Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Silver Strand

A silver strand running through my hair,
First there was one, and then a pair.
They keep popping up, and I wish they would stop.
Although I thought I never would care.

It's not vanity that's changed my mind.
I simply want my appearance to reflect in kind,
That young adult I still feel I am inside.
Not the older woman I want to leave behind.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Secret I Won't Let My Kids Know

It's almost June and you know what happens in June.  School is out for summer!  I can hear that refrain from Alice Cooper's rockin' song repeating endlessly in my head right now.  School's out for summer!  School's out forever!  While it's not out forever, it is out for summer and things change, for the better. 

Anyway, the little secret I won't let my kids on is that I love school being out as much as they do, maybe even more.

No more rushing to get them off to school.
No more arguing over homework.
No more rushing to the store for printer ink because "my report's due tomorrow!"
No more rushing to the store for "________" because "the class party is tomorrow and I said I would bring ________".
No more "consequences" for unacceptable grades, due to lack of effort of course!
No more open houses.
No more parent-teacher conferences that make me feel like I'm a kid in trouble all over again.
No more band concerts.
No more football, soccer or lacrosse practices and games.
No more carpools to coordinate.
No more boy scout meetings.
No more music lessons.
No more early bedtime mandates.
No more rushing home to feed the kids due to said early bedtime mandates.

You see, this year is an interesting one.  I have three kids in three schools - one elementary, one middle and one high school.  This means that I have three times everything - three different locations with three different start times, three band concerts, three open houses .  You get the point.  I know parenting in the early years is difficult.  At this stage though?  I can't say it's really any easier, it's just different challenges.  I feel like a drill sergeant.  I have to be to get it all done.

Ahh, but summer is almost here.  I find myself longing for it.  I will be able to sleep in just a little bit longer.  I'll be able to function with much less structure.  The household calendar will not be my lifeline, only a mere crutch.  Yes, it's true.  I love summer more than my kids.

And so I go about my summer secretly relishing in the downtime.   You might wonder why I won't let my kids in on this secret.  Primarily, I want them to like school.  I don't want them to see it as work, even though we know it is.  I don't want them to enjoy lazy because I fear they will become lazy.  I don't want to raise kids like that.  I want industrious kids; kids who like to do things.  People who complain when there's work to be done only make things harder on themselves.  It's the outlook you approach to life that makes it "work" or not, and that's the behavior I want to model.  Am I good at it?  Not likely.  I tend to wear my emotions in plain view.  They know the scoop.  Whatever, that's fine.  I'll still try anyway.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Where Did The Time Go?

Forgive me, but this story is a bit meandering.

I was at the elementary school the other day picking up my six-year-old. When we were walking by his classroom, I noticed that his teacher's room was still open so I popped my head in to say 'hi'. Mrs. C has been the Kindergarten teacher for all three of my boys and she is awesome. A 50-something year old former P.E. teacher, she is loud, active and real. She's the only one I know that will call my kids out in a heartbeat, in front of me, without skipping a beat. She commands respect through adoration.

We chatted briefly and I let her know that I was heading out for my annual trek to Las Vegas. She gave me "the look" which I instantly interpreted as "Cathy what are you doing to me?!" You see, the Husband is great at a lot of things but staying on top of three active boys' schedules is not one of them - and she knows it. Without hesitating she says that I have to do ONE thing for her before I leave. And, without hesitation I said, "I know. I have to get a baby picture of Henry in by tomorrow, or else!"

I got home and started pulling my stuff together and remembered the baby photo. It's part of the open house project - all the kids bring in baby photos and then the class goes around trying to match everyone up. So in keeping with my promise, I ended up rifling through a bunch of old photos. At first I couldn't find any baby pictures of Henry! Yikes! But eventually I did, and it was such a wonderful trip in time. Oh, for days gone past! I cannot believe the time is gone.

As it turned out, I shared that sentiment with a friend of mine and his response was really intriguing to me.

Is the time really gone? I think you use your time wisely, so I wouldn't look at it like that.

Wow. I can't explain why, but this really struck me. It made me think - is the time really gone? Is time "gone" if you use it well? We have fun. We do things as a family. We enjoy life. We create memories, even if it's doing nothing. Instead of being sad or wistful of days gone by, I can celebrate the time we've had - the experiences shared. Getting to know my kids for the people they are becoming. I find this concept to be exciting and liberating. It motivates me to set the chores aside and enjoy myself and my time with the kids. There will always be dishes to wash, laundry to do, dinners to cook. But I will not always have my kids at home with me; to share with me moments to be captured in a photo, or not.

So I think my friend is right. I use my time wisely so the time will never truly be gone.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yes? What's that?

The last topic in the Five for Ten series is "yes". Help me! I seem to have lost this word from my vocabulary. It's true. I don't say it. I'm not sure I know how.

There are a few things parenting has taught me. I fear this has resulted in the lack of use of the word YES. Somewhere between "know what you you're going to say before you say it" and keeping my little monsters from being spoiled, the word YES went away. I'm not mean. I just can't commit and it was born out of necessity. In any event, here are the alternatives I use regularly.

Sure - in function, this word captures the essence of YES without actually having to SAY the word. Used in very limited scope.

Perhaps - used often when I *think* the answer will be YES. Unfortunately this must not always be the case because my little one's response when I say this alternative: "Perhaps not, Mommy?" Busted.

It's okay with me, but go ask your Dad - used consistently now that the kids seem to making their own social plans. This refrain is great. It puts all the blame on Dad should the answer be "no". And, it has the added bonus of making me out to be super spouse for "taking my husband's feelings into account and checking with him". Nice all the way around.

Maybe - used interchangeably with "perhaps". See notes above. Same rules apply.

I think so - You still sound good, but you leave yourself an out. Used at the office multiple times a day. What do you expect from a project manager?!

We'll see - Sets expectations low, but you don't appear to be shooting down the concept outright without due consideration.

I don't know - the ultimate in ambivalence. Often times results in persistent hounding by children. Use infrequently to maintain sanity.

I just hate to be nailed down to something. My life is too crazy, too hectic. I can't commit to anything. I never know when kid 1, 2 or 3 had some something that I forgot about, or hubby made plans and didn't tell me (more likely I just forgot, but that's another story) and then I won't be able to fulfill that YES. YES is final. I need to be fluid. I need to adjust when needed and I don't feel like bearing a bunch of guilt in the process.

Am I crazy or can you relate?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lust: Good or Bad?

This Five for Ten series has us writing on Lust for the next installment. I am struggling with this one. Is it good or bad?
  • Seedy, underground nightclubs for actions too dirty to reveal in the light
  • Married men with their secretaries violating the sanctity of their vows
  • Happy couples, neighbors - friends that go horribly wrong in a momentary lapse of judgment
But, there's also a way to flip it; to turn it around to be something better, something good.
  • Lust for life - that spirit that keeps people going long after some would give up and wither away
  • Lust between legitimate lovers - the most intimate connection
  • Lust for learning - devouring, consuming all one can for knowledge sake
For me, I think the concept of lust is really negative. Even if I can cite some positives, it just feels dirty and wrong. I don't know, maybe I'm just a prude. What do you think?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Coming Full Circle: Five for Ten on Memory

I’m 6 and you’ve come to spend the summer with us, home from law school, in California. You and your powder blue VW Bug. You are so exciting – so worldly. You drive my sister and me around in your fun, cool car; cool because it’s a Bug and it has a sunroof. We pop our heads through the roof, wind whipping through our hair, belting out Joy To The World aka Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog as loud as we can. “Faster, faster Uncle Mike – go faster over the big bump!!” And you do, but you don’t really. It doesn’t matter – you are still so cool – because you are you.

I’m 14 and I’ve come to spend a few weeks with you. I’m just a small town Connecticut girl, flying by herself, alone to far-away San Francisco. Scary but exciting! You allow me to explore the City, even on my own – hail cabs, ride BART, meet you for lunch in the Financial District. You trust me. I have freedom never known before, and it’s exhilarating – and it’s because of you.

You take me to Arizona. Such an expense you incur for me. You make me feel special. What a jet-setter you are to just hop on a plane and go! Worldly, fun, exciting! We drive three days to the Grand Canyon, camping along the way. Big, no HUGE, bugs in the desert and you make fun of me –but it’s okay, because it’s you. Lava fields, gila monsters (glad we decided against petting it!), 4-wheelin’. The most beautiful site I’ve ever seen – it’s because of you.

I’m 17 and you’ve come to spend a few months with us. I’m too na├»ve and inexperienced with worldly things to realize you might be having your own issues and I lean on you. I need you. You help mediate the waters between my rebel self and my overly-strict parents. We go to the beach and hang out with my friends. We take walks at midnight to help me cool down. You reason. You teach me life isn’t fair – and I accept it – because it comes from you.

You borrow MY powder blue VW Bug, my first car. You are late picking me up from school. The car engine is on fire – literally – smoking across the green. I’m upset, but forgive you quickly – because it’s you.

I’m 21 and I’ve come to spend the summer with you. I am an adult. I can do adult things. You take me around to your favorite places showing me off to your friends. You make me feel special. You offer advice and I absorb it willingly. You don’t parent. You don’t judge. During this time, you need me. You lean on me. I comfort. I advise. The circle is complete. We have fun – all summer long – because it’s you.

I’m 22, just married. We move to California. We are poor and you are generous. We visit regularly. We have fun together. We ski. We spend holidays together. You and Husband make eggplant parmesan for Thanksgiving leaving my kitchen a disaster – and it’s okay because it’s you. We do Christmas in Tahoe. You show up with the flu and give it to everyone – but it’s okay because it’s you. You and Husband plan the beer drop for his backpacking trip. You in the plane, he on the ground. The plan failed miserably, but you are awesome for doing it.

You know my kids and they know you. We visit. They feed the pigs. They chase the chickens. You show them how to shoot up the old water heater in your back yard. I’m opposed, but it’s okay because it’s you. Now I am the parent and you will perform your role with my kids. We’ve discussed this. I want to keep them sheltered and in the nest and you will let them fly. Now you are their advocate, their advisor. And they will listen – because it’s you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Things That Make ME Happy

This is the next installment of Momalom's Five for Ten and it's all about Happiness. I'm not sure if you noticed, but in my title I put ME in all caps. There is a reason for that and I'm sure a lot of you can relate. When you're the mom, YOUR happiness always seems to fall second to everyone else's. We make sure the kids are happy first and husband likely gets second. We get whatever is leftover, maybe.

So here I have MY list of what makes ME happy. Naturally many are related to my family, but I've tossed a couple in there just for ME.

1.) Hearing my kids say "please" and "thank you" unprompted - when you're out of eyesight!

2.) Freshly washed sheets on my bed!

3.) A rainy day with nothing to do and nowhere to go!

4.) An unsolicited compliment - wow, those really feel good!

5.) Setting and achieving a goal. For me, this includes things like a career change, running a 5K, then a 10K and finally a triathlon. It was just a sprint - but still - I did it!

6.) Free parking. Need I say more?!

7.) Playtime with my kids. This includes things like building snowmen, bowling, and Disney vacations. Disney is, after all, the Happiest Place On Earth, and I believe it!

8.) Playtime with the husband. Things like bowling (because it's fun without the kids!), golfing, trips to wine country and fresh powder through the trees!

9.) Seeing my children taking pride in their work. It can be their Pinewood Derby cars, the instruments or sports they play or, even better, their grades!!!

10.) A break and run. I play pool (billiards) competitively and nothing gets me happier than not letting the other guy shoot!

And, as we say in the pool biz....nice out!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Five for Ten: Notes on Courage

First, I'd like to say, I am nervous to be participating in this Five for Ten. I am brand new to blogging; I've only done one post. I'm not sure I'm fully setup from a technical perspective. Add to that the fact that there are so many experienced, well-written bloggers and it becomes a very intimidating situation. I've never considered myself a writer, but something about this Five for Ten is compelling me to push my boundaries - to put myself out there and just see what happens. I think that says "courage" right there, but that is not what I want to write about.

Because it was just Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother. I think about how she molded me, helped make me the person that I am today – for good and bad. I am strong because I needed to be, to deal with her. She wasn’t evil. She didn’t abuse me. And, it's not about blame.

My mom was a sickly person. All through my childhood, she routinely was hospitalized. Most of the time it was due to a cold settling into her chest causing significant respiratory problems. She'd end up ICU, on a respirator, usually for weeks.

I don't have a lot of clear memories from childhood doing fun, kid stuff, but I seem to recall visits to the hospital with ease. When she was on a respirator, they had to keep her heavily medicated so she wouldn’t fight the artificial breathing. The sad part was that being doped up all the time, she had a horrible memory. Every day my sister and I made our way to the ICU and every day when she saw us pop through the door, she immediately started crying. Unable to speak (tough with a big tube stuck down your throat) she eventually communicated being upset because we hadn’t visited her. But we had. We did every day. And, every day it was the same routine. Routine or not, expected or not, it was hard. Hard to see her with all the tubes. Hard to see her so upset. Hard to see her disappointed in you. Hard to go back the next day knowing it was going to be the same.

My sister and I did a good job of “being strong”. It would only make my mom more upset if she saw that we were upset too. One time the nurses were supposed to grab us and not allow us to go in – a procedure went awry. It was bad. Being experts at navigating the bowels of the hospital, we slipped in unnoticed only to discover that it really was bad. Apparently a resident doctor stuck an IV tube down her neck and punctured her lung. To fix this, with no anesthetic at all, they had to shove a tube between two ribs and create a vacuum so she could breathe. From what I understand, that’s one of the most painful procedures. And we could tell. She just sat there and cried and pleaded with us to make it stop hurting, to help her. Of course we were helpless. It was awful. My sister and I took turns going out into the hallway to sob, regain composure and then come back in with our fake smile and feeble, ineffective attempts to provide her comfort.

Life wasn’t always like this though. She had her good days – even good years. There were times when I forgot she was sick. Moving 3,000 miles away probably helped with that. My mom was present at the birth of my first two boys. She was a grandma to my kids and we’d go back and visit for some holidays. It seemed relatively normal, like what you'd expect for a textbook mother-daughter relationship. And then one day at the beginning of January, husband shows up at work. I think it’s a surprise lunch date, but it’s not. My mom had passed that morning and he came to pick me up.

Everything about the whole ordeal over the next week or two was odd and hazy. My husband got us on a flight. My father, sister and I made preparations. We went through the motions. We got things done. It wasn’t hard picking out her clothes, or the flowers, or the casket. It wasn’t hard going through the required pleasantries, and we made sure there were plenty of cocktails and some chips and dip. There was, however, one excruciatingly difficult moment and it took every ounce of courage for me to do what I needed to do. I had to see her. Finding that strength proved difficult. All the preparations prior were background tasks. Seeing her was undeniable. It made it real and permanent. It could not be undone. Facing death, for me, is the ultimate in courage.

I Need To Do Better Than This

It's just after 9:00 am on Saturday morning. I'm still in bed, sleeping quite nicely except for the strange dream where I'm holding a meeting - in my underwear. It's not often I get to sleep in and the fact that it's not even Mother's Day or my birthday makes it even more pleasurable. I so rudely get awakened by my cell phone vibrating on the night stand. It's "Home" calling. Okay, that's odd. I think it might be my oldest who often is too lazy to walk across the house to ask me something. No, it's the husband.

I answer, "Hello" with a quizzical, furrowed brow, slightly peeved.

Husband says, "Hey, um....." then silence. A few seconds later, "Did you hear me?"

"No" I reply, now starting to feel even further peeved about my underwear dream getting disrupted. After all, I knew it was a dream and these dreams have a reason, right?

Next, husband says, "...um, ah, someone..." [insert phone rustling sounds here].

Now I'm sitting up, straining to hear what on earth could be so important that husband had to call me and now is trying to communicate so secretively. After a little more time of phone rustling sounds, in hushed whispers I hear "Cath, the tooth fairy. Did he come last night?"

"Oh SHIT!" comes out of my mouth with the associated I-fucked-up rush of adrenaline. Husband says, "You need to do something quick! I have Henry out here with me." I grab a dollar out of my jeans pocket next to my bed. A paper dollar is not quite up to my standards for such a momentous occasions. I would have preferred a sacajawea to make it more special, but time was of the essence. I rush out of my bedroom just in time to see Henry walking out of his, with his tooth in hand.

I put the dollar under his pillow anyway thinking there has to be some way to save this situation. Maybe I can fake him out. He can find the dollar and we can make some excuse as to why the tooth fairy failed to take it. So I say, "Honey, are you sure you didn't see anything?" in my feeble attempt to play this off.

Husband immediately replies, "No, the tooth fairy didn't come. He still has his tooth." Ah yes, you really can't ignore the obvious. Duh. Instead, husband comes up with his own answer, "It must be because you stayed up too late last night Henry." This is true - he was up to almost 11:00 pm - that's late for a six-year-old. I turn and rush back to his room and snag the dollar back. Damn. I am so lame.

I need to do better than this. I keep noticing instances like this. Why? I don't know. I can make a million excuses, but in the end, they are simply excuses. I just need to do better than this.