Friday, January 30, 2009

Beauty?

When I was a little girl, I was all about princesses and fairies. I lived in an world of imagination and beauty. I outgrew that, but am still a sucker for a pretty dress.

All that glam and elegance came rushing back this summer. My hairdresser's daughter was crowned Miss Virginia. I have been listening to her stories about Tara for years and know that is a remarkable young woman. She played woman's ice hokey and was in ROTC. She started a foundation at her college to teach girls about breaking stereotypes, this became her platform as Miss Virginia. She came to speak to Caroline's fifth grade class about stereotypes and had the kids awestruck. They were enthralled with every word she said and completely related to her. At the end she gave out autographs to every kid. I don't think she has any idea what that meant to them. Some of these kids have very little good things going on in their lives.

All of this lead to me reconsidering my stance on beauty pageants. I have always been pretty anti-beauty pageant or any contest based on appearances . As a matter of fact, when I told Caroline that Tara won Miss Virginia, she asked "What's that?" That was a very awkward and lame explanation. I choose to focus on Tara's platform and the public service that could come from it. I am so naive.

Apparently, the Miss America Pageant is undergoing a restructuring. It is trying to move into the new millennium. First there is a reality show weeks before the pageant. The contestants all live together and are placed into teams. They have to under go various challenges such as a silly obstacle course, team talent skit, walk like model in a bikini etc. The judges award the winners of each challenge gold sashes and four of those girls (to me they are literally girls, no offense intended) will be chosen by America to be part of the final fifteen at the Miss America pageant. I taped the show and watched most of it in fast forward hoping to catch a glimpse of Tara and feeling really guilty for even watching it (I like mindless TV, but this was a bit much and felt like peeking in someone's window). I only saw a few glimpses of Tara. I didn't expect to see her much. To my dismay and shock, there seemed to be very little about these girl's platforms. Lots of what seemed to be coached answers, but not a lot about how thy wanted to really better the world (besides a sincere hope for world peace). It seemed to focus more on turning these girls into the Next Top Model. I don't find looking at a young woman in a bikini stomping down a runway and them standing at the end with legs spread wide particularly inspiring. No way would I let Caroline see it. I'm not a prude and I don't want to start a big debate here, it just didn't sit well with me.

I also taped the pageant. Unfortunately, Tara didn't make the final fifteen and we didn't get to see any of her participation (I wanted to see her sing). It all seemed so over the top. The opening act was all of the girls dressed the same (jeans and black tee shirts, cute enough) dancing. It was impossible to tell one form the other. I can't stand having woman all look alike. If I could I'd go back in time and let my bridesmaids wear whatever they wanted. The rest of it was like an over the top fashion show (not the Project Runway kind, either). The music was loud and techno and the stomping was over the top. I did enjoy the talent portion. I couldn't watch the question answer portion, though. First of all the questions were from "regular joes" on the Vegas strip and I'd had enough of canned, coached answers.

Overall, I saw nothing of what inspired our school and my daughter. Caroline left that assembly believing that she could stand out from the crowd and make a difference. I'm not letting her watch the pageant. I'd rather she keep the idea of uniqueness and independence in her mind, not how to be "fierce and work it." I am still so very proud of Tara and know that she will go far with her platform. I have a feeling that she will do amazing things after her reign is over.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Better Night

I just had to post evening highlights.

We finally finished Prince Caspian and sighed with contentment, but felt so sorry for Peter and Susan.

We watched the weather report for news on the approaching ice storm. We are pretty sure we'll be home again tomorrow...and are happy about it.

We gave Rob lots of hugs and love to help his frustration (didn't really help).

Lily plopped on the couch and announced "I can only stay up for a few minutes. Who wants cake?" (No I don't have cake, only muffins.)

Realilty Bites

I get these ideas in my head of how things are going to go and, well, they never work out that way. Rob says that's my problem, I have expectations. Of course things are going to blow up in your face when you have expectations. He's joking, kind of.



We finally had our long awaited snow day. On a teacher workday! On a day that I had a million things to do at school. We tried to set out for school, but after skidding at the end of our neighborhood, I decided to bag it. It is not worth risking my children's lives for IEPs, progress reports, and copying papers.



We slowly went home, called everyone who needed to know that we were staying home and set out about our day. Lily was so excited. This is the first snow that she can remember. That excitement melted away as I put on all of her snow gear. "This is not comfortable!" she whined. I shoved her outside and got myself ready. By the time I had squeezed into my gear, Lily had snow down her back and in her gloves and Caroline had timeout to look forward to when she got inside. I managed to get the driveway cleared when I hear Lily wailing "I'm haaaaving tooooo muuuuch fuuuun!" I wiped off her tears, helped her make one more snow angel, and trooped back inside. After I pulled off all of the clothes and lined up the dining room chairs as a drying rack, I made a cup of tea and sat down to the computer.



That lasted the half hour Caroline was in her room for timeout. Next came a wrestling match and separate corners. Caroline decided to go back out and build a snowman. I asked her to bring in some snow so we could make snow candy (http://family.go.com/parent-to-parent/blogs/catherine-newman-blog/maple-snow-taffy-733915/). I decided to be domestic mom and bake muffins, while making soup, while boiling the maple syrup and butter for the candy. No description of the ensuing chaos needed.



By the time the syrup was ready to be poured over the snow to make the candy, Caroline was back in and she and Lily were enthralled with Maggie and the Ferocious Beast on Noggin. I could barely pull Caroline away (forget Lily) to make the candy. I got a half hearted "Cool , Mom" and then ate myself sick on very yummy snow candy, all by myself (Little Red Hen, I feel your pain).



Caroline and I sat down to try to listen to the rest of Prince Caspian, when Rob came home ranting and raving about his frustrations. So much for listening to the rest of the story.



After Rob left, I let the girls go out to finish the snowman. Now it was Lily's time to get into to trouble. Caroline stuck her head in the door to yell "I thought you'd like to know, YOUR daughter just knocked over MY snowman!" Lily came in for timeout and Caroline fixed her fallen creation.



Right now, I am on my fourth cup of tea with my furry best friend at my feet. The girls are peaceably painting with the new paints Uncle Ken gave Lily. How long do you give this moment of harmony?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Joy

Once upon a time there was a family. They had a mother, a father, and a daughter. They were happy, but felt that something was missing. What they needed was one more child. It took a long time for that child to find her way to the family. While they were waiting, the family grew very sad. The father lost his grandmother (whom he loved very much) and the mother lost her father and grandfather (both of whom she loved very much). The family started to think that another baby would never come to their house. On a snowy day (it was almost a blizzard), they finally got their baby. She was a funny little thing with big ears like her grandfather and lots and lots of dark hair. The family started to remember how to smile and named her Lillian Elizabeth Lee, but they called her Monkey. Over time she grew into her ears and lost her dark hair, but was still as silly as a monkey. The longer she lived with her family, the more they laughed. She grew up to be very clever, very funny, and sometimes very naughty.



Her mommy had a hard time staying sad (she lost both of her grandmothers when Lily was two) around her. One time, when she was two, Lily covered her face and feet with with bright pink lipstick and walked all over her bed and the carpet. Luckily her mommy was able to clean it up. When she was three, she dumped an entire canister of powder all over her room. When her mommy asked what happened, Lily said "somebody dumped powder in my room!" Again, her mommy had to laugh (after she put Lily in timeout).



Over time Lily learned how to copy people's voices and put on shows and dances for her family. She learned how to tie her shoes and draw and recognize letters. She also learned how to not say bad words or hit or bite. And she got better and better at laughing. She laughed so much and so hard that her mommy called her a "giggle box." Some days her mommy and daddy got frustrated, especially when Lily didn't want to listen or didn't want be around lots of people. She taught her mommy and daddy to be patient and wait. But mostly she taught them how to laugh again. They were very glad they waited for their little girl.



Happy fourth birthday, Monkey!

Unwind

I am a jumble of emotions lately. Rob put it best when he told the kids that I was "wound up tighter than a rubber band on a balsa wood airplane." I can't exactly pin point the exact point of origin for the stress. It's probably a combo of so many things. First of all, the past three weeks have news wise around our town have been awful (add international news to the pile as well). Two teens girls were killed in car accidents, a 79 year old woman was brutally attacked in her home (the man who did it was caught), and a 13 year old girl with developmentally disabilities was killed and left in a creek near here. The most terrible thing about that is that it was her mother who left her there. She reported the child missing and the police searched for two days. How she died is still under investigation. I am horrified and heart sick. I teach children with special needs. I am the self proclaimed PR rep for those who can't speak for themselves or don't always represent themselves in the best light. I love my students even on their most difficult days. It is a stressful job (this year has added challenges). That's probably reason number two.

Reason three is I'm also a mommy who worries for and loves her children, but at the same time they wear me out. Lily seems to have a particular talent for that, but I could never hurt them. I've been extra mindful lately of yelling. Yelling is the beginning of losing self control.

Yet in the midst of all of this I have been reminded to take a step back and allow the possibility of hope. I attend a small UU church with my parents. Yesterdays service was in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was beyond beautiful and bitter sweet. To look at the inauguration through the eyes of those who were involved in the Civil right movement (of whom our church has many) is awe inspiring. They are witnessing the culmination of a dream. Experiencing it with Caroline, who listened to the stories of segregation as if they were an impossible and evil fairytale, reminds me of how much good has come into our world. Caroline lives Dr. King's dream. She goes to school with children from all over Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, various countries in South America, the list is endless. She doesn't even consider her classmates different. They are her friends. No one told them to respect each other and value their differences. They are just together being kids. It is effortless.

After church, I went to my parent's house to celebrate Lily's and my birthday. After cake and much silliness from my brother, the beloved Uncle Ken, we watched the pre-inauguration concert on TV (there was no way we were trekking into DC even though we live so close). What a wonderful concert! One of the coolest parts was watching my friend, our music teacher, sing back up with her church choir for Bruce Springsteen. She is a huge Springsteen fan. How amazing for her. My highlight was watching U2 sing In the Name of Love on the steps of the Lincoln memorial. Well it was my highlight, but then I got a surprise. For the finale, Pete Seeger came out with his grandson to sing This Land is Your Land with Bruce Springsteen. I have immense respect for Pete Seeger. I started yelling "Oh my God, it's Pete!" (how many 38 year olds are Pete Seeger groupies?), then I started to cry. I know my kids think I'm nuts, but my parents got it. Pete looked so happy and proud. Again, the culmination of a dream. Last night I was able to lay down and go to sleep without a running list of what if and how coulds. It was a really good day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Twenty Eighteen

Well, I survived another birthday. Do you remember when they were things to be excited about? You'd go to sleep knowing the next day was going to be wondrous and amazing. I don't really mind birthdays so much. It's just that they bring me closer to that big number that is glaring at me from around the corner. The one that is jeering and making inappropriate gestures. Yes, Forty, I'm talking about you! Mind you, I still have two years left, but Forty and I have already started a dialogue.

At first it was bitter and full of denial. All of my firsts are behind me. No more first kisses, dates, proms, weddings. No more babies. Really, no more special days. Do you realize that my child is closer to being young and in love than me? All those teeny bopper romances are geared more toward her than me. I am too old to be the leading lady in a romance (unless I looked like Diane Lane). I am too old to be cute. And (if I must confess) I have always counted on being cute, quirky, and clever. Do those words bring to mind forty? Didn't think so. Suddenly, my body is in revolt. I am like a can of biscuit dough whose seal has been broken. I have always been curvy, but droopy? Whose body is this? This summer Caroline helped me reenact the show What Not to Wear by going through my closet. We gave away everything that I would never fit into again and, if by some miracle I did shrink, would look ridiculous on me. Goodbye baby doll dresses and mini skirts (I really don't miss them). My overalls on the other hand....

But lately, Forty and I have come to a truce. I see my friends and co workers who are younger than me navigating dating, marriage, impending parenthood, and it makes me tried. I am happy to be settled. I don't have to read between the lines of everything Rob says. I just ask him if he meant to come across as an an ass and he lets me know. I can happily spend a Saturday watching a movie at home. No smoke, no overly loud music, and (thank God!) no small talk. I can laugh at myself (after all I just compared myself to biscuit dough). I know that the only thing that is life or death is, well, death. Crummy times pass. I've lived the years to see this. I get to be wise "elder woman" at work (this still freaks me out). Although, my advice is more in the form of "shit happens" than Confucius type sayings.

Yeah, I'd like to be a MILF., but honestly, even at the height of my youth, I was never sexy.

But last night, before we turned out the lights for bed, Rob turned to me and said "you know what? You're cute." Hah, take that Forty!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fragile

There are moments when I want to wrap Caroline and Lily in bubble wrap and store them on a high shelf. Yesterday, Caroline and I were caught in a terrible traffic jam on the way to get Lily. We are used to traffic. We live in a large suburb. I just used my usual tactic of hold steady to your spot ( I refused to duck into new lanes or flip a u turn) and put something good on the radio. We were listening to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and commenting on the readers voice when we got close enough to see why there was a jam. "Oh my gosh, Mom" whispered Caroline. The other side of the road was closed and a little car was crushed into a median next to an SUV. When she asked if they'd be OK, I gave her an honest answer, "Probably not."

Once we got home, we found out the driver of the little car was a teen aged girl who hydroplaned on a curvy road. Her passenger died at the scene. This morning I found out that the driverused to go to our school and is in a coma. Many of my co workers have teenagers who know the girls. Needless to say it was a solemn day. It reminds you that terrible things happen in the blink of an eye for no apparent reason. You can't always control life. As much as I love watching Caroline blossom and grow, I am so fearful for her as she starts her journey toward adulthood. Like I said, I wish I had more bubble wrap.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Avoid Infectious Disease

I am entering week three of this stupid sinus infection. I went back to the doctor today. He gave me another antibiotic and a steroid. The steroid came with the following warning: "This medicine may lower your ability to fight off infections. Avoid contact with people who have contagious diseases." I'll get right on that, right after I send the kids away and quit my teaching job (the only way to avoid disease).

Last night as I was getting ready for bed and taking more Tylenol for my headache, I started wondering if maybe this was more. Maybe I had a tumor. I could just picture myself lying in a brass bed surrounded by my best friends sharing tea and laughs as I bravely fought for my life. Ok, either I'm a drama queen or I've been reading too much Elizabeth Berg. My fantasy was shattered by Rob's best Arnold voice: "It's not a tuma."

Hopefully, I'll be back to myself soon, just in time for me to catch the next "infectious disease of the week."



Boys are Stupid
I couldn't resist adding this:
I took Caroline to drum lessons and came home to this scene: Rob asleep on the couch, Lily has cut an old workbook to shreds, dumped her crayons and colored pencils, glued paper to her hands, accidently drawn on the carpet, brought a bottle of honey to the den (but luckily didn't open it), and changed all of her dolls clothes. Rob swears he was only asleep for ten minutes. Either she's Speedy Gonzales or his time sense is off.
Caroline was telling me that she and her friend spent lunch trying to teach a boy how to double loop jelly bracelets (a trick that I taught her from the 80's). He just couldn't get it. I replied "oh well, boys are stupid." I was joking, but I also thought Rob would appreciate it since he wants her to stay away from all boys. He acted offended, then asked her to show him. He told her it made no sense. When she fell on the floor laughing, he asked her to quote statistics.
It feels good to laugh, even with a headache.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lilyisms

I need to do some work for school, so it seems like the perfect time to update my blog. Here are the long promised list of Lilyisms. She is on a roll lately. I love almost four years olds, they are so funny.

When you tell her to do something she says "I mam, I mam!"

When we were reading Swim Little Wombat Swim, she reenacted the entire story, right down to the rescue when she flopped on her bed dramatically pushed the hair out of her face and sighed "whew!"

I was trying to get her ready to go and repeated my direction at least 5 times. She looked at me with infinite patience and slowly said "I understand your words, I'm just not ready, yet."

After hearing the first chapter of the Magician's Nephew, she asked me if we could put on the magic rings and go find Polly Pocket (the main character is Polly).

During our drive through New York, Caroline asked were the Statue of Liberty was. Lily turns and says "It's not in the city, it's by the water silly." I asked how she knew that and she said "George told me." (she's hooked on the Curious George movie).

She ran through the National Museum of American History singing "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire" (thanks a lot, Rob).

She has decided the Lonely Doll is not a sad book because "Families love each other and never leave, but in our house we don't spank."

She also wants to wear her hair in a bun like the Lonely doll with a gingham dress. Of course her gingham dress is short sleeved which shows off the tattoos (pretend) her cousin helped put on her arms.

She has spent the past weeks yelling "Guys, I'm going to sing!" and then serenading us in front of the tree with long drawn out narratives about family love.

She is without a doubt my funny little monkey.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Foul Mood

All right, this sinus infection sucks. I've been on very strong (and expensive) antibiotics for four days and I am still in agony. My cousin watched the kids last night, so we could go out and I felt like crap. We never get to go out together and I couldn't enjoy it. All I seem to be able to do is eat cookies or Moose Munch and drink large amounts of Sleepytime tea. I feel like I got cheated out of my two week vacation.

Before I drowned in self pity, I decided to look at the news online and that snapped me out of it. I realize how very lucky I am, it's just hard to stay focused on that. Especially with a head full of junk (How much snot can one person produce, by the way? Sorry for the TMI, but I really want to know.). I keep picturing the little cartoon guy from the Mucinex commercials banging a hammer in my head. I was able to finish THREE entire books, though! I will update my list later.

I need to go, Lily is singing to me in front of the lit tree about how much she loves her family. Can't really complain that much now can I?