Friday, December 28, 2012

Not a Creature...was doing anyting to help me!

It didn't happen until 5:00 pm Christmas Eve, but when it did happen, it went something like this:

ME (dropping kids of at their Dad's to get dressed for 6:00 mass): Now, did you guys get everything you need?

FRANK: Well, you were hurrying me so much that I didn't have time to find my shoes.

ME (exasperated): What? You don't have shoes to wear to church?

FRANK: It's not my fault. You were rushing me.

ME: It's never your fault. Fine, just let me go back and find them. And wrap the last minute gifts. And hang the garland. And make the coffee cake. And make the fudge. And everything else you guys expect to have done for Christmas. It will just be the first time ever in my life that I have to miss Christmas mass because I am making sure that everyone gets everything they need for Christmas. But don't worry about it. I'll find your shoes.

I didn't find the shoes. The fudge got made. The garland was hung. The coffee cake was delicious. I didn't miss mass. Christmas was not ruined. Everything happened just as it always does--including my annual Christmas Eve meltdown.

It happens every year--I force my expectations on everyone else and then get mad at them when they don't help me pull it all off. It really is my own fault. Here's an example: I bought a Christmas tree 3 days before Christmas. I went through a lot of trouble to get that tree. First, I had to find someone with a truck to come with me to get it. That someone had to be strong enough to help me carry it into the house and set it up in the tree stand. Then, I had to purchase decorations for it because all of my decorations were already hanging on the Christmas tree we'd set up three weeks ago. That's right, we already had a perfectly good tree with all of our traditional, beautiful decorations, including the hand-made tree skirt and angel topper set up in the family room.

So why did I go through the trouble of buying another one three days before Christmas when I still had gifts to wrap and cake to bake and garland to hang? Because I WANTED one! I guess I didn't have enough stress to ensure a decent meltdown. I wanted to add something more to my already overburdened schedule.

So I forged ahead with my idea for the most glamorous, glittery, gorgeous red and white tree ever decorated in the history of pre-holiday panic! I should have known better. Not even the tree could cooperate. She ended up looking more drunken saloon girl then glittery glamour.

If you read my Thanksgiving blog, you know that my best laid holiday plans never actually work out. I'm not over exaggerating. It took our holiday house guests only 24 hours to figure this out. In fact, I could only shake my head in appreciation that he "got it" when I saw this message on Twitter: "Enjoying a Christmas with my fiance's family. I see National Lampoon Christmas-esque in future."

I should know by now that the one holiday expectation that will always be fulfilled is chaos--noisy, raucous, hysterical, panicked, laugh-till-your-side-aches chaos.

In the end, the panic and melt-downs and sloppy trees were worth it. It didn't happen until about 5:00 on the day after Christmas, but when it did, it went something like this:

CARMEN: This was the best Christmas ever! Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Who Gets the Tradition?

Before I was a single mom, I spent Thanksgiving gobbling up traditional trappings at an intimate gathering of...oh, about 70 people. Sometimes the gatherings were at someone's house; sometimes they were at a rented church hall. Marrying into this kind of holiday tradition was a change for me, but I tried my darnedest to fit right in. But as you know, if you've read any Roaring Moms posts at all, we have a Murphy's Law Life. What can go wrong, will go wrong.

There was the year I hosted the event at our Painted Lady Victorian Home. The only bathroom available to the hoards of family was upstairs, which was problematic enough. When the toilet boycotted and started spewing everything back up until it drained through the cracks in the ceiling and into the living room football lounge, that's when the real trouble started--and the guests left. Then there was the year I caught some nasty influenza virus literally the night before. Feeling it was too late to change venues and because it was potluck anyway, the hubby decided I could quarantine myself in the bedroom. You know, it might not have been too bad to lay in bed all day while someone else catered the meal and cleaned up, if I hadn't been on fire with fever and coughing up blood. It was awful!

Most Thanksgivings weren't so cursed. Just mine, of course. Nevertheless, chaotic, messy, noisy, crowded Thanksgivings have blessed my kids their entire lives. Their father and I deciding we would live in separate houses didn't need to change that for them.

For the past several years, my Thanksgivings have been comparatively smaller affairs--sometimes spent with my family, sometimes with my kids, sometimes with my friends, and once alone. That was fine too, because I treated myself to a big ol' stack of IHOP blueberry pancakes and no one was around to tell me that IHOP blueberry pancakes aren't Thanksgiving worthy. I've truly come to savor the small Thanksgiving. Our lives are chaotic, noisy, and messy on a daily basis. A quiet holiday that comes right after soccer and theatre season is quite welcome. There is nothing like a cozy fireplace, a cup of cocoa, the Macy's parade, a simple gathering, and a quiet day to pump me up for the Christmas season. At the end of it, I am honestly grateful that my children spent a crazy couple of hours with the cousins and battled Black Friday with that side of the family while I sat in my pajamas, stuffing my face. And I have never again had to plunge another toilet on Thanksgiving Day.

So regardless of what "the papers" that all divorced couples refer to like they are the third tablet to come down from Mt. Sinai say, the kids still get their chaotic Thanksgiving tradition with their cousins and aunts and uncles. And that's the way it should be. Through divorce, you might be able to split furniture and bank accounts evenly, but not traditions.

I hope any moms and dads from split families, blended families, and even dysfunctional families who might be reading this understand--you have your childhood holiday memories. It's time to make sure your kids get theirs. Whether that memory comes from a day with you or a with someone else who loves them shouldn't matter. Don't you want them to smile back on it for years to come? It's not the hours logged at one house that makes the memories. It's the laughter, the noise, the chaos, the cousins, the cozy cocoa, the quiet day. And maybe even the plunged toilets.

What are your most disastrous or most wonderful Thanksgiving memories?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

No Ding Dang Ding Dongs for Me!

Life Lessons from a Cupcake:

You won't see me scooping up dozens of Ding Dongs like those crazy Beany Baby ladies of the 1990's. I have a truly profound reason for it, too. It is simply this--Little Debbie's Snack Cakes rule! Not only are they undeniably better tasting, they are also half the price.

Actually, there's another reason I won't be hoarding the Ho-Ho's, and here's where the life lesson is learned.

All month, I've read everyone's Posts of Gratitude on Facebook. While they've been fun and sometimes inspiring to read, I wonder---(and here is where I will offend someone, I'm sure)--how many FB Posters are actually showing that gratitude. It's easy to say you are oh-so-grateful for your hardworking hubby or your wonderful wife. It's more difficult to live that sentiment. When was the last time you met him at the door with a beer and a kiss and the TV remote? When was the last time you actually let him enjoy the Big Game without chewing his ear about the latest  girly gossip or some emotional issue? When was the last time you offered to do the dishes because she slaved over the stove for hours? When was the last time you actually listened to her girly gossip and emotional issues? Living gratitude is a much different animal than posting gratitude.

So where do cupcakes enter in? Consider this, while you stand in line with your cartful of cupcakes--when was the last time you actually purchased a Ding Dong or a Twinkie? If the closing of the company hadn't made the news, would you have even noticed their absence? Before Brenda Lee Johnson of The Closer opened her drawer of cupcake comfort, most of us probably didn't even know if Ding Dongs were still in existence. Be honest, did you have to ask the grocery clerk which aisle housed the Ho-Ho's? Then, why are you mourning the loss of them now? The point is that's it's a little late to show your gratitude for the glorious chocolate covered delicacy. Perhaps if more of you had appreciated the Ding Dong all along, we wouldn't be losing it now. And perhaps, if those workers had appreciated having a job to go to every day...

It's true that what we focus on in life is what we get more of. Gratitude and ingratitude act like magnets. If you go to work complaining about what you don't have every day, you'll bring on more of it. If you go to work with appreciation for a job, you'll bring on more of that, too. People who are grateful for whatever good they can find prosper. They work harder. They find ways to improve. They don't expect hand-outs. They see what's good and multiply it.

What good are you multiplying? I appreciate the Little Debbie almost weekly. The Swiss Roll always has been my go-to comfort cupcake. The Oatmeal Creme Pie is for extra-stressed-out days, and the Nutty Bar is a party in a box. If they ever leave us, I will know it isn't due to MY lack of appreciation. So, stock up on your Twinkies, if you must. In the meantime, live your gratitude--in your work, in your family, in your life. You never know when the good stuff you thought would always be there, won't be.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Teens Say the Darnedest Things

It seems completely ludicrous--the babble that comes from the mouths of teens. I mean, seriously, toddler babble sounded more credible, didn't it? Do they really hear themselves? Or maybe it's not a matter of hearing, but rather comprehending.

Like tonight. Frank comes into to help with the dishes. There's a counter full that needs to be put away. He puts away the first dish, turns and looks at me with an incredulous expression and asks, "Now, why do these need to put away?" I return the incredulous stare, but he doesn't get the message. I muster patience and explain, "We're getting ready to eat dinner. There will be more dishes to wash. Where will I put those to dry if that counter is full?" This time he looks at me like I'm the stupid one and points to the other, cleared off counter. Duh!

I'm beginning to wonder what's so wrong with that "Because I said so" comment we were taught was not good parenting.

But the "why do we have to put dishes away" comment is mild, really, in comparison to other quotable moments like...

...when Carmen was grounded from her phone. After a week of angry tantrums I tried to explain that when she was more respectful, she'd get the phone back and she and answered, "Well, I'd be more respectful and nicer to everyone if you'd just give it back first. I think that would be a better deal for everyone."

...when Kate was on her way out the door to school after I had tried to give her a Be Positive Pep Talk, and she answered, "I can be a positive as you want, Mom. That doesn't change the fact that everyone around me is a dumb ass."

...when I explained to Sophie that she really does have to help with dishes because she lives here, she eats here, and she does, in fact, dirty dishes from time to time, and she answered, "So." Then she walked off.

What's really fun is getting to see that teen twit perspective tweeted all over Twitterdom.

"...when my parents don't let me go where I want" #itsmydecision
"...when my mom stalks me on twitter" #getofftwittermom

So, what's a Roaring Mom to do when the teens have got it all figured out? After all, we're just fuddy-duddies living in their world. Perhaps I should try harder to understand their language. Maybe I should brush up on my Eye Roll and the Huff and Stomp. Maybe an angry tantrum or two followed by a well placed So and Walk Off would help. Yeah, that's it. I think that would be a better deal for everyone!

Then maybe, once I really get the teen lingo down, I'll hashtag it to my friends! #becauseisaidso

Sunday, September 2, 2012

It Sneaks Up On You

I truly never thought this day would come. I really didn't. They all kept telling me to "just wait", and I laughed. HA! My sweet boy would never turn into... a teenager.

I gloated when he turned 13 and didn't turn into that alien other parents describe as invading their children's bodies. I pitied the poor mothers whose sons exuded more attitude than all of my teenage girls put together. Those poor mothers. Those poor, poor mothers.

Then it happened. It was a small and sudden change. It could have easily been disregarded or explained away if it had been an isolated thing. But it wasn't.

Just today, after, I mean inviting...Frank to join me on Saturday errand running, the following occurred:

ME: (Random funny comment)
FRANK: eye roll
ME: Hey, did you hear me, I said...
FRANK: I heard it. It was funny. I just didn't laugh.

It wasn't really so much what he said, (although he used to ALWAYS laugh, even when it wasn't funny) as it was the way he said it. And the eye roll! What was the deal with that eye roll?!

Then we got home and he disappeared. I found him hours later in his room chatting it up with his Facebook friends. This was the same kid who incessantly harassed his older sister last year for her Facebook obsession. I, I mean invited, him to join us in the family room. I watched carefully for the eye roll. Luckily, it didn't come. However, it was replaced by the resigned, "Fiiiiiine." I guess I should be grateful it wasn't followed by the Huff and Stomp.

It's happened. It has really happened. I guess I blinked or something. My saving hope is that he's a good kid, he's not female, and he's watched his poor, poor mother go through the teenage thing with his three sisters, so maybe he'll take it easy on me.

Nevertheless, this Roaring Mom's advice to all parents whose kids aren't yet teens--don't blink.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

'Twas the Night Before the First Day of School

My adult daughter calls from 2 states away needing a copy of her birth certificate yesterday! Apparently, in Chicago, you can't be employed without a proof of birth. (Interesting that Illinois is Obama's former political play yard, but that's another blog.) So I'm sifting and sorting through 20 yrs of immunization cards, report cards, baptismal certificates, and soccer photos desperate to locate the one stinking piece of paper that refuses to show itself!

The phone rings again and Sophie needs that one notebook with the scholarship info in it that she told me to store for her 5 months ago. And she needs it now, please. Could I just get that for her?

Just then the Frankencarmen bursts through the door. In harmony they yell, "Mom, where's my rosary?" and "Mom, where's my PE clothes?" And I yell back, "I lose my keys five times a day, every day and misplace my purse on a regular basis. How the hell do I know where your crap is?!"

But not really. Instead, I reach for the brand new bottle of Tums that was on the coffee table five minutes ago, I swear. And once I find that, I'm tracking down my sanity before searching for anything else. I think I'm gonna need it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

That's Nice

If nice guys always finish last, why do we keep being nice? What is so great about being nice? If I said, "How was your Disney vacation?" Would the answer be a ho-hum, "Oh, it was nice." If I asked, "How was your ride in the Lamborghini?" Would the answer be, "It was everything you'd expect...very nice." Even when talking about the weather, nice isn't bad, but even pleasant is more exciting than nice. And again, if it's only gonna get you last place, why bother?

And yet, I've always considered myself to be one of the nice girls. I've diligently instilled the nice principle into my children's psyche. Or at least I've tried. I guess that's because I've never really been competitive. I suppose I didn't mind finishing last as long as I got a chance to smile at everyone while they passed me. So it surprises me still that more than one of my children has grown up with the attitude that is basically akin to "If he didn't want me to punch him, I guess his face shouldn't have been in the way of my hand." Competitive to the Nth degree and not very nice.

There is a great Sondheim song from Into the Woods, sung by the witch who is trying to talk the other characters into giving into the demands of an angry giant in order to save mankind. The lyrics go like this:

 You're so nice.

You're not good,

You're not bad,

You're just nice.

I'm not good,

I'm not nice,

I'm just right.

I'm the witch.

You're the world.

I love this song because it reminds me that nice isn't always good. In fact, it can sometimes be the opposite. After all, God doesn't call us to do "nice", He calls us to do good. Actually, I think we may be called to do more than that. I think we are actually called to do "right". The right thing is not always the good thing or the nice thing. And a person can certainly seem like a witch when the world is so busy trying to be nice, they forget to be right. It kind of makes me want to channel my inner witch.

I think the thing that makes me the proudest is to know that my kids usually do the right thing. Ok, so they have also been to known to weigh the right thing against the funny thing and come out laughing, but most of the time they choose right. While they don't normally actually punch people in the face, they are pretty good about not taking on someone else's blame. Which is a good and right thing, too.

I asked a very wise man once why the nice ones keep on being so if they are always going to be last. His answer--because some of us want to get to heaven. I have to say that I think nice would probably get you there. But so will good and right. The important thing is to head in that direction. And when we get there, I know it will be nice. Very, very nice. Maybe even pleasant.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Real True Love

I really hate to use my happy, funny, positive blog as a vent mechanism, but it can't be helped. After all, there are 3 types of communication all woman excel in--nagging, gossipping, and venting. This is my turn to vent. (Cue music...It's my blog and I can vent if I want to, vent if I want to...)!

It's just that I've heard this one particular comment one too many times to stay quiet on the matter any longer. This comment...this ridiculous, naive, sad comment...must be countered. So I'm countering. I'll be that voice. I'm not sure if I'm worthy of the responsibility, but I'll take it anyway.

The comment, usually harmlessly flung  in passing from the lips of a quite loving mother with a casual "don't you agree" kind of tone when discussing step children, or foster kids, or adoption, or the motherless problem child down the street, goes something like this...

"You could never really love someone else's child the way you love your own flesh and blood."

To which I want to answer something like this...

"Really? You can't? That's very sad. And pathetic. And self-centered. And narcissistic. And small-minded. And egocentric. And ugly. And...well, and tells me a whole lot about you as a fellow human being and mother. Thanks for sharing."

Is that too much? A little harsh? Am I overreacting? I don't think so. Perhaps the well-meaning mom should reword the callous remark to confess that SHE can't understand that kind of unconditional love. Perhaps SHE is incapable of truly loving any being other than her own flesh and blood. Perhaps SHE shouldn't make claims that that kind of love is not possible.

Furthermore, when she makes this claim, she is telling some precious child that he or she is unworthy of unconditional love from anyone other than a biological parent. That's a really cruel untruth to unload on a child who may have lost parents to cancer or war or any other tragedy.

I used to let these kinds of remarks slide. I used to think that perhaps the well-meaning mom simply doesn't understand because she hasn't been blessed with the opportunity to love this way. However, the sad truth is that I've heard this comment more often lately from well-meaning women who have been blessed with the opportunity and still the comment is made.

So let this be the public counter to well-meaning naivete. A person can love any child as her own flesh and blood. It's possible. It's factual. It's real. It happens every single day, all day long.

I remember seeing Marie Osmond being interviewed about motherhood. She's the mother of 8 children, some biologically her own, some her own nonetheless. The interviewer asked, "Which ones were adopted." She answered, "I don't remember." The interviewer laughed and pressed her, "Seriously though, which ones?" Again Marie insisted, "I don't remember." After a couple more tries, the interviewer finally moved on. At that moment, I completely LOVED Marie Osmond. I understood and she understands. And maybe many of you do, too. The rest of you who don't understand-- perhaps you should consider refraining from confessions of emotional inadequacy. You're embarrassing yourself.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Roaring Mom, Heal Thyself

I've decided to stop giving myself a heart attack.

You know the old joke that goes something like this: A man goes into his doctor's office and says, "Doc, it hurts when I bend my elbow like this." The doctor answers, "Don't bend your elbow like that."

Ok, so it's not really funny or even very clever. But we all laugh at it anyway because of the simple honest irony. We laugh because under that simply irony is the understanding that most of the time we really do cause our own problems.

Don't balk! It's true. Here's a shining example.

Walking through the living room, I notice the overflowing clutter on the coffee table, the shoe collection under the coffee table and the discarded sweatshirts on the couch. So starts the perfectly punctuated nag. "Wouldn't it be nice to live in house where we wouldn't have to be embarrassed if someone comes to the door unexpectedly? How hard it is to pick up your own crap? What makes you guys think this is the dropping ground for all your stuff. You go to your bedroom at some point during the day, why not take this stuff with you? I swear you were more self-sufficient when you were 4 years old! Will you PLEASE pick up this room!" (Or something to that lovely effect.)

In come the clutter culprits, they pick up their things and leave...they leave a still overcrowded coffee table, a mildly edited shoe collection and something stick out from the sofa cushion.

I summon my Emphatic Voice. "Did you not hear me? Seriously guys!"

Frank appears, unflappable as always. "Mom, the rest of the stuff is yours."

Wow. That was embarrassing! I was so busy focusing on the annoyance of the situation, I forgot to focus on the cause--and the solution. I forgot to look in the mirror.

Lesson learned. Now let's hope I can successfully apply it because when I do look in the mirror--the actual mirror--I don't like what I see. And I don't particularly like how I feel. What I would like to see is currently covered by 30 pounds of too much me. Accompanying the 30 pound problem I've caused myself is  a potential heart attack, high blood pressure and possible stroke, plausible Diabetes and probably Osteoporosis. As a bonus gift, I've included a closet full of clothes that don't fit and unflattering family photos. And just think--I have only myself to thank!

So how about I do just that? How about I give myself something to "thank" about and the mirror something to smile about. Now, if you'll excuse me, I got my own problem to solve.

How do you need to heal yourself? Don't worry. Obviously, you are not alone.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It Was a Dud!

I refuse to spend one penny on stuff to blow up! Call me an Independence Day Scrooge, but I just won't do it. It makes absolutely no sense to spend money on something that has the potential to blow my child's hand off, turns my alien beast dog into a crazed barking machine, and raises my blood pressure. So this year I set out to have a Quiet Independence Day.

It started out as just the most lovely day. Our neighborhood hosted its annual parade. It was a fun little five minutes. The parade is filled with big kids on riding lawn mowers, small kids on bicycles, toddlers in wagons and puppies on leashes. Everything is decked out in patriotic ribbons, banners, and balloons. The highlight of the parade--Popsicles!! They are distributed at the end to all the participants, which makes the paraders ride even faster, so, yeah, the parade lasts about 5 minutes. I missed it one year because I went into the garage to find a lawn chair. By the time I emerged, the only things I saw on the street outside my house were few overlooked Tootsie Rolls thrown from a John Deer and some Shih Tzu droppings.

So far, so good. I had smiled through the first few minutes of my Quiet Independence Day! Then I watched some war movies, enjoyed the televised musical 1776 and...that's it.

Huh. Wow. I had set out to have a quiet celebration and I had succeeded. It was a Roaring Mom first! Not much of what I set out to do ever goes as planned, especially celebrations! Immediately I thought of Sophie's 10th birthday party at the park that had ended up with little girls covered in sticker burrs, being chased by bees. Then there was Frank's party with the Pirates of the Caribbean treasure chest pinata. It was pouring down rain, so the chest was placed on the family room for and all the little "pirates" took turns pounding it with their plastic swords. There was the time I burned my fingertips off cooking a Christmas ham and the Easter we found a few of last year's eggs in the back yard. And those were just the tip of the iceberg disasters!

This year had gone just as planned and you know was boring! Where was the excitement, the noise, the celebration? Without fireworks, July 4th was just another insignificant, boring, lazy day! As a proud American, I failed! Our forefathers deserve more! America deserves more! I deserve more! By sitting on my butt and refusing to participate, my July 4th was a far worse disaster than a soggy pinata or bumble bee-infested birthday cake.

Fireworks don't make America great, but our traditions do. Wrecked plans make memories and quiet is dull. Never again will I miss out on the Crash! Bam! Boom! (or even the 5 minute parade) of celebrating our independence and our great nation! In fact, our Independence should be celebrated every day. It's true that freedom isn't free. Independence isn't accidental. So light a firework, fly a flag, raise a! Even if it raises your blood pressure!

How did you spend your Independence Day? I hope you made a great big, loud, messy memory!
From last year's parade when I wasn't sitting on my butt doing nothing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's How You Play the Game

It's usually the adults that ruin the game.

There's the Annoying Mom I've mentioned before who screams shrill orders to her daughter any time the ball even looks like it might come to her side of the field. There's the Condescending Dad who swears every ref of every game is in the pocket of every opponent. The there is the ref who does seem to be in the pocket of the opponent. There's the coach who threatens parents, demeans his own players, and even calls the opposing team (of 14 year old girls,mind you) assholes! Yes, it actually happened. I'm sure it wasn't the first time and won't be the last.

 The vast array of nut gallery parent members include Pushers, Enablers, Vicarious Livers, Dream Crushers, Overbookers and Overlookers. And that's just the parents.  Some of the coaches are even worse.

But through it all, if you're lucky, there will come a voice of reason. A voice of sanity, calm and authoritative, yelling from the sidelines, "I need for you to find a way to be great right now. Find a way to be great!"

The voice came from a woman who knew that was all that needed to be said. She was the one who had poured her expertise out into these girls. She was the one teaching new skills, organizing creative drills, and wringing every ounce of effort and determination from our girls practice after practice while she cradled her infant baby on her hip and her toddler son played at her feet. She was the one who demanded respect for their coach, for their team, for their game, for themselves. She was the one who knew what they were capable of and managed to get them to know it, too. She was ultimately the one responsible for this win or this loss, and  she was the one with the calm assurance, "Find a way to be great!"

She didn't feel the need to move players around like chess pieces. She didn't beg them to hustle or point out bad passes. She simply encouraged our girls to be great.

My eyes filled with tears and whatever pointless thing I was getting ready to yell to our team caught in my throat. What else was there to say.

Organized youth sports is a strange phenomenon. Sometimes, when I see 14 year olds nursing injuries that 20 years ago plagued only college athletes, I wonder what we've set our kids up for. When I see 17 and 18 year olds throwing away a decade of training because they are simply sick of it, I wonder if it's worth it. When kids are routinely embarrassed at the actions of Annoying Mom and Condescending Dad and Paid-off Ref, I question my own parenting priorities. But when I hear the voice of my daughter's coach encouraging greatness week after week after week, I know I've done something good. In the craziness of youth soccer, my daughter has been instilled with an example of class and a path to greatness. I know it is the lesson that will stay with her long after the final whistle is blown.

Too often, it's the adults who ruin the game. Often, it's the adults who can save it, as well. Thanks for being great, Coach.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

You Know What Sucks?

It's one of those phrases often spoken in our house. Actually, it's often projected, spat or yelled in disgust, frustration, and annoyance. "You know what sucks?" And because we are a brood of smart alecs, someone always answers, "Yeah, a vampire." "A vacuum?" "Your face?!" (Aren't we lovely?) I've recently, however, discovered a  better answer, a real answer. It's answer I will probably never admit to my kids because it's a little too real.

What sucks is when you realize that your philosophy for daily living is completely flawed.

For decades now, my philosophy has been to never be the reason another person feels bad. I've lectured this message to my kids many times. It's been a couple of years now that I've understood the flaw in that belief. It's too much responsibility. It has only been recently that I've truly understood the consequences of parenting through this philosophy. Athough I DON'T want to be the reason someone else feels bad, I can't take on the responsibility of never ever doing anything that will result in disappointment for someone else. I also can't take away any and all possibility of hardship or stress for my kids so that they never have to experience it. That's what we want to do, isn't it? We want to make it all okay, so they never experience heartbreak, failure, loss, When we do that, however, we set up ourselves and our children for a whole lot of what sucks--namely, real life consequences.

I distinctly remember my senior year when I had once again taken on way more than I could handle. I was in charge of a whole lot of Homecoming stuff that HAD to be completed by Friday before kickoff. I remember literally shaking and crying my way through the school day because I knew it would never all get done. I rushed home after school to find that my mom had been very busy that day. She had taken care of everything. I cried with relief and was able to enjoy my Homecoming! That is such a strong memory for me. My mom put out my fire without my even having to ask. She just knew. She created relief, joy, contentment for me. For two decades I'm been trying to recreate that feeling from the other side of the parent/child relationship. That moment of relief was so strong that I completely forgot about all the other life lessons my Mom taught me.

I forgot about the "grounded one day for every minute you're late" lesson. I forgot about the" anything that needs to be said can be said in a 15 minute phone conversation" lesson. And the related "it can also be said on the family phone in front of the parents" lesson. I forgot about the "if you didn't have time to do homework, I guess you have too much social life" lesson. I forgot about the "any boy who wants to spend time with you must want to spend time with the family too" lesson. I forgot about th e"later you get home Saturday, the earlier Church starts on Sunday" lesson. I certainly forgot about the" only clothes that make it the laundry room get washed" lesson as well as the "I cooked the meal, you do the dishes" lesson. I even forgot about the" you want the pet, feed the pet" lesson.

So you know what really sucks? When you realize that all the things you said you'd never do when you had kids of your own, you really should have done all along. I guess the consolation is that since it took 40 years for me to realize that my mom actually did know what she was doing, maybe it will take that long for my kids to realize that I don't! I think I've got them fooled, for the most part.

Or  maybe I'm wrong about that, too. If so, that would really suck!

Monday, March 19, 2012

I'm Bored!

It's the first official weekday of Spring Break and I've already heard the dreaded words at least three times.

"I'm bored!"

Really? All I've heard for the last two weeks is, "OMG! I can't wait for Spring Break! I'm so ready for Spring Break! Spring Break is gonna be soooo much fun!" At this point I'm not sure just what exactly they were looking so forward to. Apparently we' ve done all there is to do in the weekend before the break actually started. Can't I just send them back to school now?

My biggest fear is that this is a forewarning for summer--bickering, interspersed with huffs, checkered with eye rolling, followed up with It's-not-fairs! All topped off with the big I'm Bored!!!

I don't understand it. We have three computers, 2 Nintendo DSI's, 2 Wii systems, 2 I-phones, and 4 televisions. I'm pretty sure that somewhere within the dusty entertainment center lies enough games and movies to have paid for college twice. Then there's the bicycles, scooters, soccer goals and skateboards that make every pull into the garage a very tight squeeze. For those moments of extra desperation, we do have shelves full of Harry Potter books, the Twilight Series, and evener Hunger Games. One kid has an entire art studio in her room. Another kid has a personal Lego Land and the other, a library of Broadway musical show tunes (both sheet music and CD's).

Nevertheless, they are bored.

 I think "bored" might just by synonymous with "spoiled".
Never fear, kids! Here's the good news! You can not actually die from boredom. If you could, I'm sure your parents would have never made it to parenthood. I'm not sure how we survived with only record players, cassette recorders, maybe a bicycle or a basketball and only one land line phone that we had to share with our siblings AND our parents. We promise, you'll make it through the week.!

By the way, I've got a remedy for that boredom. So, go on. Say it one more time. Please!My bet is, by the end of the week, that entertainment center will be dust free! And so will the window sills and book shelves and end tables. Then there's the bathroom counter tops and under the beds... I think you get the picture.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

No Sweat, Mom!

My mom gave me the best birthday present ever. (In addition to the Mama Mia, tickets which were pretty fabulous, I must say.) The second gift was even better. She gave me...a break.

Her exact words were, "Don't sweat the small stuff." Doesn't sound particularly amazing, does it? Ironically, it's the advice I give to people all the time. It's very interesting and freeing when it comes back at you. Especially in the sentiment of a very articulate Mom.

You see,I had offered to do a favor for her, and then I messed it up. Twice. Then, I tried to avoid her while I attempted to fix it. It only took a couple of weeks for it to dawn on me that I was behaving very much like my own teenage children. Another week passed before I relented to my own voice that was banging around in my head along with the many memories of the several well-worded nags I'd delivered over the years.

Don't try to cover up a shortcoming. Deal with others directly, not in a round about way. Admit to mistakes. People would rather hear sincere apologies than lame excuses. Don't sweat the small stuff.

On the way to work this morning (while trying not to stress over the fact that I would be arriving almost 10 minutes late...again) I heard a Lightning Bolt Story. A Lightning Bolt Story is one that hits you out of the blue and shocks you like a bolt of lightning into a new and sudden understanding. In the midst of all the devastating tornadoes last week, a story came to light of a Super Mom who threw her body on top of her children to save their lives. In doing so, her legs were crushed and part of each had to be amputated.

ZAP! Illumination. A fumbled favor is not worth sweating over. Slow mornings are not worth sweating over. The overflowing laundry table, cluttered dining room table, the trash heap bedrooms are not worth sweating over. They make me nuts! They offer ample opportunity to for the composure of well-worded, perfectly punctuated nags! These things should be handled directly with sincere apologies, if necessary instead of lame excuses. But they should not be sweated over.

Thanks, Mom. You just made my life a whole lot easier. And you cut down on the deodorant allowance, as well.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tech Trouble

It all started with Dirty Shirley. She's loud and bossy. She interrupts everyone's conversation, tries to drown out Bon Jovi, and constantly leads us astray. Unfortunately, we've grown so accustomed to her that's it's become almost impossible not to include her in any family outing. We tolerate her loud sighs followed by the condescending, "Recalculating", because someone somewhere somehow convinced me that we can't function without her.

Not too long after the arrival of Dirty Shirley came her distantly related cousin--on steroids. You might know him as the Smart Phone. Smart Phone--kind of a condescending, self-serving title, don't ya think. And if that title weren't enough all by itself, that Smart Phone comes with a Genius button. And just like most geniuses, trying to communicate with it just makes me feel stupid.

With the Genius button, I'm supposed to be able to speak into the phone and tell it to call one of my contacts. There's even a car mode. Dirt Shirley oughta like that! Just to spite her, I give it a try.

I'm behind the wheel, navigating the one-way streets of down town rush hour. I push the Genius Button.

ME: Call Frank.
Genius: Did you say call Kate?
ME: Call Frank.
Genius: Did you say call Carmen?
ME: No. Carmen sounds nothing like Frank. Call Frank!
Genius: Did you say call Drake?
ME: I don't even know a Drake. There is no Drake in my contacts. CALL FRANK! Dammit!
Genius: Did you say call Janet?

Dirty Shirley: Recalculating!

Apparently that street wasn't exactly heading in the same one way I was heading. What can I say? I guess I'm just not smart enough to manage navigation and communication, even with the aid of the latest life easing technology.

I realize and appreciate that my tech savvy family is trying to corral my A.D.D. brain into organizational submission. However, my daytimer and #2 pencil never need charging and my 3 ring full of loose leaf wide ruled never experiences a paper jam. I push the buttons on my land line phone, it doesn't push mine and my Rand McNally Road map never sasses me!

If this blog actually gets posted correctly, please share your own tech disaster, if only so I don't feel so alone in the universe. However, I hear there's a solution for that too. Our new computer has something called a Skype button.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Something Right

He's been badgered, picked-on, hen-pecked, nagged, and tormented. He can't seem to get a word in  most of the time without being interrupted or corrected or talked-over. He knows--completely against his will--every girl power song by heart, including all the lyrics to the Mama Mia soundtrack. I feel for the kid, but I have no idea how to change this situation. Come on, as a newborn, he came home from the hospital --wrapped in a pink blanket-- to a house full of Barbies and baby dolls. I honestly don't know if he'd know how to act if all the estrogen was somehow magically sucked from our home. He'd probably plug in Kelly Clarkson or Taylor Swift, just so he could function normally.

During his short 12 years, the kid has been dressed as girl, had his Buzz Lightyear tent turned into a princess castle, and forced to compete in Dance Party 2 showdowns. He's had his Lego sculptures pulverized, his Star Wars marathons cut short, and his boyscout uniforms turned into Halloween costumes. He's had his brows plucked and his hair gelled. And through it all, he has remained such a guy! His favorite part of AFV is always the crotch shot section. He wishes everyday were Independence Day, just for an excuse to blow stuff up. Heck, last week he watched 4 full days of televised car auctions, interspersed with sports, of course. Only a guy could handle that, let alone enjoy it!

And yet, even surrounded with baby dolls and Barbies and Justin Bieber, Frank somehow figured out how to be the best kind of boy and the best kind of brother. His sisters don't know how good they've got it. Recently several of Kate's college friends and Sophie's high school friends have figured it out, though. They all want to marry him. I think when Frank grows up, he's gonna have to move to Utah.

It's curious that out of all my children, Frank is who has brought home the most demerit cards. ( For those non-Catholic parents, the demerit card is Catholic school's card stock, tangible admission of guilt, stamped by teachers and presented to parents, displaying a record of misbehavior,eventually resulting in the dreaded DETENTION!) I don't get it. My girls, God love them, are a bit opinionated, overly social, somewhat bossy, and just plain loud. How do they get away with it and he gets demerited? And on the rare occasion when the girls do get the card stamped, it's NEVER their fault! Of course! Even when one sister "shared" her answers with a friend or another "tossed, not threw" a desk across the room in defiance...or rather difference of opinion--it was never their fault.

Last week I received an email from Frank's teacher. The subject line read simply, "Frank." I quickly added up in my mind the number of demerits I had recently initialed. As far as I knew it wasn't detention time...yet. Cautiously, I opened the mail. By the time I was done reading, I was grinning from ear to ear. His class had enjoyed a guest speaker for the past week. At the end of the week, Frank--without prompting--approached the speaker and expressed his genuine appreciation for her time and expertise. He was so humble and grateful that his teacher, overhearing the conversation, was moved to tears and immediately thanked Frank and emailed me. Now, that's a Proud Mom Moment.

I've said before that I'm completely clueless as to how to raise a boy. I'm still not sure if I'm parenting right. I'm serious when I say that I think God gave me good kids because he knew I wouldn't know what to do with naughty ones. And for that reason alone, I know that even if I'm not parenting right, I MUST be doing something right.  Nevertheless, Frank is doing a lot of things right! If only there were a trophy for that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Got Out of Bed Today. Where's My Trophy?

You know what happens when you try to make everything the same? You end up looking for the lowest common denominator. You lower the bar of expectations so that everyone can reach it. And then everyone will feel accomplished and proud, right?

I remember when my daughter's middle school decided to do away with the Accelerated Reader (AR) Program. Let me explain exactly what this educational institution was throwing away. The AR program was a reading program where students would read books in their appropriate range and test over them. The books were given a point value and students earned points with each passing test score. The school volunteers had organized a "store" where students traded reading points for prizes such as games and books and T-shirts and movies and book marks and pizza coupons, etc. In addition, classes from each grade earned a monthly travelling trophy for most points earned as a class. Students could also save up points to attend bi-annual events like Water Day or Ice Cream Socials. But that's not all! Names of students who reached the 100 Point Club were displayed on the entry hall bulletin board.  Reading Enthusiasm was contagious and nearly every student caught the bug! Students recommended books to each other. They spent weekends reading. WEEKENDS! VOLUNTARILY! Competitive readers clamoured to be the first student in the 100 point club. Reading was a Big Ol' Deal!

Then, suddenly, the school announced that it would be phasing out the AR program. I immediately called the school to find out why. You'll never believe the answer. The administration told me that not every student was a good reader and it wasn't fair to slower readers to have to compete with more advanced readers. Seriously? Nevermind the fact that students were excited about reading. The emotional well-being and stability of slow readers was more important than encouraging the exploration of and the enthusiasm for books.

That was the same year they decided to do away with A and B sports teams, as well. Teams would now be divided evenly and everyone would get equal playing time. Nevermind the fact that these students were going to have to try out for high school teams the very next year. The emotional well-being and stability of children who will probably not even want to play ball in high school was more important than the training and success of students who might need basketball to pay their way through college in a few years.

When will educators, administrators, parents and other authority figures realize that thwarting healthy competition doesn't create the emotionally safe environment they seek. Don't get me wrong. "Everybody Plays" absolutely has it's place. My own children have been very happy in both competitive and non-competitive activities. The point is that they understand that the ultimate reward is a sense of accomplishment that is actually earned--no matter what the venue is.

We might have been created equal, but we weren't cloned. We aren't all the same. And thank God for that. Educational institutions, especially, should be the place to encourage accomplishment and reward success.

My guess is that some Whiny Mom got a hold of the school administration that year. Well, Whiny Mom, please get over yourself. Stop coddling your children emotionally. You are turning in them into entitled emotional cripples. Instead, help your child find something he has a passion for and encourage him to strive for excellence. Teach her to compete with herself and the meltdowns over Suzie's superior reading skills will stop. Create your own participation trophy, if you must. If you want to remain a lowest common denominator, find a way to feel comfortable there. Please, allow the rest of us to strive for exponential accomplishment and success.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Have you heard of the latest TV controversy? Little Asian girl with two gay dad parents speaks bleeped-out F-word!

I'm not kidding. That's the issue they are up in arms over now. Seriously. No, seriously.

So you must know that I am NOT a fan of childhood cursing. In fact, I fought diligently against the occurrence of it in my own home. I fought diligently...and lost. In fact, I'm still losing. Thanks to Kate.

Kate discovered the cruse word early. She also discovered the effect it had on her poor, saintly mother's virgin ears. Nothing could derail a good nag like Kate's well-timed cursing. Of course, it only derailed me onto a separate but equally emotional anti-curse word nag. For some reason, which I have yet to uncover, the anti-curse word tirade didn't bother Kate. In fact, it humored her. She found my consternation hilarious. And so did her younger siblings. None of them dared ever utter the mother-of-all-curse words, but Kate would more than utter. She would proudly proclaim. And they would giggle. Then, when they were a little older, they would laugh outright. Once they all started laughing outright, it was all over. Their belly laughs are more contagious than the stomach flu. No matter how I tried to resist, I would laugh, too.

I completely understand the mixed message I was sending. Believe me, I truly tried to refrain. But she's so damn funny! I mean...She's so stinking funny!

I had them convinced that although their stand-up comic sister might indulge in profanity for a laugh, Mom was above that. I'm pretty sure I had them convinced that not only did I not stoop to that level for laughter, I didn't go there for any reason and neither should they. A stubbed toe resulted in a bellowed, "Sugar!" A frustrated moment called for a teeth-clenched "Fudgesicles!"

Then it happened.

I was driving down Kellogg and talking to the Quiet and Calculating one on the phone. I was in the middle lane with big ol' trucks barreling down on either side of me. On the road in front of me was...something. I can't even remember now, but it was big and dangerous looking and there was no way around it. I prepared for impact, gripped the wheel with the one free hand and (in the words of my Grandma Nina, rest her soul) hollered, "Shit!"

"Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!"

Just like that.

A few seconds later, I had driven right over whatever obstacle had so inopportunely scared the shit out of me. I was mortified and immediately began apologizing all over myself that my baby girl had to hear such language from her mother and did she forgive me and that was so wrong of me and...wait. What was that sound coming through the phone? Yep, this time the contagious belly laugh was all for me.

It's so true that they get it from us, isn't it? They get our good looks, our sense of humor, and sometimes even our bad habits. In no way do I condone toddler cursing. Teen cursing isn't so great, either. But of all the truly bad crap on TV, this might not be the issue to cry over. My guess is that her fathers will be as mortified as I was and try in numerous comical ways to place blame and then fix the problem--just like real life parents.

You know I remember when the big issue with Modern Family would not have been the fact that the little Asian girl cursed, but that her two gay dads were...well, two gay dads. Thank goodness the viewing public got over that condescention. I'm pretty sure--if we all work really f*%#ing hard--we can get past this issue, too.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Whole Lot of Nothing

A big laundry basket overflowing with unmatched socks sits in its permanent spot in the middle of my family room. The idea is that while we are wasting our lives watching Swamp People or Hoarders or Dance Moms (God help us), we will match them. The truth is that I can't remember the last time I saw the bottom of that basket. And yet, nearly every morning I hear the same cry:

"MOOOOOOMMMMM! I can't find any matching socks."

I used to heed the call, come running to the aid of the cold-footed child, and frantically sort and sift until I finally pulled out a matching pair. Or more often, pulled out a couple that were close enough. Now, I don't know if I could find a match to save my life. The kids have taken to wearing whatever two socks they grab from the basket. I guess I should be grateful the fad of wearing mismatched socks has recently taken hold in middle school.

The fact that we have lived for years with this sock stress is a dysfunction to be addressed at another time. The abundance of sockage and the problems accompanying it actually got me to thinking of another issue. In fact, suddenly I noticed this problem everywhere. No, not the problem of mismatched socks, but rather the problem of over abundance.

Did you know that we live in a world of a lot of nothing? Think about it--a shelf full of dusty Wii games that no one wants to play. An attic full of holiday decorations that almost never see the light of day. A closet full of clothes and never a thing to wear. A pantry full of food and nothing to eat in the house. Two-thousand cable channels and nothing to watch but Swamp People, Hoarders, or Dance Moms. God Help Us!

In the midst of all this abundance, I did notice one thing there is not enough of and that is time. There is NEVER enough time. I know I'm not the only one lacking in this area. Every mom I know is constantly running out of time. We'd work out, if we could only find the time. We would eat healthy, if we had the time to actually cook a meal. We'd read a novel, finish a scrap book, match all the socks in the house...if only we had the time!

If only we could trade all the stuff for more time. I'd buy that on EBay all day long, if I had the time to cyber shop, that is. Unfortunately, that time is not now. My TV alarm just went off. A new episode of Hoarders is starting in just a few minutes.