Monday, December 29, 2008

Resolving to be Flexible

The last New Year's resolution that I made that I've actually kept is to not make any more New Year's resolutions.

It was made several years ago, after years of failing to keep any resolutions and starting the New Year kicking myself instead of celebrating all the possibilities that the next year can have, as well as all the accomplishments made in the last year.

My life has undergone many incarnations throughout the years. I've been a child actor, a starving artist, a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, married, divorced, a title that included senior staff privileges, and an assistant. I've worked in market research, the legal field, restaurants, and on a cruise ship. If there has been one constant in my life, it has been change.

I was never a very good improv actor, but my life has taught me that the one thing I must be is quick to adapt. And above all, parenting is the most challenging improvising I've ever done.

My oldest daughter will be 12 this year. Her body has already started to change, and she goes from being an independent, thoughtful person one minute to a crying mess the next. Motherhood has always meant a mountain of patience, but the patience required to raise an adolescent is beyond measurable! I never know if a lame joke will make her smile and change moods again (which it sometimes does) or if she will turn into the eye-rolling embarrassed teen (which she sometimes does). I'm learning not to take it personally.

Before I was a mom, it was easy to flit from one thing to the next. Raising babies, however, required stability. As soon as I got the hang of that, they've gone and grown on me and now the schedule changes according to their schedule changes, which will inevitably change again.

The good news is, they're learning to enjoy downtime now. After weeks of basketball games and holiday parties, they couldn't have been happier to spend a quiet weekend at home. And occasionally, they even entertained themselves!

So no, I will not be making any promises to myself this New Year's. Except maybe, to take it all as it comes.

Originally posted on LA Moms, Dec. 29, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

(Early) Weekend Wrap-Up & (Early) Happy New Year

Phew! I've been offline at home for the past couple of days due to some technical difficulties. It's nice to be back!

We had a really nice, quiet Christmas. My dad made the tamales, rice and beans for Xmas Eve dinner and baked cookies with the girls. We enjoyed a bottle of champagne I'd been given from one of the lawyers, and opened our traditional PJs.

Riley was beside herself with excitement, but they went to bed at a fairly reasonable hour. We opened a bottle of wine I'd been given from another one of the lawyers :) and talked until enough time had passed to grab the presents, stuff the stockings, etc. Then we had some Bailey's (this time provided by my parents) and talked some more. We finally headed to bed around midnight.

Riley got up and woke her sister around 2:30 a.m. Sylvia very wisely went back to bed after peeking at the stockings and the tree. Riley stayed up for about an hour and then fell back asleep on the couch. Sylvia thankfully let me sleep until seven.

Once we were done oohing and aahing over the gifts, my dad made the popovers, and we gobbled them up. Riley popped in her new Mamma Mia dvd and we enjoyed that before my parents took the girls to my cousin's house and I loaded up all our new treasures and went home.

I watched 4 episodes of West Wing in a row - I totally miss that show - and then called Kori to hear all about her Christmas. I couldn't help but beam. Then I finished the wine while watching The Breakfast Club - which I'm sure is not nearly as good as I think it is.

The next morning was again a breeze not getting up with children and work was serenely quiet. I finally cleaned up my email inbox at work and in Gmail. I spent the rest of my payflex money stocking up on supplies from (they have an HSA store which makes it easy), and got my Reader down to nothing. Grabbed some groceries, and met the girls. We are now caught up on Lost. And I have NO unread New Yorkers!

I'm now doing some end-of-year cleaning around the house, but I desperately needed my internet up and running for those well-deserved breaks. That took a good 4 hours of my day. But it's done and I'm here!

Here are the girls modeling their new outfits:

I hope you all had a great holiday. I think I'll take a blogging break until 2009, but I'll continue to keep up with you all in the meantime. I can't believe how many of you I've now "known" for a year, and I'm so grateful to have had the pleasure to meet some of you this past year. I hope to meet more of you in the coming year, but if not, I'll continue enjoying the pleasure of your company in my Reader, your comments, and emails.

Here's hoping for a new year filled with love, laughter, and joy for all of us!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Our Santa Story

Two or three years ago, I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take some fictional MAN taking all the credit for all the scrounging I was doing to give my girls that Christmas morning pleasure of a tree overflowing with gifts. Particularly back then, when my salary was lower, and my money concerns much greater. (It's still a concern to some degree, but not nearly as bad as it used to be.)

I think it was three Christmases ago that after the holiday, I shared the news with Sylvia. A few months went by before we told Riley.

I told them that while the story of one man going to every house in the country giving gifts was not true, but that we could all be Santa. That my parents and I play the role for them, and that Santa lives in our hearts.

I remember when my dad told me. I was DEVASTATED. And then he added salt to the wound by telling me that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy weren't real, was more than I could take. I totally fell apart.

Sylvia was skeptical that I had been lying to her - but I didn't phrase it like that. I just told her that I was playing my part. Riley loved being let it on the secret. I just hoped that they weren't telling their friends so I stressed to them the importance of letting the moms and dads tell them.

It was months until the next Christmas. When it came around, Sylvia would wink and nudge at me when people referred to Santa. But she still wanted to see Santa and take the pictures. Riley, too. And they still do.

They still watch the holiday specials, they didn't even recognize a family friend of ours when he played Santa recently. They talk about the tooth fairy. In fact, Riley lost a tooth today and I said I hoped the tooth fairy and Santa didn't get in an accident tonight. Riley just looked at me, exasperated at my bad humor but still smiling, and said, "Mom!" in that multi-syllabic way.

I hear parents talk about using different wrapping paper for Santa gifts and I'm just glad it's not me worrying about that!

For me, besides the whole fictional man issue, there was also the issue that I am the only one that my girls can count on. They need to know that they can trust me. I used to worry about them hearing it from someone else, and how that would affect our relationship. That may sound trivial, but it wasn't to me. I just couldn't take that chance.

When I told Sylvia, I asked her if she'd been told already. She said she had heard some talk at school about it, and had meant to ask me about it, but she hadn't yet. She did seem grateful that I trusted her with the truth.

A few weeks ago, Sylvia lost a tooth. She still puts them under her pillow for reimbursement. So as I was heading to bed, I came in with a dollar. She was still up, and had pulled out another one! I handed her the dollar, told her I had no more dollar bills and would owe her another. She gave me the tooth. We went to bed. A few days later, I handed her another dollar.

For us, the truth is so much easier to handle.

This is not a judgment against anyone. It's just our story.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Things are beginning to wind down for us, which is nice. Almost all of the holiday parties are done!

It started Monday night with our department holiday dinner, which is the lawyers' present to all of us and it was excellent. Thursday, our wing had a holiday pot-luck where a few of us hung out in a corner and were thoroughly amused by ourselves - just thinking about it makes me start grinning like a fool. That was also the day of the Boys & Girls Club party, where the girls had a blast.

Riley had her holiday program on Friday, and was cute as a button, of course. What I particularly enjoyed was that they split the program up so we were only there for her and one other class. Instead of taking 2 hours out of my day, it only took a half-hour. I truly appreciated that!

Saturday was our extended family holiday party which my parents host. My mom always puts together a contest - this year it was "where in the world are we" where she got to boast about all of her vacations and we had to guess where they were based on the photo. I actually won! I got a nice bag out of it, which I'm using as a gym bag.

Yes, I have succumbed. I joined our company's fitness center and am going tonight to my first class. I haven't worked out in a few years because I hate working out. I'm trying out the Cardio Salsa class. I can't work out if that's the only objective. I need choreography to take my mind off the actual exercise.

Sunday was supposed to be the day where Sylvia played Mommy for the Day. As soon as it involved actual doing something, it was over, of course. So Riley was supposed to take over, but she didn't want to do anything, either. I didn't mind. (I got to sleep in so what could be wrong?)We had a Lost marathon as well. One more disc and we're caught up!

And we got a call from the old Boys & Girls Club where the girls went last year, inviting us to their holiday party tomorrow. The girls are so excited to see their old friends again, and I was really touched that they asked us. And then we'll be done with the parties.

Some of my single mom friends will be horrified by this, but what I'm most looking forward to about Xmas is when the girls go with my parents to our cousins' house for Xmas dinner, and I'll have the night to myself. We'll be together Xmas Eve night, and we'll have our Xmas morning tradition together, but my cousins live a couple hours away, and I have to work the next day so I'm begging off the dinner and the girls will spend the night with my parents. I'm looking forward to being home alone.

I'm also looking forward to this week and next at work. It's generally quieter with a lot of people on vacation and it's a good chance to catch up on some old filing without constant interruptions.

I'm like an infant whose had too much stimulation lately. I need a blank wall for a bit.

Friday, December 19, 2008

New Year's Wishes for my Daughters

As we continue to scurry around in the holiday madness, I've been reminded that we are entering a new year, with many changes in our future. No one knows exactly how these changes will turn out, but most of us are hyper-aware of the uncertainty that we take into 2009.

As a mother, I wonder, how much of this is affecting my children? It is nearly impossible to shield them from talk of recession, a new incoming administration, of the major failures and downfalls of our leaders in business and politics, nor do I really want them to be completely oblivious. As usual, I am attempting to find a proper balance in their outlook and mine.

My main wish for this coming year is to keep my oldest daughter's world as stable as possible. Apparently, any trauma surrounding her twelfth year of life can have life-lasting consequences. While both of my daughters are well aware that I can't control everything (sometimes moreso than I'm willing to admit to myself, even), this mama lion will be at her most fierce against any and all outside forces that threaten to upset her life.

I will do my best to keep in tune with their development. It's astonishing to see the changes in maturity level, even from one minute to the next! It has made me wonder if the real generation gap comes from well-meaning parents simply trying to understand their child's emotional state (with the term "state" being used very, very loosely). I will keep the music volume down in the car so that we can continue to have the heart-to-hearts that seem to take place there. (Probably has to do with more time being spent in that car than at a dinner table together!)

I will put more effort into spending one-on-one time with each of my daughters. It's not that they don't get one-on-one time with me, but it's usually spontaneous. Sylvia (my oldest) and I seem to do most of our connecting when I'm carting her from one activity or another. Riley (my 8-year-old) gets her mommy time snuggling in my bed with me. I think I need to actually schedule activities with one of them at a time when possible.

I will do my best to continue to communicate to them that even though the world can make no sense, and sometimes life isn't fair, it is still better for them to attempt to always do the right thing. We may not be able to make a war go away, or completely stop all injustice, but we can lead our own lives as justly as possible. And that sometimes we do screw up, but so long as we can learn from it, and correct our mistakes as possible, then we can sleep contentedly. That sometimes the past is better left behind us, and the present is all that we can control.

We will continue to watch the morning news as a family, and certain movies and TV shows as a family to discuss human nature and all the dangers and love that can be found within humanity. We will continue to laugh at ourselves, and tell each other we're sorry. We will lose our temper with each other, but our love for each other will never be questioned. We will never go to bed without hugs and kisses. We will never pass up an opportunity to tell each other we love each other. We will share our ups and downs with each other. We will spend time with family and friends. We will continue to get up every day and go to school/work, and do our homework/housework.

The year on the calendar may change, but we will appreciate all that remains the same, too.

Originally posted on LA Moms, Dec. 18, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not the Time or the Place

I'm so very disappointed. And hurt. And angry. Obama has chosen Rick Warren, one of the most vocal and staunch supporters of Prop 8, to give the invocation at his inauguration.

I heard him on NPR this morning, saying that this is a time to come together.

President-elect, I'm not ready. This issue still continues to gall me. And I'm beginning to doubt you when you say you support gay and lesbian rights, all the while giving a most glorious job to the person who worked hard to defeat those rights.

It's one thing to put Warren on a committee of religious leaders to work through these issues. It's quite another to have him as one of the stars of this event.

I was so looking forward to January 20, and celebrating your inauguration. Now it's completely tainted. I feel like I've been slapped in the face. Or punched in the gut.

I fear it's probably too late for anything to change. Because if Obama pulls the invite now, then he upsets a whole other set of folks.

I disagree that this brings us together. This pulls us entirely apart. I don't understand the reasoning behind picking a very controversial figure for this event. If you want us to come together, then the people on that stage with you should be those that also believe in bringing people together, not pulling us apart.

I'm so upset.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Now I'm ticked

This article about how a stay-at-home mom was denied from being able to purchase a cell phone and was told that her husband should buy it for her was disturbing enough, but what really gets me is the comments from those defending the phone company!

This comment in particular burned me:

Of course mums work very hard, but that doesn't make them exempt from showing income against their name, which is what the real issue is.
This goes to a point which someone was making to me about how some (politicians, in particular) like to talk a good game about supporting families and family values, but our actions don't speak to it. And why we really need to start thinking more about the human beings at stake rather than setting arbritrary rules and laws that don't make any sense in a lot of situations.

Those that support the phone company seem to be arguing that, hey, how are they to know she can pay her bill? Anyone ever hear of deposits? Before assuming she can't pay her bill, how about giving her the chance? This would also be in the best interest of the company, who is in the business of selling phones.

I also have a real problem with anyone telling any woman how she should run her life.
She's not on welfare, she's not asking for special treatment, she's simply trying to buy a product. So long as she pays her bills (and since when have companies ever cared who pays the bills so long as they get paid), it really is none of our business what her family has chosen as their lifestyle.

I was beginning to question my original belief that governments should just get out of the marriage license business altogether, because we're having a major defecit problem right now and more marriages would frankly help (gay or straight).

But this has put me firmly back into the category of "stay the hell out of our lives." Stop assuming you know what I can and can't afford based on a few labels.

Next thing you know, apartment buildings will stop renting to single mothers because how are they going to be able to afford it without a man around?

Not to mention (well, okay, I guess I'm mentioning it) is this comes after a time when everyone was throwing loans around, regardless of income. So now I guess the pendulum is swinging far off in the other correct their mistakes, and we pay for it. Or can't buy it. BALANCE, people!!

Random (or Wordy Wed.)

Why is it that the more I write, the less I write well? I don't even mean in terms of how good the content is or isn't. I mean, I'm making stupid mistakes, like typing "too" when I mean "two" and not checking for errors before I hit "submit." Next thing you know, I'll start typing "anyways."

I thought I was done Xmas shopping. Then Kori very innocently asked me about stockings. How do I forget those things every friggin' year?!? One more trip to the store after I get paid this week.

I had contraband cheese the other night that makes me believe the very best things are illegal.

I spoke to a very nice woman at the water and power company today. She said I should get a closing bill within the next two weeks, and if I don't, then to please call back. Apparently, they're delaying sending out closing bills. Yeah, just a little!

I didn't get up until 7:40 a.m. today. Riley was up, but Sylvia was asleep. See, what happened was that Riley woke up at like FIVE and then I completely ignored my alarm or turned it off or something. Riley started playing Sylvia's educational game designed for 5th graders and just got completely sucked into that so it didn't occur to her to wake us up. (Yet she didn't finish her 3rd grade homework last night. Go figure.) Sylvia may have been 3-4 minutes late for school at 8. Yes, we rock!

I love, love love Prefers Her Fantasy Life's idea of charging the docs for our time. RadDude and I were talking just the other day about a billing problem he's having with his health insurance, and how ridiculous it is the time we waste on such things. And we're the lucky ones! We're the ones with health insurance and flex spending accounts! I try to remember that, but sometimes it's awfully hard.

Okay, so I'm writing more posts lately, but I'm fully aware that they're mostly drivel - and a waste of your time. I'm trying to get myself back in the groove.

I'm also not passionately upset or happy about anything right now. I'm sure the day will come. I'm thinking Jan. 20 at the very latest. 34 days left of W. As I recently said somewhere (I think it was in a comment to Margaret and Helen), I'm beginning to believe we'll actually make it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Unnecessary Waste of my Time

Today's mail included an envelope that had been forwarded from my previous address from our water and power company. I eyed it skeptically as I continued to make dinner. I knew this couldn't be good.

Opening it didn't make it better. Bright pink (as in overdue) for the months of September through now, basically. I moved on July 31.

I tried to deal with it immediately. They claim to have 24-hour customer service available. I managed to talk to a person, who confirmed that I did indeed request to have the service turned off as of August 1. And said the request was still pending. But he couldn't do anything for me. I get to call back tomorrow to have it taken care of.

I'm so looking forward to it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Farewell, Boston Legal

I will miss this show a lot. Over the years, they covered nearly every topic of interest to me, and some that became interesting to me after seeing it on Boston Legal.

I was never a big William Shatner fan prior to this show, but I did love his ability to make fun of himself. He took it to a higher level as Denny Crane, the famous turned infamous right-wing defender of all things I'm against, but forgivable given his mad-cow disease. And his friendship with James Spader.

Now James Spader, I have been a fan of since his '80's movies. (My personal fave is White Palace, but that's me.) On Monday nights (or whatever night they were on depending on the season), I got to hear him pontificate grandly, defending my position most of the time, but in ways that had never even occurred to me until he said them (through the glorious words of the glorious David E. Kelley - my all-time favorite television writer). His womanizing was forgivable, given his admiration for intelligent women in particular.

This is the only show I know of that has openly mocked our sitting Supreme Court. Now that might offend some, but personally, I found it hysterical. And having Justice Alito marry two male characters? (I won't spoil it just in case anyone hasn't seen the season finale yet.) I mean, come on! Who does that?

Once The Sopranos left us, Boston Legal became the best show on television. Funny, poignant, controversial, thought-provoking, very often politically incorrect, and SMART.

And Kori, it is available and totally worth renting on Netflix!

Boston Legal, I will miss you, and all of your reincarnations throughout your years. Thanks for the memories.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

One of these days/weeks, I'll post more than just a weekend wrap-up and one post a week. Last week was not one of those times. This week? Don't know yet.

Things were busy. Monday night was our employee party, Tuesday night the PTA meeting, Thursday was the cookie exchange party, Saturday Sylvia had a basketball tournament (her team lost - HUGE - but her team was mostly 5th graders playing mostly 8th graders. It was over before it began), and Sunday we were up very early for the Say No to Drugs Race. But at least on Saturday, I got to sleep in. I was looking forward to that all week, since last weekend had us getting up to an alarm every day. There is no weekend without a day off from an alarm, I believe.

Riley did much better in PE this week, passing the "standard time" allotted for her run on Monday. We were elated for her! The Curriculum Director was out most of the week due to a family emergency (everything is fine now) but he will check in next week and let me know his thoughts. Wednesday didn't go quite as well (Riley has PE twice a week), but I'm trying to keep our obsession level down a bit. She did have a lot of fun this a.m. at the Say No to Drugs Race. She just has to remember she likes to run. Loves it, even.

Sylvia did awesome at the 5k today. I was most surprised to see Sylvia and her granddad finish before my mom! Last year, she left them behind. Sylvia's improvement in a year is quite impressive, especially considering she only has run these on an annual basis so far. We're thinking of finding another 5k for her to do in the summertime.

I'm not sure if we'll go back to the Say No to Drugs race next year. It's doubled (at least) from the attendance last year. We always feel compelled to go since they keep putting one or both of the girls on their brochure. I have a feeling we'll be hoodwinked into it again if we see those smiling faces on next year's brochure! The girls' Boys & Girls Club is also a sponsor, so that's another compelling reason to continue to support it. (Not to mention, of course, it's a good cause.)

The girls and I are back to watching Lost, now that Season 4 is out on DVD. I also wasted 2 hours of my life watching Bottle Rocket. I guess that says enough about what I thought of it.

It probably didn't help, however, that I was struggling to finish my knitting project at the same time - my first sweater. I had stopped knitting during the move and have only recently gotten back to picking it up one or two nights a week. Outside of one lesson, I've basically been teaching myself, so when I get stuck, I'm really really stuck. I don't know if this sweater will ever be able to be worn in public, but I'm pushing through it anyway. I figure I'd rather make as many mistakes on this one item before I start the next project - maybe the next one will be wearable!

I love this email I received this week (before the bail-out failed - for the moment):

I think it's better, frankly, to let these companies file bankruptcy. As I've said before, the little guys will still be the ones hurt the most, but I don't see anything outside of bankruptcy teaching a lesson to the guys at the top. I also think it's pointless to worry about which car companies are American or not. All cars import and export parts from everywhere so to say a car is "American" or not doesn't really mean anything anymore.

Oh, and I confess, I've been doing a bit more writing than you see here. This post from the LA Moms blog also got picked up for syndication, but I actually prefer this post.

This coming week is full of more holiday gatherings and possibly another basketball game for Sylvia so I'm not sure if more weighty posts are in the immediate future or not. I appreciate everyone who stops by even (make that especially) when I have little to say!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Day Without a Gay

Time has passed, and for the most part, I've moved on, but I still get very sad when I think of the passage of Prop 8, and you will not stop hearing about it from me from time to time until gay couples have the same right to marry as straight couples enjoy.

Today is Day Without a Gay day.

What would my life be without knowing the out individuals that I know? I can't even imagine.

Growing up in theatre, I knew as many gay people as straight at an early age. It meant about as much to me as the color of someone's skin, or if someone had red hair or brown. It was simply another characteristic.

The theatre community is like that: everyone is accepted just the way you are. If you were willing to put yourself out there, you were a part of the group.

Kind of like blogging, come to think of it. While I may be single mom heavy on my blog-roll, I have folks from every walk of life in my Reader...even a few non-parents! I don't care what you are when it comes to male/female, married/single, what religion you practice, what country you're from. I believe I can learn and I know I do learn from every single one of you. But I digress...

It just never occurred to me to place a judgment on someone based on their sexuality. When I was nine years old, I remember getting into it with my uncle for making derogatory comments and I think I may have even called him homophobic at the time. He was very amused by it all, but I was very upset. These were my friends. These were people that had taught me nearly everything I knew about theatre, that had welcomed me with open arms. They were as much my family to me as he was.

I also grew up in a home where our "bible," if you will, was the Constitution of the United States. My father fought in Vietnam, my grandfathers fought in World War II. In fact, every male cousin and uncle has served this country for the very reason of paying homage to what this great country allows us. We've never been rich, and some of my family has been very, very poor, but we grew up with the idea that if you worked hard, this country allowed freedom and equal opportunity to all.

So the very idea that, in the 21st century, there are some people that do not enjoy equal rights is offensive to me. And when I can put so many names and faces with who those people are, my heart cries for them.

These are people that have taught me, advised me, supported me, given birthday presents and Christmas presents to my daughters, tutored Sylvia in math, been shoulders for us to cry on, given me cash when I needed it, bought me a cup of coffee, given me a new perspective when I needed it, taken me out to dinner, made me dinner, made me homemade honey lavender ice cream (YUM!), forgiven me, intellectually challenged me, emotionally challenged me, gone to great efforts to understand me, loved me, and basically have enriched my life in ways that cannot truly be measured.

The least I can do is stand with them and fight for their right to live their lives equally.

If you are "straight for equality," you might want to check out Atticus Circle. The button on the left will lead you to a place where you can donate to help win the battle for equality.

I'll end this by stealing a quote from Jon Stewart when talking to O'Reilly about what the true tradition of America is: "the tradition of America is a progression of individual freedoms." He went on to say the next step in the tradition of America is gay marriage. I can only hope he's right.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Power of Negative Thinking

Amidst all the holiday cheer, we all know that this is also a time where many people suffer depression as well. There are also many who may not categorize themselves as "depressed," but put themselves in the "bah humbug" category about the holidays. Maybe because they don't have a lot of money (particularly this year), maybe because their children won't be home for Christmas, maybe it's a harrowing holiday-related past event or maybe it's a sense of isolation that feels like a bubble setting one apart from all the warmth around you. When someone tries to express this feeling, it's usually met with some variation "try to concentrate on all the positive in your life." Now, if you're the person expressing these feelings, you may experience some guilt for not appreciating what you have. Doesn't really inspire happiness. Sound like I'm speaking from experience? Absolutely!

Last holiday season was really difficult for me. I was very frustrated, as I reflected on the past few years, and felt like I wasn't nearly where I wanted to be at this point in my life. There was also some stuff going on that's not important now, but didn't help at the time. Every holiday event was, to me, ripe with opportunities for tears and frustration. Even my kids' excitement was like a knife in my heart, mainly because I felt guilty for not feeling the same way and feeling like I was failing them by not embracing the spirit.

I got through it, which I realize is more than some people do, but not without its scars. As I entered the new year, I began to look at things a new way. I began to dread get-togethers and parties as much as possible. I was definitely looking at the glass not just half-empty, but completely empty. I made the decision beforehand that it was going to be miserable, and just to embrace it.

And you know what? Crazy as it sounds, it helped.

Instead of feeling guilty that I didn't appreciate things, I began to actually appreciate every time I didn't feel depressed, every smile, every cause for laughter, every moment of kindness that someone gave me. I genuinely appreciated it, not just felt like I should.

Oh, there were still (and most likely always will be) things said or not said that can hurt. But certainly, it can hurt a lot less if you're expecting it. I still live under the assumption that there's not a lot of people I can let in too close, but I do know that there are some people that will always be there for me, and when I stop and think about it, there are more than I thought I'd have, and I deeply value each and every one of them.

My dad always told me, "hope for the best, but expect the worst." For years, I concentrated on that hoping for the best part. But expecting the worst is really the key.

I've passed this on to a few friends that are anxious about certain events in their lives, and try to talk themselves out of it with "it'll be fine." When I advise them to think that it won't be fine, that it'll be horrible, they nearly always come back and say, "that wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it'd be!" And I smile, because I know what they mean.

I also warn against thinking things can only get better. They usually get worse first. It's better, I believe, to be pleasantly surprised than horrified. So long as you keep going, everything passes.

I look back now at last holiday season and wish I had thought of this sooner. I'm trying not to think too much about the events coming up, lest I experience optimism about them. I'm just putting them on the calendar, and so long as I show up, I'm doing my part. If they're horrible? Yeah, whatever. If they're okay? Then that'll be better than I expected.

Negative thinking, in my opinion, has gotten a bad rap.

Originally posted on LA Moms, Dec. 9, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Update on the Parent Teacher Conference: I spoke to the PE teacher on Thursday. It was frustrating, to say the very least. His response to what we can do to help her? "I don't know." I've decided this guy must be the only person in the world who doesn't like Riley, so I'm going over his head. The curriculum director already knows (and likes!) Riley and me from her speech therapy and the PTA meetings. I asked him to please observe the PE class on Monday and tell me his thoughts.

I told Riley that success is the sweetest revenge - that she should do her best for her, and to make sure the PE teacher has no reason to come down on her ever again. I confessed to her that I didn't really like him, and she burst out with relief, "I don't like him, either!" I don't think things will change overnight, but I hope that she eventually sees that it's easier to just do it.

Friday night, Nancy and I went to see a play. The audience was more entertaining than what was happening on stage. We left at intermission. I won't name it here because that's just crass, but let's just say it involved a few name actors who were directed very very poorly, and even the costumes were bad. It was definitely our worst theatre date, but we still managed to have fun with the journey.

I can't embed this video, but I laughed out loud at this dream sequence from The Starter Wife, where Messing explains the difficult life of a busy, working mom. Take the minute and 11 seconds to check it out.

On Saturday, Sylvia had her first basketball game with the B&G Club. Her team KILLED the other team. I think the final score was 42-8. The other team didn't even score until the 2nd quarter. Don't tell Sylvia I said this, but it was more in spite of her than because of her. There are about 5 girls on her team that were incredible! Especially at stealing the ball. Sylvia made some good passes, but she was obviously the least seasoned player on the team.

I was fairly amused at one of the dads there, passionate about the game. He didn't stop directing his daughter from the sidelines the entire time she was on the court! I was glad I wasn't really emotionally invested. I am proud of Sylvia for getting out there and trying, but it's a good thing their season will consist of three games. The other two are next week.

My biggest news this week is that I moved in to my new office!! It is so, so nice to be in there, no longer surrounded by the many, many interruptions and distractions that I used to encounter out there in cube-land. Everyone still stopped by to check out my new digs, but that will die down the longer I'm in there, I'm sure (no, Coolio was not one of them - one of the benefits of someone knowing you hate them is they tend to leave you alone). And I can have conference calls and meetings in my own office instead of borrowing someone else's. Yay! I also have room for my files, and one of the assistants had already moved all the pics of my girls before I even moved in, so it felt like home immediately. After the game yesterday, I took the girls to see it. They are so thrilled for me.

I have decided that my favorite sentence in the English language is "I agree with you." I'm also fond of "you're right" and "thank you." No, no real point to that - just a thought I had when a lawyer said to me, "I agree with you."

I do have a post of epic proportions (or at least some weight) to post one of these days. In fact, there are a few drafts running through my head, but they're not quite focused enough and I don't have the time or energy right now to get them there. Someday soon, I hope...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cheerleading and Basketball and Band, oh my!

Once upon a time, I read the article "The Overscheduled Child" and thought, I will never let this happen to my girls. MY girls will only do one extra-curricular activity at a time. MY girls will have plenty of unstructured play time to be free.

And then, Sylvia started sixth grade. Suddenly, I have a cheerleading schedule, a basketball schedule, and a possible band schedule to manage.

It started off innocently enough. Sylvia started a new school this year. When she expressed an interest in joining the cheerleading squad, I thought it was a perfect opportunity for her to make new friends and be involved in her school.

Then she had a drumming circle as an elective in her first quarter, and I was duly impressed at the band concert. Her school has an excellent music program. I was also pleased that Sylvia, of her own volition, approached the music teachers about possibly joining.

A few weeks after that, when I picked the girls up from their after-school program, I couldn't resist yet again when Sylvia asked me to talk to the coach of the girls' basketball team. It's only a couple of games, after all, and yet again, I was impressed by her initiative.

Except now, I'm having to remember that on Mondays and Wednesdays, I pick her up at 5, Thursdays and Fridays at the after-school program at 6, and oh yeah, she needs basketball shoes, and a change of clothes for cheerleading practice, and what time is the game next Thursday?

Also, she's planning to run a 5k with her granddad in December, and she needs to train for that. And oh yeah, the holidays! When is our department holiday gathering? And then there's the family get-together. Plus we got invited to that cookie decorating party. Let's not even worry about scheduling Xmas shopping time right now. And I have another kid here somewhere...

So that's how I went from a mom who vowed to only involve her child in one activity at a time to juggling three - no four - after-school activities. Yet another mom-myth shattered by reality - of knowing your child only has one childhood.

Originally posted on LA Moms, Dec. 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Parent Teacher Conference

Yesterday was my parent teacher conference with Riley's 3rd grade teacher. Her grades were, frankly, better than I expected. Academically, she's scoring well on her tests, and in the classroom, she's contributing regularly and thoughtfully. Sometimes, she doesn't focus, but both the teacher and I were mostly relieved that it's not just either of us!

She did get some "Needs Improvement" scores, based mainly on her not finishing her homework. We talked a lot about that. Thankfully, her teacher is open to Riley trying other things as homework, so long as they focus on the skills at hand. So we bounced around a few ideas on different ways of getting it accomplished so we can all stop tearing our hair out.

Riley had the day off from school, so we discussed the report card with my parents last night. It did help me to have some reinforcement, and she took it all well. In fact, we had most of the conversation before I even showed them the actual report card, and then Riley wanted to make sure they saw it.

One of the main things we stressed was that her teacher said she was this close to making the Honor Roll, but she can't have any "Needs Improvement" in order to qualify for that. She's SO close, she doesn't seem to have problems taking tests, all she needs to do is just, well, do it. I think she understands that part now.

So when it came to do the homework, she was stalling in every way possible when it came to filling out her Science workbook answers. I went online to find the publisher's site, where there were vocabulary quiz games and crosswords. Well, that did it! Once it was interactive like that, I could not tear her away from it! The same with reading. They use the tickettoread site which incorporates both fiction and non-fiction. Riley spent a good hour on that over the weekend. So she'll be doing that a few times a week instead.

It's not ideal, I realize, but it gets her going in the right direction.

The biggest problem, however, is PE. Now, Riley is a girl who runs races. She's active, active, active. She loves sports, she loves pretty much all physical activity. And right now, she's basically failing PE. This is the part of the conference where I teared up a bit. It does not compute for me.

PE is taught by someone other than her regular teacher, so I'm trying to schedule a conference with her actual PE teacher to find out what's going on. Riley isn't giving me a lot to go on, but from what I gather, he sounds more like a drill instructor than someone who cheers the kids on. Riley HATES PE. Hates it. She was thrilled that Monday was a PE day that she was missing from school. How normal does that sound for an 8-year-old?

So we shall see how things go from here. She is a smart, thoughtful, creative, outgoing, ACTIVE girl that just needs a little bit more shine her brightest.