I Am Thankful Edition

BERKELEY, Calif. — I am sad that I am not with my parents and siblings in New Hampshire, but also grateful to spend the time with my second family here in California. Seriously, our friends here have been our lifeline. They have stepped in to care for our children, have helped us create many fond memories like parents’ game nights, and our children are growing up together, giving them “cousins” and roots right here in California.

Yesterday, Ari and Eli’s school had “Grandparents Day” or “Special Persons Day”, which means the kids get to show the special people in their lives what they do in school, do a craft with them and then enjoy early dismissal. Because my kids’ grandparents live far away, typically, my sister comes every year to represent our families.

This year she was in New Hampshire so I invited some of our dearest friends to join the kids at school. They were (pictured above) our nanny — now family friend — Guillermina, SusanG of Daily Kos and her daughter Micaela. The kids were stoked. They didn’t want their special people to leave and they were happy to leave school early.

Afterwards, Markos, the kids and I enjoyed lunch together. We went home for a couple of hours and then the kids and I joined friends from the school to go ice skating. I am so grateful for my husband, my children, our family in New Hampshire and El Salvador and our family right here in California. I am so grateful for Erika, Gloria and every one of you here at MotherTalkers. My life is so much richer because of all of you — all of my “villages.” ¡Feliz día de acción de gracias!

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I need a new career

I’ve been a stay at home mom for seven years now.  As much as I’ve enjoyed it, the time is coming to an end and so is my patience.  I’m ready for something new, and Milo will be in kindergarten in two more years.  

Fortunately for me, I’m not in a hurry.  I want more money, but we’re alright financially.  So I want to give careful thought and consideration to what my next move will be.  It’s a first world “problem” if there ever was one, of course.  Even so, being in a position where I can take some time to figure things out and even ease into whatever I’m going to do next makes me not want to waste the opportunity.  Throwing away my chance to carefully choose my next path won’t benefit any starving families in the third world, after all (guilt, guilt, guilt).  


I have a BA and an MA in counseling.  Before I had kids I was a preschool teacher, which I don’t feel any real desire to return to–I don’t have the patience I used to, and ideally I’d like to get paid.  I would also like to do something that will benefit humanity in some way, but recently I’ve been honest with myself and admitted that I really don’t want a soul-sucking social services job like I’ve had in the past.  Quality of life is important to me here, which seems to render my Masters degree more or less useless.  Recently perusing lists of happy mom jobs taught me that most of them aren’t really an option at this point–the only two that seemed remotely possible were pharmacist and receptionist.  Becoming a pharmacist, of course, requires schooling–not really a good idea for someone who doesn’t use the first two expensive degrees she obtained.  I am totally open to being a receptionist, however.  For my service to humanity, I can pay my taxes, vote responsibly, donate money, care for the people I cross paths with, and use all the positive energy my high quality of life gives me to do some volunteering.  

On the plus side, I have a very open mind as to what my next career move should be.  My only real requirement is that it’s realistic–I can’t become a professional juggler or a puppeteer, as great as they both sound!  Law school probably isn’t a good idea, either.  I would love to find an alternative use for my degree–anything, really, but working at a community mental health agency.  Recently I debated opening a yarn store, but after taking stock decided that I don’t have the financial resources or the knowledge to own a small business yet.  My MIL has often said that I have an eye for dressing kids and should buy clothing and shoes for children wholesale and sell it in an online store.  I love the idea, but don’t know where to start, and have my doubts about how successful an online store could be–it seems like a single grain of sand on the world’s biggest beach.  OTOH, it’s a risk I could take–the overheads couldn’t possibly be too big.  

So, as self-indulgent as this feels, I’m asking for suggestions and advice.  What should I do next, and how?  Re-entering the work force, especially in this economy, has me feeling very overwhelmed.  

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Working on Next Year

This marks the beginning of our last full month of school.  And I do mean full – there is only one day off in the entire month.  I don’t think that’s the case for any other month in our school calendar.  Until May, there isn’t a month with at least one day off every two weeks; sometimes more.  

Lena is doing really well in school this year.  She decided, on her own, to participate in Battle of the Books.  It’s a nationwide program that’s similar to the old College Bowl, except the questions are all about children’s books.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the books included on the list (the reading list is here in case anyone’s interested).  Her team’s in the semifinals this week.  For their first year participating as a school, they’re amazing.

There was some bad news this morning in my email, though.


For the past 3 years, Lena hasn’t been in class with both of her best friends.  She’s been in class with one, or the other (except for this year, when they were all separated), but not both.  That’s our school’s policy, by the way: they deliberately separate friends in the name of “breaking up cliques and discouraging bullying”.  That hasn’t worked this year, at least not in the 6th grade.  But anyway.

Next year was going to be different.  The girls all wanted to be in the same-gender class program next year, so they could be together.  I agreed, a little reluctantly.  So all three families signed the girls up.

We got the news this morning that the same-gender program would be cancelled for their grade.  Not enough takers for a girls class and a boys class.  There won’t be many happy faces tonight, I’m afraid.  Plus we won’t know whose class they’ll be in until the middle of July (2 weeks before school starts).  

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WTF Gas & Insurance Prices Rising!

I live in Florida and gas is up to $3.15 today! What the hell is going on? Are your local gas rates anywhere near that amount? I also recently got new auto insurance and the prices I had to choose from were really high. Between $300 and $500 a month for 2 old cars! If you have never done a car insurance quote online before you will be surprised at the questions you are required to answer. Take a look.

It just seems like my budget for weekly gas keeps increasing, I barely go out, my job is like 10 miles from my house, my kids ride the bus, and I don’t have to drive them to after school activities. I should not be spending a lot on gas, but when I do the math it usually comes close to $10 a day! This is straining my budget and reducing the amount of things I can provide for my children.

Is anyone else having this problem?

What is the price of gas where you live?

Are insurance rates the same for you or increasing?

How does this affect your family?

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Getting it DONE: Thanksgiving Edition

So I am hosting the in-laws for Thanksgiving and they get here on Monday. I am really excited for their visit because they love my kids and my kids love them and we all manage to have a really good time together. The kids are over the moon about finally having a nice long visit with them, and doing special grandparent things like “going to Piggy Pancakes” and swimming in the hotel pool with Gramma and Grampa.

Of course I have a metric TON of work to do to get ready for all of this.

Here in no particular order is what I need to accomplish:

Kitchen must be immaculate.
Food bought and menu finalized.
Clean entire house.
Wash linens for T-day.
Locate roasting pan.
Bake.
Clean up front yard and get toys out of backyard.
Clean our refrigerator.
Order pizza on Wednesday.
Decorate house
Make napkin rings project with girls
find napkins
Not lose mind


What are you guys doing for Thanksgiving? Any thing you think I am forgetting? What is on your menu? What is the ONE food item that you cannot have Thanksgiving without? What are you MOST thankful for this year? After losing my grandmother, the various tragic losses of relatives and friends that some of you have shared with me, and my friend’s young husband dying suddenly, I just am THANKFUL for the health and safety of my husband and children. I am THANKFUL that the only person I lost this year had lived a full and beautiful life and left this earth knowing she was loved and cherished by us all.

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Monday Morning Open Thread

Good morning, MTs. How are things with you?

Busy Monday for me – actually, busy Monday after a busy weekend! We were invited to DH’s cousin’s 40th birthday on Saturday night, so we left both girls at my parents-in-law’s house. First time I’ve spent the night without Lily since she was born! Naturally, I was more stressed than the girls were when the time came. DH and I had a blast and stayed out ’til all hours. Slept in. Had a leisurely breakfast and read the Sunday paper without interruption. Heaven!!

The day got progressively busier from there, as Jess was invited to a birthday party for twin friends. I, naturally, left the shopping to the last minute and had to dash around Toys ‘R’ Us. Do I ever learn the downside of procrastination? Anyway, it turned out fine in the end and Jess had a good time. So did I, since I knew enough of the parents to chat about.

Long story short, though, all the things I normally do of a weekend were pushed off until today. So I’ve been running around a bit. All this as an excuse for why I haven’t posted a good long newsy diary here, but anyway, it’s life.

What’s on the agenda for you all?

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God Help Us All.

Yes.  Imagine that.  Me, the Deist, calling for divine intervention.  All right.  I’ll accept the next best thing…help from all my wonderful friends here.


See, I just had a bombshell dropped right onto me. You all are most likely aware of my ongoing turmoil with my son’s not-always-so-bright crazy-right-wing girlfriend.  Well.  Well. Well.  They came into my room just a little while ago to tell me that her parents kicked her out.  And, of course, to ask if it would be all right if she stayed here for awhile because she has no where else to go.  

What could I say?  Really?  I am a bleeding heart liberal after all.  It’s raining and thundering out here, for crying out loud…I wouldn’t even send someone’s dog outside.  So, I said she could stay.  Told my son that she was not staying in his room, though.  My youngest daughter is in the process of changing rooms.  Her current room is in the basement, so I’m thinking that’s the best place for the girlfriend.  

I’ve not even had time to talk this over with my husband, any of my other kids, or anyone else, for that matter.  I’m just kind of reeling.   I’m well aware of the pitfalls, and I’ll admit, I’m a little resentful of being placed in this situation, but what choice do I have?

I’m not sure what I’m asking from you all.  Just needed somewhere, right now, where I could sort of collect my thoughts.  

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Sunday Morning Open Thread

Happy Easter to all who celebrate it. And Happy Sunday to those who don’t.

We had a lovely Easter – although completely secular. Oddly, Australia switched back from daylight savings time; sure hope nobody was an hour early to their services, but I’m sure it happened! For us, it meant that although we were up at 5 a.m., the kids were asleep by 8 p.m. with no protests. (Whoot!). Between dawn and bed, it was fun but busy. I put together a small Easter basket of stickers, a small book for Lily, a coloring book for Jess and one small egg. Jess was beautiful and waited until DH woke up (it was his turn to “sleep in” – i.e. 7.30 a.m.) to distribute everything. Then, when I went for a run, DH and Jess planned a picnic. Of course, being the brains of the operation, it was left to me to make the actual sandwiches, pack the fruit, etc., but it was such a beautiful day at the park that I hardly minded. After a leisurely swim, we all went to the PIL for dinner. We even managed to leave before MIL remembered to give Jess the 18 chocolate eggs she bought. I’m hoping she’ll forget again tomorrow when they come over for the small family party we’re having for Lily’s 1st birthday! ;-)

So, how are you all today?

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It’s been a while

Wow.  I hadn’t realized it had been quite so long since I’ve posted anything.  A lot has happened in the time between my first and second diary entries

We have an 8-year-old in the house now.  She’s gotten a lot more outgoing, has some very good friends (in fact, we hosted about 5 of them for her birthday 2 weeks ago), and still loves school.  DD gets her math skills from her other mother, and her love of reading from all of us.  Her reading skills – and interest – have really taken off in the past year.  Her favorite books seem to be series: Judy Moody, the Puppy Palace series, and Bunnicula.  I can’t tell you how happy Bunnicula in particular has made me, but I want her to be able to find out what she enjoys for herself.  DD would still like to be a veterinarian, and has started asking about volunteering in our regional animal shelter.  She’s not quite old enough yet, but maybe by the time she’s 10 we could find out more about that.


Our daughter’s other family is still very much a part of her life.  M, her other mom, is starting to make more of a commitment to visits, which is a good thing for DD.  She and C, M’s mother, had a great visit with DD last weekend.  

I’m…better now.  Last September I had a mental crisis and wound up going to an outpatient program at a local hospital.  Depression has been an ongoing part of my life – my mother had untreated depression for the first 21 years of my life, and I didn’t want that for my own daughter.  With the help of exercise and weekly therapy, I’m trying to do without medication.  If I need it, I’ll definitely go back to it.  Going back to work (before DD came along, I worked as a studio music teacher) is helping quite a bit as well.

So.  Between all that and shaking my head at the ongoing antics of our county school board, things have been busy.  Hope you’re all doing okay.

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Reflecting on sixth-grade hopes and dreams

A few weeks ago, a long-lost elementary school classmate scanned our entire sixth-grade yearbook from May 1981 and posted the contents on Facebook. In addition to the usual goofy photos, we all contributed brief notes for our “20th reunion,” describing our lives as we imagined they would be in 2001.

The reunion notes were good for a lot of laughs. Then, like the geek I always have been, I decided to take a closer look at how my sixth-grade classmates envisioned our futures. What I found is after the jump.

A note on demographics: this sample of 76 children is in no way representative of American eleven- and twelve-year-olds in 1981. The three classrooms of sixth-graders at my school included 73 Caucasians, 2 Asians and one African-American. We lived in middle-class or upper middle-class neighborhoods in the Des Moines suburbs. Almost everyone was Christian; mostly Protestant, I think, with more mainline Protestants than evangelicals. There were also quite a few Catholics and four Jews.


GEOGRAPHY

More than two-thirds of the kids (57) indicated that they would be living outside the state of Iowa in 2001. The most popular destinations were California (12), Colorado (9), Florida (4), New York City (3), Texas (3), Hawaii (2), Wisconsin (2), and Kansas City (2). Many other states were mentioned once: Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Wyoming, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana. I was surprised that so few people mentioned Midwestern cities. It seems that in my day, if you dreamed of leaving Iowa, you planned on moving far away.

Only seven kids predicted that they would be living in Iowa in 2001 (not everyone mentioned a place of residence). I haven’t followed up on everyone who was in this yearbook, but based on conversations I had at my 20th high school reunion, I bet more than 10 percent of my sixth-grade class did settle down in Iowa eventually.

Five kids predicted that they would be living outside the United States: in Paris, Switzerland, Canada, Iwo Jima, and the planet Mercury. As it happens, I was living abroad in 2001, but at age 12 that wasn’t my plan.

A number of classmates mentioned being educated at out-of-state universities. Several of us, myself included, named schools our parents or older siblings had attended.

FAMILY

Family was a central feature of our future imagined lives. Almost two-thirds of my classmates wrote that they were married with children in 2001. Of these, some merely mentioned how many kids they had, while others were more specific about the names, gender and/or ages of their children. Only two kids mentioned being married without children. Quite a few people volunteered that their spouses were handsome or beautiful.

Several boys went out of their way to note that they were not married, but had girlfriends. With a ring of “stuff I’ve heard grown-ups say,” one of those also wrote, “I have no pets, they get in the way if you know what I mean.”

Many children predicted having pets in their families: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and even a skunk and a jaguar. Some had already picked out names for their pets or knew which breed of dogs they wanted.

MONEY

We were living in a material world. Judging from this yearbook, it’s no wonder that my cohort grew up to be the most Republican-voting age group. About half the kids said they would be wealthy in 2001, including 11 who mentioned having multiple homes and 14 who mentioned specific brands of luxury car they would own (Cadillacs and Porsches were popular). The over-the-top conspicuous consumption included owning a private beach, living in a diamond house and for a few kids, multiple swimming pools. (In the Des Moines area, very few homes have a swimming pool.)

No one predicted being poor or struggling to get by, and no one predicted being of average wealth. As a rule, if my classmates didn’t say they were rich, they didn’t mention money at all in their reunion notes. However, I was intrigued by this entry from a boy I barely remember:

I’m 32 years old and I am a 9 year veteran basketball player for the Celtics. I don’t ask for a lot of money because I want to lead a normal life instead of being so rich. If I got into trouble for something, all I’d do is give them money and get out of it. I think that you should face problems, not money.

I assume he was echoing values he’d learned at home, though he may have been rebelling against behavior he’d seen or some scandal that was in the news in 1981.

Speaking of buying your way out of a jam, this entry amused me:

I, [child's name], have just formed a new company. The 1001st of my empire. I have mines and mines of gold and silver and etc., in Africa. A few days ago, I got into trouble with the Navy. I bought them a battleship to make up for it. They made me an honorary admiral.

CAREER

We were an optimistic bunch. One boy and one girl said that they had been elected president by 2001. More than a dozen predicted being professional athletes, including four NFL stars, four NBA players, a golfer, a tennis player who had won the Grand Slam 12 times, a soccer player, a baseball player, and a professional horseback rider. Other glamorous careers included singer (1), actress (1), clothing or fashion designer (3), horse breeder (3) and astronaut (2).

There was some overlap in these fantasies, because quite a few children imagined pursuing more than one career. For instance, one boy said he would work at his mechanic shop when he wasn’t playing football for the New England Patriots. Here are a couple of my favorites:

I have just achieved my goal!! I was elected head spy for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) I was a former car repossesor. I guess I just like exciting jobs!

I have been elected President of the United States. I am also the world’s best football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I live in Wyoming and have a part-time job as a truck driver for Halls Trucking Company, (which I plan to buy later on).

White-collar careers dominated the fantasy futures of my classmates. Nine people predicted that they would own one or more companies in 2001. Six said they were teachers, and we also had five doctors, five veterinarians, four lawyers, two nurses, a computer programmer, an architect, and an archeologist.

Girls who mentioned their husband’s careers tended to be married to doctors, lawyers or successful businessmen. That was true for those who envisioned themselves working as well as for those who planned to be homemakers. (Many children at my elementary school had stay-at-home moms, and consequently a fair number of my female classmates predicted that they would not be working outside the home in 2001.)

In addition to the two kids who predicted being elected president of the U.S., two girls saw politics in their future. One said she would be “a politician working up to run for governor of Texas” in 2001, having previously been named Miss Texas, Miss USA and Miss Universe. The other said she would be a successful writer and psychiatrist in the Des Moines suburbs, adding that she had “been nominated, not elected, governor.”

She wrote those words a year before Roxanne Conlin was nominated, not elected, governor of Iowa, and 13 years before Bonnie Campbell was nominated, not elected, governor of Iowa.

TECHNOLOGY

Technological innovations featured in many of the reunion notes. One person predicted living in a solar-powered home, while two kids said they owned robots that did all their work for them. Eight children mentioned space travel as part of their lives, and two alluded to colonies existing on the moon by 2001. Several hoped to be astronauts who visited other planets, or in one case a different galaxy. One boy put a futuristic spin on business ownership: “Two weeks ago I got back from piloting one of my space shuttles from one of my nitrogen mines in space.”

Several of my classmates predicted that they would do ground-breaking work in their fields. One boy said he had “made a great discovery in the field of orthodontia.” Another planned to be an architect “designing a bridge that will connect Germany with Florida.” (He estimated the cost of that bridge at “twenty quadrillion dollars.”) One girl described life as a famous archeologist, whose finds were displayed in her own New York City museum. I was also impressed by the boy who envisioned a future as a zoologist, “most noted for my discovery and translation, with a computer, the language of big cats, such as: jaguars, leopards, lions & etc.”

One of the ambitious boys wrote, “I am a millionaire, and am working on a time machine. I have every part except one piece. I went into the future and came back to tell my wife all about it. She gave me a big, big kiss and five kids for it.”

Another kid showed some potential as a sci-fi writer:

I am just leaving for an Inter-Stellar meeting of Crackulation (Crackulation is the dividing of a planet to steal power and minerals) and other such subjects on the planet of Klepulat, the ninth planet of Merculeep. Our goal is to stop Crackulation on the dead planet of Earth, of which I am from. My wife, Alesla and two children, Meck and Hillery, are coming with me on this very important trip. We are leaving now from our spectrobe house on Mercury at 7306 Amoco Drive.

ANXIETY

For the most part, the reunion notes were upbeat. However, some kids seemed to reflect anxiety that was present in their lives. Very few of us mentioned our parents in our reunion notes, but one boy who did wrote, “My parents are alive but divorced.” He was also one of the boys who predicted that he would not be married in 2001.

Only one person mentioned any of our sixth-grade teachers in our yearbook. Reading part of her paragraph, I wondered if she had observed a grandparent or other elderly relative in decline: “I have visited Mrs. [teacher's name] in her electric wheelchair. In a way she is doing just fine, but in another ….. (never mind).”

Unemployment was high and rising in 1981, and this boy may have absorbed the job insecurity and stress of adults around him:

The year is 2001. I’m 31 years old going on 32. I just got a job at Eastern Spacelines as a pilot. It pays pretty good, but I could have gotten it better. I live in Ottawa, Canada. I have a wife and two children, a boy and a girl. I just got back from the Columbia (or space shuttle) to the moon. I visited my mother who lives on one of the moon colonies. I just hope that I can keep this job.

One of my lifelong friends wrote this entry, obviously influenced by the 1970s oil shocks, the U.S./USSR superpower rivalry, and media coverage of pollution:

It’s the year 2001, I am 32. Gas is extinct and everyone rides bicycles. I have a Cadillac and a Mercedes bike, which I ride with my fur coat. I am married to a rich doctor. My aunt died and I inherited $80,000,000. I own six news stations and four parts of Russia. (In the war of 1995, between the U.S.A. and Russia, we divided up Russia after our victory.) I live in beautiful, smoggy, radiation affected L.A.

One other classmate also alluded to the U.S. and Russia having gone to war at some point before 2001.

My own 20th reunion note was way off, envisioning a future as an attorney working for a large New York law firm. A fifth-grade essay I came across a couple years back was closer to the mark, for some reason.

Can you recall what you wanted to be when you were in sixth grade? Share your own hopes, dreams and memories in this thread.

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