Monday, January 25, 2016

Happy New Year

I've now been unemployed three months and I'm settling into the domestic engineer role. The house isn't pristine as I'd imagined it would be, and I haven't accomplished as much as I thought I might. But I have been able to exercise frequently, be there for the kids more and sign them up for sports. Normally, most activities for kids don't fit into the working parent's schedule, which sucks.

When I ask the kids if they want me to go back to work, they resoundingly say NO. They don't like after-school care. Personally, I think it has nothing to do with having me home with them; they just want to have more time gaming on their tablet. But for me, it IS nice to have more time with them, guiding them, working together on household chores, getting homework done earlier, getting into a rhythm, etc.

My l'il Chicken Hawk is five years old and in junior kindergarten, so it's special time we have when I pick him up from school at 11:30, have lunch together and he chatters away to me. I know these are precious moments that won't last and I want to hold on to them. Eventually I'll be be at full time work again and hurrying the kids from one thing to the next until they're older and have no interest in me being around.

The Christmas break was a long, drawn out, intense period of family time that was taxing though. Too much togetherness with sibling rivalry and general chaos, coupled with unwanted outside critiquing from the inlaws/grandparents. Mainly my step mother in law's expectations for more order, etiquette and peace from a family of five. Sorry, but that's unrealistic. I started to become so extremely irritated by her attempts to control all situations with her minimizing comments, food control issues, simplifying complex parent/child/sibling/family dynamics with her 'wisdom'. I don't like to be confrontational, so I stuff my anger and frustration, but it finds a way of seeping out. I welcome her to take our kids for a week and see how 'easy' it really is.

To be fair, she wrote a letter apologizing for her shortsightedness and thanking us for helping her to see things a different way. I will try to give her the benefit of the doubt and not let her get under my skin. The holidays can be rough for me emotionally and I don't like being trapped at someone's house (with limited WiFi/connectivity) and not having my typical routine at home.

It was a relief to fly away on New Years Eve day to go help my mom out for six days - alone. One post-surgery semi-elderly mom is so much easier to care for than three kids and a lecturing husband. She was in her recliner chair most of the time with the Hallmark Channel on at full volume from morning to night. I actually started to enjoy watching the Golden Girls and the cheesy romantic movies!

Now it's back to the grind with school, sports, clutter, bickering and attempting to find a job. I DO want to work, don't get me wrong. But I really want/need a job with flexibility and a manageable work load. Benefits and a decent salary would be nice too. We can't live off Daddy-O's salary alone and he often laments about it. I do have financial goals like paying off debt, saving for kids' college and retirement and buying a new car, so securing a job is necessary.

I have secured two freelance opportunities and some pro bono writing work, so at least I have things to keep my mind active and the networking going. I wish I could do that for work, but it's not the same income and predictability as a salary, unfortunately. I guess I haven't found the 'secret sauce' to it. I keep brainstorming though...

If you work from home, or work part time to accommodate your family life, please leave a comment below to let me know how you do it. Hearing how others make it work would be helpful to me.

Have a great week!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Disgruntled Parenting Observations

Here are some of my recent observations of parenting:
  • Hard
  • Often unrewarding
  • Stressful
  • Messy
  • Chaotic
  • Demanding
  • Frustrating
I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I'm taxed from trying to do nice things for them and keeping things together, and they (of course) don't appreciate anything. All they want to do is watch TV, play video games and leave mini hurricanes of mess everywhere. That and talking back/disrespecting me.

I'm thinking I'm a bad mom that doesn't know how to set boundaries or command respect. I need counseling or a support group. They have been very rough on me and I'm not feeling the joy. I question whether all kids are like this or if mine are just especially challenging. Is it genetics? Is it my fault? Is it a stage? Is it because I have too many kids? Am I being being too much of a perfectionist? Am I just depressed? 

One of my goals, now that our health insurance is set up again, is to get dialed in with a counselor. I know of an art therapy studio locally that has counselors/therapists. Might be hooky, but might be legit. Might be better than a stale office setting of psychoanalysis.

I'm watching a funny movie on Netflix right now and it's making me feel better - People, Places, Things. The kids are all doing their own things in front of screens. So wholesome and interactive - like a Norman Rockwell painting. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I Yam What I Yam

NaBloPoMo - Day 25

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! I am almost looking forward to the feast and the family/friend time - that is pretty optimistic/enthusiastic for me. We're having our neighbor over with his gourmet cooking skills (smoked Turkey and chocolate bourbon pecan pie) and tasty wine/liquor. One of my good friends from back home and her husband/son are coming over too. We'll eat, drink, play games and kick back.
My contribution is garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing with mild Italian sausage, cheese/meats/crackers, pita chips, spinach/artichoke dip, cranberry sauce, jalapeno stuffed olives, Hawaiian sweet rolls, pumpkin pie, sangria (soaked over oranges, pears, grapes, apples and pineapple) and vodka soaked gummy bears. Delicious, right? 

I'm thankful we're not flying or driving to either of our family's houses out of state. This means we're saving immense money as well as my sanity. Holidays with my mom and siblings can be so exasperating and depressing. Very minimal joy and warm feelings of togetherness. Anxiety, bickering, anger, frustration and annoyance. This family legacy has led to a lot of my negative vibes and sadness about holidays and traditions in my adult life. 

Holidays with my in laws have their own unique stressors. The mute/awkward dad, the minimizing/all knowing step mom, their strange (to me) mannerisms, hearing DaddyO rehash his newest technology/app and job, political chatter, etc. I really don't like the contrived line of questioning from my step mother in law asking how the most dysfunctional members of my family are doing. Sorry, I try not to keep up with the details of their lives for good reason. And I don't want to talk about such personal matters in a faux supportive environment. My family is 'white trash' to them, so they don't understand why they do things they do, so I don't want to bother explaining it to them or hearing their judgement/disapproval. 

Other traditions that don't mesh with me that seem to be popular with other people are the women working away in the kitchen while the men sit on the couch watching football. I don't like the sounds of football on TV and the random shouts at the TV and general chaos. I don't like feeling obligated to spend all day making food, serving food and cleaning up after.  It's bullshit. 

Things that would be super awesome to round out the day tomorrow would be a morning bike ride or jog by myself, cooking with a funny/interesting movie playing in the background and no one underfoot, fun games and a soak in the hot tub. Maybe even a cat nap. 

I need to be proactive about creating the life I want with the small things I do every day. Despite all the responsibilities, carving out time for recreation, fun, relaxation and the people who lift me up/make me laugh. Being true to my unique self despite what others think I should be or want me to be. I shouldn't be so accommodating and passive. Like Popeye always says, "I yam what I yam".

As an early Christmas present to you, dear reader, here are two Popeye videos for your amusement (unless they keep disappearing..). Be like Popeye the Sailor Man this Thanksgiving and eat your spinach and stand up to bullies!





Monday, November 23, 2015

New Music: Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs

We LOVE Laurie Berkner! She continues to come out with great music for children. We were fortunate to review her new album - Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs. It includes 51 traditional classics with her unique flair and several of her own songs, for over two hours of fun music for kids. Perfect while you're taking a road trip over the holidays. I fondly remember most all of these songs from my childhood.

Laurie Berkner has said of her new album, "I grew up with many of these songs, and I'm sure parents and grandparents will remember a lot of them from their own childhoods. I'm excited about sharing these classics with kids who may not have heard them before and also introducing my versions of songs that might already be family favorites. In the true folk tradition, I've added some of my own lyrics and my own spin to many of these traditional songs. I've kept a folk or rock feel for most of the numbers, with a little reggae thrown in here and there for fun!"

Laurie Berkner Band: Laurie Berkner, vocals/guitar; Susie Lampert, keyboards; Brady Rymer, bass; and Bobby Golden, drums/percussion. | Photo Credit: LaurieBerkner.com

For this review, I had my three children and our two neighbor girls listening and providing their feedback. The music is geared for kids 0-7, so the older kids scoffed at me playing it for them because they thought it was 'too babyish'. But soon after it started playing, when I told them to imagine being a small child and get into it. They actually started singing along and saying they remembered it from when they were little.

The following is a write up of what each child jotted down about their listening experience. I was unable to get them to listen to all 50+ songs. Their attention spans are short and they refuse to sit for long; especially when they're all together after school.

Littlest Chickadee (8):
  • Over in the Meadow - I think you have a talent for babies. I love your babyish songs.
  • The Cat Came Back - I love it so much. But it's weird when you did cat noises. It's awesome.
  • Five in the Bed - It's so cute, but it's too short.
  • Little Boy Blue - It's the best lullaby ever. I love your voice. It will put babies to sleep right away.
  • I've Been Working on the Railroad - I like it from childhood, even when I'm still a kid!
  • Sing a Song of Six Pence - I love it. It's so good.
  • Alouette - Love it. So good for a learning experience. It's the best of all. 
  • Take Me Out to the Ball Game - It's ok. We don't know which team you're talking about.
Neighbor Chickadee (8):
  • Song 1 - It is so funny.
  • Song 2 -  I would listen to it.
  • The Cat Came Back - Let's be real - it's kinda weird. I'm not trying to be mean.
  • Five in the Bed - So cute! Too short. 
  • Little Boy Blue - It's beautiful!
  • Wild
  • Cute
  • Fun
  • Catchy
  • Cool
Neighbor Chickadee (10):
  • Over in the Meadow - I like the tune and the lyrics. I like it because it sounds like it is telling a story.
  • Shoo Fly - This song is cute and lovely. It's a good morning song and a nighttime song. 
  • The Cat Came Back - I like the tune of this song. It's very jazzy. I love it!
  • Five in the Bed - This song brings back good memories and this song is very, very cute.
  • Little Boy Blue - This song is very calming and beautiful and is one of the best lullabies I have ever heard! I love it!
  • The Animal Fair - I love this song SO much! It is very catchy and cute! It's very, very fun and full of joy!
  • I've Been Working on the Railroad - I love this. It's very cute and it's one of my favorite songs! It's very catchy and joyful. 
  • Sing a Song of Six Pence - (she wrote six cents - funny!) Sing a song of six cents is a great song. It is very cute and cheerful!
  •  A, B, Cs - This song is very calming and in my opinion this song is much, much better than the regular A, B, Cs. 
  • Alouette - I love this song. It is very entertaining and interesting! I really, really love it! :) One of my faves!
  • Take Me Out to the Ball Game - I LOVE THIS SONG! I used to sing this song in kindergarten! It brings back so many fun and nice memories! Also I like the jazzy twist! 
  • Shortnin' Bread - I love this! My mom used to sing this. I love it. It is probably my favorite! :) Yes! Yes! Yes! :)
  • Amazing Grace - It is so, so beautiful and wonderful! Also it is very calming. My second favorite song! :)
The Disgruntled Chick (me, 41): I thought the classic songs were fun, beautiful, catchy and well done. To me, as a mom, it's important to know these types of songs by heart to sing to my kids, and to sing them together, especially when they're young. Singing traditional songs makes them smile, builds warm childhood memories and it helps form parent/child bond. It also passes down a legacy of songs from history and generations, which is pretty special I think. To create those sweet memories when they're little so when they're older and too cool for 'babyish stuff', you can recreate some of those fond memories (or annoy them).

I'm glad my oldest chickadee's friend gave me her sweet notes on the songs, because mine was ignoring my request completely. Same with my almost five year old chicken hawk. Sigh... Don't worry though - I'll be playing these little gems for them in the car. If they give me any further feedback, I'll be sure to update this review.

In the meantime, I highly recommend buying this as Christmas gifts for the moms/kids/families in your life! There is a Black Friday sale on her website right now - this album plus another album of your choice for $19.99 or this album and two other albums of your choice for $26.99.

Here is the extensive list of songs on the two-disc album.  

Disc 1
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* I was provided a copy of Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs to facilitate a review. Our opinions are authentic.