Category Archives: parenting

Enough

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Enough

It’s amazing how your experiences can come back to tap you on the shoulder (or give an unexpected punch in the gut) decades later. When your life’s foundation is built on a fault line, you never know when the next big earthquake will make it crumble. Hell, sometimes the aftershocks can take it down. Too much stress and the sturdy, seemingly indestructible structure can be fallen by a minor tremor. You never know when it will hit. It’s been anticipated for years, you know it will be catastrophic, you just haven’t nailed down the timing. This is the result of a traumatic childhood, a foundation built on chaos.

Raising kids is the most important work I’ve done and of course it’s the hardest. As a mother, I am all in with these children of mine. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years now  and there are days when I still wish they came with a manual. I did not have a good childhood, I don’t come from good stock and I’ve been winging it the entire time. I’ve done pretty good so far. Both kids are on the honor roll, no one is in trouble with “the law” and they are generally good humans. That’s modest, they’re amazing humans, each in their own way. I’d love to parent brag here but I’ll respect their privacy instead.

There are times when I will reflect on what I was doing at their age, the contrast is startling. Sometimes I lose my patience over minor issues because I get stuck in the long ago realm of my youth and it decreases the length of my fuse. Most of the time I keep it together unless I sense entitlement and then I temporarily lose my cool. If I’ve gone too far, I apologize quickly and we move on.

There have been times when my husband and I disagree on things and he’ll inevitably say that I’m too sensitive. My usual course of action in a heated argument is to leave the room and cool off. I know all the rotten, hurtful things to say to someone to push them over the edge and I choose to disengage. I find it’s best for me to temporarily remove myself from the situation so things don’t spiral out of control. This is a point of frustration for him.

I laugh to myself a little when I hear myself described as too sensitive. I get upset if someone is harsh, I anticipate the feelings of other people and try not to step on them. Is this supposed to be an insult or an observation? The funny thing is I’m not overly sensitive in most areas of my life. There are times though when he’s right and I am too sensitive. The alternative for me is a complete shutdown, that’s the nuclear option.

There are days when it feels like my best efforts are not enough. I get up earlier than everyone in this house, I go to bed later, the hours in-between are primarily filled with doing things for them. Nothing exotic mind you, just the day to day work that no one appreciates until someone stops doing it. I spend the bulk of my hours shopping, cooking, running errands, doing laundry, driving kids and staying on top of the business of raising humans (the forms, the appointments, the scheduling, the shuttling, the social/emotional nuances). The invisible work of motherhood is my primary focus. I squeeze in my small business and writing on the side.

When someone complains that these best efforts of mine aren’t enough, I lose it. I’m so sick of the not enough message. Ladies we are bombarded with this message. Not pretty enough, skinny enough, young enough, smart enough, rich enough, sexy enough, good enough. Not good enough is constantly streaming like the news ticker on CNN or Fox – not good enough is messaged all day, every day. Well, I have had enough.

 

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Moms Don’t Get Sick (Yes we f*cking do)

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Moms Don’t Get Sick (Yes we f*cking do)

I’m going to throat punch the next person that says “Mom’s don’t get sick” to me. Right after I cough and sneeze directly into their left eye. I know, I’m cranky it’s the Advil Cold & Sinus talking and no they didn’t pay me to type that. Actually that is the only thing that helps (still waiting for payment, ah-Choo). Here’s that annoying commercial from Dayquil. I know I’m mixing shit up it’s the headache, lack of sleep and difficulty breathing.

Anyway, I know I’m “#blessed” because this is only a shitty cold and not some disease that wants to take me down one deteriorating cell at a time. I just suck at being sick. Forcing myself to rest is difficult. I called out of work today and I felt bad about it. My client is an 80 year old woman and I know she really looks forward to our visits. The risk of getting her or her husband sick outweighed the guilt.

Another fortunate thing for me is my kids are older. Moms and Dads of littles that get sick are really screwed. Scratch that anyone who is the primary caregiver that gets sick is royally screwed when they, themselves get sick. It’s not just parents of littles, it’s spouses of  the chronically ill, caretakers of people with special needs , adult children caring for parents. I see you and I hope you feel better and get the rest you need to take it all on again. As for me, this Momma is taking a sick day.

Observations of a Winter Break (REDRUM)

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Observations of a Winter Break (REDRUM)

The family just got back from four days in the frozen Tundra, also known as New Hampshire. The plan was to spend some quality time snowboarding with the kids and visiting with another family at a mountainside resort. Confession, I don’t snowboard or ski so I basically read and freeze my ass off waiting for them to come off the mountain.

Road trips are painful. Specifically my ass hurts from all the sitting. Just when my coccyx was healing – Boom, 10 hours in the car. I wasn’t the only casualty. My husband managed to poke himself in the eye with an eye drop dispenser. I won’t mention that he was putting the the eye drops in while driving…oops. No worries, I was steering from the passenger seat while this circus act was performing “on the road”.

Our family of four in a hotel room makes me claustrophobic and cranky. I love my family, I do. I just don’t want to be physically tethered to them 24/7. The lack of physical personal space and privacy puts my inner loner on edge. My husband and I each shared a bed with a kid. After years of being physically assaulted by the combative starfish that our children morph into while they sleep, we have devised a system. We use pillows, towels, blankets, anything we can find to create a barrier in the middle of the bed. Sure it takes up valuable real estate in an undersized double bed but, it cuts down on bruising and resentment.

The hotel we stayed at reminded us of “The Shinning”. In fact, rumor has it that Stephen King was inspired by this hotel which used to close each winter. Not The Stanley Hotel in Colorado but the Omni Mount Washington Resort. Who knows if it’s true we just like to tweak the kids a bit, retaliation for the lack of bed space. I may or may not have written R E D R U M on the bathroom mirror when it fogged.

It was cold while we were there, colder than Antarctica during our visit. Antarctica was a balmy near zero while we dipped into double-digit negative temps. I had never experienced those temperatures prior to this trip. It was so cold it made the news:

https://www.boston.com/weather/weather/2017/12/28/mount-washington-breaks-low-temperature-record-for-the-day

The first day we arrived I had a massage scheduled. It only lasted one magical hour. The waiting room was gorgeous with chaises, dim lighting and they had snacks. I didn’t want to leave. I pretended the appointment lasted an hour longer just to soak in the calm and partake in the peppermint tea and trail mix. I foolishly took my phone off of airplane mode and was promptly hunted down by my daughter, rookie mistake. If there’s a next time I’m going to “forget” to bring my phone.

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My not-so-secret hideout for a blissful hour before my daughter tracked me down.

The first full day there the hubs and his childhood friend decided to do a zip line canopy tour. I mean who doesn’t want to dangle on a frozen wire a 100′ off of the frozen ground. It was supposed to be a 3 hour tour. It lasted about an hour and a half because they were the only people “brave” (insert stupid here) enough to do this in -25 temps. When he left, my parting words were “please come back with all of your body parts”…”still attached”. Then I rolled over into the pillow barrier that saved me from countless blows from my daughter (Starfish 2). Starfish 1 luxuriated in having the bed to himself.

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This is not my husband or his childhood friend. Apparently some other fool thought this was a good idea.

While the men were out the moms and kids met up for a historic tour of the hotel. Well, one kid, out of the 4, joined the tour for 20 minutes while the rest stared at their phones while sitting together in the Conservatory. The tour was fascinating and we learned a good amount about Joseph and Carolyn Stickney, the visionary for the hotel and his wife.

Joseph Stickney made his fortune through coal and the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was very passionate about building the Mount Washington Hotel into a grand destination for the ultra rich families that would visit it for entire summers. They broke ground for the hotel in 1900 and it opened in July of 1902. The architect was Charles Alling Gifford, this was his best known structure.  Mr. Stickney hired 250 Italian stone artisans to work on the hotel and some of the artisans family crests still decorate the columns in the main dinning room.mtwash-omni-mount-washington-main-dining-room-interior-overview.jpg

Sadly Joseph Stickney died in December of 1903. Carolyn inherited the grand hotel and became one of the richest women in America. Ten years later she married into French royalty and became known as “Princess Carolyn”.

According to our guide, Princess Carolyn became a bit “eccentric” which is code for rich girl gone crazy. She had a special table in the dinning room. Before entering she would see what the other ladies were wearing from her private balcony. If she felt outdone by a guest she would change, some evenings she changed a handful of times before sauntering down to her reserved table. Once the princess was seated, the dinning room doors were shut and no one was allowed to enter or leave until she departed. I heard this was the inspiration for the Eagles song “Hotel California” – I just made that up do not Google it.

In 1936 Carolyn died and the hotel went to her good-for-nothing nephew. Apparently he was a rich party boy without an ounce of sense in his head. The hotel was shuttered within six years. World War II didn’t do it any favors and the grand property fell into disrepair. By 1944 the hotel switched hands a couple of times and became a host to the delegates which formed the Bretton Woods System for financial trading against the US dollar (which eventually collapsed in 1971). Financial details, blah blah blah the real travesty was described to the tour attendees as the great white paint massacre.

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Prior to the global financial meeting of 1944, hundreds of painters were sent to the Mount Washington Hotel with 50 gallons of white paint per person. The instructions were simple yet profoundly idiotic, paint everything white. The painters dutifully and unmercifully followed their orders as they painted over mahogany columns and Tiffany glass windows with reckless abandon. In 2006, the property was acquired by Omni Hotels & Resorts which, has since poured millions of dollars into the restoring the property and adding some modern perks to keep it viable. It’s a gorgeous property.

Back to our family trip, on the second full day the men and kids went snowboarding (-5 f). The other mom and myself dutifully led our kids to snowboarding lessons like Sherpas. Then we spent the next 8 hours in a crowded frigid ski lodge on the lookout to see if we could spot our kids. How they managed to last that long in sub zero temperatures amazes me. We thought for sure they would be finished after lunch but those fools went outside again until 3pm. We continued our watch and plotted our next family trip, we are both vying for a Southern destination next year.

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I’m pretty sure one of my kids is in this picture. Like 20% sure…nope those are strangers, sigh.

Some how they all made it off the mountain with all body parts intact and no frostbite. Moms breathed a sigh of relief and we all went back to the hotel for a final meal together. This time we ate in what was once Princess Carolyn’s private dinning room. Rumor has it that this area escaped the great white paint massacre because they simply ran out before they got to it. It was a great way to cap off the vacation at the hotel.

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Fun fact the red “Porters Chairs” use to line the hotel’s porch. The hooded top provides shelter from wind. These are replicas. The painting to the left is an impressionist style portrait of Princess Carolyn which she commissioned.

On the road early the next morning, OK 9:15ish that’s pretty good for us. I was up each day by 7am going up and down 192 steps to fetch coffee and breakfast staples. I would also sneak in a few minutes to drink my coffee and stare out the window, not a bad view. That is Mount Washington. The thickest white line is where the cog railway travels to and from the mountain peak. You can read about it here – http://thecog.com/cog_history.php

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You can see the reflection of a light fixture in this photo. Another fun fact is that Thomas Edison attended the Grand Opening to turn the lights on which he designed. On a personal note, I am solidly team Tesla.

Our trip home took a long 10 hours which included a nice lunch in Brattleboro, Vermont. I can recommend the New Englandah at the Whetstone Brewery, the clam chowdah also got rave reviews. The only downer was the state of Connecticut. For some reason they can’t get their sh* together in the traffic department.

I have never traveled through Connecticut without hitting some type of clusterf*ck on the highways. On the way to New Hampshire we encountered several slowdowns due to accidents and rubbernecking, all in Connecticut. On the way back we experienced something really special.

We were traveling on Route 15 and encountered a slow down of magnificent proportion. After about an hour of turtle speeds, we found ourselves near the front of the slowdown where we identified the culprit…a snowplow which managed to take over both lanes of the highway. This was happening to opposing traffic as well. In the twilight, the highway resembled a gaudy necklace with 2 rows each of red and white lights. Here’s the rub, there was no snow on the damn highway at the time. So overtime pay, a bad attitude, drunk on plow power or just mindlessly following orders…we will never know the reason why those plows decided to destroy traffic. It does however, seem like an appropriate way to end 2017.

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Notice the clear roads where the plow can’t reach. This genius was plowing already plowed snow on an 8 inch shoulder tying up two lanes of traffic for miles.

Damn it, Dog

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Damn it, Dog

Last night I had an “aw sh*t” moment on the way to my daughter’s choir concert. I realized that I left a closed pizza box on the counter and wondered out loud if the dog would eat it before we got home. There wasn’t a bet to be had, as myself and both my kids all agreed that it would be gone before we got home. There wasn’t time to turn around.

My husband wasn’t with us because I helped him secure his “get out of jail free card” to avoid this show. I’m pretty sure that makes me Wife of the Year (wild applause, trips on the steps going up to accept the award). Last week the hubs mentioned that some of his work guys were in town for a new project. I suggested that Tuesday would be a spectacular night to take them out to dinner.

“Why” he inquired?

“Because Thing 2 (kidding, I used her name. I just won’t do it here, privacy y’all) has a choir concert from hell that night and that’s a damn good excuse to get out of it” I replied.

Plans were made for a Tuesday Business Dinner lickety-split. I’ve already cashed my gratitude points by booking a Sticks & Stones Massage on an upcoming snow-boarding trip. I’ve prepared a list of acceptable names for the Masseuse to call me (sticks and stones may break your bones but names …never mind either you got it or you didn’t). I do not partake in snow-boarding activities.

I grew up poor, only rich people could ski when I was a kid. I tried skiing for the first time at age 29 with hopes of impressing a guy. I was petrified of skiing and the guy turned out to be a felon but, that’s a story for another day. At any rate, at the precious age of damn near 50, I do not wish to start hurling myself down icy mountains. I will read books and drool while some woman puts me in a trance with hot stones and Mu-Xing therapy (yes, I had to Google that).

Back to the concert, it was pure hell. That critique was unanimous. My daughter is in choir to avoid another semester of robotics so her heart isn’t into it. My son went because he thought there would be some food prize at the end (there was). I went because I can be a sh*t mom sometimes, but I’m not at the level of dropping her off and having her text me when the show is over mom (perhaps next year).

My son and I at least got to watch the show (and scour menus from nearby restaurants), my daughter was stuck in the cafeteria for an hour and a half between performances. The Middle School Choir opened the show with three songs and then they were herded to the cafeteria to await the final number where all participants would sing. This scam is used by schools and all kinds of kid activities – plays, dance recitals, karate, gymnastics. Basically, they have everyone’s kid in the last number so you don’t run from the building like your hair is on fire after your precious child performs. It’s effective, those bastards know what they are doing.

The show lasted over two hours. We got our take out and went home. Upon entering the house, the dog (we’ll call her Bonnie) greeted us with the usual fanfare. My son raced to check on the pizza slice, for which he had dibs. The pizza box was closed. Upon further inspection and much to the disappointment of my son, the box was empty.  “Bonnie” has impressive clean up skills. Not a crumb remained and how she managed to  close the box after the theft astounds me. At least she had the decency to look guilty when we asked about the pizza.

Fast forward to this morning and I am going about my routine. I prepare lunches for the kids so they can sleep an extra 5 minutes. Now, I typically make a sandwich for my son and then place it in the microwave so Miss-Steals-A-Lot can’t get it and I did that. However, when I reheated my coffee I placed the sandwich on the counter and forgot to put it back in for safe keeping. Bonnie struck again when I was distracted and helped herself to a turkey and cheese sandwich.

I blame myself of course, I’m a mom it’s always our fault. Bonnie agreed to wear a Santa hat as penance for her sins. And this is the closest we are getting to a Christmas Card this year. Happy everything to everyone!

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Traditions…

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Traditions…

Every year sometime after November 1st,  I watch Home for the Holidays. It came out in 1995 and was directed by Jodie Foster. This movie hits all the feels for me. It is perfectly cast – the writing is authentic, funny and heartbreaking at times. It is my favorite movie of all time. I usually watch it alone because this blend of humor and poignancy isn’t a hit with all of the humans here.

I make time for it every year since I discovered it in 2000 when I found a used copy on VHS at a store on Hollywood Boulevard. That year my twin brother moved to California and was sad to be so far from home at the holidays. I was single and kid free at the time, so I scraped up the cash for a ticket to LA. We hung out for a few days until I left late on Christmas Eve.

My family likes to watch Trains, Planes and Automobiles. It’s on a repetitive loop between late October and Christmas. This is one we all belly laugh to even though we know it verbatim. My kids are finally old enough that I don’t have to mute the scene where Steve Martin loses his sh*t at the car rental counter. It’s amazing to see how much some things have changed (no laptops, cell phones or tablets) and how the important stuff remains (being kind, family, dealing with adversity).

 

Of course we got sucked into the Elf on the Shelf scam about 5 years ago. My kids were young enough when we started that they believed in it for the first year or two. I’d fall asleep and wake up in a panic when I’d remember that I forgot to move Flash. In my mind I call him Jumpin’ Jack Flash because I feel like less of a dork for buying into the whole ridiculous scheme (humor me). Now my youngest moves it around because I’m lazy and tired most nights. We aren’t ready to let it go completely, yet.

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We also adopt two children to buy gifts and clothes for during the holidays. We buy for one boy and one girl. I try to get kids the same age as my children. This one is sacred to me. The Christmas my brother and I were 7 years old, a Secret Santa made a delivery to our apartment.

I have never forgotten the kindness of that act and how happy it made me feel as a kid. I remember standing in the kitchen with my mother and brother as we emptied the overflowing hefty garbage bag. It was full of gifts – Candy Land, toy trucks and gastronomical delicacies, like Peanut Butter and Fluff. It was truly magical and I want to sprinkle some of that around and teach my kids through actions, not just words.

As for hosting, I get all the holidays. It’s practical as we have the largest dinning room. I have also taken on the task of serving seven fishes on Christmas Eve. It is a nod to my mother-in-law who passed away when my children were young. I didn’t have strong roots or family traditions growing up and I welcome the opportunities to give that to my kids. What I really try to give them is memories. That is the point of this entire holiday thing – making memories with your family and friends. Something that will last beyond a turkey carcass and some crinkled, torn wrapping paper.

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Tell me some of your traditions….what do you love to do during the holiday madness?

 

My Boring Life….

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My Boring Life….

I’m bringing boring back. Too much crazy sh*t happening in the world, makes me want to cover my ears and scream “I can’t hear you!” Since people get twitchy when you cover your ears and scream in public, I’ll settle for a blog post. Here is a glimpse into my glamorous life folks, hope you have popcorn.

6am wake up so I can be a human alarm clock for my 12 year old daughter. Why do I do this well she wouldn’t get up otherwise so there’s that. Also, we don’t allow our kids to have their phones, the modern alarm of choice, in their room overnight and I’m too cheap and lazy to buy a stand alone alarm clock. I greet my grumpy tween and go back to bed for another blissful 30 minutes.

I manage to get the kids to the bus stop on time go back home. I don’t have to leave until 10:30ish for a client visit so I spend a few hours preparing for a fund-raising event scheduled for this weekend. I’m tracking down the people who haven’t paid yet to make sure they haven’t decided to ditch at the last minute. We have a wait list so it would be nice to get those people in if we can. I do a few promos on FB, some modifications to the donor sheet and a delivery of an auction item. Now it’s time to go to the job I get paid to do.

My visit today is to a 79 year old woman and her 88 year old husband. The woman, Helen, has mild dementia and her husband, Ralph, stays in bed most of the time. I am the entertainment. I am the social call for a lonely woman who struggles with depression. My goal each visit is to get her to eat and to stimulate her mind through some social activity or puzzles of some sort. I make her laugh through the inconvenient hardships of old age. She has a hate-hate relationship with her Depends which is something we talk about at length. She sometimes uses Vaseline or Desitin to relieve the chaffing the elastic causes at the leg openings. A couple of weeks ago she tried to put toothpaste on her nether regions. She’s in pain from a lifetime accumulation of injuries, aches and pains. The body wears out and it’s tough to witness. It’s worse when the brain goes along for the descent.

Most days it takes a solid hour to get my friend fed and dressed. Once we do that my goal is to propel her out the door and into the lobby. The community they live in has a front lobby that includes table shuffleboard. We like to play while eavesdropping on whatever is happening while we are there.

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Last Friday things got interesting when one of the residents went rogue and wandered off. Lorna is about 93 and walks fairly slowly with the help of a walker. Somehow she managed to slip by the front desk and get an impressive distance from the place. We were witnesses to the “chase” and subsequent capture. Then when I left, Helen and Lorna chatted about it.

After my visit I made a beeline for home, I like to be there when my kids get off the bus. Today it was just my son as my daughter had an activity. At about this time I got a text from the hubs….no words just this –

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That’s his subtle way of asking me to buy something for him. I replied with detailed instructions on how to open the canister and proper gum chewing etiquette. No reply, sigh.

Soon after that request I get a call from my mother. She was supposed to have cataract surgery today but it got cancelled because some family member of the surgeon had the nerve to die. That’s pretty much how she spun it. In 13 minutes she covered a lot of ground mostly how overwhelmed she is and how she wants to move. I bought the house she is currently living in because for 8 years she bitched non-stop about the last place…..and so it goes.

I rush out to get kid number two from her afternoon activity and I have about 50 minutes to make dinner and catch up on email. Badda Bing Badda Boom I make dinner. Freakin’ magic I tell you. I never know what I’m going to make until it dawns on me that it is my job…..someone has to make dinner, oh that’s right, I’m that someone. I usually don’t have a plan and somehow it works out. Tonight was pan sauteed lemon chicken in a white wine reduction (yes I made it sound fancy – I basically threw sh*t in a pan) with green beans. It was pretty good, a solid 6. They can’t all be 10s.

Then I started to load the dishwasher from the sink backlog. As I was doing this task my phone rang so I asked my daughter to answer it. She she went into a complete panic….like the phone was made of Plutonium (Pu, how appropriate)….she did a total half ass job with the conversation. So for half an hour, my husband and I took turns calling her pretending to be looking for ourselves so she could practice. She hates me a little and said “maaaahum” the way that 12 year old girls do.

Time to take the oldest to soccer practice. Drop him off at the field and go home to feed 3/4’s of the family the meal that I dreamed up 20 minutes ago. I set a plate aside for my son so no one eats his portion. In the blink of an eye I’m back in the car to fetch the boy. I go to the practice field where I dropped him off at 5:30 and he isn’t there, neither is his team. I scan the field, recalling the shirt he wore to practice. I just bought it this weekend so it’s fresh in my mind. It’s a heathered blue, with gray tints, it has a pocket left side of the chest and a thin line of white around the sleeves and the waist, gray shorts. I keep scanning, there are 5 boys on the field, none of them familiar.

I call a friend, her son practices at the same park during the same time for a different team. She picks up her phone and warns me that I’m on speaker phone (because I am the friend you must warn) her son didn’t go to practice. I tell her I’ll update her later, I have to go and manage one “sh*t” and an apology as I end the call. I drive to another field at the park, wrong kids, not our coach. I call my husband, he instantly starts screaming about our son not taking his phone. I remained calm said he left his phone behind because he needed to charge it. I decide to circle the park another time and get off the phone with my husband because his panic won’t help me now.

I drive slow, wondering if practice ended early. Would someone offer him a ride? He wouldn’t take it. I know my kid unless it is my close friend whose kid skipped practice, he won’t get in a car. He knows I’m coming to get him at 7pm he will wait. I consider the pavilion and the play ground. Without a phone he could have lost track of time and decided to wait it out there. I glance in that direction, bunch of littles and their parents.

I decide that I will circle the park one more time, slowly and deliberately because I can not bear the thought of my kid gone. I can’t. I can’t imagine how parents of missing children get through 10 minutes let alone hours, days, months and years. It would consume me. I have to place these thoughts on the back burner as I look for my son with heightened concentration.

I see that new H & M shirt that I just bought on Saturday. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him and I park the car and exhale. I call my husband and text my friend and the world begins to spin once again. A few minutes later he comes to the car. He knows I was worried. He apologizes and tells me it wasn’t his idea to switch fields. Because that’s the kind of kid he is and I am so grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

Alternate Universe

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Alternate Universe

I’ve managed to create this nice little alternate universe for myself via my blog. I have a handful of in the flesh friends that know about it, but not many. My blog followers, select few that you are, have come here like a gift from the blogosphere (that’s a legit word). I get a slight tingle when I see a new country highlighted in the WordPress stats. Today someone from Japan read one of my posts. No idea how or why they got here but isn’t that cool? I’m in Pennsylvania, typing away and someone in Japan just wandered in. It’s fascinating to me probably because at my age, I can still remember when none of this was possible.

For those of us over 30 (OK well over if you’re going to get particular about it) doesn’t it blow your mind how much technology has changed in the past 20 years. How much more will change in the next 20 years? I suspect we will have autonomous flying cars, artificial intelligence that can learn beyond human capability and a staggering unemployment issue and oh yes, Mars isn’t off the table – thanks Elon Musk.

What are we losing with all of this technological advancement? Do we have to lose something, is that required? I don’t know but I have observed a some things that concern me – instant gratification, loss of privacy and a lack of creativity and freedom.

I have two kids a tween and a teen. They have reasonable restrictions on device time. There are no devices allowed in their bedroom at night. For one kid it wouldn’t even be an issue as he doesn’t care at all. My daughter, on the other hand,would be up all night on Instagram, chatting with friends, making bad musically videos and would be busy not sleeping.

The ability to text, tweet, post and communicate instantaneously has helped to create a generation that expects instant gratification. Midlifers, remember when we would call our best friend in 5th grade on the corded phone on a table or attached to the wall? The phone was always located in some public space in your house and you had to push down on buttons or worse, stick your finger in the circle of the corresponding numbers to spin the phone wheel and call? And, gasp, sometimes no one answered or the phone was busy so you had to try to call them again later and move on with your 10 year old life. Kids don’t do that today. They rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to hear back from a friend and if they don’t hear back immediately, a bit of panic sets in. It’s kind of crazy.

I remember being bored plenty as a kid and I would go outside or write in a journal. We had to make up our own games to pass the time and if we were lucky we got some local kids to join in. We played spontaneously and we figured stuff out. You didn’t like everyone and everyone didn’t like you but you could usually make it work long enough for some variation of tag or cops and robbers. I don’t see that much where we live, sure it happens but it’s special when it does because it isn’t the norm. The usual here is organized activities and sports.

Kids aren’t off the leash much either these days. We need to know where they are all the time because there are bad people out there (and no sh*t, there really are bad people out there). Hell there are sneakers with tracking devices in them now….it’s kind of like Little Johnny is on house arrest or maybe block arrest. Their expectations for privacy are at the bare minimum. They don’t want you to walk in on them while they’re getting changed but most anticipate some level of monitoring of their electronic activities. Late 70’s and early 80’s kids wouldn’t stand for that. We kept our stuff private and if someone read our journal there was hell to pay. Our parents didn’t know where we were half the time and we couldn’t be tracked with a Find My Phone app. If they asked where we were we would either tell them or make up something that sounded reasonable. It was kind of awesome.

Here’s a little something to make you laugh, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

 

On the Road with Nannie….

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On the Road with Nannie….

I should have known better. Nearly 50 years old and I’ve known this woman my entire life how did I think it would go, really? What happened you asked….I took my mother on a road trip with my teenage son and tween daughter. Our travels included a  flight from Trenton, New Jersey to Chicago, where we spent a night. The next day we drove to Wisconsin to see a beloved family member perform at a dinner theater. Two nights in Wisconsin then we drove back to Chicago to fly back to New Jersey. My kids call my mother Nannie, I usually call her crazy (in my head, mostly).

The trouble started about 3 days before we left. I got a frantic call from my mother, her friend who was going to cat sit got herself into some trouble with the law. Yup, you read that right. My mother’s friend…we will call her Mandy has a mental disorder which makes ordinary tasks more challenging. She is a sweet person she just doesn’t have a solid grasp on financial matters. She got sucked into some predatory loan trap and ultimately wound up trying to cash a fraudulent check which may or may not get her into a heap of trouble. Anyhow, Mandy was going to cat sit for my mother while we were away but my mother fired her due to the aforementioned steamy shit pile.

Mom was nearly crying on the phone worried about her cat and who would take care of her while we were away. Don’t get me wrong I like animals. I house a dog, a gecko and a gold fish we got at a fair a year ago (that thing thrives on neglect and malnutrition only explanation for it’s longevity). I get it you need someone to feed the cat but we’ll only be gone for three days. Do you really cancel a trip that someone else paid for so you can see your granddaughter in a starring role because the “regular” cat sitter is unavailable? My husband over hearing this conversation, graciously volunteered to feed the cat. My mom was still shook up but was slightly relieved. She started to mention the litter box and I shushed her on that. The hubs changed his fair share of diapers but I knew the litter box was a deal breaker. She left him 6 paragraphs of handwritten instructions. He followed the important one, feed the cat.

A few days later we were on our way. Now I will admit it….I’m a part time control freak. I say part time because my personal desk is far too messy to be claimed by a full time control freak. That said I go into full on freak mode when it comes to being on time regarding air travel and such. I’m also out of practice being the alpha on these types of trips. My husband prefers to drive and I’ve gotten used to letting him take the reins on family adventures. I typically do 90% of the planning then he executes the transportation in all of it’s forms. This time it was all on me – kids, my senior mom and a shitty GPS.

I had the kids and our stuff packed and in the car, it was time to get Nannie. She lives 10 minutes away from us so that part is easy. She wasn’t ready on time, she never is, it gets padded into the schedule but still manages to piss me off. As I was sitting in my car waiting I realized that I did not have my passport. Which I wouldn’t need anyway except the rental car paperwork specified that two forms of photo ID were required so back to my house we went. With the Nannie waiting, going back to get my passport (which my husband accurately predicted I would not need……but the paperwork said…blah…blah) and going to the Trenton, New Jersey airport for the first time, we still arrived about an hour and 40 minutes before departure. This would not be a ridiculous buffer time if we were at a normal airport. This airport is tiny, about the size of an average size grocery store. In hindsight we could have gotten there 10 minutes before the flight and still been fine, live and learn.

My mother packs a ridiculous amount of shit for three days. Sad part is she needs most of it for the various aches, pains and injuries she’s collected over 72 years. She had enough pills and supplements to supply a Walgreen’s. She also packed a heating pad type of device. It’s a tubular shape and has beads in it that you can heat in a microwave. This got my mom a pat down and a thorough bag search at both airports. After all that we still had an hour and a half to wait. Had a snack, checked my email and read a book, relaxing stuff. Nannie decides she has to use the bathroom the minute they start making the boarding announcement. By this time everyone in the tiny airport was standing up in predator mode ready to pounce when their row was called. Now, if my mother was the type to rush in and rush out that would be one thing but I have seen her go into a public restroom before and not come out for 20 minutes. Luckily she realized this would not work out and we boarded.

The flight was quick, a little bumpy but nothing like the horror stories I had heard from some friends regarding Frontier Airlines. We arrived on time and did the schlep through O’Hare to get to a taxi. The ride was slow but enjoyable, we had a charming driver from West Africa and the weather was pleasant, so far – so good. We checked into the hotel around 4pm. My mother immediately left the room for parts unknown despite my requests that we stay together. We found her about 10 minutes later in the lobby and we all ventured out together.

I read about architectural sight seeing tours on the Chicago River and thought it would be a good use of our limited time. It was a bit chilly walking toward the Navy Pier and I saw the ticket booth and mentioned the tour. Everyone was in except my mother, she declined. She did it once 13 years ago didn’t need to do it again. OK I got the tickets for the kids and I and decided we should eat right away as we had an hour and 10 minutes before the tour.

We went to a chain restaurant at the Navy Pier. My son made the unfortunate selection of pizza. I say this as someone from the NJ/NY area, our standards for pizza are different. He felt sick after one slice. Soldier through little man and I will feed you later, pinky promise. I asked my mom if she had her cell phone on her and she told me she left it home. She was under the impression it wouldn’t work in Chicago or Wisconsin. Um, OK. I paid for the meal, gave my mom an extra key card for the hotel room, said a silent prayer and hoped for the best. The hotel was a few blocks away and was in a straight line so I was somewhat confident she could make it back.

The kids and I had a great time on the tour. Chicago is such a unique city and the architecture is varied and interesting. The guide was great, he gave us tons of information and trivia about the area. We walked back toward the hotel as soon as the tour was over. Mom was sitting in the lobby. When I asked why she wasn’t in the room, she said her key card did not work, it required an “app”. I was baffled by this statement as I had used my key card to get in without incident. We went up to the room and gave hers a test drive and it worked. Not sure where the “app” reference came in or why the front desk couldn’t assist while we were out but we got back in.

My son still needed food so I was preparing to go out again. Nannie was already sprawled on the couch watching CNN and declared herself done for the night. She declined my offer to open up the sofa bed. My daughter also stayed back so it was just the two of us. My first priority was to walk to the Hyatt where I would get the rental car the next day. A gentleman at the Hyatt showed us a list of restaurants and we settled on Catch 35. We had an outrageously good meal there and enjoyed the evening lights of Chicago. We were back in the room by 9:30. Nannie was snoring on the couch with her glasses still on her face, fully dressed with CNN blaring. I gently removed her glasses, turned down the volume and turned off the lamp near her head. I left a hall light on so she could see where the bathroom was, shut the bedroom door and we all called it a night.

The next day I got the kids up for breakfast and let Nannie sleep in. Breakfast was lousy but at least there was coffee. I brought some back for Nannie. My son wanted to explore some more and I was game so out we went leaving Nannie and my daughter behind once again. We walked along the river and just enjoyed the views. We snaked our way back to the hotel taking a different route to see more sites and then it was time to pack.

We had an 11am check out time so I was ushering everyone in my group out at about 10:59. I asked my son to stay in the lobby with the bags and Nannie while my daughter and I went to get the car. We got to the Hertz counter and we were told the car would not be ready before our reserved time of noon, fair enough. My daughter and I walked back to the hotel lobby and found my son alone with everyone’s bags. Nannie decided she needed to get the New York Times. Not sure why, she doesn’t read it at home but the desire to get the newspaper propelled her out the door on a solo mission. She got back about 15 minutes later with a bump on her head. What happened mom? I asked. She apparently lost her balance on an uneven portion of sidewalk and was helped up by two strangers (thank you fine sirs). Do you need a doctor, Advil, ice? “No, I’m fine” was the reply I got. So we went to the Hyatt to get the car. It still wasn’t noon yet so we waited in the lobby. My mother went to use the bathroom and I followed after to see if she wanted to rethink the ice/Advil/doctor situation. She said she was OK just a little banged up.

With no immediate medical need I was back to focusing on getting the rental car which didn’t arrive until 12:30. I was just about to ask them to extend the return time when the car showed. I plugged in the GPS I took with me from home and it didn’t work. More likely I didn’t give it time to acclimate to the new location, it’s an older model. Luckily I had printed out directions (because I’m old) and off we went.

Traffic in Chicago can be somewhat spectacular. I’ve driven in NYC, Philadelphia, LA and DC so I’m no light weight. I can get my native Jersey Girl in gear behind the wheel when necessary and it was necessary. The sound effects coming out of my mother made it all the more entertaining – intermittent gasps, mild cursing and the virtual braking were a real time commentary on the ever changing traffic conditions. After about an hour the traffic eased up and the scenery shifted from city skyline to farms. We made a couple of stops and a failed detour attempt to find food in Madison, 4 hours later we arrived. My mother started reading each road sign we passed at one point and I didn’t think I was going to make it but I persevered.

The hotel was outdated in the common areas but in a charming old fashioned way. The room itself went from shabby chic to depressing pretty quick but hey it was only two nights. The accommodations included a private bedroom with a king size bed and a room with two queen beds and a tiny sad looking bathroom. I gave Nannie the private bedroom so she could listen to CNN without keeping the rest of us up. My son got his own bed and once again, I slept with my daughter who turns into a human starfish when she sleeps.

I called Peanut (the person we came to see perform) and was quickly out the door to pick her up. I then rounded up the rest of the crew and we went out to eat. The place had a fun atmosphere and we ate outside watching a family with 3 young girls all under the age of 4. The one girl lost 5 balloons in the time we were there, another one fell off a chair while the baby crawled on the table. I was frankly getting tired just watching them and twitched a little recalling the toddler years with my kids. Glad that phase is in the rear view mirror. It’s an adorable and absolutely exhausting phase.

During dinner my mom requested an update on her cat “Mademoiselle”. I texted my husband an quickly got a reply. As luck would have it, he was taking care of her the instant I texted. She looks happy to me (featured image). It put my mother at ease and I replied with a “You’re a saint honey.”

It was all going well and then out of the blue Nannie asks Peanut how much she weighs. I said mom you can’t do that, she’s an adult. You don’t just go up to other female adults and ask how much they weigh. She shrugged me off. Peanut evaded the question and we moved on. The thing is my mother has become obsessed with weight the past 5 years or so. This isn’t the first time she asked Peanut or me how much we weigh. It’s weird. She also weighs herself constantly and makes announcements – 107, 103, 106 “I really need to watch it don’t want to get fat again”. She was never that fat. I have gained some weight the past few years and she will make random insulting comments about how much I eat or how I shouldn’t wear stripes whilst gifting me with a striped shirt, I don’t get it. I exercise regularly and I am within the normal weight range, back off lady.

After dinner, Peanut, the kids and I decided to go to some outlets near our hotel. I asked mom if she wanted to go. She declined. The TV wasn’t working and she wanted to wait to get that resolved. I came back to the room to see if she was sure. Yup, going to wait here.  OK , we leave to go to the outlets. We wander around the outlets for an hour or so and whom do we happen to bump into, Nannie. Yup, the same woman who face planted in Chicago that very same morning decided to walk to the outlets in shoes that weren’t very comfortable. Nannie wanted to “look” at shoes, $40. and a Bass pair of walking shoes later, we were driving Peanut back to her place.

At 2am I awake to a very loud alarm clock playing a Kid Rock song…..”Gonna paint the town red and paint his wife white…” I half open one eye and see my mother walk out of her room where the alarm clock is blasting music and watch her casually saunter to the bathroom. I go into her room turn off the alarm clock and go back to bed. I mention this in the morning.  The kids heard it, Nannie did not. Sleepwalking?

The next day my mother is reviewing her clothing options and comments that “it looks like I slept in these”. She did in fact sleep in her clothes each night on the trip. She typically just falls asleep in the middle of some activity, usually watching TV and whatever she has on at the time is what she wakes up in. If she brought pajamas I never saw them. She took a shower that morning and the three of us listened to her curse a blue streak at the faucet which was not adjusting to her needs in a timely manner. This day we were scheduled to see Peanut perform so we were out the door around 11am.

The theater was really nice and we were all super excited to see the show. The show started at 1pm and we had lunch as part of the experience. At one point Nannie went to the bathroom and about 15 minutes later she could not find her purse. It’s about to be showtime and I am saying silent prayers that she doesn’t lose her mind at this point because I might lose my shit over the timing. I had my son check the car and my mom and I checked the bathroom. Fortunately a staff member found the purse and all was right in the world for the next 2 hours. That was a close call. The show was amazing and worth every blip encountered along the way.

After the show we walked around the town and took a short walk along the river. We had a nice dinner out and Peanut shared some Nannie stories of her own with my kids when Nannie was in the bathroom. Nannie has a long history of disappearing when caring for children, inappropriate comments, loud TVs and unsolicited political commentary. After dinner, we dropped Peanut off and wished her well. Then we hunkered down for our last night.

The control freak in me was up at the crack of dawn preparing to leave. I needed to get the rental car back by noon to avoid a surcharge. Since I didn’t know what the traffic situation would be I wanted 4 hours to get there, knowing we would make at least two stops on the way. We made it back with time to spare and had a solid 3 hours before our departing flight. Nannie was once again pulled aside by security for the heating pad contraband plus she just looks suspicious. It doesn’t help that’s she’s made bomb jokes in these situations.

I tried to keep an eye on her as the four of us took turns watching our bags and wandering. She sauntered off a few times but always made it back. The real kick in the pants was after we landed in Trenton I could not find my car key. It’s gone somewhere in Chicago or Wisconsin or perhaps tucked away in Nannie’s bag somewhere accidentally on purpose. I still can’t find the damn thing, good thing the hubs had a spare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gasping for Air

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Gasping for Air

What does a writer do when they feel too vulnerable to write? It’s OK I’ll just wait over here until the universe can send me an answer….still waiting……….waiting some more. Well the universe doesn’t seem to be getting back to me so I guess I’ll have to take the steering wheel, again.

I feel like the world has gone fahking mad. How did we get here? The terrorists attacks, the society of rage that seems to be festering all around us……Donald Trump. It feels like one big WTF moment that has gone viral well beyond it’s 15 minutes of fame. So there’s that.

On a personal level I have been watching my kids struggle with tween/teen issues. I feel like my heart resides outside my body in two distinct and always moving places…..and it can be assaulted at any time, unprovoked. I guess that’s how it is when you have kids, forever vulnerable. I don’t think this is a phase we will transition through….sure the teen years will pass, but I will always be vulnerable to their pain, assuming I’m aware of it.

My kids tell me a lot, maybe too much. I’d rather know what’s going on, at least for now. I reserve the right to change my mind on that in the future. My husband thinks I coddle. I disagree. I think I have created a mostly safe place for our children to come to when they need to talk. I say mostly safe because sometimes I suck at this parenting thing. Catch me at 11pm on any given night and I am not at my best and neither are they. Yet that seems to be the time when they want to get close and tell me their fears, their sadness, their pain and of course their joys and dreams as well. It’s a mixed bag but lately the mix is leaning heavy on fears and sadness and it’s weighing us all down.

Raising humans is hard. I mean think about it you are shaping a person into their pre-adult self….enormous fahking responsibility. And I know this…..I’ve been doing the parent thing for over 13 years now…it’s just sometimes that weight just smacks you in the face when you were taking a moment to look the other way. Blind sided, unprepared caught unaware, gasping for air. That’s how it feels right now.

Mother’s Day is Hard……

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Mother’s Day is Hard……

Mother’s Day is hard for me.  My mother lives close by in a small house that I bought for her. It’s in a retirement community and is a 10 minute drive from me. And it is kind of a remarkable thing given our history. Let’s be clear though, I mostly bought the house for me, not her. I need to be OK with myself after she passes.

My mother has been mentally unstable my entire life. As a young child I watched her drink alcoholically, drive drunk, and create drama. There were the standard Saturday morning thrashings if my brother or I woke her up too early. If I’m honest, my brother took the brunt of that. I would scurry away and he would try to reason with her…smack. When I was in first grade she was brushing my hair and got so frustrated with me that she hit me hard on the forehead, which caused a bump and a surprising amount of blood. I was told to say I walked into the door so mommy wouldn’t get in trouble. Most of the abuse was mental. She would routinely say “I wish you were never born”. That’s hard to reconcile as a child, Hell, it’s hard to type that now.

It was just the three of us – my mother, twin brother and I. My parents divorced when we were two years old. We saw our father on a regular basis until we were moved out of state at 8 years old.This move followed a custody battle between our parents and as soon as the ink was dry from the case our mother moved us to Florida with her charismatic and somewhat insane boyfriend. So we went from 3 to 4 for one drama filled year.

I remember crossing the state line in a red convertible Cadillac “Welcome to Florida – The Sunshine State”. It was pouring and the irony or perhaps it was foreshadowing was not lost on me. That year was filled with insanity and contradictions. We moved four times in 10 months and went to two different school districts. There were snakes and palmetto bugs, lizards and a trip to Disney. We had a 40-foot boat and I learned to fish and went snorkeling, it wasn’t all bad.

The bad was really bad though.The relationship between my mother and her boyfriend was volatile. I saw him beat her. I listened to countless loud, uncontrollable arguments. At one point my mother left with my brother to go back to New Jersey. I was left in Florida with a family that we barely knew.  They had rented one of the houses we had lived in and they had 5 kids, I was 9 years old.Who does that? Who leaves their 9 year old girl in another state with strangers for a month. A desperate crazy person, that’s who.

My mother came back in about a month and was promptly hospitalized after a suicide attempt. I was sent to a foster home for a week. Soon after my mother had another breakdown and destroyed the place we were living in. I watched her get arrested and placed in the back of a police car. A few days later I was taking my first ever plane ride back to New Jersey, alone.  My brother and I stayed with our grandparents for the next year until mom could get a place for the three of us.

The roller coaster continued throughout my formative years.Mother continued to drink and spoke of suicide, often. Each day when I got home from school I would walk into every room in our apartment. Honestly, I did not connect the dots on this behavior until I was an adult, but I was looking for my mother’s body. There were also plenty of nights when I found her passed out on the floor with the telephone cord wrapped around her. Other nights I would find her in the bathroom. In between there was lots of yelling, uncertainty, acid laced gossip and talk of bankruptcy. I would be filled with panic when I heard my mother’s footsteps coming home at night, we never knew what to expect.

The high level of dysfunction continued until 1983. That year I was sent to rehab after a brief but intense bout of teenage rebellion. My mother had just gotten sober and once again introduced an insane man into our lives. Eventually that union caused the original three to be scattered in different living situations. My year consisted of institutions – including a cult working farm which portrayed itself as a recovery half way house. My brother lived with a friend’s family and mom couch surfed. The three of us never shared the same roof again – my brother and I were 15.

I grew up fast out of necessity, with little familial guidance. I learned how to “adult” in AA. Truly the 12 steps are a nice road map for life and I sure as shit wasn’t getting solid pointers at home. I learned about taking responsibility for my actions and my emotions. I became financially independent while I was a teenager and harnessed a strong work ethic. I put myself through college and really have done OK for myself despite the enormous odds stacked against me.

So how is it that after the shit storm that was my childhood am I able to care for my mother in a way that she never did for me? I don’t know maybe I get the illness part of mental illness. I mean if she had cancer or lupus I wouldn’t abandon her. I know it isn’t the same because the cancer patient doesn’t typically destroy others with their narcissistic ways, but I do know this, the woman is not well. So for the past 20 years or so I have managed to find a balance between compassion and self preservation.

So once again I will opt for the funny Mother’s Day card and some flowers, maybe a meal out for mom. I will not blubber on about how wonderful she is or post pictures on Facebook of smiling faces. I don’t do fake but I can do compassion.