Tag Archives: #family

Gridlocked

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Gridlocked

Once your kid hits Kindergarten you are officially on the grid. No more spontaneous trips to the children’s museum or the beach, the freedom of doing your own thing is officially off the rails. Your vacation schedule is at the mercy of the school calendar and you become a cog in the wheel.

Those first few years it’s so hard just getting the littles out the door. Shoes and socks tend to disappear and someone usually has to poop the minute the coats go on. I’d like to tell you that this improves, it doesn’t. The dynamics change, they dress themselves and you have no idea if they poop but challenges remain. The days of racing out of the house like your hair is on fire will likely last longer than you think.

Once when my kids were in middle school we were doing our usual mad dash out the door. Actually, only two of us were racing. My son is always calm and ready with his backpack on, checking the time, reminding us we’re late. I grab my keys, shout a “hurry up” and run to the car. We are halfway to middle school when my daughter mentions that she needs to go back.

DD: Um mom I don’t have any shoes.

SC: Really? How does that even happen?

DD: We need to go back.

SC: No time, you’ll wear my sneakers.

Note: My shoes are about 4 sizes too big for my daughter. I had visions of my daughter tripping over her newly minted clown feet all day. At least I had a valid excuse for skipping my cardio class that day.

When my oldest started Kindergarten I entered the “Zealot Phase” of parenting. I took everything way too seriously and thought that the school would improve greatly if they just followed some of my suggestions. The fact that I have no experience as a public educator did not deter me from speaking my mind.

My first issue was class size. There were 25 kids assigned to my son’s Kindergarten class. I lost my ever lovin’ mind. I spoke out about it at school board meetings and wrote letters, so many letters. Then I found out my son’s teacher was pregnant and would go on maternity leave mid year (gasp). At one point there were rumors of the beloved elementary school shutting down and I went full on crazy and started a petition on Change.org (Oh yes I did).

We are fortunate that we live in a great school district. Somehow they managed to figure out how to keep things moving without adhering to every suggestion uttered from my lips, miraculous. After a couple of years I began to trust the process a little bit and got out of my own way.

One thing that has remained a constant source of entertainment is car line. Car line is where parents drop their kids off for school in the morning and fetch them in the afternoon. Sometimes my kids take the bus but I’m a sucker for letting them get some extra shut eye so I usually drive them in the morning.

I’ll just state for the record that I can be a bit “assertive” when I drive. My license plate has PA on it but I’m all Jersey behind the wheel. I’ve been known to take the turn into car line on two wheels, tires screeching with Slim Shady blasting on the radio. Most days though, I just have one-sided conversations with the drivers around me. I try to send out telepathic messages in the hopes the other drivers will heed my advice. Here’s a sample of my brain on car line:

SC: (To the slow moving vehicle with a Namaste bumper sticker) “Hey Namaste – why don’t you Nama-stay outta my way.”

SC: (To the minivan which has a Star Wars stick figure family decal on the back window with 6 car lengths in front of them…)”Is Darth Vader preventing you from pulling all the way up?”

SC: (To the Volvo in elementary school car line, outside of their car, having  coffee talk with another driver) “Could you perhaps move to a different locale? There are now 37 cars behind you and all of the kids are about to be late.”

SC: (To the Tesla Model X) “Move it along McFly, we know you love Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City, let’s go. You’ve opened and closed those doors so many times I expect you to fly off.”

My kids like to point out how ineffective this technique has been. Then I chastise myself when I realize the person in front of me is a good friend. The worst drivers are the people with COEXIST bumper stickers. It’s great when the COEXIST mom cuts you off than gives you the finger for getting her chakras misaligned that day. Namaste mofo, namaste.

If the Olympics ever add stupid driving as a sport, we’ve got some contenders for gold. Once you get through the drop off/pick up, you need to exit the parking lot. I lose my mind a little with the submissive people who have to make a left into a busy intersection. I’ve been an involuntary participant in the parade of cars waiting to turn because docile dad is having an existential crisis and can’t inch his way forward. Just make the turn dude.

Each building of our district has some variation of car line, they all share a common theme of inefficiency and mayhem:

Lower Elementary – Things move at a remarkably slow pace here. I used to wonder if people did craft projects in the back of their cars. Are you making slime back there? Put the Borax down and move forward. It takes a lifetime to get to the front of the line. Lots of hugs and kisses outside of the car as the littles are sent on their way for the day. I was home with these kids for 5 years straight with 4 hour breaks for preschool I don’t need an extra 15 minutes hugging it out at drop off. Lead, follow or get out of the way mom, your kid is fine.

Upper Elementary – Things move a little faster but it is still crowded and slow. Some of the kids have taken up instruments or have large class projects they need to maneuver. The jaws of life have been used more expediently for extractions then the volcano projects that take an eon to get removed from the trunk. Don’t you have to be somewhere today, move it along. Less hugs and kisses seen outside the car but there’s still some affection within the confines of the family vehicle.

Middle School – Most of the time the kids pretend they no longer know their parents. Like some random stranger or Uber got their asses to school. The time for drop off goes down but the stupid driving escalates. For some reason a high percentage of drivers can not grasp the first rule of car line – move forward (all the way). Our drop off/pick up area is in the shape of a semicircle. Drivers tend to only go to the halfway point…why? To get the kid closer to the door? Is there some invisible electronic force field keeping you from pulling all the way up? Are there voices in your head (perhaps Darth Vader) warning you against pulling forward all the way? I got so annoyed with this that I created a meme (featured image).

This chaotic pattern is repeated at pick up. Some people are simply incapable of pulling all the way forward to maximize the amount of cars that can be in the semicircle. I used to wait patiently, observing the tremendous car gap, wondering WTF to myself. Now when I see that I just drive past everyone else and pull into the front of car line. Total suburban anarchist. I haven’t gotten flipped off for it yet probably because most people have their heads down staring at their phones. I don’t know what happens at High School car line but our family is sticking with the slow down to disembark with instructions to tuck and roll as they exit.

Namaste bitches.

 

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Broken

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Broken

Sometimes you stumble your way through the dark on an unfamiliar path trying to  discern the next right step. In my experience, these paths are riddled with emotional land mines. You anticipate the boogeyman when he jumps out in front of you. When you hear the creepy music, you don’t have to turn your head to know someone is behind you. Then there’s the stuff that blindsides you and takes you to your knees, the unexpected hits you never saw coming. I’ve had a week of those.

The days are blurring together and feel oddly suspended as they do when things get awful. Some slow motion version of life settles in as you try to adjust to the new normal, which is anything but typical. On Wednesday, I went to visit my father in the hospital and they were talking about discharging him. Then on Thursday morning, he went into cardiac arrest and he’s been in a coma-like state ever since. The prognosis is grim and now we wait for things to change in some new direction. Waiting for milestone hours to pass; 24, 48, 72 and we continue to wait, and wait and the days feel like weeks and every so often the physical/mental/emotional exhaustion comes over you like a tidal wave. It feels a lot like drowning, minus the water. I’ve been dry drowning.

This situation is awful enough on it’s own and yet, there’s more. Five decades of an on again/off again father-daughter relationship, half siblings, a beloved twin who is far away, a history of family tragedies and what can I say, it’s complicated. I’m the oldest of seven, one of the two from the first disastrous marriage. The other siblings are from my father’s second marriage. His second wife died in a car accident in 2000. His youngest child died by suicide a handful of years ago. The pain this family has experienced is enormous and I feel like a ghoulish outsider with unfettered access.

As I’m getting older, friends and loved ones have lost parents. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like for me when the time came. I no longer resent my father for what he did or didn’t do when I was a child and yet, we aren’t especially close. Not a conscious effort to stay separate, it just became easier to chose other priorities. I’ve also tried to insulate my children from the dysfunction of my childhood. There is a lot of my personal history that they don’t know yet. As they are getting older more is coming to the surface but not everything.

I’m a strong person, been through plenty of my own shit and always came out the other side on top. I’ve beaten odds that no one could’ve predicted. If younger me was a horse in a race, no one in their right mind would have bet on me and yet I placed. I found my way into the winner’s circle, against all odds. I thought I would be somewhat disconnected when dealing with my father’s mortality, I was wrong.

Yesterday I felt hallowed, a husk of a human who had their innards scraped out. An emptiness that was dark and consuming, a black hole from within. It took me by surprise and I had to yield to it. I could not leap through this particular ring of fire, I had to stand in front of the flames and watch it burn. Eventually I had to accept help and let my husband and kids join me at the hospital.

In the middle of my pain, I imagined myself as a plate made of fine china with an intricate pattern. Seemingly intact, functional and somewhat pleasing to behold. Upon further inspection a hairline crack is discovered, the kind that can cause the plate to break if it is not handled in a delicate manner. If you feel the edges on the backside the chips reveal themselves and you know this plate has been compromised. It makes me wonder if the damage is visible to an outsider. From a distance, it looks good but up close, you can see it’s damaged and on the verge of being broken.

 

Buzz Kill

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Buzz Kill

Hi friends, it’s been a while since I checked in. My world got pretty small for a few weeks when my father in law was placed on hospice. The family took turns caring for him in his own home until he passed away last week. We’re all still licking our wounds over here, he was one of my favorite people. He was a quiet example of living a good life, I’ll miss his zen ways. I’ll be forever grateful for the “good man” example he set for his son and grandson.

In the meantime, life goes on. The sun still rises, work needs to be done and kids have to go to school. The laundry piles are smaller, we’re starting to eat dinner together again and a new normal is settling in. (Psst…the new normal sucks)

Throughout this past month there were moments of gratitude and humor. My closest friends were there for me. Two suits appeared for my son to borrow, a belt was brought to visitation when I forgot one. Recommendations were made for where to find shoes for my daughter and her exceptionally tiny feet. We received an orchid, a tomato plant and an olive tree from kind friends who knew the man we honored. Mass cards were given and basically people just showed up, let our dog out and let us know we are loved. You can’t ask for more than that. It’s been raining since we left him at the cemetery, even the weather recognizes our grief.

OK shaking off the sad for some humor now…pivot with me. One day while I was sitting with my father in law a wasp got in. I could hear the buzzing and identified the culprit. I went to search for an old fashioned fly swatter. I knew there would be one, everyone over 80 is required to own one. Sure enough I found it tucked away in the kitchen between a cabinet and the wall. I stepped into the living room armed with the fly swatter and a determination to eliminate the problem.

Sitting with someone who is dying has a way of making you realize how precious life is in all of it’s forms. That’s the only explanation I can come up with as to why I was determined to usher this wasp out a window and not just smash it. The invader was stuck between the wooden blinds and a window. I cracked open a neighboring window as the escape hatch, I just needed to get my new friend to fly out of it.

There was coaxing and loud noises as I tried to get the wasp out the window. I provided some commentary for my father in law who was pretty quiet at this point but he had a front row seat to this show so it was the polite thing to do. After several loud attempts, mild cursing and antics that had a tinge of Lucille Ball, the wasp finally flew out the window. I was pretty proud of myself for dealing with the problem in a humane way.

A few hours later, the hospice nurse and my husband were both over and another wasp was in the house. At least I think it was another wasp, could’ve been the one I freed earlier getting in through some secret wasp back door. This one was really annoying doing fly-bys as we were discussing medication. This asshole had to be exterminated. I got the fly swatter again and got him mid flight, it was spectacular. I picked it up with a napkin and disposed of it in the garbage.

Another two hours tick by and son-of-a-b*tch there was a third wasp. I texted my husband thinking maybe we have a nest. We had a text exchange about it –

Me: I just killed another wasp. Three of the mofos got it in today.

Hubs: Are you sure the third one isn’t the second one? Unfurl the napkin in the garbage can to be sure.

Me: Hell no I’m not unfurling napkins to see if your wasp is the Jesus of the wasp world rising after death…I will seal the garbage bag and take it outside like a normal person.

I managed to get the third (or perhaps it was the first or second, I didn’t check the napkin) wasp out the front door. Never to return.

 

Graphic Credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_derocz’>derocz / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

 

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.