Harried with Children

Harried with Children: Daydreams & Diatribes from the Mommy Hinterlands
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Game Changer

Are you familiar with the parents against kids soccer game scrimmage concept?  You know, where in the final practice the kids duke it out in a rousing and spastic game against their moms and/or dads?

So it is not a new idea to you?  Good.

Do you have any question in your mind that if the opposing youth soccer game is a bunch of 6 + 7 year-olds that in a fight to the finish the adults would win?

Because we are grown up:  Because we’ve finished growing.  Because our legs (and bodies) are 2xs as long.  Because we’re the grown ups we would win.  Really regardless of skill.  Do you get that?  Do you?

So then do you think there is any reason at all, to make sure the tiny little grey sharks team of BV Elementary School knows this?

I have never seen anything like it.  We get out there for the game.  It is a gorgeous idyllic Northern California day, perfect for some family fun.  Some of the moms and dads, myself included, have donned exercise clothes and shoes and are posturing around with stretches and mini-cheers of excitement.  The kids are loving it.

Only those other moms (and some dads) weren’t posturing.  They were getting ready to kick some a@*%#.

Here we go.  Right out of the gate Mom #1 boots the ball down the field and the clustered gaggle of 6 + 7 year-olds follow.  Oh great the goalie got it (the kick went all the way to the goalie!) and is sending it back out.  Uh oh, a Dad in a plaid shirt isn’t going to let it go by that easily, he has mastery of that ball and wham, he’s got a quick pass to a Dad wearing a hat.  Oh wow, we’re back to Mom #1 who has charged (hey Mom # 1 you might be off-sides) and wallops the ball BAM! thereby scoring our first goal.

We are really showing them.  I am also realizing there are more adults on the field than shark players (we’ve brought in some champion middle school siblings, also playing for the adults.  You are so on your own little baby sharks and we are going to eat your lunch.)

Back to the middle of the field, let’s see if these little kids can get one by us.  Oh wait some of these kids can’t even tie their shoes.  After the game let’s have a tying shoes contest, and maybe see who can drive home the fastest.   Yeah, let’s do that too, kids against the grown ups.

Next play, Mom # 2 is getting into the scene.  Oooh, some fancy footwork, (Mom #2 do you have a soccer background?  This isdefinitely the moment to relive that.)  Oh, kid down!  Fell over fancy feet mom’s moves, well kid, life is tough, you are often out numbered and out weighed by 100s of pounds, so, deal with it.

We’ve scored another goal and they have nothing!  This is awesome for us.  We are really winning the day right now.  Yay grown ups.

It is right in here that I do mention that maybe we should take it down a notch.  I go into the goalie position.  There is a chance they will get one by me without my trying to let them b/c I am just not very good.  They get two by me.

Somewhere after Take No Prisoners Twinkle Toes over there boots the ball over the shark goalies head for our 3rd goal I realize this is just how this is going to go.  I can’t control it and the kids, my son included, are a little disheartened but trying very hard (as they have all season—did I mention we haven’t won very much—so we certainly should not let a sub-par team beat the grown ups right now, of course, I see that.)

I get giving them a good game.  I really do.  I get that they even want that.  But….um, still a little stuck on the 6 and 7 year-oldness.  Also wondering if we’d do it the same if this was a girls’ team.  Just wondering what it all means.

They’ll be getting trophies and cupcakes in about 10 minutes so this will all be hopefully washed away with sugar and plastic soccer ball guys with their names on them.

In case it is not clear, we totally beat them.  We are thinking about forming our own team, but having trouble lining up enough first graders to play us.

Trash Talk

I live next to a hoarder.  Seriously, I now believe it is a real thing, like a disease, because this is not your run of the mill ‘stacks of papers’ ‘so hard to get through’…this is like full on cable TV reality series at your door: bonafide hoarder.

The garage so stuffed that when you open the door there is a solid wall (a wall!) of stuff.  It does not shift upon the opening of the garage door because there is no air space—it is a solid block (the size of a garage) of things.

The weird thing is he is also a Dad.  And has 3 sweet girls, and is, I now believe because of the humanizing of the whole thing, just doing his best with what he’s got.  But it is rough.  He also oddly has a parrot the size of my six-year-old in their living room and the shrieks and squawks are at a similar decibel to, I imagine, a bomb being detonated, but it happens more frequently.

So, with all of these factors in place, about four months ago I noticed that he had started leaving his 2 green debris trash barrels on the street between our houses.  We spoke briefly about how we each had 2 of those barrels (one had come with the house) and how neither of us needed both, but we had them.  You know, neighbor chat.

But he kept leaving them out.  The rest of his trash barrels (trash and recycle) would go back and forth with the trash pick up date, but those fricking things would stay.  Just stay.  There, on the street.  Granted, we live in a kind of funky town, so there wasn’t going to be any complaints, but it made the street look crappy.  2 trash barrels, always out there when the rest of the law abiding decent people had rolled theirs away again.   And right in front of my house.  Sometimes making it even a little hard to maneuver into our driveway.

I thought about moving them right back onto his property myself.  Maybe he just couldn’t handle the trouble the same way he seemed incapable of sorting the garage (or having a normal pet).  Maybe (I suspected) he was passive aggressively leaving them there because when we first moved in I asked him to stop parking in that little spot that is not really a parking spot between our homes.

Day in, day out, those things were there.  Falling over sometimes and I would pick them up, being literally and aesthetically in the way.  On trash days I would re-organize them next to my barrels, but a few days later, they would still be there.

We used to keep all our barrels on the side of the house, and started putting them in the front b/c it was easier.  And I rarely put out the green barrel because it takes months before it is full with grass mowings.   I have left those 2 on the side of the house for the past…well, four months.

Yesterday, I went to retrieve a lost ping pong ball and guess what!?!  No trash barrels on the side of the house!  Those 2 trash barrels, sitting on the street for the past four months causing me daily discomfort:  MINE!!!!  My trash barrels.
There is a great teaching that when we walk into a room, there are 100 things to see, but we only see the 5 that confirm what we already believe.
I feel like Grover when he realizes ‘he’s the monster at the end of this book.’

I am so embarrassed.

Brave Heart

My son Dylan and I have been talking a lot about bravery.  He is 5 and in his kindergarten world, bravery, speed and Ninja skills (real or imagined) are the currency of the land.

Dylan had an accident a month ago.  The bird’s eye view is that he broke his arm.  Up close, he had a traumatic fall, was rushed to the ER, went from ‘Oh, its dislocated and we’ll sedate him to set it’ to being sped into an emergency 2hr surgery and a stay in the hospital.  We all had a chance to be tested.

“I’m not brave.”  He told me lying in bed last night.

“Really, why do you say that?”

“Well, you know, the arm.  I cried.”

“I don’t think bravery is not crying, or being scared.  I think it is getting through.  Doing what needs to be done.”

I am currently, and often afraid of many things:  Having enough money, all of the things that can go wrong (in every area in every way), whether I am leaving things on the table with my choices (of course I am, all choices leave others on the table, but I am afraid of that.)

What is being brave?  It was not hard to be ‘brave’ for Dylan during the accident.  I am his mom, he was hurt, not horribly, but badly and his father and I had to get him help.  The instinct to protect was as loud as my personal desire to take care of this little guy I love so much.  I am not discounting what it took to show up for that, it just was not so much a choice as an internal mandate.

But it is hard to be brave in my own life with my own worries and ‘awfulizing*’ of what most of the time are fairly average mid-life concerns.  I would like to amend what I said to Dylan about bravery.  I don’t think it is just about getting through, because if you don’t die, you get through.  And I don’t think it is just about doing what needs to be done because sometimes that is outside of choice.

I think bravery is about being conscious of all of life, and your situation/s and choosing pluck. Choosing to do what needs to be done because of a commitment to higher goals, even if those goals are simply to be happy in the day.

I am not interested in a bravery that is synonymous with fearlessness.  Fearlessness is disconnection.  I want the idea of bravery that is closer to ‘resolution.’  I like the idea of bravery as being entirely connected to the reality of what is or can go wrong and having a higher sense of the mission at hand.

“Dylan, really, you did great and I am proud of you.  That was a lot.”

“Well Mom, you were by my side.”

Having a life worth living with all that is scary takes bravery.  Jesus it is worth it.

Awfulizing: def—making more awful any given situation by focusing on what is so awful now or what could be awful about it in the future.

To Schedule or not to Schedule…That is the Question

Dylan told me the other day that he did not want ‘an important job.’  I flashed to a sullen 20-year-old, and then a sullen 30 year-old playing Wii-9000 on my couch.

‘Oh, really?’  was my best answer.   (I was also watching 54th President slide off the table).

“I don’t want a job where you have to go there every day.”

We were on our way back from KinderCamp designed to prepare him for the transition to Kindergarten and on our way to swimming.  It is a tight to make everything happen on time.

We talked about what he liked (the stuffed bear area) and what he did not (having to play on a ‘little kids’ playground) and really that he didn’t like the every-day part.  He didn’t want to be accountable to something and somewhere every single day/moment/second.  (This is my translation of what he said).

None of us do.  And I don’t know if 5 year-olds experience weekends the same way as the rest of us.  Up to this point, KinderCamp is the first thing he is dong ‘every day’.  Pre-school was 3 days a week, swimming 2xs, To have to get up and head out, every day to the same situation (and then on Mondays and Wednesdays rush off to swimming and on Fridays, add hip hop to that) was feeling, appropriately, like a bit much.

Somewhere in there I offered that maybe he wanted to work for himself like his Dad, so he could choose his schedule and the work he is doing.

“But does he have to go every time?”

“Well, yes, yes, it is still work.  He has to do it—not every day—but most of the time.”

I am certain that Dylan will work this out.  But he has been saying lately that he just does not know what job he wants to have.  I tell him, as I may have to again 20 years from now, that he has time, that it is not a question to worry about but rather be interested in.  He will find things that he enjoys and they will take him in a direction—but really he has time.

My other thought is that the replicating for kids the schedule the rest of us follow or see as successful is not working for him.  I was talking the other day with another Dad who was saying how summers used to be just summer, unstructured time and it worked just fine.  Yes, and birthday parties didn’t used to have themes.  Remember when it just meant a bunch of kids came over and ran around and ate cake?

Back to the career counseling, I think Dylan would like to be independently wealthy and I will buy him a scratch ticket on the way home.  I have also decided to cancel hip hop for the rest of the summer.

I’m OK, You’re OK

What if we are all just doing a good job?  Seriously, what if in our working or not working status, serving frozen chicken nuggets for dinner and later than we meant to sometimes, not leaving the house until the afternoons on the weekends sometimes; the truth is we are all just doing a good job?  What if this is things working out?

Right now my kids are watching Thumbelina and I am wondering if we should really be fishing in the pond nearby.  That’s the stuff of childhood and memories right?  Fishing—and my friend A called and she and her kids are going fishing right now.   It is 8:30am, chilly (here in Northern CA it is still cold in the mornings and kind of Scottish landscape feeling).  My kids are Jr lifeguarding, acting, swimming, traveling all over the place and making a mud swamp in our backyard this summer—and this morning they think heaven is a plate of mango and a DVD.

I find people who do glass half-empty exhausting.  I judge them a for being so “fear-based, anxious, a little over the top-Eeyores.’   Just relax I want to tell them.  But in my heart of hearts I am worrying constantly–sure I am screwing up quite often. I have that feeling that anyone who thinks I am not just doesn’t know the truth.  Everything is a ‘make or break’ moment and I am running so fast asking the question “Am I doing it right?”

But what if this is really all OK?  Bring the reality tv cameras in, this is what it looks like:  My bed is not made right now-no one’s is, I can’t remember if I showered yesterday, I have a lot of laundry to get to, I have no plan for dinner.  And none of this is because I have low standards or am depressed. I am in a fine mood this morning and enjoying sitting here—it is just there is always a lot.  Always a lot to do.  I guess that is what I am saying, it just takes a lot and I always think it should be all done, all set and it never ever is.  Even when my house is spotless, it is for one moment.  Take the picture quick because then life moves in again.  My friend MR keeps trying to convince me that her situation is more extreme—her house more disheveled, but I am just not buying it.  Her house is not worse; her standards are more off.  So, just for today, I am taking the pressure off.  If it is a problem that the darn art area looks like Jackson Pollock came through on acid, the problem is my seeing it that way.  The problem is my believing that everything should be tight and perfect for us all to be living, growing; feeling loved, feeling joy.
There is a comedian who says ‘My kids could not have lasted a day in the house I grew up in.’ As a parent now, it worries me a bit that everyone seems to get that joke.  But, I am going to imagine today that this is it—this is me doing a good job and this is things working out.  And I am going to go now and see if they want another DVD.

Minefields in the Livingroom

I get jacked up around my extended family.  I know this makes me unique and none of you can relate.  While 10 years of therapy took the edge off; I am not cured.

I was in my regular hyper-alert mode visiting my brother and sister-in-law the other day–tracking with the attention and precision found only in transplant surgeries and mine diffusion squads when my husband struck up a conversation with someone in the room.

I panicked, well I guess to be honest, I panicked more because in that context (as previously described) I am already in a panicked state.  I got it in my head that maybe in this moment rather than talking to X, my husband should be talking to Y or maybe he should be in the other room asking to see the new tile or maybe he should be doing the dishes (there weren’t any dishes)….

My family loves my husband.  My family has been there for us in more ways that I could ever possibly articulate AND the funny thing about families, they can also make one a bit crazy.   It is the birthplace of my plan to control the universe and where I am still trying to hold onto or get the goods in some way even though what goods are exactly is increasingly hazy.

Later, and after coming down a bit by sitting through Harry Potter part 2000 I brought up how I had felt earlier in the day.

I joked about it to my husband.  (I have learned that joking about something can sometimes allow a softening around an issue that would otherwise get expressed too hard.  I do offer some caution here and a maybe a ‘do not try this at home’ label.  If you are not clear on the lines between sarcasm, mockery and just lightening the mood and finding a way to laugh at yourself a bit, you should also not try this while operating heavy machinery.)

Me:  “What the heck were you talking to X about?  It seemed like you were settling in for the night.”

Him:  “Really?  It didn’t seem that long to me.  We were talking about where he was from.”

Me:  “No, it was endless–I was like ‘hello’ we are just stopping by here.”

Him:  “I am not sure you should have caramel macchiatos at this time of night.”

Me:  “OK fine,

And then he said, and his is why my husband has a very successful career in helping people live better lives.  “I don’t think that at this point, how your family perceives me is really going to change how you feel about yourself.”

Me:  “I know.  But I think we could give it a try.”

Smelling Like Vanilla

My hairdresser, we’ll call her Whitney (because that is her name) was studiously studying what happens when she does my hair and then it receives no care and no consideration and no touch up cut for 5 months.

“Um, let’s start to work on some of this shag.”

“Go for it.”

Whitney is an adorable cross between the babysitter I always wanted and the big sister I always wanted–mainly because she really knows how to do hair.

She has many large tattoos on the places I can see and I imagine many more on the places I cannot.  She also has a heart on her arm and today I finally asked her why:

“Well, you know, heart on my sleeve.”   I had so hoped this was the answer.

I love this girl.

She is however talking to me from another planet as she goes on and on about what might be ‘fun’ in terms of my hair options.  How I could ‘try this’ or ‘do that’ and be-fun.

“See, this even smells like vanilla!” She lets me stick my nose next to her hand to verify.  Vanilla is fun.

I don’t have the heart to tell her that ‘low maintenance’ which I explained was my ‘style’ really meant ‘no maintenance’ but maybe she knows because somewhere in the middle of the cut she starts talking about product options if I am not even going to wash.. .(I want to ask her if that means ‘ever’ but she if off to the next product that will make me look like I just got out of bed—in a good way—‘tousled.’  I do often look like I just got out of bed, so I am definitely not buying that one.  I can just check that one right off.)

I would love to be a desperate housewife of my town, USA .  Seriously, I would love to have a butt that looks like all I do all day long is make sure my butt looks like this.  (Here is where I am supposed to say something about how I love the life I have.  I do, but the butt thing—that I would also really enjoy.)  However, I do not.

My very big ‘fun’ today is getting this haircut and then getting to do a bunch of errands alone—without anyone complaining or asking to buy something.  Ideally in this moment, I’d like to just read a magazine in the salon and not even talk and pretend I am a butt woman.  But Whitney is very sweet and funny and I enjoy myself while she offers another in a long line of products I will not buy—this one is called (wait for it)  ‘Young Again.”

She is giving me a little flip on the ends my newly cut hair.  “See,” she explains.  “This is great if you are going out at night.”  I don’t have the heart to tell her that this is it.  This haircut is my ‘out at night’ equivalent.  And, if she is lucky (and this part I mean) it will one day be hers too.

But wait till they see me in the Post Office, I really do smell like vanilla.

2 Kids-2 Coasts-96 Hours

I traveled with my kids this week over a 4-day period.  We left the beach community where we live on the Pacific to go to a beach community across space and time on the Atlantic.

2 cross country flights (1 w/screaming baby whole way, 1 with 4hr delay—happily spread between the two), 2 grandmothers, 3 aunts, 1 uncle, 1 little cousin and 6 friends later here I am.

I really struggled on this one.  Yes, I know it is a great luxury to be able to travel.  But the time constraints on my end and for the many people listed above, we had a very short window for this experience.  Also, my husband, who travels for a living, wasn’t going.

Before I left I freaked out.  I was afraid of the travel, exhausted, decided that I really did not want to leave my husband who is always ‘heading out’ and for this one summer is ‘staying in.’ I felt like I needed to call a time out, packing took about 3xs longer than usual.  Somewhere in there I mentioned to my daughter that this trip might be a bridge too far for me and she left to cry quietly in her room.  We were going.

(I will also mention that my husband, who was in on the ‘not sure about this trip’ conversation explained to her: ‘You know, mommy might not feel like this is the best time, she has to do everything, carry everything on a trip like this and….etc. etc.’   It look me about an hour into being at the airport to connect that conversation to the fact that my daughter kept trying to lug suitcases that were too heavy and really scolded her younger brother for not carrying his backpack filled with stuffed animals.  It made me feel both terrible and touched.)

I push, I push a lot to make things ‘work.’  It is that kind of mind set that made me think; Oh, Jasmine has a mandatory program ending at 3:30pm on Friday (that I have to be at) and everyone (on the other coast) can only be there for a day or two:  “We’ll take the red eye!”

The jury is not in on whether to put this behavior in my plus or minus column.  I always ‘make things work’ and I get the good of that and the exhaustion of that consistently.

I am glad I went.  We chocked a lot of fun into those days.  I believe in this–Family, beach, cousins from different coasts having this ‘time outside of time’ summer experiences together.  It is amazing.

The kids were great the whole time and a little bonkers because they are kids.  (I once thought of writing a book on traveling with children and then realized that the total sum of my advice had to do with allowing Sprite and having a lot of candy in your bag.)

There is an intensity in moving young people and yourself through the myriad of minor challenges and ragged out moments (Read 4-hour delay that you don’t hear about until you are in the classroom-sized waiting area and unable to leave back out to the main [find more candy] terminal.)

The following typified it for me:  The kids hands were sticky heading through security, as everything is when you travel with kids.  (What are they doing, rubbing everything on their hands and upper cheeks all the time?  They seem coordinated enough, but hand them ANYTHING on a trip:  a piece of gum, a lifesaver, a banana, a glass of milk and they are sticky like you can’t believe—and upset about it.)  Anyway, they were sticky and I forgot to grab napkins and as I am heading into line my mom who is rifling through her bag on the other side says—Oh, I’ve got wipes—-and hands me 4 Always wipes.  I look at them, process the fact that Always is a feminine product not exactly a hand sanitizer item and say, “Can I get like 6 more?”

Epilogue:  I am doing what I need to do to have the life I want—have the kids connected to their extended family while I get to live where I want.  I pushed myself on this one, and I am not sure how I feel about the pushing I do.  And, I spent the next 10hrs making it work by rubbing my kids mouths with feminine hygene wipes and being frankly grateful I had asked for more.

My Vanity Left Me Years Ago for a Much Younger Woman

I walked out of the house today in the jeans I could find, a shirt that no one claimed after xmas last year at my Dad’s and a pair of black clogs that are so scuffed they look like I’ve been painting in them.

How did this happen?

I used to ‘go shopping’.  It was an activity, and a regular activity like having dinner.  It was not something I did ‘on special occasions,’ it was part of my life.  I was kind of always shopping.  Window shopping, leafing through magazines, going to favorite stores…shopping.

How did I even afford it?  It matters little now.  We mocked my father growing up for his glasses bought at CVS, his non-branded black running shoes that served somehow for every occasion. His willingness to wear ABSOLUTELY anything.  I am not laughing now.

I want to be very put together.   Nice boots and a shirt you actually picked out go a long way.  Some care is nice.  My friend LB’s hair always looks so good (I think she blow dries).

But, when faced with the time (and money) all of that takes, I just reach back down in the hamper for my jeans again…

I am definitely dressing by default and not design.

More proof:

Number of items I took out of my stepsister’s good will box:  All

Number of items my in-their-20s-sisters took out of my ‘hand me down’ bag:  Zero

My bathing suits

Percentage of bathing suits I own and wear that look like I am someone’s Aunt Gladys   100%

Percentage of bathing suits I own and wear that I bought in a hotel lobby b/c I didn’t have a suit or missed a flight but now this is all I have:  100%

Do you see the Mickey Mouse emblems on the red one (and that is not me by the way).   Thank you Disney World upper level range hotel–too expensive for us to stay at but we stopped off to play in their amazing pool with sand.  I think buying things like this on the fly in gift shops is why I don’t have the money to stay at these hotels…it is a perfect closed loop.

Additional Proof
I did buy a kind of tunic-y thing a while ago, thought I looked quite fetching actually.  Upon walking out of the house with my daughter she turned to me and said:  “Oh, I thought that was a bathrobe.”

I think that says it all.

Little Miss-Understood

The case for 3-pair socks:

I really called this one wrong.  About 2 years ago my daughter decided the best expression of herself was to wear mismatched socks.  To school, to parties, to special occasions.  Really mismatched sometimes.  Like these here.

I hated it.  I felt like it made her look like no one noticed what she was wearing before she left the house.  Like who is driving this train?  It  wasn’t in this case really about what other people thought.  Well, ummm, sort of, but more what it would mean for my kid that other people would see her that way.  It felt like I wasn’t protecting her from being seen as kind of neglected.  A little extreme, but there you go.    Obviously this was more about me than her…

Now it turns out that this has become all the rage. Is this happening where you are?  All of a sudden everywhere (east coast and west) all the 6yr-8yr olds are donning orange stripe socks with light blue heart socks and one red/one purple…    you get it.  AND of course, they are even being sold this way.

My aunt Sue who literally lives on a remote island, walked into a store on a visit here and immediately bought a 3 pair of Little Miss MisMatched for my daughter.  That little seven year-old was completely vindicated.

Apparently they are just really appealing.

Sue, you are so cutting edge.