Memories

I am a sucker for DIY and Home Makeover shows.  Actually, I have a love/hate relationship with them.  I love watching them, getting new ideas, seeing the before and after, and even just seeing how others live.  The hate comes from the fact that a) I start spending money I shouldn’t on items I really don’t need just so that I can “look like” the Jones, b) I come to the realization that it doesn’t matter how much money I spend, my end result will NEVER look like what’s on tv, or c) it takes colossally longer than the 30 minutes shown on tv (lol).  It’s a constant battle.

Sunday afternoon, I found myself lying on my couch and for the first time in a LONG while, binge watching tv.   Of course, what did I binge watch?  Well, none other than Lakefront Bargains.  It’s a show where people buy houses on a lake somewhere within the US at a ridiculously cheap price and then spends months and thousands of dollar remaking it.  I like this show more than the others just because I have a life goal of one day living on the lake as well.   I have these grand visions, of sitting on a back deck, made from hand carved cedar, with a rocking chair, a big fluffy blanket, a cup of coffee, a backyard covered in dead leaves (my vision is always at the end of Fall/start of Winter) that is sloping down to a dock with a boat moored in it.   There’s quiet except for the occasional scuttling of groundhogs and squirrels and the tweet of the random bird, who when flying south for winter is making their home here in SC.   I pull out my laptop and walk over to the custom built outside wooden table, and start writing, because in my visions I am the writer I always wanted to be.   Anyways…

Back to the show, and what triggered the writing of this blog post.  A family of six, that’s right six, has bought an “A-frame” style lake house.   They spend months of labor (some of it their own personal time) and tens of thousands of dollars (going $5k over budget) to turn this house into a place where “we can’t wait to build memories with our kids, memories that will last a lifetime”.  And there it is…building memories and writing this blog.  The show closes out with the parents saying those words while hanging out by a fire pit with fat marshmallows hanging onto sticks (that the kids found in the yard – memories) coming perilously close to being charred hunks as the licking flames of the fire reach higher (imagine those memories if the marshmallows catch on fire).

Memories!  There it is.   I love memories.  I love creating them.  I love my memories.  As a matter of fact, I love my memories so much that I’ve found myself doing everything in my power to record them NOW so that I don’t forget about them later.   Memories.   There’s the last page of each month’ Vanity Fair where it’s like a game of 20 questions for someone famous.   One of the questions is usually, “what is your most valued possession?”  I know what my answer would be…my memories.  So, again, let’s talk memories.

I chuckled as I watched the credits rolling on that episode of Lakefront Bargains with the 4 kids and the parents.  I chuckled because I’ve said those same words.  As a matter of fact, I had just said those very same words that morning, as I’m sitting out under the awning of our camper.  My oldest had woken up early and decided he wanted to see the sunrise over the lake.  I thought, “what a great idea, son.  I want to see it too.  Let’s go.”  Well, there was no sunrise to be seen, as the low clouds hung close and drained themselves of moisture, the pitter patter of rain starting to hit the top of the camper.   I made a pot of coffee and then sat outside with him. 

“Isn’t this great?” I asked.

“No, this sucks.  I can’t see the sunrise.  I woke up early for nothing and now it’s raining so I can’t ride the dirt bike.  I hate camping.  There’s nothing to do,” he grumbled as he reached for my iPhone to set up a hotspot on his video game.

Nearly six years ago, my husband and I decided we would start camping with the boys.  You know, “creating memories”.  We started with a tent, which didn’t go well considering that every time we went it would pour rain and sitting in a tent with two toddlers (one still in diapers and the other still potty training) along with a dog was just the epitome of misery in my book.   We eventually graduated up to a used camper and found that camping was amazing, and we’ve been camping ever since, usually twice a month at some lake within the State of South Carolina.   We’ve spent years creating memories.   It’s been great.  I love camping.  I look forward to it, even though the set up can be a pain, the end result is just all around amazing for me.  It’s awesome.   For years, my children have said the same thing.   They love camping, they look forward to it, they can’t wait to go, but as the years have moved, so has their attitude towards camping and mom’s best efforts to “create memories”.  The memories these days seem to consist of the two boys in the camper, fighting over an iPad, which then turns into a wrestling even that has some people wondering if the old slogan of “if the camper is rockin’, don’t come knockin’” is indeed holding true.   First off, it’s not.  If my camper is rockin’, it’s usually because my ungrateful brats are beating each other up.   Memories!

Most camping trips usually consist of prying them off of each other, holding them at arm’s length and yelling, “you two a-holes are ruining my camping trip.   I didn’t get to do this sort of stuff as a kid.  Your father and I are sacrificing for the two of you to have some things we didn’t have.   And instead, you selfish little sh*ts are destroying any sort of memory making I had in store.”  Of course, my yelling continues to rise, I’m nearly holding them off the ground by their biceps, and my husband is sipping his bourbon saying to me, “you should really calm down and get a grip.”  That usually elicits my yelling at him before stomping out of the camper and slamming the door.   Memories.  

What happened to those years when camping was the greatest thing, when arriving at the campsite, the boys would jump out of the truck and make friends?   They would ride their bikes through the campsite, skim rocks along the lake, pull out fishing poles and do some casting, or hit up the closest playground.   I would yell out as they were pedaling off, “any friends you make, don’t bring them to my campsite!”  (I love my children, but I don’t like other people’s children).  Now they don’t even bother trying to make friends with the other kids.  Memories.

I wanted to track down that family from Lakefront Bargains and tell them they’re in for a rude awakening.   When the mom asked the kiddos, as they were exploring the new house, “are we the best mom and dad ever?” I busted out laughing!   I wanted to reach through the screen, grab her by the shoulders and shake her uncontrollably while yelling, “wake up!”   These children will wake up one day and not appreciate the sacrifices you’re making in the name of “creating memories”.   They’ll whine, fight, complain, mope, pout, and purposely set out to make you miserable with them.   Memories. 

As my oldest and I sat out under the awning, listening to the rain, I tried to talk with him about why we go camping, about how one day he’ll wake up and be thankful for these memories, how he’ll pass this on to his children.   What did I get?  A roll of the eyes followed by an under the breath, “whatever”.  Memories! 

All of these thoughts came tumbling back in as a new episode of Lakefront Bargains came on and the teaser had the mom stating, “we’re just excited to create memories with our kids.”  Bwahahaha!  Might want to adjust whatever pre-conceived notion you had about those “memories” you’re so excited to create with your kids. 

My Notebooks

I wish I were the type of parent with some harbinger of wisdom. I try my best to think about what words I can instill within my children to make them happier, more successful, and all around just good human beings. Unfortunately, I’m not the type of parent who can come up with little nuggets of knowledge on a whim. Nope. Instead, I’m a stealer of ideas, notes, words, wisdom, one-line zingers. One would not think that of someone who considers herself a writer, but alas that is me.

I find myself writing down tidbits from movies and television shows I watch, at times annoying the shit out of my husband as I pause and rewind what Claire Dunphy had to say to her three smartass kids, just so I can make sure to get those words down. And what do I do with those words? Why, I write them down in a notebook, of course, that way I can pull them out and use them word for word on my children. In the end, I lose all credibility with my children as someone who is an “all-knowing mom, bursting forth with words of wisdom and encouragement”, especially when they see me thumb through my notebook to find just what I want to preach to them. And I suppose before we go any further, I should really discuss these notebooks.

I have various notebooks. When the good Lord decides to call me home (I really hope He does and not the other dude downstairs), my children are going to be responsible for cleaning out the craziness of what I hope will be a life well-lived (hey maybe Willie Geist will still be hosting Sunday Today and I’ll be his feature for “A Life Well Lived”). And of course, they will find a plethora of notebooks, well organized and tabbed. For example, I keep notebooks with both children’s names on them. These notebooks hold who broke what in mom’s house, on what date, and if anyone owns up to it. If no one owns up to it, then it gets written down in both of their notebooks. Why do I do this you may ask. Well, you see, my children seem to be completely devoid of any respect for how hard their father and I work to provide a nice house with nice things. In the end, there’s a wrestling fight and something in my house gets pulverized, broken or destroyed only a weekly basis. We’ve had shower rods ripped from the wall, holes kicked in doors, utility drawers literally pulled off of their railings and the occasional broken picture, plate, glass, lamp, you name it. And I get it. They are boys and they are children, so I should give them some grace, but yeah I’m not gonna. So, when they leave this house that their father and I have provided so generously to them, and they get their own places, mom is coming to their house with her trusty notebook and breaking everything in their houses that they broke in mine. A bit juvenile? Perhaps, but it is my way. So that is one notebook.

There’s another notebook where I write down snide comments, heartfelt cuddlings and words that make me sound like I am the most intuitive mom around. They’re not my words, but instead diatribes of various authors, poets, song writers (Willie Nelson has a LOT of snippets to share in this notebook) and screenwriters. When I hear or read something that just really rubs me in a good way, then I whip out this notebook and write it down. This notebook is tabbed and labelled with everything from “smart ass back hands” to “I love you, but I don’t have to like you” to the “you are great” tab which is where I keep all of the pep talks, the loving conversations, the affirmations of love and support. So, as you can see, this notebook is pretty well-balanced. All of this leads me to the day when I didn’t have my full notebook and I needed to impart some parental words of admonishment and wisdom on my oldest. You know, I needed the tab “words of wisdom to make you a better human”, but I was unprepared and had to wing it with my own words of wisdom. For the first time, my children didn’t have to hear mom say, “Wait!” as I pulled out my notebook, licked my finger, and perused through the pages to find what I was looking for. Side note – this usually elicits an eye roll, a slight huff and an exasperating whine of, “not the notebook again, mom.”

My oldest is a bit of a glory hound. He wants to be number one, he feeds off of affirmations from his elders and peers (it’s his own personal drug). So when he started out on offense on his soccer team, he was in his element! He was quite impressive with a few tackles, some spot on shots and even a couple of saves. He hustled and stayed with the ball, but of course that had to end and his coach shuffled him around for the second half of the game and put him on defense. My son has not grasped that “defenses win games”. He doesn’t see helping to protect the goalie as a legitimate option. He just sees that he’s lost his drug. He’s lost his opportunity for a goal, for his teammates to raise him up high on their shoulders and carry him off the field for scoring the winning goal. All of that is lost to him and at that point, he sees no need in moving forward. It’s not about the team for him. I’ve tried the whole “there’s no I in team”, but I just get your typical eye roll. This time, I decided I would try something different and I did it all WITHOUT my notebook.

“D, the world does not revolve around you, son, and I am so terribly sorry if your dad and I have given you that impression. Clearly, we have failed you as parents. You have a part to play on this team, in this family, and in this world. We all have a part to play. We all have skillsets and we have to use those for the betterment of the team and this world. The sooner you realize that, the better life will be for you, for me, your friends, and really the whole world.”

WHEW! I did that! That was my own personal speech without the use of a notebook. I took a deep breath after that. I was so proud of myself. That was an awesome speech! I mean who doesn’t like a “you have a part to play in this world” speech???? It’s not just a homerun speech, it’s a grand slam speech, and I again I did it all on the cuff and without my notebook! Pat myself on the back.

I looked down at D, a smile on my face, ready for him to hug me and say, “wow, you’re so right, mom. Thank you for helping me to see the error of my ways.” Instead, I’m looking at my first spawn, a child who shares my DNA, and he’s squinting off into the distance. I look off in the direction where he’s staring.

“Is that kid running around mooning everyone?” I ask.

“Yeah, he is,” says D, as he’s laughing hysterically.

“Did you hear what I was saying to you? Were you even listening to me?” I ask with a slight twinge of a whine in my voice.

“Yeah, I have a part to play, mom. Can I go hang out with my friends and play the part of their friend?” And with that he’s off.

What?!?!?!?!

Clearly, that entire grandiose speech was a waste, but I immediately went home and wrote it down in my notebook because it WAS good and I might get the opportunity to use it on my youngest at some point in the near future. Which makes me wonder, perhaps if I had kept my notebook handy, I would have had something better to offer D.

I Need the Reminders

It keeps popping up and not just once, but numerous instances.   And it’s not just one day, it’s each day that it’s posted on my calendar. And it’s not just one calendar, it’s numerous calendars, but they are inextricably linked together, so to make the change is really a simple fix. It is just one click. It’s painless, not at all time consuming, and I’ll be able to move on with life in this era of “new normal”, but I don’t do it.   I don’t bother to make the change, I just see them and then I dismiss them, allowing for the reminder to still nag at me each time.   I don’t know why I don’t just go in and cancel every sports practice, every afterschool enrichment activity, every church event, every camping trip, every concert, every event that was on my calendar before this age of social distancing.   When they come up, I often say to myself, “Amy, you should just cancel these,” but I don’t.   It’s like I want that constant reminder of what we WOULD have been doing as a family.   It’s like I want to have that incessant sick feeling of disappointment at all the opportunities my boys could have had.   The most recent disappointment: Dabo Swinney Football Clinic.

As I’m typing this blog, I just received the reminder about what would have been flag football practice tonight for my boys.   I see it right now. It’s staring at me, menacingly, almost as if it’s laughing at me.   That’s not possible, I’m aware, but I still feel it all the same.

My husband and I were discussing this last night.   Life has gotten a little bit easier with the country’s stay at home order, at least for us.   I’m blessed to work for a company that allows me to work remotely. My children have access to everything they need for school.   We’re not rushed every morning to run out the door, breakfasts half eaten, and a house in complete disarray.   We’re not eating through our lunch breaks at work, so that we can leave work 30 minutes early in order to get the boys picked up from school and fed before all of their extracurricular activities.   We have the time to just slow down and enjoy life, to breathe, to have dinner as a family EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.   My husband plays football with the boys every night after dinner until it gets dark. We have family movie nights on the weekends on the big screen and projector outside.   Our house is the most put together it’s been since before we had children.   For the most part, this is actually working for us, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss our life before.

For the most part, my husband and I do well with social distancing.   We’re not as extroverted as others and don’t crave social interaction as often.   We miss our friends.   We miss our cook outs with groups of friends.   We miss our date nights, but we’re making it.   Still, in spite of the fact that we’re doing well right now, I still want those calendar pop ups to remain. I want those reminders of what we could have had.   Perhaps it’s my self-deprecating personality? Perhaps I’m nostalgic? Who knows, but oops, look a there…another pop up reminder has just flashed across my screen. I hit the accept button and continue with daily life, not bothering to just delete it altogether.

One day this mentality will change for me, but for now we are getting by.

 

Ball State

The bags full of colorful plastic blocks lay disregarded on the floor.   Having been emptied of what makes them essential, they withered into nothingness, my children kicking them across the floor, even crumpling them underneath their feet.   I snatched them up from the floor as my husband sat at the kitchen table with our children, relentlessly working to put together the Lego Voltron my husband had bought for himself to celebrate his 41st birthday. It was his time with the boys and they loved doing things like this with dad, so I let them be.   As I continued to pick up the bags, the conversation between father and spawns, more specifically Spawn 1 caught my attention.

“Dad, do you know Ball State?” he asked his fingers methodically putting together the yellow lion of Voltron’s arm. “Is that a real name?”

“Yeah, it’s real,” my husband replied.

I continued picking up the kitchen as the conversation went on.

“Well, don’t you think that’s a weird name ‘Ball State’?” Spawn #1 said again and at this point the youngest spawn, at 6 years of age, started chanting, “ball, ball, ball, ball” as he continued putting together his portion of Voltron.

“No, not really,” my husband replied. “Where did you hear this from?”

“On my Madden game, they were talking about one of the Carolina Panthers players went to Ball State and I just thought that was a weird name.”

Of course, I thought this was just mindless chit-chat between father and son, you know inquisitive little minds wanting to know everything.   They remained quiet for a few moments before my oldest spawn continued on.

“Well, it’s a good thing that it’s not called Balls State, because that would be embarrassing don’t you think, dad? To say, ‘hey, I go to Balls State,’ you know what I’m saying. Right, dad? You know balls?” he said as he started giggling.

I stopped for a moment and stifled my own laugh until the youngest one started saying, “balls, balls, balls, balls,” all the while laughing himself.   He actually turned it into a sort of singsong.

I couldn’t help myself and neither could my husband.   We both laughed as we tried to quell the incessant “balls, balls, balls,” comments from the youngest one.

Within a few minutes, we’d had our deep belly laughs, the ones that hurt and make it difficult to catch your breath.   The boys and my husband continued on with putting Voltron together, piece by plastic piece.

Boys…it’s never a dull minute with either one of them, and the constant turning of wheels inside their brains…well, I never underestimate what exactly they’re thinking.

Day 3

Life has become increasingly more difficult right now.   The governor decided on Sunday night to close schools in our state until March 31st. Our teachers had to scramble over a course of two days to gather together 10 days worth of work for our children.   As parents, we’re now tasked with handling the schooling of our children and for some of us, this is a whole new age.   Gone are the days of assignments sent home in folders and trapper keepers (some of y’all remember those!).   Everything is now digital and when the school district isn’t prepared for every child getting on these websites at the same time then it becomes anarchy in the households.

Wednesday of this week started the first official day of homeschooling.   I’ve had a taste of this in the past when I was a stay at home mom.   I had lesson plans, daily activities, and school work all prepared. My little nuggets were learning to read by age 4.   I’m a go-getter, at times a perfectionist, and an all around over-achiever, so I took this opportunity of school closure as a chance to be hands on with my children, to have more input on what their learning. I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t know it would be maddening.

The first day of home school, my husband was up to bat.   I had already been off work the first part of the week, now it was his turn to tag in and hit a homerun with our kids’ schooling.   Unfortunately for him, he continued to strike out, and through no fault of his own.   Our children barely finished 4 hours of schoolwork in 12 hours. Yes, you read that correctly.   Websites were not working, some of the instructions were confusing, and our children couldn’t get used to the new environment of school at home.   Before I was even 5 minutes down the road on my way to work, my husband called me exasperated that nothing was working.   By 10:30, I had already received 4 phone calls from him and when I answered that call he was yelling, “don’t lick your chromebook!”   Yikes!

It’s going to be a marathon and not a sprint. I’ve had to throw everything out the window.   Any preconceived notions that I would be able to handle my children’s schooling effortlessly was clearly a mind fart on my part.   I mean, how hard could it be?   I have 3 degrees, one of which is a Masters, surely K5 and 2nd grade homework will be easy peasy. So, like much of the other working parents of America, I am being humbled by everything our school teachers do for our children and angered at our governments for how LITTLE they do for our teachers.

I’ve decided we’re going to step back and punt after today.   Davey has struggled with math. Our nanny has kept an eye on the boys and is working with them on their schoolwork, but I think my children may have helped her make the decision to NEVER have children.   It’s been a lot to ask of her and the difficulties are massive where schoolwork is concerned.   After today, the boys have Friday and Monday off.   Those days were originally scheduled as teacher in service days and I’m going to keep them that way. I’m taking that opportunity to let them breathe, to just enjoy life.   I don’t want them looking back on these days with anymore fear and trepidation than they already are.   This new normal for them is much harder. Their emotions run strong and their still working out how to communicate.   The last thing I want is for them to have anxiety brought on by schoolwork.

And I suppose I have to work on my anxiety as well.   My need to control and perfect things, can bleed over into my children.   This whole situation is going to be a long haul and I don’t want to wake up one day and think I missed my opportunity to turn it into something ok.

 

Friend to Felines

My senior year of college my roommate had two cats.   She was a huge cat fan. She loved all things cat related including Hello Kitty.   One of the cats was old and diabetic. He was a huge cat and on every visit to the vet, she was encouraged to stop letting the cat suffer, but instead she powered through with two shots of insulin a day and picking the fat cat up to take it up and downstairs (it was so fat, there was a fear thing poor thing wouldn’t make it up the stairs and if he tried to make it down, then he’d tumble into a ball.) The cat NEVER used the litterbox. Instead we would come home from class, the apartment having been locked up while we were gone, to the knock you out smell of cat poop all over the apartment, but mostly in the kitchen. GROSS!

Her other cat was much younger and spry. He was black and a bit devilish. He liked to curl up with you, but demanded that all doors in the apartment be open. It’s possible that he may have had a case of claustrophobia.   Personally, I feel that Satan himself lived inside of that cat.   Many a night I would awake to my bedroom door rattling, with the occasional black paw reaching under the door clawing, coupled with a skin crawling meow.   When I would open my door, I would find the demon backed up against the wall across the way from my door. It would sit there on its haunches, black tail hypnotically moving back and forth, back and forth, with its yellow eyes glaring at me.   As I would turn to go back into my room, I caught the cat a couple of times running as fast as possible to the door of my roommate and head butting it before reaching under with its claws.   Yes, the cat was head butting my door.

I tell you this brief history so that you can understand my feelings in regards to cats. I don’t like them. I can’t stand them. I find them gross and a bit disturbing.   My second spawn; however, thinks they are the greatest things on earth and if he could have a house full of cats, he would gladly take that over anything else a 6 year old boy could ever possibly want.

He loves to draw and to construct.   Every picture he draws, from the moment he was old enough to hold a pencil, has a cat somewhere in it.   At least once a week, he asks for a cat. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon which side you stand on, my husband and oldest Spawn are both allergic to cats, so we will NEVER have one of these in our house.   The second Spawn finds that devastating and at times would gladly trade in his brother and dad for a cat.   Sorry, my dear, you’ll have to wait until you get your own house for a cat and then you’ll likely never see your family ever again. Of course, that may be the way he prefers it.

His love of cats encouraged my cousin and her husband to buy him a white fluffy fake cat.   When the Spawn opened his present that year and saw that cat, I swear he almost started crying because he was so happy. The cat can purr and meow. He can move his head and close his eyes, and when you put his bowl in front of him to “eat” you can hear him eating happily.   Of course, we named this cat Fluffy.   Not very original, but I don’t really care.

Super Bowl Sunday of this year, my youngest one was adamant about watching the Kitten Bowl. I had never heard of such I had heard of the Puppy Bowl, but I didn’t know we had moved forward as a society so quickly to a Kitten Bowl.   That afternoon, as my oldest and I sat downstairs to watch the Super Bowl, the youngest was cuddled up in my bed, Fluffy the cat by his side, and the Kitten Bowl on the television. I came upstairs a couple of times completely amazed at the fact that this is something people actually watch. My child? Not surprised so much, but grown adults? I felt bad for the people who were chosen as the “sportcasters” for this farce.   I silently wondered how badly they had pissed off their agent or studio to be demoted to the role of Kitten Bowl play by play analyst. I still shake my head.

The Spawn’s love of cats has even gone far enough for the fact that Friday was Book Character day at school.   As an avid reader and lover of all things books, my children have a sizeable library in both of their rooms, full of personal books they’ve inherited through the years or ones I’ve hand selected based upon their personalities.   There is one that I consider a classic, one that I read as a child, and it’s called The Fire Cat.   We’ve read it a few times at home, but I never knew to what extent the youngest one loves this book, to the point where when I asked him over a week ago what character he wanted to be, he quickly replied with, “Pickles, the Fire Cat!”

Being a working mom now, I don’t exactly have the time to get creative when my kids have days like this at school. Wait! Who am I kidding? I’ve never been creative enough to help my kids through the days even when I was a stay at home mom.   Regardless, I was proud of myself for coming up with the free hat from Firehouse Subs (huge shout out to those guys – hands down best steak and cheese I’ve ever had.) and the Halloween makeup left over from this past year.   We gave him a cat face to go along with the fire hat.   He proudly climbed onto that school bus, book in hand, and headed off to school.   As I wrote this post, I received a picture from his teacher.   The face paint has worn off, but he looks so stinking cute, not like the devilish little fiend he can be most days.

I still like to remind him almost daily of how hard it would be on all of us if we had a cat. I see the disappointment in his face and honestly at times I’m tempted to trade in my husband for a cat just so I can see that little face sparkle again.   Then I think back to 20 years ago and my skin begins to crawl and twitch at the memories of the cats that have forever scarred me.   Sorry, my sweet little Spawn #2, cats are definitely off of this list.

Fire Cat

It’s Just Too Much

“It’s just too much, mom!”

That’s what I heard that Wednesday morning as I prepped the boys and myself for another long day of work and school.   I thought to myself, “it IS just too much as well, my son,” but that’s life.   Of course, I was completely unaware as to what my darling Spawn #1 was possibly referring to.

For months, especially since the start of this school year, I’ve gone into work utterly exhausted, mentally not physically, due to the constant bickering between my two children as we sit in carline.   I work a fairly unflexible job, but one that allows me to work the hours of 7:30 – 4:30.   To be at work by 7:30, I have to drop my children off at school as soon as the bell rings and even then I’m still frantically trying to make it through morning rush hour traffic to be at work on time. In most cases, I was coming in HOT and I mean literally and figuratively.   Side note, I blame the “literally” portion of this on my apparent pre-menopause.   Getting old stinks!   Back to my story….

Most of those mornings we were leaving our house at 6:45 am in order to be one of the first 4 in carline.   Let’s take another aside here…If I was not one of the first 4, then I would be stuck behind the other parents and most of those in carline are some of the most inconsiderate and disrespectful individuals! No wonder our society is dissipating so quickly! So, again, back to my story…

I would sit in carline from 6:50 until 7:10 every morning.   That’s a mere 20 minutes, but in the world of a mother with two boys aged 6 & 8, 20 minutes is more like a torturous eternity.   I found myself yelling at my children, attempting to separate them, trying to reason with them, everything and anything you could possible do with 2 terrorists who have no desire to be maintained.   Needless to say, I needed to come up with another alternative to morning carline…enter the school bus.

I rode the school bus when I was in school, mostly middle and high school up until 10th grade when I gratefully attained my drivers license.   I hated the school bus. I hated getting up every morning and getting on a bus at 6:20. Yes, I said 6:20.   Back when I was growing up, the town I lived in had only one high school, a 20 minute drive in the OPPOSITE direction of where my parents worked.   So, my parents put me on the school bus. I swore to myself that I would never put my children through this misery, but alas I broke my promise to myself.

After the start of the new year and much discussion with my husband, we decided it would be best to put the boys on the bus in the morning.   I found out that our stop was the last stop before getting the boys to school.   Much unlike my nearly hour and a half that I spent riding the bus, my children would have a mere 5-10 minutes on the bus.   The added benefit was that we could save an extra 15 minutes in the morning as well since I no longer had to leave the house at 6:45.   All in all, it seemed like a great idea.

The week we decided to put the boys on the bus was the week of January 13th, the same week of the National Championship game between my beloved Clemson Tigers and LSU. Spawn #1, being at an age where he can appreciate and enjoy football more, was allowed to stay up until half time.   Of course, my husband and I had to wake him and tell him the painful news of the loss by Clemson.   We were met with incessant sobs and an attack of, “it’s all your fault Clemson lost. You made me go to bed at half time and if I had stayed awake we would have won!”   Highly unlikely, my child, we were outplayed by a much better team, but how do you console an inconsolable child?   My husband and I took our fault and went about our day.

Move forward to the following day, Wednesday, January 15th…the first day on the bus, and we had not exactly communicated that to our children.   On top of that piece of information, we had one more thing to tell the first Spawn, something that we knew might break his football loving heart. Luke Kuechly, of the Carolina Panthers, had announced his retirement from football the night before.   Did I know that all of this would be a bit much for my 8 year old?   Of course not!   Why would anyone ever think this was going to be too much, especially in a world with far worse things occurring on a daily basis? Oh to be able to see the world through a child’s eyes.

As my husband and I awoke the Spawn and helped him get ready for school, we told him about Luke Kuechly.   The breakdown the day before from Clemson’s loss should have been some sort of warning to me.   I should have known what my child could take and what he couldn’t.   I guess I don’t know my child after all, because he took Luke Kuechly’s retirement almost as hard if not harder than the outcome of the National Championship game.   There was a lot of flailing about, a lot of “what am I supposed to do now?’   I mean one would think that he was the owner or general manager of the Panthers franchise and the retirement was going to be a direct impact to his well being.   Again, to see the world through a child’s eyes.

As my children sat at the kitchen counter eating breakfast, I told them that today would be the day they ride the bus to school.   My oldest one looked at me and I watched the tears well up in his eyes, “it’s just too much, mom!”

“What’s just too much?   What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Can we do this bus thing next week?” he asked.

“No, we can’t,” I replied. “What’s going on?”

“This! What you’re doing to me it’s just too much,” he sobbed.   “It’s too much in one week!   First Clemson loses, then you tell me Luke Kuechly is retiring, and NOW you’re putting me on a school bus!   It’s just too much, mom!”

Wow!   I’ll admit part of me had to stifle a laugh, cover my face and turn around so he wouldn’t see my amusement at his obvious pain.   After composing myself, I turned back around and apologized but I told him I had faith in him. I knew he could handle it.   He didn’t quite see it the same way and after a few minutes of moping around and sobbing, my second Spawn walked up to him and said, “Suck it up and get on the bus!”   Yes, that would be the 6 year old.

In the end, we found that riding the bus isn’t so bad.   They both seem to enjoy it and while we experience our days, mostly of my personal mom guilt for putting my children through something I swore they would never have to do, in the end it seems to be the right decision.   Of course, I’m sure we’ll soon be experiencing something new to cause life to be “just too much”.

A New Year

New Years Resolutions.    Millions are made every year and millions are broken.   Everyone takes in the first day of the New Year with refreshing eyes.   There’s a sense of possibly wiping the slate clean or perhaps shining it up a bit and doing away with the dullness.  There’s something about the New Year that just brings on a sense of a fresh new breath of air.   Me?   I don’t think I’ve made a New Years resolution in a while.   Why bother?   I always break them, but as a mom I want to do better.   Don’t we all?

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my life as mom.   Since we last spoke, I’ve gone back to work full time and it’s taken over a year for me to settle into this new lifestyle.   I have bouts of anxiety (brought on by my need to follow my “best is the standard” mantra – actually I stole that from my favorite coach.   Can anyone guess who that is?).  I have bouts of frustration and anger, lack of patience, days of feeling so overwhelmed that I think I’m going to drown in my own personal sea of desperation to be a “super mom”.

My boys are growing each day.   When I’m not working, I’m refereeing two overly competitive boys.   I’m trying my best to keep the romance in my marriage, although to be honest that falls to the wayside more times than I would prefer.   I’ve let go of my writing, something that I used to live for.   I stopped working out, which only seemed to drag me further down.   I had these strange dreams of how life would be as a working mom.   Everyone else made it look so easy.   Television shows, books, and magazines…they all made it seem like if you just “leaned in”, life would be grand.

Each day I’ve woken up promising myself that I will do better, that I will be better.   I will be the best mom my boys could have.   For the first few years of motherhood, I set up goals and resolutions to do more with my children, to take them on more adventures, to be the coolest mom that anyone had met.   Best let’s be serious, reality doesn’t always go the way we hope in our minds.

So this year, I’m not making a New Years Resolution.  Nope, not one.   I’m not even making two or three or ten or twenty.   I’m not setting any unrealistic goals for myself or my children or my family.   I just want to breathe.   I just want to take each day and remember that while the days seem long, the years are short.   I want to take a moment to just BE in the moment.    And oh yeah, I’d love to get back to writing again.   Let’s hope this blog on this first day of a New Year will set a new precedent for me.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!

Where Did it Go? Will I Get it Back?

A few days ago as I was looking through some old thumb drives, I stumbled across a story I had started working on.   Although I knew time was a hot commodity in my life and sitting back to re-read some of my hopeless work wasn’t exactly budgeted, I still found myself ignoring phone calls and emails just to get a glimpse of what I was writing.  And I have to say…I was impressed.  I mean I’m not Dean Koontz or Nelson DeMille, heck I’m not even Stephenie Meyers (which while I’ll admit I read the whole Twilight series, I still don’t think she’s that great of a writer), but I’m good, or I suppose I should say I was good.   So, after reading 25 pages of single spaced type written words that flowed forth from my brain, my heart and my soul, I began to wonder what happened to that aspiring writer?   Then the shatter of glass, also known as my two demonically beautiful children, brought me back to reality…my kids happened to me.

I once started this blog site with a post entitled “My Little Parasite”.   Little did I know then that my children would evolve into more than just the parasitic leeches that sucked me of all my nutrients needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy and lifestyle.   Little did I know back then that they would indeed take more including, but not limited to my sanity, my patience, my energy, my brain cells, and my once toned body (they didn’t take my vanity, by golly!  I still have that!  Take that, you selfish little gems!).

Once upon a time, these slender fingers used to gracefully dance across my laptop.   They felt the flow of energy from my thoughts and emotions as I composed what I thought would become a NY Times Bestseller.   They developed callouses and blisters as I couldn’t stem the ebb and flow of my lifelong dream.   I even managed to maintain that desire, that thrive, that goal to continue on with said dream after having children, well, um, at least after having Davey.   Add an extra child into the mix who’s temperament is exactly like his mother’s (hey, at least I’m willing to admit my flaws) and my desires for writing have vacated as quickly as Hollywood’s one time support of Harvey Weinstein.

My darling little parasites have become more than just needing sustenance to grow and stay alive.  No, these darling little gems have sucked me of my emotions and all of those wonderful thoughts and dreams that used to float around in my heart and mind, and they’ve done it with a vengeance.   Now, hold up!   I know what you’re thinking.   You’re about to jump on that bandwagon of judging moms.   I get it…I’m selfish and I’m emotionally abusive (look at what I’m saying about my children).   Hey, I’m actually ok with that judgment.   I’m exhausted and I’m even sad at times that what once encouraged me, what once was my outlet, what once made me happy, is just one of the many things that my children have taken from me.

So the question is…will I get back that spark or do I just succumb to my children and let them completely devour me and all I have?   Stay tuned…

***on the positive side, at least I’ve written a blog post***

 

 

Date Nights

“Date nights are so important.  In fact, they are critical,” psychologist and relationship expert Melanie Schilling told The Huffington Post Australia last year.

How important are they to YOU? 

When my husband and I first became parents, I think we were so enamored with our little bundle of joy, that the thought of leaving him, of missing out on one his firsts and the many, many milestones that seem to flow like never ending debris upon the river’s currents, was just too unbearable.   We would squeeze in little hours of one on one time when we had the energy and frankly when we were bored with Davey’s non-productive days.  Let’s face it, Angelina Jolie said it best when referring to her first biological child as a blob with little personality during the child’s newborn days. 

When our second child came along, we were desperate to get back to who we were.   I suppose the “newness” of having a child had already lost its luster.   We didn’t hyperventilate with each blink of Henry’s eye, or post fastidiously upon social media about how well he burped, as we had so embarrassingly done with Davey.  I know, I know, poor Henry.   That second child just always seem to get the burn.  

As our children have gotten older, Davey is almost 6 and Henry is 3 & ½, my husband and I find we need that break from our children, to reclaim a part of ourselves.   We find that it’s worth the money to spring for an occasional babysitter and to dress up for a night out on the town, a night that now seems to end at 10.  My husband jokingly asks me if I recall the times when we were going out at 10.  I tell him “no”, as his children have seared those memories from my brain.   That’s right!  I said “his children”.

I have this conversation, about date nights, with so many of my fellow parenting friends.   I’ve found that the discussions are usually pretty split between those who think it’s important and those who feel that the children and family unit as a whole should be a top priority.  Of course, I encounter the occasional judgmental prone mother who tells me I’m selfish for wanting something more.   I’ve learned to not let those criticisms get to my inner heart and guilt me into a subversion, and I will tell all of you the same thing.   You’re no good to children, if you’re not good to yourself, and that includes the relationship with your partner.

I’ve noticed that our country doesn’t place as much emphasis on the parent’s one on one intimacy as others do.   According to the March 14, 2014 issue of The Guardian: 

Couples therapists would say parents like us should work harder to balance our priorities in order to preserve the family unit. It’s even on the political agenda in some countries; well, Scandinavia anyway. Last October, the government in Oslo issued a plea to parents in Norway to embrace “date nights” more frequently in response to rising divorce rates – now 40%, with those aged 40 to 44 most vulnerable to separation.

Therapists agree that it is important for parents to still have that time for each other, to find a way to rekindle the romance they once created or to just keep the spark going.   That’s great and all in theory, but when you’re on a budget, date night isn’t always that easy.   That same article in the Guardian said this:

Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist and author of The Key to Calm, says one couple she worked with could just about afford a babysitter but nothing more. “They found an alternative – driving around in their car for a few hours each week. It really improved their relationship.”  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/14/parents-should-embrace-date-nights

 

That sounds about like my household.   My husband and I find ways to take advantage of freebies where we can.   If the grandparents offer to take care of the children, we pounce on the opportunity and may walk around downtown for an ice cream.   Our local YMCA offers a Parent’s Night Out every 2nd Friday of each month.   Included with our monthly membership is one Friday night, 4 hours, from 6-10 of nothing but me and my husband.  

Since the date nights are few and far between for us, I’ve required us to capitalize on the time together.   We’ve set up ground rules:   no talking about the children, no discussion of work, and no conversing about outside family members.  

Friday before last we had a Parent’s Night Out.  My husband, understanding my need as a stay at home mom with very little talk of anything not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or Magic Treehouse Books, read up on current events.   I steal the occasional time to get caught up while waiting in car line, getting a few moments alone in the bathroom, or via podcasts as I’m cleaning.   We put away our phones and any other electronic device and find a way to focus on ourselves, learning about each other again, remembering the little nuances that made us first fall in love, and just talking!  It’s important.

After all:

“Sustaining intimacy is probably the most challenging task a human being has in his or her lifetime,” says Jared Scherz, a clinical psychologist who specializes in couples.  http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/married-children-date-night-article-1.1833789

What about all of you?   How important is date night for you and your partner?  How often do you get that much needed, well-deserved, and long often overdue time together?   Have some ideas you want to share, i.e. where you go, what you do on a budget, or any rules you have (like mine of current events discussions), then comment below.  

Happy date night to all of you and try to remember what first made you fall in love with your partner!