Archive for the ‘
Have Baby, Will Travel ’ Category
Monday, February 4th, 2013
After 13 married years (and many more non-married years) of exclusively being Jill Cordes, I am partially changing my name. I am going to use Phil’s last name for personal travel with my kids.
I have always been proud of my Cordes name. I have more than 90 people in my extended family, 25 of them first cousins. My father came from a long line of ranchers in Western South Dakota. Most of them still ranch there and it is a place I really feel connected to. And somehow my last name is part of that connection.
So why I am changing it? Because I feel like a partial outsider when we travel as a family. My kids and Phil all have the name Johnston. I am the odd-woman out. One time when I was traveling with Fia, we didn’t have seats next to each other at time of booking. So when I got to the gate the agent said, “Shoot. I saw that you weren’t sitting next to each other in the reservation and was about to give you the bulk heads, but then I thought maybe your daughter’s father was also on the plane and she was sitting with him.” Obviously she still managed to find a way for us to sit together, since Fia was only 18 months old, but it was the most concrete example of why I want the same last name. It just feels more cohesive.
However, I have to confess another hesitation in doing this. It’s the vain side of me. I don’t like the way “Jill Johnston” sounds. My initials would be JJ. It feels campy.
I also keep trying to picture myself typing in credit card charges, etc, under Jill Johnston. It just doesn’t feel totally right to me. Basically it doesn’t feel like me. But hyphenating would make it a really long name. I could use Cordes as my middle name, but then I either give up my middle name or have 2 middle names. And since middle names are kind of pointless, why have two of them? Especially one that is a former last name?
For now, I’m only changing the bare minimum for travel. So no one really even needs to know. I will still introduce myself as Jill Cordes. I’m hoping all my credit cards, etc can just remain as is. I will continue to act like nothing has changed until I hear differently.
Who out there has done this? Are you glad you did? Did you feel hesitant?
It’s a big step, but I’ve sat on the paperwork for a year, and decided it’s time.
I remain, as always on my blog and in my professional life, including mommy-blogger life, yours truly, Jill Cordes/Fearless Feisty Mama.
Name Change pic via Shutterstock
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips | Tags: credit cards, driver's license, first name, hypenating, initials, last name, married name, middle name, name change, passport, travel
Friday, January 18th, 2013
Big news. Emmett took his first steps this week. Two. In a row. It was very exciting to everyone but him. We were all in Fia’s room playing. Even Wayne Sanchez. Em stood up using the rails of Fia’s crib, balanced and took the steps. We all freaked out, clapping and screaming. He plopped down on his butt laughing and looked kind of baffled in his happy-go-lucky way. Like, “Why all the hoopla?”
I don’t have any pictures to show of his steps, but I do have one of him standing proudly.
Emmett turns a year old next Friday. Hard to believe. Here are some more recent pics.
I took them to the zoo today. Loads of fun, as usual. (Take that all you blog bashers who called me a bad mom this week…not that I need to justify anything to those types….)
Fia on our way up to Death Valley. Exploring a ghost town.
Last weekend Phil and I took the babes on our backs for a 3 1/2 hour hike up some incredibly tough hills in Griffith Park. I’m the beached whale nearly passed out on the table midway through….
I swear he gets prettier by the day…he is such a beauty. And a delight. Inside and out. They both are.
The two below are a little blurry because he’s such a mover, it’s hard to capture him! He is funny! His tear duct on his right eye is supposed to open when he’s a year. Come on duct…. do it.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, The Sitter Chronicles | Tags: backlash, Death Valley, firing, first steps, Griffith Park, hike, hiking, nanny, one year birthday
Monday, January 14th, 2013
I’m going to do a complete 180 here. I got rid of my nanny and my life is easier. This is contrary to my post a few months ago when I wrote about why full-time help is necessary.
It has taken me almost 2 months to write about this. It was a painful experience and really hurt me to the core. These people become part of your family; they are taking care of the most precious entity in your life. And even though I know we made the right decision, and it was our choice, the loss hit me hard.
I don’t know why, but I just feel like telling my story. Maybe because I’m still hurt, even though at the same time I’m so relieved.
I won’t go into all the reasons. But the main reason was her complete inability to get here on time. I spoke to her former employers to find out if she was late for them. They claim she wasn’t. She also lived nearer to them, which, in LA traffic, makes a difference. They also had full time jobs in which they had to be out the door at a certain time. Phil and I work from home, so we naturally create a more laid back atmosphere.
I did every sort of tactic. I switched the times around to help her avoid rush hour (didn’t work), I gave her a cushion time, as in between 8:30-9. Not only did that NOT work, it backfired and made things worse. I gave her pep talks, threaten-talks, and on two occasions I lost my sh-t and yelled. And then she cried. And I felt terrible. So after a year of dealing with this–yes, a year–I realized the situation was exhausting me.
It was time for a final ultimatum.
Phil and I told her calmly and clearly that one more time and she was done. Communication had been a problem in that her accent is heavy and she also doesn’t text (which was another issue altogether). I wanted to make sure she understood how high the stakes were. She said she understood and reiterated that if she were late again, it was on her. She cried saying she would miss our kids so much–the mere thought of it broke her heart. I could tell her feelings were genuine.
That’s the thing about her. I had such a soft spot. Yet she would drive me crazy.
Her life hadn’t been easy. Her mother pulled her from school at a young age in El Salvador so she could care for her handicapped sister. She crossed the border when she was 17. Now she’s 50, a legal resident, and has 5 grown kids. But even though we paid her well above the market rate, money was tight (in part to bad decisions that drove me crazy–though I know–none of my business). With no formal education she is part of the true working class.
She became my project and my boundaries went out the window. I was going to teach her how to read and write (she was extremely limited in that regard, which I found out after hiring her). I offered to give her time off for ESL classes. I told her I could help her learn. She cried, saying it was her dream to read the newspaper. Never happened. I mentioned it from time to time and she’d say she was going to do it. Then nothing.
There were other things too, because as we all know, no one is perfect. But as mad/frustrated as I’d get, at the end of the day, she did a lot of lovely things for us and ultimately, loved my babies as her own. If there were an earthquake, she would throw herself in front of a crashing beam to protect them. She is that kind of person. I would tell myself that that is really all that matters. But it’s not. She was still an employee. And there to make our lives easier.
The ultimatum came right before we were giving her a week off (paid) for Thanksgiving. That following Monday morning she was supposed to be at our house by 8:30. Fifteen minutes later I see a missed call on my phone. Phil called her back. She said her car battery died and she was just leaving her house. Wait, huh? If your battery had died, you would have known before 8 and called us. Which is what Phil said to her. No response. He hung up the phone and looked at me. We both shook our heads. He called her back and told her not to come. I haven’t seen her since.
I then sent her a check for 5 weeks severance. My friend Delia is the one who coaxed–and coached–me on that. I was just going to send her a week’s worth. Delia said, “Jill, there are the haves and the have-nots. We are the haves. You won’t ever miss the money. Consider it one less charity donation. To her, it is everything.”
I remember when I was in Al-Anon; there was a saying about detached compassion. “When the alcoholic is passed out on the cold, hard floor, rather than leaving her in anger, or trying to get her back on the bed, just drape her in a warm blanket.” So, even though I’ll admit the check was a little hard to write, I felt like that was my version of detached compassion. I wanted her to have a nice Christmas. I know how excited she was to buy gifts for her grandkids. And I know what a relief it would be to pay her rent.
She left us a message a few days later, after receiving the check. She thanked us profusely. I could hear her voice cracking. She knows she messed up.
I guess I felt betrayed. Hurt. Why didn’t she call us at 8 that morning? Why, after having a week off, would she not show up on time? On some level, my mind says, “Did she not love my kids enough to get out of bed on time?” But then I know: You can’t change someone.
I did get word that she found another job close to her house. In fact, I gave the woman the recommendation before all this happened, as we were going to take her down to part-time anyway and help her find a family to share with.
I’m sure this post sounds like an “upper class problem” to many people. Some would tell me to just get over it. And I am. But dealing with another human being on a deeply personal level is tough. I’ve never had a nanny before. And I doubt I ever will again. She was with Emmett from the day he was born. He is a special baby and I know she must miss him dearly. But at the end of the day, we are better on our own.
I have now hired a few sitters to work a couple times a week. They are young college graduates from New York. I won’t be taking on their problems. My boundaries are in place.
I also realize I’m utilizing my time far better. Instead of napping when my kids nap, I write or pay bills or make phone calls. I think having full-time help without a full-time job myself gave me license to be lazy. Now, every minute counts. Energy begets energy. I have cleaned out closets and organized photos that have sat for a year. I feel good. I have spent more quality time with my kids in the past 2 months than I did all year. I still don’t have any regrets in how we did it. I had some crucial time to myself and I needed it. I had plenty of delicious moments with my babies. More than most people probably. But now I get even more.
I’m looking forward to 2013 knowing we’ll have loads of adventures. Even if “adventure” means a trip to the grocery store with both babes in tow (something that 6 months ago sounded impossible to me. Granted, Em is almost a year now, so having him older makes all of this a helluva lot easier).
My mind goes back to a line I read not long ago. It’s from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and gives me great perspective when I do get tired from the daily grind. ”The days are long, but the years are short.”
Like I said when Fia turned 3,when my kids are older and out late with friends, I will be watching the clock, wishing they were home. I will yearn for these sleep-deprived nights. They are all mine (almost) all the time. And for now, I don’t want it any other way.
Took Em to a fun playspace the other day. Making it a weekly thing now because he had so much fun. And I had so much fun watching him!
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read, The Sitter Chronicles | Tags: childcare, daycare, firing, firing employee, full time help, Happiness project, late, milestone, milestone monday, milestones, nanny, on time, preschool
Friday, January 4th, 2013
I turned forty-whexianoehna (that’s a giant sneeze sound for “something”) over the holiday. Phil and I have a tradition of going to a museum on my birthday. One year, to gain perspective on how little I mattered in the scheme of the universe, we went to the Natural History Museum. We were living in New York and it was a time that I was questioning my purpose in life (pre-kids, clearly). Just walking through all those exhibits documenting civilizations past really did help pound home the idea that I’m just a blip. We all are. Depressing? Maybe. Or just a good way to stop taking yourself so seriously.
This year we were immensely enjoying our first “staycation.” We kept toying with the idea of going to San Diego for a night with the kids, or to Palm Desert. We couldn’t make a decision/commitment, so we just left everything loose (which resulted in the best week we’ve had in years).
Phil kept asking what I wanted to do for my birthday, but I remained noncommittal. I was having too much fun just “winging” it. On my birthday it was raining. Here’s how the day shaped up:
Me: “Hmm…what should we do today? It’s raining.”
Phil: “It’s not raining in Death Valley.”
An hour later we had packed up the kids and were heading off on a 5-hour road trip to one of the most extreme places on earth. We had booked the last hotel room at basically the only hotel in Death Valley: Furnace Creek. (They have a sister property down the road as well).
In case you didn’t know, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest place on earth (134-degrees back in July 1913). This time of year though, it’s chilly. As in 54-degrees or so. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is also their busiest. But by busy, that only means one hotel in a huge swath of desert. The hotel isn’t even that big. We didn’t fight RV’s for road space or gobs of tourists at the 3 restaurants. It was the perfect time to go.
A friend of mine asked, “How did you entertain kids in that place?”
For us, it was easy. We told Fia we were going on an adventure. We’ve done it before to other stranger places, like the Saltan Sea. Someday when she’s a teenager, she’ll probably roll her eyes and beg to stay home. But at this age, she is totally game and gets as excited as we do (though she doesn’t know over what). And Emmett, well, he is the easiest, most chill baby in the world. So we were golden.
On the way up we stopped in two ghost towns and explored.
By the time we arrived at the hotel it was dark and their restaurant was sold out. So we just plopped down at a table near the lobby-bar and enjoyed a lovely birthday dinner. With wine of course. (I know this is starting to sound like a book report, but I am a bit rusty from taking so much time off.)
The next morning we began our adventure. We started off at the Sand Dunes (where George Lucas shot some of the scenes from Star Wars…remember when C3PO and R2D2 crash in the escape pod?). We said to Fia, “Look at this!! This is like the biggest sandbox ever!”
She screamed in delight and took off running. We played hide and seek. We played chase. Emmett giggled on my back as I ran after her and Phil. It was a blast.
An hour later, we headed to the lowest point in the U.S.: Badwater Basin. It’s basically a lake of hardened salt, 282 feet below sea level. There, we played catch with rocks of salt. We even licked some. We ran all over, feeling it crunch under our feet.
From there, we pulled over spontaneously at what’s called Devil’s Cornfield. It was an even more extreme feel of crunching land. I honestly could have stayed in that field and crunched all day.
On the way back home, we stopped at the famous Amargosa Opera House in the ghost town of Amargosa. By famous I mean you probably have never heard of it. Fia and Emmett were both sleeping, so Phil and I took turns getting out of the car and checking things out.
We got home at 9 pm, thus concluding our 2-day, 1-night, whirlwind tour of Death Valley. And another year where I got tremendous perspective on the day of my birth: I am the luckiest woman in the world.
Above: Em standing on sand. Below: Fia being tossed (I was more gentle than it looks) down a hill of sand. By choice.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, Moving to Los Angeles | Tags: amargosa, Amargosa hotel, Amargosa Opera House, Badwater Basin, ballarat, below sea level, birthday, borax, Death Valley, furnace creek, heat, Holiday, salt, sand dunes, Star Wars
Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
Revelation: Christmas is best with no company!
Revelation: I’m a homebody.
Revelation: I generally don’t like people staying with us…especially over Christmas.
If you didn’t notice, I totally checked out. Why? Because I was having the most enjoyable time with Phil, Emmett and Fia. I just decided to disappear. Poof.
This year I wasn’t pregnant, we didn’t have a newborn, we weren’t traveling, and we didn’t invite anyone to visit. And guess what? It was, hands-down, the most enjoyable Christmas to date. It may even trump our Christmas adventure pre-kids to Mali, West Africa in 2007.
Yes, the extreme adventure-travel girl, people-person and people-pleaser in me just took a massive break. It was our first “staycation” and I gotta say, it was amazing.
Phil and I both realized what it means to have our own family, our own tradition, and to frankly be selfish about it.
It’s not that we don’t love our families, but just having an entire week where each day we’d wake up with the kids and say, “What should we do today?” was simply blissful. To not be mopping and sweeping up after company or planning meals or dealing with drama–that inevitably comes with family–was relaxing beyond belief.
We went on glorious hikes, we took family naps, we went to the beach and the desert. We saw friends. We watched movies. I now understand why the word ”family tradition” was invented. We now have ours.
Em on his new trike. His feet don’t quite reach, but he loves it anyway! A good gift to grow into.
Fia’s grandpa made her a beautiful doll bed. Santa brought her favorite friend, Olivia. Between the two gifts, she has been entertaining herself for days. I love to watch.
Olivia needs lots and lots and lots of naps. Even though Fia doesn’t want to take them herself. (BTW–this is the only picture where I think she actually looks like me. Fia, not the pig.)
A-Wayne in a Manger. (get it? The cat? He’s in the manger?)
Christmas dinner, and drinking wine from my friend Kerstin Walz, who launched her own wine label this year, Stark Wine. It is delicious. I sent it out as Xmas presents to those in my life who appreciate good wine.
Having dinner with good friend Jenn Lee. Phil is there too, but he is taking the picture. Obviously. Goal: try not to over-explain in the New Year. Like I just did.
Nothing better on a Christmas day hike than your baby falling asleep on your back. Delicious.
This may be one of my favorite pictures of Fia to date. Notice the rodent hat and the sparkly shoes. Phil graduated from Madison, so naturally he was hoping for a Badgers win in the Rose Bowl. Didn’t happen, but at least he had his best cheerleader with him.
Okay, so below is when things got really adventurous. Mid-week we decided on a whim to go to Death Valley. That blog is coming tomorrow, so check back. Here’s a sneak peek:
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving to Los Angeles, Must Read | Tags: Amargosa hotel, Badgers, christmas, company, Death Valley, doll bed, drama, family tradition, Olivia the Pig, Rose Bowl, santa, Stark Wine, staycation, vacation, visitors, Wisconsin Badgers