that I wouldn’t hide from in Target…on a Tuesday…at 10am.
12.  I want enough time to help out in my kid’s classrooms but not so much that become overly proficient with glue sticks or paper mache. 
13.   I want a job that makes my marriage stronger and doesn’t encourage us to go back to our favorite game called “keeping score.” (Not that anyone is counting but I am winning.)   
14.  I want to have two cars:  a minivan and a black stick shift BMW.
15.  I want a boss that understands that being a mother is way more important than any job… and a family that understands that having a job is very important to their mother.
Today I looked on and didn’t see anything quite yet.  I'm not worried...I will look again tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Piggyback Therapy: It's Not About the Sauce

My husband and I have a great marriage.  We laugh, we fight, and instead of make up sex, we give each other high fives.  In general, we both truly enjoy each other’s company…and we both also love being apart.  We love getting in bed together at night, and we treasure sleeping in separate beds when we go on vacation.  Overall, we are doing pretty well…but there is always room for improvement…or a few sessions of marriage therapy.

Unfortunately, these days we don’t have much time to spend on counseling. Between work, the kids and our raging social life (which consists of bouncy house birthday parties and baseball games), we just haven’t had the time.  The irony is that even though we have no time for therapy, we somehow still manage to find plenty of time to have arguments…about the same thing…over and over and over again.
So what’s a couple to do when they don’t have the time, money or inclination to go to therapy? 
The solution is Piggyback Therapy...
Piggyback therapy is a new concept that my husband and I experienced a few weeks ago.  We were in the midst of one of our classic arguments…the details aren’t important but the main point is that he thought I was acting like a crazy Bitch and I was convinced he was missing something in his brain, like a whole section.  Overall, this tends to be the recurring theme in our marriage.
We had planned on going out to dinner alone, but knowing that the experience would be a nightmare, we asked our friends to join.  The reason we invited this particular couple is that they are great friends and we love being with them...but in the end, the best part about them was that they were currently in marriage therapy. 
It turns out that having friends with great insurance (low deductible + generous mental health coverage), flexible jobs, and some deep unresolved issues is a wonderful benefit. The idea is that you go to dinner with them, have lots of cocktails, and eventually spill all the details of your marital problems.  As everyone gets drunk, they begin to analyze your relationship with brutal honesty.  Based on what they have learned in their own extensive relationship therapy, they then try to figure what the hell is wrong with yours. 
That night, we explained our argument to our friends. This particular fight had to do with my husband messing up my kitchen while making his famous “sauce.”  Every time he makes his “sauce” we get into a huge fight.  The fact that he uses every plate, pan, and utensil in our kitchen while simultaneously spraying red sauce on every appliance, wall and electrical outlet is just the beginning.  While he cooks, he BLARES Frank Sinatra, sweats profusely, and either under cooks or over cooks the meatballs (it can go either way.)  In my world of low grade OCD and neurotic cleaning habits, the sauce is my worst nightmare. 
As my friends listened to our problems, I could tell they were feeling very confident about their counseling skills.  Although they had only been to four sessions, which had barely scratched the surface of their deep-rooted problems, they had suddenly become experts on marriage and conflict resolution.  The truth is…they were good.  If it weren’t for the fact that we were in a bar with loud music, basketball games, and a transgender sitting behind me, I would have thought we were in a real therapy session.  The chairs were comfortable, my husband and I weren’t speaking, and there were tissues nearby.  It reminded me of all the good things about therapy minus the $150 and one-hour limit.   Here is a small excerpt from the night:
Friend/Therapist: So every time he makes this sauce you get mad?
Me: Yes...I want to kill him.
Friend/Therapist: I hear you are angry with him…but how do you FEEL when he makes the sauce?
Me:  I feel anxious and overwhelmed…and like I want to kill him.  I hate the mess he makes and how he blares Frank Sinatra so loud.
Husband: (voice rising in disbelief) WHO in the world doesn’t like Frank Sinatra?
Friend/Therapist:  (to Sinatra loving husband) It is not your time to share yet.  Kelsey, is there a time in your childhood when you felt anxious?
Kelsey:  (mentally blaming her parents for all her current problems) Yes…the entire time. 
Friend/Therapist:  So when he makes the sauce you feel anxious and overwhelmed, which then reminds you of how you felt as a child?
Kelsey:  Yes
Friend/Therapist: Kelsey, I think I have your answer.  “It’s not about the sauce.”
He was right!  It wasn’t about the sauce…it was about so much more!  Our friend was a genius and I was beginning to feel relieved.  We were making progress and I knew the solution was right around the corner.
Kelsey (extremely hopeful):  So what do we do about it?
Friend/Therapist:  I have no idea.  We haven’t gotten to that part yet…
I took a sip of my drink, sighed, and realized that piggyback therapy can only take you so far.   We had come to the end of the road and they had nothing else to give.  We had bared our souls, told all our secrets, and had way too much to drink.  Even though we left with no idea what to do next, I still believe our first session went very well. 
In the meantime, we decided it would be best to avoid the sauce and Sinatra...So far it has been a few days of wedded bliss…

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey: Key Takeaways about Soft Porn Novels

I have always been into books.  I love them for so many reasons.

I have not always been into porn.  I dislike it for a few simple reasons.

Here is my problem with porn.  I want more than the Internet videos or pricey On Demand rentals provide.  I need to understand how and why the semi-hot, yet always greasy handyman ends up with the lonely housewife.  I want to know what makes them strip down and jump in the shower without caring about being a little overweight or not having time to self tan.   And most importantly, I want to understand how all this happened ten minutes after he walked in to help her fix her washer and dryer. I need more back story, more character development, and less sexual positions.  

When I heard about Fifty Shades of Grey, I had high hopes. Maybe this novel would somehow combine my love of reading with a new appreciation for soft porn and bondage fantasies.
After hearing all the buzz about Fifty Shades of Grey, I wanted to find out for myself what everyone was getting so worked up about.  If women all across America were reading this in the carpool lane, I didn’t want to be left out.  I may not volunteer to be a room parent but I’ll be damned if everyone is talking about their new hot sex life and I have nothing to share. 
Most importantly, after ten years of martial bliss, I thought reading this book wouldn’t hurt.  If it could spice up our already out of this world sex life (by out of this world I mean enjoyable, predictable, and very quick), then I was all for it.
So I read the book.  I had a love/hate relationship with the entire experience.  Her writing is redundant, annoying and elementary.  The sex scenes all begin to meld into one long, strange, slightly uncomfortable scene.  How many times can a person kiss you passionately, grab your ponytail, and say things like "I think you need to be spanked" or "Oh, you want a shower?  You give me no choice but to join you!" before you start to get annoyed? I hate when my kids pull my hair, so I assume I would hate it if some rich, controlling man did it also.  In terms of showering, this is something I usually like to do by myself...who really wants to share the hot water?  And lastly, she always seemed to be wearing the same outfits...for some reason the fact that she kept rotating the same three dresses really got on my nerves. 

But did that stop me from reading it?  Not even close...

No I, like many others, became obsessed.  I would read when I woke up, when the kids were watching a show, while cooking dinner and before I went to bed.  I became so fascinated by the whole thing that there were many times I didn't hear my kids yell for me or ask me for a snack.  I became a mother removed from her own suburban life and it made me uncomfortable.  

Maybe it was because the lead woman is a mousy, inexperienced girl who somehow finds herself in this very illicit situation.  Maybe I saw myself in her...both in terms of the mousiness (sp?) and the inexperience.  Who knows?  All I know is that I kept reading, kept trying to understand, and eventually ended the first book feeling the same way I did in the beginning...slightly empty and confused. 

But I did learn some important things.

In honor of my Thursday Thoughts for this week, these are the things I have learned from Fifty Shades of Grey.
1.     If my husband ever spanked or hit me, once or eighteen times, with or without a contract, I would leave him that day… and take him for everything he owns. 
2.     I have been searching for my inner goddess that does scissor kicks and cartwheels whenever she gets excited…unfortunately, I can’t find her anywhere.
3.     The whole dominatrix lifestyle is nothing new.  Letting someone have kinky sex with you and then accepting money, new cars, or gifts is called prostitution…. or being with Tiger Woods…or marrying up.  However you want to look at it...
4.     Okay, I know what I said in number one…but if my husband had a helicopter that flew us to dinner a few times a month, I may tolerate a little smack on the bottom every now and then.
5.     If a man showed me a “Red Room of Pain” on our second date, I would probably consider that a red flag.  Maybe I need to loosen up a bit…
6.     I firmly believe that anyone who wants to be hit in their private parts with a leather whip has some degree of mental problems.
7.     The only way I would say, “Yes sir” to a man is if he was my elder or has some very high-ranking job in the military. 
8.     I don’t see anything wrong with the missionary position.  It has been working for married couples for hundreds of years. 
9.     It is ironic to me that the lead character in the book is named Christian.
10.  If my parents had named me Anastasia Steele, I think I would have had a better chance of being wild in bed.
11.  Please do not make this book into a movie.  Everyone has their own Christian Grey…and most do not look like Zac Efron.  Do not ruin our dreams just to make money.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Things I Learned on Vacation

1.     A vacation with two kids for 14 days is very similar to being home for 14 days…the only difference is that you cook, clean, and break up fights in a different house…and the kids eat way more junk food…and sleep a lot less…Awesome.
2.     In Florida you can drive your car onto the beach.  It is so wrong…and so right…in so many ways.
3.     In the south, mothers and daughters still wear matching outfits.  As a matter of fact during Easter, it is encouraged.  My only concern is that if you are 35 and your daughter is 3, there is a good chance you don’t look good in the same thing.
4.     Watching my kids run into their dad’s arms at the airport almost made up for the fact that when we arrived home there was no milk or food in our refrigerator.
5.     In the South “He has risen” means something about Jesus Christ, in LA it means something about Ryan Seacrest.
6.     Going out to a bar and spending the night dancing with your girlfriends from high school makes you smile. Realizing you are now the older women in the bar who you used to feel sorry for makes you cry.
7.     I will never understand why people make their little boys wear gingham jumpers with monograms or sailboats on them. 
8.     Going on vacation without your husband is never a good idea.  When we got home he kept saying, “Are they always this loud?”
9.     When I got home from our trip, I opened up the dishwasher and found the entire thing empty, except for two wine glasses and four small shot glasses.  Suspicious to say the least…
10.  When your husband says he cleaned the house while you were gone, make sure you understand exactly what that means: (please refer to below conversation)
Husband:  “Honey, you will be so happy.  I cleaned the whole house!” 
Me:  “Thank you so much!  That means a lot to me.  Did you by chance change our sheets?” 
Husband: “No…that is the one thing I didn’t do.  Sorry”
Me:  “No worries, I was just asking.  Thanks for cleaning up.  Did you get a chance to mop the kitchen?  It was so dirty when we left.”
Husband:  “Oh gosh, I forgot to mop.”
Me:  “Did you vacuum?”
Husband:  “Didn’t have a chance to do that either.”
Me:  “Any chance you dusted or swept?”
Husband: “Nope…”
Me: “Babe, what did you do?
Husband: “I cleaned the bathroom…and let me tell you, that was a nightmare!  It took me almost two hours.  It was so dirty.  I don’t know how you do that every month.”
Me:  “I do it every four days.”
Husband: “Wow, that doesn’t sound like fun.  Have a great trip!”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Spring Break in Florida

Along with my usual long, yet hopefully entertaining blog posts, I am going to start a weekly list of things I know to be true. Consider them deep thoughts by Kelsey…or random comments from a girl you don’t know…

Things I Know about Going Home to Florida for Spring Break:

1. Tan fat is better than white fat…I have used over 15 self tanning towelettes in the past 2 days and things are looking up.

2. No matter how old you are, when you head to Florida for spring break, something in you wants to hit Daytona Beach, ride a motorcycle, and French kiss someone you don’t know. Unfortunately, at this point in life, none of the above are very good ideas.

3. Traveling with two kids for 5 hours on a plane can quickly ruin the dream that spring beak could ever be as fun as it was in 1995.

4. The idea of spending a week at the beach feeling young and carefree while getting a tan is replaced by the reality that you are old, tired, and filled with pre-cancerous basal cell melanomas all over your skin.

5. Taking your kids home to spend time with your family is amazing. Finding out three days before the trip that your son has pneumonia and daughter has a bad ear infection…not so amazing.

6. Leaving your husband behind because he has to work is really hard. Knowing that he has never been happier about being left behind is even harder.

7. Choosing outfits that show you are a better version of yourself than when you were in high school can be exciting…realizing it’s no use because most of your clothes are still from high school can be upsetting.

8. Getting off the plane and stepping outside into the Florida heat reminds me I am home. Looking at what it does to my hair reminds me of why I moved away.

9. Disney is not the happiest place on Earth. Not. At. All.

10. Needing to stay over and share a bed with a best friend because you have had too much to drink reminds you of being a teenager. Having her kids climb in bed with you at 6 a.m. reminds you that you that those days are long gone.

11. Being with your friends from childhood is the best part about going home. When you look around at your friends, you are continually amazed that even though everyone’s parents were crazy, almost all of you turned out okay…It gives you hope for your own children.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Purgatory in the Land of Motherhood

I don’t fit in anywhere…

It’s reminding me of middle school during lunch…

In the past few months, I have found myself is some strange type of motherhood purgatory. I am currently stuck in the ‘in between’ world of stay at home moms and working mothers…and I don’t seem to belong to either.

Ever since quitting my job to pursue my ‘real passion’, I feel a lot of gratitude and happiness. But in between those moments, there are some days when I feel a bit lost. Here is what I am struggling with…

A mom from my son’s class recently asked me if I wanted to help her wash lettuce from the school Garden for a couple of hours. I just stared at her like she was crazy. Why are we washing the lettuce? Shouldn’t that be something the kids learn to do? If we are teaching them to be farmers in a 4x4 clearly non-organic garden, don’t they need to know how to harvest and clean their own crops? I knew at that moment I would never fit in with the overzealous, always smiling but a little stressed out, stay at home moms. Earlier last month, I had showed up at the end of my daughter’s preschool Valentine’s Day party and one of the mothers said, “Oh, I can’t believe you didn’t help with the party. I thought since you were staying home you would be getting more involved?” Nope, no Valentines day party set up and no cleaning the semi-organic lettuce.

When I see the stay at home moms in the carpool lane, dressed in Lulu lemon sweats driving Honda Odysseys or Toyota Sienna’s (I have the Sienna but my work out clothes are from Old Navy), they look so serious. Each time I ask them how they are doing, they always say, in a very peppy, yet exhausted voice, “A bit crazy…as usual! But aren’t we all!” No, I’m not…should I be? Would it be wrong to tell them while they were hanging up red Valentine’s Day hearts and passing out tootsie rolls, I was at home reading my Kindle and taking a nap?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for the parents that are always helping out…our kids and teachers need all the support they can get. Honestly, they are better people than me. But I have now realized that in one seemingly innocent agreement to help chaperone a trip to the museum, you can quickly be convinced/pressured to be present and involved in all room parties, fundraisers and fall festivals. I have a great fear of being swallowed up by my son’s elementary school, so for now, I am going to take it easy.

After my brief time as a stay at home, I am convinced that we have a nationwide problem of women who are overcommitted. Didn’t most of us choose to stay home because we wanted more time and freedom to do what we wanted? I know myself well, and because the fact that being responsible for bringing snacks to my son’s little league team after their game makes me nervous, I am very clear that I must choose my involvement carefully.

Unfortunately, I have nothing in common with the working mom’s anymore either. When I see my old working mom friends, they always seemed to be stressed out, walking while on conference calls, or typing away on their computers at Starbucks. When I ask them if they can do something, the answer is always no. “I would love to but my boss has me working on this project and I will probably KILL him before it is over.” I remember those days well. They tend to be well dressed, smelling good, and overall put together. Yet beneath their ironed shirts and stiletto heels, it looks like their heads might explode. They come running in late or sneaking out early to school presentations and I feel their pain. When you are working full time and have small kids, a lot of days you feel like you are barely hanging on. Personally, I still have PTSD from my last three months at my job…every time I hear a blackberry ring, my stomach tightens up and I think I might get sick. When these moms see me, they always ask me how my new life is going. I tell them, “So far so good” and they look amused. They smile and say things like, “Really? That’s great! It is so good that you get to be with them. I love my kids but I could NEVER stay home! They would drive me crazy!” I tell them they do drive me crazy but because I am with them so much, I no longer have the need to constantly talk or engage with them. It’s wonderful…as a matter of fact I have gone days without saying much to my two little ones…you won’t believe the things they have painted and built while I left them alone.

Right now, I don’t work outside the home and I haven’t gotten into volunteering yet. (I am VERY clear it is a great privelage to even have this choice and MOST women in this world do not have this luxury.) But where does that leave me as a mom? Does that mean I am super lazy or super smart? The truth is after I drop my kids off at school (my daughter only goes three days for three hours so don’t get too jealous), I really don’t know what to do next. Yes, there is all the typical stuff that I can always do. The laundry, the cable people, the cell phone bill, the drain won’t drain, the Internet search for a new career, Facebook research, mopping the floor, and of course the groceries. But for some reason, it seems to be that the exact moment I come home is the same time that the morning sun shines into my house in a special way. At that moment, two things are very obvious. First, every dirty window, nasty floor and piled up dust ball is immediately glistening in the morning light. Second, as I pass a mirror, that same sunlight also magically highlights every dark, stray hair on my face. Therefore, whatever plans I originally had are now immediately replaced with a tweezing and cleaning marathon. I have tweezers in one hand and a swifter in the other and the rest is history. Before you know it, my free time is up and it is time to go get the animals from school.

I didn’t think it was going to be like this. In my mind, I was to spend my time home writing great articles, insightful blogs, and possibly award winning screenplays. In terms of my kids, they were going to grow and improve in every area. I had great plans to enroll them in educational summer camps, piano lessons, and Japanese immersion classes. We were going to laugh together, tell stories about our days, and become the happiest family on earth. When I wasn’t writing, I was going to research the best place to buy kids shoes that support their arches, go on nature hikes around our 6x12 backyard, and make homemade everything. I had so much to do in so little time and I needed to get moving.

But then I just got tired.

I have found myself taking naps and reading a lot. My kids are wearing the same Target shoes from before and I am sure they don’t support their arches. When I sit down to write, nothing comes in my head except the word “relax.” As I read mom blogs with titles like “People I Want to Punch in the Throat” and “Mommy Needs a Drink”, I realize I am not the only one that needs to chill out. What has happened to all of us? Why are we are flying around our lives in a state of low-grade hysteria? How did we get here and how the hell do we make it stop? I know that for the first time in history, many women (not all, most don’t have a choice) have the opportunity to work, stay home, do both or do neither, and yet we are more stressed out, depressed and unfulfilled than ever before? What if we all took a collective breathe and realized we don’t have to do it like this anymore?

There is a scene in the movie American Beauty where the husband and wife (who currently hate each other yet have a rare moment of attraction to one another…sound familiar?) started to make out. Right as they begin kissing, she suddenly stops him because she doesn’t want to mess up the pillows on her Italian couch. My husband always tells me that I was that woman the last couple of years...not exactly the type of fun, warm person you dream of growing old with.

So, I have come up with a new plan. I am going to stay in purgatory for a while and just chill out. I am not going to do much of anything…not much volunteering, not much worrying, and not much working. For the first time in my life, I am going to try to enjoy the moment and get a grip on my anxiety, stress, and need to achieve. My kids are going to be under-scheduled and I am going to shower more. I am going to be more joyful and less judgmental. I am going to be aware of my addiction to Facebook, cheese, and white processed bread. I am going to try to have sex with my husband without rolling my eyes or saying things like “Now? Are you crazy?” I am going to yell at my kid less and put us all in time out more. I am going to go to church, go on walks, and pray everyday. This is going to be my non-traveling, suburban version of Eat, Pray, Love…

And if none of that works, I am going to become an expert on Groupon. Either way, it is going to be great…

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Parent/Teacher Conference...Gone bad

Is it really necessary to take an entire week off of school in order to share with parents whether or not their child has mastered finger painting? I have nothing against parent/teacher conferences, obviously they are an important part of the educational process. But when we are talking about kids who have only been out of diapers for a year, it might be a bit much.

Last week, I met with my daughter's preschool teacher to go over her development. It did not go exactly as I had planned.

Socially, I thought they would tell me that my daughter is a happy, outgoing child that is normally a pleasure to be around. Academically, I thought they would tell me she had some work to do...and this I took full responsibility for. Let me explain...

When my son was little, I would spend hours with him in the bath going over letters, making all the sounds, and teaching him to spell. We would do flashcards, listen to kid’s songs, and read a hundred books a day. My son started each day out with Sesame Street and ended each day by reviewing the countries on the life size World Map we had tacked to his wall.

By the time my daughter came along, I had lost my steam. During bath time, instead of reviewing the alphabet, my main objective was to keep my two kids from drowning one another. My second goal was to keep them from splashing water outside the tub and causing the already moldy grout to get even more black and disgusting. Instead of reviewing flashcards, I somehow found myself spending the afternoons with her shopping or going through my closet. As I pulled out clothes, she would tell me if she thought I should keep, donate, or throw each item away. Based on the fact that my ‘throw’ pile was always the biggest, I knew that although she didn’t know her shapes, she had the fashion sense I had always desired.

Instead of listening to kids music like “Wheels on the Bus”, she and I spent most our time perfecting dance moves to songs like “Get on the Floor” by JLO and Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind”. I have always thought that knowing how to break it down in the dance circle at your first middle school dance was way more important than math or reading, and because of this, I was prepared for the fact that academically we probably had some work to do.

So you can imagine my surprise when the teacher told me that in terms of academic progress, she was doing very well.

Me: “How can you tell?”

Teacher: “Well, she knows her letters and was able to identify the color grey.”

Me: “Knowing the color grey makes her smart?”

Teacher: “Yes, at this early stage in development, most kids can’t identify the color grey.”

If only I had known it could be that simple! In one quick color recognition exercise, she went from community college attendee to Ivy League hopeful. Things were looking up. Next, the teacher pulled out two pieces of paper from a folder and placed them next to one another on the table.

Teacher: “The drawing on the right is from September. The drawing on the left is from January. As you can see, she has shown a lot of improvement over the past 5 months.”

Me: “Really? They both look like scribble to me.”

Teacher: “Yes, but see how much better her scribble is in January?”

Okay, I didn't see it but I was still proud. She was a good scribbler, she knew the color grey, and she hadn’t had to use her extra pair of underwear. Maybe these conferences were great. For a quick moment I thought maybe I should write a parenting book and share my child rearing secrets with others.

But then, everything changed.

All of a sudden, the mood at the little table with the little chairs changed. The teacher and the two aides looked at each other and nodded. They closed her glitter and glue folder and looked at me with concern in their eyes.

Teacher: “Although academically she is doing well, we do have some concerns.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Teacher: “It seems as if she has fallen into the ‘wrong crowd’.

Me: (visibly confused) “She’s three. What do you mean ‘wrong crowd’?”

Teacher: “Your daughter used to be a very sweet girl. Not anymore. Unfortunately, her behavior has gotten worse and she is hanging out with a group of kids that are getting in a lot of trouble. They are pretty exclusive and don’t really include anyone else in their group.”

Me: “Wow, that doesn’t sound good.”

Teacher: “And another concern is that she spends almost all of her free time playing “husband and wife” with one of the boys in class. We feel it is not age appropriate”

Me: “What in the world could possibly be fun about playing Husband and Wife?”

The teacher nodded and agreed with me…she had been married for twenty-five years.

Teacher: “We suggest you help her change her social life and encourage her to make some new friends. Here is a list of nice girls and their mothers that you may want to start scheduling play dates with.”

I didn’t like what I was hearing and I didn’t like that they were telling me this while I was sitting in a small chair at a tiny round table that smelled like a mixture of glue sticks and rotten milk. I wanted to understand…Was she in a preschool gang? Did they find her sniffing finger paints in the bathroom? When they played 'husband and wife' did that mean they ignored each other the entire time or that they glared at each other while arguing about money problems and household chores?

I understood this was their job, but I feared we were getting ahead of ourselves. Of course I didn’t want my three-year old to be mean or hanging out with the wrong crowd. And I certainly didn’t want her playing husband/wife all day. But ‘falling into the wrong crowd’ was a bit premature. Her friends at school were the first friends she had ever made, how could she have picked so wrong, so soon?

I wanted to take all of this seriously, but I was struggling with what this information meant. Maybe she was just a kid that liked to do her own thing or possibly the 'nice' girls bored her to tears. All I knew is that it was a little early for us to be making a reservation at a Christian boarding school or grounding her for the weekend. I felt like we were doing okay. But my husband on the otherhand took it a little bit harder.

When he heard the news about her choice in friends, he was very upset. He immediately thought his dream of having the perfect daughter was shattered. He kept saying, "I always hated the girls that were in the "bad' crowd...what a waste!" I gently reminded him that all they were doing was coloring together and sometimes sharing paint, but still he wasn't happy. His idea that his daughter would be the classy girl who follows the rules, plays a division I sport in college and marries a nice guy was replaced with visions of motorcycle riding and marijuana problems.

As we discussed the situation over wine that night, we decided that for now we aren't going to be too worried. But we did go ahead and schedule some play dates with few ‘nice’ girls in her class. We had one little girl over earlier this week. They dressed up like princesses, had a snack, and then ignored each other the rest of the time. It wasn't perfect, but at least it was a start.

In the end, I still think conferences at this age are a bit much. Instead of taking the week off from school, I would rather have the teacher just drop a note in my kid's lunchbox that says something like, “good news is her colors and numbers are great, bad news is she thinks it is fun to play ‘husband and wife’ with a trouble maker, may want to get on that asap!”

But who knows, maybe they are important. Next year at her four-year old conference, they might tell me she knows the color Fuchsia. Can you say “genius”?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Great Transition: My First Three Days as a Stay-at-Home Mom

Deep breathes…Slow down….You wanted this…Enjoy every minute. This is the mantra I have been telling myself ever since deciding to leave the medical field and become a stay-at-home mom/whatever else I am meant to be when I grow up.

I have been an unemployed for less than 48 hours and these are the things I have learned so far:

1. I had planned on making dinner for my family every night…tonight we had frozen waffles and cucumbers with salt. Tomorrow I will try harder…

2. Kids don’t go to school for very long. Why we are fundraising for playground equipment and computers when we need to be putting our money towards funds to allow kindergarten to go past 1pm? If my son is old enough to know how download an app, steal my password, and purchase the game without me knowing, he should be in school until at least 3.

3. Having the time to plant succulents was something I dreamed of doing when I was working…In reality, having the time and actually planting succulents was a bit anti-climactic and boring…One plant already died…note to self, lower expectations of becoming “Martha Stewarty.”

4. When my boss used to drive me crazy, I would send him hostile, passive aggressive emails and hope he would get the message. Now when my kids drive me crazy, I send them hostile, clearly aggressive messages and hope they get the message. Although neither scenario really works, both give me quick, immediate relief followed by overwhelming guilt and remorse.

5. I used to go to Starbucks alone, type on my computer and pretend to look busy while surfing Facebook. Now I make my coffee at home, type on my computer and tell my kids I am busy while surfing Facebook.

6. Picking my kids up from school was really great. Taking them home to hang out with me for the next 6 hours…still open to discussion.

7. Going to Chick-Fil-A for 3 days in a row is not good for anyone.

8. When my son’s teacher said “That’s great! Now you can make Tuesday’s your craft day and Thursday’s your science day. There are so many great projects you can do at home!”, I immediately got very dizzy/lightheaded and needed to lie down.

9. My kids don’t miss their nanny or after school programs…neither do I. My kids really miss their nanny and after school programs…so do I. We all seem to be very conflicted.

10. Target isn’t as fun when you can’t go alone.

11. There are a lot of ways to get involved in your kids school, none of which sound appealing to me just yet.

12. When you are at home full time, doing laundry becomes a lot like breathing…you are continuously doing it and no one congratulates you for it.

13. When my husband got home from work, I envisioned meeting him at the door dressed in a cute apron with a glass of scotch in my hand. When he got home last night, I met him at the door dressed in old sweats with an empty bottle of wine in my hand. Tomorrow I will try again…

14. When I was working, I only let my kids watch 30 minutes of T.V a day. Now that I am home, I only let them watch 30 minutes every hour.

15. I haven’t taken my hair out of a ponytail in over three days. It doesn’t smell right.

16. I love sitting around playing Chutes-n-Ladders and Uno with my kids. (This isn’t true but if I keep saying it, maybe it will stick.)

17. I am still late dropping them off and picking them up for school. Now I simply have no idea why….

18. There is a parent board meeting tonight and I lied and told them I had a work meeting. Some things should be kept private for a while…

19. I have been playing a lot of Hide n Seek with the kids. You won’t believe how long it takes them to find me…

20. My closet is now officially organized by color. And all my hangers match. And they are all the new skinny, fabric ones…And I have no idea what I am going to do tomorrow.