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Archive for June, 2008

moving!!

This is great.  We’re moving!  Like, tomorrow or something ridiculous like that.

As of July 1, we can start using the keys to the new place ( which we got last week ).

The movers, however, aren’t coming until July 24th.  We have those 3 weeks to pack, to slowly bring some breakables over, to buy and assemble new furniture (because we have yet to earn ourselves out of IKEA territory), and to generally procrastinate and waste time.

We’ve been slowly but surely packing for the past month or so.  But we haven’t packed anything that the absence of which alters our lives.  We thought we would wait until after the girls leave for that.

They leave next Sunday.

And Beloved and I will then head to IKEA to perhaps pick up a few items, perhaps just figure out the scoop on how to buy a couch.  And how to get it home.

And then we’ll come home and pack furiously for all of 36 hours before HE leaves me for another 10 days.

Woe is me.

All alone with a house to pack.

He’ll only be home for 4 or 5 days before we have to have everything in boxes and ready for the movers.

Huh?  4 or 5 days?

I guess that means I got shit to do.

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We saw Wall-e tonight.  It was fun, and it made us all laugh.  E’s favorite part was an allusion to an Iraq-related Bush-ism, “we have to stay the course!”  She nearly split a side.  (Update:  Beloved has found since that there is a good bit of debate going on about that line.  I think that’s just silly.  It just made us laugh.  The end.  Acknowledging, of course, that my personal opinions about Georgie Porgy make it nothing but laughable.  I’m just not inclined to analyze it more fully, b/c it was just a goofy line.)

So why, as we’re walking out, is a young couple going on and on about how the movie MUST only appeal to people over the age of 30.  It is too mature for children.  Kids won’t get it!

E and I were bickering over which of us should turn around and tell them that perhaps, before drawing conclusions about children, they should talk to a child.

Kids can’t understand loneliness?  Or is it the pollution that they can’t understand?  Can they not understand the joke about people becoming more and more stationary as we’re increasingly “plugged in”?  (E just finished 451 Farenheit for crying out loud!)  What part of that movie can “kids” not understand?  I mean, sure, your average 3 year old will probably just be laughing at the antics, and not at the substance and the Bush jokes.  But my 10 and 12 year olds had a thorough understanding of every aspect of that movie.

This past year, the girls’ school started a “Greening of [insert school’s name]” program.  I’m on the little committee for it.  We parents (moms, really) were acknowledging the fact that our kids have pushed us, the parents, into that room.  Our kids are the ones running around the house, turning off the lights.  Our kids are fretting over whether or not the earth will be in a livable condition by the time they’re our ages.  My kids are the ones who are upset with me for looking at buying a car.  My 12 year old and her friend that we randomly ran into at the theater were debating the practicality of fuel cell vehicles as we waited for the show to start.  Earlier in the day, while complaining about my Grand Plans to Purchase a Prius in 2009, my 10 year old came up with the theory that we have a moratorium on manufacturing new cars until an environmentally sound alternative to oil exists.  “And then maybe everyone will get so used to walking and riding bikes, that they won’t even want cars anymore!”

So, really?   Kids can’t/don’t/won’t understand?

In the end, neither E or I said a word.  But I wish we did.  Those people were dumb.

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Last night we found ourselves without a movie for our usual “movie and ice cream” Friday.  So we checked Direct TV, and found Romancing the Stone.  I checked the common sense media site that I have been loving for its non-religious candid appraisals of movies for kids – I love the fact that it will caution a parent over  gender stereotypes right alongside the sex, violence and drug cautions.  I have to check on these old movies, b/c I have the world’s shittiest memory for a 35 year old.  I am currently re-reading The Stand, b/c I was convinced that E should read it.  Beloved was like, “uh, it’s a great book, and I think she’ll love it – but not yet.”  But all I could remember was a trek across the country, and the re-establishment of a society.  So he got the book and put it in MY hands and said, “you re-read it first.”  So I’m re-reading it.

Uh.  Yeah.  E’s not reading this book until SHE is 35.  I can’t believe that I read it when I was (13?  14?).

So, I need to check things.

Romancing the Stone was rated as 13+, but the stuff they described wasn’t stuff that put me on edge (a woman in a wet t-shirt showing the outline of her breasts (we aren’t afraid of no breasts – at least not jof the mere sight of them), and a scene where people are lying on top of each other, clearly after having sex – didn’t really concern me that much).  So we watched it.  It was soooo appropriate.  I mean, I was a little worried about the post-sex scene, and thought that perhaps I would have to push pause or cover eyes.  But it was really nothing.  Really.

Then I was also worried beause the last time we watched a “movie of my childhood” it didn’t go over so well.  We saw the first Batman.  The one with Michael Keaton and Kim Bassinger.  I even said during the credits, “oh, Kim Bassinger is so pretty in this!”  Obviously, I forgot about the bad perm and the ugly 80s prom dress she wore.  The movie was horrible!!!

Romancing the Stone was fun, though.

Phew.

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So, have I mentioned we’re moving in 3 days?  Yikes!!

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A Book of Faces

I suppose I joined the (facebook) crowd today.  I only have 12 friends.  But I didn’t look for 1/2 of them.  So far, I kinda don’t understand.  I mean, we don’t write posts.  We just do these weird updates? I am sure I’ll figure it out.

The girls had their last day of school.  E came home with her final grades (on the final projects – not the final of the year) and I was proud of her and her A’s.  I am pleased with how much she’s grown this year. She is right now, between 6th and 7th grades, much more organized and motivated than I was at any point prior to law school. When I was 32.  So I think I’ve done well.  I’ve helped my child be better than myself. (so far; knock on wood).

J played with friends all afternoon after the noon dismissal, with Beloved as one of the two supervising parents (for like 20 girls, and then the boys who came to harass the girls).  The other was also a dad.  This makes me happy.  On a deep, cellular level.

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The school year, that is. The girls are done on Friday.

The past two weeks have been exhausting. Their school just sucks the life outta ya at the end here. Breakfasts, meetings, concerts, picnics, more breakfasts, more meetings.

After Friday, they have two weeks to knock around the house and town aimlessly, one while I’m working, and one while I’m on vacation. Then they leave.

For 7 whole weeks.

I am really not feeling good about this.

They were going to go for 5 weeks, but then a vacation came up with the Ex and his family, and because I could not shift the trip on the front part, due to Beloved’s excursion to school in mid-July, it ended up extending the summer.

E is cool with it, J and I are not.

I’m trying to decide that it’s a good thing. It’s good to have a little break. It’s good to move without them home, so they won’t have to deal with it, and we won’t have to worry about entertaining them while packing boxes and supervising the movers.

but that will be done around August 1, and I’ll still have 3 more weeks sans kids.

Blech.

And it doesn’t help that I worry for J. This year has so badly sucked …. I think. I mean, I think it sucked because I see her spending a lot more time alone during social gatherings (breakfasts, picnics, meetings, concerts, oh my!), while the Ex-BFF gathers all the girls around herself to the exclusion of my daughter. But part of this is a decision she’s made, and that she is proud of. She wanted to break away. She has the option to join the group, to hang out with the masses, but she tells me she doesn’t want to, because then Ex-BFF will think “everything is normal again” and will start to be mean to her again.

But I fear that instead of just distance, the summer will bring her an entrenched loneliness. That she won’t snap out of.

I used to think I’d worry about E, and not J. J had social skills, and she has an awareness of social situations, and people are drawn to her. While forever, E has been elbows and loudness and (really, still) nosepicking. But E’s oblivion, socially, has served her well. Very well. J’s connectedness has made her dependent. J has to deal with cliques and in-fighting, while E just lights around, from person to person, gender to gender, happy with her own self no matter where she is. And she is accepted and included in a normal, natural way, and I think very healthy.

SO — maybe I should worry less about J. Maybe this struggle that she’s going through will make her – eventually – happier with her own self.

Her sadness, though, saddens me. A lot. It’s pervasive! I try very hard to lightly tell her she needs to move on, and figure out an existence in the new (chosen) framework, but I am soooo worried for her. I just don’t want her sad all the time, and I don’t want her addicted to her sadness.

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E’s grade did a talent show yesterday (at one of the many breakfasts). There was much goofiness. Much. Sandwich-making while blindfolded, ridiculous “magic” tricks, odd dance numbers. Odd. E and her friend did a skit, which they wrote.

They cracked me up. It was called “The Secretary” – which made me nervous at first, knowing what I do of the movie by the same title. Of course, the girls knew nothing of that, and instead put on a hilarious slap-stick skit which seemed age-appropriate and in good taste. I was very proud of them.

Then with another group of girls, E and her friend took something they’d learned about in their Music Theory class this year and made people laugh with that as well. With E on the trumpet, and friends on the bass, flue and piano, they did a performance of 4:33. Which, we all found out, is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Fortunately, they didn’t make us all sit there for that long, but we did enjoy it, and I’m glad that we didn’t have to hear E play the trumpet … which Beloved and I watched her being taught the fingering for just before they came on stage. She’d never touched one, until that moment.

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I look forward to the decreased demands on my time that Friday will bring. Balancing work with picnics, meetings, breakfasts, parties and concerts has been challenging. Of course, just as it’s coming to an end, work slows down to the point of semi-idleness. It will be hard next week, having to exist around Beloved’s declared rule for the girls: No waking before 8 a.m. (said rule was greeted with cheers and laughter … they’re not morning people). So while they all slumber, I will be rising at 5 to go for a run and then trudge into work.

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My Beloved is not my daughters’ biological father.  He is their step-father.  They do not call him dad.  They call him by his first name.  When people say, “oh, your dad is here!”  They look over and say “hi, [real first name]!” and do not correct people.  When we are walking down the street, and see him coming from the other way, they run ahead to hug him and say HI!!!  They make him adorable Father’s Day cards with drawings and paintings of people hanging up side down holding onto the floor, b/c the world has turned upside down without him.  They ask me to buy his favorite things when we’re out at the store.  They miss him when he’s gone, and on Thursday evenings – the one night he works later in the evening – they are asking me on an every-15-minute basis when he’ll be home, starting at 6:30.  

But.

Of course there’s a but. 

It’s not always easy.  

Sometimes, it’s far from easy.  

Father’s Day is one of those times.  

Everyone is acutely aware.  We’re aware that there is someone, in another state, who expects this day to celebrate him.  We’re aware that I, the mom of the house, along with almost all of the girls’ friends, have ONE father.  One wonderful, (still) involved man who has always been the focus of my father’s days, and there is a little jealousy (probably from all 3 of them).  

While trying not-to-seem-like-I-am-listening-while-trying-to-listen yesterday as they called the Middle of the Country, I thought I was putting together Ick-Head’s half of the conversation to be “oh, you remembered to call me …” to which they replied, “yeah, I remembered …. well, mom reminded me.”  

So neither situation is perfect for the girls.  They know Beloved’s role is large, but they also know there’s someone else, somewhere else, and they can’t just ignore that.  

And in the more specific, E can fight with Beloved.  She can be super-sensitive, and she can parse things and hold onto things in a very oldest-child “you’re not my father” way.  We’ve come far – so very far – but it isn’t perfect yet, and likely will never be *perfect.*  As her mother, I often feel torn between needing her to behave – to be respectful, and to be emotionally healthy toward others and with herself – and also feeling very protective about her childhood, and her happiness.  And at some point, does it matter if she creates the conflict?  If her memories of childhood include conflict?  Will that be all of her memory?  

Will she remember the good, or just the bad?

I remember a shitload of bad.  I remember my mother throwing sneakers at me from across the room, hitting me in the stomach.  I remember her locking me out of the house (I was 9, and had to “watch” my 6 year old sister and 3 year old brother).  I remember her calling me “ignorant.”  I remember her being thoroughly unreasonable and (truly) verbally abusive.  I remember her making my father cry, with the same behavior.  My father.  Who’d only cried one other time … when his brother died a very untimely (25 years old) death.  Or was it when his father died?  I don’t remember.  One of those funerals.  FUNERALS!!

I’m sure there was more.  There was good.  She talks about it all the time.  “Remember when I used to read to you before you went to bed?”  “Remember when I used to tuck you in every night, even when you were in high school?”  No, mom.  I don’t.  

So one day, when I say, “Remember when you and Beloved did that research project?”  or “remember when you read his stories for him to give him feedback?” or “Remember when we used to watch movies as a family and you and Beloved shared one couch while J and I shared the other?”  That she’ll look at me like I have 3 heads.  Like I’m making things up to hide the arguments about what time she should come home from a friend’s to get ready for softball, about whether the recycling was put in the wrong containers (she accused HIM of that one), about whether she put her bowl in the sink after breakfast.  

And my fear of that – as irrational as it may (or may not) be – it makes Beloved and I fight.  It makes him feel scrutinized and harassed, rather than supported and helped through the admittedly difficult waters of step-parenting.  And I say “I can’t give you both first priority!  My motherhood is my first priority!!”  And then I feel sad to think he – the man who tries so hard, who gives so much, who has pushed himself on so many fronts – feels alone.  

And on Father’s Day, when all emotions are raw, and we’re feeling guilty, we’re feeling torn, we’re feeling like we’ll never be enough … it all comes together.  

And it reminds us that as much as we have so much fun, and as well as we’re doing – sometimes, we have a really hard time.

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Top Posting

Hey – guess what I did?  

I agreed to Produce next year’s play!

Woo hoo me!  I get to strangle myself on the joint responsibilities of work and family/school/volunteerism!

Go Zuska!!

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My update post, and, hopefully, my last.  Our goal in this family is to stop focusing, to stop complaining, and to stop allowing this other family so much power in our own. 

We had the meeting with the principal, and Beloved and I were as satisfied as we could have been.  The guidance department is available for J when and if needed.  I was relatively pleased with the initial assumptions that J was telling the truth, and that Ex-BFF (and unfortunately, her mother at this point) were seen by more than just us as “bullies.”  

We flagged the issue, we ensured that J would be in a separate classroom next year. 

It may have helped that in the prior week, I was in 2 meetings with the principal on various administrative and volunteer matters … but it may not have, since Ex-BFF’s moms (aka – as of 6 months ago – my “friend”) has been in the same position for longer in this town, since we moved here at least 7 years after she did. 

There seemed to be a bit of peace settling over the situation.  

J had her bday outing – which was slightly bittersweet for me, since her bday last year was a joint party with the ex-BFF, with 20 something kids and Beloved running the tye-die t-shirt station.  True that both birthday girls ended the day exhausted and making plans for something smaller and more contained for their 10th bdays – but it was still fun, and joint, and generally okay.  

This year, J invited 5 girls, very carefully chosen based upon allegiances and odd loyalties, and we took them out to lunch, to the Clay Room (where we painted cups, figurines, coasters and dishes) and then out for ice cream.  J loved her day.  Her friends loved being with her.  It was a good day.

To me, it felt a little empty, a little sneaky, a little furtive.  

The day before, at soccer, ex-BFF approached  and threw an envelope at her.  It was a bday party invite.  I know her mom made her invite J, and I felt a little trapped.  

First of all, the Mom knew that we were having a small outing – we’d discussed it in a moment of cooperation and openness.  

Second of all, the girls can’t stand each other right now.  

Third of all, I know that The Mom makes Ex-BFF invite certain kids every year, based on The Mom’s ideas of tit for tat and such.

I felt that by inviting J, probably while knowing that J did not invite Ex-BFF to her own small outing, we were set up.  Perhaps I’m putting more Machiavellian motives onto The Mom than exist in reality … but I don’t think so.  

If I say no, then I’m a hater and a mean grinch-like being who refuses to allow our kids to be friends.

If I say yes, then I’m a User, who is willing to blow them off until the prospect of a fun party is dangled in front of me and my child. 

(spoiler alert:  we said no.)

In the meantime, between the girls, things were definitely calming down.  They were even able to sit at the same lunch table on one or two occasions, without sending hair and teeth flying.  I had started to suspect that J was developing an ultra-sensitivity that made me worry for her – made me fear that she was changing, as a person, and while 1/2 of me was thinking of allowing her the indulgence of her sister’s privileges, the other 1/2 was thinking “enough is enough, we’ve indulged this long enough, she needs to shake it off!”  

And that’s where I was – it is time to be done.  We can’t spend/waste anymore time with this nonsense.  They have as much power as we give them, and they deserve none, so we shall give them none.

And then, after I’d brought all of J’s friends home on the day of her bday extravaganza, my phone rang. 

I knew it was coming – a bit of a decompression, a checking-in.  The Call From The Mom.  

It was all brought back to the surface, as we talked it out.  I shared more stories – I expressed my disgust at the blame being placed at my feet – MY feet – an adult who has done nothing but welcome her child into my home, who has loved her through sideways glances at my amusement in her devilish glint.  Who has hosted the girls time and time again b/c of J’s tears at the idea of having to spend time at their house, where arguments often resulted in the girls finding solace in the Ex BFF’s tiny bedroom …. 

And then The Mom brought my stories to her child, who called both J and I liars and nasty folk who were out to do nothing but ruin her life.  The Mom rained upon me excuse after excuse (i.e., not all denials) for her shitty behavior.  She then asked me to help her find peace between the girls.  To sit down with them, and make nice.  Because after all, if we didn’t intercede soon, “they’ll never be friends again.”

Ah hah!  The goal!!

My response was written and re-written a thousand times.  It was laced with and then stripped of paragraph after paragraph of defensiveness and explanation.  

My end result:  No.  We’re done.  

We can’t do it anymore.  Of course, we could sit down, each with our kids, and we could watch J look bewildered, and Ex_BFF wrinkle her nose and glare at me through her eyebrows.  But as I said to The Mom, neither of them are going to say “Mom, I’m sorry, I lied before ….” just b/c we’re all together.  Whoever was being untruthful would dig in their heels and swear up and down that the other is from Hell.  What purpose is served? 

None.  

I thought of offering up the school’s guidance department, or an outside counselor – and if J had the goal of renewing and repairing a friendship, that’s likely what I would have done.  But since J wants space and distance – on account of the bruising that has happened throughout this long ordeal – that sentence was also deleted. 

A week after the final e-mail exchange, wherein I refused attempts at reconciliation for the girls (but re-extended my personal hand in friendship to The Mom), we were due to be at the same soccer game.  

I was a wee shakey in the guts.  But certainly went, proud of my past behavior and of my attitude (and first and foremost – proud of my daughter).  

We avoided each other a little (I was afraid of her spitting on me, since she didn’t respond to my measured but civil e-mail).  But by the end of the game, we were in a group of several parents, conversing as if there was nothing negative between us, laughing over shared knowledge of each other’s quirks and personalities.

This has been one of the hardest ordeals I’ve dealt with.  It’s been prolonged, and has tapped into my maternal instincts in a way that no other conflict has ever done before.  But at the same time, it’s become an end to a “friendship” in a way that is distasteful.  I am well-aware of the fact that over the years I’ve had 1,000 reasons to end that particular friendship.  Whether it be judgment she’s sent my way because of my divorce, or my lack of jewish-ness, my choices in raising the girls (i.e., they have too much clothes, and should not have iPods), my decision to work (even though she now does the same), my decision to hire babysitters, or my choice to ride a bike rather than drive a car (i.e., I should get out up onto the sidewalk when she’s driving her SUV, b/c by riding a bike, I’ve earned the privilege of her HITTING ME WITH HER CAR), or whether it be because of odd manipulations and prejudices that she’s given me in light of our friendship.*  I still wish that our friendship could have peacefully faded – that we could have been busy in other directions, or with other friends, or whatever.

I don’t like the conflict.  

I want everyone to love me.  (Deeeeeep Thoughts, By Zuska the Honest).

That’s what it comes down to.

But not more than I want J to be okay, and for her to be supported and advocated for.  So the bad taste in my mouth is more than acceptable.  I wish I could make this painless for J, but I can’t (and I haven’t), but I hope that at least she can learn that she is never stuck.  It’s true that there may be some discomfort required to get rid of misery, but that she has the inner strength to scrabble through the thorns to get to the other side.  

And this, I hope, concludes the final chapter of this particular theme.

 

 

 

 

*And my petty grievance:  The day that I gave 100% of my weekend, blowing off my birthday, Beloved’s birthday, a play the girls wanted to see, and not in a small part – sleep – for the sake of helping her out with her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.  I was there from 7 a.m. until midnight on a Saturday, and helped with running errands on Friday.  I blew up balloons, became familiar with a Temple that I’d never entered before, (tolerated religion), negotiated with maintenance people, set up centerpieces, greeted guests, took care of aunts and uncles, and generally did all I was asked to do – just to be offended (perhaps selfishly and unnecessarily so) by the fact that when both Mother and Father of the Girl of Honor stood up during the party to thank all of those who helped with the set up and the details, I was totally overlooked.  The Mom was thanked, Her Twin was thanked, all of the other “helpers” (hired and friend-based) were thanked (there were, literally, 4 of us, sister and The Mom included …) . And when The Dad turned to his wife and said “who else?” … she shrugged, and they moved on.  Everyone at our table was shocked, knowing that I had been The Right Hand Woman for the day, and were offended on my behalf.  I blew it off at the time, but the moment has been revisited in my head on several occasions, and I suppose that I was quite hurt.

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