I am not normally the kind of woman who worries about her weight. I struggled when I was younger, but as I’ve grown, I’ve felt more and more comfortable in my skin. In the last few years I’ve lost weight, had a baby, and now am moderately over where I’d like to be. Having typed all of that out, I have to say that recently it has been rough for me to feel good about myself.

A few years ago I took up hiking. I had a lot of “free” time, and used it to get through the stress of my divorce. As a result, I lost some weight. I felt great, and it was awesome. Unfortunately, losing weight got me a *LOT* of attention. It was nice to hear compliments, and at the same time, it felt like suddenly I was “worthy” of more…and that felt very backwards. I heard often how I was beautiful, how good I looked in clothes, and more. Stuff that we all want to hear, right? *hrmph*

What I was not prepared for was the attention. I say “stuff we all want to hear” with a flippant and sarcastic tone, as we may THINK we want to hear it, but when it starts to flow it is uncomfortable. It caused me to question everything. Was I not attractive before? Was I not worth the attention? Was I not already beautiful? So much shifted for me when I lost weight that I felt constantly at war with myself. On one hand I felt amazing because I was constantly pushing my own physical boundaries. On the other hand I was uncomfortable with and confused by the attention…even from family members. People would go on and on about how I looked, as though some how now it mattered.

My journey with myself has been hard, and I know that is the case for many of my friends. I no longer need make up to leave the house, and my stylist knows that I am “hair lazy” and cuts my hair so that it needs minimal effort to be amazing. When I lost the weight I heard from moms at my sons school all the time. I got invites to parties (which I declined, as these were not my friends), and a lot of attention from people in the world. When I got pregnant with my daughter, people commented on my pregnancy, but when I didn’t go back down to a size 10 afterward…people just stopped.

I have an amazing group of people who love me, and for that I am grateful beyond measure. The more I delve in to the BoPo movement (body positivity) the more I realize I am not alone. I’m not the only curvy girl who has gained and lost. I’m not the only one who eats organic/clean/healthy and still weighs more than “she should”. Yet, I continue to see these images…every. single. day.

Images of women who have been face-filtered on InstaGram, photo shopped in the media, and augmented in ways I can’t articulate in mass media. When I was a kid I saw women growing older in media, but now we barely have that! Golden Girls was MY JAM as a kid. Seriously. I love the hell out of those women and aspired to be them…even Estelle Getty who played a character OLDER than she was!! Look in the American media now. Find me the old, wise women who are showing their age and not feeling self-conscious about it. Please, seriously, find them.

This brings me to how I have been feeling lately…

Emotionally, y’all, I have been a mess. It has been really hard. When my emotions get twisted, things just get wabi sabi. So, with everything up in the air…my sense of self has been too. In my heart of hearts, I know I am grounded, but I struggle. I am blessed with people who help me see the light in the dark, and for that I am eternally grateful. I just wish our kids in the world had more light spots in the darkness. I can force my way through, when needed, but I want better for my children.

I’ve been delving in to the BoPo movement online, InstaGram and Periscope mostly, but blogs too. I want to shift the energy, I want to help, but I don’t know how yet. It will happen, as we all work together, but some times I feel impatient. We deserve more. Our marginalized people deserve more. Our elderly, our people of color, heavy set people, thin people, able and other abled bodies, transgendered people…where is the representation? I want more, for myself but more for my kids and the future generations.

I will have much more to say on this as time goes on, but right now, I just wanted to get this out of my drafts and in to the blog-o-sphere.

 

 

Emotional Exhaustion

I know that I am not alone.

I am not the only one who has mediated her umpteenth fight today. I am not the only one who has navigated the world with an over tired toddler in tow. I am not the only one who is sitting in front of the computer after too many hours of constant touching/pulling/nagging/bickering/loving/hugging/cooking/cleaning/etc.

I do know that tonight, I have hit the point of emotional exhaustion.

Have you ever loved a child that you didn’t birth OR adopt? A bonus child, a step-child, someone who has become a part of your family in some way? Parenting is really, really hard work y’all. Parenting a child that isn’t yours…is another beast altogether. Parenting a combination of children who are yours and children who are not? Tonight, lead to exhaustion.

I wear many hats, and one of them is nanny. I am a nanny, but for the families I’ve worked with for the last 12 years my job has entailed much more than what one might think a nanny does. I am second mother to these children. They are raised alongside my own children. I consider them bonus kids and would do anything for them.

When your own child pushes you to the point of no return, for most of us, there is no option. You cannot “quit” your kids. Don’t even get me started on the people who abandon their children…there is a special place in hell for them in my personal opinion. I joke with all of my kids that I want to sell them on eBay, but we all know that is illegal. When a child who is not yours pushes you to the point of no return…or worse, pushes your birth child to the point of no return…how do you recover?

In my heart of hearts, I could never walk away from my bonus kids. I have a hard time going on vacation without them. There are times though, when I start to question my own commitment…and whether it means I need to be committed.

Tonight, I sit here feeling a level of exhaustion that I can’t even seem to articulate. The endless days of pre-teen have worn me down. My teenage bonus kid who is sinking further and further in to the abyss of high school has left me feeling old and inept. My preschooler has started testing boundaries with me and with his mom. My toddler, who is mostly agreeable, has decided recently that sleep is for some one who isn’t her. I. Am. Tired. Weary. Exhausted.

*I wrote this several weeks ago, and felt the need to publish it “as is” instead of edit it or let it go.

Baby sometimes looooove…

…it just ain’t enough. -Patty Smyth ft Don Henley

The other day my phone rang and I glanced at an unknown number thinking, “I don’t know anyone from Madera.” Suddenly I remembered I was expecting a call from Fresno Bully Rescue and I answered. Terese was on the other end and we quickly got in to dog-talk.

I’ve already said how impressed I am with the people at FBR, yet I feel like I need to shout it from the roof tops after this conversation. Terese and I got to chatting about my visit with Pretty Girl (who is still so heavy on my heart and mind y’all). I addressed all of my concerns with her, and even told her a lot about how I adopted Einstein and our family dynamic as it is currently. She let me know that Pretty has a special place in her heart, and that she has her heart invested in making sure Pretty finds the right home.

It was a hard conversation, though necessary and very good. Terese told me honestly that she does not feel that Pretty is the right fit for us, as I will always second guess her behaviour. She also told me that since Einstein is almost 12, as a senior dog he really deserves to live out his time solo with his “pack” of non-fur folks. I already knew that might be the right answer in my gut…hearing it from someone else was a different pill to swallow entirely.

Terese also let me know that I can attend a volunteer orientation, and that our family can not only come help out with the dogs at the shelter but that she will train me so that I can conduct home checks for any potential adoptive family that is close to us. All of that made me feel a LOT better. Pretty is still on my mind. I still have pictures of her on my phone. I’m still on a mission to help her, and to help the other dogs at FBR.

I have spent so much time lately just cuddling Einstein. Knowing how short his time is on the planet and how much he gives to me…I cannot ever repay him for all he does. Even nightly filet mignon would not come close (and would probably be unhealthy anyway). He loves me and blesses me in a way that only pets can. In my opinion, only dogs, but I’m a dog person so I imagine that other pet people get these things from their pets too.

Kids and dogs. All of my life, those have been the two things that are my heart, my soul, and my passion. I want to change the world for them and with them. I want to help serve the world we are in to make it a better place. Some days I get really down, but even on those days I feel strongly in my heart that things CAN get better. Seeing dogs who need rescue or children who have nothing…if I sit in that place I will cry and cry. When I can shift slightly to a place where I realize that any small movement is forward movement…it helps me adjust and move forward.

The reason I never finished my degree and went in to social work is that I knew in my heart of hearts I could not do the work without either blurring the lines of appropriateness in my job or it tearing my soul apart. For years I have stayed away from adoptable (adopt-a-bull) dogs knowing that I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready…Einstein is still my heart and soul, but as I found out when Elianah was born, the heart grows and I’m ready to expand a little. I cannot wait to start volunteering with Fresno Bully Rescue, and maybe even a closer agency at some point that would allow me to do even more. Who knows.

For anyone out there considering a pet, really of any kind, I beg of you…adopt, don’t shop. There are SO MANY RESCUES!!! And shelters y’all…do not forget the shelters. We adopted guinea pigs when my son was 6. Guinea pigs!!! There are homeless birds, cats, snakes, turtles…you name it.

On the off chance that someone out there is reading this, is in the central California area, and is considering an awesome female dog (not puppy, but still only 4)…consider Pretty Girl. She is an amazing dog with a huge heart, and she deserves to have a fur-ever home.

 

I guess the world didn’t stop…

…for my broken heart. -Reba McEntire

Yesterday, our family packed ourselves in to my Mazda 5 and headed down to Fresno. Round trip, that is a 4 hour and 20 minute drive without stops. Why? You might be asking. Why would I put my 10 year old and my nearly 2 year old in a car for such a trip? Well…I joined InstaGram a bit ago, and while some people are on it for the “likes”, I have found a whole world of DOGS. Dogs, y’all. Dogs are my life outside of kids.

I follow a ton of dog accounts, from personal accounts owners have made for their dogs and rescue accounts. Every day I spend more time than I should ever admit looking at pictures and videos of dogs.

Last week, while scrolling through the ‘Gram (my niece and I jokingly call it that), I saw a picture of a beautiful dog named Pretty Girl. She is currently being sheltered in Fresno, CA at Fresno Bully Rescue. Let me first tell you that the people at FBR are AMAZING. The volunteers are incredible. I should also tell you that this shelter is doing so much good in the world of bully breeds in Central California. Having said all of that, when I arrived and saw just how many dogs they actually have, I stood there in tears.

Right now, typing this, I am welling up again. These dogs are there through no fault of their own because they cannot take care of themselves. Just like children, there are no bad dogs. Yes, I meant to type that. There are no bad children, only children with bad behaviours (and bad caregivers/parents/examples). There are no bad dogs. There are dogs who have been put in horrible situations. This is not up for debate, I genuinely believe both of those statements as fact. There are no bad children, there are no bad dogs.

At Fresno Bully Rescue there are some amazing, beautiful dogs just waiting for their fur-ever home. Pretty Girl has found herself at FBR for the SECOND time. Her spirit is so broken y’all. I want to just wrap her up in blankets and carry her to safety. She was originally found wandering the streets, and adopted out to a family with a young child. She was trained to be an emotional support dog for this young child. Then, the child’s parents divorced and somehow, neither of them could find a place to live to house Pretty Girl with them. So…back to FBR she went.

Yesterday, when we took her out in to the yard, she was very shy. Skittish, ears back, tail between her legs almost the entire time. My son could get her to run around a little if Stephanie (the rockin’ awesome volunteer who helped us interact with her) ran around too.  Pretty Girl was sweet as can be. We had to leave her there because adoption takes time.

As we drove home, I began to examine every single second of our time with Pretty Girl. When I saw her picture I was *sure* she was meant to join our family. After interacting with her, I have doubts, and that scares me. When I met Einstein I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was meant to be mine. None of us had that experience with Pretty Girl, all though all of us like her quite a bit.

Today, I woke up on the verge of tears again. I still don’t have clarity about the “right” answer. Einstein cuddled with me all night last night because we were gone all day. All I can think about as I run my hands through his fur is “It is cold, and Pretty Girl is not able to cuddle”…and then I cry. The volunteers do SO MUCH GOOD, and yet they cannot take home all the dogs. They cannot go in to every kennel and cuddle all the time. These dogs need love, patience, kindness.

I am going to email Fresno Bully Rescue and keep talking to Terese. I’m going to let her know what my concerns are. We’ll make a plan to either interface Pretty Girl with Einstein, or move forward in a different way. I have to give it up and just pray that the right answer comes.

For every one out there, let me just reiterate: Adopt, don’t shop. Seriously. There are dogs of ALL BREEDS out there in rescues. Check your shelters. Call breed specific rescues and give a dog a chance at life. Your home may just need some nose art on the windows and some fur on the floor.

 

 

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today…

…to get through this thing called “life” – Prince

The last couple of months have been quite a ride for me here in the Mom Cave. There have been many ups and downs, twists that came out of nowhere like a great horror movie, and I have learned a lot. Much of what has gone on isn’t appropriate for sharing on the internet, and yet I feel compelled to share what I can.

I’m writing a book about relationships between nannies and the families they work with. As a child care professional with over 20 years of experience, I feel that this is one area that really needs more information. While the focus of the book is going to be nanny/family relationships (both professional and personal) I feel that most of the information is broad and applies to all the caregivers and teachers in children’s lives, just to different levels.

As such, the Universe has thrown my professional life in to a blender. After nearly 40 years here on this planet, I should expect it, but this time I was blind. I wanted to say blind sided, but the truth is, I saw it coming for a while I just didn’t want to believe it. It all comes back to the quote by my beloved author Maya Angelou, “When people show you who they are believe them, the first time.”

Whether you are a personal friend or a casual internet user who simply found something random and decided to read it, I want you to take that quote and really put some time in to absorbing it. Feel the weight of what it means, and look at how you navigate the world.

As for me, I’m working on my book and also working out how to be of service to the world. So…readers…that is where you come in. How can I help you? Do you have child care related questions? Friends who have child care questions? Send them on over! Feel free to email (inthemomcave@gmail.com) them if you would rather do that than post in comments, and I will change any identifying info before posting if you’d prefer.

I also welcome questions/comments about being a parent or a caregiver, basically most topics having to do with raising and caring for children.  Let’s connect and start a dialogue!

 

 

People let me tell ya ’bout my best friend…

While I know that Harry Nilsson song was referencing a person, my very best friend is my dog Einstein. Now…that isn’t to say that I don’t have GREAT, AMAZING friends, I do. My husband, my chosen family…they all have places in my heart. However, World Adoption Day was yesterday, and this is what I want to write about…

image3

Aside from my son, he is the best thing my ex-wife ever gave me. I was 5 months pregnant when she told me she wanted to go to the shelters and look at dogs. I was clear that there was no way I could just “go look”, that we would come home with a dog. The Humane Society wouldn’t allow us to adopt a dog because I was pregnant, so when we went to the city shelter, I put a sweatshirt on and we didn’t mention being pregnant. (I am aware of what I did. I’ve had dogs all my life, and felt confident in testing the temperament of a dog) 

As we walked down the aisle of kennels, my heart was full of sadness for all the dogs. I wanted to take them all home, even the ones who looked a little crazy. When I got to his kennel, Andy (his shelter name) came right up to me and sat against my hand/the fence. I looked in to his eyes and just knew…I was his person.

His story was no where near as traumatic as most of the rescue stories I’ve heard. Animal control found him on the streets, relatively clean and a little skittish. We took him in to a room to play with him and he came alive. He cuddled, then he’d play, then cuddle again. The staff suggested we see another dog for comparison. They brought in another similar age/breed dog that went CRAZY in the room. I was sitting on the floor and it literally jumped off my head.

I decided Andy was perfect, we signed the papers, and we went straight to the pet store because we did not own a single dog item!! I sat in the car with him while my ex bought the necessities, then we went home. One thing I knew for sure: Andy may have been the right dog, but Andy was not the right name. He was SO smart, but also completely full of piss and vinegar. A week after his adoption, I got sick. I was working, pregnant, and had this toddler-esque puppy who had more energy than I’d ever had. While trying to name him, I also considered if I’d made the wrong decision in adopting him, especially so close to having a baby. I stayed up at night, cuddling with him and crying. I talked to my friends and parents desperately trying to make the best choice for all involved.

One day, it came to me…Einstein. So smart but inept at the same time. (Other names considered were Plato and Aristotle) I decided to keep him, and after that really rough week and a half, we really began to bond deeply. I would bring the baby that I watched home with me every day to walk Einstein. Mateo and Einstein were fast friends, and I knew that once D was born, he’d love him too.

We were walking through our complex one afternoon, and the woman from the office followed in her cart slowly, watching us. I waved, and she smiled a tense smile, then drove off. The next day we received a letter in our mail box that we were being evicted with 30 days notice if we did not get rid of our “Pit Bull Dog”. I never lied about what Einstein was, he is definitely a pit mix. We even took him to our vet who interfaced him with several dogs and wrote us a shining reference letter stating that EInstein was indeed a MIX (not a pure bred) and that he had a great temperament.

After getting a lawyer, we decided to sell our home and move. That was the first of several go ’rounds with breed restrictions and living situations. Prior to owning Einstein, I knew nothing of BSL (Breed Specific Legislation, http://stopbsl.org/bsloverview/).

image5

It even took several people standing up for us/Einstein to get in to our current rental situation. It is probably my second greatest motivator in wanting to own a home. People cross the street when they see us coming. “Concerned” parents have running commentary or give me the side eye regularly.

image4

I respect that people have had traumatic experiences with ALL breeds of dogs. My niece was viciously attacked by chihuahuas when she was younger. I’ve known people who have been bitten by Pomeranians, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds. I feel for those people, and for those dogs. The dogs were often innocent victims in the situations too, as they couldn’t control their owners or how they were raised.

Yesterday, there were posts all over various forms of social media talking about World Adoption Day. While I know that day is about human adoption, many pet adopters posted too. There were adoption stories, rescue stories, and posts of adoptable pets. My heart felt warm and sad all at once.

I want to adopt/rescue another dog…more dogs…let’s be honest here, ALL THE DOGS! Yet, in our current situation, we’ve elected to let Einstein live his days out as the solo fur face in this house. He is dog-friendly, yet I’d rather allow him the dignity of being my #1 until he isn’t here anymore. He shares me with the kids, and has since before D was born. This dog is the most gentle, kind, and patient dog I have ever known. Einstein taught Deylan to crawl…and to crawl out the dog door. Allows Elianah to take his bone from his mouth while he is chewing it, hold it up and say, “Bone”, then offer it back to him as though she has a special treat. He doesn’t so much as grumble. In fact, this morning Elianah got out of bed and said, “Bye Mama, Brother” and toddled off to the kitchen. He looked over his shoulder at me, saw that I wasn’t going after her, and stretched off the bed to follow her.

I know one post won’t change people’s minds about BSL. I am not naive enough to believe that I could even tip the scales. I do know that after being Einstein’s human Mama, I am passionate about owning pit/staffy mixes, and that I will raise them to be excellent canine citizens who work to change people’s minds one at a time.

image1 image2

This guy is my best friend. He is aging…in my opinion very gracefully. Lately, I try to stop and make sure I give him love as often as I can because I don’t know how much time I’ll have with him.

Friends…how many of us have them?

It is highly likely that my younger friends don’t even know that song, and if they do it is through an older sibling or parent. Age, “nothin’ but a number”, but oh so much more. *sigh*

I have wonderful friends. Amazing people who have been in my life for more years than out at this point, and some who have come in more recently, yet I can’t remember what life was like before they got here. Friends who are near and who are far. Some I talk to EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Others I would be embarrassed to admit how much time goes by without so much as a text, yet the moment we pick back up we fall right back in step with each other.

My husband says I use the term “friend” too loosely, and that I should label the people in my life according to their importance (oh, the logic of a Marine!). The truth of it is that in my world, if you are anywhere from an acquaintance to a good friend, you’re a friend. If you exceed good friend, you are family. I am blessed by great people around me, and I try to remember to tell them how much I appreciate them as often as my Introverted-Capri-Quarius self can.

All of this to get to a point that has been rolling around in my head lately. I read a very popular mom-blog, subscribe to her Periscopes and mailing list, and as an aspiring published writer, have been taking a lot of her (in my opinion, very excellent) advice. The main point she has been accentuating lately is “Build a platform, have a target audience”. Well…crap.

My friends are more diverse than the area I live in. They include: Pagan nerds, the financially stable, police officers, kinky poly folk, paycheck-to-paycheck people, undocumented immigrants, Christian crunchy moms, Atheist families, Communist protestors, proud Wal-Mart shoppers…and many that either have multiple labels or choose not to be defined. I don’t even know where to start in terms of building a platform. Target audience? *crickets*

I don’t want to write to see my own thoughts pop up on the page, that is what my journal is for. I want to connect with people. I want this blog to be a place where people feel they can come through the door without knocking, grab a mason jar out of the cabinet, help themselves to something in the fridge, and sit down to chat.

I recognize that opinions are not one size fits all, or even most, and I’m okay with that. I have heard it said so many times that I’m not even sure where the original quote comes from, but it applies wholly here:

“TAKE WHAT YOU NEED, AND LEAVE THE REST”-Unknown (if you know, tell me please! I did try Google without positive results)

Friends, as we cross paths, whether it be momentary or we walk together for a while, I want to learn something from you and I hope to teach a few things along the way.

Putting myself out there

Last night I put my daughter to bed and spent some much deserved tv-veg-out-time. We don’t have cable, and I am fickle when it comes to watching shows, so I tend not to watch much tv. My husband and I watched the entire first season of iZombie on HuluPlus though, and caught up on the new season last night. Feel free to judge, I’m okay with it. I digress…

After a couple hours of tv I went in to bed, only to find our daughter stretched out across the middle/top of our Eastern King. I thought it was incredibly cute, as well as something that I *know* other bed sharing families deal with, so I snapped a picture and posted it to Instagram with the comment “You know you bed share when…”. As I sat there in the dark staring at the picture, something came over me and I deleted it.

Yes, she was close to a pillow. She is 20 mos old, and fully able to navigate the pillows, but other people don’t know that. Her stuffed tiger, that she commandeered from her brother and named Mr. Mow (for Meow), was also near her. She is my second bed shared child. It is a practice I believe in for our family. I understand that many a tragedy has occurred during bed sharing, and I don’t take that lightly. I also don’t let it scare me in to making different choices for my family. I feel good about bed sharing. I respect that it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) work for all families.

That written, when I see a post/picture of a beautiful baby sleeping in a crib I never feel compelled to tell the poster that they should reconsider their sleeping arrangements. I never lecture or provide links or even suggest they consider cosleeping or bed sharing. If I comment, it is on the beauty of infant/toddler/child sleep because let’s be honest…sleep is a beautiful thing for children. Can I get a high five?

The process of reacclimating to social media is going to be interesting for me. I am fully aware of the myriad opinions that exist across the globe and the internet, I’m just not used to dealing with them all the time anymore. I have friends across all boards, and support them happily while feeling supported. While all of that is great, I am also acutely aware that I will experience a lot of different things as I open myself up to the world, and that is hard for me. I am taking this leap though, because I believe it important. I believe myself and my contribution to be important. Not in any kind of self aggrandizing way, simply that I matter. And so do you. We all do.

Getting to know you…getting to know all about you

Every time I hear the phrase “getting to know you” I hear that song in my head. Every. Single. Time. Music rules my brain and I wouldn’t change that if I could.

On to the getting to know me process!

Hi, I’m Erin. **waves**

I am 36 years old, married to my very best friend, and have two amazing biological children and five amazing bonus children. We have a very full life in Northern California. I am pretty crunchy (organic/sustainable/whole food, natural remedies, cloth diapers, baby wearing, recycling, etc.) and very much a book nerd. My husband is a video game/D&D nerd. We make an interesting pair and neither of us can be trusted in a book store.

Our home is almost always full. Most days there are five or more children here, as well as various adults. Despite being very much the introvert, I always seem to have a lot of people (especially children) around me. I love that our house is the house where the kids on the block can be found, even if my son thinks that cleaning is a hobby for me because I do it so much. With so many children around, the mess can feel epic at times.

I have worked with children professionally for 21 years, in various capacities. I started babysitting before I had my first official job, but I don’t include that in my experience. My educational background is in Child Development and Child Psychology. My current work life includes being self employed as a nanny as well as being a personal assistant. I am also about to take on a new role as an office manager/medical administrative assistant for an M.D. I have been a nanny for many families, and also done consulting work with families to help them find out what their child care needs are and how to find/retain a good fit.

As I mentioned earlier, music moves my life. I can’t even tell you one genre of music and I have no favorite artist/band. I could lose a lot of things but if I lost music/the ability to hear music I think I would go clinically insane. I don’t go to as many concerts as I did when I was younger, but I still get to the ones that matter.

What to expect from future posts? Life/lifestyle updates, things that work and don’t work for our family or for me at work, recipes and food pictures, guest posts from blogger friends on various topics, tips/tricks about childcare and being self employed, and pictures of my family…probably a lot of pictures. Especially of my dog.

That is all I’ll write for now, in an effort to keep this from becoming a War and Peace sized post. I’d love to answer questions if you have them. You can post in comments, email me inthemomcave@gmail.com, or follow/interact with me on Instagram @inthemomcave.

Ciao for now!