Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Great East Coast Quake of 2011

As everyone with TV or internet access knows by now, the East Coast had an earthquake yesterday. It was interesting, exciting, and a little bit weird.

I was at work when the quake hit. The first thing I noticed was the sound, not the shaking. One of my coworkers and I had the same response. We both stood up and looked out the window at the tree because we thought it was a wind gust. As we both saw that the tree was calm, we realized what was going on. An earthquake!

And this is were my geekiness comes out. The first thing I said was how glad I was to have bookmarked the USGS website. I was very surprised to see that the quake was centered in Virginia since we quickly got word that people in New Jersey and further north in Pennsylvania had felt it. That's some serious shaking!

Many buildings in the area were evacuated, but most for only a short time. We remained in our office, but I learned this morning that the building next to mine actually sustained some minor damage. This really shocked me because the shaking didn't feel that serious or last very long. I suspect some of that has to do with the construction of the building I work in.

The quake was a huge topic of discussion through the afternoon and evening. It was interesting to hear what different people thought was happening. Andy thought someone was shaking his chair. One neighbor thought a train was going by. Another was trying to nap with her 4 year old, and she ended up yelling at her for shaking the bed! My favorite was from a chemist, who was trying to measure out a chemical on a scale and was annoyed at his company for buying such crappy equipment that wouldn't equalize.

Because of the timing, all of our kids were napping and ended up sleeping through the whole thing. However, by the end of the day Michael was talking as if he had actually felt it himself. I suspect that many of the current 5 year olds who slept through it will actually have "memories" of the shaking because they heard so much about it.

Overall, in Philly, it was mostly just an exciting afternoon. There was increased traffic because many tall buildings in the city needed inspection so everyone left and also because trains were restricted to 25 MPH limits until tracks and bridges could be inspected. But mostly, around here, it made for a fun and social day.

I realize that that is not what happened for many in Washington D.C. and NYC. Many people in those cities reported that their first though wasn't a train or the wind. Their first thought was that it was a bomb. It can't help but remind me of all of the little things that were lost on 9/11. For people in those cities, my "Wow! This is cool!" moment was a, "Oh Shit!" moment. It makes me sad and angry.

Overall, even though I think the media way overplayed the story, I am glad that the impact of the quake was minimal and that public safety took priority over keeping the trains running on time.

I will say that I am a little concerned about the students in Michael's class. As a result of the earthquake, we got out his Smithsonian book on Earthquakes. It's a bit scary and includes several references to "lives lost". So, of course, Michael just had to take it to school with him. I left a note for his teacher warning her that it's not appropriate, but when I left, Michael had the book open and was showing another boy the map that illustrates what levels of damage you can expect from earthquakes around the country.

Oops. My bad.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Contrary to...Well, Everything

I'm contrary. This is no secret. Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows this about it. It's not something I do on purpose. It's just the way I am. My initial response to just about everything is "no". My dad is the same way, and of course, so is Michael.

There are actually some positives to being naturally contrary. It has made me very resistant to peer pressure and to hard selling techniques. It also allows me to see problems in different, and often advantageous ways. I hope it serves Michael as well as it has served me.

But, there are some major downsides to being contrary. The most obvious is that it's really annoying. People do not like being told "no" over and over again. It get's old fast. Especially, if it's just a reactionary "no" and not a well thought out "no".

However, in addition to being annoying, it can also hurt the person being contrary. I've learned this lesson the hard way. More than once. One time in particular, I had an employee who had great ideas and I was shutting down his creativity with too many no's. Fortunately, I had someone who was able to point that out to me and I was able to correct my behavior. Learning to think about my no's before letting them fall out of my mouth has been very beneficial to both my relationships as well as my career.

Around 4.5, Michael started to tone down his reflexive no's. I really enjoyed being able to discuss things with him in a reasonable manner. Not only was it less stressful for Andy and I, it also made things easier for Michael.

That times seems to have passed, and Michael has turned the contrary up to 11 recently. I'm pretty sure that if you told him he was the sweetest little boy in the world that he would disagree with you. It's gotten that bad.

I've started using the old tactics that I used to use with him again. I'll present my case, whether it be going to the book store or if he wants dinner, and acknowledge his initial "no". Then, five minutes later I'll tell him that if he really does want ______ than he needs to decided now or the option is no longer possible. In the past, this was sufficient to give him time to think about what he really wanted. Now, it's not always effective.

This has resulted in tears at bedtime on several occasions because as soon as I tuck him in he decides that he must have whatever it was he refused earlier. He's then faced with the decision of having me tuck him in or having me walk out while he's still sitting up in bed crying. We would both rather avoid this situation, but allowing him to continue to not think about his decisions doesn't help him in the long run.

So, we have been having periodic discussions about taking time to think about his decisions before answering. It's OK to say I don't know or to ask for a moment to think about things. I'm trying to get him to think things through before he responds. It's not an easy process, and I don't expect it to improve over night, but hopefully with time he'll be able to take a moment to think about his initial reaction and determine if that's the best reaction.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kindergarten Decisions

With Kindergarten starting in a few weeks, there are a lot of changes going on. As I’ve stated many times, I’m not too big on change. The only thing worse than change for me, is when you add unmade decisions to the mix. If there are decisions to be made, than give me the information and let me decide!

Michael’s kindergarten is not exactly the best at getting out timely information. For example, school starts in less than three weeks, but we still don’t have any information on the school bus schedule. Nothing. It’s driving me crazy. It also makes planning harder since we don’t know what we need to plan around.

For the past five years, I’ve been dropping Michael off in the morning and then Andy and I take turns picking him up in the afternoon. We both start work early, so I actually had to adjust my schedule to a later time when Michael entered a daycare center that opens at 6:30 am. You would not believe the additional traffic I have to deal with because of that half hour.

So, I wasn’t too happy when I learned that Michael’s kindergarten starts at 9:10 in the morning and runs until 3:25. 9:10? That’s practically lunch time to me. However, even J’s parents, who work on a more typical schedule were freaking out. 9:10 doesn’t work for them either. At least Andy would typically be home to meet the bus, but J’s family doesn’t stand a chance.

It was time to look at alternatives:

1. Before and after school care.

Pros: Reliable and on-site

Cons: They don't open until 7:00 am and they are in the other direction for me. It would make my ride to work about an hour long.

2. Grandma care:

Pros: She would come to my house.

Cons: Due to her health situations, she's not very reliable.

3. Community care: This involves Michael going to J's house in the morning before the bus comes and J coming to our house in the afternoon until his parents get home from work.

Pros: Easy. Free. My schedule doesn't change. Michael gets to spend time in a house where he won't be the only child.

Cons: If this kind of thing goes sour, which it often does, it kills the relationship between neighbors.

Of course, not having all of the information from the school about busing and drop of times and such, made this decision linger on for several weeks as we all looked into our work schedules, finances, and had uncomfortable conversations with Grandma. In the end, we have decided on option three. In the morning, Michael will head over to J's until the bus comes. J's dad will see the boys onto the bus. In the afternoons, Andy will meet the boys and we'll watch J until his mom gets home. I'm happy with the plans and will make sure that we keep the lines of communication open so that it doesn't go sour.

In addition, I've spoken with my mom about why she wanted to do this for us. Her main concern is that she really wants to maintain the close relationship she's developed with Michael over the past five years of caring for him. I also want her to maintain that relationship, and reassured her that it is a priority for me and that she will get time with Michael. And, it will be on weekends or afternoons/evenings, which will be much more quality time than what she would have gotten at 6:30 am. And, Andy and I may even get some date nights out of it. Win/win.

I'll let you know in a month or so how this is working out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Funny, things have been so random lately that I haven't been able to collect my thoughts enough to post. Now that things are calming down a bit, I can take time and enjoy the random. So here goes...

  • When we bought our house, we kept our oversize and pretty low quality furniture planning to replace it all when we had more money. Then, we decided to replace it when Michael stopped spitting up all over. And then, and then. We finally decided to replace our lamps because they were blowing our light bulbs (including CFLs!) It took me several weeks and harassing a number of Pottery Barn stores, but I finally have the lamps and shades I love.
  • The new lamps and shades highlight just how craptastic the rest of the furniture looks. Oops.
  • Out of nowhere on the ride to school this morning, Michael asked me if I had forgotten his breakfast. I haven't forgotten his breakfast in over a year, and he's never asked me this question before. I thought for a moment, checked his lunch bag, and then turned around to pick up his breakfast. How did he know? Talk about coincidence.
  • I gave Michael's final notice to daycare today. I'm very sad to leave. They have really been wonderful with Michael and I'm going to miss them a lot.
  • I'm going to write the last check for daycare this afternoon. I will not miss this part of daycare at all.
  • I'm starting to think about what the end of daycare payments could mean to my craptastic living room furniture, but I think we have other projects that may be higher on our list, like the craptastic kitchen cabinets.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What a year.

I know that by convention, most people mark the new year in January. However, I guess from years of schooling, I always tend to think of the new year starting in September. August, and the long, hot, dog days of summer always feel like the wrap up to me. Fall brings cooler weather, shorter days, and the frantic buildup to the holidays.

So it’s not surprising to me that I’ve been reflecting back over the past year while also planning for the exciting new start as Michael enters kindergarten.

I remember last year at this time. Michael was preparing to switch from going to daycare two days a week to three days. The goal was to give my mom a little more time to herself, and to help get Michael used to a more academic environment before kindergarten. Michael was recovering from another ear infection, and I was waiting desperately for the magical end of that first year of daycare endless sickness. I had dreams that maybe I’d actually be able to save up some sick and vacation time for once. Maybe I’d actually find a little time for myself as things settled down.

Oh, if only I knew what was to come? Labor Day weekend my mom started feeling sick. We thought she just had Michael’s cold. Within a week, however, we discovered she had shingles. Not good.

In October, I ended up getting sicker than I’ve ever been before. Ear infection, pink eye, strep throat, a cough so bad that my ribs hurt for six weeks. Also, during that same time, I had some unbloggable personal issues going on that were worse than the killer germs I had caught. It really took all the way through December to finally start to recover. At that point, my sick time and vacation time were almost wiped out. I was tired.

In January, things started to look up. I was learning that sometimes when things get broken, the fix is actually better than the original. I was gaining energy and working on a new workout plan. Even Michael was doing well and fighting off those lousy daycare germs. I took a moment to exhale.

Then BOOM, February ushered in a whole new level of hell with my mom’s breast cancer diagnosis. That news flipped a switch in my life and we have been pretty much running in survival mode since then. Michael had to switch to full time daycare. I had to pick up all the basics that my mom could no longer do for herself. What little time I had disappeared in a wink.

And the worrying, the endless worrying. I could tell yourself things are going to be OK a thousand times a day, and still find myself crying in the shower in the evening. I’d go for runs to relax and clear my head only to find myself walking and wiping tears out of my eyes. Many days I woke up completely exhausted wanting only to take a day off to sleep, but not being able to because I needed the few sick days I had earned.

It was hard.

A few weeks ago, my mom started to feel well enough to do her dishes, take out her trash, and pick up her mail. Next, she felt good enough to go out and do her grocery shopping. Finally, she had enough energy back and she begged me to let her keep Michael over night.

Andy and I went on a date! Dinner and a movie. I’d forgotten what it was like, and it was such a treat.

Then, the next weekend my mom asked for Michael again. Sure. After she picked him up, Andy and I stared at each other not knowing what to do with ourselves. We didn’t even know how to spend time alone together. Don’t worry, we figured it out soon enough.

So, that’s where we are. It was a rough year, but I think we made it through OK.

That leaves me wondering about this new year coming up. How will kindergarten go? How will it effect our lives? Will it be easier? Harder? Crazier?

What about my mom? She wraps up radiation in a few weeks. All that’s left is for her hair to grow back in and for the monitoring to start. Did everything work? Is she cured? Can we relax a little? Hmm….there is always this.

I’m hoping that things can settle down into some new kind of normal, for a little while at least. Maybe I can catch up on all those doctor’s appointments, blog posts, house cleaning, books and other things that I’ve had to put aside for so long. Maybe I can focus a little on me again. It's hard to let myself even think it, because I really don't want those hopes dashed again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Random Act

I know it's been a while since I've posted about my mom. But, that's a natural outcome of being a full time working mom who is also caring for her mother who is undergoing chemo. All those extra trips to the grocery store, and cleaning kitty litter, and such take priority over blogging. And, to be honest, even when I could find the time to blog, I couldn't collect my thoughts enough to post.

The good news is that my mom has completed chemo. She's had a CT scan of her chest and an echocardiogram. Her lungs an heart are healthy and there is no sign of damage from the medications or any signs of unwanted growths. It's taken over a month, but she's finally getting her energy and motivation back. Which, is a good thing because she needs to go out every day for her radiation treatments.

Getting her energy back means getting some of her life back. One huge advantage is that she is able to spend time with Michael again. The past four months have been difficult for both of them because they have always been so close. Michael spent the night with her last Friday, and I cannot tell who was happier. They were both grinning ear to ear when I picked him up, even though he had some sleep issues and they didn't get to sleep until 2:00 am!

This return to freedom also allows my mom to do some of the simple little things that she enjoys. Yesterday, she stopped at Friendly's for lunch. As she finished her meal, her waitress came over and asked if she had noticed a man and his son at the counter. My mom had, but they were gone by this point. The waitress explained that the man had paid for my mom's meal for her. I guess he saw her sitting by herself, with her hat pulled all the way down over her head, and decided that she could use a little kindness in her life.

She was absolutely tickled pink by the man's random act of kindness. She even called me at work to tell me about it. Not only did it make her happy, but it made me happy too. This has been a hard journey for my mom, and for me as well. That someone that she doesn't even know took a moment to notice her and do something kind, makes me feel just a little bit better about this crazy world we live in.

So, random guy out there, thank you!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sh*t my kid says

One of the fun parts of being a parent is listening to some of the things that kids say. Even simple mispronunciations or incorrect names can linger for years, like my mom still calling blue jeans "pockets" 40 years after my brother made that mistake.

Michel has never had a lot of mispronunciations. My favorite was when he called "dinosaurs" by the very appropriate "Dinoroars." I was sad that it only stuck around for a few weeks.

As he gets older and his thought process gets more complex, he's coming up with some very interesting questions. These are certainly going to stand out more in my memory than his few mispronunciations.

Some recent discussions:

Michael: Mommy, Did I pee when I was in your tummy?

Me: Yes


Michael: Mommy, how did I get into your tummy?

Me: It's time to cross the road. Please hold my hand. Did you have fun at the beach?


Michael: Mommy, today we learned that stars can explode. Is the sun going to explode?

Me: Wait, what? Ah, let's see. Yes, the sun will eventually explode. But, it won't be for billions of years. That's a very, very long time from now.


Michael: Mommy, when the sun explodes in five billion years will Santa Claus die?

Me: Um...Um...Ah...

Me in my head: WTF? How do I answer that one? Santa isn't real, but we are pretending he's real, so how do I answer this so that I don't give away that Santa isn't real, but without upsetting Michael?

Me: Yes, Santa will die.

Me in my head: PARENTING FAIL!


Michael: How does Santa know what everyone is doing?

Me: How do you think Santa knows?

Michael: I think he has a thousand computers that he uses.

Me: Yeah, Santa is like a super hacker!

Me in my head: I'd better work on the "Don't ruin Santa for other kids" lecture.


Me: (After Michael pushed over my neighbor's toddler) Time out! Now!

Me three minutes later: Now you need to go and apologize to M.

Michael: Mom, he's just a baby. He won't even understand me.

Me in my head: Well, he's got a point there...

Me out loud: Then go apologize to his mother!

Me in my head: I am so screwed.