Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Today I am Angry

Yesterday was a bad day. Yes, it was a Monday, and Mondays traditionally kinda like to slap us around a bit. But at 8:30 am on a bright and sunny fall morning I was not prepared for my awesome nanny, the person who makes my daughter light up when she enters a room, the person who has rocked and walked and carried my most precious Jellybean for over a year – I was not prepared for her to quit.

I of course was busy doing 857 things; making a frittata for everyone for breakfast (because that’s just the kind of terrific employer I am), unloading the dishwasher, checking email, etc. She set down her son and said, ‘I need to talk to you about something’, and I figured it was just another reminder about one of the things I continually do wrong, or that she needed more time off to visit her Baby Daddy or something. No, she wanted to talk to me about how frustrated she was, and how the hours were no longer working out for her, and how she couldn’t continue making less than minimum wage. It was obvious that it wasn’t going to be a negotiation kind of talk; much like I tend to do, she had obviously been stewing about things for some time and had made up her mind.

Not that there was anything I could really say; I work 8:30-5:30, like 8,000,000 other people, and that couldn’t change. Despite the fact that most days I let her leave at 4:30 and struggled to finish my work with a frustrated Bean trying to get my attention, it wasn’t enough. Despite the fact that THOSE WERE HER CONTRACTED HOURS. Despite the fact that she was able to use whatever time she needed during the day for her own appointments and personal errands, long lunches with friends or shopping or going to her house and doing whatever needed to be done. Despite the fact she was averaging 8 weeks of vacation a year, plus any and all sick or personal days off she asked for.

And yes, the money was terrible, I’ve always been totally open about that, right from the very first interview. I am a single mom and I technically ran out of my nanny budget 3 months ago; I’ve used up my savings and have been putting groceries on credit cards just to keep her as long as possible. But I always made sure she had gas money, and paid for any memberships or lessons or activities she asked for, for both Jellybean AND her son. I paid for their breakfast, lunch, and snacks, which had a surprisingly large impact on my bills. I bought her son toys, and clothes, and was generous at birthdays and the holidays. And most of all, for three hours every afternoon while my baby slept, she was effectively paid to play with her own non-napping son. She was not responsible for any cleaning, or laundry, or any other chores. Ask me how happy I’ve been about taking out diapers for her baby for a year!

Ok, sorry about that, I get a little defensive when I think about it, and how she’s behaving now.

The contract we drew up states that we were to give each other a month’s notice, but she wants to go back to school, and the class she wants to enroll in starts in just under two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Yes, I could point to the contract, and did mention that, and her response was that the next class wasn’t for two months, and that she would stay if she had to but would be miserable. Well, thanks for that, I sure would love to have someone terribly unhappy caring for my child. And that is a lovely way to express your gratitude, especially since I had offered to write a nice letter of recommendation for whatever you do next.

So yesterday I was shaky, and weepy, and felt a huge loss, and tremendous guilt and I toured less-than-satisfactory daycares and spoke to unreliable home daycare providers and became even more despondent and had several raging headaches and couldn’t sleep last night.

Today I am angry.

I am angry because every single day, five days a week, for the past year, I have been extremely conscious about providing a good working environment for this person. I have continually overlooked lateness, and questionable behaviors, and a thousand other little things because I knew that regardless, she was taking great care of Jenny. I worked late at night and early in the morning to make sure the house was clean. The fridge and pantry were always stocked with foods she liked. I am a terrible boss at the best of times, but with her I thought carefully about every word that came out of my mouth, every action, because I knew it directly affected The Bean. And it wasn’t good enough for her. I feel betrayed, and disrespected, and resentful. And worse yet, I’m pretty sure she feels the same way.

But you know, I didn’t change the rules. I can’t help the fact that at 21 years of age, the grass is always greener somewhere else. And really, it’s probably better this way, because I was going to have to face letting her go when the creditors started calling, and that tough decision has been made for me. I think Jelly would likely thrive in a daycare environment; she’s sociable, and flexible, and happy to please, which are perfect characteristics for a likeable little Toddler Class enrollee. And if worse comes to worse, I’ve got a line on an in-home provider who could take Jenny right away, even though she isn’t sure yet if she’d like to do it permanently. Yes, there are still lots of worries; what am I going to do about night care when I have to travel next, and ugh, the thought of getting up an hour earlier and fighting traffic to do drop-offs and pickups. Letting go of the ridiculous guilt about not being able to afford another nanny, and the overwhelming sorrow at the thought of not having Jenny directly downstairs every day for me to run and kiss and nuzzle. The sadness of Jenny losing a brother, and a surrogate mother.

And yet… I get my house back. I get a realistic budget back. Jenny isn’t listening to a screamer all day long, someone who hits her when she tries to lovingly pat his head, or takes her toys and taunts her. I can stop running a half-empty dishwasher, and have the temperature set where I like it, and the furniture placed where I want it.

In spite of it all, it’s a member of the family saying good-bye, and it’s a sad, scary thing.

NOTE: Some of you know my soon-to-be ex-nanny. Some of you may, in fact, have an upcoming scheduled playdate with her later this week (so jealous!). If you see her, please do not say anything like, ‘OMG, I totally read all about everything on the internets!’. I may be upset, but I would not want to do anything to make nanny feel bad. Please continue with business as usual and respect her privacy. And have fun.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No Daddy Yet

Well, it’s official. I am a busy working, DATING, single mama.
For those of you who may not understand the significance of this, it’s not just that it’s scary and expensive and exhausting and lame to be dating as a mother; it’s that it’s my first date since my ex. And my ex and I broke up on September 16.


So it’s, uh, been a little while.
The good news is, I’ve apparently developed an extremely healthy positive attitude about the misery that is online dating. Previously, I would be all stressed out about him and me and rejection and him being a loser and me having a fat ass and expectations and those kinds of things. Now, I figure, I’m paying for a sitter so screw everything else, I’m sure as heck going to enjoy myself, even if it is a total bomb. And oh, boy, was last night’s nuclear.

First of all, I knew in advance he had ‘some’ tattoos. I took ‘some’ to mean, ‘a very discreet and tastefully done miniature caricature of Calvin and Hobbes, or the equivalent’. Not full arm sleeves, back of neck, legs, god knows where. Secondly, he was wearing those baggy skater shorts that ride low and go to the knees. Kind of an odd choice for a 31-year old on a first date to a nice restaurant. Thirdly, he was wearing some sort of bird head on a necklace. Intriguing, yes. Appealing, no. Now, I don’t appreciate being judged solely on appearance, and I work very hard to avoid doing just that to others. So I was willing to look past these minor surface imperfections and discover his beautiful soul or whatever.

We sat down at the Japanese-themed dinner table and I ordered the hibachi dinner. You know, soup, salad with ginger dressing, the rice and noodles and chicken and zucchini/onions, the whole deal. He ordered a sushi roll. ONE ROLL. Four little teensy itsy-bitsy pieces. And he’s a few hundred pounds, so I kinda raised an eyebrow and had to ask. Oh, why, why am I such a curious person?

Apparently my date had once weighed 490 lbs. As a result, he went into liver failure and had to have ½ of it, plus his duodenum, removed. And now he can only eat little bits, very, very, VERY slowly. Like, over two painful hours. I was initially shocked at hearing the word ‘duodenum’ during pleasant dinner conversation, but recovered well and said lots of things about how strong he was and how awesome for losing weight, which sadly led to him explaining in detail his upcoming skin removal surgery. That led to a story about a prior back injury, where he had developed an addiction to pain meds and spiraled downwards until he was buying Oxycodone on the streets and ended up spending time in a methodone clinic.

Dude, seriously, what do you say to that?! I said very brightly, ‘Well, I hear those clinics do wonders!’ in a slightly nervous and falsely chipper kind of voice.

Those were the highlights of the conversation. Other fun facts that came out about my date included narcolepsy and complete and utter self-involvement. Not once did he ask me a question about my job, my life, my beautiful and most-precious-thing-in-the-whole-world-to-me daughter, or fantastic hair. Oh, and his artistic glass-blowing job? He makes BONGS.

But you know what – I got out. I did it. I took a chance, and I put myself out there, and at the very least I showered and had a good meal. I opened myself up to experience greatness but got a heaping portion of good ol’ fashioned crazy. So what? It was hilarious. It was an extremely one-sided conversation, but it was extremely entertaining. How many other first dates include a story about a 500-lb Man-Eating Chicken freak show where the punch line is your date, in his underwear, mowing through some KFC? That’s great story value there, my friends. And that’s something that you can’t buy. It has to be earned.

If you are married, please be nice to your husband today. You don’t have to do this.

Happy Autumn!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just Jenny

Check it out, a late-afternoon Friday blog post! Maybe you should wish on it, since it's something you so rarely see...

Catching up on my blogs earlier today, I chanced upon an interesting post about a pair of parents who changed their son’s name when he was one. Now, the very sweet person who posted was very polite, but as you all know I am not, I personally have a few issues with the name change shenanigans; firstly, poor little Ralphy was old enough to ‘know’ his name, so it was probably confusing for him. Although, people who adopt older children sometimes do this, and I guess the kids somehow manage to make it to adulthood. So maybe it’s not as emotionally damaging as I think. Secondly, they originally named him ‘Ralph’, which was just silly on their part, because he is neither friends with The Fonz nor in A Christmas Story. Lastly, the fantastic new name that they struggled over for AT LEAST a year is ‘Huxley’. Which, while literate, is bad news for a playground bully spoiling for a fight. Also, I would inexplicably want to call him ‘Huxtable’.
No matter what you think about people and their crazy naming (hey, at least they didn’t go with ‘Hitler’, right?), picking a name for another person, let alone a stranger you barely know, is a cruel task for a hormonal woman. I started remembering the oceans of anxiety I waded through before I decided on Jennifer Jillian R.. And realized I don’t think I ever shared the full list of reasons with anyone.

So here's why I went with what I did, instead of Isabella or Madeline or Alora:

1. My other top choices were all in the Top 10 most popular girl's names. Jennifer isn't even in the Top 100 anymore. Surprising, huh?
2. I think it’s just plain mean to give an innocent baby a name that you like because of a movie, video game, novel, ice cream flavor, capital city, or fashion accessory. I would love, LOVE to have a daughter named ‘Alora’ (the baby princess from the movie ‘Willow’), but that’s just not right in my mind to do. I know someone who named her baby ‘Juicy’. I think that you should have to take your list of potential names and a.) Page them slowly and loudly over a public intercom somewhere busy, at Christmas time; b.) Draft potential resumes; c.) Share them with a selection of teachers, and d.) Try to buy a personalized mini plastic license plate.
If you find yourself wanting to die of embarrassment, can’t pronounce/spell the name properly, chose the name in a haze of alcohol/drugs/post-partum, realize you are breaking your future child’s heart, or have people send you angry letters, maybe you should rethink that name.
3. I wanted a family name so that my daughter could feel that connection, especially since she only has maternal family; my closest cousin and birth coach is a Jennifer, and Jellybean’s initials are the same as my father’s.
4. Her name had to be something easily nicknamed (Jennifer Jillian Jellybean, Junior), easily spelled in kindergarten (Jenny), flexible (Jen, Jennie, JJ), and not spell anything weird as an acronym. It couldn’t be easily made fun of, rhyme with any naughty body parts or funny odors, or be unfashionable within the year.
5. It had to be functional for both a baby and a lawyer/doctor/President/Prime Minister.
6. I didn’t want to have to spell it over the phone a million times, or have her have to spell it. We already have to spell our last name. But guess what, there are now so many variations of ‘Jenny’ that I spell it anyhow. So annoying. People repeat it back to me, like, ‘Really? You don’t mean ‘Jenalyah’ or ‘Ginni’ or ‘Jinxy’?’ Argh, no, just Jenny, people.
7. At this point I do have to admit that one of my favorite ‘Buffy’ characters was Jenny.
8. I also have to admit that sometimes, I call Jelly ‘Izzybeau’ or ‘Maddy’ just to see if I made a terrible mistake. Because no matter what name you choose, you will at some point doubt yourself.
9. All the Jens that I know are strong, independent, beautiful women. Have you ever met a Jen that picks her nose, or can’t drive a stick shift? I don’t think so.
10. That’s who she was.

Just Jenny

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Also, I'm a Jerk

I TOTALLY forgot that one of my readers gave me a blog award! Like, a bazillion years ago. I remembered last night, when I was thinking of yet another post that I'd forget by the morning. So thank you, and sorry, and look, it's in my sidebar finally! Yay!

Please don't take it back because I'm a bad award winner. I promise I will try to do better. I will try to think of some folks to nominate right after I get around to taking care of my outstanding 'pay it forward' debts...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Too-Short Long Weekend

Oh, my poor little woefully neglected blog. Alas, my lonely bored woefully neglected fans. I am so sorry for letting you down! How was I to know that work would BLOW. UP. IN. MY. FACE? And when I least expected, too, in September! Why is everyone suddenly crazy? Some people have the flu, some people are still trying to drag out summer vacations, parents are freaking out about school starting, we are planning for a December release that is going to go horribly wrong and I’m like, ‘Uh, December is when Christmas is, better be NOBODY messing with Christmas’. My boss is all stressed out and grumpy all the time, my coworkers are overloaded and freaking out; is it still recession fallout? I read something somewhere that said the recession has not only caused layoffs, but productivity issues; people are having to take on more, and are scared and irritated, so doing less. I don’t know, but it needs to change. Mama needs a little downtime during her day. Farkle misses her.

Jelly and The Ta and I returned yesterday from a glorious, 3-day long weekend in scenic downtown Wilmington. The Hilton was a little noisy at times (rotten children running the halls at 1am, perfume-y bridesmaids stinking up the place at 2am, my baby squealing with hysterical glee every time we hit the lobby because she knew it meant either a.) Swimming pool or b.) Breakfast) but was comfy, filled with nice staff who fell all over themselves to rub Jellybean’s head and back (seriously), and had some very breakable stuff in the bathroom (Jelly didn't break a single thing; The Ta would start breaking something and I would finish it). Disappointingly, they do not deliver room service to residential homes in Raleigh, which is a shame, because their Crème Brule Cheesecake was SO GOOD. So good. I’m going to take a moment to think about it again while you look at the updated videos in the sidebar…
We got in around 3ish on Friday afternoon, after a did-the-zombies-invade-and-we-were-too-busy-fighting-to-notice? freakish absence of traffic. Apparently word got out that it was suppose to be rainy and miserable, so the less housebound tourists cancelled plans. We totally lucked out with weather – it was a little overcast, but we had sun and 82 degrees on Saturday morning when we dipped Jellyfish in the ocean for her first salt water, and the rain held off until we left yesterday morning in a flurry of unbuttoned pants and discarded juice boxes.

Despite the fact that BOTH The Ta and I were experiencing the joy that is being a bloody, bloody girl, we managed to not murder each other. Although we did quite narrowly avoid a terrible accident because we were arguing about whether or not a massive tractor trailer was going to hit us or not (for the record – yes, it was going to hit us, so I was wrong. But at least I was the one who had the sense to say, ‘Well, honk your horn!’ before it did hit). I managed to get a pretty bad migraine on Saturday afternoon, but luckily it got really bad right as my good-as-gold napper went to sleep, so I was able to lay and shake and chatter and try not to barf without ruining any major plans.

We ate at a variety of restaurants with a wide range of success. Jellybean is going through some sort of phase where she will apparently only eat French fries, bar cherries, or whipped cream for dinner, so I wasted some bucks on food she either ignored, threw, or massaged into her scalp. The place that had the shortest wait and nicest staff was sadly also the most disgusting meal I’ve ever consumed. I never knew that fried rice could be gray. Probably the best thing I had was Jellybean’s entrée the first night; she had some awesome seasoned fries and delicious popcorn shrimp that were ignored (the night of the bar cherries meal). But hey, I didn’t have to cook any of it or go shopping for any of it or most importantly, clean up after any of it.
If you asked Jellybean what her favorite part of the trip was, she’d have a tough time deciding. The Children’s Museum was kinda lame, but she enjoyed the few activities they did have. The beach wasn’t as great as the lake, due to the constant and cruel saline punches delivered by some pretty forceful waves. I bet she’d say it was a tie between the sleepover parties and the pool. Every evening and at least once during the day we’d all go for a nice cool relaxing swim. There were usually other kids to watch and play with, or she would simply enjoy some time spent playing on the steps. She did some awesome kicking swimming around with Tata, and was extremely brave about jumping off the side (much to my terror). The night swimming was followed up by cozy jammies and milk under the fluffy duvets. We’d pick out something inane on pay-per-view with either Sandra Bullock or Seth Rogen, and plump up a zillion pillows behind us.
Jenny thought this was THE BEST THING EVER! Bedtime, with the TV and lights on, and look, there’s Tata! And Mama! She’d get all settled and cozy, then seem to realize where she was, and pop up, fully upright, bouncing on the bed and clapping her fat little hands in delight with a huge smile beaming on her ecstatic face. Sleepover party! Yeah, the girl loved it. She’d finally sack out around 9ish and I’d toss her into the hotel crib, where she slept like an angel.
There were also a few new skillz that Jellybean picked up; she used the potty pretty frequently, she came up with her own sign for 'Please' (she crosses her arms across her chest, it's VERY CUTE), she can do a 'thumbs up!', and once she tooted and pointed at Tata like, 'OMG, Tata, I can't believe you did that!'. Grandpa will be proud.

Thanks for the awesome mini-break and for bringing sexy back, Ta! Thanks for being you, Jellybean girl.