Thursday, December 31, 2009

On the Eve of a New Year

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Became a working mom; enrolled a child in full-time daycare; joined Facebook after holding out for a couple of years; began using a budget; had my first (and last) garage sale; and went on a real diet (Weight Watchers).

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Yes, I had some—I had to go back and look, since I didn’t keep up with them formally.
  • Read the Bible and pray daily—um, not every day. I often take my Bible and a Bible study with me to a school and work on them during my free time. I pray in small bits throughout the day.
  • Get back to exercising 4 times a week. Took the summer basically off because the kids didn’t want to go to the gym childcare and then once I started working, that was all she wrote. We are planning to join the new community center in April and go a few times a week together.
  • Read a challenging book once a month. I probably did this. I read some biographies and Christian studies instead of just fiction and memoir.
  • Write every day and finish at least six short stories. I still write, but don’t have the sustained free time necessary for writing fiction.
  • Clean up the playroom--and therefore the living room--every night before bed. Not EVERY night, but we do this every two or three nights as a family. It helps.
  • Take more pictures. Not really. Does it count that I now get pictures from my mom and two SIL’s?
  • As far as my eating habits, I need to eat more fruits and vegetables, and I want to start eating real oatmeal instead of sugary cereal with no fiber. I do like the oatmeal but only take the time to make it on weekends, about once every 2 weeks. I still need to eat more fruits & veggies for snacks instead of carbs.

I’m not planning to do any “real” resolutions. I want to choose to be happy and thankful in all situations (and if I don’t feel happy, to “fake it till I make it” until an appropriate time to share my real feelings with someone). I want to get outside my comfort zone to be kind to others. Today my friend and I decided we are resolving to make more time to get together with friends.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thank goodness.

5. What countries did you visit?
Sadly, none.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A full-time teaching job. Financial stability.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
August 15 was my brother’s wedding. Also, this year’s Christmas was the most fun so far with the kids since they are now both old enough to anticipate it.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Making the transition to becoming a working mother, and enjoying it.

9. What was your biggest failure?
The times when I freaked out about money worries, which had a negative effect on my husband and kids because “when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
This is hard: all of a sudden I can’t remember anything I bought. The weekend Justin and I went to a hotel together (ALONE) was the best thing we spent money on.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My whole family behaved well overall. I mean, sure there were some tantrums and whining and passive-aggressive sniping but in general I am very proud of the way my family treated each other and others.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Anyone who was on a “reality” TV show. I hate the whole phenomenon of reality TV and the type of personality it attracts. I would hate those people in real life, so why would I watch them on TV?

14. Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage, the car payment, daycare, our church, the electric company, Wal-Mart (where we buy 90% of our groceries because it’s so close to our house), restaurants.

15. What did you get really excited about?
Getting to teach again. Which surprised me. But I realized I do like kids (most of the time!), and I am passionate about teaching reading and writing.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Nothing comes to mind. My favorite songs are mostly older.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? Happier, I think.
– thinner or fatter? Neither; I’m the same.
– richer or poorer? A little poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Gone on more date nights.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about money.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At my mother-in-law’s house in Lousiana.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
This sounds sappy, but it’s true: I fall more deeply in love with my husband every year we are married. He’s such a wonderful man—absolutely perfect for me.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
The Soup and The Closer.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

24. What was the best book you read?
The Likeness by Tana French; Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell; Lisey’s Story by Stephen King; That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo; I’m Down by Mishna Wolff; Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon; Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; and Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
That the iTunes Genius creates some neat playlists.

26. What did you want and get?
I passed my elementary certification test, and none of the bad things I feared happened.

27. What did you want and not get?
A full-time job. I also didn’t get a bigger balance in the savings account.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
An Education. A film about a young girl coming of age in 1960s England.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
 I turned 34 while we were visiting my father’s side of the family in Arkansas. My aunt cooked a nice meal and a low-fat dessert (they’re dieting) and later I made my husband take me out for some Baskin-Robbins because I wanted something indulgent on my birthday!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If we could have traveled somewhere cool. Or, more practically, if I could have had someone else clean my house regularly.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
I started wearing work clothes again, so I couldn’t wear yoga pants every day. I learned that comfortable shoes are a must when you’re on your feet all day. I usually wear jeans and a cute top when I’m going somewhere. Thanks to a few fashion blogs, I’m slowly trying some new looks.

32. What kept you sane?
This blog, laughter, Justin, my kids, prayer.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I don’t really get celebrity crushes. I mean, I think George Clooney and Johnny Depp are hot, but I don’t think too much about any celebrities in that way.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
The healthcare debate. I don’t have the answers, but the problems (on both sides of the issue) bother me because I know there’s no great solution.

35. Who did you miss?
My late father-in-law, who would have had so much fun with my kids. My friends, whom I didn’t get to see as much because of working.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
My hairstylist. She’s fabulous and not expensive.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
It is possible for me to control my emotions even when it is not easy or pleasant-feeling to do so.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
No particular song lyric, but this anonymous poem contains some of the things I tried to learn this year.
Fear less, hope more
Whine less, breathe more
Talk less, say more
Hate less, love more
And all good things are yours.

I got this quiz at All & Sundry's blog.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What I'm Proud & Thankful for in 2009

I got this idea from Killing a Fly with a Ukelele is Probably the Wrong Thing to Do and I thought it was a good way to provide a retrospective on the year. So without further ado...

1. 2009 was definitely a rollercoaster year for us financially (as I know it was for many people). Two different times we were on the brink of having to go out of business but then we managed to keep the cabinet company afloat. That's definitely something to be thankful for. I would dearly love to be more stable financially (we are still juggling bills) but for now we are making it and I am grateful.

2. Another major change in 2009: I went back to work as a substitute teacher. I looked for a full-time position but no one was hiring much, and honestly I am now glad that I got to ease into working again. If I need to take a day off for an appointment, or the kids are sick, or I just need a day off, I can do it. I have made a lot of good contacts and impressed some people, so I am trusting that the right job will come along at the right time. I'm proud of myself for putting myself out there and making sure I introduce myself and hand out cards at each school I go to, since in the past I wouldn't have wanted to promote myself.

3. I'm thankful my children are happy and healthy. (In fact I'm thankful that we are all so healthy!) I'm proud of them for doing so well in school. They both enjoy learning, get along with their peers, and are well-behaved at school (NOT that they are perfect, especially not at home, but neither one has ever gotten in trouble at school.) I couldn't ask for more as a mother!

4. I'm thankful for a wonderful husband who has stood by me through all my emotional storms, which in turn has motivated me to be able to control my emotions better for the good of the family. I can truly say that we are closer than ever at the end of 2009.

5. I'm thankful for my family and my church family. What a blessing to have such awesome people in my life!

6. I'm proud of myself for the way I balanced all of my responsibilities once I started working. We all stayed fed and clean and clothed, and I was actually surprised that the house wasn't noticeably messier than when I stayed home all day. This could have been because I used to procrastinate all day to do something that ended up taking 20 minutes. I know it will be more challenging once I am working full-time and the kids are in after-school activities, but I'm sure that it will all work out once we get there.

Happy New Year to all of you--may 2010 be the best year ever!


Monday, December 28, 2009

A Very Merry Christmas

Here I am again! We were out of town for the holidays, and I was so busy I didn't have time to even get online, let alone post. But it was a GOOD kind of busy. Here's a brief recap:

1. We celebrated with my family--my parents, and my brother and new SIL--on Tuesday night. Miss Pink received an American Girl doll from my parents (among other things) and now refuses to be parted from her new friend. She's never played with dolls much, but I think the difference is that this one isn't a baby doll and it looks like her. We even ordered glasses for the doll to wear which don't match Miss P's (they didn't have pink ones) but still, with the matching hair color and style, they make the doll really look like her new owner. I'll see if I have some pictures but right now I'm trying to finish this post quickly.

Mr. Blue's big present was a race track. In fact, he got a lot of race tracks and vehicles, and he loves them all.

My husband got a Keurig one-cup coffee maker because he always uses the one at my parents'. I got gift cards and can hardly wait to go shopping--I already ordered 4 books with my Barnes & Noble card.

2. On Wednesday we went to Lousiana. I had had all the gifts shipped there via, which worked out perfectly since our car is small. I was worried we wouldn't have room to fit everything in coming back, but Justin is a packing genius. Anyway, LOVE Amazon.

3. Justin and I had been given orders to make (and teach his sister to make) the family's favorite pastries for Christmas. My MIL hasn't been able to make them for several years, and we learned to make them here, last year, so the rest of the family was anticipating eating them. One of the recipes, Cherry Bonbons, is made with crescent roll dough (the importance of this will become clear soon). They take a fairly long time to make because you wrap the dough around each cherry and then you ice each small bonbon after they're baked. So on Christmas Eve we finished both recipes--it took about four hours--and decided to taste the cherry bonbons. Justin and I exchanged a puzzled look. Why did they taste odd? I picked up the can of crescent roll dough and there it was: Garlic Butter Crescent Rolls. Our aunt had bought the rolls and gotten the wrong ones! When we'd smelled garlic while they were baking, we attributed it to the pot roast cooking next to the oven. What could we do but laugh? We made another batch the next day. I bet we never forget the year that we made Garlic Cherry Bonbons.

4. On Christmas morning, we actually woke up before the kids. We didn't wake them up, though. Before long they came in our room and we told them to see if Santa came. Mr. Blue went then came back quickly saying sadly, "I don't think he came." We went and pointed out the pile of presents. "He DID come!" he exclaimed, eyes shining. "Santa Cwaus did come! And he brought pwesents!"

Miss Pink's big gift was a 1/2 size guitar. She's very excited about learning to play it. And Mr. Blue received an electronic drum set. Headphones can be plugged into it. I don't mind hearing a little noise, though, as long as they're playing with things and not screaming at each other.

4. My husband's brother had a friend who owns a restaurant deep-fry a turkey for us. And...oh. There are no words for how moist and delicious that bird was. We literally picked the bones clean. All night I kept going back for "just one more slice." I've never before passed on extra carbs to eat more turkey, but I did this time.

5. We got to see all of my nieces and nephews when they came over that night. My MIL loved having all of her grandchildren there, and there was a lot of laughter. Especially when my 20 year old nephew fell asleep and Miss Pink put lip gloss on him.

It was a wonderful Christmas for us. I hope you all had a magical holiday as well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #155 (With an Explanation of Why I Haven't Been Online This Week)

Wow, a whole week without posting and now I hardly know where to start. Obviously I survived Miss Pink's slumber party. At 12:30 a.m. I finally got the girls bedded down and I read books to them--it was the only way I could think of to keep them still and quiet enough to let sleep overtake them. (Can you tell I am a substitute teacher? When all else fails, read them a story!) Eventually the last pair of eyes closed and I was able to call it a night.

This week was busy, but not impossibly so, because I only got to work two days. I used the other days to bake treats for teachers and finish Christmas shopping. Now I am done except for a gift card for a nephew. Today I went to Mr. Blue's school and took pictures of the Christmas party and then we picked up Miss Pink from school. On Wednesday I got to eat lunch with Miss Pink. I was glad to get to spend the time at their schools because I don't get to do that much anymore.

I had a tough week, though, with anxiety. I won't go into details, because with this type of anxiety, unlike "normal" worrying, the event that sets off the anxiety is not really the point. Once the panicky feelings start, they hang around like unwanted guests and I have to work hard to not let them affect everyone around me. I am determined not to let this control me. So please remember me in your thoughts and prayers. I know I have so much to be thankful for.

This week's Friday Fill-Ins:

1. No, we will NOT eat or drink anything potentially messy on the freshly cleaned living room carpet!
2. I used to do my homework at the old kitchen table.
3. I watched the steam rising from the hot cup of coffee (or tea) and thought: I'm going to burn my tongue on this like I always do.

4. This week my mantra is "It's all going to be okay." (Seriously, this is what I kept repeating to myself.)
5. I'll take Manhattan!
6. I have the best husband in the world, at least from my point of view.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to eating the sausage-corn chowder simmering on the stove, tomorrow my plans include doing some cleaning and present-wrapping and Sunday, I want to go to Pei Wei after church!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #154

1. Good times: listening to my children's laughter, when they get along (which doesn't last very long, these days.)

2. You are welcome in my home. (But please call first since I might need to throw a pile of junk in a closet straighten up.)

3. Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

4. It feels like my children are not staying little very long.

5. Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more. (That's Shakespeare, Henry V, as no one except me probably wants to know. I had to look it up or it would have bothered me all night.)

6. I wonder how my thirties will end?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to finishing cleaning the living room carpet, tomorrow my plans include hosting a slumber party for Miss Pink's 7th birthday and Sunday, I want to catch up on the sleep I'll miss Friday night!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The First Christmas

Today I was going to post about Justin's marvelous idea to get started on redoing Miss Pink's room the week before her birthday--and how my house is now covered in dust, for the second December in a row, and there are next to no decorations out and we are hosting a sleepover on Friday night--but I started working on a lesson I'm going to teach in our kid's church tonight and I thought it might be a little better for me to do what I'm asking the kids to do: to stop and remember the real reason for Christmas rather than stressing about the details.

So I thought I'd share it here. (Obviously I'm leaving out all the times the kids will interrupt with random thoughts and observations and my attempts to get back on script!)

* * *

Last weekend I was tucking my little son into bed and he wanted me to read him a Bible story. I asked him if he wanted me to read to him about Baby Jesus's birth, and he said yes, so that's what I read. Afterward, I asked him, "Now who was born on Christmas?"

He looked up at me with big shining eyes and said with total confidence, "Santa Claus!"

So we had to talk about who was really born on Christmas. But you know, sometimes I think all of us may forget what Christmas is supposed to be about. I think we might remember with our minds, but forget with our hearts.

Sometimes kids get so excited about the presents they're asking for, and the parties and lights and trying to stay awake to listen for reindeer--that they might forget what Christmas is really about.

Sometimes we parents get so busy buying presents and decorating and baking and traveling and reminding kids that they'd better watch out and not pout or cry--that we might forget what Christmas is really about.

Sometimes we forget to think about what happened on that first Christmas.

On that first Christmas, there were no decorations--just a smelly stable and a manger full of hay.

On that first Christmas, there were no crowds of busy shoppers buying presents, but there were crowds of people who had come to be counted and taxed. There were so many that there was no room anywhere in town for Mary and Joseph to stay, except in the stable.

On that first Christmas, there was not a star on top of a tree, but there was a star in the sky.

On that first Christmas, no one sang Christmas carols, but a choir of heavenly angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill to all people!"

On that first Christmas, there were some gifts, but they were not toys or games--they were gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

However, there was an even better gift on that first Christmas. What was it?

That's right--it was Jesus! Jesus came to be the best gift ever. Why do you think Jesus is the very best gift?

Jesus came to take away our sins and live in our hearts so we can have true peace, joy, and love. This Christmas, let's not be like the people in Bethlehem who were too busy to realize a King had been born in their town. Let's take time to celebrate Jesus' birthday because that's what Christmas is really about.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #153

1. You get a stomach virus when you are in 1st grade and it is going around your class. (Poor Miss Pink!)

2. You gotta fight for your right to party. (Where in my brain did THAT come from?)

3. It's almost Christmastime.

4. I wish the attention-seeking people on "reality" TV shows knew they are ridiculous!

5. I feel more hopeful about my future teaching teenagers.

6. When it's 11:00...goodnight!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to Miss Pink starting to feel better, tomorrow my plans include supporting my husband as he finishes scraping the walls of Miss Pink's room and Sunday, I want to see my friends and family at church!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Teacher Update and Prayer Request

Miss Pink's music teacher emailed me back as soon as school was out. He remembered the incident with the "Thriller" video. He'd had some extra time in some classes, so they were watching videos of their favorite Michael Jackson songs (they study influential American musicians, and Johnny Cash was another one they were studying.) When someone asked for "Thriller," he hesitated and warned the kids that there were some scary parts and asked if anyone didn't want to watch the video. As he said, he made the mistake of thinking the younger kids could understand what he was saying and make a good choice for themselves. During the video, he noticed Miss Pink crying and he stopped the video and tried to comfort her. He apologized to me and said he felt terrible that he had caused her to miss sleep. This was enough for me; he took responsibility and promised to be more careful in the future.

As for the movie, I was glad I had asked IF they had watched the movie instead of assuming they had, because they had NOT watched the whole movie. The only parts they watched were clips of the songs--no speaking scenes. This was fine with me because it would help the music come alive for the kids. (And in fact Miss P recognized the real Johnny and June singing "Jackson" on the radio while we were traveling). The teacher explained that all movies have to be G-rated or they have to get parents to sign a permission slip. This made me feel much better, of course.

The teacher also echoed what you all kindly told me: that I was not being That Parent who makes his job harder, but a parent who wants the best for my child He always wants me to come to him with any concerns. It was a good exchange all the way around.

Finally, in a completely unrelated incident, I would like to ask for your thoughts and prayers for the family of our youth pastor, whose 28-year-old brother pulled a gun on a police officer. Apparently the officer got the gun away from him but the brother pulled out another gun and pointed it at the officer, who then shot him. Later, the young man died. Tragically, the guns were actually replicas--but of course the officer didn't know that. I think about my children, whom I love so much, getting mixed up with drugs (this seems to be the case here) and making mistakes that lead to their death, and my heart breaks for their family, especially with this happening right before the holidays. I pray that they will find strength and comfort in knowing that people across the world are thinking and praying about them.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When Good Teachers Make Bad Choices

As a teacher by profession even when I was staying at home, I have always been averse to being That Parent. You know That Parent, the one who drives the teachers crazy by complaining about everything that goes on in the class when That Parent isn't there to protect their delicate flower--I mean child.

I have had 11th grade teachers tell me that parents complained that their teenager was asked to read The Crucible because "it's about witchcraft."

This type of parent annoys me because they are not well-informed. I think it's safe to say that The Crucible is not pro-witchcraft; it's simply anti-witch hunts. I can't be sure without a copy in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that there is nothing definitely supernatural in the play; there are merely accounts from eyewitnesses who claim they saw Goody So-and-so dancing with the devil, and so forth. Miller's point is that people can get caught up in group hysteria when their only hope of exoneration is condemning someone else, as was happening in 1950s Hollywood when Senator McCarthy was accusing everyone of being a secret Communist. There are important lessons we can learn from the play that are applicable to modern-day hunts for what our society considers evil, and actual devil-worship is not really a problem these days.

But the 17-year-old students whose parents freak out because OMG! Witches! are not going to learn to learn from history in order to keep it from repeating itself. Sad.

Believe me, you don't want to get me started on people who rail against Harry Potter. My feeling is, "If you have READ the books and still feel it is inappropriate for your child, fine. If you have just HEARD that it is pure evil, you have no grounds to complain. You're the parent; presumably as an adult you can handle reading/watching the potentially harmful material and DOING YOUR JOB as a parent to decide if you are going to let your child read/watch it."

Whew. You didn't even get me started on that topic; I just went off on it, all on my own.

Even though I try to support teachers and their right to decide what to teach, I felt compelled to write the following email to Miss Pink's music teacher. He is an enthusiastic teacher and Miss P loves him and his class. However, I thought about it and realized I couldn't let these lessons go by without saying something. If I did, I would be remiss in my responsibility to make sure my child is not exposed to age-inappropriate concepts. Seriously, what was he thinking to let kindergartners and first-graders (including kids up through 5th grade; they have several weeks of music class together per year) watch the "Thriller" video and the movie Walk the Line?

Here is my email.

Dear Mr. ______,

I realize I should have contacted you right away, but with the holiday I let it slip my mind. However, I did want to let you know that after Miss Pink watched the "Thriller" video in music class, she had trouble sleeping for several nights because she couldn't stop thinking about the scary images. She is pretty imaginative and I guess it was just too scary for her. As a parent, I'm sure you understand how hard it is to get a freaked-out child to calm down and go to sleep. I realize you only wanted to introduce the kids to the music of Michael Jackson, but in the future, you might not want to show that type of video to classes that include younger kids.

Also, I could not figure out from what Miss Pink told me if the students watched the whole movie of Walk the Line, so if they only watched clips of the music, please ignore the following. I love Johnny Cash and the movie based on his life, but my husband and I feel the themes of drug addiction and infidelity were too adult for our first-grader. We would have liked to have had a note home so we could have opted out for that lesson(s). Trust me, as a teacher I understand it's hard to find interesting films that relate to your subject, and I hesitated to complain because I don't want to be That Parent who makes life hard for teachers who are doing their best, but I felt you would want some constructive feedback for the future. Please believe that I only want to help and that I am not angry because no serious harm was done; I am just asking you to rethink using these materials, or at least check with parents and/or the administration before using them in the future.

If you feel you need to meet with me in person or over the phone, you could call me at ______. Simply letting me know via email that you've heard my concerns would be enough to fix the issue from my point of view, however.

Alison ____

I tried to be conciliatory because I know teachers may get defensive when they perceive a parent is attacking them. I also went to the teacher directly rather than going above his head to the principal right away. In my opinion, parents should give the teacher a chance to apologize, explain, and offer a solution to the problem before they bring in the big guns. If the teacher responds appropriately, I will let it drop because I honestly don't think any real harm was done. Miss P finally forgot about Michael turning into a werewolf (although it took 3 or 4 nights) and she probably didn't even know drugs were being used in those scenes. Notice that I didn't jump to conclusions based on what my child had said since I really don't know if they watched the whole movie. Parents should remember that what their child says is from a kid's point of view and may not be 100% accurate, so we should give the teacher a chance to explain before we freak out. (There are exceptions to what I'm saying, such as when something really bad happens and you have to demand that something be done right away.)

What do y'all think? Is this a letter that will probably get the results I want--or was I even too wishy-washy? What should I do if the teacher blows off my concerns? And do you have any stories to share of how to approach--or how NOT to approach--a child's teacher?


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's the Principle of the Thing

Part IV in the story of how I stopped adhering to the traditional Pentecostal lifestyle. Here are Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Sorry if I left you hanging with my announcement to Justin that I had been cutting my hair for years and that I apologized for keeping it a secret from him (and thereby potentially damaging his trust in me) but that I felt fine about trimming my hair. I gave some of my reasons why I had started to believe that God was not requiring me to follow those guidelines.

If the first big surprise of the night was that I'd blurted out my secret, the second surprise was that he wasn't angry with me. He thanked me for telling him and asked for some time to process it.

Later, Justin told me that his mind had been changing as well. (How like our God to work on two people at the same time, without either of them knowing about the other's journey!) He later told me that he thought, "I know Alison's love for God and her spirit has not changed. So obviously cutting her hair did not change her spiritual life--and therefore it must not be as important as we were taught." He shared these thoughts with me and we decided to study and seek God for ourselves rather than blindly following church traditions. We were still open to keeping any standards that we felt were appropriate for our family, if there was truly a Biblical basis for them rather than "we've always done it this way." At the same time, we were willing to accept other Christians who didn't have the same beliefs. Above all, we were determined not to be judgmental, sour believers who gave Christianity a bad reputation.

One of the first steps we took was to talk to our pastor--who happens to be my dad, but we have great respect for him as a pastor and not just as my father. After 34 years at the same church, he has a LOT of wisdom, which in my opinion he showed by allowing the people who didn't conform to the standards to continue attending our church despite the protests from long-term members who wanted everyone to look and behave alike. In all those years, Dad didn't preach about the standards (they were more of a social norm, an unspoken rule) and as people started to change, he simply didn't say anything and treated them just like the other church members. This meant that we lost quite a few people who thought our church was abandoning the truth. That was painful for my parents, but Dad didn't revert back to the old ways because, like us, he had come to believe that the standards were not essential to being a Christian or even a Pentecostal. Therefore, he encouraged us to pray and study for ourselves and he gave us a book written by a friend of his that allowed for a more moderate interpretation of the Scriptures the conservatives always trotted out as "proof" that God's will involved looking like you belong in the nineteenth century.

I won't provide an exegesis of the Scriptures we studied, but suffice it to say that Justin and I saw clearly what we believed those Scriptures to mean. We saw that the principle of the thing is what God is after, not specific items of clothing or hairstyles which can change over time and between cultures. Does God want people to be modest? I believe so. Do different people interpret modesty differently? Yes. I hope to teach my children that when they are showing certain parts of their bodies to get a reaction from the opposite sex, that's a problem. We have to internalize the principle of modesty and not wear things that make us feel immodest. I realize there is a lot to this topic that I haven't answered here, but if you're interested in discussing it, ask a question in the comments and I will answer you in another post to the best of my ability as long as you ask respectfully, even if you disagree. In fact, ask anything you'd like to know about these posts!

As for where we are now, we feel completely happy with our decision. I have long hair by most people's standards--to my shoulder blades--but it's that long because my husband and I like it that way, and every stylist I've had agrees that I should keep the length, with some layers to give it shape! Fixing my hair is so much easier now that I don't have to hide split ends. I wear subtle makeup and am pleased at how it defines my best features and gives natural color to my pale skin. I wear pants, shorts, sleeveless tops, and jewelry. By the way, pants are MORE modest than a skirt when you're caring for small children, especially if you should have to climb into a plastic tube at Chick-Fil-A to rescue a screaming child! As I said, I do feel I dress modestly, with camis under super-low necklines and skirts to the knee or right above. But that's just age appropriate, too! I am NOT interested in showing off my cellulite. Anyway, it's all a personal decision which I don't impose on others because I am DONE with trying to play God. It's amazing how much more freeing it feels to stop trying to be the Judge!

Of course, my in-laws don't feel the same way at ALL, which makes visiting for the holidays about as relaxing as a stroll through a Vietnamese minefield! But that's another story for another day.


Monday, November 30, 2009


I hope you have all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it. If not, I hope you had a great weekend just because you deserve one!

The kids and I were out of school for a week. The first two days we devoted to sleeping in a little, having fun, going to the library and meeting friends for lunch since we don't get to do that much anymore. We packed up and left on Wednesday right after lunch to go to Arkansas, where my dad's brother and his wife have a house big enough to accommodate all of us. We go there every other year, and my cousins have arranged their holiday schedules so we can all be together every two years. This year, my brother and his new wife couldn't come because she works in retail and had to work on Black Friday, and my youngest cousin had to stay in San Diego because he just got a job and couldn't take off. They were missed, but we enjoyed seeing everyone else and eating turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, candied yams, cranberry salad, rolls, deviled eggs and other relishes, cherry pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, coconut cake, and chocolate-chip cookies that I made for the kids since my kids don't like any of those other desserts, which was fine because that was more for the grown-ups.

It was a little different because the last time we were together, my grandmother was still alive. She had just suffered a stroke and was unable to talk much, but she said, "Yum, yum" and had a big appetite. A few months later, she was gone. My grandfather and my aunt's mother, both regulars at the Thanksgiving feasts of the past, are also gone. We reminisced a little but none of us would choose to call them back to the pain and paralysis and dementia they were facing. We are grateful for the memories, though--and we'll never forget them, since the recipes we use are from their kitchens and are still made with just as much love.

It was hard to be sad with the children around, too. The cousins had seen each other this summer, and they picked up right where they left off, with few squabbles. The two oldest girls get along as well as my oldest cousin and I always did, while the boys rode a tricycle through the house and the youngest girl inserted herself confidently into whichever group she chose. The second-oldest of my cousins is pregnant with her second child, due in January, and they are choosing to be surprised about the gender, just like we did with Miss Pink. Life goes on. And for that, we are thankful.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Telling the Truth

Part III in the story of how I stopped adhering to the traditional Pentecostal lifestyle. Here are Part I and Part II.

We now skip ahead to 2004: I had been married for seven years and Miss Pink was two. I'd been sticking to the "standards" pretty closely, mostly because Justin was raised in a church that was even a little stricter than ours. I knew that my long hair and skirts were part of the reason he was willing to get serious about me, since his family expected him to marry someone who looked like every woman in their church.

It wasn't very hard to stop going to movies and wearing leggings (I wore them under my dad's button-down shirts, which billowed around me like sails. SO attractive.) But the whole time I was dating and married to Justin, I never stopped trimming my hair.

It was a dilemma, how much to cut off--enough to get rid of the worst of the split ends, but not enough to look like it had been cut. (I always curled it, wore it up or braided it, so the split ends ot lack thereof weren't as obvious as you might think, but Pentecostal women are very good at noticing when hair has been cut.) I didn't dare go to a stylist--I had heard horror stories of asking for an inch or two off, and ending up with hair around your ears. So that meant I had to cut my hair myself, pulling it over my shoulders and snipping off tiny bits that peeked out from underneath my comb. I doubt it was ever really even, but it made me feel better that my hair wasn't so scraggly. My husband never guessed.

Yet something had begun to bother me in 2004. Our church had been changing for the past few years. Plenty of people had openly discarded the standards, and--get this--they had not lost their spirituality. Their faith was still strong, they still prayed and worshipped and served others. If anything, they were more friendly and caring toward people who didn't attend church than the traditionalists, who tended to have only Pentecostal friends.

We had always been warned that if we looked like "the world" on the outside, then our hearts would turn away from God toward worldly desires. For traditional Pentecostals, Christianity was judged (and I do mean judged; judging came as naturally as breathing to us) by the way a person looked on the outside. Yet it was beginning to seem as if what was inside a person was far more important--the way Jesus had said. (Imagine that.)

I knew, however, that I couldn't make the leap without my husband. And I couldn't see him abandoning those beliefs. I was scared that he'd be angry with me if I said, "I'm cutting my hair and I don't want to stop." Thank goodness for a dear friend who knew about my journey, and who hinted ever so gently that it might not be good for my marriage to keep a secret like that. I didn't argue with her suggestion but did not make any plans to tell Justin.

However, my mouth apparently had its own plans. One night as we were driving home, somehow cutting hair was mentioned and Justin said, "You wouldn't do that, would you?"

My mouth must have been completely disconnected from my brain, which still did NOT want to tell, because it opened and said, "Actually, I have, and I've been doing it for a long time." Then I stared straight ahead at the garage door opening and wondered what was about to happen.

"Really?" he said. I was thankful to hear that his voice was not angry, only surprised.

Then I apologized to him. "I don't feel bad about cutting my hair," I said. "I don't think it was wrong. But I do think it was wrong to keep it a secret from you."

And...I think I have to leave the final part of the story--where we are now--for later.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Red Chair

Part II in the story of how I stopped adhering to the traditional Pentecostal lifestyle of long skirts and long hair, etc. You can read Part I here.

I continued to live the traditional Pentecostal lifestyle after I graduated from high school, but discontent had begun to sneak in. Mainly, I didn't like looking so different from my fellow college students. I was already different in that I didn't live on campus, didn't belong to a sorority, and didn't drink, so having hair down to my butt and skirts down to my ankles made me feel like a total oddball. Still, I had no plans to rebel. That would have made me feel like an outcast in the only place I felt I belonged, and I didn't want to take that risk.

A pastor friend of my dad's recently wrote about his journey towards accepting a more "liberal" lifestyle, and this analogy made sense to me. He said that if you were taught from your earliest childhood that you would die if you sat in a red chair, you would almost certainly believe it. All through your school years, you would avoid red chairs. Sure, other people sit in red chairs and nothing happens to them, but how could you be sure you wouldn't be struck down? Better to be safe than sorry.

Then one day at work, your staff (who know nothing of your belief) decide to surprise you with a new desk chair. They make you close your eyes and lead you into the office, and have you sit down in the chair. You open your eyes and realize you're sitting in a forbidden red chair. Your heart pounds wildly--Oh no! I'm going to die, you think--and then you realize: It's just a chair, and a comfortable one at that. The information you had been taught your whole life was false. You timidly begin to accept the idea of living in a world where you can choose any chair you want, without fear.

My first experience of "sitting in the red chair" was in a movie theater. The first movie I saw in the theater was Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. (I KNOW. My boyfriend chose it.) I wasn't afraid God would smite me with actual lightning, but I was a little uneasy. However, I was smart enough to see the flaw in the logic that permitted renting a movie and condemned watching it in the theater--as if the size of the screen determined the size of the sin. (No one ever gave me a good reason for banning theaters. I suspect it had something to do with the make-out sessions teenagers were supposed to have during movies. But if we were forced to avoid places teenagers make out, no one would ever drive a car. To be consistent , the church leaders should have banned ALL movies along with TV, but they were out of touch, and by the time they noticed that their constituents were loading up on videos from Blockbuster, it was too late--even most preachers had VCR's, and I'm sure they weren't only watching the latest G-rated Disney cartoon.)

Even though the rules didn't make complete sense to me, I had still followed them all of my life. I didn't want to disappoint or embarrass my parents. And I didn't want to do anything to damage my relationship with God, either. That's why I prayed (silently, of course), "Lord, if this is wrong, make me feel guilty about it. I mean, REALLY guilty. And if it's wrong, then I won't do it again."

I still think I had the right attitude about it. If I was in fact guilty of violating any law except that of sophisticated taste in movies, I really did want to know so I could refrain from doing it. A movie was not as important to me as God. I still believe that. If I believed that God wanted me to give something up or start doing something, even if it meant being an oddball again, I would do it.

But on that day, God apparently had no problem with Jim Carrey. As I walked out of the theater, I searched my heart for guilt and found none. I felt...normal. I had sat down in a red chair and no harm had come to me.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Just the Two of Us

My husband and I haven't gone away for the weekend together for a couple of years, so it was time.

I took the day off on Friday. Justin was going to, too, but he ended up going to work for a half day. As I mentioned, I took a 2.5 hour nap. My dad picked the kids up after school. Justin and I went to dinner, then drove to our hotel and checked in. We went to a big Barnes & Noble downtown (bookstores are our usual date night destination but we hadn't done that in a while) and had dessert and coffee. The city is alight with white lights on the buildings and in the trees, so we enjoyed walking around downtown. Then, thanks to the very comfortable bed, I had no trouble going to sleep.

We had a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant, which was free for us but would have cost $17.95 per person plus tip. My favorite parts were the made-to-order omelets and mini Belgian waffles. I want to find a waffle iron like that. Then we went back to the room and I fell asleep again. Yes, really!

For lunch we went to a kosher deli we like and shared a corned-beef-and-turkey sandwich and a piece of chocolate meringue pie. We decided to drive to some houses Justin has been building cabinets for. After that we went to a movie at the Modern Art Museum. The movie was called An Education; it's about an English high school girl in 1961, and how she meets and falls in love with an older man. We liked it a lot. Then we had dinner at a Chicago-style pizzeria and watched another movie on pay-per view.

The next morning, breakfast again and I AGAIN dozed off for a little while before we left to get the kids. I feel more rested than I have for a long time!

Justin and I enjoyed being together without interruptions, holding hands without having to yell out, "DON'T GET OFF THE SIDEWALK!" or eating dinner without having to take anyone to the bathroom. Sometimes it's all too easy to forget you're a couple because you're so busy being parents. We got to revisit being a couple again this weekend.

Of course, we were happy to see the kids. But I am glad we were able to be alone together, too.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #150

I took the day off today because Justin and I are going to a nice hotel this weekend for a romantic getaway. It's a hotel downtown in the nearest city, but whatever, at least we don't have to drive a long way to get there! Plus we are staying two nights for free (with a free breakfast!) because we got it through our bank's rewards program. Free is good.

Anyway, I didn't work so I wouldn't be tired when we get to the hotel, after we leave the kids with my parents. The plan was for me to hang out here and do some laundry and clean the house. After I took the kids to school, I lay down on the couch because I don't get to do that anymore. Just a little nap, I told myself as I snuggled under the blanket.

I woke up 2.5 hours later.

Oh well, at least I won't be falling asleep like I usually do on Friday night! That's why we don't see many movies--too tired to stay up. Any suggestions for a good date night movie?

Here are the Friday Fill-Ins!

1. The last band I saw live was hahahaha--I'm sorry, you wanted to know the last band I saw live? I don't even remember. We have a great band at church every Sunday, does that count?

2. What I look forward to most on Thanksgiving is the dressing. Family, togetherness, yadda yadda yadda--I look forward to cornbread dressing all year long. And the desserts, too, of course.

3. My Christmas/holiday shopping is all in my head. I know some things I want to buy, but haven't actually bought anything besides a couple of stocking stuffers.

4. Thoughts of being alone with my husband without interruptions fill my head.

5. I wish I could wear skinny jeans.

6. Bagpipes always sound mournful to me.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to spending time with my honey, tomorrow my plans include sleeping in and maybe getting a pedicure and Sunday, I want to pick up my kiddos and hear about how much their grandparents spoiled them!


Monday, November 9, 2009

Separated From the World

I have often wondered if I should write about my religious background and how it has changed in the past five years, and now that lots of people Beck expressed interest, I've decided to write about it. It may end up being too long for one post, but I'll try to give you the picture without too many extraneous details.

First, some background. I am a preacher's daughter--third-generation Pentecostal on my mother's side and fourth-generation on my father's. My dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all pastors, so that gives you an idea of how deeply rooted our family was in our denomination. When I was growing up, church was the center of our lives, not only for worship, but also for almost all of our recreation and entertainment, mostly because we weren't allowed to do so many other things that were "worldly." We also had a church-school, so of course I attended it. Therefore, I spent my youth in a very small, sheltered world in which it was possible to hold on to the beliefs that separated us from the secular world outside.

What were we allowed to do? It's easier to list all the things we weren't allowed to do: drink and smoke, of course; dance; curse; gamble; listen to secular music; swim with members of the opposite sex; go to the movies; and TV was frowned on by my grandparents' generation and still forbidden for ministers. Women were not supposed to cut our hair at all, wear pants or shorts or skirts above the knee, wear anything low-cut or sleeveless, wear makeup (fortunately when I reached puberty, my mom interpreted this rule as "no colored makeup," so I was allowed to wear foundation and powder over my pimples ) and no jewelry, except some churches allowed wedding rings. Men had it relatively easier: they were not to wear shorts or tank tops; and long hair and facial hair was frowned on.

These were the unspoken rules at our church. Some churches were much more strict. I know a woman whose former pastor banned bows in the girls' hair. Bows might have been an unfortunate fashion choice in the eighties, but were they really evil? Even at the time I thought that rule was silly. My parents once sat through a sermon titled "Five-Dollar Red Shoes" which were apparently too expensive and a dangerous color. And on and on--whatever a particular man (I almost hate to call them "ministers") was against, he railed against as sinful and many people were obedient. It was almost sinister, the amount of control these men wielded over their congregations.

As I got older, the rules began to relax--or, rather, we stretched them. My dad let us do some things on vacation, like watching TV or wearing a bathing suit in a motel pool, that we couldn't do at home. I now know that he was starting to feel ambivalent about the guidelines he had been raised to uphold, and he must have decided that what the church didn't know about would be okay for us to do.

Of course, that led to more hypocrisy--although we would have been shocked to hear ourselves called hypocrites. In reality we were trying to rebel, but for a long time it was a secret rebellion, because my parents were too afraid to openly proclaim that they didn't believe everything their denomination stood for. I don't really blame them. After all, their whole livelihood was at stake. But it wasn't that they cynically decided to espouse beliefs they didn't hold in order to keep a job. No, I think they genuinely didn't know what to believe, because they had been taught for their whole lives that if you maintained the "holiness standards" (that's what we called the rules), you were holy. And by contrast, if you didn't--if you trimmed your hair, or snuck into a movie theater, God wasn't going to be pleased with you. I never got the impression that God would cast me into Hell for wearing jeans, but he would be disappointed and upset and would punish me in some way that I was pretty sure I wouldn't like. (My view on this probably had to do with my father's discipline style, which worked well on me because I hated to be disapproved of. My dad would say, "Ali, I'm so disappointed in you," and I would dissolve in a puddle of remorse and wish he would just spank me. But other parents and pastors certainly did imply, or even mandate, that God was marking down all your transgressions and you were just about this close to getting on his last nerve, and then if the Second Coming was that night, you were getting Left Behind.)

Next installment: how I started to realize that maybe God didn't care as much about outward appearances as I'd been told.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #149

1. Plans and schedules make me feel more secure.

2. I'm happy when things are peaceful.

3. The last thing I drank was a Coke.

4. One of the most valuable things in my life is the relationship I have with my family.

5. I like pepperoni on my pizza (but lately plain cheese has tasted just as good).

6. Dear November, please be gentle.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to eating some of the kids' Halloween candy after they go to bed, tomorrow my plans include attending (and volunteering at) the carnival at Miss Pink's school and Sunday, I want to enjoy praise & worship with the kids in their service--I like dancing to the music!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Cowgirl and the Fireman

I just realized I haven't posted any pictures of the kids in a long time. But in my (admittedly lame) defense, the rechargeable batteries that came with the camera have started losing their charge much faster than they used to. I need to buy some more but I want to get some that last a good long time. (Any recommendations?) I did get a few pictures on Saturday night, including these:

This is a vast improvement over last year, when he hated his costume and only let me take one picture before he wanted it off!

Miss Pink chose the larger pumpkin, and it has its front teeth missing, while Mr. Blue wanted the smaller pumpkin. It was as hard as a rock--Justin had a hard time carving it. It has two tiny vampire teeth.

If only I could resist the urge to steal some Halloween candy while Mr. Blue naps!


Monday, November 2, 2009 guess I still do have a blog!

Who am I trying to fool, I have actually not forgotten this blog at all. I've been dying to post--not because anything major has happened, but because I miss not writing. Yet last week was very busy. I do get a conference period off when I sub, but I don't have internet access. Most of the teachers take their laptops, but even if I did have a computer, I don't have a password to use the network. Twitter and Facebook are blocked so students can't use them, so I wouldn't be surprised if Blogger was too.

Anyway, I am staying busy and now teachers are starting to book me in advance. Last week a teacher emailed me to ask if I could come back, and told me that her eighth-grade students described me as "awesome but teacher-like." High praise, indeed. I certainly wouldn't want to be awesome but not teacher-like, since that would mean I would be more popular with the students than the teachers. Nice to know I am doing pretty well with both groups. I am enjoying getting to know the kids. It's fun when they recognize me and are happy to see me again.

In the evenings I have been too tired to post. I am keeping up with the basics, and Justin is being awesome. Mr. Blue is doing very well at his full-time preschool. He likes his teacher and the kids in his class. He eats lunch and takes a nap there every day and comes out smiling when I pick him up. He is a happy little guy and I'm thankful things are working out well.

Miss Pink is also doing very well in school. She got a good report card for the first 9 weeks. She also lost the other front tooth and her smile is adorable. She is a bundle of energy--the other day she did 190 cartwheels, one after another, while I lay plastered on the couch and wished I had the energy (or the ability) to just do one!

The kids both had fun on Halloween. Miss Pink went as a cowgirl and Mr. Blue was a fireman. Our church had a Trunk-or-Treat this year, the first time we had done that, although we have had a festival many times. Justin signed up to decorate our trunk the week before, without telling me (I had been planning to just help volunteer since I thought we were too busy to decorate our car). Apparently they were wanting a lot of cars, but trust me, they could have done without ours; some people went all out. We did harvest garlands and had a couple of carved pumpkins. The kids were happy to take our candy! It was way more fun than going door-to-door. Justin wants to be way more creative next time, so I guess he has a whole year to plan.

Also, there was a talent show. Miss Pink wanted to sing in it, so we'd signed her up weeks ago and practiced her song, called "A Smile Is a Flower From the Heart." She had an attack of stage fright that afternoon. We told her she didn't have to sing, but it would be great practice to give it a shot and to just keep singing if she forgot the words or something. Well, the CD malfunctioned (it worked fine in both of our players) but that little trouper just kept singing even after they turned the CD off. She didn't win, but we were SO proud of her, and she was proud of herself for not quitting!

I'm sorry this picture of her singing is so small. Someone sent it to me via email. Maybe later I can add some more pictures.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #147

Barely got this one in under the wire!

1. The crickets sing, and I wish they would stop so I could go back to sleep.

2. Make the world a better place, wherever you are.

3. I want to get far away from the daily grind for a relaxing time with my man.

4. I was not really unmarried and desperately looking for a husband; this was a dream from which I was grateful to awaken.

5. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

6. I still live in the town which I come from. It has changed since I was a kid, though.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching The Soup with my husband to be astounded by the idiotic people on TV, tomorrow my plans include going to a scrapbooking session and Sunday, I want to see my parents who have been on vacation in northern California this week!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I usually don't do this, but CynthiaK at Crumbs in the Minivan gave me one of the Honest Scrap awards and I thought the accompanying meme was fun enough to participate in and pass along. Thanks, Cynthia! So without further ado, here are the rules:

*Say thank you and give a link to the presenter of the award
*Share “10 Honest Things” about myself
*Present the award to 10 other bloggers whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design or to those who have encouraged me
*Be sure to tell the 10 bloggers chosen that you are giving them the Honest Scrap award and provide the guidelines for them

Here are 10 honest things about me. I said "honest," not necessarily "interesting!"

1. I taught myself to read when I was 3 1/2. So I skipped kindergarten, which I now regret because kindergarten is the best year of school!

2. My undergraduate major was psychology. I like to analyze everything.

3. I don't really like massages. They just don't make me feel relaxed.

4. My first real haircut was when I was thirty. It's a long story, but basically I had never cut my hair before because of religious reasons, and then my beliefs changed.

5. I never met a carb I didn't like. Well, maybe Cool Ranch Doritos (no offense if you like those. I like nacho Doritos.)

6. I have read every book C.S. Lewis wrote.

7. I would love to one day have a two-story library, like the one in Beauty and the Beast.

8. I read cookbooks for fun. Sometimes I actually cook a recipe out of one of them.

9. I never skipped a college class for no reason. Not once. (I am such a nerd.)

10. I don't really enjoy hot baths or hot tubs, because I get overheated easily and then my head itches. No massages, no bubble baths--I really need to find something that helps me relax (and that doesn't involve eating a bag of Hershey's Kisses!)

And now for the 10 bloggers to whom I am giving this award:

Killing a Fly With a Ukelele Is Probably the Wrong Thing To Do

All About Your Child

The Fritz Facts

Bad Mom

Graze If You Want To But Don't Eat Dirt

Joyful Juggling

Welcome to My World

Mindless Junque

The Journey to the Hot Tub

Frog and Toad Are Still Friends

I don't mind if you don't want to post your own list. Just know that I enjoy knowing you through your blog!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #146

Thank you all for those nice comments. You are sweet.

How about some Friday Fill-Ins?

1. So are we going to eat any time soon?

2. An exciting adventure is what's up ahead.

3. I love to cuddle with my children even though it's uncomfortable when they pile on top of me.

4. I need caffeine of some sort.

5. I walk a straight line.

6. Laughter is the true elixir of life!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to eating chicken shwarma, tomorrow my plans include taking Miss Pink to a pedicure birthday party and Sunday, I want to go to the women's class which is watching Beth Moore's "Believing God" Bible study!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Something New

We are now going on our third day of being housebound--Miss Pink has had a mild fever and a cough--and I was almost wanting to take her to the doctor just to have something to do. But noooo, the nurse said it sounds like she'll be fine and they don't need to see her. So my mom is apparently wrong when she fears that it's the swine flu and calls to tell me what the paper says about the latest statistics. That's so comforting, as you might imagine.

I believe I promised to tell you about the other big decision I had to make last week.

The wonderful lady who has been babysitting Mr. Blue had to give me two weeks' notice. She felt bad about it but she needs to start picking up her other two grandchildren from school and she doesn't have room in her car for five kids. Of course I was stunned and disappointed since it was working out so well, but I understand because I know why she needs to be there for her grandkids (I'd better not mention why since there is a tiny chance they could find this blog and the family is keeping the situation private).

Anyway, I went to work with my head spinning. I decided my options were 1) put Mr. Blue in a full-time preschool/daycare program; 2) try to find other at-home care; or 3) see if my mom and Justin could split taking care of him two days a week as Justin had offered to do before I found this sitter. My mom is not available to keep him very often, and he couldn't nap at Justin's shop, so #3 was the least desirable. I only had a couple of possibilities for #2, and quite frankly I'm not crazy about how unreliable individuals are turning out to be.

At lunchtime, I decided to call the church-affiliated preschool he went to last year, where Miss Pink went for three years; they have a full-time program as well. Now that I am needed to sub as many days a week as I want to, I can afford to put him there. They have the same preschool curriculum for the FT kids as the two-or-three-mornings-a-week kiddos; they just eat lunch and an extra snack and have extra playtime. At the beginning of the school year they did not have a spot in his class, and now they do. The director was willing to apply the registration fee which I had originally turned in for the PT preschool program (before I decided to sub) to this program, so I only have to pay a small supply fee and the tuition, which is due weekly.

So here are the pros and cons.

  • I completely trust the directors at the school. We never had any problems with them during the whole time my kids attended preschool. The center is very clean, the kids seem happy, the state guidelines are followed, the classes are small with a good child-to-teacher ratio, and the food they cook always smells good (a weird positive, but true). This sounds like a lot of pros, but really it is all part of what I have said before: if I have to put my kids in a FT daycare, this one is a good one.
  • It is priced reasonably, only a little more than I was paying per day for at-home care. Which means I will not be working just to pay for day care; I will be helping our finances even though my primary reason for subbing is to make contacts to help me get a full-time teaching job.
  • Mr. Blue is really getting interested in letters and numbers, noticing them everywhere. Of course we read and identify letters and numbers, but he will like learning more about them at school. It's a relaxed, not-too-academic program that I think will be great. I wanted him to go to a school-type program next year anyway, so this is just starting early.
  • I don't have to take him in if I'm not working, or if I work a half-day. (Of course, I still have to pay for it, which I'll discuss in the Con section.)
  • I have to pay for it even if he's not going to be there. So if we have a week like this one, when a child is sick for multiple days, or Christmas, when I can't work, I still have to pay to keep his spot. This pains me. It won't be nearly as much of an issue when I have a regular full-time job. (Because then I will be the teacher hoping not to use up too many sick days. Aaargh, the trials of being a working parent, they are beginning.)
  • The whole idea of having him in a daycare at all. Seriously, I thought about not posting this list at all because of the people who could read this and think what a selfish cow I am to be working when we've managed to survive for seven years with me as a SAHM. But my husband and I really do believe this is the direction we need to go as a family. Still, being able to sleep in and cuddle with the kids is awesome and I plan to enjoy it when it is possible.
So there it is. We are going to try it. Like every change that happens in our lives, we will have to try to find a new way to balance.