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Oh yeah, I have a blog!

Beloved and I took the girls on vacation this past week, which was school vacation week here in New England.

Originally, we were going to go to Spain – primarily Barcelona – but then the Economic Downturn hit the law firms, and our previously-thought-to-be-predictable bonuses were scaled back.  Fortunately, mine was not scaled back by much – we were still able to take care of most of our NEEDS.  It was scaled back enough, however, to make me feel that Spain was imprudent.

So we went to D.C.

We had wanted to take them for a long time, but many things were in place to make this year perfect:  Well, of course, Obama.  Also, E is doing key parts of American History in 7th grade this year.

J seemed considerably less excited leading up to the trip.  We couldn’t get her engaged in the travel books to say what she wanted to do – she kept saying ‘mm, yeah, that’ll be fine.”  So we were a little worried on that front.

We were also a little worried because this was (oddly) our first real “tourist” vacation with the girls.  We’ve gone on weekend trips, and we’ve gone to Disneyland.  But otherwise, the heavy travel that Beloved and I have done has been while they’re with the Ex.

Well, it was a resounding success.

We had a blast.  Oh, pictures, you say? I’ll give you pictures.

Washington Monument @ sunset, after a storm

Washington Monument @ sunset, after a storm

WWII Memorial

WWII Memorial

Pandas!

Pandas!

White House

White House

And, um, Escalators.

And, um, Escalators.

We did pretty darned close to everything while there (6 days).  It’s easier to list what we did NOT do:  The Jefferson Memorial; the Aquarium; Georgetown.  We did (I think) every Smithsonian museum that was open, the major monuments, the White House Garden Tour (see Michelle, Malia & Sasha’s veggie garden):

White House Veggie Garden

White House Veggie Garden

We also were able to watch the Senate in session, which was high up on E’s list.  It was both our most frustrating and most rewarding experience.  We’d gone all over D.C. — the White House, the museums, the Supreme Court building — and been through many security systems.  To all of these locations, we’d brought our metal (beautiful) water bottles, and in all of these locations, it was okay.  Actually, we thought it wouldn’t be okay at the White House, and so we left our bags in the hotel (2 blocks away), but others had brought theirs and it was okay.

But the Capitol Building was different.  We waited in line for a long time in the morning to get into the building.  When we finally got to security, one of the very official military-esque security guards barked at J to go outside and dump her water and said “have that guard out there check it before you come back in.”  We went outside and dumped them and asked the other barky military man to check them.  He laughed at me and said, “I just saw you dump it, it’s fine.”  So we went back in.  But then the barky military man who was looking at the x-rays told us we had to throw them away.  No bottles or cans in the building.

We were sad.  Beloved was even a little indignant, but I attempted to talk him out of it.  He and J ended up sitting outside the building with our precious (beautiful) water bottles while E and I went back in to see if we could figure out what was going on with the tickets I was told were on reserve for us.  Turns out the info I had was all screwy (thanks Kerry-staff), and what we really wanted (Senate Gallery Passes) had to be picked up at Kerry’s office – across the street.

We did follow through, and were very glad of it.  We were able to see the Senate in session (Beloved went to a photography exhibit elsewhere, with the water bottles) – although we missed the exciting debate over the “Truth Commission” – and the girls almost peed their pants when John McCain walked in to the chambers and engaged in the (unpopulated) debate.  We had fun seeing how many senators we could identify, loved watching the procedure of the vote (where the senators walk in, stand at the top of the steps and just wave at the woman doing the roll call  — she sees them, calls out their vote, and they turn around and walk back out).

The girls also had a lot more tolerance for museums than I thought they would.  J was a lot more into the art than I think she expected to be.  We stuck with modern art, for the most part, and the girls were happy.

We walked a lot, and packed our days full.  I am thrilled with how the girls held up, and think they’re definitely more than ready for a Europe trip.  Hopefully next year …

But in the meantime, we are definitely due for a BEACH vacation. One where we sit in a chair and read a book for 6 days straight.  I’m already choosing a rental in the Outer Banks for August.  Now I just have to see if I can swing another solid week off of work, especially since there’s an October trial looming ….

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The Scene:  Harried working mom on her way home after a 12+ hour day, about an hour longer than she planned with.  The mom is wrought with guilt, feeling the pressure of months of a heavy work load.  She is concerned that her family is starting to get sick of it.  At the same time, said Mom is kinda tickled over her new iPhone, and is fussing with it in the backseat of the taxicab when she receives a text from her daughter:

E:  When are you coming home?

M:  I should be there by 7:30. Why?

E:  I just wanted to know.

M: Are you mad?

E:  No.

M:  Sorry that I’m running late.  It was a busy day.

E:  It’s okay.

M:  Are you sure?

E:  MOM!  I’m watching Heroes!  Stop texting me!

M:  So, here I am, feeling guilty that you’re missing me because I’m working too much, and in reality, you just want me to stay gone long enough for you to finish your television show?

E:  That about sums it up.  Now can you stop texting me?

Harumph.

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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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[not for the feint of heart]

Last night, E and I were sitting on the couch in our living room.  We had gone out to see Twilight with friends, then to Starbucks for a post-movie warm drink (so why the kids ended up with frappucinos is beyond me …)  We got home after 10.  I was so tahd.  I had a a tough day at work.

Because I am not all that traditional in my beliefs about “appropriate conversations with your kids,” I said, “E, I got my period today, and I have cramps.”  She said, “oh, poor mommy.”  And I said, “do you know when that means I will NEXT get my period?”  She did some quick math in her head, and said, “oh!  the 25th!”  And I said, “of what month?” and she said, “Decemb … oh, that sucks.”

Beloved and I have been enjoying an increased intake of green beans lately.  Law school is over, the stress of a first year at a new job is over, life is a little steady (even though he is in school …)

But we don’t like messy grean beans.

And so, on this Thanksgiving, we will be having some green beans in the traditional cream of mushroom soup with dried onions on top.  And that is it.

Sorry, Tranny-head, for the boring green beans post.  But I think it still counts.

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The beauty in my house.

1)  Beloved’s optimism.  He is not, by nature, an optimistic boy.  He was not, since March, an Obama fan, as I was.  But now – he’s just full of (sorry …) hope and excitement.  He loves what he’s seeing, and i love seeing him UNcynical about the way of the world.

2)  J’s sense of humor.  She is a very funny bird, and even after some tears and a minor catastrophe over a loose molar that she won’t wiggle and that may very well be impacted … she can crack jokes and make us all laugh until we want to pee our pants.

3)  E’s Mandarin skills.  How strange to have your offspring pick up a pen and create such very different language on a page.  I can’t believe how quickly she became so confident with her pen dashing across the page making … (to me) pictures.  She spent the later part of the evening writing out sentences for me in  Mandarin characters, phonetic Mandarin, direct English translation, and conversational English translations.  Wow!  (The best part may be how much she loves it, and that this activity was something SHE chose to do, and had fun with.

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We have been struggling in our house as of late with some changes coming about in E.  This pre-adolescence has been relatively calm.  I am grateful for my slower developer.  I am glad that I have time to get used to the attitude and the increased independence before I need to buy bras and tampons and listen to complaints about boys (or girls?).  I get to ease in. 

 
 
But for one area which has been painful.
 
 
The child (almost-not) eats like a freaking person obsessed.  She walks in the door “I’m hungry.”  She eats something and fifteen minutes later “I’m hungry” comes yet again.  Her desires could be worse – she wants to eat our TJ’s High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup-Free granola bars almost non-stop; she wants salami slices; she wants cheese.  We aren’t talking candy bars (although the granola bars are close, and we are phasing them out) and potato chips.  Or donuts and soda.  We’ve done a good job at getting her to understand nutrition and what’s important.   But we do have a “fruit first” rule, and she does resist it.  She also say after she has her “fruit first” she has to alternate other snacks with fruit in between.   This pisses her off. 
 
 
Does it really, though, have to be every 10 minutes?  And if I’m exaggerating with the 10 and 15 minutes, I can easily ground the conversation in reality by saying “she wants to eat every hour, perhaps less.”
 
 
We are working to put this more in her hands.  We don’t need to be developing eating issues – and part of me fears that her constant asking for food is actually coming from our up-till-now resistance more than it’s coming from hunger. 
 
 
These are the ideas we have:
 
 
1) a block cheese and some triscuits, to which she has complete access after school.
2) a tub of peanut butter and a tupperware of celery sticks, to which she has complete access.
3) teach her to make rice (a favorite of hers) and allow her to make a bowl for an after-school snack.
4) find some way to STILL insist that everything be intermingled with fruit while still maintaining a responsible hands-off approach.
5) find a way to insist that she still be hungry for dinner, with the same concerns above being addressed.
6) find a way for D. and I to disengage our frustration-buttons as she continues to ask for food and ask permission for food and ask for more food and then eat more food, and then eat 3 bites of dinner before saying “I’m not hungry.” 
 
 
FOOD!!  Argh!!! 
 
 
While J, on the other hand, maintains her vegetarian status.  We had to threaten her this week with a cessation of special-cooked meals on account of her leaving the table after taking 2 or 3 bites.  D. works hard to make her balanced meals that closely approximate the meaty items on our dishes, and sometimes she just wrinkles her nose and picks around the dish and walks away.  It’s getting to be a little deflating for the cook in the house who works so hard to be respectful of every one’s choices.  If she can just pick around the dish, then I think she can just pick around the meat and eat the non-meat.  D. understands the vegetarian a bit more than I do, though, having had his own forays into that lifestyle, and is willing to just put her on notice of what may be in store.  She seems to be taking the hint to heart, and being a bit more respectful in her own right of the work and consideration being put forth for her…
 
 
All the while I keep coming into work with my leftovers in hand just to find that I’ve been scheduled for yet another interview lunch and am forced to stash D’s fantastic cooking into the mini-fridge so I can partake in yet another 3 course meal designed to woo the best and the brightest to my firm; and to woo my gut into the next size of pants. 
 
 
grrrrr.

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Shopping

I went shopping today.  My wardrobe has been feeling oh-so-tired, and I really needed some new things.

Unfortunately, so did the girls, so the bulk of the clothing budget went to them, and I was not left with much to toy with.

Also unfortunate – I can’t find the perfect clothes for Lawyer-Zuska.  I am trying to find the right style, the right look.  Hasn’t happened yet.

Well, I found some stuff I absolutely LOVED.  But I can’t afford it.

I feel stuck between a hip young thing and a stuffy old maid.  I can’t pull either off. I’m looking and looking for a place that I can find affordable classic pieces that mix and match and don’t make me feel like I’m pretending in some way to be someone that I am not (like Ann Taylor makes me feel).  I need Ann Taylor on Tweed.  Or something.  I wish I knew.

I ended up at Gap.  I bought a few pairs of trousers and a few sweaters, and felt like I took care of the immediate need, but that’s about it.

I shall keep searching for the perfect Zuska attire …

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When the girls are on the way out the door to their father’s house for their summer visit, and all of life feels like a giant goodbye, or an all-consuming waiting game.  There is some pressure (self-imposed, of course) to make it “special” or to ensure that they leave on a positive note.  Yet they’re antsy and hard to please.  I’m irritable, and don’t find it easy to please.

Add to the mix the looming move and the financial considerations that come with, and the stress is sort of icky for me.

I find myself counting down the days in the opposite manner of how I think I should be.  Instead of “oh no!  only 3 more days with the girls!”  I have more of a feeling that I can’t make it through 3 more days – thank god when I wake up tomorrow, it will be only TWO days!

We were going to spend the 4th down near the Charles River, as we’ve done in years past, but the weather is predicted to be stormy and chilly.  We did that last year, and were – quite frankly – miserable.  We don’t want to do that again.  So now we have to find a way to make that day work.

I kind of just want to move.  I want to pack.

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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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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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