Monday, May 18, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake Twice

I swear, this is my last post in which I will wax nostalgic over Violet turning the big -1-. I make no promises about what I will do when she turns 18 months or 2 years, however, and I fully reserve the right to ooo and awww publicly over each new milestone if I so desire.

Anyway, the last week was full of fun birthday celebrations for Violet. First, on the 12th, we had a family dinner of spaghetti, her current fave, and of course a birthday cake to ring in the actual day. Then, despite the fact that Shawn and I agreed there had already been quite enough fuss made for a person who didn't even realize it was her birthday, we had a party with all of "Violet's Friends" on Saturday. I'm glad we did the friends birthday party, too, because it gave us a chance to see people we don't usually see and Vi got to visit with the Pierce side of the family.

Violet had a great time at her party which we held at a park. She definitely did a better job making a mess of herself on her second go-around with cake. The first time, on her actual birthday, she picked tentatively at the frosting and barely made a mess at all. She seemed way more into it on her second try, smearing frosting everywhere and licking her palms and the table regularly. I'm sure it was just the result of having a little practice, but I'll attribute it to the fact that she prefers Mama's homemade cupcakes (no mix, the real deal!) to the store bought cake we'd had on Tuesday. The paper wrapper surrounding the cupcake probably didn't hurt either. Paper is the base of Violet's food pyramid on many days.

The weather was sorta yucky but we made due. None of the kids seemed to mind the cold temps or intermittent drizzle. When do those things start to bother you? Must be after the age of 6...The park was still better than doing it at our house for a lot of reasons not the least of which being I didn't have to clean up smashed cake when it was all said and done.

I am going to have to remember to put "NO PRESENTS!" on any future party invites we send out, however, because after a certain number of parties in your honor (wedding showers, wedding, baby showers, 30th birthdays, all in the last 2 years!!!), I feel like a lot of our lesser-seen friends only see us on occasions when they feel required to bring a gift. Hopefully, we'll get to reciprocate for all of our friends and their kids if we haven't already.

The other reason we need to adopt a strict NO PRESENTS policy is because we are out of space. Playskool and Fisher-Price have taken over our house and I am starting to think I should have gone with a decorating palette featuring more primary colors so all the molded plastics would fit in. It is pretty hard to disguise the ball poppers and bubble mowers (both toys that she loooooves, by the way) among our current theme of muted earth tones. The good news on that front is, we just accepted an offer on our house so it looks like a move is in the works for us this summer. Priority #1 in the next house: PLAYROOM!!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Three Mimosa Mother's Day

My first Mother's Day on the Mother-end is winding down. We joined my family for a nice brunch and then spent the early afternoon playing on Jack and Charlie's new swingset at my brother and sister-in-law's house. Then we came home and I got a nap--what luxury--and needed after my 3 mimosas!

I can't believe last Mother's Day I hadn't even met Violet yet--she was still churning around in my belly waiting to be c-sectioned out of there. We didn't even know what her name was going to be and now I must say that name out loud 25 times a day! Violet!

Until this year, Mother's Day had always been only about honoring my Mom. Now, Violet has given me a new holiday. I had a gift to open--a pretty nightie--and lots of cards, too. It is appropriate that my new identity gets a holiday, and fitting, I think that Mother's Day will always fall during the week we celebrate Violet's birth. Violet was born on May 12, 2008, and so was her Mommy.

I don't think there is anyway to really be prepared for how motherhood will change your life and I realize that I am only beginning to see those changes. I had so many notions about what being the mother of a baby would look like, of who I would be when I became Jill the Mommy. Some of these have stuck, but a lot of them haven't. And a lot more quirks that I never expected have become part of my Mommyhood. Like, I am way more laid back than I thought I'd be with Violet eating. I thought I'd be a worried mess about her choking, but I have learned to trust her gag reflex and my own response time and now I feel pretty confident that she can handle most table foods. Just writing this probably guarantees I'll be explaining myself to an EMT in the near future after he wrestles a raisin from her windpipe. Just kidding, I haven't given her raisins. I bet Grammy has, though!

One thing I am getting more uptight about, on the flipside, is her daily bath. We were on the every-other-day bath cycle for a good portion of her infancy, now I am pretty grossed out if her wee bod doesn't get a daily scrub. She is so dirty when she eats that alone qualifies her for some tub time. Unfortunately for Violet, she also inherited Shawn's bizarre sleep sweats, so she wakes up from a lot of naps with her head soaked. And, must I mention the pants-pooping? I know all babies do it, but, if I pooped my pants, I'd like a bath within 24 hours.

I think what keeps surprising me is that I am more relaxed about the things that I thought would concern me--napping, schedules, and well-rounded meals--and way more concerned about things that I never gave much thought to before Violet, like chemicals, shots, and parent-child attachment. I empathize like I never did before I was a Mom. News stories, like the babies in China who were killed by tainted formula, and personal stories, like the one being lived by Maddie Spohr's mom, wrench a part of my heart I'd never even considered before. There is this underlying connectivity that knits us together that wasn't palpable before I was Violet's mom.

Things I thought would be easy, like leaving our baby with a sitter for a night out, are much more difficult than I expected. Things that I thought would be hard, like giving up the freedom of coming and going at a moments notice, have actually been easier than I'd imagined. And all this is just stuff I've learned in the first 363 days. I wonder what the next year and the ones after that will hold? I'm afraid I'm going to find out all too soon, if they all flip by as quickly as this one.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Avoiding Affluenza

The (stupid) economy. It was only a matter of time until we Pierces felt it directly. I have enough friends who have lost work. My brother was laid off in December. Shawn's dad was one of the first casualties a year and a half ago. Now, we are preparing for a drop in income and I am wracking my brain for ways to save the money we do bring in.

Let me qualify this income cut we're taking by saying that, in many ways, I chose it and am looking forward to it. The non-profit I work for, School on Wheels, is trying to cut a significant chunk of change from our budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year and our Executive Director let us know she wanted to do this while avoiding laying off any staff. So, the whole staff was presented with a slew of money saving propositions for us to consider with the hope that enough of us would step up and do something thereby saving every one's jobs. One option was to go from working full-time to part-time. I have wanted to work part-time since Violet was born but was afraid I wouldn't have a job at School on Wheels as a part-time employee. Now that I am actually going to be working part-time, however, I am getting a little anxious about how we are going to make ends meet.

Shawn and I are not rich, not you thought a school teacher and a non-profit manager would be loaded, but important to clarify, nonetheless. So I am going to try to remember, as we go from "not rich" to "getting by" in the next few months, that the things Violet will remember as she gets older are not going to be labels on clothes or how fancy her birthday parties were. If she is like me, she's going to remember feelings and smells, things far less tangible, and, fortunately, things that are free.

My parents, like Shawn and me, were "not rich" for most of my childhood. My Dad worked in ball bearing sales (the glamour!) and my mom stayed at home. They put 3 kids through parochial school. We went on one driving vacation a year, sometimes to Texas to visit family, sometimes to the beach to stay in a condo. We never ate out--I mean, McDonald's was a luxury. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I remember going to a sit-down restaurant. If my Mom's side of the family was visiting we might hit up a casual dining restaurant and even then, we'd do places like The Ground Round. We shopped at the 80's version of Costco, called Cub Foods, and my mom clipped and filed coupons for each trip. I know we did get new clothes from time to time, but I don't really remember big shopping trips to get them.

The things I do remember from being a kid have little to do with what we didn't have and everything to do with all that we did get. I remember getting a nickel to ride the Atlas grocery mechanical horse. I remember Mom buying a candy that was wax tubes filled with colored sugary water and letting us spit the chewed up globs of wax out the windows of the van. What the F were those things, anyway? I remember knowing there had to be a Santa because my parents wouldn't ever buy me all of those toys. I remember the way Mom made banners for Jeff and Andy when their birthdays fell on school days and hung them in the breakfast room so they'd get to have a party before school. I remember Dad making homemade egg rolls. I remember eating cherry turnovers and watching Dallas with all 5 of us. I remember catching lightening bugs with my Dad in the front yard. Summer memories are full of days at the Rivi swimming pool eating sandwiches and Goldfish while Mom laid out on the deck.

Once I got to about junior high, my Mom had finished school and gone back to work and my Dad must have gotten a few promotions because we started to have more. I would ask for a certain pair of shoes and they'd get them for me. We took a vacation in the winter and the summer. We'd go out for Mexican food or order pizza more often. It was subtle enough of a change I didn't even notice it at the time. By the time I graduated from high school, I had grown accustomed to getting a new dress before every dance and a $20 a week allowance. How lucky was I?

But what I need to remember is that is was not always that way in my family and I was none the wiser. In fact, I am probably better off for not having had whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. So, while Shawn and I are going to have to watch every penny, we needn't worry that Violet will know that we're doing it. She is going to remember how we took her to see the chickens--maybe not this trip, but future trips. She'll remember helping me frost cupcakes or getting to stay up late on summer nights playing and sweating with her cousins while the grown ups talk. Violet will remember eating cereal and watching Sesame Street while Scout begs at her feet. I hope Violet will remember snuggling between her Mommy and Daddy, feeling so safe and comfy, and knowing no other way to be.