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Archive for March, 2009

Hiatus

Just a quick post to let my regular readers know I will be absent for at least the next week.  This is an involuntary break but a necessary one since the blog seems to have become the target of hackers.  I wasn’t going to address the attacks at all, but I’m now forced with having to password protect my entire domain in order to fix the security leaks.

So I’ll see you when I see you.

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Spent

Mornings at our house tend to be an exercise in catching up. We slept too long and have to rush through our showers. We forgot to pack lunches and have to scramble to find something to eat. We didn’t do the dishes and try to load the dishwasher while brushing our teeth. That sort of thing.

Autumn is not a morning person and I think I may have mentioned that before. Part of this is our fault because we tend to keep her up a little bit past her bed time. We don’t get a lot of time with her in the evening after having worked all day. Our dinners are delayed because we don’t start cooking until we get home which then causes a delay in Autumn’s bedtime routine. I do try to fix Autumn something else to eat if I know dinner is going to be awhile, but I’m starting to feel the guilt of providing my child an evening diet that consists mostly of cheese quesadillas and pizza rolls.

One day this week we had a hellish morning and Nathan wound up driving Autumn to daycare while she was mid-tantrum. A child with red, swollen cheeks wet with tears was deposited into the carseat as she screamed for her lost shoe (that she took off, mind you). I can’t remember how the tantrum got started, but it ended as they usually do with both Nathan and I trying to express to our daughter how important it is that we both get to work on time.

Mornings like these get me thinking about reducing my work hours. How nice would it be to have some extra time in the morning or the evening? Wouldn’t it be nice to provide my daughter with breakfast every day or have dinner ready by 6:00? Ever since Autumn was born I’ve wanted to work less and be home with her more, but that dream seems silly now that full-time school days are just around the corner. The time I should have been home with her seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. Did I lose out or did she? Did we both?

I’ll be honest with you and say I don’t think I have the stuff to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m not disciplined enough to be the kind of teacher and home caretaker that I imagine my friend Donielle to be. Donielle continues to amaze me with her organizational prowess and mad homemaking skills. She used to work with me, but not long after her son was born she decided to stay home. I can only imagine how liberating that decision was.

Since returning from my maternity leave three years ago, I’ve realized there’s a huge difference between working because you want to and working because you have to. And that realization never hit me as hard as it did the day Nathan and I were asked to write down the dollar amount of our total debt excluding the house. I looked at that number and realized how much I am actually paying for those horrible financial decisions because I’m really just working to pay off debt. And not only am I paying back money with interest, I’m paying with time that could have been spent with my daughter and paying the emotional toll of working in a job that has never been a good fit for me.

Thankfully I won’t have to work full time indefinitely. Financial Peace University has helped tremendously in that we now have a solid financial plan. And a budget! We have a plan and a budget and with some hard work I will eventually have the power to work when I want to and not when I have to. That makes me very happy.

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These past couple of weeks I’ve been getting so many hits from people wanting to know more about the “As Seen On TV” giant tomato trees that I thought I’d put up a page about our experience with them. I mean no ill will towards the company who produces them, but it’s good information to have if you’re considering a purchase.

For those of you who may have clicked through from a feed reader, no, you’re not crazy. I accidentally posted the Tomato Giant story as a regular post instead of a page. Doh!

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In the mood

This morning I woke up feeling a little ill. My stomach felt queasy, my head ached and I thought I might be getting a migraine. I had some unsettling dreams that stayed with me throughout the morning. I’ve been dreaming a lot lately and in most of them I’m either very angry and verbally attacking someone or being physically attacked myself. They’ve all made sense in a creepy Freudian kind of way, but I’d still rather dream of puppies and peanut butter cups. Unless, of course, I’m being attacked by said puppies or peanut butter cups.

Later in the day the queasiness gave way to sinus pressure and I sent Nathan a message that said I thought I might be getting a cold. “Well, it’s your turn,” he replied with as much sympathy as he could muster. He’s had a cold for about a week and Autumn’s had the ear infection and accompanying snotty nose. I’m the only one in the house who has remained relatively healthy so I guess it is my turn.

Very early in the morning, before the dreams, the headache and the queasiness, I rolled over in bed and felt something snap in my knee.  It was incredibly painful and I gasped loudly.  Nathan woke and asked me what was wrong but I couldn’t talk.  It was the most painful thing I’ve felt since recovering from surgery (a year to the day) and an unpleasant reminder that I’m not yet healed.  The incident didn’t affect my ability to walk throughout the day, but it sucked all the same.  I don’t know what the hell happened, but I hope it doesn’t happen again.

I think today would have been a good day to work on the phones. Usually when I find myself in a bad mood at the start of the work day the phones tend to lift my spirits. I think it’s the human contact, but lately I’ve found myself off the phones more than on and have chosen to just plug into my iPod and plug away at my work. I’ve been able to catch up on a lot of my favorite podcasts that way.

I know this mood will pass. It may take a couple of days or I may wake up tomorrow and feel completely refreshed.

But then again, there’s always the threat of those killer peanut butter cups.

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ubg1

This past Friday marked the beginning of the Ultimate Blog Party hosted by Five Minutes for Mom.  As usual, I’m a little late to the party because I suck at time management.  If you’re here, that means you successfully waded through the twelve hundred other entries to find me, so welcome!

My name is Heather and I’ve been writing this blog in one incarnation or another for the past three and a half years.  I created the blog when I was pregnant with my daughter Autumn, who is now nearly three and a half and a complete delight. She’s independent, spunky, defiant, charming and a petty thief.  Just today she stole several grapes from the produce section of the grocery store and would have continued on to the bulk chocolates had I not intervened.

Autumn and I live in Michigan with her father Nathan, the man I’ve been married to for nearly twelve years.  Nathan and I met at our local Target store back when we both worked there.  I didn’t like him much at first because he was kind of a dork and tried too hard to be funny.  One evening he made a joke at my expense and I gave him the cold shoulder after that.  He is nothing if not persistent and it turns out I’m really attracted to dorks so here we are.

Our dog Molly rounds out our motley crew and she is, perhaps, the most interesting one of the bunch.  Molly eats just about everything (and I mean everything) and enjoys roaming the neighborhood whenever the gate to our backyard pops open.  She’s a stellar Frisbee catcher and a hellacious shedder and is the reason I will never, ever own another dog.  Seriously, she eats EVERYTHING.

As of right now the four of us are just hanging out waiting for spring.  Yeah, I know it is technically spring already, but around these parts you can never be sure you’ve seen the last of the snow until June.  I personally cannot remember getting snow in May, but there are some folks around here who will swear it has happened.  Whatever the case, it’s been one hell of a winter and we’re ready to embrace the warmer temperatures.

While I have been starting to test the entrepreneurial waters with this blog, I mostly just like to write for fun.  Having fun is what has kept me going for three and a half years, so I’m not really looking to stray too far from the established format.  Besides, if this started to feel like a job I’d probably not want to do it anymore.  I’m kind of a slacker that way.

Again, welcome to my home on the internet.  If you’d like to read some of the better (in my opinion) posts I’ve written, feel free to peruse the “Best of Oak Hollow” section.  They may give you a better idea of who I am and if you’d like to keep reading.

Thank you for taking the time to visit!

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Nathan and I don’t subscribe to the local paper. We buy the Sunday edition for the coupons but most of the news itself is sent to the recycle bin while we page through the Target ad and look at all the stuff we’re not buying anymore.

So imagine my surprise when my best friend Marla recently told me our school district will be instituting all day pre-kindergarten next year and all day kindergarten the year after that. I was all, “Get out! Really?” because that completely changes our childcare needs and financial plan for next year.

I got all giddy at the prospect of seeing an end to daycare payments. Up until now it’s been this pie-in-the-sky concept that seemed to take forever to materialize. Sort of like weight loss only this is actually going to happen. Eighteen months from now we will no longer have to pay for child care and I couldn’t be happier.

After the euphoria of that revelation wore off, I felt like a bad mother for not already being privy to this information. I asked Marla where she had heard about this scheduling change and she said it was in our local community paper a few weeks ago. This would be the paper that gets delivered every Tuesday and which is most often destroyed by some form of precipitation before I get around to picking it up from my porch.

When Autumn was just a baby I was already thinking about school and how we were going to work her schedule around ours. At the time it seemed mind boggling. Who would take her to school? Who would pick her up? Would morning kindergarten be better or afternoon? What about bussing? For about a year now I’ve been making inquiries about bus schedules and preschool schedules and now it all sort of worked itself out with very little effort on my part. My plans have evolved from having two tentative scenarios depending on her schedule to one definitive plan based on the school’s new schedule. I’m sort of an obsessive planner and this makes me very happy.

But…

I have to let C- go, the woman who has been watching my daughter since she was eleven weeks old. I knew eventually it would have to happen, but I wasn’t really planning on it happening so soon. Starting this fall we’re moving Autumn to a daycare facility closer to my office, one that conducts morning preschool classes. I talked to C- about this when we were just starting to explore our preschool options. I asked her if she would be willing to take Autumn back part time when she starts pre-k or kindergarten. She said she loves Autumn and would take her back at any time, but with the new full-day programs it looks as though we won’t need that part-time care.

Everyone I’ve talked to says it’s the nature of the job. Every daycare provider knows that at some point they will have to say goodbye to the children. I suppose I have to just suck it up and tell C- what we have planned. As much as she loves Autumn, she knew she only had a finite number of years with her.

And what happens after that? Do people generally keep in touch with their former daycare providers, especially long-term providers like we’ve had? While I do like C-, my relationship with her is far different than Autumn’s relationship with her. Autumn sees C- as family while I’ve needed to keep a certain degree of professional distance between us. The relationship has worked and I think we found a good balance between Autumn’s life with her during the day and her life with us in the evenings.

But if I’m going to be really honest, I have to admit C- has been the person I couldn’t be for Autumn and I guess I’ve always been a little jealous of that. I’ve sometimes referred to her as Autumn’s “daytime mommy”and when I look back on these past three years I can’t help but wonder how different things would have been had I stayed home with my daughter.  I would have been the daytime mommy then.

I’d love to hear your experiences if you’ve been through this transition before. I know the new preschool will be good for Autumn, but I don’t want to completely remove one of the closest relationships she has right now if I can help it. What’s the right thing to do here?

Yeah, I know. We’ll have to figure this one out on our own. Still, I’d love to hear your stories if you have some.

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Mommy medicine

Shortly before 1:00 am yesterday morning I was awakened by the sound of my husband talking to someone. That someone was my daughter and she had gotten out of bed to tell us she had to go potty.

Being the light sleeper I am, it was remarkable that I hadn’t heard the child come into our room. Both of our doors were closed and she’s not known to pass through them very quietly. But there she was standing next to my side of the bed and I was actually glad to see her. We’re trying to work our way through the final stages of potty training and have been urging her to come get us if she feels the need to go during the night.

As soon as I set her down on the toilet though, she looked up at me and put her hand up to her left ear. “My ear hurts,” she said. Her Pull-Up was already heavy and wet so I pulled it off, replaced it with another one and brought her back into her room.

I suffered through chronic ear infections when I was Autumn’s age. I distinctly remember the agonizing pain that would keep me up at night and the ensuing tossing and turning and crying. I had tubes put in my ears when I was five, which alleviated the problem but did not eliminate it. I had my last infection twelve years ago and wound up arguing with an HMO nurse who assured me what I was feeling couldn’t be an ear infection since adults rarely get them. It turned out I had won the lottery because I was 25 and both of my ears were severely infected.

So I didn’t have to go back very far to remember how much it sucks to have an ear infection, and as I tucked Autumn back into bed I promised her I’d take her to the doctor the next morning. I gave her a kiss and went back to my own bed, but a few minutes later I heard quiet sobbing. A few minutes after that her voice drifted in from her room.

“Mommy? Is it time to go to the doctor now?”

“Not yet, honey. We have to wait until it’s light out.”

Shortly after that she reappeared with her blanket and Pooh bear and asked to get into bed with us. Nathan and I had been through this enough to know we’d get little sleep with Autumn in bed with us, but we’re not so heartless and selfish that we’d turn away our sick kid. And we lasted about half an hour before bringing her back to her room.

I slept with her in her bed for awhile. Not long, but long enough for her to get comfortable. The part I remember the most about my ear infection problems was that my mom was always there for me. She would give up the warm spot in her bed and sleep with me while I was in pain. I always found her back in her own bed the next morning, but it was a wonderful, comforting feeling having her next to me as I drifted off to sleep. It was the best kind of medicine I could have asked for.

Autumn slept until 9:00 the next morning and I took her to the doctor as soon as I could schedule an appointment. It’s an ear infection, a minor one in just the left ear. While I would have appreciated the kind of sickly, listless child that would have allowed me to accomplish more around the house yesterday, Autumn was thankfully not derailed by the infection at all.

Me? I was wiped out. Still am.

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Oh Mandy

While watching an episode of “Dead Like Me” yesterday, Nathan squinted at the sight of Mandy Patinkin’ grim reaper and asked, “Where have I seen that guy before?”

“You can’t be serious,” I said.  “Mandy Patinkin?  Elmo in Grouchland? Good Lord, how many times have we seen that movie?”

You know you’re a parent when your most immediate recall of an Emmy-winning actor is his appearance in your kid’s favorite film.  I’ve seen Mandy Patinkin in at least a half dozen vastly different roles over the years, my favorite being Indigo Montoya in The Princess Bride,

“Hello. My name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

but it’s his greedy, Muppet-torturing Huxley who comes to mind whenever I see his face now.  That’s what happens when you’re subjected to the same movie nearly every day over the course of several months.

But it wasn’t until today that I realized I have not seen that movie in well over a year.  In fact, I don’t think Elmo in Grouchland even made it into the DVD player once during 2008.  Autumn hasn’t asked for it and Nathan and I have both agreed we’ve seen it enough for one lifetime.

Recently we put the movie in a pile of DVDs to sell at a garage sale this summer, but part of me would like to keep it around for sentimental value.  You know, the part of me who loved watching her watch the movie in spite of wanting to stick sharp sticks into my ears whenever Elmo started singing.

So let’s have it.  What movie or TV show have your kids used to drive you to the edge of insanity?  And how would you feel about the prospect of never having to see it again?

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Those of us who live in Michigan are never happy with the weather.  Our winters are too cold, our summers too humid and the kind of perfect weather we’d enjoy all year ’round only lasts a matter of hours before we’re one again subjected to one extreme or the other.

For all its faults though, Michigan does have one very important thing going for it; it’s a relatively safe state to call home.  We don’t get the earthquakes of California, the hurricanes of the southern coastal states or the decimating tornadoes that ravage the plains.  It’s kind of boring here, though I imagine if a meteor ever does make it’s way to Earth, it will completely wipe Michigan off the map for being so smug.

While the chances of that meteor landing in my back yard are extremely slim, it’s unfortunately very likely that parts of the country will be subjected to some devastating weather damage.  We see it happen most every year, and if Hurricane Katrina taught us anything it’s that Mother Nature can be one hell of a nasty bitch.  Thankfully there are such programs as Tide’s Loads of Hope to help those displaced or left homeless by a natural disaster.

After Hurrican Katrina hit New Orleans, the folks over at Proctor and Gamble recognized the need for working laundry facilities and started the Tide Loads of Hope program.  A truck equipped with 32 high-efficiency washers and dryers was sent to Camp Hope in Metrairie, LA and proceeded to clean over 10,000 loads of laundry.  Since then the program has expanded to include a fleet of similarly-equipped vans that have helped clean over 35,000 loads of laundry for over 20,000 families.

One of the ways in which P&G supports the Loads of Hope programs is through the sales of vintage Tide T-shirts.  In case you didn’t know, vintage stuff is hawt right now, but that’s not really the point here because 100% of the profits from these t-shirt sales go to the Tide Loads of Hope program.  Even if you do live in safe old boring old Michigan, it’s still nice to know a program like this exists should we ever need it.

And ladies?  Wearing a t-shirt with a bull’s eye on the chest is a very effective method of getting a man’s attention.

I’m just saying.

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Therapy in less than 500 words

I’ve been wanting to write about my brother but don’t quite know where to start.  That’s usually how it is with him; there are just too many threads to follow that I can’t choose which of his irritating qualities I want to rant about first.

We recently exchanged a series of heated emails that will probably result in weeks, if not months, of estrangement.  As with most of our fights, this one started over something ridiculous and silly.  As with the other fights, I’ve been left with a sense of wonder that we actually emerged from the same womb.  The same two people who created me created him and I can’t see how someone who was raised in the same household with me, someone who was educated in the same schools and given everything I was given, can be so incredibly different.

I want to tell you how different he is, but I’m pretty sure some of you have one of these back home.  The sibling who lives by his own set of rules.  The sibling who will forever be the “baby” of the family and gets treated as such no matter how old he gets.  The sibling who makes bad choices, learns nothing from them and inevitably repeats them.

And you probably also have the parents.  The parents who raised you to be reliable and self-sufficient.  The parents who taught you to work hard and be proud of a job well done.  The parents who expected nothing less than good grades from you in school.  The parents who seem to be smart people except when it comes to their son.  You thought you might understand them better once you became a parent, but none of their choices make sense.  The free room and board.  The free car.  The free trips to the grocery store.

And you may realize you were already a parent yourself by the time you were your brother’s age.  You had paid your dues in years of hard work that included hours of overtime to pay car payments, rent and then a mortgage.  You earned the right to bring another life into this world because you could finally care for that life and give her everything your parents gave you.

And then you look at this sibling and how he’s not so far removed from your child and you get mad.  You look at his relatively easy life, a life devoid of responsibility, and you get really, really mad that everyone else is okay with it.

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