Category Archives: Motherhood

Planning the Perfect Mother’s Day?

Hey Moms! What are YOU doing on Mother’s Day? Planning to wake up to hot coffee in bed at 9:00 a.m., sunshine streaming in, while the birds are chirping? To the sounds of children laughing- not fighting- as they carefully prepare your breakfast? The sound of the limo honking outside, filled with your best mom friends, whisking you away to the spa…only to return on Monday morning, AFTER the kids are dropped at school? You’ll call home in the evening to say goodnight to your family, since you had received exactly zero texts or phone calls, regaling the fights, complaints, or ‘where is the…’ inquiries, that you contend with each day, and hear your family say, “We love you, thank you for being a great mom, and don’t worry, everything here is fine!” You return home the next day, to find that yes, indeed everything IS fine… and clean. Your family comes home that evening to say that they needed help- hired a cleaning crew and ordered dinner- because honestly, they don’t know how you do this each day! Ah, can you imagine?

Well, hold onto your hats Ladies, because I have found the only thing that could possibly compare. Luckily, after spending my day at work, rushing to get the kids from school, mailing out my own mother’s Mother’s Day card, dropping the kids off at soccer, hustling over to the store, returning to get the kids, feeding them dinner, reminding them to get in the shower a dozen times, AND fighting with a 9 year old about a 15 minute bedtime extension, I finally checked my email sometime between taking off my bra and falling asleep to Criminal Minds. Unbeknownst to me, I had been in a lather about how I was REALLY going to spend Mother’s Day, when my family’s favorite pizza place sent me the ONLY true option for Mom:

CEC Email

What the Funk?

Listen, marketing people at Chuck E. Cheese: this is NOT how you thank mom. This is how WE bribe our kids to stop doing some frustrating thing they keep doing. You are at the very least, a reward system. We hate Chuck E. Cheese, but go because we can sit in a booth alone for a moment, we can eat decent pizza that hasn’t been left over and discarded, because the kids are too busy running around playing inexpensive games, with the hopes of winning one piece of crap that will generally keep them pretty subdued in the car ride home. We go to Chuck E. Cheese because it is raining. We go because our kids really love it. Please don’t confuse my love for them, however, with a desire to spend the only day all year that someone MAY ask me what I want, at Chuck E. Cheese.

But here’s the thing. My kids are still young and to them, Mother’s Day is about celebrating me and spending time with me. And for all my whining sometimes about being overworked, underpaid, and exhausted, I want that too. Sometimes I get caught up in what seems like constant arguing, the wrestling and the grossness of little boys, but I also really like my kids. They make me laugh. They are good guys and I smile more when I’m with them. I also know that my time is borrowed with these creatures I created, that in a few short years they will beg to do anything BUT hang out with me and then, I can go to a spa and eat a full meal in peace. In what seems like a blink of an eye, my kids will be off on their own and most days I won’t have the luxury problem of too much to do each day. So for now, I am content doing something that makes them happy because as you know, Moms, a day with happy kids makes a pretty damn good day. And if in the process, I get to do something that I enjoy as well, that’s even better. I like rollercoasters. I like kettle corn. We’re going to Knott’s Berry Farm.

F you, Chuck E. Cheese.

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Filed under Mom Rant, Motherhood, parenting, truth, What Really Happened

Are You There God? It’s Me, Monkey.

I hadn’t anticipated that I might need to have ‘the talk’ with my kid this Spring Break. I also didn’t realize that our new kitten would be the conduit to this conversation. The other night, our 7 month old kitten was howling. I had no idea what it was except that it was loud and strange and a lot of noise for a tiny cat. Turns out, Little Miss Monkey is in heat. She and her brother, Buster, were found in a parking lot and spent the majority of their lives in a split-level kitten condo at the vet. When we brought them home just over a month ago, Buster had been fixed, but the vet felt Monkey was still too small, so we needed to wait. Unfortunately, she was so overwhelmed by the palatial surroundings of our tiny duplex, that she sought refuge under the dishwasher, refusing to come out. We borrowed the condo from the vet and they both have slowly adjusted and have been feeling more social and ready to join our family. In the last week, she finally ventured out and was beginning to consider letting us pet her outside her cage. She was coming into her own, but then, just like that, my house became the cat version of a Judy Blume book.

This is a problem. My son is asking questions. At almost 10 years old, he still hasn’t asked me where babies come from or how they are made, and has no clue about how his mother’s body works. For goodness sake, this is the same child who once (not too long ago) asked me what I called my “lady penis”. For starters, never that. I thought by having two boys, I bought myself extra time. They have no idea about menstruation and that was peachy keen by me, but Monkey is messing it up for me. He wants to know what ‘heat’ is and why she is rolling around and moaning and trying to persuade her brother to rethink their sibling, and therefore, platonic relationship. He wants to know why I won’t let her meet the neighborhood boy cats who are coming by at night and doing their own version of “Say Anything” at our window. Oh what I wouldn’t give to hear a boombox and “In Your Eyes” blasting. But no, my ears are bleeding with the sounds coming from the Abyssinian down the block at my back door at 10 p.m. Don’t they know I need my sleep? I have a cold and my parents are coming to visit this weekend. I don’t have time for teenage romance right now, feline or otherwise. My son wants to know if she is looking to meet a boy cat and have a family. How will they make the baby and does being in heat hurt? So far, I’ve been able to dodge the question of how with distractions of extra TV time, but I also know I can’t run from it much longer.

Was it like this for my parents? I remember when I was about 10 or 11, my mom gave me a book and sent me to my room. “What’s Happening to Me” was this funny, accessible way to introduce me to what was going on with my body and where babies came from. It’s companion piece, “Where Did I Come From”, was something I had also read. I just looked at them again recently and wow, the 70s and 80s. Not exactly fit for the modern day, but it worked at the time. I also remember going to school one evening in fifth grade where we were separated by gender and left to watch sex education filmstrips. In fairness, I think it gave me the basics, but really, I don’t remember my parents sitting me down and explaining anything. I’m pretty sure I learned more from “Forever” (thank GOD for Judy Blume!) than anything else. Either I blocked out any talk with my parents,  or it just never happened. If it never happened, I hold no ill-will, I save my resentments for much more important things, like not getting my own room or having to beg for parachute pants. But this? No complaints from me. They dodged a bullet and I’d like to follow in their footsteps. I don’t want to explain this to my kids. It’s uncomfortable. It leads to other gateway topics like love and attraction and sex for the fun of it and why are his sheets sticky. Is it getting hot in here?

Like everything else I’ve done in parenthood, I’m sure I’ll have the conversation, and it will be fine. I’ll read 1000 blogs and articles, ask everyone I know, overthink it, and then just do whatever the hell I want. If I time it right, it’ll be on the day I notice he’s spending too much time in the shower and, please God, don’t let me have PMS.

 

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Filed under Motherhood, parenting

Oh My Lanta

 

“But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

Neil Gaiman

These days, I feel like I’m going to either throw up or poop myself. Neil Gaiman talks above about walking down the street naked, being exposed, but I never felt comfortable, or compelled for that matter, to strut my kibbles and bits in public. My discomfort manifests in a complete loss of the bodily functions I have come to rely upon. It’s gross, but you have my word that I won’t go into detail. I’m not that kind of writer. I will say that this isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this (and wasn’t pregnant). I know what this is. It’s my gut. It’s telling me that I’m headed in the right direction, that what I’m about to do is going to be significant in my life and it’s exactly right. I’d call it a cleanse, but that’s a bit too L.A., plus, it doesn’t include cayenne or ginger.

My first memory of this shit show was in high school. I loved singing and wanted to perform. Early on, I auditioned for the school musical and didn’t make it. Still, I joined choir and sang anyway. Later that year, I auditioned for “Concert Choir” and didn’t make it either. That was okay, I knew I wasn’t really ready. I loved singing and didn’t mind Varsity Choir (which took anyone who signed up). In Varsity Choir, I yearned to get better. I wanted to be good enough to make it into Concert Choir and even more, I wanted to be in “Expressions”. Expressions was a 24 member ‘show choir’-think Glee- not with quite as many cheesy renditions, but just as much drama. From the first time I saw them perform, I knew I wanted in. I sang well, but when I had auditioned my sophomore year, I didn’t make the group and I knew why. I wasn’t ready. I worked my ass off the next year, and when I auditioned, I was terrified. For the days leading up to the tryouts, I was sick. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t do anything but work on my routine and mentally picture myself making it. I knew I was good enough and I knew that the director saw how hard I worked all year. My gut told me I would make it and I did. That was something I hadn’t felt in the previous auditions. I had never been so physically certain that I was doing something, that for me, was big.

The tricky part about my trusting my gut, is that her pesky sister, ‘self-doubt’ shares space nearby and is always eavesdropping on our heart-to-heart talks. And in the moments where my gut lets me rest, she likes to sneak in and whisper in my ear. “You’re not tall or skinny or pretty as the other girls trying out. You’re decent enough as a singer, but really? There are better ones out there. Why don’t you just stick with choir. It’s so much safer and you won’t be as hurt when you don’t make it.”

I listened to her. Considered what she had to say. She was right about so much of it. I wasn’t as tall or as thin and didn’t look like some of the others, but I was ME. I had a good attitude and I worked hard. I was ready, able, and (sometimes more importantly) willing to do whatever my director asked- if it meant jumping up to second soprano or helping the small group of boys in the tenor section to help and increase their presence. I was funny, a nice kid, and you know what? I was good enough to make it and take my place in that group. I offered something special- each one of us in that group that year did. And it made us great.

Over the years, I can point to several examples when I have experienced this same level of nausea. There have been times when I allowed self-doubt to share her opinions loudly and gave her the power to lull me into a false sense of safety in certainty and ignore my gut. Each of these times, I’ve had regrets because in addition to giving into my fears, I actively avoided and ignored something that made me incredibly happy. When I have told her to F off, with all the grace I can muster, and gone with my gut, I’ve gotten it right.

I talk to my kids about their gut and when something in their belly feels right, it’s right and when it feels wrong, it’s wrong. I keep it simple and leave the poop talk to them, which they’ve mastered at much more appropriate times. Like dinner. Instead, I try to encourage them explore the things that make their heart sing, to let that voice be louder than self-doubt, which I suspect will invariably creep in. As a mom, this feels right, but it also forces me to push myself as a creative person to listen to my own advice. How can I ask them to follow their instincts if I won’t do the same? It’s simple. I can’t.

A few months back, I did something I always wanted to do. I had an opportunity to write and perform a 10 minute set of stand up comedy as “The Virgin” in Nicole Blaine’s Virgin Sacrifice show. I was incredibly proud of it and humbled (and thrilled) by the feedback I received from real-life comics and writers. I’ve been pursuing my writing and have found myself in the midst of some fantastic creative breakthroughs and with that, a big bout of the barfs. It’s odd though. I haven’t heard self-doubt yet. I know she’s there, paying attention, trying to find her chance to chime in, but it’s oddly quiet. I’m taking full advantage of her silence, though, writing away, and enjoying my Pepto-Bismal Parfait.

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Filed under fear, Motherhood, Personal Growth, self-confidence, truth

Little Green

“There’ll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there’ll be sorrow”

Joni Mitchell, Little Green

It would always start the week before. I’d find myself slip away a bit, not really a depression, more like melancholy. I’d open my closet, find my pity party dress, get all dressed up, and ready to jump into a week long funk. For years, I didn’t know why. It’s my birthday. I’m supposed to be excited to celebrate another year and to spend time with friends and family. I’m supposed to be happy, right? And yet, year after year, exactly one week before the day, I was a wreck. Anxious, hiding, waiting for it to be over. At the same time, I wanted to be celebrated and loved.

For years, I felt an emptiness on my birthday that I could not fully articulate. As an adoptee, feelings of abandonment came up that I could easily justify away, but never really ignore. I found that my justification was for others. My arrival into a new family was a happy celebration, but I always felt a little like a commodity. I was the THING that changed their lives. This baby made things better. This is an INCREDIBLY uncomfortable thing to say out loud and I don’t for one minute think that my parents or any other adoptive parent think of their child as property or something other than their child. But still, despite knowing that my parents didn’t feel this way, every year, I felt sad because of the day I was born. I was given up, a mistake and something that was not good news for a teenage girl. I spent years denying that this sentiment because I could easily point to a million reasons why I was grateful and lucky. I never told my parents because my birthday was one of the best days of their lives. I appreciated that this was true for them, but it also made me feel guilty for not always feeling the same.

So every year, this abandoned little girl crept towards me, and year after year, I’d try to avoid her. A couple years ago, I started to pay attention and not run away from her. I slowly let her get closer and take up space, but still kept her a safe distance away.  I’ve grown accustomed to her though, and over the course of years, I’ve let myself get to know her. Listen to her. Tell her it’s okay. Okay to feel like you were a mistake, lots of people, adopted and biological, feel this way. But what I’ve also been able to do is look at it differently now that I am mother. When my kids hurt or struggle, I want desperately to make them- and myself to some degree- feel better. I want to tell them to NOT feel that way, that they SHOULDN’t feel that way, but here’s the thing: THEY DO. It’s all them, and if I give them the space to feel whatever they feel, maybe I can help them give it a voice and hopefully, they can come to some reconciliation. I hope I can be a better friend and partner to others, that I can listen and say, “I see you’re broken, and I’m just going to hold you until you feel a little better.” I’ve learned that was all I wanted, and by doing this for them, I’ve had to hold myself and to do the same. So, I’ve given myself permission to feel sad on my birthday and for some birthdays, I do. It’s MY birthday… not my parents, not a young girl who ended up in a sticky situation, not my own children. It’s MY birthday, and I’ve discovered a beauty in celebrating my life, even the parts that hurt. The broken parts of us all make the others more shiny. They all make up the woman I’ve become, who, by the way, I now know isn’t a mistake.

P.S. Don’t worry Mom, today I’m very happy. Thank you and Dad for giving me the best THING I could ever have. A beautiful family who may not get me most of the time, but loves me always. I love you.

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Filed under Motherhood, Personal Growth, truth

“Student of the Month” is Stupid

“I’m pretty much guaranteed to never be Student of the Month,” my oldest son tells me. He is in the third grade. This is a harsh thing for an 8 year-old to believe. I would love to tell him that even though in the three previous years at his school he has never received this “honor”, there is always hope. Unfortunately, I made a promise not to blatantly lie to my children.

I hate saying this, but he’s probably right. He has trouble sitting still. He asks a lot of questions. He can’t just do what he is told, he needs to understand why he is doing a task before he can proceed. He often lacks impulse control. He probably speaks out of turn a lot. He is strong-willed, curious and not always socially appropriate. I see room for improvement, for sure, but I also see a mostly normal 8 year-old boy who last time I checked was supposed to be learning and growing and not perfect.

Student of the Month is an antiquated ritual where the cooperative, quiet, ideal of a child is rewarded for being convenient to teachers. These children are generally introverted and shy, and sometimes they are kids who have learned how to play the game. Listen, I am not telling you that these kids don’t deserve recognition or praise, these are nice kids. But they are not the ONLY good kids at the school. I’ll be honest, I think it’s a cop out for the teachers to just go for the low hanging fruit. It’s easy to reward these kids. But here’s what my son has figured out: because he isn’t perfect out of the gate, he will never be good enough for his teachers. Last year, in second grade, he came home every month and said, “My teacher said I was really close this month. But someone else was better.” By the end of the year, he told me, that he gave up. This is the message my son has walked away with by age 8. He isn’t ever going to measure up.

I can tell him until I’m blue in the face that he is enough, show him the myriad of ways that he measures up, but there is something deeper. He craves the acknowledgment that his teachers see him. He wants to know that they recognize how hard he tries. He tells me that his teacher hates him, she only sees what he does wrong and not the good stuff. I worry that he is correct. My heart breaks. I want to send his teacher a list of the wonderful things that this child does on a daily basis- helping others, showing kindness, improvement and growth- but I don’t know that this is the right way to approach it. From what I’ve seen at our school, I don’t really know that they want to be different. So I work from the inside. I try and show him that what others think of you is less important than what you think of yourself. I try to believe this myself, because sadly, he also gets this from me. I am tempted to keep them out of school during the awards assembly, because each month, I see it wears my older son’s self-confidence down a little bit more. Then I think that maybe it’s okay for my kids to have this experience, to learn how to navigate feelings of disappointment.

Before I am criticized for being bitter, I will disclose that I have two children. My younger one will probably receive “Student of the Month” most years at the school. He is a different kid. He is generally cooperative, small for his age and has a lot of charm. He is a helper and knows how to be quiet (most of the time). He is smart, funny and the kind of person who easily fits in. It comes naturally to him, he doesn’t need to work on it at all and I would rather he didn’t receive an award for it. Recognize the child who has a really hard time sitting still or doing math or learning patience. This is where teachers have an opportunity to change a child’s life. And I know it sounds dramatic, but when you are small and your main job is to go to school and learn, to be recognized for something that you have worked so hard on, something that does not come naturally to you, will change everything. That child will learn that they can shine, that they can change and learn and grow. I can say with 100% confidence that if my older son was given that recognition, it would make a huge impact on his education and his self-esteem.

Now there will be educators that stand up and tell stories about giving it to a child who showed dramatic improvement and I applaud this. But let’s be honest, we all know that each year there will be 9-10 students in a class of 25 who are given this award and I bet if we took a look at the winners, we would find that they majority received it before and are the kids that are the quietest and most cooperative. What does this really teach our kids?

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Filed under Mom Rant, Motherhood, parenting, self-confidence

And the Tree was Happy

“Let’s read this book, Mom,” he said, handing me The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.

Now that the Big One is 7, he reads books to me.  This is new and something I cherish.  Hearing him sound out words and use the punctuations to properly set the tone, I can see his growth and development unfold in front of me.  In second grade, they are working on comprehension, whereas in first grade, they worked on reading the words.  His schoolwork focuses on being able to recall and explain what he’s read and when he reads with me, I try to ask him questions to see how much he understands and whether he is digesting the words he takes in.

As a parent, both his dad and I have reluctantly read this book to our children.  We can barely get to the part with the boy wanting a house without starting to tear up.  Little Guy went through a period, around age 3, when he wanted it read to him every night.  “My favorite book,” he’d say, “is ‘The Gibbing Twee’, by Silverware.”  How could you not read it to someone who calls it that?

Tonight, after his brother went to bed, Big One crawled into bed with me and started to read.  I wondered what type of questions I could ask him.  Maybe talk about empathy, being considerate of others, taking and giving…what I hadn’t anticipated was that he understood more deeply than I could have imagined.

“Do you have any money? The boy asked the tree.”

“That isn’t very nice. He shouldn’t just show up and ask for money.”

When he got to the part of the story where the boy said he wanted a house, his voice cracked a little.  He kept reading, but I could tell he was starting to cry.  I promise you, it was at the EXACT same spot both his dad and I start feeling emotional.  He put the book down, looked away and told me he needed to go to the bathroom.  Sneaking up to the bathroom door, I heard him crying (and peeing) and sniffling.  I rushed away and back into my bed before he could discover that I was listening and he came back.  I asked him if he was okay.  I asked him if he wanted to talk about how he felt.  He said he didn’t, because he didn’t know.  “Do you want to keep reading?” I asked.  He did.

When the boy wanted a boat and said he was sad, Big One stopped again and just bawled.  He cried and hugged me so tight and said, “Why am I crying?”  I held him and said, “Oh my love, just cry.”

At the end of the story, we talked.  It made him sad that the tree was always there and he didn’t think the boy appreciated it.  He said he thought the boy used the tree.  He said that he thought the boy was a jerk.  I really appreciated his point of view, and offered that while I saw where he was coming from, I looked at it differently.  I explained that I saw the tree as the parent who was always there and that the boy needed the tree in different ways as he grew and that was exactly as it should be.  This may have been too much for my little Big One, because he cried even more.  He told me that he would never leave me for so long and that he’d give me things since I give him things.  I don’t think I could have put into words how much he had already given me.  I mean, I could have pointed out that when I buy him ice cream and then he doesn’t do what I ask, he’s kinda being a boy wanting the tree’s apples, but that would have really been a jerk move.  I mean, this kid GOT IT.  He has empathy.  He really WANTS to do nice things for the people he loves.  But he’s also 7 and doesn’t fully have a grasp on his actions, nor should he.  As his mom, I understand and accept that he will take from me and I will give and give and love being there for him, knowing that his appreciation may be difficult to always see.   I put him to bed and after a few minutes, he came back into my room a few minutes.  He asked, “could we just cuddle a little more?”

And the boy loved the tree, very much, and the tree was happy.

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Filed under Motherhood, parenting, Storytime

I’m a Guest Blogger! What?

Today, I am guest blogging on SoberMommies.

Yesterday, I reflected on motherhood, gratitude and 9/11.  This time it’s personal.  This was probably the most difficult post I have written to date- sharing my story is hard, especially when it wasn’t a story I wanted anyone to know.  There is a saying that our secrets keep us sick and my secret could have easily made me very sick.  I share my hope today and my gratitude for others who positively listen and love me.

Reflections of Gratitude on 9/11
The other day, I cleaned the boys’ bathroom.  It was disgusting.  If you have sons, you know what I am talking about.  Running to the toilet, barely making it types of messes.  Dirt and grime around the sink, and the remnants of soccer practice and recess all over the tub.  As I scrubbed, trying not to throw up in my mouth, I thought about women I know-  mothers who may never get to complain and feel grossed out by such things.  READ MORE

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