Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mommy & We

This week my beloved is traveling on business, which his jobs calls for on occasion.  Many people have spouses that travel far more often than mine, and I am not being "woe is me" about my situation.  My kids are good, helpful, and fun to be around, so we make the best of it.  However, if you are accustom to having another full grown adult around for conversation in the evenings, or to help drive a shift or two for the various activities, it can be a little crazy at times.  I am documenting the days for this trip in my public forum.  In case you never have the opportunity to single parent, you can live vicariously through me.  Or maybe you are a full time single parent and you can call me a whiner.  Either way, I am putting it out there...

Day 1:  No one died today.  My greatest accomplishment was cleaning the bathrooms.  I even washed down the walls and ceiling with a bleach solution.  It all started with a cobweb in one corner of the bathroom, and it became a "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" situation. (If you do not understand that children's literature reference, get yourself to the local bookstore and read it.  You can just stand in the aisle and read it, tell them I said it was okay).  Anyway, the bathroom is so clean I could have served dinner off the floor.  I did not.  We went out for chicken shwarma.  It is my comfort food, garlicky chicken and pita bread.  Happy.  My daughter talked about the upcoming Homecoming dance and who was going with whom, and how she likes her dress so much because it's "classy not trashy"...(you bet it's classy.  I paid for a classy dress.  Like I am letting my kid out of the house looking like a Vegas showgirl? No offense to the showgirl population).  My son asked at least fifteen questions about dances.  What it's it?  Where is it?  Do you have to have date?    Do you have to wear shoes?  Are there teachers at the dance?  What if the music is bad?  If you do not dance do you have to leave? Can I go see the dance?  Why not?  Why are you so mean?  Why can't I ask anymore questions?  People who ask a lot of questions learn the most.  No, I do not want to get punched.  That was a stupid question.  It was enjoyable to see someone else in the hot seat getting rapid fire questions, but when the threats of violence erupted, I stepped in and fixed it.  Everyone showered, and then bedtime.
Day 2:  No one died today, but threats were made.  I met my friends for coffee, it was the brightest part of my day.  I love those crazy ladies, mostly because they love this crazy lady right back.  The dog stared at me and then started making gagging noises.  I tried not to take it personally, but it hurt.
Day 3:  3:46am awakened by the cat licking  my nose.  She had done this to my beloved Saturday night.  I was hoping he was just special.  Nope, the cat is a freaky nose-licker.  I sat awake for 30 minutes wondering whether this was a valid reason to return the cat to the animal shelter.  Decided when she starts chewing our faces off I will make a stand.  Re-awoke at 5:30 to start the day.  No one died.  Wednesday is crazy after-school schedule day.  Out of kindness, I brought my daughter a mocha at school where she was waiting for an hour between dismissal and practice.  She appreciated it.  Her friends seemed annoyed that I neglected to get them mochas.  Kids today seem pretty entitled.  I only have resources enough to spoil the two kids I birthed.  No one was lost or left behind.  No panicked calls were made.  I declare victory upon this day.  I am still very suspicious of the cat.
Day 4:  Great victories were achieved before 9am!!!  I had to sign up my Webelos scouts up for some field trips at our local nature center.  The line for this is always HUGE.  I farmed my son off to a neighbor to get him on the bus.  Then I went to wait in line.  Thankfully, another leader from my Cub Scout pack was there.  She was first in line, and people were walking in and lining up with their fellow pack leaders.  My leader friend (and overall awesome person) waved me up.  OH YES!  I am in the front!!! I passed go, I collected my $200.  At the front of the line, still waiting for registration to begin, she explained another leader gave her registrations to turn in for the Bear workshops.  We planned it so I registered all the Webelos I & IIs and she went to the Bear line.  Naturally, being first, we got in to the sessions we needed.  Euphoria, may not even adequately describe the joyful feeling.  I needed this "simple win".  I needed to feel like I got away with something.  Being the solo-parent for four days wears on a person.  My spouse is flying home as I write this post.  I know he is excited to be back home.  I am happy to soon have another adult around.

I give massive amounts of credit to people who walk the parenting path solo everyday.  It is tiresome, and a bit lonely.  I am gladly counting down the hours to the return of dual parenting.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Under Construction: the teen years

Betsy, my sister, and I were recently having a conversation, and then an e-mail exchange about a teen situation with my daughter.  My maternal confidentiality code keeps me from elaborating too much, but it is a typical teen thing.  Nothing dangerous.  Nothing that a few years, some red wine (for me, not my child), and many more sister talks will not remedy.  One of my responses to my very wise social worker sister, was that it seems my daughter is under construction right now.  Everything is messy, loud, and the dust gets kicked up, but when the construction is done, she is going to be really something magnificent.  However, right now I am living in a construction zone.  And the contractor is taking His sweet time getting the project done.  Okay, I know everything good is worth the wait.  I am not wishing time away.  I am not.  It just gets tough living with a teen.  They are irritable, hormonal, and often confrontational.  They can also be sweet, generous, kind, and compassionate.  The trick is figuring out who is coming out of that ransacked room on any given morning.  Or who will walk back in the front door after school.  It is impossible to know.  It could be an angel, or it could be the anti-Christ.  (I exaggerate, because I can, and the other "a" word I was thinking of was not much better).  Either way she is my child and I love her.

I love her smile, and her frown.
I love her hopefulness, and her despair.
I love her laughter, and her tears.
I love her joyful shouts, and her angry rants.

Some say I have to because I am her mother, it is my job.  Even on the days when it feels like I am parenting two of her, the "good one" and the Incredible Hulk.  It will all pass.  She is learning how to navigate the world with more independence.  Sometimes it is awesome, sometimes it is awesomely frustrating.  I get it.  I have been there.  In many ways I am just as frustrated.  I want to have bouts of tears, and yell too.  I want to fix the problems. I want to tell her how to do everything so it will work out.  I can't,  because then she will never figure out that she has the solution to problems, the big ones and the small ones.  It is my job to keep my cool, and drop casual advice (like clues for a scavenger hunt, just enough to get her in the right direction, but not solving the riddles completely)   When dealing with teens it is best to stay calm, even if it is a false calm at times.  Many days are "fake it 'til you make it" around here.

It would be cruel to use the words "hot mess" to describe this phase of human development, but sometimes the truth hurts.  Most of us grow out our hot messiness.  Sure, there are some people that are still living the drama of the hot mess life, I am not going let my daughter be that person.  I will tolerate her dust, and the commotion caused by her growing into who she is meant to be.  I will also appreciate and celebrate all of the beautiful milestones and achievements the next few years will bring.  Taking the good with the bad.

She is under construction, pardon the dust.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five for Friday

Our Imaginary Dialog

Reader:  Jeepers! Allie, it has been an eternity since you wrote a Five for Friday. Has nothing random or ridiculous happened in months?  Have you read nothing decent?  Has the whole planet finally come around to your way of thinking?

Allie:  Oh dear one, random and ridiculous is like the water in the Great Lakes that surrounds this pleasant peninsula I inhabit.  It is plentiful and often infested with non-native creatures much like those crazy carp that jump out of the water, and zebra mussels that do whatever they do that is horrible and wrong.

Reader:  Huh, okay then...well, what sort of random ridiculousness have you encountered this week?  (fervently hoping for no more obscure, slightly environmental, but completely baffling references)

Allie:  Wow, thanks for asking, my intelligent and kind reader.  It is so compassionate of you to be concerned with the important and pressing issues in Allieville (population 1, but the visitor center is very busy and their are three squatters in the mayoral mansion)

Reader:  So you have some witty, mildly entertaining musings to share????

Me:  You know I do. You know, I do.

  1. The Two Day Heat Wave.  Tuesday and Wednesday were unseasonably hot this week. I had pity upon the school kids.  The self-pity came into play when I had to attend an Open House at the elementary school.  It was hotter than Hades and three times as humid (I hear Hades enjoys a dry heat, much like Death Valley, and  your oven)  The A/C had been turned off  in the hope of using no climate control in the house until mid-October.  I pondered making my family tough it out.  Then folded like a wet paper bag before noon on Tuesday.  The thought of my family coming home, complaining about the heat was too much for me.  These people are getting to me, making soft.  At this rate they may coax me into turning on the heat before October 15th.
  2. Word Mashers.  The English language is in peril.  Every year some really sketchy words push their way into the dictionary by popular force.  Words that are like nails on a chalkboard to this lover of words.  In 2012, "sexting", made the dictionary.  (thanks Anthony Wiener, thanks a lot)  The word "earworm" made the dictionary as well.  I happen to fully endorse "earworm", I was actually surprised that it was not already in the dictionary.  My fear is the mashed up words like "amirite" (am I right), and "inorite" (I know, right) will be wholly embraced.  These are horrid phrase/questions already, but to then mash them into one word that ends with up vocal inflection trying to imply a fully formed question makes me crazy.  First of all, no you are not right, and I am pretty sure you know very little when you use these phrase/question atrocities.  A piece of my soul dies every time I hear these abominable language thugs.  I cry for our future if either of these monsters make the dictionary cut.
  3. Orange is the New Black (the book).  I recently downloaded this memoir of Piper Kerman's experience in a Federal womens prison.  It is a good read.  She writes very honestly about what landed her in prison, and what it was like for her being locked up for 13 months.  It is cautionary tale for those who make questionable choices in this time of mandatory minimum prison sentences for first time offenders.  Check it out.
  4. Orange is the New Black  (TV show).  Netflix has made an original series loosely based upon Piper Kerman's memoir.  Piper is involved in the series production, she is listed in the credits in some capacity..  The series is very entertaining.  It is also rather graphic, not suitable for kids or even teen viewing.  I mean that.  I am no prude, but this is completely adult content.  The book is suitable for teens if they are interested.  The storytelling is very engaging, and you may find yourself sucked into several episodes back to back.  It okay, it's Netflix.  Netflix is all about binge TV watching.
  5. Sad, but True.  A few weeks ago my son confronted me in the kitchen about Santa.  My sweet and logical LEGO loving boy stated that he has come to the conclusion that Santa Claus is indeed not real.  Ouch.  He is nine.  He gave a very reasoned argument.  He then chastised me for being a liar.  I informed him that his dad was in on it too.  He then said he is a liar too.  (Which is great because I do not like taking the heat alone.  I will throw people under the bus, even my beloved husband)  Then he promised to play along for his sister's sake.  What???  His sister is 14.  She has never told me where she stands on Santa.  She is the best older sister ever.  She wrote letters to Santa all through middle school.  I know she knows, but she would never say because she would not want to upset her little brother.  I am a little sad.  I will probably still put some stuff under the tree from "Santa" for the next few years.  Now I am wondering if I need to tell my daughter that the little guy has it all figured out?  Maybe someone will e-mail her a copy of this blog.  I do not think she reads me.  Not enough pictures, poor spelling, and LOLing here.
That is all I have for this week my sweet reader. Enjoy your weekend!

Totally random aside.  In my first draft of this entry  in the dialog I had labeled the Reader as "you" and Allie as "me"...then realized it was odd for you to consider yourself as "you" when you are a "me" to yourself.  Pronouns can be your friend and enemy at the same time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Marching Band Rules

My very musically gifted daughter has joined her high school's marching band.  Okay, she pretty much joined it back in June, that is how long the band has been meeting and practicing.  They practice a lot.  A LOT.  Long practices.  Frequent practices.  Many, many, many practices.  They went away to camp, the whole lot of them, and practiced playing and marching and moving.  They are pretty good.  I say this with a completely untrained eye and ear.  I never marched.  I attempted to play musical instruments, with little success, even though I was stationary in a chair the entire time.  I am not musical.  I am creative, and gifted in other ways.  I can make up alternate lyrics to almost any song (the pitch of the signing is sketchy).  I can write simple poems.  I write this blog (although I am not sure if that qualifies as "being creative", but I write and people understand what I write.  The word on the street is, not everyone can write in a way people understand their message.).   Non-musical mom says this marching band is pretty good.  Mom who is rather sick of driving back and forth says, "They better be good for all the practicing they do.  For all the practicing, they should be marching down the streets of Pasadena on New Year's Day in the blessed Rose Bowl Parade".  Sick of driving mom is pretty grouchy, but she has a solid point.

Marching Band, from my rookie marching parent perspective, seems to have a set of rules.  Not necessarily written rules, but rules like prison.  Unwritten, sometimes unspoken rules, that you must figure out to move seamlessly among the other inmates marching parents.  I am not sure if a veteran marching parent will shiv you for messing up, or breaking a rule, but they may shun you or talk behind your back.  (I am a direct kind of girl.  I may prefer a shiv between the shoulder blades).  Anyway, here are the rules I have surmised thus far:

Marching Band Rules

  1. The band will compete in competitions.  When you ask what exactly marching band competitions are,  you will be told, "Competitions are so much fun".  When you try to get beyond "the fun" aspects, you will be asked to drive several marchers to the competition, and help haul props out on the field for performances.  That sounds like work, I am not sure where any fun will be had . 
  2. Practice begins fifteen minutes before the stated time. 
  3. Practice ends ten to fifteen minutes later than the stated time
  4. The drums are always playing.  Percussionist do not care, they never did.  I am curious to see what the walls must look like in a drummer's home.  God bless those parents.
  5. The Marching Band will always be doing some type of fundraiser. I could go on a preach on how the Arts are underfunded, and it is a shame.  I could tell you how playing an instrument is connected with higher achievement in math.  I won't.  I will just try to sell you some festive holiday greenery, or flowers in the spring.
  6. To be in band your student must purchase shirts indicating their class, their section, and the show they are performing this season in the band.  The student will hit up the parents for the money.
  7. Band Parents are to wear shirts indicating they are part of the marching band.
  8. Band Parents sit near the band at football games.
  9. Your marcher will be tired all the time, but still want to attend the frequent, long practices
  10. You will ALWAYS be able to see your marcher (and they will look the best) even though the goal is for the whole band to blend together as a single moving force.
I know this much to be true of marching band.  I alternately hate and love the marching band.  When viewing the family calendar and seeing how many days it takes up, or having to go on vacation without my daughter because she was at band camp during the summer, or seeing her blistered feet that she will continue to march upon...I hate it.  However, when I hear her talk about the new friendships she has made, and sit in the stands on a Friday night, under the lights and see her take the field playing and moving forward, backward, and side to side whilst playing her clarinet...well, then I really love the marching band.  She is learning to use her time wisely, work hard, and be a team player.  All of those things will serve her well academically and socially.  Sure, I still have to figure out all the marching band rules.  I will have to do fundraisers.  I will drive the wheels off my car.  But maybe, just maybe, someday I will say, Marching Band, RULES!!! 


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back to School: Smooth Criminal Edition

We are all back to school here.  My daughter started high school.  My son is in fourth grade.  I am enrolled in online traffic school.  You know a typical day in the life of a smooth criminal.  I did not choose the life, it chose me.  Actually, I am not sure that being a chronic lead foot makes me an actual criminal.  It certainly makes me a scofflaw.  It also make me a poor example for my kids who now monitor my speed as if I just learned to drive yesterday.  Perhaps if my parents had corrected my "speedy queen" tendencies from an early age I would not be a 40 year woman enrolled in online traffic school to keep the points from being reported.  No, I am not going blame my parents, but my dad would say things like, "Give her some gas, we don't have all day" (Technically, we probably did have all day.  We lived a rather bucolic little town where not much happened.  Clearly, a breeding ground for young speed demons.).  He would also encourage passing the elderly in their long, slow sedans, once again because we did not have all day (and it turns out we did).  Okay, so I am going to blame my dad a little for my need for speed.  However, he does not read this, or even go on computers.  (Very funny aside, relating to nothing other than poking fun at my dad.  My daughter sent him a text, and he thought it broke his phone because he could not get the words off the screen for 5 minutes.)  And to be completely contrary to societal norms, I do not blame my mother at all for my descent into a life of civil infractions.  Sorry Mom, like I said earlier, the life chose me!

Back Story: Rule 4 in Action

Rule 4 for Being Human is "The lesson is repeated until learned".  (If you are not familiar with The Rules of Being Human click here).  Anyway, back in August my daughter needed to get to a clarinet sectional practice.  I am obsessed with being on time. In fact, if I am not 5 minutes early...I feel late.  Yes, it is a bit OCD (I own that).  Anyway, in my quest for her to be on time, which my OCD said needed to be five minutes early, I was driving too fast through a known speed trap. POP. Ticket. Online Traffic School.  How did I know it was speed trap?  I was pulled over in the same place several years ago.  I also see people pulled over there all the time (It is the road I travel to get to my daughter's school and my local Target).  So I knew better.  My beloved pointed out all of these things to me.  I know, but I did not choose the fast  life, the fast life chose me!  And the universe was going keep teaching me about speeding until I learned.

The worst part was not getting a ticket.  I deserved it.  This was not my most deserving act of speeding...I have gone much faster.  No, the worst part was after I finally dropped my daughter off (seven minutes late), my son said, "You were not going as fast as could have been going".
At that point he truly believed some great injustice had been done to his mom.  He did not see me as deserving of a traffic citation.  He did not want me punished.  He even said. "You are a good fast driver".
Thank you son, I am a good fast driver.  And I am still in the wrong.  Worse than that, I am a bad role model .  Rules are rules.  Rules have consequences.  In the past I have written letters to get out of tickets, or had them changed to a non-moving violation.  Basically, weaseling out of what I actually did wrong.  I knew this time I needed to accept what I did. I have accepted the actual consequences for my crime.  I paid the fine, and now I am taking a class to learn why my "good fast driving" is not as good as I believed.

My son went with me to the courthouse to pay my ticket.  He asked me if I was mad at the police now.  (after randomly recalling a song from my youth by the gangster rap group NWA...which is entirely inappropriate)  I told him I was the one that messed up, the policeman was just doing his job.  It was in the parking lot of the courthouse that my son said he would make sure I never "speeded" again.  Now I have a 9 year old parole officer.  I report to him daily, and do his laundry.

Online Traffic School

This time I may actually learn that speeding is wrong, because paying the money was easy, but taking an online class is a mild form of torture.  The course is a mandatory four hours.  It has sections that you read, and then answer 10 questions.  No big deal.  However, it is all timed.  If your read the section in 10 minutes, and the program allotted 30 minutes for that section, you have to go back and review the reading (or file your nails) for 20 more minutes until the questions pop up.  It also has these alarming yellow flashing boxes that pop up randomly with questions you need to answer within 10 seconds to prove you are indeed in front of your computer and not taking a shower, vacuuming, or doing much of anything else.  It turns out this fast driver is also a fast reader.  I could have opted to take an actual class in a classroom that lasted 4 hours.  I am pretty sure that would have killed me, or at least killed my spirit.  Online I can do a section, take a break, and go back.  As long as I finish before October 24, and pass the test with 70% correct answers.  Just so you know, my competitive nature will not let me get a 70%.  I have thus far earned 100% on all of my modules.  In a classroom setting it would have been fun to waive around a few 100% tests (that is the only upside of having actual classmates).  I did not choose the nerd life either...(it chose me).


Honestly, for the first time in all of my driving years, which is many.  I am obeying speed limits.  Not because I particularly think that they are right, but because it is a law.  We live in a society that needs laws to keep good order.  Now it is about being a good example for my kids.  I want them to be be good drivers someday, and I am their primary example of driving, so I need to make it good and lawful.  (Yes, my beloved drives them places, but not as much as I do)  I want to be good role model.

Now back to my Traffic School Modules...