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Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

Beloved is in graduate school.  He attends a pretty cool low-residency program in Vermont specializing in children’s literature.  He’s doing really well, and is accomplishing VERY long-standing goals.  However, we (you may have noticed) do not live in Vermont.

Because it is low-residency, he only has to attend school twice a year, for 10 days.  January and July.

Last January, I was such a baby-lawyer, I could barely open my eyes.  I was a little busy, and it made me nervous when he was gone.  What if something comes up?  What if I get a new assignment?  But it was fine, and I think I left at 4:30 every day.

Last July – the girls were in the Middle of the Country with the Ex, and Beloved and I had already started our moving process.  There were no difficulties.

This January – total different picture.

I’m fully engaged in a case that is culminating this month in every way.  Discovery is closing, summary judgment is being filed, experts are being hired, court hearings are happening.  It’s insane.  INSANE.  And I’m heavily involved in every aspect of it.

I was already nervous – that getting out of work at a reasonable hour was going to be difficult.  Of all months, this is the one where deadlines happen.  I was nervous.

Then, ha ha!  What made me think I knew what nervous was?

It looks like I have the great honor of traveling to a very different part of the country to tend to one of the many aspects of the case that is my Life, even though it’s a bit beyond my seniority level.  It just so happens to be during Beloved’s absence (and over days that are (a) a national holiday, and (b) inauguration day.  Feh.)

At first, it looked like it was just one day, and it was a day that was a school holiday, so I knew that the kids would be fine with friends.  Then it ended up two days, and two long days – long enough that once you add in travel, it may affect 4 days.  Yikes.  Beloved’s only gone for 10 days — I’m having issues for HALF of them?  Unbelievable.

I was going to post about how my decision to make my community one of my many priorities with my time becomes oh-so-valuable in times of need.  I have friends that I can ask for a hand – friends who I’ve given a hand to in the past, and who know that I’m an active and engaged member of our community.

But now, it seems like my needs are too big, and instead, I’m turning to family.  I’ve begged my mother to (re)arrange her work schedule so she can come while I’m gone.

E is mad at me – she overheard me talking to a friend who is my back-up plan, and insists that I hadn’t told her the whole story about next week before telling the friend.  She is mad about the options I have considered for her while I’m gone.  Some friends are out of favor, and others are just plain old “annoying.”  Humorously, she thinks she should be left home alone.

It was hard not to laugh at that one.

All in all, the stress levels are high.  I keep thinking about how, in the past, I’ve looked forward to certain things – or dreaded them – and then they happen.  And before I know it, it’s behind me.

I keep telling myself … it will be January 22nd before I know it.  Beloved will be home, and this difficult time will have passed.  i have a lot of friends.  I am very lucky.  The girls are well-loved, and people are happy to be supportive.  We live in an awesome community, where people are nearby and hyper-willing.

It will be okay.

And I will miss my Beloved.

And I am sad that I should be more supportive, and excited with him about his exciting time, and instead, I’m kinda on the verge of tears over my own stress and fears.  He gives so much, and deserves better.

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Years old!

Today was my birthday.

Through fantastic home cooked meals, disproportionate investments by offspring, phone calls from loved ones, and yes, Facebook Wall posts, I felt as loved and celebrated as I wanted to.

And through 10s of thousands of documents that HAD to be reviewed today, and the ever-growing to-do list at work and at home (i.e., kids’ school commitments, which may or may not include, oh, i don’t know, producing a major school play????), I was reminded that 3 dozen is far from 3.  Or One Dozen.  I am old.  And my birthday does not matter all that much, except to those who are dear to me.  And I thank them for their love and consideration.

Onward !!!  (because tomorrow is Beloved’s birthday!  And I have gifts to wrap, and a cake to wrap!!!)

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I stopped at Trader Joe’s on the way home tonight.  I needed laundry quarters (even though I didn’t do the laundry after all), and so I picked up a bottle of Rose, and I was enjoying a slow walk home on a pretty spring evening. When all of a sudden my vision focused on a scene a block and a half in front of me.

And my stomach fell to the sidewalk.  I so didn’t want to see that person right now.  The person who is throwing so many nasty punches into my family’s well-being; causing so much stress – so many changes.  Such sadness and despondence in the life of one of my favorite people.

She was glaring at me.  Face all squinched up, disgust in her shoulders.

It was her.

The ExBFF.

I could not believe the reaction that I had to a 10 year old (well, 9 for another 3 weeks – she was born on J’s due date in 1998) child.

But she is the source of such anguish.  Such misery.

Another attempt at going to her mom last weekend.  Result was interesting.

I was told that the entire situation is MY fault.

In some ways, I was very relieved by this response.  I live in constant awareness of the fact that as much as J comes home with stories of Ex-BFF’s eviltude, BFF is likely going home with similar stories.

Turns out, not so much. Her mom was clueless.  She thought “everything was normal.”  But when she approached her child with my concerns, she was met with the allegation that I – Zuska – have sabotaged their friendship.  That I have “pulled them apart” and that if it weren’t for me, they could have worked everything out on their own.

i.e., J would have accepted the fact that she would be treated like shit forever – given “tests” wherein she is expected to be forever conscious of Ex-BFF’s moods and quirks and whims so that she can be sure to behave correctly and stave off her Wrath.

It was horrible of me to talk to my daughter about her self worth.  To teach her that friendship is not a pure sacrifice of self, and that self-respect is just as important as respect for others.

it IS all my fault.

“please be sure to tell J that this is not what I want, and this is not what [my daughter] wants, but rather what YOU want.”

Yah.  Okay.

_____________________

For the past 2.5 weeks, for the first time in my life, I’m dealing with consistent pain in my neck, back and shoulders.  Today it’s also in my right arm.  The pain is on the verge of debilitating.  People ask me what I did.  What I lifted.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Perhaps it was because I slept on my stomach?  And whipped my head up? (Similar actions hurt now)  Others say it’s where people hold stress.  Am I stressed?  No!  I said!  Work has been mellow.  My husband and I haven’t fought in ages (well, we sort of fought last night – he’s mad at me for increasing my responsibilities in the girls’ drama program at school –  but the question came before last night), my kids are doing well …. except that J is always sad.  And she’s waking in the night.  And her confidence is shattered.  And when I see Ex-BFF’s mom in public, I spend most of my energy swallowing my vomit.

I’m just so sick of it.

We have a meeting with the principal and guidance counselor next week.  I want to talk about the impact of this situation on the other girls in the class – about the way they all feel torn.  I would speak directly with the other parents if it wouldn’t make me seem like I was trying to collect allies in a fucking war.  I am not willing to take on that appearance.  To make the Ex-BFF’s mom find fault with me when I’ve tried so-so hard for both J and I and to take the high road – to not sink into the games.  But the other girls are also struggling.  They don’t know what to do.  They’re scared of being put in J’s position by Ex-BFF if they speak to J – they’re scared of J not wanting to be their friend because they’re siding with Ex-BFF out of fear.  They’re unhappy.

Everybody is unhappy.

I want this crap to go away.

I want to stop hating this child.

I want her to go away.  I want them to move.  Far, far away.

On Thursday – J and Ex-BFF had soccer practice together.  I was there.  Ex-BFF managed to pull every.single.girl. into her orbit with casual and carefree “come over heres!”  J was beaten down, wary, tired.  She ended up alone.  Two of the girls came to me to ask if J was okay – not to J.  They were scared.  Intimidated.  J was alone for the entire hour.  Her coach was perplexed.  The girls were skittish.  J. was lonely and sad.  She cried the whole way home.

Then Ex-BFF went away for the weekend.

Our phone rang off the hook.

The soccer game was lovely.

The girl scout meeting was fun and social and happy – J at the center; kids happy and good natured.

J had a sleepover with a friend on Sat. eve; she went to another friend’s house on Sunday afternoon; had another with her at E’s play on Sunday night.

Everyone felt safe for the weekend.

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Instruction

I have a “recently favorite” blog. This ridiculously humorous woman who possibly farts more than I do, and who is so honest and clever and loving.

She is so famous and popular, she does not know that I exist.

But still, I love her from afar.

Today’s post was one that I would like to savor for a little while. I am writing about it so that I have to remember it – despite my illness, despite my girls’ gone-ness this week. I have to have it mind when E comes home and starts yelling at me for making assumptions about her behavior. And about how unfair it is that just because she’s on the computer, I assume she isn’t doing anything productive. About how I should not accuse her of playing games all the time, when she is in fact writing a story. About how no matter how hard she tries all the time, everything she does is wrong.

All of that, in response to my asking her to put the computer aside, and to hang out in the kitchen with me while I cook dinner.

The nerve.

But it is true, as a more experienced mom related to Jessica, that I respond with a similar level of passion. I’ve been noticing this lately (with some help from my Brave Beloved), and working to change this. I try so hard to unentangle myself – emotionally – from these rejecting outbursts. From the fact that a hug from me no longer makes things better. It is no longer the pinnacle of resolution. It’s just me invading her privacy.

This is her development. And as she is struggling to make sense of it all – in the irritating “tweener” manner: one part teenager (rational, logical arguments) and two parts child (tears, foot stomping, reaching the emotional tipping point) – I need to see that it not my development. That my role is no longer the mother of a 4 year old, 5 year old, 8 year old – or even 10 year old. I need to buck up.

I know that her friends are going through similar things. No one is doing it exactly the same. Some kids are being really mean to their moms. (In ways that I would not tolerate.) Some are just shutting themselves up in their rooms. A luxury E does not have, since she still shares with J.

(Which is a whole other can of worms, and 1/2 the reason why I am getting ready to call a mortgage broker so I can decide if I’m buying or renting in the next 8-12 months. Even that feels too long.)

But the story linked to above, I think, helps to ground me in the understanding I already have, but have a hard time keeping ever-conscious of when in the throes of an outburst.

It is funny, because Beloved and I having been laughing HARD at the response he got a post he had written on his blog. Despite his posting having nothing to do with babies walking, it’s been absolutely swarmed to by people looking for poems about “baby’s first steps.”

And I have been vehemently mocking these women – these mothers. I believe some of my utter disgust with the idea that someone honestly feels that their child’s first step is poetry worthy is because I know that was me. And I no longer understand that me.

When E and J were little, every little milestone was my entire world. Everything a photograph. Everything a phone call to my mother. What they ate. What faces they made when they saw something for the first time.

It all felt so big.

But it got smaller. It happened naturally. I didn’t need to know about every bite they took. I didn’t need to know when they pooped. I didn’t need to watch every single social interaction.

I didn’t mind that. It’s kind of nice to no longer have an intimate relationship with someone else’s waste. It’s nice to have more space that you can occupy alone. Without a little one attached to your leg.

Now that the distance should keep growing, it’s a little harder.

I’m working on it.

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The girls are leaving tonight.  It’s February vacation, and they’re spending it with their father in the Middle of the Country.  (I think – the weather is bad there, and I’m not certain that their plane will get off the ground.)

In the past, these trips were full of drama.  Tears, stomach aches, begging and pleading “don’t make me go!”

Today, they’re picking out their clothes, calling to find out what plans their week will bring so they can choose accordingly, and basically taking the whole thing in stride.

Two trips ago, our goodbye in the airport was a little rushed by the flight attendant.  Boarding time just sort of snuck up on us, and we had to quick hug and say “see ya.”  The girls called when they landed and commented on the weirdness.  The sadness of the rushed goodbye.

But then they had a great time.  Some relationships were healed, some changes were made (on their dad’s end), and the trip was a good one.

Last time they went, the goodbyes were again pretty quick and lacked drama.  It felt right then.  They were returning in less than a week, and they were looking forward to their time.

In some ways, there seems to be something missing.  This peaceful acceptance of their trip feels strange.  But I can’t find anything bad about it.  I think there was a bit of stroking to my (and Beloved’s) ego when the girls were miserable over leaving.  But I don’t think either of us are selfish enough to want the girls to be unhappy.  I don’t want them to have issues surrounding their father.

The acceptance that they’ve found does not at all infringe on mine and Beloved’s role in their lives.  They have settled into extremely different relationships with their father and his wife than they have in this house.  Perhaps the trouble E was having eighteen months ago resulted from a lack of understanding that the roles and relationships are different.  She was expecting from them what she got from us.  She isn’t going to get that.  She wouldn’t get it if she lived with him all year, and she certainly won’t get it during these small windows.  And if she did live with him all the time (year round), then there would likely be giant holes in her life.  But she doesn’t.  She now can tolerate the stunted emotional involvement of her father, and enjoy what he does have to offer.

And J always has a level of acceptance.  She has always been great at seeing the positive people have to offer, and basking in that, rather than honing in on the negative.  She has missed me more than E does when they are gone, but has complained less about her father.  The miserable conversations I had with them in the past had consisted of J sobbing over missing me tucking her in, and scratching her back, and hugging her, and talking with her.  With E, it was the thing her father said, the thing he did, the choices he made, the activities they weren’t doing.  Much more complaining about him than wanting me.

Okay – being completely honest – it does bother me that he gets away with it now.  I don’t (and obviously didn’t) find it acceptable that he doesn’t mind if he goes months on end without talking to the girls.  I don’t find it acceptable that when he has one week with them, after four months of not seeing them, that he will spend three of those nights out with friends, leaving the girls behind with either a babysitter, family members, or more frequently as they get older, the television. I don’t find it acceptable that he and his wife don’t tuck the girls in at night; that they spend much time in the evenings in their room with the door shut while the girls are left to occupy themselves.  I don’t find it acceptable that he doesn’t give a shit about J’s taste/fear with movies and television shows, often sending her home with nightmares because he doesn’t listen, and laughs her preferences away.  I don’t find it acceptable that he refuses to take them to the library or supply them with books; or that he refuses to manage their summer homework commenting that “time with their father is infinitely more valuable than busy work from strangers.”

But if the girls find this unacceptable, then they have a lifetime of unhappiness.  It is best for them to accept it, and perhaps be glad that it is their lot in life for less than 1/4th of the year.

And when I start to begrudge (them?  him?) the newly found contentment, I will just replay some choice quotes over and over in my mind:

Yeah, Daddy has long hair now.  It gets really greasy.  [pause]  So does his nose.

If we forgot socks, Dad would never buy us new ones.  He would just make us put the pair we wore in the washing machine every day.  Or just re-wear them all week.

Heh heh.

______________________________________________ 

I must also admit, I am perfectly fine with this trip.

One week is just not enough to miss them horribly – I save that for the summer.  Beloved and I were not able to celebrate our anniversary or Valentine’s Day, as I don’t really have a babysitter right now.  And the girls just feel too old to take the step toward establishing a good babysitter relationship with anyone.  But not old enough to be left alone for an entire evening.

So we’re going to go out to  a nice dinner.

And we’re going to meet with an accountant to get our taxes done.

And we’re going to have sex in the living room.  Or at least with the bedroom door open.

We’ll both catch up with work/writing.

We’ll enjoy the break from making a vegetarian version of every meal.

I will definitely enjoy not being yelled at by my 11 year old (please recognize, as Beloved will be happy to expand upon, I use the word “yell” loosely.  For me, I am ‘yelled at’ when someone uses an unkind tone, or if their words say something which I may construe as insulting or critical.  While I do not allow my 11 year old to raise her voice at me or otherwise exhibit obvious disrespect, the tone and the irritation and the exasperation are coming fast and furious in the past few months.  I feel yelled at.)

It’s okay that the girls are looking forward to their visit with their father.  Because so am I.

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I guess I haven’t blogged about the fact that I’m having potentially 30 people at our house on Friday night.

Wow.

It’s a large gathering of parents in E’s grade. We are creating a support/information-sharing network for parents of middle schoolers. I somehow ended up on the planning committee for it, and although someone else (someone with a house) was going to host, they found themselves double-scheduled. I think the group will be infinitely important, useful and positive. An amazing community-builder, that will help our kids to understand how a community contributes to their development and their lives. I didn’t want it to evaporate just because no one could host.

So I decided that I could move my table out of my kitchen – like I did when I studied for the bar exam – and fill the open space we have with borrowed folding chairs, if that is what is necessary.

Look at what this requires:

I will take the kitchen table and move it into the girls’ room.

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(This photo was taken from the kitchen area – see the ugly linoleum?)

I will then make the green chair and the ubiquitous “green thing” flush with the bookshelves:

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(See, I already have some folding chairs, borrowed from mom and dad). I will put our kitchen chairs, and the comfy chair from the girls’ room, in the living room, making a circle with the couches.

And then, if need be, the entire entry/dining area can be filled with up to 3 rows of folding chairs. Or it can just be an extension of the circle.

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And then maybe … just maybe … I’ll be able to fit everyone.

Obviously, this endeavor also requires a lot of cleaning. I was going to hire someone. But I feel like it’s just too hard to do so for this small space. We have so many space-saving techniques employed, and I think it’s a lot to ask someone to work around those. So I need to find a way to fit it in around our week. Our week that not only includes full time working, daily school and Wednesday evening basketball practice, but also two bookgroups, a potluck dinner, and homework projects. Oh yeah, and my swearing in ceremony. Oh, and it’s our town’s “welcome to the holiday season” celebration, which means the girls have to perform on Thursday night.

So I made a chart:

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The girls have very little to do, which of course is only fair. I have the most to do, which is of course the way of the world. I am, after all, the person who agreed to do this. Beloved never would have done such a thing.

Not on the chart is my trip to the liquor store, where I must buy wine and beer for potentially 30 people. Huh? Also … snacks?

I just remembered I had asked Beloved to make his outstanding guacamole and papaya salsas for snacks. Isn’t this a sweet way to remind him?

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And I suppose he is right.

But when did we see Wicked? Early October, right?

ONE MONTH LATER

J is in the shower.

E is in her room, huddled with a black witch’s hat on and the soundtrack insert in her hand.

“Defying Gravity” is coming from both mouths, at high volume, in very different parts of the song.

What have we done?

E is begging to go see it in New York.

It’s like she’s 2.

“Again! Again!”

(which for her, at 10 months, was “Ah Dah! Ah Dah!”)

I wish my kids would stop singing.

Beloved tells me there are people who wish their kids would stop playing video games, and others who wish their kids didn’t watch so much t.v., and others who wish their kids would stop drinking and running away from home.

That perhaps my kids constantly singing songs from soundtracks isn’t so bad.

But … I think they’re (or at least E) bordering on obsessed.

___________________________

Today, I was productive. I did unbelievable (for me) amounts of work. Wanna know what I did?

  • Cleaned out my medicine cabinet. It’s now 60% empty.
  • Purged summer clothes from the girls’ drawers (pulled the winter clothes from storage yesterday, while J had a friend over – a friend who could take the items which have since been out grown, so it worked out well. They were also both eager participants in the process, which also helped. E appreciated having the whole thing taken care of while she was out of town).
  • Did 9 loads of laundry. Which was exhausting.
  • Scrubbed the bathroom with bleach. We usually use natural cleaners, and I often assign the sink and the toilet and the sweeping to the girls. But every now and then (in my mind, in my plans – once a month; in reality – twice a year), I do it myself with the powerful cleaners. Today was that day. I last did it the DAY before the bar exam. Maybe two days before. Which is only 4 months … even a little less. Maybe I’m getting better.)
  • Cleaned out the coat closet floor. This entailed much throwing away. Much space-finding for bags (I’m addicted) which have not been used in some time. It was hard.
  • Sorted through our “extras” – which for us is hats, gloves and scarves. I got rid of singles, of those things which were too stained to salvage, of gloves that no longer fit the growing hands in the family. I washed the fleece which seems to be a cat-fur magnet. After they were washed, I went over the more stubborn items with a lint brush. This took at least 2 hours (the lint brush stage). I am so determined that our things WILL NOT have cat fur on them. WILL NOT.
  • Cleaned out under the bathroom sink. It was gross. I filled an entire garbage bag with almost-empty shampoo bottles that I felt, while a student, were too precious to throw away – that I may need them during those days where the loan money had run out and so had the shampoo.  It’s nice to feel that I can now confidently say that when next we run out of shampoo, I can buy some.
  • Took J shopping at the Gap, and bought her jeans that fit; even without the sea levels rising (she’s a 10 Slim, for the most part) and a super-cute dress. I bought Beloved some socks. I bought me black gloves to go with my work-coat, and a grey hat. I bought me funky blue and green striped gloves and a matching scarf to go with my not-work-coat. I bought E nothing. She was in NY.
  • Took J out to lunch at a new place in town. We had a good time.
  • Before the store and lunch, I dragged J to Starbucks with me. I got her a hot cocoa so she didn’t feel like I was a selfish bitch of a mom (I also tricked her BFF and her yesterday into thinking that I was the nicest mom in the world for taking them for hot cocoa after a frigid soccer game, when in reality — it all comes down to my addictions). I later felt a bit conspicuous, walking through the Gap with my Starbucks cup, and my 9 year old child following behind me with her own 9 year old sized Starbucks cup. Hmmm.

I think I will next read Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, because I am a MILF.

But in the meantime, the family is going to eat brownies – in acknowledgment of E’s excellent progress report 3 weeks ago (oops, we lost track of time) and watch Star Trek … after I vacuum.

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