Archive for April, 2011

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Spaces

April 26, 2011

In 2008, we moved into our current apartment.  It’s the top floor of a 2-story duplex, and it is approximately 1800 or 1900 square feet.

Prior to 2008, we lived in what I call our “law school apartment.”  It was very small.  I believe it was 700 square feet.  It had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a great room.  It was, most definitely, too small.

When we moved, the girls each got their own rooms, WD and I got an office (awesome alternative to shoving all our crap into our bedroom), and we acquired a dedicated dining room, a dedicated living room, and a full kitchen.

We had to buy tons of furniture, because we have 3x the rooms we used to have.

We still don’t fill all of the closets and drawers that are available to us.

However, just about 2 years later, I am feeling a little bit cramped again.  I’m wishing for more.  More space.

I don’t really crave a ton more space.  I crave one very specific thing:  A family room.*  A second room where people can gather and relax, watch t.v., hang out on the computer, play games, etc.  Our current living room is also on the small side, so maybe I could turn that into this family room that I want, and somehow create a living room – a bit more formal and definitely larger so I can host larger parties.

And there’s a specific reason why I want this extra room.  The kids.  The girls.  Their friends.  Their sleepovers.  Their movie-fests.  The Power Puff Girls Marathons.  Their Buffy the Vampire Slayer Viewing Parties.

I love that the girls bring their friends to our house.  Currently, Lemon and her friends are always at our house.  Every sleepover, every movie night – our house.  We never tell her no.  We are thrilled to have them at our house, and to get to know the kids and to know what they’re doing, where they are, and that they’re not getting into stuff that I’m not ready for them to get into yet.

We say yes, and then we go hide in our bedroom.

Because there’s really nowhere else to go.  So on Friday nights, instead of cuddling up and watching a movie, we’re sitting on our bed, computers or iPads on our laps, struggling to find room for Mouse if she doesn’t have plans of her own and doesn’t feel like being alone in her room, and feeling generally displaced.

Despite this cramping, no one in our family has any desire to start looking for a new place to live.  We live on the World’s Most Awesome Street.  We are central, but yet removed from the main roads.  We are mere blocks away from the elementary school and the high school.  Blocks away from the library.  We are (3) blocks away from the T stop.  The town pool is only a few steps further.  We can walk almost anywhere.

And the social aspects of our street are also outstanding.  It’s a one-way road and little-traveled by cars.  When winter lifts, the kids are in the street.  And there are a lot of kids on our street.  Both Mouse and Lemon have close friends directly across the street … Mouse has 3 close friends within shouting distance.  Our across the street neighbor is one of my close friends.  Because of the safety of our street, kids who live nearby are drawn to it.  I often come home from work in the summer, and round the corner onto our block to find 10-15 kids riding bikes or skateboards, playing games, or just sitting on our porch, doing homework.

How could we possibly leave that?  Just for a living room?

There are two possible answers:

Move Downstairs.

There is a slight chance that the first floor of our house could come available.  We just found out about the possibility a couple of weeks ago, and I do believe that it is only a sliver of a chance, but it was enough for WD and I to start thinking, making “what if” plans, and generally obsessing (classic for me; rare for him).  This would be a solution because the first floor comes with a finished basement, which has 2 bedrooms and a large common area that would be perfect for a kid hang-out space.  Absolutely perfect.  Also, there is enough space in general that I would have my separate office, and we would have a guest room. Drawbacks are (a) it’s just a sliver of a chance, (b) I don’t love the overall layout of the house, and (c) it’s more rent than we’re currently paying.  I just brought the possibility up with WD again last night, and I said, “I don’t know, maybe even if it comes available, I’d prefer to stay here ….”  He pushed back on that.  Because of the extra space.  I guess the question is whether extra space balances out a, b and c.  It very well may.

Capitalize the Space We Have.

Our bedrooms are HUGE.  Mouse’s is a little smaller, but it’s still a great size.  The previous renters actually used Lemon’s room as the living room, but we chose to make it a bedroom because it was across the house from the kitchen/dining room, and I didn’t think it made sense.  We are thinking about plans that allow for us to double up the bedrooms as these hang-out spaces.

We are looking at a loft bed for Lemon which would allow for her desk to be underneath, and then she’d have a ton of space for a couch and some chairs.  The biggest problem with this, as I see it, is the idea of putting a t.v. in her room, so they would actually want to hang out in there.  We have a t.v. in there now, but it doesn’t stay hooked up to cable or plugged in.  We only hook it up for her if she has friends over.  That t.v., however, is from the 1990s, and is small.  The one in our living room is a huge-ass flat screen HD television that is absolutely gorgeous.  Who would choose the tiny t.v.?  No one.  But if we’re going to make her room more conducive to gathering, I need her to choose her room. We do have another t.v., which is currently disconnected in my bedroom, which is larger, but not flat-screen and not HD.  (I do not worry that she will have it on all the time – she is very good at observing our rules, which will be that it is only to be used when friends are over.)

Similar changes can be made in Mouse’s room, although she’ll end up with considerably less space.  We are talking about getting rid of some book shelves, getting a (very) small couch, and some bean bag chairs.

Our room is the same size as Lemon’s, but we are not interested in a loft bed (ha!)  I had been talking for some time about putting a nice reading chair by my bed, but it hasn’t reached the top of our priority list.  Now that we’re trying to figure this out, we’re looking at a pair of them.  I’m thinking about something like this.  But the chair I used to want was a chair-and-a-half from this line.  And I kind of still want it.  Problem is everywhere that I used to be able to buy them has gone out of business! Stupid economy.

I guess we’ll slowly work on capitalizing on the space we have, and if it ends up that the downstairs opens up, and we choose to grab it for ourselves, we will be able to use any new furniture in that larger space.

I do wish I could have stayed content for a little longer than 2 years.

*  However.  If I were to create a  wish list, I would add to it (1) a second office so we don’t have to share; (2) a guest room; and (3) another bathroom.  But these things aren’t enough to make me whine.  They’re just “if I win the lottery” sorts of thoughts.

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Why am I not moving at 75 mph?

April 25, 2011

My 3-day drive-a-thon went as well as could be expected.  Perhaps I could have had less rain, but it didn’t slow me down.  Perhaps I could have gone without the brunch with the in-laws, but it was virtually painless.  Perhaps I could have a 16 yo with a driver’s license, instead of an almost-13-year-old with the propensity for napping, but that will come with time.

I don’t regret the drive for a moment.  I will even go so far as to say I enjoyed it.  I’m glad I did it.

The drive to the Middle of the Country was uneventful.  I drove a lot, stopped a little, and gamed the numbers on my GPS as much as possible without getting a ticket or compromising my safety. Two small things of note:

  • Just as a rainstorm was about to hit me, some rubber weather-stripping came loose on my car roof.  It was whipping around frantically, amusingly causing the cars around me to get out of my way.  I’m sure the idea of having your car whipped is a frightening one.  It didn’t take much to re-attach the strip, and I only got hit by the very beginnings of rain drops in the process.
  • At one point, a red pick up truck passed me.  The truck wasn’t new, but not too old, either.  It was obviously used for the purposes for which it was created — the bed was full of useful items, perhaps used to build houses or barns or something.  There were bungee cords holding some sheet rock in place.  And driving the truck?  A 20-something gal with long curly tresses wearing a tiara.  She was smiling and singing.  It made me want to listen to Taylor Swift.  (But I didn’t, because it was “Suzie Solo Drive” playlist day.  The teen/tween playlist was in the queue for later … I didn’t need a preview of that hot mess.)
During my drive, I ended up with a few new favorite musicians:  Adele, especially her newer album, titled “21”; The National (almost every song); Anna Calvi (thanks to WD for that find) and Florence + the Machine.  Old favorites remained favorites, and I enjoyed spending time with them:  Elbow (love love love love); Coldplay; and The Decemberists.  The Decemberists, especially, I enjoyed having the quiet focused time with.  Their lyrics are so damned interesting, and I can’t focus on them in my usual life.  It made me miss my high school/college/early 20s days, when I would buy a [tape or] C.D. and just lie on the floor listening over and over while reading the included lyrics.   Maybe “rewinding” the tape to listen to a particularly compelling song more than once.
I arrived at the Ex’s house approximately 40 minutes later than I meant to.  I’d forgotten that I would be crossing into another time zone when doing my planning.  Upon coming to the realization in my hotel somewhere in the middle of Indiana, I was very excited.  It meant I could sleep!  Until 8 a.m.!  Which meant I could watch another episode of Jericho! And stay up until midnight!
What I forgot was that I’d have to re-factor the hour when I crossed back over the time zone line.  Duh.
Instead of sleeping for an extra hour, I should have texted the Ex and said, “I meant 11.  I’ll be there at 11, not noon.”
The only real reason for the rush was that Mouse wanted to swim.  I’d worked hard to find a hotel with a pool (and paid a little extra for the pleasure), and didn’t want my lack of math skills to keep her from her swim. Which means – it really wasn’t the end of the world to be running a little later.  In the end, the extra hour of sleep was probably very good for me.
Brunch went well.  My Ex-Mother-In-Law hasn’t  changed an iota from when she was my plain old Mother-In-Law.  It was relatively interesting to watch me, my ex, his new wife, his parents, our daughter, and his baby daughter, all interacting.  It was very natural, cordial, and even pleasant. Mouse loved it.  She sat at a table between her two parents for the first time in several, several years.*  His wife is very nice and easy to talk to.  She had a few blips in the past years where she approached Evil Stepmother status (probably while dealing with infertility and pregnancy), but by-and-large, for the past 10 years, she’s been a very positive presence in the girls’ lives, and I have little to complain about.
Mouse and I had a pretty easy drive.  I’d planned for a shorter drive on Saturday, and more hours on Sunday, and I’m glad I did.  We did end up at the hotel with a couple of hours to swim, and then went in search for food.  Upon looking at the plethora of fast-food-only options in the Middle of the Country, we decided we weren’t actually hungry. Instead, we went to Walmart.  It was her first time, since her mother is typically anti-Walmart.  We got some forgotten toiletries, and generally took in the sights, sounds and smells of an American phenomenon that she had not yet experienced.  The next day was liberally peppered (by her) with knocks on Walmart, and the inferior quality of the items purchased there (but seriously, the Cadbury Mini Eggs did taste a little funny ….)
She is not a good listener of music.  She cannot just settle into a playlist.  she wants every song to be “that song I really want to hear!” and so she did a lot of connecting and unconnecting the iPod from the stereo, and searching for certain artists (Avril Lavigne, Avril Lavigne, and Avril Lavigne, mostly).  She was dismayed at one point when I finally cried uncle and insisted that MY playlist get a turn, and A Fine Frenzy came on.  “Why do you have them?”  Because I like them.  Duh.  Apparently, when your mother discovers and even likes an artist that you thought you discovered and liked as an independent teen, you get upset.
Not very upset, though.  Moods stayed good the entire time.
As it turns out, our route home took us on the highway that passes within 2 miles of my parents’ house.
When I went to the middle of the country, I obeyed my GPS and took the northern-most U.S. highway.  The problem was, in order to go where I had to go, the highway made me turn north, stay straight west for some time, but then turn south along the great lakes before I could head back west.  Felt like wasted time.  Also, honestly, the freeway through upstate New York is not exciting.  So on the way home, we took the other highway.  The one that makes you go east, then turn south for a bit, then go east, and eventually turn north again.  Grrr.  Why can’t you just go east/west from Massachusetts?  What’s up with all the turns and twists and unnecessary mileage?
We decided if we had to go all zig-zag anyway, we may as well take the zig-zag option that lets us pop in and say hello to our parents/grandparents.  We had every intention of making it a surprise, but as my parents’ Easter dinner plans came clear (through their 10,000 calls to me to make sure I was okay), we realized a surprise could cause a problem.  So we told them at 2 that we’d be there at 4:30.
They were having dinner at my brothers’ house, and they all decided, “oh, let’s wait for them for dinner, instead of eating at 3.”  But they decided that after Mouse and I said, “oh, they’re eating at 3, so lets stop and get food so we aren’t hungry when we get there.”
And my mother was in rare form.  I am not entirely sure what was up with her.  But she was in rare form. I ended up getting a 5 minute lecture about my “attitude” when I was in college.  When Mouse and I got back in the car, I thought about giving her a 10 minute lecture about her toddler tantrums.  How dare she act so irrationally?  What was she possibly thinking?  But, actually, those tantrums were only 9 years ago.  Not twenty years ago.  For crying out loud.
Then, to top it all off, the last 2.5 hours between my parents’ house and my house was our first run-in with traffic.  It was riddled with traffic.  When we first got in the car, our GPS told us we’d be home at 8:15.  We got home at 9:54.
It was good to spend a lot of time quiet and with less input.  It was great to spend time with my sweet daughter.  And she was a sweetie.  At one point, she dozed in the car, and the blanket I’d brought for her got twisted in such a way that she was uncovered.  I reached over and covered her up, and she rolled over with a big smile & blew me a kiss and grabbed my hand from the gear shift, and fell back asleep holding my hand.  We enjoyed each other’s company and made each other laugh.
And it is good to be home.
* I had them for brunch once, a couple of years ago sans the parents and baby daughter.  Same thing – much civility, pleasantry, and get-along-ability.  Bodes well for weddings and graduations, I think.
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Lunch with the Exes. All of Them.

April 19, 2011

As I’ve mentioned (ad nauseum?) – I am driving to the middle of the country this coming weekend.  Mouse doesn’t want to be there alone (of course, however, she’s doing FINE now that she is), and she hates to fly. In an attempt to make this easier for her, I am going to fetch her, instead of putting her on a plane.

I’m still pretty much fine with it.

I had toyed with asking the Ex to meet me in Chicago.  A 2 hour drive for him, shaving that much off my drive.  Mouse was actually the one to suggest it:  “Seriously, mom, if you’re driving 18 hours, I think he can drive two!” But then, within a heartbeat or two, she said, “although, if you come all the way, you can see the baby!  And you can see dad’s apartment!”

I’ve had the ex here, at my house, before.  Him and his wife.  They’d come to town for one of the girls’ many plays, and I had them over for brunch.  It actually went well.  I brought out the baby albums, we all laughed.  There were no bad moments.  Not a one.  I was very proud that I could show the girls that they are not being torn apart by their parents, that they didn’t have to choose, that we could all be together.

He’s come a few other times, too.  Incidentally, when on the east coast for a conference.  It was always fine.

So, he texted me today to ask when I planned to be in his town.  I thought about saying, “can you meet me in Chicago?”  Instead I said, “noon.”  He said … “we’ll make lunch for you.”  I said, “okay.”  He said, “is it just you, or WD, too?”  I said, “Just me.”  He said, “Well, of course, we would have made lunch for him, too.”

Oh, the kindness.

Honestly, if it were just him, his wife and their babies, I would be pretty darned neutral about the whole thing.

But it’s not.

It’s him, his wife, one of the babies (because of the whole, “our family is above togetherness” that goes on with them), and his parents.  His parents!

Agh!

I do not like his parents.  I honestly never did.  His mom is hard.  Very hard.  His step-dad is mean.  Very mean.  He’s mellowing with age, but he was mean when I first met him, and even meaner when my ex was a young child.

I’ve seen them a time or 2 since the divorce.  It didn’t go so bad.  I’ve emailed with his mom.  It didn’t go so well.  I’ve been clued in about things they’ve said about me – they weren’t such nice things.  But I know that I’ve said more not-nice things about them (with confidence it wouldn’t get back to them).

So this will be challenging.  And, as Lemon said, “Awktopus.”  (Ridiculous word, but still an understatement.)

And it’s true.  I’d feel a hell of a lot better about it if I were thinner.

[Why is that???]

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Marathon Monday = Clean Office

April 18, 2011

Today was the Boston marathon, and so I did not go to work.

Not because I ran in it (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha), but because it ends pretty much at my desk.  The entire area turns into a zoo.  T stations are closed, roads are barricaded, things get crazy.  Of course, if I was busy or had Important Meetings, I could have been sure to get to the office early, and just stayed until the insanity cleared out. But I am not very busy right now, as my biggest cases have settled or otherwise stagnated, and so I stayed home.

After all, I had taxes to file.

Oops.

I had done the bulk of the work back in February.  My thinking was “let’s hurry up and get that extra $500!”  Like we had last year.

Ha ha ha. No.

Fortunately, the state was giving back almost the same amount that the federal was taking away, but still.

I never got around to completing the nonsense until today.

Thank you, marathon.

In order to complete the taxes, though, I needed a couple of papers.  The proof of insurance that my employer sent.  The paperwork showing the amount of last year’s excise tax on my car, to see if it would offset my federal taxes (no).  This meant I had to delve into my office.

Let’s pretend I’m posting a “before” photo, right here:

[Envision a huge mess]


It includes papers stacked upon papers, more papers and plastic bags on the floor, boxes from purchased items (my new camera, my iPhone 4 that I bought in August), all of the medical forms I searched for and couldn’t find over the past year, missing school directories that I’ve pulled many hairs out over, school photos for the past, oh, 12 years.  Snapshots from a political rally in San Francisco that WD and I took the girls to in 2002. Several books.  On the floor, on the desk, on the shelves. Framed photos of the girls that WD made with them for a gift YEARS ago (and that would look great on our photo wall …. geez!).  My law school degree (it’s big).  A New England Patriots hat I thought I lost.  The insert to Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  An old iPod (holds 10,000 songs!! perfect for my road trip!)  Unused GAP, Amazon and Starbucks gift cards.

Now?  It’s a picture of organization.  To wit:

Or, what I did on tax day.

And look – the floor!  We can see the floor!!

(even the floor is clean - I know, I was on my hands & knees to get it that way)

The organization and cleanliness are good, but with limited usefulness.  See, I don’t *love* my office furniture (I mean, what’s to love?).  I want much more for the room (which is considerably bigger than what is shown here … but my work-at-home husband gets the lion’s share of the room, and I could not picture it.  We’ll leave that right there, with that period over there.)

I want considerably more for my part of the room.  In particular, I want this:

hah!

I’ll even take the fans.  Both of them.

But when we first moved in, we had about 5 rooms more than we’d had before, and all of them needed to be furnished.  I wanted this then, but we ran out of money.  So we headed back to the old familiar.  Ikea and Ivar.  I bought some pretty green paint, too, thinking “if I paint the Ivar, it won’t be boring ad cheap-looking, it will be snappy!”

But it never got painted.  And even if it did ….

In addition to the look of the furniture, it’s really not comfortable.  I mean, that chair?  I’m so sure.

You know, if I got a real tax refund (instead of the $13 difference between my 2 returns … before figuring the $70 cost of Turbo Tax), I could have bought my pottery barn dream furniture.

But no.  Instead, I’m looking at that can of paint, wondering whether I can paint the furniture where it stands, or if I have to take it apart in order to really do it right.

Hmpf.

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SisterHoodShip

April 17, 2011


Sometimes, I look back on my own childhood and marvel at the huge part my sister plays in my memories.  As I get older, our arguments are harder to remember.  But our nights spent playing spit while listening to Cyndi Lauper until 3 or 4 a.m. occupy huge pieces of my memory.  I remember her as my closest friend during childhood.  Especially in our teen years.  I remember coming out a fog of rebellion and bad relationship, and HER being the one who would ride around in the car with me, singing the songs of independence and personal strength (Sinead O’Connor sang those, by the way).  The memories of getting in trouble together, of sneaking around, of egging my parents on. (Especially when they were convinced that the fact that we knew every word to Sinead’s version of a classic Irish folksong meant that we were lesbians … having an incestuous relationship.  Fundamentalist Christians are weird.  And paranoid.)

My sister an I even coined a term (at least we thought we did) — we called it Sisterhoodship.  An amalgamation of sisterhood and friendship.

And then I watch my girls fight (a lot), and I feel sad.  Very sad.  That they don’t like each other more.

But this week, I’m seeing more.  I’m seeing more than the fights.  I’m seeing those memories – they’re recognizing them from their own past, and they’re creating new ones.

The angst that they have about the visits to the Middle of the Country has always been something that brings them together. But while things were unfolding this week, I saw sides of their relationship that I’m not always privy to.  When Lemon made the decision to come home early, and Mouse was upset – Lemon consoled her sister.  She gave her a hug, and she said, “Mouse, we can video chat every night.  I will email you, and we can talk, and we’ll stay in touch.”  And Lemon accepted the hug.  (for at least 30 seconds before they started elbowing each other and giggling and falling on the floor.)

Today, in the airport, they had inside jokes, and they were good.  They were laughing about Mouse’s fear of flying, and Lemon suggested that she was Mouse’s airplane talisman.  “You’ll always be safe, if you’re with me!” And Mouse agreed.  They came up with goofy scenarios  (“Hi, Lemon, I’m going on my honeymoon, can you meet me at the airport?”) and just generally … loving each other.

Yesterday, Mouse was explaining to me that when they’re in the Middle of the Country, they are mostly “like best friends,” but when they do get in a fight, “it’s like we can really kill each other.”

[Two Years Ago]

I remember that, too.  But those are the things that have faded.

I think they’re more good than I realize.  And I also think my mother had no idea what was going on those nights where Fishy (my sis’s nickname) and I stayed up until 3 a.m. playing cards and singing with Cyndi (Iko, Iko Unday …) She just was mad because we wouldn’t wake up at a reasonable hour the next day.

I’m feeling more optimistic than I have in the past.  Optimistic that when they’re adults, they will find support in each other, and they will have a friendship that goes beyond just being sisters.

[A Month Ago]
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Lazy Sunday

April 17, 2011

Well, sort of lazy. First part of the day included a 5 am wake up time in order to get the girls to the airport for their 7 am flight. I had a small almost-scuffle with the counter lady, when she told me that I could not have a gate pass. I always get a gate pass. Sometimes, they limit us to one (poor WD), but usually, we get two. So I calmly asked to speak to a supervisor. While waiting, different ticket agent told me ( authoritatively) that the only way to get a gate pass is to call the reservation line and change the reservation. I said, “are you the supervisor?” and he said “No, but I know the rules.” I calmly let him know I would continue to wait for the supervisor. (WD chuckled and said quietly into my ear, “if you aren’t the supervisor then just butt out and shut the fuck up!” which perfectly expressed my insides, but the girls hate it when I get snippy, so I was keeping it in check) The supervisor came over, heard the agent’s story of my egregious attempt to get a gate pass, smiled at the girls. To Lemon: how old are you, sweetie? And Lemon says she’s 14. To Mouse: how about you? And again, with the honesty and the 12 years old (for another month). “Give mom a gate pass!” she tells the agent with obvious incredulity that she even had to say it. The agent fights! Explains that it’s against the rules. “No, it’s not. Give mom a gate pass!” Agent tries yet again to prevent the evil of my going through security with my daughters: “They are 16 and 14. They don’t need it.” I interject/reiterate. “They’re 14 and 12.” Supervisor repeats “Give mom a gate pass” Nasty ticket agent says “they were born in 1996 and 1998.” Which is true. Of course, supervisor prevailed, but it would have been kinda funny if we were denied because of the ticket agent’s inability to do math.

Funny in a non-funny “Mouse is hyperventilating” kind of way. (I have no doubt Lemon would be fine.)

guess we are on notice, though, that once Lemon is 16 (in approximately 18 months), they’ll be going it even more alone. Like I told them this morning, “We’ll just drop you curb side with a ‘get outta the cah!'”

Ha ha. Funny mommy.

When they were officially “unaccompanied minors” (before Lemon was 14), we were required to wait at the gate until the plane took off. We don’t have to any more, but definitely want to be there if the plane is turned around or delayed at the gate to the point of taking the girls off. But WD was outside the security area, so I left the gate, and we sat at a food court with breakfast wraps looking out the window at their plane until it was in the sky.

Then home. And sleep! Much-needed sleep. After several days of late bed-times and super-early wake up times (thanks to soccer, doctor appointments, court appearances, etc.), I was exhausted.

I have some of my favorite people coming over in a bit to play Mah Jongg with me. I must pry myself from my new blogging app on my iPad, the one that lets me do this:

with the swipe of a finger, and go buy my friends and I some nibbles & prosecco for our afternoon of chit chat and game-playing.

What do you think of my first iPad post? Hmm?

** Updated to add – bummer that the app does not trigger my WordPress automatic twitter notification when I publish a post, and the app doesn’t have the ability to do so itself, either.  Most of the comments about the app address this point, so I trust they’ll fix it soon.

(photo: Bar Harbor, Maine, Labor Day, 2009)

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That Which Brings Them Together Also Tears Them Apart

April 16, 2011

Oof, what a week.

Man, am I nuts.

The girls have been scheduled to travel to the middle of the country for their April vacation for some time.  I think we bought the tickets in February.  They haven’t been there or seen the Ex since November.  Since then, a baby was born, who they are both excited to meet.  Also, their grandparents are visiting from Florida during the same week just to see the girls, who they haven’t seen in quite some time.  The trip is an important one.

After we bought the tickets, I noticed that there is a crew race and two soccer games while they’re gone.  Silly us for assuming “April vacation” meant, you know, “vacation.”

Soccer for Mouse not such a big deal.  Crew for Lemon, though, I was a little worried.  She told me (several times) that it was no big deal, and that it was essentially “optional” for the freshman/novice team.  The race is a varsity race, so the novices are fine. I still squirmed, because so far this year, there have been two varsity races and no novice races.  And Lemon has raced two times.

On Wednesday night, I received an email from the varsity coach.  Actually, Lemon received the email, WD and I were cc’d.

They need her at varsity practices this week and next, and need her in the race next weekend.  “It looks like you may be the first freshman to earn a varsity letter!” he says in closing.

She’s all a-tizzy.  She really wants to race.  She really wants to do this.

She calls the Ex.  I brace myself for an explosion —

Instead?  He understands.  Of course he does.  I guess I kind of forgot that he was a 3/sport guy in high school, and at least 2 in college.  He cares about sports.  He understands that being on a varsity team as a freshman is a big deal, and he’s proud to hear that she may be the first freshman in Crew history (at our school, of course), to earn a varsity letter.

He asks if she can work it out to come at least some of the time.  She says yes.

I spoke with him a few times, and he really does understand.  He is truly okay with it.  Not okay with her and then yelling at me.  Truly happy for her and proud.

Ahhhh.  It feels good.

In the meantime, there’s Mouse.  My girl who fears flying.  Who starts stressing about getting on a plane at least 48 hours in advance of the flight-time, and who spends the evening before a flight in tears talking about potential crashes.

Lemon and Mouse have been flying unaccompanied for a few years.  I thought that was part of what brings Mouse the stress, but we’ve flown as a family a few times since, and the stress is no less.

Lemon coming home early (by several days) means that, with the plans as they stand, Mouse has to fly home alone.  Which I knew would be problematic.

But she expressed it by saying she was unwilling to STAY alone.  To be in the Middle of the Country at all without her sister. Not the first time we’ve heard this from her, and she was no less passionate this time: “If you make me, I will run away.  Right now, I will walk out that door!”  (WD then pointed out that it was raining and cold outside, and she had nowhere to go.  I then told WD to be quiet!  that is not the point!  She is obviously sad and upset, and we can help her to feel better without stating the obvious! He said “okay” and we moved on.)

Do you have any idea how exhausting it is to be volleyed between two crying girls?  One because she can’t let her team down, and the other because she’s feeling forced into a very uncomfortable situation over which she has zero control?  When the solution for one is the problem for the other?  It’s sooooo exhausting.

I really feel for Mouse.  I know that she struggles with her relationship with her father AND with her fear of flying (maybe there is a common root there, but they are right now two distinct struggles).

So, I sweetened the pot.

“Mouse, you really should stay.  But I understand you don’t want to fly alone.  I will come there and fly with you.”

“No!”

This is where I went crazy:

“I will come, and drive you home.”

Wait?  Did I just say that?

“Oh, you will?  [she ponders] I really do want to spend time with the baby.  And I do miss Grandma, and she is a lot of fun.  And it will be good to see dad, too.”

So, I go and look into one-way flights to the Middle of the Country.  $109 for a one-way flight.  Totally do-able.  Rental cars aren’t so expensive, right?

Turns out, they are.  Especially if you’re going one-way and they charge by the mile.

$720 expensive.

Then I go super-crazy:

I’m taking Friday off.  I’m filling my cute little hybrid full of gas, and I’m getting on the road at 7 a.m.  I am driving to my more-than-midway point of Elkhart, Indiana.  I am sleeping.  I am getting up on Saturday, and driving the rest of the way to the Middle of the Country (which is not the true center, by the way – it is east of center), and I am fetching my daughter.  We will have lunch together.  Then we will get in the car.

And I will do it again.

Seriously.

36 hours of driving in 3 days.

Go mom!!!!

Friends, parents, and husband have weighed in:  “You are insane.”

But you know, I respond to that with two points:  (1) I’m due a road trip.  Yes, I admit that it would be better if I had at least 2 extra days for this particular trip, but I haven’t had a nice, long drive in a while.  (2) I have no problem doing this for Mouse.  A lot is asked of her as a result of her parents’ divorce.  She never likes leaving home for her occasional visits.  She hates to fly. She’s been very clear that she prefers to be with her sister during these visits.  Now, we’re telling her you have to leave home, you have to fly, and you have to be there without your sister.  If I can make this easier on her – especially considering that I know, and I’m sure the Ex does, too, that this is far from the last time that this sort of arrangement will be required as the girls get older – I will do so.  I personally feel that she deserves it.

I told her this is a one-time thing.  Maybe it’s a perfect time for the one-time thing, too.  She’s a month shy of turning 13.  She’s dipping into the adolescent funk more and more frequently.  This may be the last time for a while that the idea of an 18 hour drive (including an overnight at a hotel) 1:1 with her mother makes her eyes light up.  She is truly excited about it.

And I think it will be fun to get back in the car on Sunday and open the trunk to pull out her Easter basket.   🙂

I am, however, bummed to miss Lemon’s race.  But it looks like there will be plenty others!

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This Rain is Killing Me, & Thoughts on Kids & Computers

April 13, 2011

It is very, very wet outside today.

It’s 2:20 p.m., and I should be at the gym.  I was going to go to the gym today, but instead, my eyes don’t want to stay open, and my head feels like it weighs 1000 pounds.  And those 1,000 pounds want to CLUNK onto my desk, and to give my eyes permission to close.

Somewhere inside of me, I know that the gym will likely wake me up.  Give me a zing of energy.

But in a more accessible place is the knowledge that a warm cup of coffee will do the same.

And I am – therefore – choosing to be lazy.

Maybe I’ll try the coffee, and go to the gym at 3, instead of at 2?

________________________________

Last night, some friends and I got together to go to a talk that was advertised as what parents need to know about kids’ involvement on Facebook.

Mouse just signed up for Facebook.  Yes, it’s a couple of weeks before she turns 13, and I let her sign up anyway.  There was a critical mass of her classmates joining, and this is almost the exact time that her sister joined, at the end of 7th grade.

We created her page together, I set up her privacy (“friends only” – “friends only” – “friends only”) and we talked a bit about what a “friend” is on Facebook, and I set certain standards.  “But Mom, what if it’s someone who went to my school, but then they moved away?”  “You can be friends with them, but not their friends at their new school.”  “What about someone who doesn’t go to my school, but I know them from sports?”  Same answer.  We also set a technology curfew – which her sister has had in place since the summer, at least, but we hadn’t needed to set for her.  But Facebook, ahhh Facebook – the world’s largest time suck.  Curfews and time limits become necessary.

Mouse was funny:  “I never knew what people did on Facebook, so I’m glad I joined.  But I still don’t really know what people do.  There’s nothing to do …. except stalk people.”  Her sister laughed.  “Oh, Mouse, there’s plenty to do.”

But Mouse seems underwhelmed.

Since she signed up, however, some of the other kids in her class have found themselves some trouble.  Like the one who signed up with an alias.  “Why’d she use that name?”  Mouse just looked at me with a purposefully blank look. “Is she not allowed to use her real name?”  Blank look.  “ohhhh, she’s not supposed to be on Facebook.”  Blank look broke:  “I didn’t say that, I didn’t say anything.  Please don’t say anything!”  I went on to say “She’s being really dumb.  She’s gonna get caught.”  To which Mouse responded, “but it won’t have anything to do with ME when she gets caught, RIGHT mom?”

One of Lemon’s friends did the same in 7th grade, before she was allowed on Facebook.  She got caught.  She was then grounded for 2 months.  Oof!

I didn’t tell, but I sent the girl a message through Mouse:  Parents are monitoring – someone will eventually tell your parents.  Delete the account.

It was deleted within 12 hours.  (I was not making a threat.  It was sharing a reality.  I knew at least one other mom would be telling. I’d held her off temporarily, but she’s isn’t one to be silenced for too long.)

Then came the story of the fake account, set up in one child’s name by an (as of yet unknown) other child.  Bad things were said.

So this little meeting seemed like it would be helpful.  We should know how what our kids are up to, and how to protect them.

What I would have wanted from the meeting:

  • To be told about ways to ensure my child didn’t have their name used for a “fake account,”
  • Tips for how to monitor my children’s internet usage — places they can post things that parents forget to look?
  • More tips for those parents who are less savvy than myself.  Hey, this is your child’s wall.  This is their list of friends.  Does your child *really* have 638 friends?  How many people have been to your house to visit your child?  Likely not 638.  These are the pictures that other people have posted of your child.  These are pages your child has joined.  See the comments your child has left on these pages?  And so on.
  • Some information on non-Facebook kid-popular sights.  Formspring?  Are they using Twitter?  What else is out there?  How can we stay current with that?
  • A tutorial on how gmail can be used; who can kids chat with?  How can they be sure that they are chatting with people who are who they say they are?

What we instead got at the talk:

See where I got those links?  NY Times.  Our local paper.  CNN.  Yahoo.

So they told us a bunch of what, really, we already know.

And there’s so much that so many people do not know.

It was frustrating.

_____________________________

I view myself as a savvy parent.  Not just with technology, but with teen behavior in general.  I was a sneaky, sneaky girl.  My parents were unreasonably strict, and I found ways around it.  I’d like to think that I’m reasonable, and so my kids don’t need to sneak around.  But I don’t “like to think” that so much to the point of being stupid, or blind.

The other day, I walked into Lemon’s room to check on her, and her progress on homework.  She had her computer open, and I peeked at the screen.  Her browser was open, with 2 active tabs:  Google docs and gmail.  (Her history teacher considers an assignment turned it at the date and time that it was “shared” on google docs.)

“See?  I’m doing my history, Mom!” (so much irritation in her voice – how dare I question her?)

So I reached over, put the little mouse on the “windows” tab, and clicked.  What was hiding behind that browser window that she willingly showed me?

Hulu.com.  She was in the middle of a Bones episode.  She’s not allowed to watch t.v. on her computer without permission, and she damn well knows that permission will not be granted if her homework isn’t done.

I’m sorry, mommy.  I won’t ever do it again.”

That’s what you said last time.  ONE MORE TIME, and the computer stays in the dining room.  You do your homework in the dining room, and you lose non-homework computer time.”

I understand.  I’m sorry.  I really won’t let it happen again.”

Fine.”

But mom … how did you even know to look??!!

Because, my dear.  Even though internet wasn’t a part of my life until after you were born, sneaking around behind my parents’ back was my specialty.

I started out sneaking Stephen King novels – I would open them inside of my text books, and when my mom poked her head in to see what I was doing, all she saw was the history textbook.  Maybe she paused to wonder what it was about world history that put that terrified look on my face (Salem’s Lot was so scary, I couldn’t sleep for a month), but if so, she didn’t think to ask about it.

Then I graduated to sneaking a spare telephone into my room, that I would plug into my wall after my parents went to bed.  I had been forbidden from talking on the phone after a certain time, and probably didn’t follow the rule, so they took my phone.  So I got a new one, and hid it.

Then the ultimate graduation – sneaking out my window and down the driveway into my boyfriend’s car (his mother worked nights) several times a week.  And it wasn’t so we could play cards.

I knew how to get around my parents.  And I know what to watch for; at least to some degree.

It’s not hard to apply that to my familiarity of modern technology.

My poor, poor kids.

(Of course, I can’t ignore the fact that my kids are smarter and savvier than me – I’m sure they can find new tricks up their sleeves …. damn you “incognito mode” on Google Chrome!)

 

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Fun on the River

April 11, 2011

WD and I were pretty excited come Friday.  While it was true that we were all headed in separate and chaotic directions Friday night, we also knew that Saturday morning was – for the first time in some time – bringing us nothing to do.

Ahhh.

Lemon had a sleepover birthday party; Mouse would be post-dance exhausted; the only sports on the calendar including a practice at 1 or so, and a soccer game at 5 p.m.

That was all turned on its head when Lemon texted us after her Friday afternoon crew practice (at 6:15 p.m.) to say, “Uhhh, I just found out I’m racing in tomorrow’s varsity race.  I have to be at the bus tomorrow by 6:20 a.m.”

Ouch.

This meant no sleep over party, but because she did want to celebrate her friend’s birthday, it also meant an extra pick-up to fit into our several-commitments-thick Friday night.  We survived, but it was hairy.

The next morning, I set my alarm for 5:15, in order to get my child out of the bed and onto the bus.  Being one of the only freshmen in the race should not be compounded by being that freshman who made the whole team late to the race.

It took a ridiculously long time get her to actually leave her bed, but she left the house in time to trundle the 3 blocks to the high school where the bus was waiting.

I thought about going back to bed, but Mouse had an early-riser friend sleep over, and I promised them breakfast. So, instead, I showered and made french toast.  WD eventually peeled himself out of the bed, and we got ourselves ready to go — we were not going to miss Lemon’s race!

So instead of sleeping in (which is more and more meaning “until 7 a.m.” for me, rather than the previous version which was “until 10 a.m. or SO”), we left the house at 7:40 a.m. to start a one hour drive to the race site.

And of course, don’t regret it at all:

Crew, I have decided, is very cool.  I’m getting more into this than I did for any of the previous sports:  soccer, softball, field hockey, basketball, volleyball, track, cross country.  The kids have done a lot.  But this … it’s just different.  Maybe because it’s relatively intense, and requires more from us as parents than the previous sports.  More equipment, more time, more driving.  If we weren’t into it, well, that would suck.  It may also be because Lemon has taken to her position as coxswain in a way that we haven’t really seen with our girls before in a sport.   She’s loving it, and doing very well, even at the varsity level.

Lemon especially, has always done better in her non-athletic pursuits than her athletic ones.  To be fair, the coxswain position is still one of the less-athletic ways to be participate in a sport, but I think that makes it a great fit for her.  She can be involved in a sport, in a team, and not feel frustrated because she doesn’t perform at the same level as some of her friends. She still goes to practice (and exercises her butt off) 6x a week, and she has made a ton of new friends from all grade levels.  Her success is based on her intelligence, organization, and her LOUD VOICE, which – believe me – is very, very loud.

They also keep winning.  The upperclassmen are showering her with praise, and clapping her on the back (facebook style and in person), and she’s on cloud 9.

It’s a great thing to watch.

I’m going to soak it all in before she has her next growth spurt and hits 5’8″ or some other non-coxswainy size.

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Reason No. 567,982

April 8, 2011

My ex-husband texted me the other day to say that he’s re-thinking the summer, and potentially would like for Lemon and Mouse to visit him, after all.  Initially, he was to be traveling and didn’t think he’d be around.  Sort of.  I mean, the dates haven’t changed or anything since he said it “wouldn’t work,” but now he thinks it will work, I guess.

Except that he had told the girls over Thanksgiving that they would NOT be going to his house this summer, and when I clarified with him in the week after Thanksgiving, he confirmed that fact.  So I’ve been making summer plans for the girls.  Because (a) I work full time, and (b) they get bored if they’re just sitting around the house and their friends are at camps, etc.

The ex wasn’t 100% oblivious to the fact that plans would already be made, but was looking for ways to fit a visit in around the other plans.  Currently, it looks like our only option is to split the girls up.  Lemon initially reacted negatively, “No way!  Then I’ll just be sitting around all day watching television!”  But then the Ex suggested she bring a friend along (rather than suggesting that – considering that he does not teach in the summer – he actually DO things with her …. ????), and she lit up a bit.

Mouse doesn’t seem to be budging.  She will not go.  She will not bring a friend.  She will not travel alone.  She will not travel with ME, because she will not BE THERE alone.  “What, Mouse, will it take, for you to agree to a visit?”  Her answer?  “For Lemon to come with me.”

But the funny part came before all of this.  The funny part was the text conversation.  When he and I first started texting, Lemon wasn’t home yet, so I couldn’t run the potential change by her.  She came home during the boring part of the text exchange, and I told her I was talking to him about the summer.  She said, “ask him if the babies will be there in the summer.”  {Recall he has 2 children with his new wife.  His older new-child is approx 14 months old, and his younger new-child is 6 weeks old}  The answer was no, they will be in another country with their mother.

I responded [after clearing it with Lemon] “Lemon is disappointed that she won’t get to see them.”

His response: “Well, that cannot be helped.  [Older child] and [younger child] will be in [other country] for quite some time.”

I read this out loud to Lemon, as well, and we both made weird faces. What the hell does that mean? “That’s weird,” Lemon said.  “I really don’t even know what to say to this.”  I said.  I wondered if he and his wife are still together.  “What are you going to say?” Lemon asked.  “I don’t know!” I said.  But then he texted again, saving me from the need to respond.

He said:  “In fact [new wife] will leave them both in [other – VERY FAR AWAY – country] for 3 months in the fall so she can come here and finish her degree.”  and “Also, we’re sending [older child] home [to the other country] with [new mother in law] in April, so Mouse & Lemon won’t see him then, either.  But they will see [tiny baby].”

Again, with Lemon and I screwing up our faces in very strange “I do not understand!” configurations. Again, with me not being sure how to respond.  Lemon said, “wait a minute, how old is [younger child]?” I tell her “six weeks old.” “Geez, isn’t this the time where babies bond with their parents?  And these will be in a different country for MONTHS?  Happy bonding!”

I shook my head and said, “I really still don’t know how to respond to this.”

Lemon’s suggestion?

“How about you say ‘I’m so glad we’re divorced.'”

Instead, I responded to his text with “oh.”

Lemon’s comment did kind of catch me off guard.  I was not providing negative commentary, and was only sharing the texts with her because they were neutral, and they are not secrets.  But she saw that he operates within a family very different from how I operate in a family. (i.e., happy to spend months upon months in different countries from his spouse and children …. although, there’s no reason for me to be surprised.  He spent 8 months in London finishing his dissertation when Lemon was 3 and Mouse was 1.5.  She turned 2 while he was across the ocean.)

Maybe it’s good for her to see this.  The fact that he sees so little need to spend quality time with her and Mouse can be seen as “the way he is” rather than a direct rejection of the people they are. Which would be weird, anyway, because they are pretty awesome people, and it would definitely require a fool to reject them.

[And of course, later, when Lemon told Mouse about it, Mouse was only concerned about all the travel the babies are being forced to endure.  You know, because of her travel phobia.]