Park Ettiquette-lesson number one

As a first time parent and someone who considers herself ‘aware’, I often have moral, ethical and parental debates after returning from a play group or interaction with other kids and their parents.  Today the incident was at the kids park in our ‘hood.  It is semi gated, and we left the stroller and the dog (we stopped by the dog park first) on the outside of the park.  There were a few other people at the park–2 Mom’s with their daughters on the swings and a Dad with his son and their unleashed dog in the sand area.  Can you see where this is going?  

Elliott loves animals–and hasn’t learned yet that some (most?) animals aren’t fond of small children.  Particularly the kind of kids (like Elliott) that pull their ears, tail and fur. Along with the ear piercing screeches of joy.  Luckily I intercepted him before he so lovingly attacked this dog.  I was verbally coaching him about how you have to ask the owner if the dog is friendly and if you can pet them first, all of the things you read about in the parenting books.  
The Dad and dog owner was intuitive and saw where I was headed and told me No, in fact the dog wasn’t friendly and was a bit temperamental.  He went on to say that the dog often growled at kids and was very protective over his son.  All the while the small dog was offering E a guttural growl and a nervous demeanor.  I carefully extracted my kid from the dogs periphery and said calmly to the owner–perhaps then, it would be a good idea to put your dog on a leash, particularly while you are in a kids park.  
I felt bad about it after I said it–typically I am not confrontational.  If you are a reader of this blog you will know I am opinionated.  But, usually I voice my thoughts and feelings here–and not to peoples faces.  The dog owner didn’t say anything to me in response.  We both just separated.  But, I noticed that he did in fact leash his dog shortly thereafter.  
What I wonder is why he felt it was ok to bring a temperamental dog to a kids park and allow it off leash?  Was I wrong to say something to him?  Did I over step my bounds?  Am I being to snooty?  Would I have said the same thing to another Mom?
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My favorite gift ever

My sister had just gotten out of a drug and alcohol rehab.  I had offered her a place to stay after she graduated the program and she accepted.  I was so proud of her.  She had made such a mess out of her life, but had managed to get herself clean and sober.
I spent several weekends painting, cleaning, and making the ‘room’ special for her.  It wasn’t much really, but it was hers and contrary to the rehab–she had a door and didn’t have to share it (except when we needed to access the laundry area).
My sister has always been hard working, and high strung.  She didn’t have a car, and back then I lived out in the boonies.  So, she would commute with me to my job in a mall.  She found a job working at a food service place, and moved up quickly.  The owner took a liking to her, and saw she had potential.  In short order, she saved up enough money to buy a car.  But, before she did the holidays were upon us.  We all were tight on cash, but she hadn’t seen many people in our family for several years and she seemed to want to make a good impression.
But, being prideful, she wanted to buy her own gifts for the family.  We shopped around, and nothing seemed to fit the budget.  So, she decided to make her gifts.  She decided to make dream catchers for everyone.  Neither then nor now would I call myself a fan of dream catchers.  But, my sister made one for each member of our family, printed out a special message in each, and wrapped them up.  She once again had carved her own path.
This was and still is the most treasured gift I ever received.  The sacrifice, the heartfelt sincerity, the genuine love and purity behind the dream catcher makes it irreplaceable.  I still have it hanging in my bedroom window-12 years later.  
Each time my sister is struggling, each time she is contemplating a bad decision, each time I want to tell her how much I respect and admire her–I can show her the dream catcher and know that we share the same feelings and memories.  
The dream catcher symbolizes, for me, what the holidays are meant to feel like.  
A few months later, my sis saved up enough money to buy a car.  And shortly thereafter moved out.  We still talk at least once a week, and I will always love her unconditionally regardless of her decisions.

Yes, I am still spoiled

I am embarrassed to admit– with all of the complaining and whining I have done over the last year or more regarding our budget that we still have a housekeeper.

However, just today I came to the realization that we should suspend her services.
For the record–we cancelled the gardener, we cancelled most of our cable services and all unneeded phone services.  We stopped eating out with special occasions as the exception.  I sewed a pair of underwear the other day–yes, you read that correctly.  We have energy and water efficient appliances.   We recycle, compost and conserve water and electricity.  We don’t have a heater or AC.  I cancelled my gym membership, several magazine subscriptions, and stopped renewing for friends (sorry!).  I started shopping at second hand stores for toys and kids clothes and accessories.  I accept all hand-me-downs from friends and family, and do my best to pass along lightly used items to those who may need them as well.  
So, keeping our housekeeper didn’t seem like a big deal with all of the other sacrifices I felt I had made.  Plus we LOVE her, and she has been with us for 5 years!!!   …except that Elliott still goes to daycare 2 days a week.  And, as much as I love my free time, I don’t really need THIS much of it.  I am bored.  Today, our housekeeper is scheduled to come (she comes every 2 weeks), but I am finding myself cleaning and doing laundry because I have the time, energy and I AM BORED.
Now, if the stars align in my favor I will be getting a hedge trimmer and maybe even a blower for the BIG day.  Our gardener works through the end of year–and then it is all me with the yard work.  I don’t have any idea what type of job I am taking on.  But, I am certainly not afraid of manual labor (just spiders, oh and any insect).  I will be certain to complain about this soon.  Look for a post about the first week of January.
I will talk with hubby about this, and see what he thinks.  But, if I am going to make ‘a go’ of staying at home–I should do my own cleaning, do you think?

What is free time, really?

I am sitting in a coffee shop in a neighboring city. I have just dropped my son off at daycare, and don’t really have much to do. I mean, there are things I could be doing–cleaning my house, gardening, laundry, etc. But, nothing that doesn’t normally need to occur. I always looked at ‘free’ time like this as a time to catch up on chores that I couldn’t do with my toddler, or because I was working.

Now that the grief period is over, I have been wondering how to structure my days and effectively use my free time. I have been slowly taking on more parenting time, and trying to ease the load on hubby. I struggle though with giving up what I perceive as my ‘free’ time. Such a silly concept when you have a family.

I have never been in a position like this before, so it is an uncertain time for me. I have been working since I was 14 years old. I worked my way through college (3 jobs). I have always worked. I am unfamiliar with how to structure my days, how to prioritize myself, and what to fill my days with that would be considered productive and constructive activities.

The first week I did crafts that I wanted to work on for a long time. I made some holiday cards, I made some magnets that I want to give out to family as gifts. I baked bread and granola. I cleaned up the closets and completed my filing (6 months worth!!!). We again paired down our budget and I canceled those service providers. I have made a pact with myself to be reasonable about how often I will search for a job. Hmm, what else can I do?

The second week I tackled the yard. I cleaned up some waywardly placed items. I raked the leaves. I bought a trunk full of wood for the fireplace. I turned the compost. Hmm, now what?

I would normally relish in this free time by spending it at the mall. The mall is always where I want to go when I have all of my check boxes checked. It is relaxing for me to be outside, wandering around with no immediate goal. Even when I don’t buy anything, I feel happy just wandering around letting the consumer environment fill me with ideas. The difference is that ‘before’ we had money to spend on small indulgences. Now, I would feel guilty even looking lest I be tempted to buy. Plus, I have no self control so all I would need to be is tempted and then I would be unable to control myself. The mall is out.

I canceled my gym membership to save money months ago. Otherwise I could be pursuing my lifelong goal of becoming a trophy wife. I could exercise outside, after I drop the little man off at daycare. But, that goes against my comfort level. When I get up in the AM and get dressed for the day–I am dressed for the day. It would feel exceedingly uncomfortable for me to get dressed, drive to daycare, then come back home, change into exercise clothes, get sweaty, then shower and change again. Seems like such a waste of time. Additionally, I like taking Elliott with me on a long walk in the late afternoon. It relaxes him after a stimulating day and it helps us spend/kill that difficult hour before dinner. I guess I could get dressed in my workout clothes, do drop off, then go home and exercise. I could also hike after drop off somewhere closer to daycare. All ideas that I will try.

The take home message here isn’t that I am inflexible (which I am)–it is that I am confused with how to spend my days. I thrive on order, schedules, and clear expectations. Having so much flexibility is not something I can easily get used to. I am certainly trying though. I am grateful to be able to spend this time with my family, and hope to be able to enjoy it soon enough.

If I dont work am I still smart?

I am done feeling sorry for myself. My grief has run its course. Friends, you need not worry any longer that I will call and harass you with my sorrowful words.

I have vowed to spend 3 days a week/ 1 hour each day looking at the job boards. I will apply to jobs that meet my basic criteria (as required by EDD), but will only accept the **perfect** job.

I discovered that my career fed a large part of my self worth. When I lost my job I felt lost and embarrassed. I felt like if I was unemployed people would think less of me. I worried that they would assume I was less smart than them, and most importantly I wondered if they would respect me less. Why does our job or career so often attempt to define us? Why is the first question that acquaintances ask is what you do for a living? When did what we do for money become what we are all about as people. Curious.

The truth though is that since I lost my job I have been more relaxed, happier (as in I actually smile and laugh), less stressed and have had more time to learn and explore my world. Thereby making me feel smarter, stronger and overall more jovial.

I don’t need to work to prove to anyone that I am a highly intelligent, independant woman I simply need to feel good about not working and the rest works itself out. It sounds so simple now that I have accepted it.

SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER CHECKLIST

How quirky are you?  From the looks of this list, I am a high maintenance human being.  How do you rate?

ADOLESCENT / ADULT SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER CHECKLIST
SENSORY MODULATION:

_X __ bothered by clothes; certain materials, tags, seams, pantyhose, ties, belts, turtlenecks, have to wear shorts, skirts, or pants exclusively, etc.
_X __ bothered by “light touch”; someone lightly touching/rubbing your hand, face, leg or back
__ __ excessively ticklish
_X __ distressed by others touching you; would rather be the “toucher” than the “touchee”, difficulty “snuggling” with your partner
_X __ have to fidget and “fiddle” with things all the time; change in your pocket, your keys, a pen/pencil, paper clip, rubber band, ANYTHING within reach
_X __ often touching and twisting your own hair
_X __ very sensitive to pain, especially as compared to others
__ __ don’t seem to notice pain; get shots/cuts/bruises and hardly feel a thing
__ __ dislike the feeling of showers or getting splashed
_X __ difficulty going to the beach; the sand blowing on your skin or getting on your body
_X __ avoid touching anything “messy”; if you do, you have to go wash your hands right away and/or only touch it with your fingertips
__ __ can not wear new or “stiff” clothes that have not been washed or soaked in fabric softener
_X __ hate to be barefoot or hate to wear shoes and/or socks
_X __ frequently get car sick, air sick, motion sick
__ __ a thrill seeker; loves fast and/or dangerous rides, leisure activities, and sports
__ __ difficulty riding on elevators, escalators, or moving sidewalks
__ __ avoid amusement park rides that spin or go upside down
__ __ seek out fast, spinning, and/or upside down carnival rides
__ __ will often rock or sway body back and forth while seated or standing still
__ __ frequently tips chair on back two legs
_X __ restless when sitting through a lecture, presentation, or movie
__ __ constantly chews on ends of pens and pencils
_X __ smokes cigarettes (smoked for 7 yrs, quit when I was 21)
__ __ difficulty eating foods with mixed textures, or one particular texture
_X __ prefer foods with very strong tastes and flavors
__ __ prefer very bland foods, dislike anything spicy
_X __ has a diagnosed eating disorder or has major eating “sensitivities”
__ __ constantly biting nails or fingers
__ __ bites lips or inside of cheeks
__ __ frequently shake your leg while sitting or falling asleep
_X __ love to sleep with multiple or heavy blankets on top of you
_X __ seek out crashing and “squishing” activities
_X __ cracks knuckles often
_X __ loves crunchy foods (popcorn, carrots, chips, nuts, pretzels, etc.)
__ __ frequently have gum or hard candy in your mouth
__ __ has an “endless” supply of air fresheners, scented candles, odor masking sprays, etc.
_X __ becomes nauseated or gags from certain cooking, cleaning, perfume, public restroom, or bodily odors
_X __ identifies objects by smell, have to smell everything, judge whether you like something or someone by smell
_X __ becomes overstimulated / over aroused when people come to the house or in crowded places
__ __ very high or very low energy level
__ __ avoids crowds and plans errands at times when there will be fewer people
_X __ overly exited/aroused in group settings
_X __ hides or disappears when guests come over
__ __ substance abuse
_X __ drinks excessive amounts of coffee or caffeinated beverages
_X __ notice and bothered by noises other people do not seem bothered by… clocks, refrigerators, fans, people talking, outdoor construction, etc.
_X __ sensitive to loud sounds or commotion
_X __ easily distracted by auditory or visual stimuli
_X __ can not attend certain public events or places due to excessive noise

Optimism

Again, this morning I was feeling pretty down about being laid off. I ran through my mental Rolodex of who I could call that would listen to me complain, again. While it still stings, it comes as no surprise that most people don’t want to listen to me rant, whine, and wallow in self pity. Hurph.

I was lucky enough to talk with a friend who gave me some much needed optimistic advice. She reminded me of all the times I called her regarding my job, of the many conversations we had about me quiting work to stay home and be a full time mom…etc., etc., etc.

I acknowledged that it was true, I wasn’t always 100% happy with my former job. (But, I wanted to be in control of the decision!!!) She reminded me again, that I was getting paid to be unemployed. And while not a whopping sum of money–I didn’t have to put up with clients or my formers bosses to get it. Its freeeeeeeeee–and all I have to do is look for work. Which, mind you doesn’t take too long since 1) there aren’t many jobs out there given the new recession news 2) there are fewer employers looking for part time employees 3) there are close to nill part time jobs that pay anywhere close to my salary requirements that would make it worth giving up unemployment pay 4) there aren’t any jobs that are part time, with my salary, that would benefit from my skill set since the mortgage market is totally locked up by the lack of credit.

This was further evidenced today by my phone interview with the Unemployment Office. Apparently my file was flagged because they thought I was trying to get paid for full time benefits, and only look for part time work. Her words were something like–How much do you make per hour? And, how many hours did you work? Hmm, most full time employees don’t get paid that much. Uh huh, yes, you might need to lower your salary requirements a bit to get a job in this market.

Thanks for the reality check. I needed someone to knock me off my high horse today. I had only just remounted earlier that morning. Yes, you have a great day too.