Archive for August, 2010

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Pride in all the wrong places

August 27, 2010

Poor Lemon.*

She had physical therapy today, dealing with a sore knee.  They put her through the ringer, and kind of surprised her with how much they expect from her and how many exercises she has to do 3 times a day (3 sets of 15, 3 times a day).  But when Writer Dude told me that she came home and asked to “rest” before starting dinner, I wondered if something was up.

[This conversation was had via text, because of me being the workin’ mom, and him being the at-home Dude, and stuff]

I told him I found it odd, and wondered aloud (or in type, with some odd shortage of vowels) whether she was ill (and that word, the iPhone kept wanting to change to “I’ll” or “ice” or “ivy” or some other annoying thing)?  He didn’t discount it completely, but thought from the way she was acting all day that maybe she stayed up all night.  But she slept until 11:30 (sneaky devil, pretending to wake up at 10, and then secretly going back to sleep) – so being “tired” didn’t seem reasonable, even if she was up until 5 a.m. (when I got up).

I came home, and even though she had planned a meal, done the shopping for it, and planned to cook it (pan-seared tuna with asparagus),** she was in her bed – crying.  And WD was in the kitchen.

What is going on?

“I don’t feel good, mommy, and I’m so upset because I really wanted to cook, and now I can’t, and [WD] has to, and I don’t want to be sick!”  (and there were tears. they were sort of unexplained by the situation.)

Heh heh heh!  Mommy knows her little girl!  I KNEW she was sick!  Wait!  I haven’t yet proven it!

[scurries off with glee to fetch a thermometer.]  I guessed it!  I guessed it!

Sure enough, 100.9 fever.

yippee yippee!  [runs to the kitchen with the thermometer to show WD]  “Look!  She’s sick!  I knew it!”

Poor kid.   Her mother sucks.

But really, I was kind of happy.  That I had an idea – that I knew something was “off,” and that just because her social life and certain parts of her inner life are no longer something I am privvy to – I still know her.

She’s kinda still mine.

*  Yeah, I do talk about her a good bit more.  But that’s because Mouse has been deserting us all summer.  First to the Middle of the Country, then to camp, and now she’s on vacation with a friend and her family.  Can’t the child just stay home??  I mean, I want to blog about her!

** She doesn’t cook all that often, but she gave WD a coupon at Christmas-time promising to plan, shop for and cook one meal.  [a true gift for him, since he’s the daily cook.]  She planned a fantastic meal, and she and WD went shopping today before the fever hit.  She was excited and proud of her meal.

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Hard to Please

August 25, 2010

I have been giving huge thumbs-down to the heat here in the Boston area all summer.  We’ve been running our air conditioners non-stop, and have been careful about when to leave the house.  All in an effort to avoid the 90+ temperatures.  I longed for the fall.  The beautiful colors, the crispness in the air.  A reprieve from the heat.

I also think I have earned the right to complain about the heat.  Not because I live in one of the hottest places, where it’s been over 100, instead of just over 90.  But because I do love the winter.  I do not complain about snow.  I like snow.  I like sweaters.  I like warm coats.  So I am not one of those people who say: “oh, it’s so cold, I can’t wait for summer” just to whine anew come summer.

Nope.

I am consistent.

Last week, we had some days in the low 80s instead of the 90s, and I liked it.  Lemon and I were getting up in the mornings to run, and some days were steamy already in the morning – over 70 – and I frowned.  But then there were other mornings that bordered on nipply.  And while it was 80 during the day, it was chilly in the shade, and the breezes left you wishing for a sweater.

Then, Sunday came.  It was even cooler, and with some rain.  When Lemon came to the table for dinner on Monday, she had to dash off to get a sweater.  Her comment, “how nice to need a sweater and have it NOT be because of air conditioning!”  It had drizzled all day, and while it wasn’t cold, the temperature in the 60s felt good.

Okay – so then – why couldn’t we just stop there?

Why did the drizzles have to turn into downpours?

Why did I have to walk to and from work on Tuesday wishing I could transport myself in a waterproof bubble?

Why did I get home yesterday to peel my soaking wet dress pants off my soaking wet thighs?

Why was the rain causing this DESPITE a rain coat and an umbrella?

Why, today, did it not only have to be worse, but also have to be coupled with the stupid MBTA’s “switching problems” that caused the trains to be delayed and the cars packed with people so that the rain from our clothes was just suspended in mid-air?

Ugh.

Tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be a bare 80, and there will be clouds.  And I have plans to sit on my dear friend’s deck after dinner, with a couple of other friends and some new Mah Jongg tiles that Ebay sent me, and a glass (or 2.  maybe 3) of wine and a sweatshirt.  Because it will be chillier in the evening.  Yummy.

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Choices. And dates. & stuff.

August 24, 2010

Over at Motherhood Uncensored, the challenges keep on coming.

Dates with the Kids (No. 22).

While they may not always happen at night, and it doesn’t always have to be a major outing, setting aside 1:1 and special time with one kid – regardless of the age – is always a great idea.  I feel like it’s become even more important as my kids get older.  They don’t tend to come out with personal things casually at the dinner table, and they tend to roll their eyes at my questions if they pop out in th day-to-day.  But when there is a purposed event or outing, we just connect better.  Even if I don’t get a major heart-to-heart, I get a different insight on what that person is thinking about, who they are talking to and how, and how they’re feeling about themselves – unfiltered through their own defensiveness over how their sibling will perceive what they said, or through the distraction of other conversations happening in the house or computers on the lap or text messages buzzing in the hand.

Choices (No. 23)

Limited choices was a huge parenting breakthrough for me when my kids were little, and I was making the journey from the parent I was raised to be (spanking, threats, punishments) to the parent that I wanted to be (discipline through teaching, respectful, positive).  I don’t know that I use it so much anymore, though.  Maybe when apportioning out chores: “do you want to vacuum, or dust?”  Also in budgeting situations – thinking about how there are not infinite resources.  That’s not really the point.

Now that the girls’ brains have developed – at least a little, I don’t need the “limited choices” to give them the feeling of some control.  They do have some control.  It’s a reality.  While they can’t stand in the middle of our kitchen and demand fried chicken (if there is no fried chicken), I can tell them, “if you’re hungry, go find something to eat.”  I really am having a hard time finding a place where the concept fits in for a 12 and 14 year old.  I will probably need to update when something comes to mind.

“Good” or “Bad” Choices (no. 24 – current!)

Eh.  I don’t know about this.  Doesn’t it sort of go back to the whole “good job” point from the earlier challenges?  I’m not as keen on labeling things “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.”  And I wasn’t when I was at my best back in the day, either.  Especially now, my kids need to know less about the subjective label that could be assigned to their choices, and need to understand more how their choices affect their future, how they affect others, what the consequences would be.  If Mouse decides to go along with her friends in shunning another girl in their class, is that “bad choice”?  Or a “wrong choice?”  Yah.  But I’d rather not deal with her throwing up walls at the insult, at my categorization when I, an adult, “don’t understand” or maybe “don’t know what it’s like,” or some other subjective complaint.  I’d rather talk through with her what that choice meant to the child who was shunned.  What it means to her own reputation, to her friends’ ability to trust her.   How she would feel if she were in that situation.  I’d like to let her come to a place of understanding the “wrong” choice on her own, and to find & assign such a label herself.

Same thing if Lemon chooses to spend all her allowance on a dress at the mall.  Even knowing she had plans to go out to lunch with friends the next day.  Maybe her choice was “wrong” because now she has to cancel her plans because I’m sure as hell not giving her more money than her already-generous allowance.  But the “wrongness” of that is better felt and internalized when the consequences of that choice are allowed to unfold (and I don’t give her more $$).

Now what about a Mom’s bad choices?  Like when I make a mistake thinking that those action movies from the 1980s were totally fine, and not at all violent, and it would be FINE to bring my 14yo to her first rated R movie in a theater to see the bloody, horrible, detestable “Expendables”?  I promise you, Lemon labeled that choice for me.  And jeered at me for it, the entire way home.   And the movie, in general, sucked.  Bad day, there.  Good thing we didn’t bring Mouse along.  I would have warped her for life.

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Company-Ready

August 24, 2010

Last week, I spent a couple of evenings after work cleaning.

Probably a normal thing for many people to say.

Not for me.

I hate cleaning.  I don’t do it often, and I hate to do it.  I also have a high threshold for a mess.  Most of the time.

But then, all of a sudden, the mess will start to bother me.  And I’ll be on a tear through the house, and everyone who lives with me will find a corner to hide in.

We have two bathrooms – a half bath in the hallway, and a full bath, which connects my bedroom to the living room (weird, I know).   We often close the door to the main bathroom when people come around.  Because I use the floor of it as my own personal hamper.

The hall bathroom, however, I can get the girls to clean on alternating weekends.

The main bathroom is an issue.

Everyone in the houses uses it.  It’s our only shower, and it’s most convenient to the living room.  There’s no doubt that everyone in the house sees it.  And therefore sees the mess that it is.

But yet, I am the only one who cleans it.

Fine.

(To be fair, before I gave it a thorough cleaning this most recent time, I spent 30-45 minutes sorting through a laundry basket of clean clothes, and a pile of dirty clothes – all mine – before I could start).

And now that it – the worst room in our house – is clean, I am very anxious to have a perfect house.

My bedroom used to be the worst room in the house.  But I took care of that earlier in the summer, and while I need a small refresher, it has stayed relatively clean since.

But now I walk through the rooms, and I see that the oldish doors between our rooms, which have these ridges and nooks on them, are dusty.  Under the free-standing heaters, dust is on the floor.  Stuff like that.

And I hate it.

For the past 3 years, I have been saying I am going to hire someone to clean my house.

But despite the fact that I make a ridiculous salary, I never feel like I can afford an extra $200/month in expenses.

And as long as we’re all slobs to the degree that we apparently are, I feel like it will take 1,000,000 hours just to get the house to the point where I can let someone in to clean it.

But I also think that once we have someone coming in to clean it, we will have that goal to keep our respective rooms and bathrooms clean and our clutter put away.

My husband isn’t thrilled with the idea of having someone come in to clean the house.  I think he thinks me lazy, for wanting someone to come and clean up after me.  We can set aside the fact that dusting is not cleaning up “after me,” and we can also state for the record that he makes fair contributions to the household.

As in – I never cook, I never clean the kitchen (he does it every night, and throughout the day – although he doesn’t clean the kitchen FLOOR), and I never grocery shop.  I also never carpool [well, I sometimes carpool], and I do not procure and hang photos.

When I am working to keep up with the house on my own, it makes me unhappy.  My job is relatively demanding.  the summer has been slow, but in normal times, I am expected to work 10 hour days.  Sometimes 12.  While I have been lucky for the most part – I can also be required to bring work home on the weekends.  I do not really want to then spend the time off I do have on the weekends scrubbing the floors and the walls and the bathrooms.  It makes me grouchy.  It makes me mad that often when I spend my Saturday in this manner, others are either complaining that we aren’t doing anything fun, or they’re sitting around goofing off on the internet.  I get very grumbly and resentful.

And so I am now working on my project — I am cleaning slowly through the house, and trying to get the girls to do the same.  I am going to try to implement systems that prevent the usual mess-gathering (i.e., how about a REAL hamper in the bathroom?).

Sometimes, I feel like I got stuck at age 13.

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Nineteen Through Twenty-One, With a Cheat

August 21, 2010

Still following along with the Better Parent Challenge over on Motherhood Uncensored.  Not doing the day-by-day, really, just more of a meandering of my thoughts about how parenting changes as kids get older.

Challenge No. 19 Let the Other Parent Parent

In my opinion, this is different for me less because my kids are older, and more because of our family structure.  Which other parent should I allow to parent?  The Ex?  Writer Dude?  Both?  Neither?

The Ex is a selfish ass.  I’m sorry to be so blunt, but it’s the truth.  This summer, when the girls went to The Middle of the Country, they were in the throes of text message explosion and the summer phenom of late-night awakeness.  We had set a “technology curfew” in our house — phones and computers OFF and out of their rooms by [11 p.m. –  don’t judge.  I know it is a late time.  But it was more for Lemon than Mouse, and after surveying parents, I found that we were either an hour earlier or an hour later than most people].

The first two days that they were in The Middle of the Country, I checked my records with AT&T and saw texts and phone calls flying until 2 a.m. (eastern time, which is 1 a.m. in the MOTC – but most of their friends are here).

I wrote the Ex, despite many misgivings, and told him about the technology curfew, and the reason.  I was bracing myself for his response.  I expected:  “I do not need YOU to tell ME how to parent MY daughters!” As he has said to me many times in the past when I tried to share insights.  Because, well, he sees them 3 times a year, for very limited periods of time.

I was pleasantly surprised that instead, it seems like growth has taken place – perhaps because when they got off the plane and were suddenly towering over his new wife, he was petrified about how to handle them – and he took my advice.

This is progress.

But when they’re there – I’m still the parent.  We are the one they call with a problem.  I’m the one they call with requests. “Mom, I need a razor and shaving cream.”  “[Writer Dude] can you send me ___ a book?”  “We don’t have any games to play, can you guys send us some?”  “My flip-flops broke, can you get me more?”  If we tell them in response to ANY of the above “ask your father” they refuse.  Razor?  No – that’s embarrassing.  i can’t talk to him about that.  Books? No, he won’t do it.  (But the library!  I looked at a map, and I saw how close it is — we’re talking mere BLOCKS!  And free-ness!) Games?  Nope.  SHOES?  I mean, come on – SHOES?  Nope.

So excuse me for not seeing him as a partner, or a parent, or someone I should defer to.

Writer Dude is an excellent parent.  He loves the girls completely, and he is so thoughtful and engaged.  Yet, it’s hard for me to allow him a firm grip on the parenting reigns.  Especially with Lemon, because she has been more resistant to him as a father-figure.  And I don’t do well at backing off.  At all.

It’s a struggle.  And a point of contention between WD and me.  He often wants a chance to just have a conversation with the girls (i.e., Lemon) without me stepping in to explain one or the other perspective.

This challenge – I’d like to make my week’s focus.

Challenge No. 20 Keep a Journal.

Just.  No.  I would have done this when my kids were little and I was an at-home mom.  But now?  Nope.

[This is my cheat.  Just not doing it.]

Challenge No. 21Fake It

I do this all the time.  My girls can piss me off with their eye rolls.  With their change-of-attitude-on-a-dime.  Am I really going to pick that battle?  No.  I am not.  I let it roll off me, and move forward.

I remember being their ages, and having my mother YELL at me to fix my “attitude.”  And I remember how bloody unlikely it was that being YELLED at was going to IMPROVE my attitude.  I hate that word.  “Attitude.”  I’ve gone with “you are being rude,” instead, because of those horrible memories (the benefit of being a young-ish mom – I have excellent memories of what I hated with a passion.)

____________________________

Now I’m off to deal with Argument No. 2 of this day:

  • No. 1:  “I hate flour tortillas, and you know it!  Why couldn’t you make mine with CORN tortillas!  It’s NOT FAIR!  You make HER vegetarian options all the time, but you won’t accommodate ME!  It’s so UNFAIR!”
  • No. 2:  “Wow, that camp sounds great.  I kind of want to go.  Can I go?”  “NO!  She can’t go to my camp!  It’s MY camp!  No No no no no!”  “But, Mouse, I can go a different session, I don’t have to be there when you’re there?”  “NO!  NO NO NO!  I’m exhausted and I can’t even breathe because of the tiredness and I WILL NOT have my sister at my camp!  Waaaaahhhh!

I think I need to go to bed.

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Letters

August 21, 2010

Mouse has been at camp for the past 2 weeks.  It has been nice to have alone time with Lemon, for the most part.  I had a few moments in there where I wasn’t hearing from my camper, and it made me nervous.

During my Mah Jongg weekend, my hostess’ daughter wrote her parents (her camp being lots more modern, and allowing emailed letters, where we were dealing not only with old fashioned snail mail, but our address included the line “via U.S. Mailboat”) and said “I got a letter from [Mousey] and she seemed kind of sad.  She said she was making lots of friends, though, because everyone loves her glow in the dark nail polish.”

Mom-cat got her hackles up at that.  Writer Dude worked with me to consider the source.  Etc., etc.  I knew he was right, and she was probably fine, but the nervousness didn’t go away.

Fortunately, we came home to a letter that was very bright & happy.

We had a few more this week, with cute little quotes like, “I hope you guys aren’t missing my awesomeness too much!” and “We get up really early, but that’s okay, because I like and look forward to what we do during the day.”  And fun descriptions about her friends and her archery prowess (so cool).

Even though I knew she was happy, I was thrilled to drive to New Hampshire today and fetch her!  And even more excited to see the boat approach the dock:

She was up and happy, and (of course) STARVING.  She couldn’t order her thoughts hardly at all, trying to get it all out – what she did, who she can’t wait to see again next year, how much fun she had.  It was great.

No sadness, no homesickness.  She was sorry to tell us that she did not miss us. We were not sorry to hear it.  Even though we missed her a lot. And a lot.  And are thrilled to have her back.

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Traditions & Honesty

August 18, 2010

I’m going to try and catch up, rapid-fire.  Since few of these feel relevant.  And because I’m avoiding challenging myself while I have cramps and work is busy.

Challenge No. 15Start a Tradition.  I think we’re getting to the end of this one.  We’ve had traditions – especially since Writer Dude joined our family – for years.  And they are starting to peter out, now.  With Lemon entering high school, “Friday Movie & Ice Cream Night” is less appealing than “hanging out with my friends” night.  Even Mouse is starting to look at doing other things (sleepovers?  escorted trips to the movie theater?) on Friday nights.  But our tradition was grand while it lasted.  And it’s still grand on the nights it works out.  For a little while, Lemon was turning down plans with friends to stay home for our movie night.

And it was only in the past year or so that we gave up “Family Game Night.”  We were less consistent with that one, but we did love it.

It’s okay with me that these traditions are winding down.  I think that the memories are there.  They are good memories, and they provide the girls with the foundation that we want for them – home is a fun, safe place.  Your family is a fun, safe group of people.

We still have annual traditions – New Years Eve being the one that is held most dear.  Again, thanks to WD.  He’s the one who fashioned the first movie-marathaon/smorgasbord one New Years Eve – maybe it was 2004?  Maybe 2005?  Now that the kids aren’t as little, I want to do other things on New Years Eve.  Socialize, perhaps?  But I can’t get anyone to agree to leave the house, because of the tradition.  (The one time in the year that we let the kids pick out a 2 liter bottle of soda, and it’s all theirs!)

Challenge #16Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

I no longer have to worry about the kids’ comprehension level.  Sure, over-talking is still a concern, and I don’t want them to glaze over.  I could, maybe, like Mir, often be tempted to “Make with the Words.”  But that would be bad.  I’d lose my cred.  (heh heh.  They’d be so embarrassed to know I just said that.)

Sometimes, too, I might get mad and say “you’re grounded for a month!” And WD rolls his eyes at me, because he knows I didn’t mean what I said.  And he might find it ridiculous that I didn’t mean it, and that I did say it.

But this one – with kids my kids’ ages – is easily paired with the “hey, I’m not perfect!” acknowledgment.  In those (relatively rare) moments that my anger causes me to burst out with a reactionary punishment, I can say “that was just reactionary, let’s re-assess,” and the kids are old enough to take that.

Challenge No. 17Don’t Ask, Tell.  I adjust this one up for age, too.  Fortunately, I had it pointed out to me when they were young, and didn’t think it was as challenging as some of the other “parenting techniques” that I had learned (like “don’t get mad.” or “don’t let them watch t.v.”).  I still do this.  I don’t say, “honey, would you mind cleaning the bathroom for me?”  I instead say, “I’ve got a lot to get done, and I need you to clean the guest bathroom.  You cannot go out with your friends until it’s done.”  I do it respectfully, though.  I wouldn’t say that for the first time when they’re on the way out the door.  I give sufficient notice, and give them some control over the when and the how.  Just not the if.

I also try not to “tell” as much as my mother did.  Meaning, I don’t say “go get me a glass of water.”  Or “Go get my purse.”  But I will ask, “oh sweet daughter of mine, could you pleeeasse go get your loving mother a glass of water?  with ice?  in my favorite glass?”  (and oh yeah, I get that back from them, believe me.)

Challenge No. 18Get Happy!

Oh.  Yes, I would like to smack this one in the face.

I’ll “get happy.”  especially on this day that Lemon got up at 5:30 to run with me and spent the entire 45 minutes that we were outside being the grouchmeister.  While I was suffering from cramps, she was refusing to talk hardly at all, and responding to my every conversation-starter with “really, mom?” [for every generally embarrassing or “ridiculous thing I said] or “just stop.” [that was my wondering aloud when she’ll ever get her period, and my commenting on the increase in her … development, which is actually what triggered my wondering if the period was on its way ….]  She wasn’t allowed to tell me to “just stop.”  I told her it was rude, and that it was not okay.  She said fine, but then found something else to say that required me to again say “stop being such a snot.”

And did I mention the cramps?

But in reality.  I have gotten happy.  I am happy.  When the girls were small, I was a lot less happy.  And it was hard to be a mom, and to be responsible for other people, and their growth and development, while very, very unhappy.  I got out of an unhappy marriage, and with that came a ridiculous increase in my self-esteem.  Enough so that I could pursue furthering my own education, and starting a career, and generally being proud of myself again.  And now I am generally happy, and I am happier with the mother that I am.  Times 10,000.

And now, I am caught up.