Friday, November 26, 2010

...And We Can All Use a Little Change...

Do you ever have one of those moments when you stop, look around you, and think..."Wow. I never thought this is where I would be"?

I had one of those today.

Sitting beside a young girl I barely know, at a table shoved in the crowded corner of the back room of a retail clothing store, snarfing down a room temperature egg roll and trying desperately to ignore my throbbing feet, I looked around and thought exactly that.

Change is a funny thing. Most things are funny with our family, so why not? But, honestly, if I hadn't been scared that I might spew egg roll bits on my new acquaintance, I would have laughed out loud. I remembered the day after Thanksgiving last year. This was not where I thought I would be a year later. But divorce+recession+teacher hiring freeze=Roaring Mom working retail on Black Friday.

I'm not complaining. I'm grateful to have a job. And my girls immediately loved the idea that I was working at the mall. Apparently, it's much higher on the Cool Mom scale than middle school substitute. Go figure! Still, it's not where I thought I'd be. Then I realized, I'm not alone. There are many, many others who aren't where they thought they'd be.

Which leads me to this update...

On July 7, I posted a blog entitled Saying Something. It was about a family I know whose dad had suffered a spinal cord injury. I know that last year at Thanksgiving, they never imagined they'd be where they are now.

I've followed the updates of the Carl Hall family on Facebook. And because my daughter is friends with one of the kids, I get to hear tidbits from her every now and then, too. Carl Hall is now home. He's back with his family in a new home that can accommodate his needs for the time being. I'm not going to presume to know or understand or even guess what all has changed for this family. But I can tell you one thing that has stayed blessedly the same in spite of all that has changed--their spirit.

My daughter Sophie has seen that spirit in Megan's gracious smile and bubbly laugh and the joy that sparkles in her eyes when she talks about her dad. That spirit is evident in the many update postings that detail Carl's drive and determination. That spirit overflows in the sharing of a simple kiss between Carl and Stacey, as seen on a local news story. That spirit is most obvious in the overwhelming outpouring of love and support of hundreds of friends and community members who have been touched by the Hall family over and over again.

I haven't taken an actual count, but other than well-wishes, I think the one comment I've seen more than others it how Carl and Stacey have faced this change with the same optimism and grace they have always had. They are the same good, kind people. Although this accident changed almost everything, it couldn't touch the essence of what everyone loves most about this family.

I've been thinking this Thanksgiving week that change is not only a funny thing, but a good thing as well. We all experience those times that we wish could last forever. But if we never move or grow or change, think of the hearts that might not have been filled, the minds that might not have been opened, the souls that might not have been touched. I'm realizing that it is in the least expected events that we are able to inspire others. It's in the unforeseen tragedies when only our character remains, that we make our mark. It is in those moments we have never imagined that our true nature sustains us and we are able to transcend who we thought we were--who we thought we would be--and just be. And it is in being that we experience love in its truest, purest form.

I'm sharing with you a link to a local news story about Carl and Stacey. I hope you take the time to watch it. It will inspire you. Then, please, say a prayer for them. Then remember to be grateful for change, even if it comes in the form of Black Friday egg rolls. Then, take a moment and just be...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Boobies in a Bind?

Do you love boobies? Do you advertise that fact?

It was a girlfriends' weekend with some new friends and it was a long drive to our destination. One thing I love about these long car rides is that women get to know each other very well, very quickly. We share personal stories of heartache and romance. We share parenting mishaps and miracles. We cry. We laugh. We bond.

There was once subject, however that split the group right down the middle, deeper than Double D cleavage.

Mom "A" told a story about her 14 yr old step daughter coming home one day with a "Save the Boobies" bracelet. The step-daughter got a tongue lashing and the offensive bracelet was immediately removed. Mom "B" gave a verbal high-five! Mom "C" laughed. She loved those bracelets. Mom "D" (that's me), laughed too. Of course. Don't I always?

Disclaimer and Digression: The use of alphabetical labels in the preceding paragraph has no relevance to each Mom's cup size. In fact, Mom "B" is probably a Double D while Mom "C" used to be an "A", but thanks to medical technology is now a "C". I'm actually a "C", too, but interestingly enough, Mom "C"-- with her skinny jeans, 3 inch heels, fabulous hair and general runway model appearance--well, her "C's" look a whole lot different than my 40-something, gravity fighting "C's". If you know what I mean. We all secretly hate her. But we love her too. Heck, we want to be her. Anyway, back to the story...

Moms "A and B" were not feeling the humor. In fact, they were offended by the shock value of the bracelets and agreed that they should be banned from middle schools. Moms "C and D" thought the bracelets were great and wanted to get some for ourselves, and maybe our daughters, too.

Later, when I thought back on our conversation, I thought about it from an educator's viewpoint. Should the boobie bracelets be banned? I guarantee you that just because a middle school bans any and all visible breast references, students still notice, comment on, and giggle over boobies. And all other unmentionable body parts. And they are spouting way more shocking phrases than, "Save the Boobies". So I developed a brilliant solution.

My kids' middle school sometimes holds Jeans Day fundraisers. The students bring at least $1 for the privilege of wearing jeans for the day. Everyone participates. What student isn't going to pay $1 to be out of uniform? Similarly, why not charge $1 for the privilege to wear the Boobie Bracelets? The school could choose a day during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, educate students on this devastating disease, and raise a little money for the cause. The students get to wear their bracelets (even if they still giggle a little while doing so) AND the school has taken away the shock value while doing their part to Save the Boobies. Everyone wins!

What do you think? I'd love to know your opinion on this one. If you aren't sure what to say, check out this video. It might make you rethink the "shock value" of a little Boobie Bracelet. (Don't worry. It's completely clean.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

No Pity Party Here!

Confession time. I know I profess to face life's challenges with a smile and a determination to turn loss into a lesson and grief into gratitude. And I do. Most of the time. But, honestly, I go through a mini-depression every other week.

The living arrangement with my ex-husband requires the kids to live one week at a time at each house. I have a very strong opinion about this kind of arrangement, but that's for another blog. Nevertheless, that's the arrangement. In some ways, it works. There's not a Monday night here and a Tuesday night there and a Wednesday, Thursday somewhere else. The schedule actually provides for a small amount of stability and routine.

Still, every other Monday, when my children move to the other house for a week, it takes getting used to all over again. When we first started this arrangement, I literally did not get out of bed until Wednesday. Apparently I didn't know how to function without children bickering over who gets control of the remote or who is hogging the computer or which sister wore the other one's shirt without permission! My home was simply unrecognizable without 12 pair of shoes in the living room, 2 sets of shin guards under the dining room table, and 3 glasses on the computer desk. After nearly 2 decades as a stay-at-home mom, I couldn't come up with a good reason to get up if there was no one to coerce out of bed or complain about having to cook breakfast for. (You all know I hate to cook, right? Love the kids. Love the food. Hate the cooking.)

One morning, while trying to steal back a few inches of bed territory from the alien beast who thinks he's too good to sleep on the floor like a real dog, it hit me. No, not the alien beast! It was the idea that it is not my children's responsibility to make me happy that shook me awake. I had preached this philosophy to them forever. Which, I can tell you, sometimes came back to bite me. For example:

ME: Frank, you really should join the cross county team with your sisters. You'd love it. They have a lot of fun.
FRANK: Mom, I don't want to join the cross county team. I don't even like going to the meets to watch them run.
ME: Well, maybe if you were running in the meet, you'd enjoy it. They seem to like it. You should do it.
FRANK: I don't want to. I'm fine with soccer.
ME: But, you've never tried it. You should try it. You might like it.
FRANK: Huff! Mom, do you want me to go out for cross country?
ME: Only if you want to, honey.
FRANK: I don't want to.
ME: But...
FRANK: Mom, you always tell me it's not our job to make you happy and that we don't have to do stuff like that just to make you happy.
ME: grumble, grumble, grumble

Funny how that philosophical parenting stuff sounds really good until they use it back on us, huh?

Anyway, that morning...and it wasn't even Wednesday yet...I jumped out of bed smiling because I had found my life lesson. I blasted  Bon Jovi (because it is his job to make me happy and he does it so nicely!). I danced through my not-so-cluttered house with a joyful heart.

It isn't  their job to make me happy. And maybe it's not mine to make them happy. But it certainly is my job to provide an environment that fosters happiness. And apparently, that environment includes wayward shin guards, homeless shoes, and burnt toast. At least when they are here. Because when they are there, the maid provides a cleaner kind of happy place. And that's okay, too.

I still miss my kids when they aren't here. I still bless the technology gods for the invention of cell phones and texting and computers and Facebook so that I always feel connected to them no matter where they lay their heads at night. It's okay to miss them. It's okay to be sad that there's no one to burn toast for. It's not okay, however, to selfishly stop living and stop celebrating the fact that I am their mom every second of every day. Living in two homes, they have more of a burden than I do. I owe it to them to live gloriously and graciously. I owe it to them to take the Pity out of the Pity Party. I think a Parent Party is better idea anyway.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Today's Topic:

Things that make my family smile, laugh, giggle, chortle, and grin.

Veggie Tales (Even though we've outgrown them years ago.)
Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog
Opera Lunch (Not Lunch at the Opera, but singing opera while eating lunch! Try it.)
Chocolate (except for Sophie, but we laugh at how she doesn't like it so that's a double)
Ribs (The kind you eat and the kind you tickle!)
Painting Pumpkins at Auntie M's!
Eating Mud (Only Sophie and she was 3, but still)
Corny Jokes
Musical Theatre
Bert and Ernie
Jeff Dunham
Bon Jovi (Okay, that's just me)
"Climbin' in Yo Window, Snatchin' Yo People Up..." (Please tell me you know what that means.)
Han Solo (Me, again)
Princess Leia in that bikini chained to Jabba (Yeah, that's Frank)
Pirates of the Caribbean
Really Cool Shoes
Really Cool Shoes on Sale (even bigger smile)
Winning board games (Carmen: "I'm not cheating, I'm winning!)
Spongebob Squarepants
Fake Accents,especially when they fail (That's Kate, my comic acting major)
Snowball Fights
Oscar, the Stupid Alien Beast disguised as our pet dog
Random, obscure movie quotes
Kate's really inappropriate language (She has a way with words!)
My Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs (The only thing I can cook)

What makes your family smile? Please add your comments to this blog so we can smile with you.

While you're smiling, please take a minute to click on the blue butterfly to the left and vote for me! And, please, invite your friends and family to vote, too. I'm in a contest to become the next Good Mood Blogger! I need about 100 votes each day to make it to the next round of competition. It's a great opportunity for me and getting it would really make my family smile, laugh, giggle, chortle, and grin. Thank you so much for your support!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unfamiliar Territory

I went to visit my college girl recently. It was a strange place to be.

The city wasn't strange. Chicago is awesome. Even staying in her dorm room wasn't strange. Messy, but not strange. In fact, messy was expected.

No, it was the place between parent and friend that was a little strange.

When the plane landed and I followed her directions to the Blue Line and then tried to figure out how to purchase the right ticket and ended up calling her to figure it out, I realized a reversal had occurred. I was depending on her knowledge, experience, and opinions to guide me to where I needed to be. I rode the 35 minutes marveling at the fact that my baby girl was making her way in this big city. I was nearly in tears by the time I arrived.

However, I was very pleased to be faced with a mini-crisis which required my assistance only moments after going through the Fort Knox security to get to her room! And the world seem to settle back in to place. I even had the chance to throw in, "You guys do own a vacuum, don't you?" and "When was the last time someone washed a dish?"

In fact, the second those words escaped my lips, I realized how horribly nagging they sounded. And realized, too, why mothers do that. Why they come to the college or apartment or wherever the place is that the kids are trying to attain adulthood, and say things like, "Is there a hanger for this coat or do you want it on the floor?"

It is a sad, pathetic attempt to remain the Roaring Mom.

It was a good weekend. We laughed about things you can't enjoy with your highschooler because you like to pretend they don't get the punchline to those kinds of jokes. We discussed real societal issues, instead of stupid teachers and gossipy girls. At times, we surprised each other when we remembered we were talking to our mom/daughter. And there were many instances when I am sure she felt responsible for my safety and well-being while we explored the big city. I recognized it because it's exactly what I had felt on our family vacation there years earlier.

The moment you realize your kid has got it all under control, your heart bursts. There is an immediate urge to snatch up the Life Remote, punch the rewind button and never, never let go. It's only when you get back home, in the silence of your baby's absence when you understand that thing that burst your heart wide and painfully open, was pride. Pride that you had some hand in getting her there. And even more pride in the fact that she found most of her way on her own.

One of Kate's first big words was "independent". She used to raise her little hand in the air, point her index finger to the sky and announce. "I'm independent!" She's fought for that word her whole life. And now, she does "independent" beautifully!

How do I become a Roaring Mom of an Adult Child? Yes, it's a very strange place to be.  Especially when I still have non-adult children to be a Roaring Mom to. But there was a time when I didn't have the slightest idea how to be a Roaring mom to anything. And figuring that out seemed somewhat strange, too. But just like then, I'll figure it out as I go along. It will only be strange until it's normal. Then, I hope, it will be beautiful, too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


You know, they say some day we might be able to live on Mars. We already have a Space Station that sustains life for astronauts for months and months. I'm wondering, if I had been down in that hole in Chile, if I wouldn't have opted out of the 15 minute capsule ride and just taken up residence down there.

If being trapped in the dark with 33 men wouldn't have put me over the edge, I know the capsule ride would have. I'm just a little bit on the claustrophobic side.

I panic when I'm in an enclosed place that I can't see my way out of.

I'm a firm believer that it is our neurosis that keep us sane. Embrace your neurosis and it will keep you from slipping into psychosis. At least, that's what I believe. That belief has actually worked for me over the years. Especially since I became a mom. Roaring Mom philosophy states that we offer a better show of strength to our children when they can see our weaknesses and also see us work through them. Nevertheless, I did try to calm my few neurosis when my kids were younger, if for no other reason than to not scare them.

Case in point: Several years ago we visited the caves in Hannibal, Missouri (Mark Twain's boyhood home) while on our family vacation. This was pretty cool because I've always enjoyed Mark Twain and the kids were all big fans of the movie Tom and Huck. The caves were the exact same caves Mark Twain explored as a child and brought to life in his Tom sawyer and Huckleberry Finn adventures. Number Two Under the Cross, where Tom and Huck find the treasure, is a real life, actual place! And because of the nature of caves, it looks pretty much the same as it did back then. With the exception of a wall full of autographs from when they used to let visitors sign their names.

Anyway, we're touring these caves. In several places, the tour group had to walk single file. As I remember it, at the narrowest point, the path is only 19 inches wide. I had stayed back to take a picture and got separated from the rest of the family. They were just a few people ahead of me, but I couldn't see them because I ended up in the single file line behind a man whose head practically touched the cave ceiling, whose shoulders filled the cavity, and whose butt, I KNOW, was more than 19 inches wide. I couldn't see my kids and, more importantly, I couldn't see my way out.

I felt my throat start to close up and my chest tighten. My skin became clammy and my heart raced. Tears welled up and I knew I was going to cry or scream or have a seizure at any moment. I needed to calm down, so I did what any panic-stricken, neurosis-embracing mom would do...I inhaled deeply through the nose and out the mouth. In through the nose. Out through he mouth. In through the nose...

Oh No He Didn't!

Oh Yes He Did!

He cut one right in front of me. A big, nasty, stinky one.

I couldn't get past him. I couldn't turn around. I couldn't hold my breath because the deep breathing was the only thing keeping me from full-blown anxiety attack.

So I kept breathing. In through the nose. Out through the...nose. Ain't no way I was opening my mouth in that foul smelling air. In, out, in, out, until I finally just had to laugh.

I heard a sweet voice from up ahead, "Mom, what are you doing?"

"Oh, nothing, sweetie. Just embracing my neurosis."


Who knows? Maybe I would have been okay in that capsule. As long as I remembered to breath. And laugh. Amazingly, that's exactly how the trapped miners seem to keep their sanity, too. The videos of these brave men, smiling and joking and singing in the cave were almost as inspiring as the emerging Phoenix. And nearly as miraculous. The human spirit is a wonderful thing, is it not?

Congratulations to the Chilean miners and their loved ones! You've inspired us to embrace much more than our neurosis. You've inspired us to embrace life, whether it's on Mars, a Space Station, or a deep, dark hole in the ground. God Bless You All!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Favorite Breast Cancer Survivor

When the Quiet and Calculating one was a baby, I stopped singing for church services. My older kids went to Catholic school, which meant daily mass. On Fridays, all grades attended together and I helped out my songleading. But when my third daughter was born, that came to a stop. As did everything else in my life that required me to be more than 10 feet away from her.

You know when the baby is brand new, sweet and cuddly, soft and huggy, and all your friends and neighbors offer to babysit so you can take a nap or clean your house or take the other kids to a park or go out with your husband? And you know how you never take them up on it because you realize they don't really mean it anyway? Well, I took them up on it. I had no choice. With this baby, we went through "sitters" faster than we went through diapers.

She was a crier! She cried for the neighbors who so lovingly offered to keep her one night. At the end of the evening, the wife said, "She might be coming down with something. She was a little fussy." The husband added, in a very matter of fact tone, "She screamed for two hours." She cried for Grandma. Her dad and I had to get doggy bags before our food even made it to the table on the one and only time Grandma tried "sitting" with the baby. She even cried for the "Super Sitter" who had babysat all the cousins for years. And we're talking dozens of cousins! She'd never met a baby who didn't worship her. Until Quiet and Calculating came along.

So when the school asked when I was coming back to help sing, I explained to them it was impossible. The baby wouldn't allow it. That's when my new best friend, Sally Cannata, stepped forward and offered to hold her at church so I could sing. I'm not sure if it was the chance to have someone else hold her for even one hour that got me back to church or  the inability to say no, but I gave it a try. And you know what happened? My baby LOVED Sally. Loved her. Didn't make a peep. In fact, she may have actually giggled a time or two.

I am soooooo blessed that Sally loved my baby back because Sally became my go-to girl. She watched my baby so I could go to the dentist or get a haircut. She watched her while I volunteered in my children's classroom or attended their extra curricular events. Once, when I had Strep Throat, she even watched her just so I could rest. And when I had out-of-town engagements, Sally watched all 3 of my girls for 2 or 3 days at a time! And when we added a son to our family, she took him in, too. And Sally had 3 kids of her own.

My baby girl and Sally developed a special bond. My daughter called her "My Nata" and still refers to her that way today. My children still remember the good times in Sally's care. They always came home with fabulous crafts, and tummies full of home baked cookies, as well as stories full of laughter. Her love for my children is woven into the fabric of our lives.

Sally is a true friend. How many of those are we lucky enough to have in this life? I'm not talking about the ones who can be counted on to be there when the going's good. I'm talking about the ones who truly give from the heart. The ones with a heart so big that the giving is endless.

Before I knew Sally, she had survived breast cancer. She was only 38 when she was diagnosed. I didn't know her then, but I can imagine how she battled the disease. I've never seen her face a hardship with anything other than strength, grace, and humor. No wonder my crier was no threat to her. Sometimes, when I witness the calm determination and the witty humor and the big heart of my baby girl (who's now almost 13) I have to believe when Sally loved my daughter, she instilled in her these great gifts.

I don't know why my baby girl was so fussy with everyone else. But when Sally came along, I think my daughter recognized the heart of a great warrior and the smile of a compassionate friend. She recognized someone a lot like the young woman she would grow up to be.

Thank you, Sally, for sharing yourself with my family. You have truly blessed our lives.

If you have a favorite Breast Cancer Survivor, please share her name here so we can all add her to our prayers of gratitude.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Botched Birthday

It was the worst birthday party ever.

Of course, because that's the way my sitcom of a life goes, the disaster occurred at the birthday party of my one child who plans everything in excruciating detail--four months in advance. With multiple lists. And week by week schedules of tasks to be completed.

Sophie chose her favorite part of the park for the celebration. She even coerced her siblings into making signs to guide the mothers around to the party place. Since her birthday is in September, outdoor parties for her were not uncommon. The year of her 9th birthday, however, it was uncommonly hot. And, of course, she chose the one playground area with extremely limited tree coverage. Here's how it went down:

The first activity on the agenda was free play while the parents set up the picnic table and games. The guests were very excited when they arrived and played for about 15 minutes before discovering why this particular playground had been the last one in the park not claimed by anyone else that day. And no, it wasn't the excruciating heat with no shade relief. Instead, it was the way the cockle burrs had completely taken over the entire playground area. After 15 minutes of free play, the girls ran over all in a tizzy over the stickers sticking in their socks and on their shoe strings. They started picking them off, which escalated the tizzy to a torrent of shrieks as the sticker picking pricked their digits.

Attempting to stay on track with Sophie's time schedule, we ushered the guests to the picnic table where pie tins of whipped cream awaited them. Inside each tin was a piece of bubble gum. The ideas was to dive face first into the whipped cream and find the bubble gum. The first one to blow a bubble wins the game.

Ready, Set, Go! The girls dive in! And so do the swarm of bumble bees who apparently found the party game too sweet to resist. The girls run...across the prickly the bathrooms to wash off the stickiness. The parents dispose of the pie tins and grab the pinata in a last ditch effort to save the party. Everyone loves a good pinata.

Back come the guests, through the prickly stickers. The pounding of the pinata proceeds. Yes! No one pokes an eye out. Everyone gets a turn. The last girls busts it open and the candy flies.

Ok, push pause for just a second. A little note about Sophie...she doesn't like chocolate. Another genetic mutation, I'm sure. We love her anyway. Although she had given me a specific list of what she wanted in the pinata, I decided that just because Sophie doesn't like chocolate, doesn't mean the guests should be deprived. I had filled that sucker full with miniature chocolate bars. And a few fruit snacks for the birthday girl. Ok, resume...

As the flying candy hit the prickly sticker covered ground, it landed with a splat. After all, this day set the record high temperature for September. The guests opted out of the melted chocolate finger pricking pick up game.

So the parents plucked more stickers from socks and shoelaces. Sophie opened her presents. And the guests got the heck out of there.

Still, I don't remember one crying kid or or any drama queen huffing or puffing. Amid the bloody finger tips and bumble bee swarms and wasted chocolate, there was laughter and friendship. We still laugh about that birthday, especially when things aren't going quite as we've planned. Which, if you've read even a few Roaring Mom entries, you know is most of the time.

We don't remember what candy was inside any other pinata we've ever busted open. We don't remember the exact location of many a park party. We don't recall all the silly games we convinced our friends to dive into over the years. But we remember all of that and more from the Botched Birthday. We remember the smiles and the fun. We remember that it was a Happy Birthday. Probably one of the best birthday parties ever.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful girls! And many, many more!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

There's Only One Maxer Cat

Every kid should have a pet. Think about it. The ideal childhood memory usually involves a puppy or a kitten or at least a goldfish. Even the annoying little red monster Elmo has a goldfish. We have certainly had our share of pets: dogs, cats, hamsters, a bird, and even some fish.

The ironic thing about pets is that they never really come with a happy ending. When Santa brought my daughter a hamster one Christmas Eve, did he know it came with only a 2 year life span? For 24 months we fell in love with this goofy little rodent we nicknamed Houdini. There wasn't a cage made that could hold her. And then one day, she just died. That was it. No more wild house hunts for the sneaky, little furball. No more gut-busting laughter while she stuffed her cheeks to twice her body size. No more panicked rescues from the plastic tubing she'd tried to shove her gigantor cheek pouches through.

The demise of the pet fish was way worse than Houdini's sudden departure. They were boiled to death. Apparently the aquarium experienced a malfunction and in the middle of movie night, someone noticed half our fish floating belly up in the tank. I'm still not sure exactly what happened, but somehow the water had heated up. It was more disgusting than sad, scooping out the once graceful angel fish, crotchety giant gold fish and their deceased posse.

 The truth is, I never really like the fish anyway. I'm more of a cat person. Even if our cat, Maxer, wasn't much of a people cat.

Maxer was, hands down, the very best cat in the world. He was beyond self-sufficient. It didn't matter if the kids forgot to feed him--three of four days in a row. He didn't need some human handing him a meal on a silver platter. He'd rather hunt down his own grub. And as for a litter box? Pshaw! The great outdoors was his litter box!

Maxer kept to himself, for the most part. But, strangely enough, he quietly appeared just when he was needed most. Whenever I found him snuggled up with one of the kids, I knew there was a home-from-school-sick-day coming. And he wouldn't leave them until they were well. Maxer endured whatever play the children's imagination could create. And as they grew up, he did too. He seemed to understand heartbreak, rubbing his soft body against your leg and comforting you with a vibrating purr that could be heard clear in the next room. And he made us laugh every time he tormented the alien beasts we call dogs. I truly think he hated those dogs.

In his younger days, Maxer was the toughest brute. But in his later years, when he lost his quickness and his strength, he still surprised us every now and then. Like the time he out ran two pit bulls and climbed just high enough up a small tree to be safe, but still make them go nuts trying to get to him. This summer, at nearly 17, he began to really show his age. There were many times I didn't think he'd make it through the day. And finally, last Friday, he didn't.

I think he was waiting...for Kate to leave for college, for the other kids to start school, for the start of a new season and new interests. It would have been too hard for us not have him greet us on the front walk every time we came home from baseball or swimming. To never hear his scratching at the door just so we could let him in and then right back out. It would have been too hard to never hear that loud, loud purring on those lazy summer days. He purred until the very end.

As hard as it was to say goodbye to Maxer, I still believe that every child should have a pet. It's the best form of unconditional love. And every child deserves that.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Can I Get A Heaping Helping of Normal, Please?

Normalcy? What's that?

Well, it's what all the parenting books and magazines and experts tell you to try to maintain when your family is going through the divorce transition. I'm wondering what exactly a parent is supposed to do when your family was never normal to begin with? And as far as going through the transition? Well, that's never really over, is it?

Now that we are a few years out, my educated guess that "maintaining normalcy" means to forge ahead like nothing is different. I remember a moment when we were just a few months post divorce and Frank developed this habit of asking the same question every single night.  "Hey, Mom, what's for dinner?"  On one particularly trying day, Frank came into the kitchen and asked this very normal question again. I took a deep breath, counted as close to ten as I could get and explained to him in my serious voice (which is quite an abnormal voice for me) that I truly, truly hated that question.

I don't know if that question bothers other moms, but it drives me nuts! WHY do they want to know what's for dinner? Is it so they can decide if they want to do the Secret Pizza Hut dial on the cell phone? Is it a gentle reminder that the rumbling noise echoing through the house for the last 30 minutes means everyone is starving? Could they be taking some kind of scientific poll to see how many times a week Mac-n-Cheese can pass for dinner? Why do they need to know?

Poor Frank. After enduring one of my well-worded, perfectly punctuated lectures, he smiles, hugs me, and cautiously whispers. "OK, but I still kinda want to know what's for dinner."

Years later, he's still asking almost every night, "What's for dinner?" I'm not sure why this habit started. Maybe, at first, it was his way of focusing on the "normal" stuff of families. He might have two homes now, and divide his holidays between parents, but there is always dinner. Or maybe (as is quite normal for me) I'm reading too much into it and he truly just wants to know what's for dinner. And sometimes, I'm quite sure, he asks just for the thrill-seeking pleasure of it. Nothing says you're living on the edge like sneaking up behind a knife-wielding, chicken-carving Roaring Mom at the end of hectic day and asking, "What's for dinner?"

I honestly don't know how well we maintained "normalcy" through the transition. In fact, we're still trying to figure out a whole lot of stuff.

A little over a week ago my oldest daughter left for college. She left behind a mess of clothes the sisters aren't sure if they are allowed to wear or not, an empty bedroom the siblings are wondering if they still have to stay out of, a cat she rescued a couple months ago that I'm not sure I'm obligated to keep, and a few decibels of noise level we're doing our best to fill up. In other words, we're once again striving to maintain "normalcy".

Tonight, after I finished the Roaring Mom Round-up (otherwise known as the extra-curricular taxi time), Frank followed me into the kitchen and asked, "What's for dinner?" This time I hugged him. It's good to know that, at least for now, some things remain.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Psycho Ex

Don't worry. This post isn't what you think. It isn't a brutal bagging on my ex-husband. That would be unfair, tacky, and wrong. So let's get the straight right now. I do not believe in ex-bashing. Especially in a public forum and NEVER in front of your children. Maybe in private with your best girlfriend and couple of Margaritas. In fact, that situation might just be necessary for your mental health. But that's about the only time it's appropriate.

One thing I've noticed that all divorced people have in common is the Psycho Ex. I have a friend whose ex accused her of being a lesbian in an attempt to get custody. There's a lady I know whose ex was a doctor, but when she left, he quit and went to work part time at a liquor store just so he wouldn't have to pay any support. I know of a woman whose ex injured himself and then accused her of physical abuse when all the while he was stalking her. A friend of a friend had to get a restraining order against her ex, not for abuse but because when he would drop off the kids, he would come into the house and not leave. He'd just sit on the couch like he still lived there.

The Psycho ex syndrome goes both ways. I've heard of plenty of single moms with full custody who act like they own their children. They won't share doctor, school, sports information with the Dad. Then complain that he doesn't show up to events he didn't even know were taking place. I know of ex-wives who obsess over knowing who their ex is dating and then make a point of befriending that woman just so she can sabotage the relationship.

Once, when I was still married, we went to dinner with a friend of ours and his new wife. It was awkward because we had been friends with the ex-wife. It was also awkward because the new wife spent the entire dinner telling stories of "psycho" stuff the ex wife had allegedly done. And I spent the entire dinner trying hard not to say, "Well, you were the secretary that her husband was sleeping with for years and eventually left her for. That tends to make a woman mad, if not a little crazy."

It's clear that psycho ex-spouses come in all forms. You've got your stalkers, your drama queens, your guilt-trippers, your child-owners, your control freaks, your deadbeats, your mid-life crisis clowns, and your everyday wackjobs. This roaring mom isn't even going to breach the subject of the seriously deranged and dangerous. Except to say that if you are in a relationship with one of those, get out now. And get help. Don't wait and let someone read in your diary that if something ever happens to you, they should suspect your ex.

Still, I wonder...if every divorced person has a psycho ex, does that mean that I am a psycho ex, as well? I've never heard anyone say, "My ex is a perfectly wonderful human being and the most accommodating, generous, beautiful ex-spouse in the world." If you are divorced, do you sometimes wonder what story others are getting about your ex's psycho ex?

I commend myself that I have never even come close to committing the above referenced scenarios. But I know for a fact that I've done some things that my ex would probably consider to be crazy. I'm pretty sure he blames the 18 year old's tattoo on me since I am her only tattooed parent. Her nose piercing was probably my fault too, for being so lenient with the tattoo situation. Telling the kids they needed to talk their dad into getting a puppy so they could have pets at both houses was probably a little bit conniving, as well. But, hey, I've always admitted that I'm just one estrogen charged bad hair day away from the nut house. In fact, when I look around at the inundation of Lego's and soccer balls and music books and rescued kittens and more children in my house than I can legally claim even when mine are at their dad's that week, I'm pretty sure I'm already living in one.

So I guess the point is, single parents, if you are going to be psycho, do it in a way that ends in puppies and diamond studs (even if the studs are stuck in your 18 yr old's nose). At the very least, do it in a way that will eventually bring laughter, and I don't mean the evil scientist laughter. Not only will it make for less awkward dinner parties, but it might just make post-divorce life a more joyous place to live.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Random White Trash Mattress

DISCLAIMER: If you consider yourself to be white trash, or if your ancestors were white trash, please read no further. I will probably offend you.

About five years ago, we purchased my son a new mattress for his bed. The old mattress was a perfectly good mattress. It wasn't falling apart or anything. We just upgraded him to something more supportive. The kids immediately found many playful uses for the old one. So we kept it. For the kids to play with. Just for the summer.

And the next summer.

And the next.

In fact, it now is a permanent fixture on the floor of the downstairs family room. We fondly refer to it as the random mattress. Well, maybe I don't refer to it so fondly. It's more like, "I swear I'm gonna burn that stupid, ugly random mattress if you don't get it out of the middle of my family room." Obviously five years of threatening arson has made not any impression whatsoever on any member of the household. Even the alien beasts we call dogs laugh at me from the random mattress.

My kids love the random mattress. All their friends love the random mattress. Having it means the family room is always ready for a slumber party. I, however, think it's an ugly tripping hazard that makes me feel very white trash. But, I also realize I can't actually burn it and it won't fit in the trash cart, so I don't know how I'd get rid of it anyway. If only I had a pick-up I could throw it in the back of...

And that's not the only thing about my post-divorce house that brings on that white trash feeling. There's the weed patch in my backyard due to the broken lawn mower, and the remnants of last year's Christmas tree that I know is hiding somewhere in there. You see, I was never in charge of Christmas tree disposal, so I tossed it in the backyard until I located the place to recycle it, but never was able to find that out. There's also the brown patch of grass in the front yard caused by the broken sprinkler head-induced drought. There was the dead tree in the front garden, until a friend helped pull most of it down except for about four foot of the stump so every time I pull into the driveway I feel like I'm being flipped off by the dead tree that I dared strip of its bare branches. (OK, I realize no one else probably sees the skinny dead tree stump as one giant "naughty finger" pointing to the sky, but remember whose twisted brain is blogging here.)

So when the downstairs couch popped a seem causing the stuffing to burst from the cushion I was very tempted to just put the couch on the porch. It would provide a comfortable spot to watch my brown grass grow, would it not? But we wouldn't be able to watch anything after the sun goes down because the porch light has been burnt out for at least 3 weeks. (The ladder that was tall enough to reach the porch ceiling didn't stay with the house.)

It's always a learning experience, this post-divorce, single woman life. While I have learned that men are good for some things, (like fixing mowers and sprinkler heads) I've also learned the importance of self-dependency. On some days, it would be very easy to feel bitter or jealous or something negative knowing that the ex-husband has a very nice brand new home filled with very nice brand new furniture cleaned by a professional cleaning service and surrounded by a beautiful yard kept by a professional lawn service.

But the feeling doesn't last long. Whenever I pout over the lack of a new sofa, I inevitably find peanut butter smeared on the old one. Just the other day, my daughter pointed out how everyone's grass seems pretty brown and dry this summer. Hmmm...guess I was too busy obsessing over my own yard to notice anyone else's. And nothing brings a smile like the vision of exhausted kids sprawled on the stupid random mattress the morning after a night full of laughter and happy memory making.

I guess it's good to have stuff around to remind me that just because life is messy, doesn't mean it isn't wonderful. That just because the stuffing is exploding from my sofa and my dogs nap daily on a random mattress doesn't mean our life is trashy at all. In fact, the true value of life is much more obvious when you're surrounded by hazards and inconveniences.

So if you stop by my house, don't be offended by the tree stump greeting or feel awkward about the shabby furniture. Just smile and make yourself comfortable on the random mattress. You'll soon feel like one of the family. Heck, we might even share our moonshine with ya.

Ya'll come back now, ya hear!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Yes, it's been a while since my last post. That's because I've been busy...swimming in my pool! Can you believe it? It's finally up and filled and has stayed that far anyway.

How did we do it? Two Steps: Determination and Perseverance.

Of course, while Frank and I shovelled more rock in the 100 degree, scorching sun, we both complained and whined and griped and wondered if the work was even worth it. Like a good mom, I encouraged him and said the pool would be even more fun because of what we had to go through to set it up. Not sure he bought it. Even after splashing around in our little oasis and repeatedly dunking his sister, I'm still not sure he bought it.

While I was floating on my back, enjoying the beautiful summer sky two nights ago, I wondered if (like over achieving) determination and perseverance is passed down through our genes. If so, my quiet and calculating daughter received and overabundance of them. Once, when she was about 5 or 6, we were swimming at the Y. She wanted to go down the indoor slide.

Lifeguard: "I'm sorry. You have to be able to swim all the way across the deep end and back to be able to go down the slide."

QC: "I can."

Lifeguard: Smiling sweetly. "I don't think so. I'm sorry."

So my daughter, who had never swum more than about 5 feet on her own jumped in the deep end and swam all the way across and back. She pulls herself out of the pool, plants her hands on her hips and glares at the lifeguard. "Can I go down the slide now?"

The same daughter loves to help me bake. When she was a toddler, I put her in charge of dumping. Whenever an ingredient needed to be added, it was her job to dump it in. We made a good team in the kitchen and it was usually a lot of fun. Except when it came to making chocolate chip cookies. She wouldn't "dump" the chips. She added them to the dough one by one. It made me nuts! But she liked the single chip method and no amount of cajoling, coercing, threatening, or begging would change her way of doing things.

It's makes us crazy, doesn't it, when kids set out to get what they want? It's funny when Family Guy's Stewie starts his "Mom. Mama. Mom. Mommy. Mom..." It's funny because we've ALL heard it. Or how about the Simspons "Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? No." The kids KNOW they are driving us crazy and yet the persevere because they also know that eventually they will get what they want, right?

So what happens? Why, as adult women, is it so hard for some of us to ask for what we want? And to persevere until we get it? Studies show that women are less likely to ask for raises or promotions. We're less likely to enter a job interview and ask for the pay we really want right from the beginning.Why is it so difficult for some adult women to open their mouths and say, "This is what I want and I'm going to get it. I hope you support me, but if you don't I'm doing it anyway?" Is it because we don't feel we deserve it? Are we afraid we will seem pushy?

Even though it wasn't easy and it took a whole lot longer than 15 minutes, with determination and perseverance, I finally got my pool. Because I wanted it. I thought we deserved it. And I didn't want to disappoint my kids. But somehow, nearly passing out from blowing up the inflatable top, shoveling rocks for days in the blazing sun, dealing with the odorous swampy bog, filling and re-filling the water was a whole lot easier than finding that same determination outside the confines of my backyard. Hmmm...Maybe the lesson here wasn't for my son, but for me.

While we're enjoying the last days of summer, take some time to find your inner child. It might require you to spontaneously jump in the deep end. Or shovel some rock in the blazing sun. Or open your mouth and ask for what you really want. True, you might drive someone crazy. But in the end, when you are floating, peacefully gazing at the stars with a smile on your face, it will all be worth it! I promise!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Rest of the Story

I'm so glad I waited to blog about the pool set-up, otherwise you wouldn't know...the rest of the story.

The next day, after church, we bring home our 80 pound box containing our pool. We get it to the backyard and start the 15 minute set-up. Good thing we didn't set the timer, too. It would still be ticking.

Here are the few, easy steps included in setting up our pool:

Day 1: Dump out the contents of the 80 pound box that we managed to drag from the car to the backyard. All parts accounted for. Even a few extras. That's a good thing, right? Next, roll out the ground tarp. Roll out the 15 ft. pool. Must inflate the top ring that goes all the way around the pool (air pump not included). In 100 degree blazing sun. Hmmm...Go buy pump. Return 30 minutes later and revive daughter who has passed out from trying to blow up the top ring w/o pump. Find extension cord. Hook up pump, turn it on. Smoke spews from the back. Nothing spews from the nozzle. Curse the stupid generic brand pump makers and my stupid decision to buy generic brand pump. Take turns blowing up top. Nearly pass out. FINALLY...fill up pool. Sort of.

Lessons of the day so far--#1. Don't buy generic brand air pumps. #2. If you want to know how drastically sloped your yard is, fill up a 15 ft. inflatable pool on it.

Day 1 (cont'd.): Hours later--Half-full pool is already flowing over one side. Shut off water. Curse the Gods! Throw a fit. Call Manly Man Dad Friend who advises me to shovel rocks from under the swing set area to level the ground under pool. Laugh hysterically at the idea of draining water, moving pool, shoveling rocks, replacing pool in 100 degree blazing order to complete the easy, 15 minute set-up. (Like that's gonna happen. I'd rather use it only half-full.)

That night, drain the pool.

Day 2: Shovel rocks. Sweat profusely. Shovel more rocks. Replace pool. Fill pool.
Pool fills enough for me to see we clearly have not fixed the slope problem. Then drains just enough to flood the yard and remind me that I forgot to plug the drain.

Lesson of the Day--#1 Plug the Drain.

Day 3: Shovel more rocks and try desperately to shove them under the still partially-filled pool. Sweat more profusely. Curse everything.

Day 4: Aaaaarrrrrrrgggggggg!!!!!!!!!!!!

Day 5: It's just too hot.

Day 6: Renewed determination. Try to flip pool by myself to move the rocks and fix the slope. Try again. And again. And once more. Too much water left in the bottom for one person to lift.

Day 7: Frank helps me flip the pool! Fifteen foot circle of rotting grass under pool sends sewer-like emissions wafting through the neighborhood. We run for the house. My two stupid dogs run for the nasty bog and roll their bodies in the sludge. Then run back in the house.

Day 8: Wonder if the generic brand of odor-eliminating air freshener would be just as good as the name-brand odor eliminating air freshener.

Day 9: Consider calling Boxman for one of those bigger boxes to load up the remnants of our 15 minutes set-up.

Day 10: Frank: "Mom, when are we gonna build that tree house you promised me?"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

15 Minute Set Up...But Ya Gotta Buy It First

So I'm at the grocery store (yes, again!). It's about 1:00 am and my quiet yet calculating daughter is with me. Don't even ask how and why that occurred. It's a blog in itself. But it's an emergency run for milk and tortilla chips.

The kids have been wanting to buy a pool. You know, the cheap, above ground kind that will only last one season. They even had a garage sale to raise the money.And since my garage is still full of the crap we couldn't sell, while I'm at the store, I snatch up a bunch of discarded produce boxes to use to pack up all the garage sale leftovers.

So the quiet and calculating daughter (hereafter referred to as QC) sees this new display of pools discounted by about $100 with your Dillon's Card. Having scoured the city the previous weekend for a pool in their price range, she decides we have to buy it NOW. They'll be sold out by morning.

At this time of night, only the self-serve check-outs are open. And tonight, of course, they are all malfunctioning. So we and about six other patrons wait for the one and only clerk who is on another register checking out some off-clock employee. Which takes FOREVER. At least it seems like that when you are holding five flattened produce boxes. You know, there's just no easy way to hold on to those things.

Guy behind us: "Hey, you need some boxes?"

Me: "Nope. I got some boxes."

Guy: "I've got some more. Their bigger. I'd be glad to let you have them."

Me: "Thanks but if they are too big I won't be able to lift them when they're full."

Guy: "Are you sure? I could get you those boxes. They're about this high (gestures to his waist) and they held..."

Me: (Stopped listening).

FINALLY the one and only clerk tells us we have to go back over to the self-check-out. We explain the situation. Flustered, she scurries over to fix the problem. Which takes FOREVER. At least it seems like that when you're holding 5 flattened produce boxes. We tell her we want to get a pool and she freezes.

Clerk: "I don't know how to do that. Hold on. I have to call someone."

Then she proceeds to help Box Guy, who, as he's leaving assures me he can bring by those boxes if I want him to. Keep walkin', Mr Box Man. Then she helps a couple other people. THEN, she makes the call.

Clerk: "Okay, I think I know how to do that. But you'll have to pick it up tomorrow. There's no one here to get it from the back."

Fine. In the mean time, High-as-a-Kite-Dreadlock-kid comes into buy sweet cigars. Which the clerk doesn't know how to do. So she has to call someone. Which takes FOREVER, especially when you're holding...oh, nevermind.

It's our turn, at last. We scan the Dillon's card, but something is amuck. We scan again. And again.

In the meantime, Dreadlocks is back and he's brought Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum with him. Only I would never call them that to their faces, because I think they have both killed for lesser offenses. It seems Dreadlocks got the wrong flavor cigar. Tweedle Dee crosses his arms over his barrel chest and scowls at Clerk and me and QC. I shiver. Creepy. Tweedle Dum paces back and forth like he's gonna freakin' explode if he's doesn't get his freakin' cigar in like the next 10 seconds.

Clerk: "I don't know how to do a return or an exchange. I'm gonna have to call someone." Imagine that!

Me: (Loud throat Clearing)

Clerk: "It would probably be easier if I finish up with you, first, huh?"

Probably so, Einstien.

FINALLY, four cards scans later, we are the proud owners of a pool. Which we will pick up tomorrow. Tweedle Dum is about to blow and Tweedle Dee won't quit staring at us. Dreadlocks is nervously sweating. Sorry dudes, you are NOT getting invited to the Pool Party.

I adjust my grip on my produce boxes. QC grabs the chips and milk. I shove her out the door. There's a get-away car. Seriously, some even scarier looking thug is leaning out the window of his beat-up sedan with the motor running, smoking a cigarette. We practically run to the van.

QC: "Those guys were creepy, Mom."

Me: "Yes they were. A lesson to you. Nothing is so important that you need to go to the grocery store at 1 in the morning."

She looked a little freaked out.

Me: (trying to lighten things up) "But we did get our pool! And it says it only takes 15 minutes to set up and be ready for water."

QC: "But, mom, the guy who wrote that doesn't know our family!"

A sinking feeling told me she was right. After all, it only took us 60 minutes to purchase it.

And just wait until you hear what happened when we got it home and set it up. Or tried to anyway!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Saying Something

I've been trying to figure out what to say. I feel compelled to say something. And I know there is a life lesson or a thought-provoking comment hiding somewhere in the situation. And I also know there is nothing even remotely close to humorous about the event on my heart. I just can't figure out what to say. So I'll just let the thoughts flow and maybe you'll find a message. Maybe you won't.

A couple years ago my children attended a new school. It was a good school filled with a lot of good families. It wasn't a perfect school, as no educational institution is. It's reputation of being filled with "cliques" and having issues with bullies wasn't just a rumor. Although there was a lot to recommend this school, my children and I also found it difficult at times to penetrate the well-guarded walls encircling the "cliques". We also struggled with the infamous bullies, but that's another blog.

It was a new concept for us. We have always been involved. I can't think of an area I haven't volunteered for. And my kids, as I'm sure you've gathered if you've read even a few of the Roaring Mom posts, are not quiet wallflowers. This particular school year was difficult for us anyway. We were only a few months into the divorce. The kids were being shuffled between mom's house and dad's house and now they were at a new school. We truly needed to not only feel welcome, but also feel like our Catholic family was still okay, regardless of the divorce.

Fortunately, for every old-blood family who had been in this community forever and would be there generations from now and really wasn't interested in getting to know newbies, there was also a family with welcoming smiles and friendly demeanor. So we gravitated to them and tried to forget the rest.

Let me tell you about one of these families. I met the dad first. Carl Hall and I served on the same committee--the athletic committee. Yes, I know that might be a little comical--me on a sports council. But I was there for my kids and their interests, not because of any delusion that I had any athletic tendencies whatsoever. He was one of the 4 or 5 people on this large committee who constantly greeted everyone--even this non-athletic newcomer--with a smile. Next, I met his daughter. She, like her father, is quite an athlete. My daughter played on the basketball team that year. And although Sophie held several track and field records, she sorely lacked experience on a basketball court. And yet Carl's daughter accepted Sophie, encouraged her, and befriended her. And, like her father, Megan always had a welcoming smile on her face.

When I met Stacey, Carl's wife, I immediately felt at ease. She is funny and friendly and humble. She could have very easily taken the "my daughter is so much better than yours, we don't even belong on the same bleachers" approach. But she didn't.

We didn't become close friends with this family. And since my children attend a different school and church now, we almost never see the Halls. I've never told Carl or Stacey or Megan, for that matter, how much I appreciated their smiling faces. How I would be standing by myself at yet another event, feeling awkward and out of place but needing to make a go of it, and I would see their family and it would remind me that new friends were out there.

This beautiful family, who made us feel welcome when we were dealing with difficult life transitions, is now in the middle of it's own crisis. Recently, while on the way to a baseball tournament, the family was in a car accident. While Stacey and Megan and the other 3 children escaped injury, Carl is now hospitalized--paralyzed. In a matter of seconds, the Hall family's life changed drastically, devastatingly, unbelievably, permanently.

I understand that it is natural for us to find perspective in another person's tragedy. Hearing about the Hall family immediately makes us want to hug our children more, appreciate our families more, work harder, laugh louder, love stronger. However, I can't help but to feel a little pathetic using someone else's hardship as a reason to count my blessings. Shouldn't we be able to count our blessings without Carl Hall having to become paralyzed?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post--I really don't know what to say. Maybe this blog is wasted words. Maybe I've just become one of those gossiping biddies who share bad news because they like the attention. God, I hope not. Maybe the message is that when you share a smile, you might just be touching someone's heart more than you know. Maybe the message is to enjoy every mile of this journey, because you just don't know what's around the corner. Maybe the message really is to count your blessings. I honestly don't know.

If nothing else, my message is to ask you to pray. Because even when we're mad at God, I think he still hears our prayers. Doesn't he?

Please go to to find out how you can help Carl and his family. On facebook go to Carl Hall Recovery Fan Club.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wonder Woman to the Rescue!

It's "Open Mic Nite" in heaven and God's using my life as a punchline again.

June was supposed to be about finding balance.

Isn't it funny that I haven't had enough balance to find a few minutes to write in two weeks?!

Well, I find it amusing anyway. I sort of have to find it amusing. Because this is the way God deals with me quite frequently.

My kids still tease me about the time when I was praying to God for patience. I was a young stay-at-home mom with four kids and I desperately needed all the patience He would grant me. So I started a daily prayer for patience. And here's how the funny, funny man upstairs answered that request.

It was one of those Sundays at church where you truly, truly believe in Satan because he's been trying to sabotage you all morning. There was the misplaced shoes, the breakfast on the favorite dress, the last minute diaper change, the uncooperative carseat. Everything was working against us. But we forged on, arriving only 2 or 10 minutes late. Luckily, there was a nearly empty pew which we not-so-quietly scooted into.

Almost immediately I noticed it--a high pitched, eardrum piercing beeping noise. I casually scanned the church-goers sitting near us, but I couldn't tell where the noise was coming from. Then dread descended upon me. I grabbed the diaper bag and scrounged through it, looking for some wayward battery-operated toy that must have been inadvertently shoved in the bag. Nothing. Hmmm.

The beeping continued while one kid tugged on my sleeve. "What's that noise, Mommy?" And another shoved her palms to her ears and frowned through through the entire service. And another joined in by mimicking, which of course caused the fouth to come down with a contagious case of the giggles. All the while, that beeping was like an ice pick in my ear.

Towards the end of the service, when the congregation kneels in silent prayer and I repeated my patience prayer over and over and over, the contagious giggles overcame me, too. This is how God delivers patience. He throws me in the middle of situations where I have to practice it. Thanks, God.

June has been a month full of beeping church days. Last weekend my amazing, corporate working Mom sister was supposed to come to town and organize my life. In just a few hours she was going to perfect my balancing act. She sent me encouraging e-mails and voice mails to prepare me for the changes she was going to make. Which, honestly, scared me just a little. I didn't realize finding balance would require such drastic action. But I was ready and willing and exited. My sister is Wonder Woman. I've always had a secret desire to be Wonder Woman. I was eager to join the Wonder Woman ranks.

Then something really funny happened. When Wonder Woman flew into town, guess what? She overbooked herself. We never did get to the balancing act lessons. Again, I had to laugh.

But I did learn a lesson. If even Wonder Woman can get out-of-balance sometimes, I should give myself a break. Part of the balancing act is regaining equilibrium when you are about to go over the edge. And sometimes pulling yourself back up when, in fact, you can't keep from falling.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I'm Not a Hater

Did you see Kate Gosselin's new show on TLC last night? I'm not sure why they call it "Kate Plus Eight". A better name would be "In Praise of Kate" or "All Hail Kate" or maybe even "Wonder Woman". In the part of the show that I could stomach watching(which wasn't the entire hour, I admit) there was barely any "Plus Eight" at all.

This month we are discussing the balancing act carried out by all moms. Kate used to be a married, stay-at-home mom. We saw how brilliantly she balanced her own tantrums over the Disney World people daring to give ice cream on a hot day to her three year olds with her need to insult her husband because he didn't put the right color shoes on his daughter's feet. We witnessed her balance free trips to Disney World and Hawaii with the free tummy tuck and makeovers. What a struggle that was for her.

Now Kate calls herself a single working mom. Last night we saw her balance need for the spotlight with what she calls "Mom guilt". Put here's the thing--during her documented meltdown, I didn't see her crying over being away from her children or struggling over whether raising her children in the constant glare of camera lights and Paparazzi was detrimental to their emotional well-being, or even wondering whether their father did actually have some legitimate claim to sue for custody if he felt that Kate's Super Star status and schedule wasn't in the best interest of his own children. No, her biggest stressor was that she was exhausted and she was afraid she might make someone in the "industry" mad at her.

At one point during the show, Kate's friend bragged that if people only understood how much Kate was doing "by herself", they wouldn't judge her. Ironically, this comment was followed by a shot of her being chauffeured while discussing her exhaustion with her personal assistant who was making apologetic phone calls for her to the people she was supposed to be seeing that day. The next shot was of her sitting in a chair being done-up by professional hair and make-up artists. Now I realize I'm just guessing here, but my bet is that she also has a maid service and a lawn service for that million dollar home of hers.

Let me tell you, Kate Gosselin, about handling life challenges "by yourself". Trying to enter the workforce after 18 years as a stay-at-home mom, I'm realizing that I'm truly qualified to do nothing except be a mom. Yes, I have a teaching degree, but with the current hiring freeze on teachers, the few jobs available are going to people with more experience. And those two college degrees I earned--they are just enough to make me over qualified for everything else, except the things I'm under-qualified for. So mom's like me make it work without the aid of cleaning services, chauffeurs, and personal assistants until our talent agents convince TLC that we too should get paid to trip over our own feet or whine about our victimization.

And as for the custody suit your ex-husband threw at you, Kate--be blessed that you can afford a decent attorney to fight your case for you. After having my case drug out to the tune of $10,000, I represented myself for a year against my ex who is a lawyer and his big-money hire. And might I just add that my two English degrees didn't exactly prepare me for that job either. Now that is an example of doing it "by myself".

This is not a woe-is-me blog. I'm proud of how I manage to keep most of the balls in the air at the same time. Yes, one or all of them fall from time to time, but I've learned to pick them back up BY MYSELF and start juggling again. As one of my recently-single mom friends put it--we're trying to find employment in a non-existent job market and trying to pay bills with money that isn't there while trying to make our children feel physically and emotionally secure. I realize we aren't making important decisions like whether or not we can make our Dancing with the Stars rehearsal and then feeling guilty that our personal assistant has to call in for us and our chauffeur might have wasted his time by driving us half-way across town. Still, I think our kind of single-mom balancing act tips the scale in our favor.

Last night as I tried to fall asleep, the voice of Kate's Gosselin's friend haunted my brain. And now that I've vented on this subject, I understand that Kate and I do have something in common. We've both surrounded ourselves with a true-blue support system. Mine is family and friends who have never failed to offer whatever I need and even some things I didn't know I needed. I'm just glad I don't have to pay them to be by my side.

I realize my criticism might sound a little harsh. Understand that I am not anti-Kate. I'm not a hater. I understand perfectly the desperation of trying to stay in balance as a single mom. I do believe that Kate (or at least the persona she projects) has lost touch with the common folk and when she tries to claim she's one of us, it irks me!

When you choose to live your life in the spotlight, you can't complain about the glare.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Balancing Act

Motherhood is always a balancing act.

Life lessons usually present themselves to me in humorous visuals. And if a little embarrassment is used, the picture lasts even longer.

I was pregnant with my third child when my oldest entered Kindergarten. She had learned to ride her bike the summer before and was determined to ride it to school. The school was a few blocks away, but there was enough traffic that I didn't want her to ride alone. So I did what any Roaring Mom would do. I balanced my big ol' baby belly on that ten-speed (Sophie strapped into the toddler seat on the back) and accompanied my daughter to school and back every day up until one week before the baby came.

When I think back on what I must've looked like, I completely understand the snickers and stares that used to greet us. But when I consider what I balanced every day, I'm kind of proud. Not only was I physically balancing that distorted body, and a toddler, and her baby doll she wouldn't leave behind, but I was also emotionally balancing some other pretty important stuff.

First, we had Kate's desire to utilize her new skill. We had Sophie's desire to bring along her "baby". We had my desire to ensure Kate's physical safety to and from school. We also had, as always, my unending desire to make sure that they have their desires fulfilled. In reality, it might not have been the safest choice to put my pregnant body on the bike. But when you are in that third trimester, you feel pretty invincible. Or if not invincible, at least so irrationally pigheaded to do whatever the hell you want to do that you don't necessarily listen to reason, right?

With teens, maintaining equilibrium in providing for their physical needs and attending to their emotional ones only becomes more challenging. And isn't it interesting that just as they reach those teen years is just about the same time we realize that we've be neglecting another part of the balancing act--our own needs. No wonder those teen roads are so rough. We take off their training wheels and at the same time realize we may have forgotten how to navigate our own ten-speed.

Even when Kate was older, we still enjoyed riding bikes together. On one outing, I urged her to go ahead of me and lead the way. As she passed, her tire got caught in the groove between the grass and the sidewalk. The bike and Kate toppled on the path in front of me. I was going too fast to stop. I tried to swerve to the left, but I wouldn't make it all the way around the bike and I would have crashed on top of her. I couldn't swerve to the right or my wheels would have rolled over her neck or head. I panicked. I froze. I rode right over my daughter's back. A horrid scream caught in my throat.

When I jumped off my bike and ran to her, she was laughing. She was fine. No severed neck, no bruises, not even a scrape. Only a couple of tread marks on the back of her t-shirt. I was shaking so badly I could barely push my bike, let alone try to get back on. A witnesses stopped his car and asked if we needed help. Kate laughed louder, "I think she does. I'm fine."

We still laugh about that day. And Kate still milks it whenever she can. "Well, Mom, you did try to assassinate my with your bicycle."

I can't help thinking of that visual life lesson as I prepare my oldest for the next phase in her life. It's challenging enough to keep the wheel on the high wire when I am the only one steering. Letting her take the lead will be tricky. What if I've misdirected her? What if I've not prepared her for cracks and bumps and pot holes? What if I can't stop mothering and I run over her again?

If only I could strap on the helmets, air up the tires and choose an unencumbered path. If I only I could guarantee her a smooth and safe journey. But the training wheels were off a long time ago. I couldn't get her to wear a helmet if I super-glued it to her head. And as for the path...she's always chosen her own.

I guess the adjustment is now mine to make. I'm still creating balance. I'm a mom. So I guess I always will.

Recently I've been considering the never-ceasing balancing act all mothers perform. No matter what path you are on--working moms, stay-at-home moms, married moms, single moms, remarried moms are all required to find, create, and maintain balance and harmony. We're not alone on this wonderful, precarious, precious ride. So for the next few weeks I hope you'll join in the discussion. Leave your comment concerning your tricks for maintaining balance,or e-mail me privately. Can't wait to hear from you. Surely, I'm not the only Roaring Mom who's run over her own child in an attempt to balance the teen's need for space with the mom's need to stay too close.

Or does stuff like that really happen only to me?

Friday, June 4, 2010

You Like It!

My kids have been placed under house arrest. At least that's what they think.

This is the first full week of summer break and I have an agenda. We are clean-sweeping the house from top to bottom. My kids aren't used to such a rigorous schedule. They think they are being punished for some long-forgotten wrong. Amid all the howling complaints of "It's not fair!" and "How come we have to?" and "Don't touch my stuff!"--we have actually found the floors of 4 out of the 5 bedrooms. We've discovered unopened puzzle boxes and unread books and unworn clothes--all that at one time were must-haves!!

And I've discovered something else, too. I've learned that my children are spoiled. And it's completely my fault. I haven't been able to find that button that gets them to put away, clean up, or organize on their own or with constant mom-prodding (otherwise known as nagging). Except for Sophie. But she got the over-achieving gene mutation, so she doesn't count.

Actually, it just occurred to me that that gene mutation must come with a sister-prodding button. On Tuesday she somehow managed to keep Frank in his room for more than four hours. When they emerged--Frank appearing to have barely survived Armageddon--every Lego was in it's color-coded bin, each Star Wars figure was standing at attention on the proper shelf, and every single dirty sock had found the hamper.

How does she do it? She's just the sister, but she convinces them to partake in activity that this Roaring Mom couldn't coerce them into for all the light sabers in Coruscant (the Jedi home Planet, for those of you w/o 11 year old sons).

I've given this a lot of thought and I think if reincarnation exists, I'd like to come back as a little old Asian lady in the next life. And here's why:

You know when you walk into a nail salon for only a manicure. That's it. One manicure. That's all you have time for. That's all you have money for. One manicure. And the little old Asian lady says they can get you in right away. And 20 minutes later, they finally have a pedicure chair ready for you so you can get your toes done while you are waiting for the manicure station to open up. Two hours later you leave with bejeweled flowers on each toe and French acrylic nails. After all, "You like it" and "It's only two dollar."

Little old Asian ladies can get anybody to do anything AND get paid for it. AND never once make you feel like you are on house arrest!

Which makes me curious about Sophie. I guess I'm gonna have to do some family tree research. We've gotta have a little Asian in us somewhere. That would explain a lot.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kate's Karma

Patience might be a virtue, but it's not one I own. However, if I had known the wonderful, delicious, satisfying taste awaiting me in the form of consequential payback, I would have enjoyed the challenge of raising Kate even more than I have. And I might have gotten through the last 18 years without the bald patches. But I'm told the hair will grow back. Not until the youngest graduates, of course, but it will all be gray by then anyway, right?

But back to the payback.

Last week Kate experienced a last day of Catholic School Education that was hysterically karmic. Well,hysterical for me.

To truly appreciate the situation, you have understand a few things about my beautiful, stubborn, willful, hard-headed, intelligent, determined daughter. Perhaps I can most efficiently communicate my point by explaining that when she was five years old, I bought and read in one sitting a parenting book entitled The Manipulative Child. She was five. And I was already feeling continuously played. Did I mention, SHE WAS FIVE?!

Kate had her own way of getting what she wanted. Even if I went into a situation planning to say no to whatever the request was, she knew exactly how to work it so that I ended up saying yes. For example--How Kate asked to go to friend's house:

"Mom, Cory called and she's upset because her brother rode her bike and broke it and her dad said it can't be fixed and that was the bike her Grandma gave her and you know she's very close to her Grandma. You know, the same Grandma who had a heart attack last month and they thought she was gonna die. Her Grandma's doing better, but Cory's hamster actually did die, just this morning and you know that's the hamster she begged her parents for for two years and finally Santa brought it and she said that was the best Christmas ever and now she'll only remember it as a sad Christmas because the hamster died, which reminded her that her Grandma is still sick and is not getting any younger. So Cory is having a really bad day and she really wants me to come over just to bring a little happiness to her existence. Don't you think I should go over there?"

How could I say no to that?

Kate also has a knack for getting out of anything that even remotely looks like a consequence. And in Catholic school, where you get a demerit for having the wrong color socks or even the wrong color ink in your ballpoint, getting out of consequences is quite an accomplishment. Here's how Karma finally came back around:

I tried to wake her up before I left. Even though it makes her mad because I leave 10minutes before her alarm goes off so I interrupt her precious last 10 minutes, I do it anyway. Habit, I guess. But this time she fell back to sleep and the alarm failed. Score 1 for Karma! SO she wakes up 45 minutes late, pulls on whatever clothes happen to be on the top of the clothes hamper that is her bedroom floor and speeds to school. She missed her first hour finals. She's sent to the Principal's office where not one, but three principals interrogate her on the reason for her disheveled tardiness. Luckily, they believe her excuse, but don't excuse her absence. And for that, she must serve a detention...during 4th the lunchroom...on her last day...with 800 student witnesses.

So Kate, still bedheaded and morning-breathed and now red-faced heads to the lunchroom where she sweeps and mops and wipes and cleans everyone else's garbage. Then, they marched her to the hallway to clean those because she was out of uniform!

When I hear this, I have to laugh because she doesn't even clean up her own garbage at home. That's mom's job, right?

I remember when I was Kate's age and how my parents used to shake their heads and tell me they hope that when I have children of my own that they are just like me. They were true believers in "what goes around comes around." And now I've joined that club--the one where membership is earned only when you've been able to witness whatever your kids sent around, coming back around. I'm actually a VIP member, because Kate's Karma was witnessed and documented by her peers.

I'm also a true believer that if you are going to laugh at a situation sooner or later, you might as well make it sooner. Luckily, that is one bit of mom philosophy that Kate has bought into. It served her well on the last day of Catholic School and I'm sure it will serve her well next time Karma comes around.

By the way, Kate--for all the laughter and smiles and happiness that you have sent around--be patient. If you learned nothing else in 12 years of school, surely you'll never forget your last day lesson. What goes around comes around. If you are patient enough to wait for it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cools Moms

On occasion I've been accused of being a cool mom. Mind you these accusations didn't come when I was caught belting Josh Groban in the car...with the windows the stoplight in front of the high school. They also didn't come as I sobbed, red-nosed and wet-faced because I always forget the Kleenex, at every single show my kids performed from preschool Christmas concerts to professional Dinner Theatre. They certainly didn't come when I excitedly cheered, until my I lost my voice, for our team's goalie as she stopped shot after shot after shot...and called her by her sister's name the entire time. No, those were certainly not my Cool Mom Moments. Those blunders, however, pale to nothingness when compared to the story I read recently of a very uncool mom.

Imagine the scene: The 13 year old daughter is pumped because her mom said she could invite some girls over for a slumber party. Her mom is "cool". She knows how to have a good time. This mom's party planning goes way beyond ghost stories and gossip. So the girls come over, ready for a night no one will forget. Maybe. Or maybe most of them won't remember it. Because the mom's idea of entertainment involves beer and vodka. Lots of it. In fact, the mom is so "cool" she offered a prize of ten buck to which ever 13 or 14 year old could drink the most Vodka!

When the police crashed the party, they found six drunk teens and 70 beer bottles as well as vodka and bourbon bottles. Two of the girls were taken to the hospital. Wow! What a "Cool" mom.

I remember when I was a teenager and how "Cool" I thought the parents were who had the attitude, "They are going to drink anyway. At least if they drink at my house, I know where they are." But I was a teenager. In other words, young and naive and stupid. One would hope that as we get older, our ideas of "Cool" change.

Of course this story made the news because it is extreme. Most sane and sober parents, I hope anyway, would agree that this kind of parenting is wrong. In fact, it's illegal. It's a felony, actually. But it did get me to thinking about the other ways we indulge our children's young, naive and stupid ideas of "cool."

Do we text our kids at school, knowing they aren't supposed to use their phones but also knowing they are doing it anyway, so at least we know who they are texting? Worse, do we text our teens when we know they are behind the wheel thinking that somehow a driving text from Mom won't be as lethal as text from the boyfriend? Do we let them stay out past our community's curfew laws? Do we pay their parking or speeding tickets and increased insurance because it's convenient for us to have them taxi the younger siblings? Do we call in sick for them to the school because if they are going to play hooky anyway, at least we know where they are? Do we sneak our preteens into R-rated movies because they will probably see it at a friend's house when it comes out on video anyway?

I think you get the point. It's a slippery slope that slides faster the older they get.

I'm not sure why I sometimes get accused of being a cool mom. I hope it's because of the miniature candy bars I used to have in the car when I drove on field trips. Or the fact that I sit beside my kids while we check out their facebook page together rather than stalking them and questioning every post.

I hope it's maybe because I always want my kids to know they and their friends have an emotionally safe place in my heart and home, even when they screw up. And even when I screw up. And that's a definition of "Cool Mom" I hope never changes.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy Soccer Mom's Day

For just about the last ten years, I've spent Mother's day at the same place...the soccer fields! Not once have I been greeted with flowers or candy or a card or special seating. Nope, it seems that the soccer fields don't distinguish between Mother's Day and any other game day.

And, at my house, the Soccer Moms don't either. We still wash the uniforms, find the missing shin guard, pack up the water bottles, nag about applying sunscreen, and rush off to the game in the same spirit we do every fall and spring weekend. We still cheer from the sidelines. We still silently curse the ref's bad calls (unless you are Annoying Mom, then it's not so silently). We still console the losers and congratulate the victors.

This year, I've decided to make the Mother's Day Soccer Game extra special for myself. I've threatened to do this for a long, long time. This is the year. I'm finally going to follow through.

I'm going to buy one of the fancy lawn chairs. My cheap bargain store chair that I bought just last fall is already falling apart. It's time for a new one anyway. So I'm going all out and purchasing the Mother of all Lawn Chairs.

It's pink and white striped with fashionable scalloped edges. It comes complete with footrest and awning. There's a fold out table attached so I will have somewhere to put my fancy fruit kabobs I plan to snack on during half-time. And I'll bring a matching insulated mug from which I will sip my ice-cold lemonade. All that will be missing is a cabana boy to fan my face. Ahhhh.....

You think I'm joking. Well, I'm not. After ten years of Happy Soccer Mom Day, I looking forward to this one. After all, why should we be reduced to sitting on the itchy grass or the muddy blanket or the broken bargain store chair? Especially on our special day of honor. I can't wait. I can see it now...

I'll pull the lawn chair out of the van. It's twice the size of the bargain one. But that's okay. I can handle it. Oh, got to grab the cooler full of fruit kabobs and the lemonade. And the camera so we can document this special day. Then I reach up to pull down the back door of the van...and it all comes tumbling down. But that's okay. I laugh, shrug it off, shut the door, pick it all up and trudge cross country to where all the best sideline spots are taken because it took me so long to carry my load. So I set up on the end. And miss the first five minutes of the game because the set-up instruction manual that comes with the Mother of all Lawn Chairs blew away before I even had the damn thing out of the case so I didn't know what the hell I was doing and ended up cursing the chair rather than the ref. But I finally sit, and when half-time comes I reach into the cooler and poke a skewer underneath my fingernail which makes me wail in pain, and bleed on the fruit which now no one will eat including me because I don't do blood. Gross! So I close the lid and in doing so, inadvertently spill the rest of lemonade in my lap so I get to spend the rest of the game wet and sticky and hungry and bleeding. Giving up on trying to salvage any amount of dignity and honor, I look up to see how the second half is going, just in time to catch an aggressively kicked pass right in my face. My daughter runs to retrieve the out-of-bounds ball and says as she prepares to throw in,"Happy Soccer Mom's Day! I love you."

Perhaps there's a reason the soccer fields don't distinguish between Mother's Day and any other game day. And why once again, I won't either.

Happy Roaring Mom's Day, no matter where you celebrate it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Who's got the Muzzle?

Okay, so there's this one mom that I just can't sit beside during the game. Here's why:

"Ok, now push up. Push up! I said push up! Ok, now come back. The ball's coming to you. Ok, now get the ball. Get the ball. GET THE BALL!!!! Huff, I told you to get the ball. Didn't you see the ball? You gotta go to the ball. Now, here it comes again. Go to the ball. Good, now pass it to Natalie. Pass it to Natalie! Huff! I said to pass it to Natalie. Did you not hear me say to pass it to Natalie? Pay attention! Here's comes the ball. Go to the ball..."

Holy Cow, Annoying Mom! Your daughter has only been playing soccer since she was six years old. She is a starter on a competitive team. I think she knows how to play the game without you moving her around like she's a pawn on a chess board. You are annoying me. I can only imagine how your daughter feels. In other words, shut up already!!!

Parents like her are just about as bad as the ones who complain about every single call. Now I've seen some bad referee calls. And, I must admit, I have made a comment or two. (Like the time I yelled that he should just go put on the other team's jersey colors. But that was only after an hour of blatantly one-sided calls. And it was just the one time. I swear.) But I also have to admit that most referees are way more knowledgeable about the game than I will ever be, so I try to keep my mouth shut. That way I don't reveal my stupidity more than absolutely necessary.

I learned long ago to limit my outbursts to things like, "Go team!" or "Good Hustle!" or "Don't give up. You can do it!"

So I'm not sure what happened last weekend. Perhaps my subconscious decided I had a right to a sideline opinion after nearly a decade of soccer mommming. Maybe I've just been sitting a little too close to Annoying Mom and she's rubbing off. I don't know.

It was beautiful day, perfect for playing soccer. Or watching it. Frank was having a great game. He was hustling, making good passes, keeping his head in the game. There was just this one little problem. I noticed it and, for some reason still yet to be determined, decided to point it out to him.

"Frank, push up."

No response.

"Frank! Move up!"

No response.

"Frank!! You are a forward! Move Up!"

He turns to me, finally, and speaks to me very patiently, as if he's the adult and I'm the child.

"Mom, I'm mid-field."

"You are?"


"Oh, well then, feel free to continue ignoring me. And Good Job!"

He shakes his head and goes back to his good job.

How does this happen? I'm usually pretty good about keeping my oh-so-brilliant coaching tips to myself and the one time I offer something, I get schooled by my 11 year old. In front of everyone. While Annoying Mom rants and raves game after game after game and no one ever calls her on it.

Embarrassed, I glance around. I'm standing by myself, about 10 feet from the nearest parent. This is good. Hopefully no one heard my blunder. On the other hand, I caught a sudden glimpse of what it must feel like to be the one mom no one wants to sit beside.

I walk over to the other parents and plop down in the cool grass. It's a beautiful day for soccer.

Go Team!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Was Right!

I knew I was right! Ok, it doesn't happen often, but this time I knew there was some validity to my opinion.

Kids need more spontaneous play time. And I have proof. In an LiveScience article about bullying, a child behavior expert agrees with me. (Child behavior expert? Ha! Isn't that just a fancy word for "mother"?)Anyway, this expert claims:

"...the social skills children gain on the playground or elsewhere could show up later in life...Unstructured playtime — that is, when children interact without the guidance of an authority figure — is when children experiment with the relationship styles they will have as adults."

Yes! Scientific proof! This is the first time I've ever been backed up by scientific proof! I think I'm gonna have a t-shirt made. And maybe bumper stickers. I WAS RIGHT. AND EVEN THE SCIENTISTS AGREE WITH ME.

So there you go, all you hovering helicopter moms and you control freak grade school playground monitors. Leave the kids alone and let them play.

This scientific revelation also brings us back to the question of organized youth sports. Are we doing our kids a disservice by sticking them in these programs from an early age? I remember hearing, when I was a kid, about how Nadia Comaneci was forced down the gymnastics path from the womb, practically. I remembering hearing how those other countries took their young prodigies and forced them to focus on nothing but their chosen sport. I remember parents protesting that this was no life for a child. Now, I'm not saying we're as bad as the Romanians once were, but are we starting to slide down that slippery slope?

Studies show that common sports injuries that used to plague adult athletes are now being seen in teenagers. Dr. Phil recently produced a show about a man who injected his young son with steroids so the boy could compete at a higher level in speed skating. The dad is now in jail and is still pretty much unrepentant. Unfortunately, the boy is banned from an activity he has great passion for. Closer to home, even I know that my kids must play organized youth sports if they are to have even the remotest chance to experience the thrill and excitement of competing for their high school team.

So what's a roaring mom to do? Buck the system? Boycott the evil mind control that is organized youth sports? And in doing so prevent our children from the arguably worthwhile experience of high school athletic endeavors? Which, by the way, can be considered another important social skill-building experience. Or do we give in? If your child has a passion for a particular sport, do you even have a choice? Are we powerless against the tsunami that is organized youth sports?

After faithfully fulfilling almost a decade of soccer mom duties, I still don't know the answer. But at this point, I think I'm sucked in already. And with another decade ahead of me, I'm pretty sure I'll be washed away and pulled under before I figure it all out.

So,please, someone throw me a life line! I'm drowning here. You'll be able to spot me pretty easily. I'm the one in the brightly colored t-shirt with the big letters that read, "I WAS RIGHT!"