Attitude of Gratitude

Saturday morning I woke up before anyone else.  It has been a long week: break-in, thief caught, mother in law totaled her car, meeting with ADT about the security system, being trapped at home all week because we were afraid to leave the house unattended.

So I went into our front room on Saturday morning while my husband and daughter slept.  I sat on the couch by the windows and perused some blogs on my phone (because my laptop was stolen).  It was peaceful, quiet.  I read a post geared toward new first time moms and remembered being one of those.

Then I started to think about Miss P, still passed out in her bed.  When would she wake up?  What adventures would we have today?  What funny things would she say (seriously, the kid has us in stitches sun-up to sundown)?  How many times could I demand Eskimo kisses from her before she rand and hid under the coffee table?

And that’s really how I feel.  I honestly love this kid and everything she brings to my life.  There are hard days, of course.  She’s 2 and that is to be expected.  But most days are FUN with a capital F U N.

Friday night when we were talking with the ADT sales guy, we told him Miss P was two.  We got the usual reply: “Just wait until she becomes a teenager!”

I never understand why people say things that are meant to be discouraging to parents of young children.  We know that every day isn’t going to be wine and roses.  We know every year, every month, every day being their own sets of challenges.  We’re in it for the long haul.

Miss P is my dream come true.  Well, technically she’s not the two boys I thought I would have, but she’s better!  She is real and funny and smart and loving and when I think about the long, childless life I thought I was going to have, I want to go in and scoop her up and smother her in kisses again.

I posted about my morning thoughts on Facebook and had a friend respond that with that attitude it was sure to be a good day, and she was going to think about it as she went through her day with her small ones, as well.  That wasn’t why I posted it, but I’m glad if my thoughts helped someone else’s attitude for even a few hours.

Raising children is hard, but it’s harder if we look at it like a job.  I’m going to try to remember to live every day like it is an adventure.

The Victim

On Friday morning Miss P decided to sleep in.  I love that we have the flexibility of this.

I was sitting at the kitchen counter closest to her bedroom door on the computer.  My phone rang at 7 am, and I snatched it up and answered it before the ringing could wake her up.

Stage Whisper: HELLO?

This is a call from the Florida Statewide crime victim information network.  We are calling to inform you of the status of inmate last name ____ first name ______.  This inmate is still in custody…

I blinked.  There was the option to repeat the information so I grabbed a pen and paper and took down the inmate name, the number for the victim information network and other pertinent details.

You see, the thief who broke into our house was apprehended on Thursday.  With some of our stuff.  That’s right, we’re getting at least some of our stolen items back.  And the scum who broke our bedroom window and pawed through my undergarments is in jail.

It was weird hearing that term: crime victim.  I mean, I know we were victims of a crime.  I just haven’t really seen myself as a victim.

I saw him.  I saw his vehicle, got a description and the tag number.  I was able to give police the information they needed to catch him.  That’s empowering.  I don’t feel like a victim at all.

I did have some nights where sleep was tough, but things could have turned out so much worse.  I could have come home and found him in the act, found myself on the business end of the gun he had.  I didn’t.

I had already let go of the things he stole.  I have been burglarized before and never recovered a single item that was taken.  I didn’t expect this to be any different.   Now we’re going to have some duplicates.

New laptop is on the way.  New DVR was received.  New TV in the livingroom.  New ADT system installed.

2015 taketh away, but it also giveth.  #notavictim

The Violation

Yesterday started like any other day.  It was a bit overcast, and we had been up late so we were feeling lazy.  The newest farmer’s market opened at noon, so the plan was to go there and see what we could see, then come home, have lunch and nap.

We left around noon, just as the rain started (of course).  Went to the farmers market anyway, only to find them lacking in the things I wanted, mainly bananas.  I still managed to spend about $15, but got precious little except soaked jeans and a soaked toddler.  I decided to hit the grocery store before heading home.

Coming down the street I could see our driveway through the hedges in the empty lot to the west of our house.  There was a dark vehicle in the driveway.  I was confused.  I wasn’t expecting anyone.  I was still heading toward the house, but I slowed way down, my brain trying to figure out what was going on.

As I neared the driveway I caught sight of someone sitting in the vehicle, which was backed in to the driveway, at the top near the garage door.  He caught sight of me, as well, and pulled out of the driveway in a hurry, turning right in front of me and hurrying off.  Still not understanding, I made metal note of the license number and some characteristics of the vehicle.

I pulled into the driveway and looked at the door.  Open, but not all the way.  I could see the locks and latches disengaged.  I had locked that, hadn’t I?

Things suddenly started to make sense.  I ran to the door, car still running with daughter inside.  Opened the door and looked in: things missing, furniture overturned.  I ran back to the car to get my phone, trying to dial 911 with shaking fingers.  A veritable army of officers showed up 5 or so minutes later, though it felt like a lifetime.

He broke in through our bedroom window and went out the front door, scooping up small electronic gadgets, probably coming back for our TV, though he may have taken that first.  The TV, a laptop, two Kindles, my husband’s high school diploma (???), the DVR, a DVD player, some sundry other items including a wallet with no debit or credit cards in it, just my drivers license.  The screen to the window was mangled almost beyond recognition, and we’re still finding glass everywhere.

As I lay in bed last night, long after the glazier had left and my husband’s team won the national championship, I wondered where this man had been.  He had dumped out my husband’s top dresser drawer, and chose the top drawer of my dresser closest to the bedside: dumped and strewn.  A small keepsake box on my dresser was emptied of its contents, high school keepsakes scattered everywhere, my National Honor Society ropes in a tangled heap.  I tried to imagine him moving through our bedroom.

I think about all of the stupid things we’ve been putting off: switching the renters insurance over (not done, so no coverage, I’m sure), getting the security monitoring to the house started (though we just talked about this a month ago) and keeping track of serial numbers (something I’ve never done).

I remember initially talking to the police officers, then calling my husband.  As he answered and I told him what had happened I felt guilty, like this was somehow my fault.  He doesn’t feel that way and seems surprised that I do.

I also keep wondering what if.  What if I’d decided to come home earlier?  What if instinct had kicked in and I’d tried to block him in to keep him from leaving?  What if I’d confronted him?  Things could have gone so differently.

The stuff may be gone but we’re fine and I’m happy with the way things turned out.  I don’t hold my breath to get our stuff back, but you never know.

Working Mom Dilemma

Happy end of 2014 and welcome to my 100th post.  I love it when something unplanned comes together.

So, working.  I’m not sure what to do about it.

A few months ago our financial situation was pretty bleak.  I was panicky and started sending resumes off into the abyss looking for jobs in my industry.  I even posted on monster.  The good news is: I got lots of bites.  The bad news is: they weren’t things I was interested in.

Our heads were above water, though barely.  I could afford to be choosy.  Unfortunately, nothing was coming up that made me want to get dressed up and go interview.

A friend suggested I send a resume to her company, so I did.  I heard nothing from them.  That was in.. September?  I got an email this morning from them asking if I was still looking, as they have some upcoming openings.

We’re in a little better financial position now than we were a few months ago.  Not great, but better.  I love being home with my daughter most days.  Some days it is boring, and I really think she and I could both use some interaction with other humans.

My freelance writing business is finally starting to come together.  I scored a big on-going job blogging and writing web content.  It won’t last forever, but it is a stepping stone to bigger and better things.  When I get some time to write I come out of it euphoric – someone is actually paying me to do this!  It’s amazing.

Downsides:  we could use more income.  We don’t have insurance yet, but we do qualify for ACA subsidies.  Our coverage will be crap, but at least it will be cheap.

I’m thinking about going in for the interview just to see what they might be able to offer me.  If the money is right I might be tempted.

On the other hand, I was discussing with my husband how life might change.  Putting Miss P in daycare, what our days will look like getting up early, coming home and making dinner and getting to bed to do it all over again the next day.  Trying to fit a life into a couple of hours a night and the weekends.  We’d have more money but hectic schedules.  We would miss out on a lot of Miss P’s development.

I think I’m leaning toward staying home and trying to expand the writing business.  I want to write, be my own boss, and still have time for my daughter and the freedom to explore the world during the day.  My husband admits that even though he works life isn’t all that hectic because I have the time to take care of things at home.

Life is good.  If we keep going this direction maybe it would get better.  I hope so.

Beautiful Night

“Let’s go out to dinner tonight,” my husband said suddenly.

I had pork chops defrosting in the sink.  “OK,” I said.

We decided on a small local Italian restaurant.  Miss P was beside herself.  She had been cooped up all day and couldn’t wait to go out.  When I pulled out her jeans, T-shirt, socks, shoes and pull-up she started chanting “Go go go!”

The restaurant was nicer than we expected for a strip shopping mall storefront.  It wasn’t kid-friendly unless you count having high chairs as kid friendly.  No kids menu, no smaller sized utensils.  I fed her food from my plate, she drank my tea, she said “All done, let’s go, bye bye” a lot.  And loudly.

“Use your indoor voice,” we said softly.

“OK,” she would whisper.  The next words would be a shout:

ALL DONE. THE END. GO NOW.

She wanted ice cream but they didn’t offer it as a dessert option. The waitress told us about an ice cream shop several doors down.  We walked down the sidewalk. Passed check cashing, a furniture rental store, a salon, a dollar store.

“Ice cream cone!”  Miss P shrieked, delighted, as we stepped into the brightly lit shoppe.

Age two has no sense of urgency about ice cream cones.  She isn’t being dripped on, daddy is.  She wipes her strawberry covered face on his white T-shirt.  It beings to rain softly.  I can barely get the wet wipes out of their small foil containers.

As we walk back to the car, I take her left hand, daddy takes her right.

“1-2-3-whee” we lift her off her feet, swinging her forward over a puddle.

“Again! Do it again!” she pleads.

We do it again.

And again.

And again.

Nights like this, I can’t believe we almost missed out on being parents.  Nights like this, I can’t imagine any more joy.

Sleep Cycle

As I write this my daughter is currently napping on the floor right in front of the door to her bedroom.  She is in the bedroom, the door is closed and she is in front of it, blocking it from being opened.  She does this pretty much every day.

About a half hour ago she woke from her nap crying but I recognized it as the cry of “I am still tired” and that she would go back to sleep.  For some reason her nap cycle is only about an hour long, but if I read her right I can occasionally get a two hour nap stretch out of her.  I’m working on that today.

It’s November, nearing December, and I’m feeling the effects of S.A.D., even down here in sunny Florida.  Life is actually going better than I had hoped, and yet there is some melancholy.

Finances are finally starting to loosen up for us after a wretched October.  I snagged an amazing freelance writing opportunity that is keeping me busy in my non-mom time.

And now I’m thinking about the new year, and what that needs to look like.  I think I spend too much time doing these three things:

  • Playing Uno on the Kindle
  • Playing Diner Dash on the Kindle
  • Arguing in online forums

I want to stop spending “free time” in mindless pursuits.  I mean, sure, every once in a while, but these days I’m being a bit obsessive about it, so my plan is to cut those things out entirely.  Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • Deleted Diner Dash from the Kindle
  • Deleted my Babycenter account
  • Removed myself from a couple of mom groups on Facebook

I really need to just go ahead and delete Uno but I haven’t done it yet.  I hope to do it in the next week or two, but if not, then I’m pulling the plug December 31.  I’m also going to practice not engaging in posts on Facebook that I feel strongly about.  I’m giving these things far too much head space.

Things I want to do more of:

  • Fun activities with my daughter
  • Writing, for fun and for profit
  • Sleeping, where possible
  • Running

I can do more of these things if I do less of the time suck stuff.  Cold turkey is hard, but I’m up for the challenge.

Baby Beating

I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate what I think about the current NFL scandals, and more specifically about the Adrian Peterson child abuse charges.  I’ve got two reasons this sticks in my craw:

1.  I was abused as a child, and the pictures I’ve seen are reminiscent of so many of my own injuries.

2.  I am Sooner born and bred, and Adrian Peterson is something of a hero in the Sooner football community.

I think what amazes me the most about this story is how so many people are saying “well, that’s not abuse, that’s just a good old-fashioned butt whoopin’!”  They say they got the same thing growing up and don’t see anything wrong with it.  Well, I got the same thing growing up (and much, much more) and I DO see something wrong with it.

When we see those stories about people locking their kids in cages, withholding food, affection, clothing, education, burning children with cigarettes, and yes, beating them, we are horrified.  And then someone says that the parents were treated much the same way as children.  And that is a horrible thing, but it never seems to excuse those people.

So where is the line?  Is it ok for this little four year old boy to have these marks on his body, and allegedly his scrotum?  Is that just thisside of the child abuse line?  Is that line fluid for NFL players?  Is that line fluid for the community at large?  And if there is a line, and this hasn’t crossed it, should we just wait until it crosses the line?  Don’t step up and advocate for this child until he’s had a broken bone or a severe head injury?

It amazes me again how these people who think it is ok to beat this four year old were probably shaking their heads over poor Janay Rice.  How horrible to see her get her head bashed into an elevator railing, knocked out cold and dragged into a casino lobby.  Poor woman.

Guess what?  That woman had the ability to walk away at any time from that relationship.  She could pack her things, drop her engagement ring on the dresser and go.  She could tell him to stop, fight back, call 911 and get the fuck out of there.*

Does a 4 year old boy have those same abilities?  No.  The person he trusts, the person he most wants to please, the person he most wants to love him beats him hard enough to leave lasting marks.  Where does he go for help? Who does he turn to?  Especially when he was allegedly told that if he told anyone about the beating he would get even more of the same?  Terrifying.

My mother used to beat me with anything she could get her hands on: phone book, PVC pipe, leather belt, wooden spoon, vacuum cleaner cord.  She’s thrown hairbrushes, pots and pans, and slaps and punches.  She used to force me on my knees and hold my head down in a prayer position for hours, until my knees were bleeding. She would punch me hard in the head if she didn’t hear me praying loudly enough or fervently enough.  And when she was finally satisfied she would grab a handful of hair, yank my head back and whisper viciously in my ear “If you say anything to your father about this, I will kill you.”

So by the definition of some, I am well within my rights to treat my daughter the same way.  After all, it was done to me.  But which camp do I fall in?  The one that gets no mercy no matter the circumstances, or do I get the famous NFL player treatment because of my “white trash” upbringing?

A friend of mine is of the belief that this is a cultural thing, and that it is no one’s right to say how this man parents his children.  I think that he is correct, to an extent.  I do not want the government in my business, particularly when it comes to my daughter.

But as a former abused child, I wish someone had spoken up on my behalf.  I wish someone had taken me away and kept me safe.  I guess my stupid, druggie mother was just smarter than Adrian Peterson.  She would never have taken us to the doctor with marks on our bodies.  Our secrets were well-hidden.

I no longer have a relationship with my mother, though I tried fervently for years to be the daughter she wanted, so I could have the mother I wanted.  It didn’t work, and now we are irretrievably estranged and she will never know her granddaughter.  In hindsight I can see how stupid it was to keep opening myself up to abuse to get into her good graces, but that’s what victims of abuse do: instead of giving up, we try harder.  We are told to respect our parents, and that they love us even as they are ripping chunks of hair out of our heads or calling us disgusting stupid little whores, or beating us with switches.  She was my mother, after all.  And you only get one of those, right?

Full disclosure: I have spanked my daughter on her diapered bottom.  A single pop on her padded rump gets her attention much more quickly than yelling (and is always administered after I have yelled more than once with no response).  I have swatted her hand away from something dangerous, like when she pulled my laptop cord out of the outlet and tried to plug it back in.  Even yelling “No! Stop! Drop it! Don’t touch that!” didn’t deter her.  The swat on the hand got her attention, and also got her to drop the cord.

Would I beat my daughter with a switch, or a pipe, or a Bible or any other available weapon?  No.  Never. I look into her face and even when she infuriates me, it is my job to love her, to teach her and to be a safe haven for her.  The world is a cruel and unforgiving place.  Home should not be.  My love for her will never be measured by how hard I beat her to “discipline” her, but by how hard I fight to quell the impulses my upbringing instilled in me.

This child that I longed for, that I thought I would never have, she is so precious to me.  How could I betray her trust the way mine was betrayed?

*I in no way believe that Janay Rice was not abused, or that she deserved any treatment that she received.  As a victim of abuse I get why she stayed, but she did have options.

As for Adrian Peterson?  The most he will walk away with in terms of punishment will be a $10,000 fine or 2 years in jail or possibly both.  He might even lose his job.  And that is a real shame.  But hopefully he will learn his lesson and work as hard as he can to make it up to that small child who calls him Daddy.  That should be his main concern, but it probably won’t be.

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