24 September 2007

Working Mother

I am a working mother. Six days into a new job in a new organization.

Each morning I wake up at 6:30 am, hop into the shower, wrestle the kids out of bed, make myself something to eat and make sure everyone else has made themself something to eat. From the main floor of our home, I coordinate when who uses our one bathroom, getting lunches into backpacks, brushing of the teeth and making sure that everyone dresses in layers. From the top level our home, Wifey coordinates the same.

The only thing that varies in our morning routine is who takes the dog out and gets the kids on the bus. And more often than not in the past six days who takes the only travel mug full of coffee to work varies. We have three mugs, only one of which ever manages to make it home at the end of a day.

I go to work and learn what I'm supposed to do.

Today I hit the wall of overwhelmed. In typical non-profit fashion, the responsibilities my one position encompasses ranges from basic office administration to senior managerial functions. I help people take out paper jams from the photocopier while simultaneously mulling over key strategic positioning for the organization.

My department consists of two and the occasional addons. Me, my one staff person, and a small rolodex of contractors.

Our regularly scheduled days are 8.0 hours with 0.5 hours scheduled for lunch. I eat my lunch at my desk and end up sticking around for another 0.5 to 1.0 hours.

I have to leave no later than 5:15 pm to pick up the kids at their after school program. Since I have the luxury of taking our one car to work everyday, I have to drive to the school. We walk through the front door close to 6:00 pm.

Dinner needs to be made and eaten, the packing of lunches coordinated and the completion of homework overseen. The munchkins head up to their rooms to quietly read at 8:00 pm and the 8:30 pm it's lights out.

I have so little time with the kids now. The distance has grown and I no longer feel like I know what's going on in their lives and in their minds. They're done with their days, talking about what happened and re-living the good and not so good parts by the time we sit down to eat. Only, I'm no longer taking part in the re-living.

Bella dumped her boyfriend. We spent a long time talking about their relationship over dinner out on Friday evening. They had been kissing at school. She was kissing him more because she had to, than she wanted to. Affection bred from expectation. She liked the idea of having a boyfriend more than who the boyfriend actually was. She came to the conclusion that he wasn't the right guy for her.

Bubaloo seems to be doing better at school. I had a long chat with the spec ed coordinator before I returned to work and her observations of what was happening in the classroom matched mine. We also shared the same feelings on the matter. We're going to try to work on the inside track before I escalate my concerns. As a first step, the classroom EA is developing a workshop on ODD. I'm shocked she asked us for resources. My more cynical side thinks she only asked as a ploy to make us aware of what they're doing. That would make her smarter than I've given her credit for.

I'm a working mother and I don't know how other working moms do it. There's never enough time, but time is all about what you choose to do with it. Different choices would mean different time allocations.

The hardest part is being one person in a household of three others and feeling like we're all living separate lives that don't overlap or intertwine.

12 September 2007

Command and Control

Last week when I picked up the munchkins from school, I was swiftly swooped upon by the Educational Assistant (EA) in Bubaloo's class. Not Bubaloo's EA mind you, the EA of another child, because Bubaloo doesn't need an EA according to his Individual Education Plan (IEP).

She was quick to talk to me in the voice she uses with the grade 4 and 5 students to explain all of Bubaloo's unacceptable behaviours. She went on and on about how inappropriate his was acting in class. The whole matter was related in a voice to convey the seriousness of the situation which could be likened to the world coming to an end.

What was Bubaloo's crime? He chose to read in class while he was supposed to be doing other school work.

It's not that he was being rude, aggressive or impulsive. He wasn't physically or verbally lashing out. He wasn't running away.

He didn't know how to do the math and was too embarrassed or frustrated to ask for help. He had completed his science cover page in black and white, and didn't want to colour it, and threw it out when that was requested of him.

We set up a meeting with his teacher to discuss.

When we arrived, his teacher knew nothing about our kid. He hadn't yet bothered to read his IEP or student record. He hadn't met with any of the special ed team to talk about supports and effective strategies in place for working with Bubaloo. He was walking into this meeting blind and expected us to fill in the blanks.

We filled in the blanks for him. Only, he didn't listen to a thing we had to say.

I can sum up his teaching strategy with these notions he repeated over and over - "I can't have one kid not following the rules or doing exactly what the other kids are doing because they'll all want exceptions, too. When we're doing math, he needs not to be reading. We need to tell him to do something once, and we expect it to be done immediately. We expect him to act in the way grade 4 students are expected to act. Are we on the same page?"

No, we as parents, are not on the same page as you.

While I understand and empathise with teachers working in our province, we chose to send our child to a school in the public education system that had an alternative program. The alternative program is supposed to be learner-centred and employ a variety of strategies to teach children. It's not supposed to deliver education as a cookie cutter one-size fits all.

Bubaloo's primary educational challenges are behavioural. The kid, as we found out in one of our last meetings with our social worker five months after the kids were placed with us for adoption which is an entirely different story, has been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder (ODD).

You cannot tell a kid what to do and expect him to do it right away. You cannot expect him to take accountability for all of his actions immediately. You can't expect him not to argue with adults.

The teacher knows nothing about our child. The teacher doesn't care to learn anything about our child. The teacher doesn't care to stretch his skill set to uncover effective strategies for working with our child. It's command and control. That's it, that's all.

It's going to be one very, very, very long school year.

11 September 2007

The Countdown

In less than a week from now, I'll be returning to work. Goodbye parental leave. I'm undecided as to whether it is the thought of no longer being a full-time parent or that I'm starting a new job which is more anxiety inducing.

It's been seven months now with the kids. It took us a while to get into the groove of things, but now, there is a definite groove. There's a household rhythm which I'm about to upset. And, to a certain degree, it's my reticence to have to find a new groove that has me riled.

Turns out, I like being a full-time parent. I like being able to work in the garden, oversee household projects, cook great meals, and play with the kids. I like hearing about their days after school. I like the maddening homework we have every night. I like watching my kids grow into the people they're becoming.

I never got into the housework thing. Housework is too repetitive and not project-based enough. For the same reasons I'll never get into yoga, I'll never get into housework. Having all of that time to reflect and replay my day mentally gets me riled up and angry without an outlet for the anger. There's no resolution in yoga or housework, so why bother going there in the first place. At the end of the day, who cares.

A dirty house is a sign of one that's well lived in. I should make that slogan into a tshirt.

In my early university days, I always scoffed at those people who said it was challenging or impossible to have a career and a family, and to do both of those things well at the same time. Now, I'm not so sure.

A career and family are both demanding, require equal amount of attention, and need it all, always, and at the same time. When choosing between the two job offers, the deciding factor was family. I took the job that perhaps I was less interested in because I knew that a lack of all-consuming fascination would allow me to unchain myself from my desk and blackberry. It's a position that will be as taxing and challenging as I make it. I also liked that the environment was sold as being flexible to the needs of my family.

On Monday. Six days from now. I'm about to retire my housewifey role and morph back into professional career woman.

09 September 2007

The Big Reveal

It's fixed. It's lovely. Thank goodness.

Introducing the newest structure in our garden....the fence!

At the right hand side of the house.

fence at righthand side of house

And a close up demonstrating how the great garden fence can compliment the kids' basketball net.


A look at the fence on the left side of the house.

fence at lefthand side of the house

Zooming in on the new step at the side entrance. Disregard the roses that have been sitting in containers since the end of July waiting to be dug into their new homes. They're being moved this weekend.

side entrance step

The final product.

whole garden fence

The fence was custom designed by Wifey and myself. We want to be able to build gardens that people can peek at as they pass by. We opted to have a gate on both sides of the house to allow for easy circulation.

We're planning on growing a rose up the arbour.

The poochie is loving his new digs. He can go outside and wander to his heart's content. He's been out there for over 30 minutes this morning. A large part of his new found fascination with the backyard is that he's discovered he can eat cherry tomatoes directly off of the plant.

This marks the completion of my 2007 garden projects. Whew! Next year we'll be installing more hardscaping in the side garden with some pathways.

And, just ignore the garden on the front lawn. We spent the summer focusing on getting rid of the wild violet. We're part of the way there. The garden is such a disaster, I don't know where to begin...and I won't be beginning anything else until next summer.

04 September 2007

First Day of the New Year

My poor neglected blog. I've got lots of material for fodder from the past month, only I never had the internet access, computer, pen and paper, or time to do anything with it.


The kids went back to school this morning and it was rough. ROUGH. There was attitude, tears and temper tantrums. All within the span of 45 minutes.

Bubaloo doesn't like change and copes with it poorly.

Yesterday, we dismantled the old step from the side of the house. It had been sitting at the end of our driveway for over a month begging the garbage collectors to take pity on it and stash it in the back of their truck. Only they never did. Which led to us having to break it into much smaller pieces.

Bubaloo stood at the end of the driveway for five minutes this morning mourning the lost of his "step-ey."


Summer camp has come, and gone. It was the roughest year we've had thus far.

We had to send five kids home for lice, had three disclosures, fired one staff and have to seriously re-consider whether or not a handful of them should be invited back next year.

We faced an assertions from two camp staff members that parents shouldn't be directors of this camp program. Mostly because we interfere with their camp counselloring. Well, if you think that when a camper doesn't get their meds three nights in a row that we're interfering because we're the parents of the kid not receiving his meds, you're dead wrong.

Wifey and I aren't sure we can invest another year of our lives into running this program. Camp is supposed to be fun. The fun was lacking this year.


On the job front, I applied for two and received offers from two jobs. Both wildly different and presenting different challenges.

When I found out in April that I would be laid off upon my return to work next week, I think I handled it with relatively little panic. I decided not to overly stress out over various"what if" scenarios, and waited to see what would pop up.

Today is decision day. I'm not exactly second guessing my choice. I'm just feeling mildly guilty by it because the job I'm not going to take would be working with a community I love. The organization itself is not in a good place and I'm still reeling from the last toxic work environment.

In 1-2 weeks from now, I'll be back at work. In a new job.


The contractors totally messed up my fence project. The erected it the week I was at camp. Poor craftsmanship. Design not to my specs. It's an absolute disaster. And, I'm pissed. I anticipate that the fence will fall over just after the warranty expires. They also tried to rip me off on material quality (pine substituted for cedar, and I don't even believe it's pressure treated pine at that).

I'm writing the email, with photos enclosed, this morning.

The worst part of this is that I researched the company. Saw their work. Talked with clients. How on earth have I again ended up with a shoddy contractor???