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.