Preschool…

Before I go down this road, I should start out by saying that I did not attend preschool. I am not sure if it’s because I was at daycare and my parents knew I would learn that way, or if it just wasn’t really a thing when I was growing up. I did attend a Montessori program while we lived with my grandparents, but we lived with them for such a short time, that I barely remember it.

So K turned 3 in July. He’s always been our more easy-going boy, full of laughs, but very much so a mama’s boy. Like I have said, neither of my kids have gone to daycare, and we have never left them with anyone outside of family.

When looking at preschools, I wanted a preschool where I felt the teachers felt like a mom. I didn’t want to take out a second mortgage on my home just to afford a “reputable” program. To me, education starts at home. I am very well invested in their education and learning, as I see it starts with Kyle and I. I wanted something that was a small transition, I didn’t want him going for hours on end, 4 days a week. I just didn’t think he was ready for that. So I found the perfect environment. 2 days a week for 2 hours on Thursdays and Fridays.

I was beyond excited for the time it would give G and I alone to work on things like ABC’s, colors, numbers, etc. I felt like it had been more difficult to master this task than it was with K, maybe a personality thing, or maybe just the fact that at the time G was a newborn and slept a lot. Who knows.

Well, needless to say, preschool has turned into full blown melt downs every Thursday and Friday. It is literally breaking my heart. I hate that he doesn’t want to go. I hate that he cries every day at drop off. I can handle the stares and the pitiful looks I get from parents whose kids happily bounce into the classroom. The teacher even went as far to tell me he “may not be ready”. But I really don’t think he will ever be ready in terms of being away. He calms down immediately upon me leaving and always comes home full of smiles and talks about his friends he played with that day.

But I’m left to sit here and wonder what the solution to all of this is. See, we don’t really think taking him out and waiting a year is going to solve this problem. If anything, we know how smart he is, and I think he will realize what has happened, and come next year we will be doing the same thing. Except next year, he will say “but I didn’t have to go last time…”. On top of the fact that little brother will start next year at preschool. And he won’t even let a stranger touch him without tears and screaming.

I know so many people have their opinion on this. I know a lot of people close to us think I have created “this problem” due to the fact that I have never left them with a stranger, they depend on me too much, blah blah blah…. So what I’m left with is feeling alone emotionally, and I am not saying people don’t care, it’s just not their issue to handle. It’s a hard one for me to handle, because I was never the kid who cried. Even if I was scared, I sucked it up and forged forward. My husband was the kid who hid under his desk and cried every day, in first grade. He would have to be coaxed out with a baseball card from his P.E. teacher. He became the source of laughter in the teacher’s lounge. I don’t want that for my boys. But I wouldn’t change anything about them. They are who God intended them to be. I’m so sick of people trying to fit a 3 year old into a mold. He’s 3, not 30. Let him be 3!

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Boys Drool and Girls Rule

I remember this being a popular saying in elementary school. Of course the boys’ version was different. We were listening to the news this morning and it was a segment on Jennifer Lawrence’s essay. K asked me what they were talking about, and I was honest with him. I told him she and many women were frustrated that the men they worked with made more money. In simple three year old fashion he said “that’s silly…” and on he went with playing. If you haven’t read the essay, I highly recommend reading it. She discusses the gap in pay between men and women in Hollywood. And with all things in life, I find you can relate to this to “normal folk” like me.

If you have read any of my previous posts you know that I worked as an industrial engineer at a large aerospace company. Now, I actually have a degree in International Business and Spanish, but the way the company differentiates pay between engineering and business is fair. The degreed engineers make more on base pay per salary. But, we did the same work, and unless you told people, no one other than yourself and your boss knew if you held an engineering degree, or a business degree. Side note, I realize after college, engineering should have been my field of choice, but I thought they were all “nerdy” and “boring”. Now I realize how “nerdy” and “boring” I am. I digress…

What stood out to me working at the company I did, in the field that I did, was that I needed to work one hundred percent harder, and one hundred percent smarter than any and all of my male counterparts if I wanted to be respected. And it wasn’t due to the mysogynistic attitude of the people I worked around or with. It was just “facts of life” there.

I’m okay with working smarter and harder. See, if we’re being honest, my dad treated me as if I was one of the boys. I am the only girl, and I am the youngest, so by way of life, my dad probably never even thought about how he should treat me. I was expected to help out in the yard, help carry my moms luggage, and I wasn’t allowed to drive alone until I knew how to change a tire and replace the oil in my car. I have always appreciated that of my dad. Looking back, he probably did think about how he was going to set me up for success, and he probably knew I would be living “in a man’s world” so I might as well learn some things along the way. So when I went out into the big bad world, the thought never even crossed my mind that I would be treated differently solely based on the fact that I carry two X chromosomes, rather than just one.

Isn’t that so cute and naive wrapped up in one big and shiny bow. Not really, but the things I am about to tell you, have taught me a lot about who I want to be in the corporate world, should I return, and the type of boys we want to raise. When I first started working on the production floor, I had older men tell me to be careful, that it was like “working in a prison if you’re a decent looking female”. At first it didn’t bother me, because I thought the novelty of me being new would wear off. But it didn’t. It just continued to get worse. I would have guys jump in an elevator just to talk to me. Even though I only had to ride the elevator up five floors, they would ask me questions like “your husband lets you out of the house to work here?” “If you were my wife, I would never let you work.” And the list goes on. In fact, when I was an intern, I had a “mentor” that was supposed to drive me to multiple locations, and at one point on a drive he took a shortcut. Needless to say, I prayed my way through an entire phone call with my dad, when the driver didn’t realize we were on a dead-end.

And then I got pregnant with my first, and I really thought, “great, now they’ll leave me alone!” Boy was I wrong. Strangers, complete strangers started to touch me. And then men and women would stop me to tell me “how huge” I was getting. There were days when I would go home and cry my eyes out at the things people said to me. And when I would tell people just how degrading and hurtful things said to me, they would laugh in my face. “Oh don’t worry they just say that to you because you’re young and beautiful.” Wait, I’m sorry, did they just justify sexual harassment based on the way I look? I’m so confused how that even remotely makes that right…

And the list goes on. When I got back from my maternity leave, I had people chase me down to ask details of the birth. People I had never seen before! And I had men who actually told me that they were “disappointed I came back to work, because nothing is more important than your son.”

While my lead was gone on a business trip, my boss asked me to take over his position. I was on a managerial development list for strong and ambitious candidates whom were considered to be management material. I graciously accepted this task, and was really humbled they considered me. All the while I continued to do my job and more, while pregnant and puking, pumping on my breaks, and stayed later than most of my colleagues.

After the birth of my second son, we had changes in our group. The lead position was open, and a coworker of mine was telling me how my boss wanted me to take the position. I was a wreck, because I was really honored, but I knew we had been considering me staying home, so I figured, let’s just see what happens. This was the week before I was set to return, and my boss hadn’t contacted me. Well, you know how this story goes. A guy got the job. And when I returned to work, my boss brought up the situation. His words were basically this ,” well you were the first choice, but then you had a baby, and you know how that goes…” The politically correct me said “so because I chose to had a child, I’m no longer eligible for leadership positions?” What I said in my head was “listen here f*****, I have saved your tail and this groups tail countless times, and this is the s*** I am forced to listen to?!!!!”

I chose not to go to Human Resources, why, because I didn’t want to start a fire… how insanely stupid is that? I didn’t want to start a fire… I didn’t add the fuel. Why was I scared of backlash for sexist crap I had to deal with. I should have. And here’s why. In a field where women barely exist, some day, some where, some girl like me will want to start a family. Or maybe she’s already pregnant. And I want her to know that decision should not affect her like it did me.

I know I can’t change the mind of the world. But my hope is that my husband and I can raise two strong willed boys to treat everyone as their equal. I can only hope our boys treat people with the respect and dignity until proven otherwise. Life is too short to only see the world in one way.

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Why I Never Want to Hear This Again…

“You’re so lucky!” Really? Is it luck, or is perseverance coupled with hard work, and a lot of planning?

I’m going to rewind the clock to address this statement when I was a working mom. “You’re so lucky you have a job that pays so well.” Absolutely, I was so lucky I did have that job. But let me tell you what went into finding that job. Four years of college, paid by myself and my parents. Four years I worked very hard. Every summer I worked my tail off to make money so that I could limit the amount of student loans I would need to take out. Because I was required to study abroad, that meant I needed to find the funds for this. Again, working, and student loans. I also managed to lock down a great internship right before the Great Recession. I was hoping that would turn into a job offer, but given the economy, barely anyone that summer got a job offer to return after graduation.

After I graduated, I went back to working retail, I hate working retail. And from there I got a job at a public relations firm, as an operations clerk. Putting away mail, emptying dishwashers, and things I never saw myself doing after holding that degree. But hey, I come from a blue-collar family, and my parents always have taught  me that no one is EVER above a job. So I worked my tail off there too, for a year cleaning up after grown adults. I began to resent the position, and new public relations wasn’t my cup of tea for a social invert, like myself. I decided to go back to school while I was looking for a new position and working. I always knew I wanted to get my MBA, I just didn’t think it would be so soon.  In the middle of our new and busy life, we saved and saved for our first down payment on our house. We purchased our first home at 23 and 24. It was an incredible feeling. We paid off our car early. And we began to chip away at student loans.

And finally, applying elsewhere worked. I landed back at the company I had interned for right before my senior year. Hallelujah! I almost doubled my salary, so to say this was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders was an understatement! This job was working in industrial engineering. Finally, I had found others like me. Detail oriented, analytical, and very practical. While pregnant I was constantly harassed about the way I looked. I woke up between the hours of 2AM-4AM to get to work. Yes, you heard me, while most of my friends were still closing down bars, I was getting up for work. I climbed inside huge airplanes at 9 months pregnant. I stood for hours on a freezing cement floor to watch men and women perform their jobs. So much so that I went into preterm labor twice with each kiddo. But, after bed rest got me to 36.5 weeks, I always made the decision to go back to work. Why? Because I would rather use my maternity leave to be with each new baby. And it meant I was making money to pay off more debt, or save for emergencies.

Worked the day before this, crawling around inside a fuel cell
Worked the day before this, crawling around inside a fuel cell

After returning to work with K, and finding out we were pregnant shortly after he was three months, we realized really quickly our home wasn’t the best option for a growing family. We had worked really hard on saving money, even with adding the cost of child care to our plate of bills. We had to wait 8 months before we could even purchase a home, due to the tax benefit we had received from purchasing our first home. So we focused on what would give us the best return on our home. Minimal updates and painting to make the house look a bit more modern.

Four months later we found the house we wanted to call home, and waited for it to be built. Six months later we sold our home, put an extended closing on it, and never looked back. We were 26 and 27 at the time. I was on bed rest with G, and life was insane. We saved every penny we could. When given the opportunity we worked overtime and sometimes my husband took on side jobs to make extra money was well.

And then, I quit my job six months later. And our family was forced to live on a different, much tighter budget. And that’s okay too. We make it work. And now I hear things like “not everyone gets to stay home, you’re so lucky!” Absolutely, but let me tell you, little luck went into the decision. We saved the money we had made from the profit of the sale of our first home. We cut down on expenses like our cable, eating out, et cetera. We have gone on two vacations since 2010. We paid for cash for both of those vacations. Every tax return is used to save money or pay for something we have planned out well in advance. I cut everyone’s hair, other than my own to save that money. I can’t remember the last time we went to a coffee stand. I don’t get my nails done, ever. I think I have had 2 pedicures since my kids were born. Not to say it was a regular thing before, but I definitely would have been more open to the idea. I shop for sale items. I don’t buy something at full price. New cars? Nope, not the responsible thing to do right now. Vacation, not happening, because it’s not within our budget right now. We plan camping trips instead. We eat in 95% of our meals. G gets almost all of K’s hand me downs. I cloth diapered to help save money. What I am saying is we make a lot of sacrifices and plan ahead to make this “want” a reality. If we wouldn’t have planned, it would never have been a reality.

I know that some people, no matter how hard they work, and how many hours they work this could and will never be a reality. Or maybe on the flip side it’s just not financially doable for both parents to work, because daycare costs more than one person will make. What I am saying is, I always try and applaud people’s efforts more than their output. I don’t know how this will be received, just remember every one is doing the best with what they have, and don’t minimize their effort.

Raising Boys in a Sports World

In today’s world, where sports is so much a focal, I often find myself thinking about the perfect balance of raising two young boys in that world. What do I mean? I mean, how do we convey that we too love sports, but we don’t always love what it sells, and we don’t always love every player. I’m talking players who use drugs, players who physically beat their significant others, and players who play dirty. I want my boys to idolize the man behind the jersey for who is AND what he stands for, not just the athlete on the field.

I want to make it clear that my husband and I both grew up around sports. We both come from athletic families. We both played multiple sports at very competitive levels. And we were pretty good too. I firmly believe growing up in a competitive environment taught us both a lot about being good leaders, what team work looks like, and many moral and ethical dilemmas along the way. Not to mention, we were both so heavily involved in activities that we never had time for trouble. My point in all of this is, I’m a big advocate in being involved in any extracurricular activities of your choosing. We have no problem with sports. We love them.

But my whole point in this post is to get the dialogue started in that I want my boys to idolize men who value education, high morals, and whose actions who speak louder than words. I’m not saying there are not men out there in the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. who do not possess some, all, or more of these characteristics, but I feel the overall majority of these players care about their paycheck and the material possessions the paycheck allows them to acquire. And that is not reality. Signing a four year contract for $87 million dollars is not reality. Having a net worth of $165 million dollars is not reality. Buying a Lamborghini, not a reality. Homes that boast over 16, 000 square feet is not reality. If that is your reality one day boys, I expect a room there!

So what is it I want the boys to value?

Firstly, I want them to value themselves. What do I mean? Find out what your strengths are. If you know anything about me, you will hear me say one thing, “call me slow, call me ugly, but don’t you dare call me stupid.” Why? Because I have always, always valued my intelligence above all else. You can fake being pretty (it takes some time and money), but you can’t fake being smart. Whatever the boys strengths may be, I hope they use them to their advantage. You’re good at math, choose a profession that uses math. You’re good with people, become a salesperson.

Secondly, be a good person when no one else is watching. See a dog on the road, be that person who stops to help it get home safely. Your friends mom is dying, please bring them dinner one night. Being a good person is priceless.

Never stop learning. I would love for them to go to college, I think it’s afforded both my husband and I with opportunities we wouldn’t have had. But if college isn’t for them, go to trade school, find an apprenticeship that makes you feel alive. And when you’ve found a job you think you love, keep learning. Utilize any benefits that may come your way to continue your education. I don’t care if you’re 70.

Be true. Be a faithful significant other. Be there always for your kids. If you find yourself single over the years, be the friend a friend would like to have.

Have a strong inner moral compass, because believe me, over the years you will need it. People will take any chance to cut you down, make you feel small, but don’t you ever stoop to their level. But don’t you let them win either, you kill them with kindness, intellect, but don’t you ever cheat.

I don’t have all the parenting answers, far from it, but I do know it’s a constant evolution, one we are constantly learning from. I’ll let you know in about fifty years how successful we were, or weren’t.

Right now, we are just happy one is no longer crying at preschool drop off!

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The Never Ending Internal Debate

It’s time again for me to reconsider our family options in terms of what’s best for us. Do I go back to work? Do I continue to stay home? I feel like talking about this aloud let’s other moms know they are not alone in all of the overwhelming feelings that come with being a mom.

I feel like I should back up to the moment when I knew it was time for me to stay home. My loving husband always wanted to do what I wanted to do. He said as long as I was happy, we would be happy as a family. We had toured a number of day cares and “schools”. After all of these tours, I felt emotionally drained, because I didn’t feel like I could leave my kids at any of these places. The teachers all seemed wonderful and loving. I also had been spoiled and blessed with a Dad who had volunteered to watch our oldest. We got so lucky in that my Dad doted and loved K more than I could ever have expected.  I loved getting text messages with loving pictures of K and my Dad on their many adventures. But when push came to shove, I knew my it was asking too much for my Dad to care for a newborn and a toddler who just turned 1.

Saying goodbye to my paycheck and amazing benefits wasn’t near as hard as I thought it was going to be. I honestly was extremely happy and relieved to be home. We promised every 6 months we would check in to see where we were as a family and financially. Now we are approaching my two year mark of being at home, and it’s time to reconsider what may be best.

K is in preschool, G will be next year. My dad could definitely handle watching them. We have always paid him fairly for what he does. My problem is, am I going to look back and say “what the heck was I thinking?!” But I also know that money is tight, and at times it can be really scary to think about all the unknowns. None of my closest friends from college have kids yet. So I feel like we have had to tread this journey alone. Very alone.

My job paid well, it would mean we could pay for school and child care, and have quite a bit extra money to pay off student loan debt. We only have a bit left on our car to pay off, and that would be wiped clean if I went back to work. We could get far ahead in terms of saving 3-6 months of expenses. We’ve always hoarded money, so we do have a nest egg, but we don’t feel comfortable paying off debt until we have another steady income. I know, Dave Ramsey would be ashamed of that theory. We could finally start putting a lot of money towards their college.

But then I think of all of priceless things being a SAHM gives us. I take care of the majority of errands all week so my husband can focus on work and his MBA. I try and do all the cleaning. laundry, meal planning, etc. when the kids are sleeping. We don’t have to worry about juggling work schedules to take care of a sick kiddo. The kids get to do so many fun things, library days, play dates, museum trips, swimming, etc. Obviously those are still possible, but we are far more limited and on a time crunch if I go back to work.

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Sick kiddos need the extra cuddles

I guess I’ll end by saying that it’s a blessing to be able to have the choice. We made many sacrifices as a couple and individually to make this a reality.

Potty Training

Oh how I love thee. I honestly didn’t mind the process at all. I was really intimidated at first, because so many people had told me how terrible their experience was. The boys just turned 2 and 3 in July. We use two diapers a day, one each at night time. Full disclosure, I am really lazy, and not willing to tackle night time training yet.

A lot of times I get strange looks from strangers and friends when I ask if they both need to go potty. And then comes the unavoidable question, “WAIT, they are both potty trained already?!” Why do I feel guilty about this? My response is always “yes, at around 21 months we tried it, and if it worked we went with it…” And guess what? We got extremely lucky with both boys, they both loved the process, and figured it out in a few days. Side note here, my husband totally doubted me both times 😉 Also, for once in our Irish Twinning struggle, I seriously feel like the age gap was on our side. G wants to do anything K can do. And this time I felt he was ready. And with both boys, we had decided beforehand that if it didn’t work, it didn’t work, and we would try at a later time.

So, onto my method. Now, I know this may really offend some people, and frankly, I am sorry if this offends you. But I don’t find potty training children and dogs to be all that different. The process obviously, the children and pets are vastly different 🙂

Now, the first time I attempted training pants. Big waste of time in our house. So for 3 days our boys ran around in the nude. We committed to being home. I waited untilI knew we didn’t have plans, didn’t make plans, and kept with that mentality for 3 days. Underwear, training pants, anything of sorts just confused them. For some reason, they felt that they could go in that.

No pants also makes it easier to tell if they are starting to piddle a bit. At that point I would immediately pick them up and hustle to the potty, and say ” let’s finish in the potty!” For them it  helped them to associate pee goes in the potty. This is where I need to go if I need to pee. Also, it was far more noticeable for them to be able to SEE the pee coming out, and realize what it physically felt like, and what it physically looks like.

I took them at 15 minute intervals. I always asked if they would tell me if they needed to go potty. I always used the words “pee” and “poop”. Our second son is very verbally ahead of the game, but for our oldest, these one words were easier for him to express than spouting off a long sentence.

And when they went in the potty, it was like they just moved mountains. We danced, we clapped, we hugged, we kissed, etc. We just wanted to make them feel very proud of their accomplishment.

We had potty seats for every floor. I like  the one that inserted into the potty, so I didn’t have to really clean anything. Our youngest was crawling into every thing when our oldest was learning, so that was just too dirty and gross for me to even think about. I loved the insert. It’s the arm and hammer one, and we love it. Eventually on our main floor (we have 3 stories) we did purchase a child seat for our actual toilet. I’m considering buying one for the boys’ bathroom now too. For now, this bad boy is in their bathroom.

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With poop we made sure we always started potty training sitting down so there was no confusion between the two. By day 3 I would say they were going to the potty on their own, even if they didn’t always go. I still made sure to praise for trying, and when they went we made a bigger deal about it! I still made sure to ask them if they would tell us frequently, but not like when we first begin the process.

Now just past two and three years old they go on their own, and I can’t remember the last time we had an accident. I know we are lucky that it was this easy. But I also firmly stand behind our commitment to “guiding” them on how to use the potty. I giggle when I walk by the bathroom and see our two year old using the rest room like a big boy. I am so proud of our boys!