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.