Saturday, December 29, 2012

All About Me 2012

As I look back through this blog, I realize that it has been less of a chronicle of my girls life than a chronicle of my life as a working mother. I keep a one line a day five year journal (highly recommend one, it is so cool to see what you did on the same day over the course of years). At the beginning of the journal I have written " When they are younger (20's) my girls will read this and laugh. When they are older (30"s, 40"s), they will be shocked at the parallels. Amazing how the circle goes on and on."  I like to think the same thing about this blog. I can envision the girls looking back at this later and seeing parallels. This is also why I worry about violating their privacy and why the blog has become less about them and more about me. In case, case 20 years from now they wonder what I am like, here is another/updated things about me list, in no certain order.

1. I love a good cup of hot tea. I like black tea with milk and Truvia ( I quit using Splenda 3 years ago). I carry a huge thermos full of hot or iced green tea to work everyday. I have a cute little tea pot the I use to brew loose tea as well.

2. I read as often as I can. I usually read books that Caroline has recommended or chick lit. Right now I am on a historical fiction kick. I love classic novels, but haven't been able to convince Caroline of their value. I love bitter sweet novels the best.

3. I am slightly obsessed with Spider Solitaire, don't ask me why.

4. I have been able to cross stitch more lately.

5. I love sci fy, fantasy, and dark comedies. This Caroline and I have in common.  It has been a main bonding experience for us. I also like period films and coming of age dramas. I like old films and anything with quirky characters (same goes for T.V. shows). I also really like things that make me laugh.

6. I still and will always love gum. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of cracking it.

7. I love children! I love working with kids. Once, I am finished teaching, I have a feeling that I will continue to work with children, either through special recreations, counseling, or even volunteering to read to kids at the library.

8. I am passionate about being a mother. I have raised two quirky and independent girls. I will move heaven and earth to get them what they need.

9. I am very much in love with my husband. He is my very best friend and the person that I most want to be with everyday.

10. I have a very corny sense of humor and love puns.

11. I am a smart ass with a real potty mouth.

12. I am a non practicing Unitarian-Universalist. The non practicing part is mostly due to being too shy to find a congregation near my house and not wanting to give up 1/2 Sunday when I could be with Rob. I miss church, though. 

13. I am deeply spiritual and give thanks for my blessings everyday. I am also pretty superstitious. I tend to believe in magic and fate.

14. Deep down inside I am very child like.

15. I am really shy (having children  has diminished this to some degree). I am also afraid of lots of things. I can be very anxious and try really hard to hide it.

16. I am empathetic and compassionate (especially for children, those with special needs, and animals).

17. I am sentimental and love my family above everything. I am a story teller and love to hear family stories. I have lost too many people from my family and miss them terribly.

18. I am terrified of loosing the ones that I love. I live in constant worry about someone dying.

19. I can be forgetful and repeat myself. I don't hear very well and it takes me awhile to process things. This makes me seem aloof or ditsy. I am neither. Children never seem to mind these things about me, which is one of the reasons that I feel comfortable around children.

20. I can get very lonely.

21. I tend to blend into the wood work. I am one of those "work horse" people who is always there to do something, but never seeks the spotlight.

22. I love to write.

23. I doubt my self and rarely give myself enough credit.

24. I love to go to yoga class, but hate to exercise.

25. I have a crazy sweet tooth and eat too much junk. I love cookies, toffee, dark chocolate....

26. I really should exercise more.

27. I like to make people feel comfortable. Seriously, the best that I can give you is too make you feel at home in my house. I really enjoy taking care of people.

28. Once I get to know you, I talk too much.

29. I am intrigued by abnormal psychology.

30. I am not very good at saying "no." I volunteer for too many things and this makes my life complicated. I don't know what I would give up, though. I like to be involved.

I am sure that I have forgotten somethings. I'll update after "tech free" day.

Tech Free

These days I seem to see the top of my oldest daughter's head more than her face. This has prompted Rob's idea of a "tech free" day tomorrow. We'll see how long this lasts. Caroline texts 24-7 it will be nice to talk to her, although I suspect there will be more snarling than talking. All of us are included in this which means no Facebook for me or Spider Solitaire. It also means no Angry Birds for Lily or ebay for Rob (well he has a pass to check on his sales, I need money for a new coat).

I'd like to think that I'll report back on Monday with tales of board games, baking, hikes, and other sorts of family harmony. Truthfully, we'll find a way to proceed doing our own thing in our own little universes with timeouts for witty remarks. I predict Rob will watch History channel (he couldn't include T.V. in tech free), I will read or cross stitch, Lily will play with her dolls, and Caroline, when not accusing us of abuse, will read. It will also give Caroline and I time to start school work that we need to complete by Wednesday.

There are also errands to be run. We need groceries (I have agreed to host 6 teens for New Years Eve). I also need that aforementioned coat. I have spent an insane amount of time standing outside in wet freezing weather waiting for Buffy to go to the bathroom. I even made a joke about it on Facebook ("For those of you who know the joke book for parents Go the @#$% to Sleep!, I am writing a version for dog owners called Hurry the @#$% Up and Pee!. I am thinking that I might have just as much trouble going tech free as the girls!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


The good thing about being under a lot of stress is that the littlest bit of relaxation feels like bliss. It took me half a day to relax and then I was good to go. I cleaned the house top to middle (I'll get to the basement later this week). I even tackled Lily's room and the playroom. I took the girls to see Rise of the Guardians. It was just my kind of movie, sweet and full of wonder. I needed to do something that taped into my inner child. I guess Mother Nature agreed because we left the movie and walked out into snow! Lily has been questioning the whole Santa concept. Between this movie and  Miracle on 34th Street, I think that I bought us another year.

There is a chance that this will be the last year my family spends Christmas at our house. My brother and his wife are having a baby, and the deal was we'd switch to his house once they had kids. I wanted this to be a really good one this year. There were a few things that got left out, like Christmas crackers and homemade table favors (it took a looong time to clean Lily's room!), but I think I did a good job with the food. The best part was the potato gratin recipe from Catherine Newman (Potato-fennel gratin). This was one of the best things that I have ever eaten!

It was nice to hang out with my family. I gave my brother copies of all of the books that I read to him when he was little. The girls each gave him their favorite books. My mom and I each gave each other things that we noticed the other needed when we were in Florida. I gave her a travel pillow and new wallet. She gave me a new eye glass case and two new polka dot scarves. Lily got new Bitty baby twins and a Lego doll house. It took her 3 hours to put together a 695 piece house. When she focuses, she focuses. We got an iphone for Caroline. Now all her tech stuff is in one place. She also got a Hedwig owl necklace from my mother. Apparently complaining about the computer printer and lack of back porch light (not at the same time) got me a lightened dog leash and a new printer from Rob and the kids:)

Overall, it has been wonderful so far.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In My Opinion

OK, I was bound to weigh in on this. After I stopped crying last weekend, I got frustrated. I got angry at all the news coverage, making such a horrible thing glamorous to other fractured minds out there. I got angry at half truths and insensitive reporting. I got angry at those who hijacked a tragedy to support their own political views. But mostly, I got angry that this kid (20 is still a kid) got to the point of doing this.

I have not kept my beliefs about mental illness a secret. This year, I have become a champion. I have stood on my soapbox and yelled as loud as I could. We need better mental health services for individuals and their families. Sometimes, a condition is so bad that it does cause a fractured mind. I have compassion and empathy for those suffering from mental illness. I also know enough to know that without treatment there are those who are dangers to themselves and/or others.

When you look back at others shooting tragedies there are some commonalities. If you look back hard enough, you will find someone (a teacher, a doctor, a relative) who tried to say that there was something wrong. The individual in question needed help. The problem is there is so much red tape to go through. Once you get through the red tape, there is the expense and the timelines imposed by insurance. Our country seems to have moved away from believing in therapy to believing in medication. Yes, medication helps, but there is a need for therapy. Every interview with the neighbors of these shooters has the same quote "He was so quiet, he kept to himself." Of course he did. He was trying to cope in a world and with situations that he could not. The parents of these individuals cannot always be judged either. To be the caretaker of someone with a mental illness is very isolating. As a mother, you can't compare your experience to mothers of children without a mental illness. Often times when you are the caretaker of someone with a mental illness, you structure your life around that person. You loose sight of what a "normal" life is like.

Our country has to have a conversation about how to help those in need. There needs to be a better support system. There needs to be therapy to help those who are ill learn to cope and those who love them how to support them. I know that I will keep pushing this conversation whenever it is appropriate. I will be loud and forceful if need be. Above all, I will speak up when it is needed.

Time to Breathe and Time to Heal

I haven't forgotten this blog. Actually I have written some lovely posts in my head while in the trenches just trying to get through everyday. It has been a rough fall. Thank goodness it is winter. Maybe it will settle a bit.

To summarize: Lily ended up with bronchitis right after me. Rob was out of town, so I ended up taking off three days. I really never got into the swing of November after that. It took almost a month for me to recover. Add to that the fact that I have a class with some challenging students. I have a talent for helping children with behavior problems. Unfortunately, this talent comes from pouring my heart and soul into them. This year, more than ever, my students have consumed me.

Then came December. My grandfather passed away on the first. I did not know him very well, but I did admire him. Even though, he was distant from our family, he always remembered my girls and sent them Christmas and birthday cards. His relationship with our family was very complicated. He had a very difficult and challenging childhood. He was also very bright and very tough. He was a veteran of WWII and the Korean War. During WWII he was one of the medics in charge of going through the concentration camps and setting up triage. I also just found out that he'd been a prisoner of war. He was in the Special Forces. During the Vietnam War he worked in the refugee camps. He was an epidemiologist. He spent time in Papua New Guinea working to help teach better health conditions. He spent a great deal of time in Thailand. He was in the Peace Corp. He was also a distant and difficult father. I know that my mom and her siblings were frustrated by him. I never walked in his shoes or theirs, so I can't speak to any of their experiences. Just like I did after my father passed away, I choose to focus on the best and let the rest go. It's the best that I can do.

I went to Florida for his funeral with my mother. Like so many funerals in my family, this one was tense. My grandfather's wife was upset with my uncle. He was upset with her. The funeral was a mix of Buddhist and a Christian sermon from a Special Forces veteran. I enjoyed getting to visit with my uncle and listening to my mother and him reminisce about their childhood. As Army brats, they traveled all over the States and South East Asia. The best part was talking about my great grandparents farm in West Virginia. It was the grounding place for all of us. Having one common "best place on Earth" in a family in such an empowering and unifying thing.

I came back from Florida ready to get on with normal and then came December 14th. Before I even knew about the school shooting in Connecticut, I was having my own day of heart break. I had a very difficult day at school. Sometimes, I have students who need more than I can give them. I cried more that day than I have in years. I walked my children out to the bus, bruised inside and out, heartbroken, and then someone whispered to me about Connecticut. My co workers knew what a difficult day I was having. They waited until after. I work at the most amazing school with the most amazing teachers. I am so lucky. I went home that night and cried the entire time the girls watched Elf. I cried all day Saturday when I found out the children were in first grade. Then I went back on Monday and did what I do best, loved my students.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Note to Self

Note to self: don't pack your favorite red and white polka dot fleece pjs in the bottom of the winter clothes box. Chances are fall will be really busy and it might be mid-November before you have a chance to switch out the summer ones, and you will most likely get sick and want them before that time occurs.

Yes, I am sick. I wonder how many of my posts begin with illness? Yes, I am behind and overwhelmed. Again, I wonder, how many of my posts begin with or contain details about me being overwhelmed?

Between the hurricane and workdays, you'd think that I would be chipper and ahead of the game. Nope. Every time it seems like I am getting a handle on things, more things pop up that need to be handled immediately. The things that I was planning on doing, get pushed to the back burner and I get behind. Over the weekend, I developed what I thought was a cold. I had a high dry constant cough. I did every thing that you should for a cold. I rested, took zinc lozenges, and drank Emergen-C. I pushed through conferences. By the second day, I was feeling pretty wiped out. Yesterday, the kids came back to school, and I was feeling terrible. By the end of the day, I had lost my voice and my cough was sounding more congested. I made what I thought was the healthy decision and decided to go to the doctor.

It turns out that I have had a fever for a day and a half and have bronchitis. Apparently, my lungs are filled to the bottom. The doctor "tsk, tsked" me and co workers fussed, but I honestly didn't feel that sick, just tired. Now, I am on z pac and hoping that it doesn't tear up my stomach too much. I spent the day cuddling with Buffy and watching Dr. Who. Here's to better health.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Some of my FaceBook friends are doing the "30 days of thanks challenge." I debated whether or not to hop on. Would more status up dates from me be annoying? Is this just following the path of lemmings? Ultimately, I decided "what could be wrong with expressing a little more positivity?" So, I dove in, better late than never. I posted two today just to catch up a bit.

1. I am thankful for my husband. Today is our 17th anniversary. He is one of the funniest and smartest people I know. We've had a rocky journey, but I would change nothing and couldn't have done it without him.

2. I am thankful for hand print turkeys. I have saved all of the turkeys and Thanksgiving projects that the girls have made. Every November I hang them up. Looking at the small paw that once belonged to the teenager who is now taller than you, puts things in a new perspective.

What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 2, 2012


We got through the storm just fine. Well, in true Simpson style, that is. Monday was a day of mostly sitting around and watching the wind blow. Buffy ran from window to window barking. I decided to take her outside. Trying to get a distractable terrier to go to the bathroom outside in a hurricane is not advisable. After the fourth large wind gust, she whipped her head around and saw one fool-hardy squirrel dash along the fence line. The angle of her collar coupled with the rain made her super slippery. She slid out of her collar and made a mad dash across the yard. Knowing her Houdini like skills in the area of fence escaping, I charged after her. I slid across the wet leaves sputtering and swearing. It was hardly graceful. I managed to tackle her. If she had escaped, there was no way that I could have gotten her back.

After that adventure, Buffy went outside with a harness, two leashes, and her coat. We went out a total of six times. Six times in the wind and rain. Six times that Buffy was too distracted and confused to focus on going to the bathroom. I finally gave up and put out the training pads that I had left from when we first got her.

Other than our adventure with Buffy, we spent most of the day hanging out and watching movies. I made another "cleaning the freezer" dinner. When I opened the trash can, I found a broken CFL light bulb. All signs pointed to Lily. I asked her if she broke a light bulb and tried to hide it. Finally, there was a confession after many tears. I knew that you are supposed to ventilate after a CFL bulb breaks. So, I threw open the window in our room. The good news was gale force winds ventilate quickly. The bad news is it makes a room freezing and wet just as quickly.

Once it got dark, it got very scary. We could hear the wind and trees whipping around, but couldn't see anything. Finally, we all snuggled up in my room. I barely slept. At 4 a.m. the wind finally stopped. I woke up on Tuesday exhausted. Lily and I took Buffy out for a walk and surveyed the neighborhood for damage. We were lucky, we only lost a shutter and my butterfly bush got knocked down. I planted the bush in memory of my father when we moved in here 6 years ago. I managed to use a combination of mulch and an old plow to prop the bush up. Hopefully, it will be ok.

Like I said, we were so lucky! That night we watched the news coverage from New York and New Jersey. The girls were in shock. Both of them couldn't believe how lucky we were.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Ok, unless you have been living in the woods in a cave, I am sure that you have heard that The Perfect Storm is coming. Yes folks, Frankenstorm is on it's way. And in other surprising news, I am here at the house with the girls and animals riding it out alone. Rob is on his way to San Francisco for work. It seems like every time his away, there is a major weather event, animal hijinks, or an appliance mishap. Just read back through my blog, the evidence is there.

Rob did his best to make sure we were ready before he left. We cleared the leaves and ran errands. I dropped him off at the airport this a.m. and he had his own wacky hijinks (without me!). His flight was cancelled, his luggage was sent on another flight, he got a new flight to L.A. and a rental car, so he could go and get his luggage. By the time he shared all of this with me, he was talking in his super calm "I am going to be polite even though my head is ready to explode" voice. I noted this and he responded, "yeah most everyone else wasn't this calm." I love the fact that I am married to one of the most polite guys in the world. I hope that his patience provided a small bit of calm to the ticket taker's day.

Here at home, we simply had to wait. I got gas, took the girls to the library, and cleaned the house. Lily was abnormally calm. She played with her friend at the end of the street and she cleaned her room. Well, that is an over statement. She started to clean her room, and then in typical Lily fashion, located some long lost items that she had forgotten about. Every item was brought to me, reminisced about, and then taken upstairs to be played with. She also found over $12 in change! Caroline on the other hand, spent an entire day dorking around with her homework. She'd read a question, text someone, look up an answer, check Facebook to see if school was closed, complain about the unfairness of life, check her Tumbler, write an answer, make an odd disgruntled noise, read another question, check her Twitter and so on, for 18 social studies questions! At least she had the decency to declare "I am being a real pain, I know!" I was starting to get worried that the county would call school closed before she was finished. I could envision another day spent in this pit of procrastination hell. She finished and the county declared school closed! Perfect timing.

Now it is dark and we are watching the storm slowly approach on the weather channel. As the menacing green blog starts to engulf NoVa, we make Jaws-like doom sounds. Seriously, I hope the trees in our yard stay where they are and do not decide to break through the window and join our "movie watching, freezer clearing" party. Hopefully, they don't smell the fries, frozen pizza, and Lean Cusines and climb on in.  I want to spend the next two days in a safe cozy cocoon with most of the people that I love best (oh and preferably with power). I wish the same for everyone in the path of Frankenstorm. Stay safe, stay dry friends!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

This Place is a Zoo

To say that this has been a stressful school year would be an understatement. Every year, it seems like this is the most stress that I have ever had. Yet, in her infinite wisdom, Fate hands me a more complicated one the next year. I guess if I survived the year before, then I can deal with more the next year. I'm not sure of the reasoning.

The first Saturday in October was supposed to be my day of rest. After 18 years of living with a teacher, Rob has learned how difficult the fall can be. He has gone out of his way to make this year easier. That morning he and the girls had a yard sale. I was picking up the kitchen, when he came in and told me that he got a call to play basketball. He told me not to do anything and assured me that he would help me pick up when he got home. No sooner did he leave, than Lily ran in yelling that the dog got out of the yard. Caroline took off in her socks after her. I got in the car. Buffy dodged through the neighborhood yard sale, sniffing people, but no one grabbed her. We chased her into the woods and lost her. I took the girls home to get Caroline's shoes. At this point, I was so upset. I tried calling Rob, but he didn't answer. I left "hysterical message number 1" on his phone. We drove around for almost an hour. Finally, we got a call from people who'd caught her. She crossed over into he next neighborhood. We pulled into the driveway and saw a statue of the Virgin Mary. Caroline and I looked at each other and declared "God is on our side!" We rang the bell and a young nun answered the door. Buffy had been caught by a houseful of nuns! Unfortunately, she had escaped from them. I got in the car and started to cry. Cue "hysterical message number 2". Between, hiccups I wondered if Buffy had ever heard of St. Francis.

I had to drop Caroline off for a hair appointment and then went out to look some more. By this time, it had been 3 hours. We live near a very busy street. I was bracing myself for finding a flattened Buffy. I got a call that someone had found her. I explained that she could escape easily and the lady assured me that she would hold on to her. Lily and I rushed to the house. Buffy had managed to plow through the woods and find one of the few rural areas left in our neck of NoVA. I was greeted by a seasoned horse owner who proceeded to instruct me in dog care/training (this instruction occurs every time someone catches my crazy dog)!

We took her home and on the way I left "relieved voice mail number 1". I walked in the house and past the turtle tank. I glanced in and noticed that the turtle seemed to have his head stuck inside the Tiki god statue (this is the same turtle who two weeks earlier managed to jump out of the tank and hide in the living room). I pulled him out and tried to get his head out. The turtle was stuck! Caroline grabbed a flashlight and we shone it inside. The bottom of his jaw was stuck under a ridge inside the statue. Cue "hysterical voice mail number 3"! After tossing my phone in frustration, I picked it up and called my mom. She suggested smashing the statue. That seemed like a risky option. What if I crushed him? I tried using a chopstick to move his jaw. No luck! Meanwhile he closed his eyes and his movement started to slow. At this point, I thought that he was dying. This came after three hours of picturing the dog dead in the  street. Cue "extremely hysterical voice mail number 1"!

Luckily, Lily was upstairs and missed all of this. Caroline and I laid the turtle on the floor and tried to stop crying. I had no choice left. I went into the garage and got the hammer. As I smashed the Tiki god, I prayed that I would miss the turtle's head. I also told Caroline "This is the kind of crap you have to do when you are a mother." Caroline replied "Then I will never be a mother." After two hits, the statue split in half and the turtle pulled his head out. He laid there on the floor looking weak. I rigged up a turtle ICU with a Tupperware full of warm water, and put him under the heat lamp. I was afraid that if I put him in the tank, he wouldn't have enough strength to swim and would drown. I watched him slowly start to move. I left him long enough to leave "angry voice mail number 1". When I came back, he was gone! I found him where he'd gone last week and put him back in the tank. I thought about all of my voice mails and left "apologetic voice mail number 1" and sat down.

Rob finally called me back and I burst into tears yet again. He apologized for leaving his cell phone in the car and told me he was happy that everything turned out fine. This launched into a tirade along the lines of  "what if this had been the girls?" He didn't bite.

Later that night we tended to the paw Buffy had managed to hurt during her great escape and listened to my voice mails. I didn't find them as funny as the rest of my family.

The irony of the whole thing is later that week, I left my cell phone at home and caused another crazy Simpson type episode of confusion. No one threw it in my face. Well, no one except, Fate (or would that be Karma?).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Strength of Maternal Love

I am mentally going back in time to 4:00 today when I thought that yes in deed I can do it all and I can do it without stress. That was all before tonight's 30 minute long and very frustrating attempt at trying to access Caroline's online Spanish textbook. How can something that is supposed to be easy, be so frustrating?

We have had a few hiccups in this settling into fall, but things seem to be settling down. Caroline had a difficult time getting the hang of high school. Tonight was the first time that I got to hear her normally dry commentary on school life. Up until now, it has been mostly tears and worry. Her boyfriend of almost 11 months texted her (AT 10:00 WHEN WE WERE GETTING READY FOR BED) on Monday to break up with her. She has handled this so much better than I would have at her age. We have raised a seriously strong kid. It never ceases to surprise me how my daughters' struggles bring up my own dirty laundry and sad memories of bygone times. Her first break up reminded me of mine. It really is a funny story in the lines of  "this could only happen to me."

I was on the phone with him and he got called to the front door. He set down the phone and when he stepped away, his mother took the opportunity to get on the phone and tell me that he wanted to break up, but didn't know how to tell me. I started crying and my mother walked in the room to hear me gulp out "Mrs. _________, I think that I need to get off the phone." My mother dropped what she was carrying and used her skills as a high school hurdler to leap over the coach in one bound while shouting "Mrs. ______? Give me that goddamn phone!" I hung up the phone before my mother could claw through the line to this woman. At the time, it felt like my world would end. Now this is what I remember: my step-father sitting up with me most of the night rubbing my back, his wise declaration that this would end up being a very small memory across my entire life, my very best friend (who is now an awesome dad to his own teen daughter) taking me to see Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that weekend, and always the amazing demonstration of maternal love and strength that my mother showed. Once she was done being so angry, she cried as hard as me. Not because she liked this boy, but because someone had caused her child pain.

This week, I didn't leap over any couches or cry. I did use some inappropriate words to describe this boy's manhood. I also curled up in my bed with my baby (who is taller than me) and her dog to tell her my story and watch her smile just a little.  Even when she is a 40 year old grown up woman and I am a tired 67, I will still be willing to leap couches and embarrass myself all to help mend her heart and make her smile. I don't think that I will ever reach the point where I feel like I have given either of them enough. I would give them every ounce of myself if I could.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fall is in the Air

It is starting to feel like fall. The air is cooler at night, some leaves have started falling, my living room is full of baskets of unfolded clothes..... all the signs that it is time for school to begin. I am feeling a little anxious this year, and I'm not sure why. It could be the fact that my baby starts high school. It could also be the fact that I have already been warned about certain kids in my class. Honestly, I like to go in with a blank slate. The beauty of the start of a new school year is just that: it is a start. It is the chance for potential. Shouldn't everyone have that chance?

I am sitting here watching my girls try on their new outfits and wonder about how everything will be different. Lily has outgrown most of her clothes this summer. Along with outgrowing clothes, she seems to have outgrown tutus, side hair bows, and fairy wings. I knew this day was coming. I am still not ready. Her charm seems to have grown a sharp edge. She is interested in pop music and has decided that age 7 is when one become a tween.

This summer went by so fast, not with a bang, but more of a whimper or even a whine. This seems to have been the summer of discontent. Our little family had such a difficult spring, by the time I managed to really relax, summer was gone. We went to the pool and CT and Illinois and Kings Dominion. We watched a lot of movies. Caroline and I watched a lot of X-Files and Friends. We also listened to a lot of music, esp Some Nights by fun. Lily and I listened to a ton of books on CD. I worked on a project for my new niece or nephew. Caroline and I read a lot of books. Somehow it still feels like time wasted. I feel like I missed some grand opportunity, but for the life of me I can't figure out what. It seems like we had the sort of normal summer that normal people have.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Great American Road Trip?

As we were stuck waiting outside of Chicago to pay yet another extreme toll, I started thinking about the idiots who pontificate about the great American road trip. They clearly don't have my children. After an hour into our jaunt from Virginia to Northern Illinois to attend Rob's brother's wedding, Lily was tired of car games, and watching movies, Caroline was sick of being crammed into the back sear, Rob realized that he had no cash for tolls, and I was just plain sick. I had foolishly attended an in-service the day that we were set to leave. That means that I wasn't able to run around with my lists and systematically check off everything that went into the car. I would come to pay for this later....

We let Rob's GPS choose the route that we took. I think that Rob's GPS must be getting a kick back from the east coast/mid-west toll companies. We must have spent over $50 dollars in tolls alone. I depleted my change stash from the glove box. Guess what? Most of them didn't take credit cards. At one point, I had to write a check to the Pennsylvania Transit Authority. At around 10 pm, I heard Caroline fussing at Lily about messing with her nose. All of the sudden I hear "Whoa, whoa, whoa, your nose is BLEEDING!" I tried to find tissues and wipes in the dark while Caroline gingerly swiped at Lily's nose trying not to touch the blood (no medical career for her, I guess). We pulled into a gas station that stayed open for 5 extra minutes so I could clean her up. This was also around the time that Caroline realized that she forgot her glasses. She had contacts for the day, but nothing for the night. That meant no reading or texting at night. That also meant a steamed teenager. We finally pulled into Toledo to stay the night at around 1 am. At 5 am, I woke up and realized that we had left the garment bag with all of our dress clothes at home!!! I shared our dilemma with Rob, who wasn't able to sleep anyway. What happened next is a true testament to how far our marriage has come. He calmly replied "Don't worry about it, we'll stop somewhere and find new clothes." Can you imagine the kind of screaming, blame passing argument that would have happened in the early years of a marriage? It pays to be older, wiser, and have a little more financial wiggle room.

We woke up the next morning to continue along the "Most Expensive Route Ever." After a harried 15 minute stop waiting for another toll to work while Lily yelled that she had to "GO TO THE BATHROOM RIGHT NOW!!", we were able to stop and get some cash and food. As mentioned, we got stuck in hellish traffic outside of Chicago. What I didn't mention was the fact that we were stuck next to a garbage truck and I had to listen to a 20 minute argument between the girls about whether or not the Sears Tower was the tallest building they'd ever seen. Needless to say I was horribly car sick. I just sat there clutching a plastic bag wishing that my children would just please "shut the hell up!" At one point Lily tried to drag me into the discussion. Rob saved me with "Not now, Honey, Mom's trying not to throw up."

We stopped at an outlet mall outside of Indiana, but I was the only one who could find a dress. It wasn't as cute and sparkly as my new cocktail dress that I will never have a chance to wear now, but it worked. We decided to look for a Kohls the morning of the wedding. I am always amazed at how well our family works together when we need to. We finally arrived in Galena, Illinois. We were stinkier, poorer, and definitely more tired.

Despite it all, we ended up finding nice clothes and had a wonderful time at a beautiful wedding. On the way back, we chose the route without tolls. We drove through Iowa (which is gorgeous!!!) and stopped by Antique Archeology (the American Pickers' store), so Lily could see it and get a tee shirt. There was a brief moment as we drove over the Mississippi River, that I wondered why we didn't do this more often. The kids were happy, we were seeing things that we'd never seen before, I was getting great pictures.... It was the great American road trip! That was all before we got stuck in a rain storm in West Virginia.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Caroline has been gone all week on a trip with her friend to Disney World. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't jealous. We weren't able to do a family vacation this year, so other than going to visit family, I am not going anywhere special. I have spent most of this summer as a taxi driver or housekeeper. My sink seems to have developed magical powers this summer: any dishes left in it, multiply three fold by the morning.

Since we have been stuck at home, I have tried to make sure Lily has lots to keep her busy this summer. I signed her up for art camp. She did fantastically! I am not bragging when I say that she seems to have real talent. Her paintings were so beautiful. As I drove her home, I entertained visions of further art classes and art shows. At the same time, Lily was entertaining ideas about the end of art class. She hated it! How can she be so talented and not want to improve? She thought that having a teacher took the fun out of drawing and painting. Lily does not take kindly to being told what to do. And truth be told, neither of my kids like to practice things. So art lessons are over.

Lily did make a convincing argument for gymnastics. She feels that it will make her more flexible and improve her dancing. Lily loves to dance around the house. In the comfort of our den, she is a terrific little dancer. In dance class and on stage, though, she is stiff and shy. This doesn't seem to bother her at all. She may not be the best, but she has fun.

I have always said that I wanted to raise independent thinkers. I didn't ever consider that fact that their thinking most likely will not mirror mine. When you baby is born, you look at her and see unlimited possibility. There in your arms is the chance for a life better than yours. Your child will have opportunities that you never did. It is so hard when your child chooses to do things differently than what you had in mind. I have been through this with Caroline and I am gearing up for it with Lily. The best that I can do is guide them toward choices that are safe and productive. That's not to say that I have no part in their future or choices. "This is not negotiable" is the predominate quote in our house. I often tell Lily that she is not a baby alligator. She isn't ready to live on her own yet. She needs my guidance, but I also need to respect her decisions.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finding My Place

What sent me into the tail spin of feeling useless this spring? Well, most likely in was due in large part to two things. First, Adam Yauch ( MCA of The Beastie Boys) died. He was only 47 ,and that is too young. All of the sudden it hit me that my cultural icons (contemporary ones) could die due to natural causes and not their own stupidity or that of others (I'm talking about you River). Ask anyone my age how they feel about this and you'll get the same reply. He was a ground breaker and he walked the walk. He dies too young and it wasn't fair.

Second, I am the mother of a full blow teenager. I don't usually blog about Caroline anymore because I don't want to invade her privacy. I am "in her business too much." Before I continue, let me say that I have an amazing kid. She took any struggles that she had at the beginning of middle school and used them as fuel to end more successfully than I ever could have imagined.  She earned the President's Award for Academic Achievement and she got inducted into the  National Junior Honor Society. All of these ceremonies also fell around the same time as the final band concert and the eighth grade dance. For two weeks, the world revolved around Caroline and making her get dressed up, and she was not happy about it. Caroline is very introverted, unless she chooses to let you into her world. She does not like excess attention. Especially, when that attention includes her mother scheduling things, forcing her to get dressed up, and bragging about her. It was supposed to be an amazing happy time. She could be proud of her accomplishments. I could be proud that Rob and I created her. It was anything but.

Being the mother of a teenaged daughter is a very tricky road to walk. Most her fury is directed at me. It is not a time when you can easily seek out support from other mothers. First of all to tell anything about your child is to invade her privacy. Secondly, what you say will change her in others' eyes. We can be so forgiving of the emotions of a toddler, but all bets are off past age 8. At the time, I felt like I was a supporting player in the movie Mean Girls. In just a few words my child could take me from a responsible adult to a chubby 14 year old sporting pink tinted glasses, braces, and an ill advised Belinda Carlisle haircut. The friends who knew what was going on offered me tissues and suggested not to take it personally. They could not, however, explain how to do that. At one point she refused to talk to me, and I thought my heart would break. Seriously, I was just so happy for her. She had achieved everything that I had ever wanted at her age (including a sweet boyfriend). The thing is, it was hers to have and enjoy. I helped, but I wasn't needed (except to drive).  Do you see why I might feel that all of my exciting things are over? That I have nothing to really look forward to? Everything that I can think of involves the girls and those moments are theirs, not mine. As they should be.

Ironically, the keynote speaker at the National Junior Honor Society addressed this. He told the kids to thank their parents, to let them share in this event. I held back tears. I posted a picture of Caroline on Facebook from that night. Her response to that picture? "I look pissed off." My response? "You were pissed off and don't say pissed off."

If you had told me that a month later we would be staying up late laughing at Friends or discussing how groundbreaking X-Files was, I would have called you crazy. She really isn't interested in rehashing what happened. Neither of my children like "talking things over." That kills me because in my family, we do nothing but. I did learn one thing though: I step back and let her go on her way. God it is is hard. Honestly, it tears me up. She'll be fine. I keep thinking about the commercial where the mother wants to follow the kid around all day. There is one shot of him playing Dodge Ball and she jumps in front of the ball and shouts "It's ok! Mommy's here, Mommy's here." Boy, do I understand her. However, I can't be her.

When I try to explain what is like to raise a teenager, my friends say "You are scaring the hell out of me!" I don't want to do that. I was never one to tell the pregnant woman who is ready to pop the scariest birth story I know. I don't want to scare anyone. I love being the mother of my teenager. I happen to really love spending time with her (most days). The best that I can do is trust my instincts and hers. It also helps to know when to just shut up and listen. Even if you are only listening to rock music.


If you couldn't tell from my most recent posts and lack there of, I have been feeling a little bleck lately, not depressed, just out of sorts. I can't really pin point one exact reason why. It could be the fact that more and more I am realizing that I am getting older. Mentally, I don't feel that old (except when I have an overloaded plate of family and work obligations). I still love my alt rock and quirky movies. I am still wickedly sarcastic and often speak in movie quotes (I can't really understand people who can't quote movies). All that comes to a crashing halt when I step out of bed and realize that that loud noise isn't gunfire, it's my back and knees! Then I look in the mirror and wonder "Who in the hell is that?!" I'm not vain. I know that I am soft and wrinkly around the edges. I am ok with that. Getting older doesn't have to doom you to orthopedic shoes and housecoats. My step mother and I were just talking about this. In today's day and age, older women can be fun and funky. We have kicky (and supportive) shoes, fun glasses, and awesome clothes. I am not lamenting the loss of the mini skirt days. I think my problem is, for lack of a better word, the drudgery of my current place and station in life.

I have tried very hard to explain this to some of my friends and they feel that I am being macabre. Let's see who out there in "blogland" gets it. I have almost nothing to look forward to. Now before you start telling me things like "seize the day!" and "be the captain of your own destiny!" hear me out. All of my big exciting stuff is done: no prom, no wedding, no babies. I am very much in an "at your service stage." I am a taxi driver; I am the coordinator of other people's fun. Some days it feels like Mother Nature is standing there tapping her watch giving me the universal "wrap it up, Sweetie" sign. Being a mother, she'll have what my kid's always called a "Mommy goodbye" and will stand around chatting with all the other goddess types, so I don't think that I am at death's door. I do think know everything I do and have is wrapped up in other people's lives.

Good grief, I am the pathetic woman who cries "I don't know what I like to do anymore!" But guess what, even if I remembered it, I literally don't have time. I fit in yoga for health and read for mental well being, but who really gets excited about that? I just read an article in Redbook (don't judge me) pretty much on this exact topic. The point? Life is an ebb and flow (no kidding), there are ups and downs (no sh@#), and some days are better than others (really?). None of this is news right? Well they attached timelines made by real women of various ages starting in their 20's and ending anywhere from 30-50. There, I had visual proof that there are moments of utter crap, but good ones come too. I also had visual proof that the small stuff does matter. Some of these women's happiest moments were the sweetest and simplest. I also had visual proof that when my babies leave, I won't cease to be. By the way, I have a feeling that the fact that I read the article while sitting by the pool, also helped me to feel better.

Here's the article   Feel a Little Happier Everyday in case you are interested. Nothing ground breaking, but warm fuzzy inducing none the less.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Good Reads

I have read a couple of awesome books lately and one not so awesome.

Let's start with mind blowingly awesome. I just finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It was beautiful. I love bittersweet books and this qualified. I also love quirky characters, especially if they are children. The main character, Oskar, seems to have Asperger's, although it isn't directly stated. I work with students on the high end of the autistic spectrum, so I could completely identify with him. This books reminded me of The Book Thief in the fact that it was so beautiful and yet so sad. It also reminds me of  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (for obvious reasons). I passed it onto Caroline and gave it to my mom. It was so good that I didn't want it to end (why does this paragraph remind me of a middle school book report?).

Next up, the not so good. I also gave my mom Swamplandia. I had read awesome reviews of the books and she had heard a glowing report on NPR. Those are usually the hallmarks of a book that we will love. We wanted to love it. It had everything that we usually do, quirky characters, beautifully haunting descriptions of scary places, elements of the supernatural, and characters with impressive vocabularies. Neither of us could get into it. I didn't connect with any of the characters and the ending left me pretty upset (probably has to do with having my own teen daughter). HBO is going to make a half hour comedy based on the novel. I am glad that I am too cheap to pay for HBO.

And finally, the book that was so good, Buffy ate part of the cover and I had to pay the library $28, but I don't mind because now my mom and step-father can read it: 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. First of all, this is not the book to read when trapped in the house with two squabbling kids, nor at the pool, nor at the beach. This book should be read in a quiet place with a good cup of tea (hot or iced, you choose). In other words, this book makes you think. If I wasn't so lazy, there were times when I should have cracked open the dictionary or hit Google. It is fiction, but has an index that is non-fiction (is philosophy non-fiction?). The premise is that a college professor has written a book which states the 36 most common arguments for the existence of God and then refutes them all. The book is is journey toward living a moral life and toward learning about and respecting organized religion. There is quiet a bit about Jewish Mysticism, which has fascinated me since I read The Cookbook Collector. There is also a lot to make you think about what constitutes genius and how to handle it. It took awhile to get into it, but I don't regret the time committed. It makes perfect sense for a girl who is friends with liberals, conservatives, pagans, Christians, ministers of all faiths, and the product of hippies to be completely in love with this book. It doesn't help that I am a big old nerd, either.

Old Habits Never Die, They're Just Reincarnated

Do you remember some of the crazy things that your parents said and did that you swore to God you would never say or do? Did you ever write a list promising never to do those things?  Do you remember the first time you said or did one of those things? Did you feel old? Yeah, me too!

In the past year I have channeled:

My Gramma Hill

Gramma used to be insane about keeping her recliner nice. She would keep the footrest covered with a hand towel. I never understood the reason behind this. Then I dropped a cool chunk of change on my own brown polka dot recliner. It is cute, it is fun, it is comfortable, and the foot rest is being worn away by people's feet! Aha! Now I get it! The only difference is instead of covering it with a raggedy old hand towel, I bought a soft brown one that blends right in. Now when I channel Gramma further by relaxing in my chair at night while wearing my super comfy tee shirt night gown (the modern woman's version of the house coat) and fall asleep, then abruptly wake up to announce emphatically "I was not asleep!", I will be doing it in style.

My Dad

This surprises me too, since although I loved him, we had little in common. That is until my children started kicking my seat while I'm driving. Oh my God, that is so annoying! Dad, I am so sorry that Ken and I ever kicked the back of your seat. Listening to you bellow "Who the hell is kicking my seat? Knock it off goddammit!" was pretty funny. However, saying it is not as much fun.

My Mom

This one does not surprise me at all. My mom was a problem solver and I, for the most part, was a good listener. This was an excellent partnership. I learned the hard way not to procrastinate. Guess who now insists that her kids start their homework on Saturday nights?  See Mom, the nagging worked. I also am the master of dancing while driving. This one I own and I don't care how embarrassing it is. Actually, isn't embarrassing your teen one of the perks of raising one?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Maternal Instincts

There has been a bit of head butting around these parts lately. Things between Caroline and I are either sunshine and roses or on the verge of WW III. I know that she thinks that I am being bossy, but honestly, I am just trying to save her trouble. I want my kids to benefit from my trials. Although, it was these trials that made me strong and resilient. I wonder if this approach is preventing them from learning to struggle. On the other hand plenty of struggles pop up for them that I couldn't anticipate.

There is a commercial where the mother is following her child around. The voice over says something to the effect of "you always be there for him so... use our product." Then it cuts away to the boy playing dodge ball and the mother jumping in front of the balls. She turns to the boy and says "Mommy's here. Mommy's here." I understand where she is coming from. At one point Rob tried to explain my desire to help to Caroline; it went something like this: "Mom has this need to take care of us. It causes her physical pain if we need something and she can't do it." Thanks honey!

I really would give up almost anything for them. When I give "advice" it is meant from the heart. It is also given because I can't function in chaos. My mind is not organized, so my life needs to be. I believe in being prepared. If I don't buy swim suits in March, they'll be sold out by summer. I don't mean to obsess.

Today, I made the ultimate sacrifice. The power at our pool is still out after the terrible storm last week. I was stuck with two bored teen girls and a very hyper Lily. I remembered that I still had Lily's old baby pool and decided to set it up in the driveway with beach chairs and Otter Pops. I told the girls that I would show them how we hung out back in the day.

The only problem was getting the pool out of the shed. Very few things creep me out. I am chief bug catcher, poop scooper, and vomit cleaner upper. However, I can't stand dark damp crawl space type areas that reek of mold and mildew and house unusual insects. Our back shed/outdoor closet is one such area. It is also filled with cave crickets (my hatred of cave crickets can be explained in a later post). I summoned all of my courage and dragged the pool out. It was filled with cave crickets and spiders. I didn't scream, squeak, or swear. I felt pretty bad ass!

I think the girls were surprised at how nicely the pool cleaned up. They even listened to my story about how my brother and I set our pool at the bottom of our metal swing set and hooked the hose up to it to keep the slide wet. Our neighbor slid down so fast that he missed the pool and ended up with swim trunks full of mud. They seemed to have fun, at least for awhile. See, there is benefit from my experience!

Monday, July 2, 2012


I have always been pretty up front about my struggles. I have mild dyscalculia and an auditory processing disorder. I have always worked and been pushed very hard (Thanks, Mom!). I do think that I compensate quite well. I do some odd things sometimes, but most of that can be written off as "she's a little quirky." I do have a very hard time with directions, remembering numbers, and understanding voices in a crowd. Modern technology has saved me! I love the GPS!! My husband has also helped. At first he really couldn't seem to fathom that I honestly can't remember numbers. After 20 years, he believes me now. I have spent most of my adult life "re calculating." If something isn't working, I come up with a way to make it work. I write down important numbers in a special notebook, I live by my calendar, I purposely add 10 minutes to departure time in case I get lost (the kids make this harder and harder). So far I have made it work and I think that I have gone far beyond what my early elementary teachers ever expected of me.

I think that this is what makes me a compassionate teacher. If you work hard enough, you can surpass even what you expect of yourself. You have to set realistic challenges for yourself. Of course, when I tell others about my disability, I tend to get two reactions. I can see some people look at me and mentally think that I am full of it and exaggerating. Others instantly treat me differently. They slow down how they speak and treat me like I am incompetent. There are also the very few who get it and are comfortable with my honesty about it.

Well, the older I get, the harder compensating seems to be. Especially, in the area of auditory processing. My weaknesses tend to be: differentiating between background and foreground noises, understanding accents, and understanding people in crowded places. Trying to hear the kids over the TV or radio or washing machine is so difficult. If I can stand close to someone and see his/her face, I have no problem. Lately, it has been so frustrating and makes me impatient. The kids tend to say never mind instead of explaining what they want to me. I miss parts of conversations and I think that my family is tired of it. The last time that I got my hearing tested, I was able to hear quiet well, I just couldn't process what was being said. The doctor suggested that I try ADHD medicine to help me focus. I didn't think that I needed it. Honestly, if I focused anymore, my head would explode. All my life, I have heard people accuse me of being a dreamer and not paying attention. It is quiet the opposite actually, I am trying to figure out what is being said. I am recalculating and analyzing and filling in missing pieces. At times it makes me seem out of touch or aloof.

This summer, I decided to get it tested again and if the medicine was suggested, I should try it. I went to get tested today. Imagine my surprise when the doctor told me that on top of the auditory processing issues, I have high frequency hearing loss. My hearing looks like that of the normal 60 year old (with auditory processing issues). The hardest part is there is nothing that can be done. No surgery, no medicine, and no hearing aid. I need to continue to do what I am doing and ask people to be patient with me. I need to keep recalculating. I am glad to have an answer, but disappointed that nothing can be done. I wonder what will my hearing be like at 60? The older I get the more I wonder how my LD issues will impact normal aging? I guess that I'll find out.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I seem to be on a soapbox of anti-judgmental rhetoric here lately. Really, it is just a case of what is on my mind. For so many reasons, I have been thinking about mental illness lately and how society at large views those who are struggling with varying degrees of mental illness. From talking to many people I have discovered (maybe validated what I already thought) two things: most everyone has had some sort of personal experience with someone suffering from a mental illness and no one wants to talk about it. When someone says they have cancer (I'm not implying that cancer isn't horrible, I know all too well how terrible it is), people fall all over them selves to sign up for dinner brigades and organize 5 Ks. Tell someone that you are trying to manage a mental illness and they take 2 steps back from you, both literally and figuratively.

I can only speak from my personal experience. When I started telling people that I had panic attacks and anxiety and had taken medication for it, they started treating me differently. I felt damaged in their eyes. They just didn't seem to know what to say. Maybe this was all my perception, I'm not sure. I do know that time and time again, I've heard people say that those with anxiety and depression need to just "shake it off" or "get over it." Trust me when I say, there is no experience like feeling irrational and knowing as an intelligent adult that what you are feeling is irrational, but you are powerless to stop it or change it. It is like having your body over taken by an alien being.

I've posted about taking Zoloft before and how much it helped. It helped supply my body with the chemicals I needed to lead a happy life. Don't we all deserve a happy life? Once I felt more balanced, I was able to learn ways to focus myself, so panic didn't take over. After awhile, I was able to wean off of the medicine and continue to use the strategies to calm myself.  I use lots of Yoga, deep breathing, and music. I also pray quite a bit (odd coming from a lapsed UU, but here it is). I still get hit with them, especially when I am stressed. I still fell like I have to hide them. The only one that I ever tell is Rob. If most people paid attention, they know when I was having an attack. I get super quiet, very unfocused, and pretty impatient. It is hard to field 20 questions when every decisions feels like it is life or death. Not everyone is able to stop taking medication. Medication is not a crutch, anymore than glasses are

I feel like I need to end with a disclaimer about being all right and nobody needs to worry. I also feel like a hypocrite. Why do I feel the need to hide who I am? Especially, when on the grand scheme of things my situation is mild. This feels like a chicken or egg situation. What needs to happen first: more people speaking out about their struggles and pain or more people being open to hearing about it without pity or judgement? I don't want pity and I don't want to be judged. I am not flawed and God knows that I am not weak. I have spent too much of my lifetime thinking that. I want to show my girls a different way to live. They have my genes, there is every chance that one or both will inherit this. I want them to be able to be open and ask for help. I want them to get stronger by being accepted. I guess this is me speaking out. Ball's in the next court.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why Can't We Be Friends?

There has been a lot of judgement in the press lately. Especially judgement against mothers. Which type of mother is the best? Stay at home or working outside of the home? Can you even consider a stay at home mother as having a job in the technical sense? All I know is there is a lot of debating and hard feelings being created by the very people who should be standing by each other: mothers. No matter what we have that in common.

Most of the time motherhood is a thankless and exhausting job. Honestly it is voluntary servitude with moments of pure bliss and satisfaction. Most of the time I only appreciate my mothering moments when I look back upon them months or often years later. Day to day, I just try to survive and manage and then feel guilty that I have wished away another day.

I really can't say which form of motherhood is best because I have really only lived one: working out of the home (is the the PC term now? I can't keep up and no matter how hard I try, I offend someone.). I love being a mother. I love my girls and my husband. I just don't always feel like I'm doing a good job (see 90% of my blog posts). From my point of view, I am usually torn in two or more directions giving half of myself to either one. Everyday feels like a life or death decision. Every turn I make, I worry that I am making a choice that will harm my children irrevocably. It probably doesn't help that I spend my day with other people's children. Children that I can be more patient with than my own. In a haze of sleep deprivation, trying to decide whether to stay home with my sick child, feels like Sophie's Choice (I'm dramatic when I am tired).

Mothers as a general group don't get much respect. A child gets hurt or does something foolish and people ask "Where was his mother?" When Rob stayed home with Caroline as a toddler, he was praised by stay at home mothers for bringing her to school dressed with barrettes in her hair. When I picked her up, it suddenly would become obvious that she was dressed in something foolish like shorts in December and her barrettes were crooked. Those same mothers would look at me like I had lost my mind and should have my Mommy Card revoked. Or did they? Was it really them or my paranoia?

I started blogging was to vent and share my funny little stories. What I discovered is this is a way to give a "I hear you, sister!" and some "That'a girls" to other mothers. I think I am really the only one judging me and truly, who the heck am I to judge anyone. It doesn't matter how we do it, the ultimate outcome is we are creating and leading the next generation. In the long run it isn't going to matter how we fed them as babies or where they slept. It won't matter if we were home all day or only at night. What matters is did we teach them to be kind. Did we love them? We are all mothers regardless of title. Don't you think that it is time we offered each other some kind words? "Way to clean up that poopy diaper! No one grounds a teenager like you! You go sister! I've got your back."

Sole Comfort

At this late stage in the game I am beginning to understand why shoes make so many women happy. I have never been into shoes before. Mostly due to the fact that I can't/won't wear heels. I even wore sneakers to my wedding. Honestly I am too clumsy for heel and I would rather wear comfortable shoes. Unfortunately, in my youth I chose poorly. Sure China flats and moccasins were comfy, but they wrecked havoc on my knees, arches, and heels. Now in my middle age, I am strictly a "healthy" shoe person. Clarks, Birks, Naots.... ahhhh! Not only are these shoes comfortable, they come in super cute styles (and super high prices). I've taken to pursing online shoe catalogs, drooling and dreaming all the way. Of course Facebook is tracking these visit and tempting me with even more sites to visit. Well, it beats eating chocolate.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I am Not a Wino

Oh my goodness! Yesterday Lily and I were sitting at my mom's house chatting with my sister in law and the subject of wine came up. Lily very sweetly puts her hand on mine and says (no silliness at all) "You drink wine, Mommy, when you aren't feeling well. And... you drink it in a wine glass! ( as opposed to what, the bottle? An empty Big Gulp cup?)" My sister in law choked back her laughter and I quipped "Oh my goodness, what things do you think that she tells her teacher?" (remember this is the kid who told her first grade teacher that she didn't want to go to her mommy's school because there was too much head lice there.). Lily looks at me in shock and replies "Mom, I wouldn't talk about wine at school; that's not a school topic." Not to be left out, Caroline strolls in and adds something to the effect of you are funny when you drink wine. Well, I can see that one. For example Friday night after an extremely long week, I had one glass and followed that with Peeps and Fun Dip (don't knock it 'til you've tried it). I guess after that I was a little punchy. I think Caroline is also remembering her uncle's wedding when I had a few glasses and told the kids they could "have as much cake as they wanted." By the way, I think Lily's fascination with the wine glass comes from the fact that I still use the wine glasses that Rob and I bought in 1994 at Walmart. Does anyone remember the glasses that had a clear glass top and blue glass stem? Well, Lily thinks they are gorgeous and not at all dated or tacky.

The truth is it takes me a month or more to finish one bottle. I am such a light weight, that I been known to get buzzed after half a margarita. I think that it is funny that my girls have collected these "Mom and her wine" stories. It is probably because it is one of the few times they get to see me when I am not checking off a list or barking orders.

It makes me wonder what other amusing stories they have collected about me. Do I amuse them as much as they amuse me? Highly doubtful!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Put On a Happy Face

I remember learning in psychology 101 that smiling releases endorphins which tricks your brain into feeling happy. These days, I must look like quiet a sight to those who are in the surrounding cars during my commute to and from school. I drive along on auto pilot, drinking jasmine green tea, listening to loud rock music, and smiling all the way. I don't have another choice. I don't feel very happy right now, so by golly, I'll fake it. I am lucky that I get to spend most of my day working with children. They have a way of moving your focus off of yourself. The flip side is I go home to my own personal child who wants the focus on her and her alone.

Lily is definitely going through something right now. I spend so much time arguing with her. She won't cave. I ask her to clean her room and she responds "make me." It is enough to make me want to spank her, but I know that will get me nowhere. What it does get her is timeout. She's spent a lot of time in timeout in her room. I know that this will pass.

I have some odd ways of dealing with stress and melancholy. I tend to gravitate towards very bittersweet books. I don't even hunt for them. I pull a book off the shelf and it matches my mood and current situation. I can fake happy all day, but at night I can dive into sadness. There is nothing wrong with being sad, as long as you don't let it take you over. Towards the end of this week I did feel like it was in danger of taking me over, but today has been better. I got some sleep for one thing. I didn't get much else done, though. All of that cleaning that I did last week is gone now.

Not only did I spend last week tricking myself into feeling happy, I was super mom. I was an unbelievably efficient organized working robot mother. That explains the tiredness.

I don't know how long this will go on. I just need to go one day at a time and do the best that I can each day. I end the day trying to focus on what I was able to get done and being thankful for my blessings. I am not always successful, but practice makes perfect.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

She Who Must Get Things Done

In times of stress I become brutally efficient. It doesn't make for a fun vacation (it's spring break), but it does ensure that the world doesn't come crashing down around us. Unfortunately, once I am in that mode, it is hard to switch off. I become She Who Must Be Obeyed and Must Not Be Crossed. During times like this Lily counters by turning into She Who Will Not Be Denied or Ignored.

My efficiency comes from my mother's side of the family. Lily's attention seeking comes from my father's. Together it is like gasoline and matches. I clearly remember my father emerging from the bathroom with his head shaved completely bald the evening of my grandparent's 50th anniversary party. I also remember shaking my head in shock and my step-mother referring to him by a name that starts with an a and ends with an e. In hind sight, I know he wasn't trying to piss us off. He was nervous and it got out of hand. I really can't put how I understand it into words. I just get it now. This knowledge has kept me from throttling Lily this week. She doesn't mean to be so obnoxious, she just doesn't know what to do. I, on the other hand, am too dang tired to deal with her.
I have this intense need to organize this place. It took an entire day to clear out her bedroom. The end result was three trash bags, three donation boxes, and three Advils for Mommy. Not only does Lily take after my father, she takes after my paternal grandmother. My grandmother could not throw anything away. After her death, we found closets full of unseen photos and mementos, all along side of scraps of felt and half finished craft projects, all of which had been nibbled by mice. Lily's room was very much like Gramma's closet. As I was throwing away broken bits of toys and scraps of paper, Lily kept peering over my shoulder and hissing "What was that?! I might need that!" I almost snapped at her "Gramma, calm down, I'm not throwing away anything important!"

Luckily, the rest of the time the weather has been beautiful and I have been able to send her outside.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stop The World, I Want Some Sleep!

Sometimes I wonder if it ever gets easier. Do you ever reach a moment when you can sit in pure contentment and feel that it has been a job well done? My To Do List has reached novel like proportions. I really don't think that it is every going to be finished. I am trying to be all things to all members (dog included) of this household and my school and honestly I feel that I am doing it poorly. Although show me a mother who feels that she is doing well and I'll show you a delusioned liar.
Things have been rough around here. Emotions are high and so is stress. I am standing here in the middle trying to keep things calm and diffuse potential battles. I am beginning to think that the first person who started small talk about the weather was a mother. Mothers can turn anything into a conversation: the blooms on the tree, an interesting cloud, the antics of a squirrel, or the next meal.
Unfortunately, my high energy youngest child does not handle stress well. Stress tends to amplify her personality quirks. When I am tired, what I normally find charming is mind numbing and grating. She has been openly defying me. No amount of punishment in the world seems to be making a bit of difference. I am so torn right now, I want her to mind, but I also don't want to wish away these last sweet moments of her childhood.
I am trying to do my best right now. I feel like I have been phoning it in lately. Next week, is Easter and Caroline's 14th birthday. I am going to try my best to make both events appropriately memorable. Provided Lily still isn't grounded.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I was chatting with a friend at work and she was relaying a crazy story from her evening. At bed time, her two year old had pooped on the bathroom floor, meanwhile her four year old had covered his arms with lotion and was busily running his arms under water. When questioned as to why, he answered "I'm locking in the moisture." My friend then continued "I was thinking Oh my God, have we turned into the Simpson house?!" She wasn't referring to the T.V. show. No surprise my family comes to mind during chaotic parenting moments. I used to think that the insanity would settle down as the girls got older. Nope, all that has changed is the type of mess and type of chaos.

Take Thursday night, I was busy baking for the staff bake off. It was a Chopped themed cook off with cereal as the secret ingredient. I made salted carmel rice crispy treats. As usual I went late into the night and as I was sweating in front of the pot of hot carmel sauce, I wondered why in the world I kept signing up for these things. I finally climbed into bed and after reading a couple of pages of Jane Eyre, I fell asleep. Rob, however, was still watching T.V. next to me. For some reason (he didn't even know why) he started drumming on my head in time to the music on the T.V. I woke up startled to ask him what in the hell he thought he was doing. He had no answer. Then he showed me the painful splinter in his finger. We both went to sleep.

At around 2 a.m., he flung the covers off of us and started thundering around the room complaining about his finger. I look at it and it was swollen and red. I suggested that he try to sleep. He was unable and therefore neither was I. The next morning, I woke up early to get my bars cut and to help Caroline get ready for her school's career day. Rob's finger was swollen to twice it's size with blisters and he was in a lot of pain. He decided try to relieve the pressure by puncturing the blister with a needle. I shouted at him to stop and go to the doctor.

He ended up going to the ER. It turned out that he'd been bitten by a poisonous spider. He came to see me after school (and got to see the first place trophy that I won for best tasting in the staff cook off). His finger looked horrible. He got prescriptions for an antibiotic and Percocet.

He went home to rest and was going to pick Lily up at girl scouts at 8:00. I stayed at work and was going to pick Caroline up at the movies at 8:00. Unfortunately, when he was home resting, Buffy broke her collar and got out of the yard. The poor guy chased her down the street. Finally, the little turkey stopped and sat like an obedient dog right at our neighbor's feet (further proving how crazy we are to our neighbors). We bought her a new collar on Saturday. It took her an hour to break that one.

The entire weekend hasn't been a bust. Caroline got to go see The Hunger Games, I won a trophy made out of breakfast cereal, and Caroline and I won tickets to an amusement park at my school's carnival.

What else would you expect from the Simpson's?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I Am Getting Old

Really I am. My baby is starting high school next year. Last week a lovely young lady interviewed to teach at our school. She is a former student of mine! I shared this with one of the newly retired teachers from my school. We started thinking and realized that she was the same age that I am now when I first started teaching there right out of college. I am embarrassed to admit that at the time I thought that she was so old. We have decided that old is a state of mind (shocking concept I know). Just like no one can correctly guess my weight, no one can correctly guess my age. Maybe I wear it well. Maybe it is that usually I don't really care. Who knows? My dad used to think that the more I joked about it, that meant that it really bothered me. He was the only family member who really didn't care for my self deprecating sense of humor.

I think that Lily and Caroline keep me young. Especially Caroline, we are so alike in so many ways. We are either pals or at each other's throats. I think that she uses so much energy being an amazing kid outside of this house, that by the time she gets home she is spent. That means she has no patience for her overly dramatic little sister, wise cracking dad, and list checking mother. Enough said on that subject. When she is calm, especially when Rob and Lily aren't around, we have such a good time. She has become my movie/T.V. buddy. There are some really good shows on this year: Grimm, New Girl, Awake... She has discovered punk and grunge rock. On the way to her district band competition, she was nervous and in her words "being a pain in the ass." I put on Nirvana to calm her down. I am sure the boyscout dad who stopped us to direct us through the parking lot thought that I was nuts. Only boring mothers use homemade cookies to soothe surly children.

More and more she is choosing her path. She is still an avid reader. She has also started writing more and more. She thinks that she might want to look into writing for T.V. She has big ideas now and even bigger opinions. She is more aware of current events. I am so excited for her. She has so many adventures ahead of her. Of course, I can't tell her this. Well, I have tried, but it wasn't well received. Why is it so hard to truly appreciate the stage of life that your are in at that very time? I know, you are trying too hard to just survive it. She is navigating social and academic pressure beautifully. She doesn't think so. All she can see is that her friends are going to different high schools or taking specialty classes. She has opted for AP classes for language arts and history. That is no walk in the park. All I can do is listen. That is so hard. Sometimes I need to excuse myself to go into the next room to whisper advice just so I don't say it out loud to her. Man, parenting a teenager is so much harder than parenting a two year old. It makes you old and young all at the same time.

Well Hello

Where have I been you ask? What's been going on? Well at least those of you who still check this dusty site are. This winter has been like every other winter and not at all the same. First of all there was no snow. I can't emphasize that enough. No snow! That's like Christmas with no presents. No exciting gift of a day to spend doing nothing, but just being, no calm stillness of falling snow. This winter did not seem calm or quiet at all. Consequently, I have had no rest or reflection. I have tried to grab it in snippets and bits but that hasn't helped at all. Especially when you are like me, the woman who can't say no, who can't stop offering to help. Currently, I have my school's PTA, Lily's school advisory council, superintendent's advisory council, dance class for Lily, drums for Caroline, scout leader for Caroline, scouts for Lily, teaching, and managing a house (sort of). What else is new.

What is new? Caroline rocked the timpani, triangle, and tambourine at district band. She can honestly play. That just amazes me and my tone deaf self. Lily was tested for the gifted and talented program and we discovered that: Lily has the test scores but does not have the products. In other words Lily is too busy being Lily and loving life to stop and try to impress us. I think that i am ok with having a child who loves life to it's fullest. Maybe I can make up a bumper sticker "My wise guy kid made your uptight honor student laugh." We have all been pretty healthy (there was no winter after all). I got hit with a beginning of spring sinus infection. I brought it on myself by pushing and ignoring how sick I was. It finally hit me the night that I dropped my engagement ring down the bathroom sink and called Rob in the middle of a business dinner crying hysterically. I took the next day off.

I've been reading as much as possible. I really enjoyed The Friendship Bread Club and Romancing Miss Bronte. I enjoyed the Miss Bronte book so much that I am revisiting Jane Eyre. I have been in a "Regency State of Mind" lately, drinking cup upon cup of Constant Comment tea and mucking about pulling the dead weeds out of my garden. Speaking of my garden (you know the "Miss Havisham" garden), maybe I'll read Great Expectations next.

My hand is completely healed, except for the fact that I can't put pressure on it. That means no plank pose and no down dog. That also means that I flop about in yoga like a fish out of water, adjusting and readjusting my hand.

I miss blogging. I just can't seem to get to it or the laundry or grading papers or any of the ten thousand other obligations that I have. I am in such a busy season of my life. I know that it will pass by so quickly, though. I'll have time to blog then, but what on earth will I talk about?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

On and On

For so many reasons this has been a difficult week. I was talking with a co worker this week about working mothers. She was able to stay home when her children were younger and was expressing awe at how her grown daughter and I manage as working mothers. She said it seems like such a juggling act and just one little things throw off the whole balance. Oh if only she knew. No matter how hard I try, I feel more and more like an excellent manager and a not so excellent mother. I don't want to be a "dying swan," so I rarely tell people just how hard it is some days. I alternate between congratulating myself along the lines of "I am woman hear me roar!" and collapsing into bed at night wondering if I even stopped through the rush of the day to kiss my children.

This week: I worked, visited a friend that I hadn't seen in awhile, held parent conferences, planned and taught part of a literacy workshop for ESOL parents, chaperoned for Lily's field trip, took Caroline to drum lessons, made many meals and lunches, washed laundry, planned for next weeks lessons, graded some papers, baked and iced 48 pink cupcakes, hosted a teen scout jewelry making party, consoled my teenager about various teen type worries, bathed my youngest child three times, brushed the dog, fed the dog daily, fed the turtles daily, took Lily to dance class, and hosted Lily's seventh birthday party. All that and I am sitting here feeling bad because my grading isn't finished and I forgot to light the candle on Lily's cupcake and sing happy birthday. Oh yeah and add to that: I don't think that I ever stopped to enjoy the moments or have fun.

My friend posted an awesome article on Facebook this week that addresses this feeling. We don't really enjoy parenting until after the fact. Next year, maybe as soon as next month, I'll look back on this week and congratulate myself on having parented well. I'll even remember much of it as fun. It's just hard to appreciate it when you are in the throes of it all and that's okay. I am not less of a parent for hissing at my my child during her party "You will never have another birthday again if you don't stop this right now!" It was perfectly okay to think to myself "Why the hell am I doing this?" as I was dashing around drenched in sweat. It was also okay to be very pleased that I got so many compliments on my awesome party hosting skills. It was fine to think "Damn straight!" when other mom's wondered how I was able to do this while working.

PS Here's a link to the article:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Watching, Waiting

I think the thing that makes me feel the oldest is the fact that I am the mother of a teenager. I picked Caroline up from Skate Night an Friday and was surrounded by the sort of jackassery that only the combination raging hormones and tired parents in SUVs can create. As I stood in the freezing cold and looked for my sensible daughter I tried not to laugh at the teens around me. They were trying so hard to be cool and look like they didn't care whether or not they were cool. God, how exhausting that must be. Caroline finally came over and I quip "Let's go. I don't mind hanging out with my teenage smart ass, but I don't have to put up with other people's." Of course at that moment her boyfriend and friends come up to say hi. That's right, Melissa, keep it classy, be a role model.

Honestly, we have managed to get into a grove with the whole raising a teenager thing. She is a really good kid. She works her butt off in school and has the grades to show for it. She is involved in lots of activities and has really good friends (some of them I find wildly amusing). She has a razor sharp wit and the potty mouth to go with it (I'm working on that, but the pot really shouldn't be calling the kettle black, now should she?).

We joke that we need to get her a shirt that says Nerd Goddess. Seriously, this girl is every nerdy/geeky guy's dream. She is gorgeous. I'm not saying that just because she's mine. The thing is she is totally unaware of how pretty she is. She is very comfortable in her skin. Caroline loves music and books. She devours books like oxygen. Her room is filled with super hero posters. She is anxiously awaiting the films The Avengers and The Hunger Games. She can talk rock music, comic books, football, basketball, wrestling, and action films. What boy wouldn't want to hang out with her? I'm watching her turn into her own person. She isn't exactly who I thought she'd be. She's probably better; she's defiantly more well rounded. Now the next step is to watch and see how Lily turns out.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Next Stage

Very shortly I will be turning 41. It is hard to believe because some days I still fell like such a kid. When I went in for a check up before my surgery the nurse asked the doctor if I needed an EKG because of my heart murmur. He looked quickly at my chart and replied "She's over 40; she'll need one no matter what." When did I enter that zone? What a surreal feeling. It reminded me of the first time someone called me Mrs. Simpson. I just giggled inside. "Who me? I'm too young to be married." I thought. This time I didn't giggle. I still feel too young,though. I still listen to college radio; I watch independent films. However, my joints also crackle like Rice Crispies when I get out of bed every morning. I guess the gig is up.

Getting old has creeped up on me. I know that I've written about my body looking like "a can of biscuit dough that has a broken seal." Yet, it still surprises me when I am getting ready in the morning and catch a glimpse of my body in the mirror. Let's just say nothing seems to be where it is supposed to be. Gravity stinks! Rob and I have been talking about putting money aside in a "cafeteria plan" in order to pay for the kids expenses (braces, inhalers etc). This morning it occurred to us that we really needed it for us. Every time we turn around we are being sent for one test or another.

I don't mind getting older, I have written time and time again about enjoying the freedom of this age. I know myself and feel comfortable with who I am. Every once in awhile it does smack me in the face a bit.