Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm home!

I still have to unpack and I have no pics yet, but we had an amazing trip.

Traveling was an adventure. LAX desperately needs to update their space to make sense of it all, and when we got to JFK, we had to wait nearly 2 hours just to get our shuttle to the City, but it was all so worth it.

That first night, we met up with family (some who live there, some who were also on vacation) and took the kids to FAO Schwartz. Sylvia and Riley each got to pick a gift and we saw their Big Piano Show, which was pretty impressive.

We then went window shopping at Bergdorf's and stopped to admire the tree at the Plaza, and then the girls got a hot dog from the vendor - which Riley thinks is one of the coolest things ever. But it was pretty cold that night so we opted for a cab back to the hotel to warm up.

Thursday, we got our subway passes and headed to Rockefeller Center. A friend had arranged for us to bypass the line and we went ice skating with our cousins and had a blast! Riley was very unsteady at the start, but an hour into it, she was off and skating all by herself. She was so proud - and adorable!

After lunch, we took our first trip into Times Square. I totally love Times Square - but MAN, there were a lot of people! And every day that passed, there were more and more. I can only imagine what it's like on New Year's Eve...and have no desire to experience that.

Xmas Day, we went to Radio City Music Hall to see their Christmas show - aptly entitled Spectacular! I felt my stomach expand just watching the Rockettes - it's like watching a Busby Berkeley movie unfold before you. We really loved the show.

We enjoyed a more simple dinner that night, and had tons of fun just hanging out together.

Saturday was Broadway Day - but not without its price. I decided to do some laundry and when I was in the elevator, we heard this clamoring and all looked up to see if the roof of the elevator was about to cave! Needless to say, we all got off. For the rest of that morning, there were only 2 elevators working, and I ended up walking down 30 flights of stairs - three times. I fought my way into elevators for going up!

But eventually, it was time to head out to In the Heights, the girls' first Broadway show. And we loved it! While the understudy for Usnavi (the lead) was disappointingly stiff, the dancing and singing was still incredible. And there were a few cast members from the original recording that we know and love in the show, including Priscilla Lopez, an original cast member from A Chorus Line. It was a great first Broadway experience. I cried at the curtain call.

Although, I got annoyed in the lobby after the show when I overheard one blond woman say it's like an updated West Side Story. The story is NOTHING like West Side Story. The only similarity is that the characters are Latinos.

After the show, we took the girls to One Shubert Alley and Riley picked all these director's items as souvenirs, while Sylvia opted for a bag with the comedy and tragedy faces (she's SO like I was at her age). The very nice man there had a great pizza recommendation, so we went there for dinner and it was perfect.

We then headed to our second Broadway Day show. The girls' cousin worked on Bye Bye Birdie and got us tickets. There was some issue, and we ended up being moved from the mezzanine to the 4th row orchestra! The show was fun. At intermission, I chatted with a woman, who ended up being John Stamos' mother! I was sad we didn't get to see Gina Gershon, but Riley especially loved Bill Irwin. I cried at the curtain call.

On Sunday, we went to see the Statue of Liberty. The line for the ferry was nearly 2 hours long, and it was very cold, but the girls were excited to be there. Then I stood in line for another hour and a half at TKTS and successfully got a ticket to Next to Normal. The girls stayed with my parents that night when I went to the musical. I was SO excited to see the entire original cast, and loved loved loved the show. I cried for about half the show, and as the lights came up for the curtain call, we in the audience jumped to our feet to thank the cast for such an extraordinary night in the theatre. And I continued to cry. I was glad I had the innermost seat in my row so I could take time to collect myself before leaving the theatre.

Through the crowds, I practically floated back to the hotel from my theatre high. My parents and I enjoyed some wine before calling it a night.

Our last full day in NY, we went to visit my cousin in Staten Island and he gave us a mini-tour of the island before we went to his place for some wine and cheese. We then went back to Manhattan and visited Ground Zero and the small museum they've set up. Riley got a messenger bag with the Towers. We ended up having dinner at the Standard, which was nice and warm. It was REALLY cold in the area that night!

After that, I left the girls with my parents again to meet a friend of mine from high school. I hadn't seen him in nearly two decades, but as soon as we saw each other, it was like no time had passed. We've been keeping up with each other on FB so we could skip a lot of the catch-up and just dive in. We went to this club that has Musical Mondays. They show clips of Broadway musicals on a ton of screens, and it was pretty much heaven for me! We sang along, danced, and drank aplenty! I fit right in with my friend's friends and the rest of the crowd with my otherwise useless knowledge of all things Broadway. It was so much fun.

But it was hard to get up the next day. We had to get an early start, and made it to the airport with no hiccups...only to have our flight delayed by nearly 3 hours in all.

There was a newsstand at our gate, and Riley befriended the woman working there. Riley helped her stock the shelves and they chatted for a long time.

And then we finally got to board the plane and head home. I could not wait to put on my iPod and relive Next to Normal and In the Heights. But once I was done, I was restless to get home. I couldn't sleep, couldn't focus on my book, and whined to the girls, "I'm bored! Are we there yet?"

Thankfully, our luggage was the first on the concourse, our shuttle was right there, and we got in the car rather quickly. My parents were perfectly understanding when I just wanted to get our bags in our car and go home already.

It was a great trip. The girls were so well-behaved, and my parents and I really enjoyed each other's company and we all relished every moment.

Of course, the last day, we thought of so many things we didn't get to do this trip, but we did all the things that were most important to us, and most excited to show the girls. And while it was cold, it was bearable and I was grateful there were no snowstorms during our trip!

And now I have to unpack and get quarters for yet MORE laundry and get some milk in the house. But first I had to indulge the need to re-live the trip. And of course, I've got Next to Normal playing. But this time, I'm not crying. I'm just glowing!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice!!

I was hoping to get one more real post out of 2009, but it will just have to join the list of things that won't get done so I can concentrate on the stuff that has to get done.

NYC is a mere 2 days away!

Like the rest of the families, we've been very busy trying to get in all the celebrations in time. We had Riley's holiday show on Friday, and then celebrated the season with my sister and her family this weekend.

All things considered, this year was fairly drama-free, compared to others. I am grateful for that.

Old friendships have been strengthened or renewed, and new friends have become an integral part of our lives.

I decided the best way to close out the year would be to highlight a post from each month. If you're so inclined, you can take a look at my year in review.

This rant entitled Thank a Single Mother hit a nerve with a lot of us back in January.

In February, I wrote my first Self-Love Day post.

In March, I wrote my first post celebrating Single Parents Day.

I had a tough time picking a post for April, but I chose this one that focuses on domestic violence because I still get pissed when I think about it.

I'm picking this one from May because Kori liked it.

In June, I wrote my first post as a Yahoo MotherBoard member.

I'm choosing another Yahoo MotherBoard post for July because it focuses on education, one of my favorite topics.

There's a theme developing here. In August, I wrote my education wish list.

And at this time, I'd like to thank Yahoo MotherBoards since I'm picking yet another Yahoo Mboard post for September.

In October, SingleMomMindy and I encouraged all single mother bloggers to write open letters to the President (and non-bloggers to snail mail theirs). Here is mine.

I'm picking my LA Moms post about mothering a middle schooler in November.

Since I haven't written much in December, I have to go with my latest LA Moms post.

This blog will not be updated again until we return, but I'll most likely post updates on Twitter and FB.

I wish you all a lovely holiday season, and hope that 2010 is a kick-ass year for all of us!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Another education post

I wrote again! This time, I'm over at Parentella, discussing our charter school experience.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What to do when Daddy's in Jail?

The first time my X landed in jail, it was two days before the girls' birthday party (their bdays are 6 days apart), a party that he'd promised to attend. I had two choices: I could lie to the girls, tell them he couldn't make it which would make them question their own value if their father voluntarily did not attend, or I could tell them the truth.

After mulling it over, talking to friends, family and my own therapist (and wishing that someone had written a parenting book on the subject!), I opted for the truth.

They were turning 7 and 4 at the time. They were scared for him, they were sad, they were upset, and knowing the truth didn't stop them from looking for their dad every time the door opened at their party. Still, when caller id displayed "LA Prison" when he called them, I knew I'd done the right thing.

It was hard to explain check forgery to them...they didn't even understand the concept of checks at the time. It was easier to explain that they could go see a "feelings doctor."

It's five years later, and I've had to tell my daughters at least 3 more times that their dad is in jail. Once was on my youngest daughter's birthday the following year. The last time was a couple of weeks ago. They cheered. They cheered again when he was sentenced to six months.

My youngest will tell you that she loves her dad, but she doesn't miss him when he's gone. He no longer lives in L.A., and it helps that we've made no plans for the girls to see him in the last year. Most of the time, they go about their daily lives, excited about upcoming events, immersed in their friendships, anxious about tests, content in their existence.

When he's not in jail, he'll call on the weekends sometimes. And sometimes he won't. For all the information that's out there about the need for consistency with children of divorce, he simply can't. And I myself have ignored some "expert" advice by being honest with my children that they deserve better. My younger daughter (9) told me that she might deserve better, "but he doesn't deserve me." I told her that she's absolutely right.

They cheered that he's in jail because they needed that sense of justice. As the years have gone on, as they've felt the injuries done to them and X's family, they are angry. They are angry and scared and sad and have to filter a lot of emotions about someone that is supposed to be there for them unconditionally. They love him. After my younger daughter said that he doesn't deserve her, she went on to talk about the times he made her laugh.

They have been in and out of therapy ever since. And while I at times have felt like a failure, having a 5-yr-old in therapy, I've also been grateful for the support. It's not always easy to detach my own feelings when I see my children cry over the father that I gave them. So I know that it's in their best interest to speak to a professional from time to time.

They also have to struggle with how much of this to share with or keep from their friends. I know that they've tried it all: being totally open with friends, and enduring some hurtful remarks from kids that don't know any better, they've tried creating a fantasy father to present to their friends, and they've tried just keeping it all to themselves. My oldest daughter now has a few friends that she can trust with her confidence, and continues regular therapy sessions to keep her stable. It looks like my youngest daughter will be following suit.

I don't have any conclusions. Only time will tell. Still, my hope is that dealing with these issues so early in life will nurture their development into compassionate, fair human beings that see a whole person. A convict will not just be a convict to them. A drug addict will have a family. A family will be people that you may love unconditionally, all the while maintaining a healthy distance, when necessary. The world was never black and white to them. And that just may be the best lesson of all.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Dec. 17, 2009.

Mid-week Wrap-up

I actually wrote something! My LA Moms post today will not be much news to regular readers (it's called What to do when Daddy's in jail? to give you a clue), but I have tried to put some type of perspective on the whole thing.

X got 6 months, one of the longer sentences he's been given. He's got another court date sometime this week, but that's all I know.

The girls told me last night that they want to send him a card, and Riley's making a present at school that she wants to send to him.

Meanwhile, Sylvia did an amazing job at the awards ceremony where she performed last weekend. We had a great time at the Help a Mother Out diaper-drive/party on Sunday.

And the countdown for our trip to NYC is in full swing!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Yes, I'm still alive!

I miss blogging, I do, but there's just not much I can say here right now.

X is in jail again. He'll most likely get out next week. I told the girls, and they're both dealing with it. At first they wanted to act like it didn't matter, but of course, it does. Riley and I had a good talk. She let out all her angry feelings and then remembered the things she loves about him.

Sylvia and I haven't talked as much, but she has reached out to some friends, and she's dealing with it in therapy as well. She knows she can always come to me, of course, but I think she is also trying to find her own way of dealing with it, and I think that's a good thing.

In the midst of all of that, there's been the holiday madness: get-togethers and parties and the holiday shows.

Sylvia had her choir concert last night, and OMG, I can't get over how grown-up she was. She wore heels! She had on make-up! I barely recognized my little girl. She shone, of course, and I recognized her confidence and joy that I always see in her when she's on stage. Riley cheered her big sis on, and smiled at me, as proud of Sylvia as I was. When Sylvia got in bed that night and I kissed her good-night, she said, "I'm tired, Mommy." There's my little girl! I knew she was in there somewhere.

Riley is reminding me that 4th grade can be difficult. She is seeing school work as work for the first time. She is afraid she won't live up to her previous successes. I know she can meet the challenges, but she's growing up, and with that, comes less confidence. So we're working on finding that again. I just wish there were more hours every night.

I'm starting to feel overwhelmed again by all there is to do. Work has been really busy, which is great, I'm not complaining, but I'm coming home more drained. And yet there's still dinner to be made, homework to deal with, and all the rest of it. There just doesn't seem to be the time for us to just be. We're just constantly planning for the next thing.

Still, I don't want it to sound like I'm complaining. And I know this isn't a unique feeling, especially around the holidays. It's just making it difficult to take any time for coherent posts that aren't mere updates! Not to mention, I'm way behind on reading posts, and leaving comments.

You're all in my thoughts. Every day.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday (already!) Fragments

Mrs. 4444 brings us Friday Fragments to bring some normalcy to this crazy time.

***It looks like Dec. 26 will be our Broadway day in NY. We just purchased our tickets to see In the Heights at the matinee, and then we're probably seeing Bye Bye Birdie that night. I love that phrase: Broadway day in NY!!

***I cannot believe it's Friday already. This week has been super busy at work, but really good.

***I got to spend last Saturday night with some of the LA Moms, playing Trivial Pursuit on Wii and hanging out. I love these women. They always make me think, make me laugh, and make me feel a part of a community.

***We had the PTA meeting Tuesday night. I've decided it's not the kids who need the routine as much as I do. I enjoy the meetings and the people there, but it still feels like I've been playing catch-up for the rest of the week at home.

***I discovered that there are 5 paychecks this month - woo hoo! More $$ for NY!

***This weekend, the only thing on our agenda (yay!) is a bday party for one of my high school friends that I've reconnected with thanks to FB. This will be a family party, so I'm excited to meet her kids, and for her to meet mine. We had lunch a few months ago, and it was so great to spend time with her again. I think there will be quite a few of us from LACHSA, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone.

***I generally like Glee to have a musical number before they show the title, so I was getting very impatient when the show went through two segments with NO song, but they certainly made up for it! That was a great episode!

***Sylvia and I had a major text fight about the fact that I waited for her to come back to the Club from a field trip for an HOUR until I finally heard from her that she wasn't due back for another 30 minutes. As I said, schedules/routines are important.

***It is getting harder and harder to keep track of where she is. She has so many field trips, performances, rehearsals, it's starting to get out of hand. I think I'll make it her responsibility to start putting them in my phone because not all the slips of paper are getting inputted into my Bberry.

***I'd rather text-fight than argue in person. Since it takes so long to type, there's less opportunity to say something you'll regret.

***I think I'm all out of frags...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Balancing the holiday emotions

I'm so glad that Yahoo Motherboards picked the topic of holiday stress for December.

While this year, I'm finding my holiday spirit just fine, this has not always been the case for me.

I thought the holidays were stressful when I was with X. Like most moms, I wanted to create a magical day for my daughters. X's issues made that...well, impossible.

When I left my X, I wasn't quite prepared for the holidays to continue to be stressful.

It all came to a head for me two years ago.

After 4 years of doing it on my own, I didn't know if I could do it anymore. I felt like I had worked so hard for so long (this was a year after I graduated college), and the holiday season came along, and I was still stressed about money. I simply did not have enough to create what I wanted to give my girls.

It's all well and good to say holidays aren't about money, but as a mother, of course I want to give my children a tree full of shiny presents! Not to mention, all the friends and family that have been there for me. The holidays are the time that you display your gratitude with a token.

And, yes, I'll admit, it can be hard to see all these happy two-parent families enjoying the holiday celebrations together. That year in particular was hard. I had never in a million years thought that I would be a single mom for so many years.

Just to add insult to injury, we had to cancel the girls' trip between Xmas and New Year's to see X and his family because X had landed himself in jail again. On top of dealing with the girls' disappointment, I fell apart.

I had already requested the vacation from work because I needed a break from everything. I was holding everything together by a thread and the only thing that had been getting me through is the knowledge that I just had to make it until Dec. 26. Then, the girls would be gone, and I could fall apart. I could cry all day if I wanted to. I could not be a mom for a while. And now the one thing that I really needed for my own sanity was gone.

I ended up falling apart at a holiday party. It wasn't pretty, let me tell you. But I could no longer hold on a minute longer.

The thing is, as much joy and love as this season can bring, I see the other side very clearly. I've been called a Scrooge, I've been labeled with the Holiday Blues, but I can't dismiss others suffering this season. I know how it feels to look back on the year and feel like a failure. While even at my worst, I would never contemplate suicide myself, I understand why people do.

Last year, I survived by the Power of Negative Thinking. I expected nothing. I went numb while I just went through the motions. And while that might sound bad, believe me, it's WAY better than the disappointment I'd felt the previous year. Losing expectations can be a wonderful thing.

The only reason I have holiday cheer this season is because we are not being traditional. None of us are expecting to be able to repeat this trip to NY next year. We're going to enjoy it for all its worth, knowing it's a one-time thing. Because this year we are facing the facts: we are not a traditional family.

I know there are people who love it. And I know that the girls have had many assignments about family traditions (which make my eyes roll every time). That's just great for some people. But there are plenty of people for whom this just isn't either feasible or desirable.

This year especially, there are people who do not have the same things they did last year to re-create last year's holiday. They've lost their job or their home, or both. And the holidays are a harsh reminder of all they have lost.

Some people thought this year would be different: that a year later, they would have more, and find themselves, through the cruelty of unexpected events, in a worse position this year. It's hard not to feel like a failure in those circumstances. The holiday season may not be about money, but it is about reflection. And some people are frustrated with that reflection.

And it's those people that get labeled a Scrooge. It's those people that are dismissed. In the season where we're supposed to be experiencing an overabundance of love and warmth, it's those people that feel alone in a crowd.

To me, what would most embody the holiday spirit is the idea that it doesn't have to be anything. Perhaps it won't be a holiday that our children remember most. Perhaps it'll be the singing in the car together, or the laughter shared.

My own girls notice the difference in me already this season. I don't know what I'll do next year. I may have to go back to just being numb and look forward to January 2. After all, this season remains, thankfully, just one month out of the year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Feeling sappy

I'm in one of those disgustingly happy moods lately. Today, I got sentimental over at Parentella.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Simple, but better

I've started a new blog. Because I'm insane. No, really, it's out of necessity. For the most part, I'll post reviews both here and at April Balances Reviews, but there will be times when I will just post links to the other blog.

There are some products we use everyday that we've stopped thinking about as innovations. A trash can is just a trash can. The only thought I usually have about hand soap is whether or not we need to buy more. Most innovation on some household products has pretty much petered out.

simplehuman is changing that perception. Click here for the review in its entirety.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Fragments

Let's all give thanks to Mrs. 4444 for hosting Friday Fragments.

***Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We spent ours at a friend's house for breakfast of mimosas, buttermilk sour cream pancakes, and some friends I have known since way back in my theatre days. After that, we headed to the Happiest Place on Earth. Riley was tall enough for Screamin', and Sylvia and Riley sat in the front row! Riley loved it, and Sylvia said she's a softie because she loved being on the ride with her little sis. We went on most of our favorite rides, and had a great time.

***The day before, the girls and I went to see Mary Poppins at the Ahmanson Theatre. It took Riley a little while to get used to the live stage version, but some of it was way more magical on stage. I adore Step In Time, but the girls' favorite number was Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (Riley spell-checked that for me. They spent a good deal of time practicing that.) Overall, though, we agreed that the 2nd act was way better than the first. All in all, we really enjoyed the show.

***On Monday, we had a photo shoot for that magazine that I was interviewed for a couple of weeks ago. The photographer will be sending me a cd of some shots, which I can't wait to show you. It was a longer shoot than I expected (about an hour), but the photographer was really sweet and the girls had a ball. Later that night, Sylvia went to see New Moon with a group from the Club. She is now bitten with the Twilight series. (I was *this* close!!)

***Last Saturday night, a group of us from work went to see The Santaland Diaries, starring Nicholas Brendan, written by David Sedaris. It was a really great way to start the holiday season.

***And the rest of the time, there was work, laundry, blah blah blah.

***I'm so totally excited about our upcoming trip to NY!! I haven't been this excited about Xmas in years.

***I wish Blogger/Google would recognize "theatre" as a word. In my world, live stage is spelled theatre and movies are spelled theater.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I continue to be grateful to all of you. You've opened my world, and welcomed me into yours. It's hard to imagine these past few years without this blog and all the wonderful people I've come to know and love because of it.

I wish you all a lovely Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fragments - is Thanksgiving really next week?!? edition

As usual, please visit Mrs. 4444 for more Friday Fragments.

***Riley got to spend Monday with me at work (pupil-free day for parent-teacher conferences) and said it was the "best day ever." She behaved beautifully, and it was lovely to spend time with her.

***On Tuesday, Sylvia asked me to come in for her therapy session. I think she mainly just wanted to spend time with me. I love love love her therapist, and it's apparent that she has helped Sylvia come so far in the past 6 months.

***Sylvia got her progress report and is getting an A+ in Science! Generally not her best subject, but I wasn't too surprised because she talks about the teacher a lot. Great teachers make all the difference.

***Riley has been asked to take a test for the District's Math Field Day next week. In the end, only 12 students throughout the District will be picked, but she was one of only three 4th graders in the school invited to take the test so it's a huge honor! She's nervous and excited right now. I'm just proud.

***OK, enough of all the happy stuff. I'm starting to annoy myself!!

***Since when is it news that a politician wrote a book?

***The mammogram hoopla is annoying me. It was said best in the first story I saw on the subject: "Just talk to your doctor." Your history (and that of your family's) will best determine your personal needs. And I'm reminded of Tara's ongoing struggles with mammograms not being the right test for her. And, as best said in Pirates, "they're just guidelines." After all, how many of us really eat exactly as the Food Pyramid says?

***Looks to be a good weekend. Tonight, Thanksgiving dinner at the Boys and Girls Club. Tomorrow, a movie with the girls in the morning, and tomorrow night, a play with some friends from work. Sunday is, thankfully, wide open!

***I'm woefully behind on The Daily Show this week. I really need to make up for that this weekend.

***While I thought Carol Hannah had the best collection, I'm not surprised that Irina won Project Runway. Throughout the season, her clothes have consistently been good. And even if her collection wasn't my style, it was all extremely well-made, and with amazing detail. And how cool was it to see Tim Gunn lose his cool?

***So there you have it, from the not-so-sublime to the ridiculous. Gotta love Fragment Fridays!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Balancing trust

"No wonder a lot of girls grow up not trusting men!" A sentence from a post by another blogger. In bold, no less. As if this is a bad thing.

I grew up trusting men. My dad was an attentive father, driving me two hours to SF every night for a show - after driving 1 hour home from San Jose to Santa Cruz to come get me. Every night for three months. And things like that all the time. My dad uprooted our family from the Bay Area to L.A. so that I could attend the High School for the Arts. My dad comforted me when I lost the part of my dreams, and gave me standing ovations at every opportunity. My dad is a great man.

My trouble was, I thought they were all like that.

Oh, sure, I knew there were a few bad men, but my instinct when I was younger was to trust until proven differently. Innocent 'til proven guilty.

While I agree with that presumption when it comes to our legal system, it should not be a basis for relationships.

By the time I knew who X was, it was too late. I was in love. And I believed that love would conquer all. And I was oh so wrong.

Still, I'm not talking just about trusting men here. I've also been hurt by trusting friends (mostly female) that stabbed me in the back. I've been hurt in other jobs where the carrot was dangled and dangled and never came through.

My faith in our legal system was shattered when the OJ verdict came in. President Clinton broke my heart. Kobe Bryant broke my heart. The CA voters broke my heart.

Having said all that, I remain a humanist. Nothing has bettered our world more than compassionate individuals. Slavery did end, apartheid was abolished, we beat the Nazis (finally), we have gone to the moon, made pyramids, bridges, trains, airplanes, and found comfort in a loved one's embrace.

I have the most amazing friends, the strongest support system, the greatest laughs.

All that I have right now, all that I cherish, is not because of a lack of trust, it comes from an earned trust.

When I first started here at my job, I didn't open up to anyone about what was going on in my life. It wasn't until I'd seen how wonderful these people are that I let them in.

I no longer trust blindly. Nor do I expect anyone to blindly trust me.

I have been hurt by opening myself up here. I have had words written about me, to me, attacking me for what I feel, what I think, what I write. I accept that responsibility. And every word of encouragement that I get back is deeply appreciated.

Clearly, to do what I do here, takes a leap of faith that most of the people who read actually care about what I have to say. And they do. It's apparent in the thoughtful comments, emails, and friendships I've made.

Still, it's been a 2-way street. I am welcome to read your thoughts, your feelings, your words, and through that, come to know and care about you. It is not a blind trust that we put in each other.

My daughters are better off learning early that love is not always enough. As hard as that's been for them, they remain loving and compassionate. And as hard as it's been for me, I feel more confident that when they are older, they will not trust all men. They will keep an open mind, but they will require an earned trust before they open their heart. They will not fall in love, but they will love and be loved in return.

So I'm okay with it if they grow up not trusting men (or women) blindly. Trust should be earned. And when it is, there's a freedom in loving to the fullest extent of the heart.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Middle-schoolers: The Lost Years

When I tell people that my oldest daughter is 12 and in 7th grade, I see their faces shape into horror and then pity. My own parents seem to delight in seeing me try to dissect this time. My friend that is now a grandparent just shakes her head. My friend that's a principal and spent many years with middle-schoolers assures me that it's all normal, and we'll get through it.

Still, that's pretty much all the support and advice I get. Just grin and bear it.

There is a multitude of resources available to learn about our children in the years from 0-5, and almost as much for the high school years, but the resources nearly dry out for our elementary graduates.

Most people hated middle school (or junior high, as it was known back in my day). The common perception of this time is that it pretty much sucks. It's the time that cliques are born. Bodies are changing, but not quite there yet. You're expected to be more responsible, but you still can't drive a car or stay out late. Maybe most people would rather forget it altogether.

I was prepared for some of the changes. I knew she'd want to spend a lot more time talking to her friends. I prepared her for the biological changes, much to her chagrin. I was even prepared for the rolling eyes, and the ups and downs of middle school girl friendships - albeit not thrilled.

Still, there have been moments that I hadn't expected in any way. I didn't know, for instance, that she would revert to some of her younger traits. I didn't think she'd be as scared of her growing up as I am. And I'm truly surprised that she still wants to spend as much time with me as she does.

I found The Rollercoaster Years by Charlene C. Gianetti and Margaret Sagarese to help guide me through these next few years. The book explains their cognitive development from ages 10-15 to help me understand the burst of emotions, the rapid behavioral changes, easing my whiplash just a little. It's also been reassuring to learn that my opinion is still most important to her.

She still fights with her little sister over who gets to sit next to me. She calls me every day to let me know she's on the bus to her after-school program, but will stay on the phone to tell me about her day. She'll text me when she has a fight with a friend, or just to say she loves me. She still gives me our special goodnight kisses. But it's kind of fun to drool over Johnny Depp with her, too! It's nice to see that she can do most of her homework without my help. And she's developing an ear for sarcasm - a must-have trait among the adults in our family!

While no book (or blog, for that matter) can fully prepare us for our individual child's development and their own unique challenges, I can't believe that these years will be any less filled with wonder as her earlier years were. It's exciting (and yes, exhausting) to be a part of her world as she finds her place in it. And I'll continue to hold her hand as we brave the ups and downs together.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Nov. 16, 2009.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday (the 13th) Fragments

Check out Mrs. 4444 for more Friday Fragments.

***I went home for lunch 3 days this week, and probably today, too. I figure it's saved me approximately $20 - probably more. Plus, I LOVE it. I don't know why it took me over a year to take advantage of the fact that I live about 5 minutes from work.

***I changed my direct deposit so that $20 more (the money I'm saving on lunch) goes into my savings. (Don't let the "more" fool you. The money I've been depositing in there is for rent - I just use the savings account as a placeholder for it.) Now I have a whopping $60 in savings. Hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

***The good people at ExpenseRegister have made an additional budget template designed for families. I'd emailed them some questions (after they'd found my previous mention of them on this blog), and voila! A new budget was born. I haven't played with it much yet, but hopefully I'll get a chance this weekend.

***The girls got to visit with their aunt last Friday night (X's sister) and had a fabulous time. I'm so glad that X's family is still a part of the girls' lives. It's hard because we don't live close to each other, but their aunt went out of her way to extend her trip and drive down here so that she could spend time with them. That meant a lot to all of us.

***I'm in love with Alice. I'm saving money and it's convenient. What more could a girl want?

***We're getting more and more excited about our trip to NYC for Xmas. We've lined up ice skating at Rockefeller Center on Xmas Eve and we're going to Radio City Music Hall on Xmas Day. Now, we just have to figure out our theatre schedule, and time with family and friends. Oh, and Xmas Dinner. Ideas welcome!

***I'm very much looking forward to a quiet weekend. Other than Sylvia's dance clinic on Sunday while Riley's at a bday party, the weekend is wide open. Phew!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More education talk

Today, I'm over at Parentella.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Yahoo MotherBoard: Arts in Education

Here is the scenario that Yahoo MotherBoards has asked us to contemplate this month:

Picture this. You're enrolling your child into a new school that is well-known for its academic excellence and exceptional staff. You walk into the front office with excitement and grab a packet, anxious to fill it out. As you flip through the stack of forms you come across a letter from the principal that reads:

Dear Parents,

Due to the hit our school has taken with the recent State budget cuts, we are no longer offering art, music, or sports programs. We're sad to see these programs go, but we hope that by eliminating such programs we can continue offering the children of our community with the best academic experience possible…


Principal X

Regular readers know that I am passionate about the arts and music being an integral part of education.

Having attended an arts high school, I experienced firsthand how the arts enriched our academic classes. A study of world history coupled with the knowledge of what plays and works of art were created during that time develops a greater understanding of both. It's one thing to know the dates that certain events happened, it's another to understand what people were thinking and feeling that led to such events, or were the consequences.

My own daughter, Sylvia, has a deeper appreciation of math because of her knowledge of music. By studying both, she can see how rhythms are really mathematical formulas. Thinking of herself as a Sharpay of music helped her approach her Math tests with more confidence and achieve higher scores.

I find the Principal's statement above a contradiction. I simply don't think it's possible to improve academics by eliminating the arts.

The studies, the experts, and most of our personal experiences have found this to be true. So most parents that find themselves reading a letter like that example start enrolling their children in extra-curricular programs. Their Saturdays are spent at soccer games and art or dance classes.

Unfortunately, this option is not available for all students. And, if we study our history, we know that separate but equal rarely works.

A teacher can't use an example from one student's music studies to show the correlation to their fractions lesson because not everyone has taken that music class. Students are compartmentalizing their school studies from their outside activities instead of learning how to integrate their knowledge.

Still, we do what we can. I've paid $200 for Sylvia to take part in her school's musical. I've signed the girls up for Saturday dance classes, and most recently, paid for drum lessons for Riley.

In the past 2 years, since moving to this District, it's gotten better. I'm involved in Riley's PTA because of their commitment to keeping the arts in the school. Sylvia loves being a part of her school's choir.

The most important programs, however, have taken place not at the schools but at the Boys and Girls Club. Riley is part of their Girl Scout troupe that meets on Tuesdays (best troupe ever; no uniforms, no cookie sales). On Wednesdays, Sylvia is in a program where she's writing her own song. On Thursdays, they have dance and on Fridays, acting. And all of this takes place before I pick the girls up after work.

While it's not ideal, they are reaping great benefits from this. Sylvia has tackled this school year with enthusiasm, commitment, and dedication. She stays on top of her school work so that she can focus on her dance combinations and monologues. Riley, we've discovered, has a natural aptitude for acting and has gotten more comfortable taking her place on center stage.

These experiences aren't about the future. It's not about what they will be when they grow up. It's about what they achieve and learn in the moment.

There is no greater deadline than an opening night. A performer that hasn't memorized their lines suffers the consequences all by themselves. The skill of listening is imperative to make an entrance cue. A chorus line is only straight if everyone is aware of everyone else on stage. And the reward of a standing ovation is immediate and requires no explanation. And there's no greater sense of community than found in your fellow performers.

Children are natural performers. They light up when their imaginations are engaged. Their love of play is innate. So why wouldn't we try to use that to our collective advantage and light up the world?

Imagination creates our future. If someone didn't think it might be possible, how else could I be on this thing called the Internet? If dreams are oppressed, how do we expand our knowledge?

It's not going to be everyone's dream to take Broadway by storm, but a moment of feeling free to create can lead to creations that change our world.

Those creations can lead to new jobs. Jobs = better economy = increased spending on education. Better education creates innovation which creates more jobs to keep the economy growing.

We've taken education out of the equation.

Until we put it back, until we start thinking of education as something that develops a whole person instead of a compartmentalized good test-taker, we will continue to have this discussion. And our children will be the next generation's parents, asking why.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Fragments

Yep, I'm trying Mrs. 4444's Friday Fragments again.

***Truth be told, I'm really glad my girls are getting older. Even though part of me is scared to death to be mothering a 12-year-old, I'd much rather that than a 12-month-old. I'm not really that good with little kids, as I was just reminded when my colleague's 4-year-old twins came by. They're really really cute and all, but I could not think of a thing to say to them.

***While I'm feeling confessional, as much as I love my girls, I've noticed that the one prevailing thought I have as I'm dropping them off at school is, "get out of the f**ing car already." I don't say that out loud, of course. I'm all hugs and kisses, bye, I love you. But I just want them out of my car. I just want to listen to my cds and enjoy the quiet for the 5 minutes it takes me to get to work after dropping them off.

***Speaking of cds, I now have all of my cds uploaded into iTunes, and have made myself quite a few mix cds to play in my car. At first, I had very specific ideas of what songs I wanted on them, but now, I'm letting iTunes DJ feature decide. I love the shuffle feature so much that it's now kind of like having shuffle in my car. Yeah, I'm weird.

***Or what I should say is, I'm a geek because I like to organize my music randomly. On Wed., Sylvia participated in a LOL workshop at the Club. They asked parents to join them for the last half-hour, and we had a blast. We all had to write down reasons why we're a geek, and then say them out loud to the circle, while the circle cheered us on. It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad we got to do this together.

***We also had a PTA meeting this week. I'm happy because in the Principal's Report, while she was giving us the results of the Parent Survey, she said that she knows about the research stating that homework does nothing to help children's education in elementary school, and is discouraging her teachers from giving more than reading homework.

***I was interviewed for an upcoming article in the PTO Magazine. The writer saw some of my posts about education, and approached me to answer questions about parental involvement from the single parent's point of view. I'll let you know when it's published, of course.

***At the LOL workshop, they said that, on average, children laugh 400 times a day and adults, only 75. I think RadDude, Nancy and I beat that average!

***I miss posting more frequently. Work has been busy, and at home, I just don't feel like sitting in front of a monitor for very long. I think I'll try to write some this weekend and then schedule them to post next week. I've got 2 reviews half-written in my head, and a Yahoo MotherBoard post going wild in my brain on my favorite topic: education.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Super Mommy Powers

After 30 (and two children), the memory starts to go. That on top of my less than stellar organizational abilities make for some daily challenges. I do my best to keep myself in line by using my BBerry for all its worth. There are still a few post-its stuck to my monitor for the phone calls that need to be returned, but I generally organize my life through my Outlook.

We have a running joke in our department that if you ask us about a project we worked on previous to that day, our answer is generally, "I've slept since then" and we'll have to go through our email folder before we can answer any questions on the matter.

I used to memorize every line of a script, not just my lines, but I can't remember someone's name if I don't have their email in the body of my reply. I have accepted that my memory is gone.

I have to leave my keys in the same place or else I won't know where they are. I need my routines.

Still, I can tell you on any given day what my children are wearing. Sylvia looked for her phone last week for two days, and I found it in 5 seconds. Riley couldn't find a certain pair of shoes for a week, and I found them in 20 seconds.

How is it that I have to look up my sister's cell phone number every time I call her (even though she's had the same one for six years), but I can answer any "Mommy, where's my ___" question before they've finished asking?

Of course, there are huge pay-offs to these minor miracles that I accomplish without really trying. The girls' faces light up and they say, "thank you so much, Mommy!" and give me hugs and kisses for finding their long-lost whatever.

I don't tell them that I have no idea how I do it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sylvia is twelve - yes, 12!

Twelve years ago, I had been in labor for the past 20 hours and was just arriving at the hospital around midnight on Halloween. I'd known, even though I'd awakened in labor on October 30, that I was destined to have a Halloween baby.

And, at 6:55 am, after 25 hours of labor and about an hour of pushing, my first child was born.

Sylvia has endured the brunt of my mistakes as a first-time mom. I gave in to the crying, I would drive her around to get her to sleep. Yep, I was *that* kind of new mom.

Still, those amateur mistakes on my part have given us a kind of bond. We've grown up a lot together, Sylvia and I.

We've cried together over X. We both had to deal with missing him terribly in those first few months. We both had to accept our new lives in a way that Riley, being as young as she was, couldn't comprehend like we could. We both had some major growing up to do.

Our relationship has the ups and downs that one could totally expect given who we are. She's a Scorpio, I'm an Aries. I'm her mother, she's a pre-adolescent. No one can get us as mad as we get each other, but then we can also laugh together and drool over Johnny Depp together, too.

She likes to say she's following in my footsteps as a performer, but that she'll go farther, and I hope she does. She's a talented singer, a beautiful dancer, a really really great actress, and she already has more talent than I ever did because she's an excellent award-winning visual artist as well.

She has grown so much in the past year. She is so much healthier emotionally this fall than she was last spring. She makes me laugh with her dry wit. And the physical growth is astonishing. And I know it's just the beginning. She's already starting to wear my hand-me-downs in tops. Before I know it, she'll be raiding my closet on a regular basis.

She also follows in my footsteps in wearing her heart on her sleeve. She feels everything so deeply. As her mother, I want to protect her from that, but I remember all too well. I know I can't stop her. All I can do is comfort her when she needs it, and encourage her to take some breaths now and then.

She told me after her last therapy session that aside from the issues with her dad, "I have a great life." I managed to hold back my own emotions just then from bursting into tears of joy.

We both still have a lot of growing up to do. When I see her smile, when she wraps her arms around me in a hug, when she kisses me goodnight, when she calls me bursting with her latest news, when she texts me that she loves me, I know we'll both make it.

Happy birthday, my sweet Sylvia! I love you with all my heart.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Light bulb moment

It's pretty obvious to anyone who reads this or knows me that I have a constant need for validation. I need someone to tell me that it's okay to feel what I'm feeling, or think what I'm thinking. I need to feel right every now and then and I need to feel in control.

Today, it finally dawned on me why that's so important to me.

I was reading FreedomFirst's post, and she talked about her instincts being correct, and how positive that is for her.

And the light bulb came on.

(Forgive me if you read my realization and go, "well, duh!" This is news to me.)

I lived with a man for seven years that lied to me, and made me doubt everything. For the first two years we were together, I really didn't get the drug problem. Things would happen, and he would have an excuse for everything. I believed most of them.

As the years went on and I caught X in more and more lies, I began to believe less and less until I got to the point where I was convinced that if he was opening his mouth, he was lying.

He'd lie about anything and everything. He told me a mutual friend had committed suicide. You can imagine my shock when I saw this friend a few years later! There was absolutely no reason for this lie. He just said it.

Do you remember when everyone was outraged at that former drug addict that had lied to Oprah and everyone in that book he wrote? I read an article about that in Entertainment Weekly by Stephen King who said no one should have been surprised. Addicts lie. They lie about anything and everything, even when there's nothing to cover up. They lie to keep in practice.

Having lived with a liar who screwed with my mind and heart at every opportunity, it shouldn't be news to me that there are these long-lasting effects. But it is. I've been aware for some time now that I have this need for validation, but today's the first day I've become aware of why I need it.

Now, it's not debilitating, mind you. I don't think I've shut myself down completely, and I certainly don't have any trouble sharing some of my deepest darkest thoughts! Even if they're not in these pages, they're all in emails with Kori. And hey, who doesn't enjoy someone saying, "you're right." I don't think this light bulb moment will drastically alter my life in any way.

It just makes me take a step back and realize that no matter how far I've come these past six years, there's still quite the distance to go.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Riley's nine now

9 years ago today, I woke up to find my water breaking. Riley was born 5 1/2 weeks early and I actually missed most of the first day of her life while she was in the NICU with jaundice and I was recovering from the general anesthetic they gave me for the C-section because she was turned the wrong way.

I had the most awesome day care provider in the world that took Sylvia on vacation with her family while we recovered in the hospital for the first 4 days of her life. I would go down to the NICU every 2 hours to feed my girl.

She was the healthiest baby in the place, and ready to be discharged before I was, so we were lucky there.

Riley is the most emotionally healthy person I know. I remember after one episode of the X Chronicles, she asked to see the "feelings doctor" and did exactly what she wanted to do to deal with her anger. She asked for the feelings chart, pointed to everything she was feeling. She picked up one of the dolls, named it after her dad, played with it a bit and then threw it across the room. And then she told the therapist she was okay now.

She's a little sad today. Her dad hasn't called to wish her a happy birthday and she doesn't think he will, but she's decided to not think about him and enjoy her day.

She has a couple of friends that she talks to on the phone, and it's adorable to watch her face light up during these calls.

She loves schedules. She'll make my bed for me, and she'll arrange her desk just so. And then she'll open a package and throw the wrapping on the floor.

She'll take the backseat to her sister when she knows it's more important to Sylvia, but sometimes, she just has to have her own way.

She loves taking pictures. She loves the outdoors. She adores animals. She loves looking after younger children. She wants to be President so that she can legalize gay marriage on a federal level (but she also knows she might not get elected, so she's keeping that part of her platform a secret - shhhhh!).

She calls me her bestest friend, loves to snuggle with me, and has taken my breath away every day for the last nine years.

Happy birthday, Riley. Nobody loves you like I do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My first Friday Fragments

I think I'm going to put my weekend wrap-ups to rest, and start doing Friday Fragments, hosted by Mrs. 4444 instead. I feel the need to be a joiner.

***Sylvia won a writing competition at the Club and got to see a preview of The Vampire's Assistant last night, as well as a copy of the book. She was very excited, since I'd said she'd have to wait for Netflix to see this movie. Before the movie started, Riley won a dance competition that Power 106 was sponsoring! My girls are indeed winners.

***While the girls were at the movies, I was at the book launch party for The Internet Mommy, a book that features many mommy bloggers, including Beth Blecherman, co-founder of SVMoms, and my friend and fellow LA Mom blogger, Kim Tracy Prince. The event was really fun, and I was once again inspired by all the bright and wonderful women there.

***Inspired, but still lacking the words I need to put together a coherent post for either LA Moms or Parentella, both of which are due. Oi.

***It's Riley's 9th birthday on Sunday. We'll be going to a Halloween party to celebrate. I've told her she's not allowed to grow up anymore after this.

***Still no word from X about seeing the girls for their birthdays. Sylvia has stopped asking, but I know she's thinking about it. She told me after her therapy session this week that she wants to be more like Riley when it comes to their dad. Riley loves her dad, but expects nothing from him. I agreed that Riley certainly has the most healthy attitude about X of the 3 of us. I too will strive to be more like my grown-up almost 9-year-old.

***I still have to talk to Riley's teacher about the diorama book report project. I'm putting it off.

***Not much fire in my belly right now to fight these battles. I'm beginning to think I'm wasting too much energy on the elementary years and burning out for when it really counts, middle school. According to some research I read a few years back, that's the crucial time for kids.

***I went to Sylvia's booster club meeting this week for choir. Yes, there's a separate booster club for just the choir department. That's what we've come to. Instead of participating in the chocolate fundraiser, I'm going to have Sylvia put together a solicitation letter to just ask my colleagues for cash than to buy one more piece of candy. We're all over that, and would just rather give money. Besides, cash donations means 100% of it goes to the funds, instead of a mere 30-40% of the candy sales. When I brought it up at the meeting, a lot of parents perked up at the idea!

***Both girls are now as hooked on So You Think You Can Dance as I am!

***I like this Friday Fragment thing. It's like a bunch of FB status updates or tweets all in one post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sublime Single Parents

I'm very excited about a new series I've just begun at my Examiner page. Check out my first profile on a SoCal single mom that has made the transition from surviving to thriving: Lolita Carrico.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up: beginning the bday celebrations

Friday night, the girls performed in their band - that's been in existence for less than a month! It was all part of our PTA's arts fundraiser. Most of it has been a really great experience. Unfortunately, there was some drama involving the other band members' mothers. I'm just glad I don't have to deal with them anymore! All in all, it was a fun night, and we think, financially successful.

On Saturday, the family got together to celebrate all of the October bdays: my sister, my nephew, Riley and Sylvia. We all had a really nice time together, and then my parents took the girls to their house so I could spend some grown-up time with my sister and her husband. And that was really fun.

On Sunday, we went up to the ranch, and got our pumpkins. We rode around in my friend's Gator, spotted deer and a family of geese, and just had a great time! We don't go often enough. Riley in particular absolutely loves it there, and I hope she can spend many more days there as she grows up.

Unfortunately, a really nice weekend got quite the wet blanket last night when I found that X has been telling the girls he'd see them for their bdays. That was news to me. Not to mention, he hasn't followed any of the conditions I've set up for him to see the girls - and legally, I have no obligation to let him see them at all. Sylvia had not told me that he was planning to see them because she doesn't think he'll show anyway. And she's probably right - not because he hasn't met the conditions but because he most likely hasn't even figured out how to do it, and won't end up doing it. I just hope it doesn't put too much of a damper on their birthdays for them. Neither of them expect it, but I hate that he even dangled the carrot in front of them like that.

I also had an interesting conversation with Sylvia about this blogging thing I do! She was going on the computer, and I was saving some stuff before she went on. She commented that she shouldn't even see it. I asked her what she thought I did on the computer. She said I blog about them and X and talk to my friends. I asked her how she felt about me talking about X, and she said she thought it was a good idea.

Inherently, I know that she thinks so because of the sense of community it brings all of us.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Finding financial balance

You all know pretty well that I've been freaking out about finances for a while now. Today, the freak-out reached a new high as I waited for news from my mechanic. I needed a 100,000 mile service, a smog check, and a new headlight. I spent most of the morning gritting my teeth.

The car passed the smog check, new headlight is in, service found no major problems. It went as well as it could have gone. Still, it did cost money, and became the last thing that will fit on my credit card for a while.

I have spent the week getting set up on ExpenseRegister, inputting my expenses and income, credit card payments, etc. The site helps me categorize my expenses, and then it can run various reports for me. With just a week's worth of information, it's a little too soon to get a clear picture. Still, I've cut a few costs by a few dollars each a month, and I hope that the picture helps me set clearer goals. (My one complaint with the site: one of their handy-dandy calculators lets you input your income and then it tells you how much you should be spending on each of the categories. Great idea, but it doesn't take into account that the SoCal housing market just doesn't allow me to spend what I *should* be spending on rent, and the calculator doesn't let me adjust that amount to get the rest of the percentages make sense. If that makes any sense.)

As I waited earlier, I stressed. Still, it wasn't just the dollar amount I was stressing. I was mad at myself. I want to take responsibility for my actions, and I want to make things right for my family, and I was stressed and frustrated that I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong.

I still have no answer there, but I did finally figure one thing out. The car is done now. My registration will be paid on time. I won't be in danger of getting a ticket for the headlight. My car got the TLC it needs to run smoothly for me for another 3,000 miles (*knocking on wood*).

It's not like I spent $175 on a spa treatment! This was a necessary transportation cost. The expenditure was indeed a responsible thing to do.

I think it's time to relax my jaw a little.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up: finding emotional balance

It's been a whirlwind of a week.

If you've read my earlier posts this week, you know I got attacked again for speaking out against d**db**t dads (trying to avoid getting caught in another google search - maybe I should start using the term financially and emotionally-unavailable persons previously determined as parents?). I got angry, depressed, then in fighting back mode, and joined MindyMom in a campaign to get single moms writing open letters to the White House (or, if you'd prefer, please send a letter via snail mail to Pennsylvania Ave.).

Then there was another installment of the X Chronicles. X has moved - again - as I was just getting ready to get my support case re-opened.

Things got a little better when a state senator actually responded to a previous open letter about parental involvement on LA Moms - gave me a little bit of hope. I have not written her back yet, but I do hope that she talks more about parental involvement in terms that are not only productive, but not impossible for many of us.

And then I was humbled, completely, when I saw this.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
William Kamkwamba
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

One day (soon), I want to read his book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

So I'm doing a personal inventory. I'm attempting to see what I can change that I do control. I've made a lot of progress in these past few years. Time to keep going.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fall foliage is for paintings

The temperature has finally cooled a bit here in our fair city! Fall has come, fall has come! Parents everywhere can feel their electricity bill going down as they turn off their a/c, but don't yet need the heater. Blankets and comforters are coming out of the linen closets and sweaters are finding their way in our drawers.

But then, inevitably, someone has to bemoan the lack of beautiful colors as our trees turn brown for a minute.

Well, okay, yes. Our leaves don't change color all that spectacularly. I'm a California native, but I have lived in Rochester, NY, Pittsburgh and Denver. I have experienced those colors. They last about a week.

And then the skies turned gray. And then it's winter. "Early this year," some 'native' of another state but CA would tell me. Somehow, I've always managed to live in these cities when they're having the longest, coldest, harshest winter in 2-4 decades. In Rochester, the year I lived there, there was an ice storm on my birthday in April. Lucky me!

That winter, the only day of snow I enjoyed was Thanksgiving. No work to go to, that perfect day of snuggling home with the family - only going out so the girls can make snowmen.

As pretty as that scene is, it simply does not make up for actually living in winter conditions. For as much as half the year.

It doesn't make up for bundling up a 2-yr-old to the point where you can barely carry her - particularly since proper winter clothes are made of slippery material!

It doesn't make up for having to keep your car unlocked for fear of the key sticking.

It doesn't make up for waking up 20 minutes early to brush off the snow, then scrape off the ice on the windshield.

It doesn't make up for the stupid weatherman calling it "sunny" when it's over 30 degrees!

I might not have minded so much had I grown up somewhere other than California, but I'm one of those actual natives of our state. Cold to me means 70 degrees. 27 degrees means you shouldn't have to get out of bed.

So I'm okay with not having a week of colorful leaves. As long as our weather doesn't go below 50 degrees all year long!

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Oct. 8, 2009.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Single Mom's Open Letter to President Obama

After a recent spat of nasty comments on a very old post of mine, I got very frustrated. And upset. I know I can't change everyone's mind, but there has to be more we can do. Whenever a single mom posts a rant about her ex (or at least every time I've seen it), someone inevitably comments that maybe she's not doing right by her kids by speaking her mind. Or that she shouldn't have left him anyway. Or that she's a whore because she's frustrated that her deadbeat ex hasn't paid his child support. So I wanted to do something.

I wrote First Lady Michelle Obama a letter. It's four pages long, and I snail-mailed it. Then Mindy wanted to write an open letter to our President, and welcomes every single mom to do the same. I snail mailed my letter because it contains things that I have already deleted from this site, so I don't want to post that letter here. But here's another version to share with the world. I no longer accept anonymous comments. I hope that I don't have to shut comments down here, but I'll do so if I deem it necessary.

While this letter is specifically about the life of a single mother, I am aware that many single parents are dads now, too. Dads that care about their kids and try to do right by them just as much as I do. Still, my experience is that of a single mom. So I'm sticking with what I know.

Dear Mr. President:

I'm tired. I'm a tired single mom. Not unique, I confess, but it's the truth.

Oddly enough, it's not the parenting of two daughters that makes me tired. Well, okay, maybe sometimes it is, but that's not why I'm tired right now.

I accept my responsibility as a parent to these girls. I accept responsibility for marrying a drug addict and having two kids with him. I accept that I bought into a myth that a bad boy could settle down. That love would be enough. But I will not regret it. Because that time gave me these girls that mean the world to me.

These girls get me up every morning. So that I can get them up every morning, so that I can remind them to brush their hair and teeth, get them breakfast, make sure they have everything they need for their day, get them to school, and go to work every day.

I work, I go get the girls, ask them about homework, make them dinner, help them with homework, set the timer for their reading time, get them into the bath/shower, wash the dinner dishes, wash their lunch boxes, kiss them good night, make their lunches, set my coffee timer, watch a little TV, go to bed.

And do it all the next day. And those are the easy days.

The harder days are when we have a PTA meeting (I serve as the Secretary), or when I take my older daughter to therapy, or when she comes home crying because her dad never returned her call. Or when an unexpected bill comes. Or a school fundraiser packet. Or a notice about the $150 choir fee.

My ex-husband was ordered to pay $400 a month in child support. It's not enough for me to live on, clearly. It's not an amount that even covers our monthly grocery bill!

I'm not a gold-digger. I didn't leave my husband so that I could sit home and collect his money. I'm not scouring the dating sites, looking to land them a new daddy.

I just would like to be able to take my daughter to buy new shoes when she needs them, and not have to wait until my next pay day. I just would like to not be still playing catch-up from my summer child care costs. I just would like to let my daughter buy any book she wants at the school's book fair.

I'm not on welfare. I pay rent in full every month. I'm not on food stamps. And my income is such that we don't qualify for the federal lunch program. We're not starving. I know I'm one of the lucky ones.

But the only part that luck has played is that I haven't been laid off. Everything else, I have worked for and earned. I went back to school, finished my degree while working full-time and raising two girls. I got promoted at work because of my own accomplishments.

I take my daughters to the dentist, the doctor, the eye doctor. I volunteer at my daughter's school. I try to keep informed on what's working (and what's not) in education, and give my daughters the opportunities that they can't get at school. I go to multi-cultural nights and cheer them on at their soccer game, their choir performance, their talent show. I let my daughters talk to their dad whenever he calls, or whenever they want to call him. Even though he has not met the conditions for visitations, I've let them see him with his family. I've sent his sister's kids birthday presents. I've sent his parents school pictures and art the girls have made. I'm friends with most of his family on Facebook!

I am not the bad guy.

And yet, I read about chapters in books that read that victims of crime should blame single mothers. I'm bombarded with "statistics" that say my children are destined to a life of unhappiness, even when you, a child of a single mom, managed to become the President! Even when a recent study has shown that children of single moms can do just as well as children raised with both parents. Politicians tell me that the key to my children's success in school is all about parental involvement, which has turned into teaching my children what they should've learned in school. If my child has trouble in any aspect of her life, I can't help but wonder if it's because she's lacking a father in the house. Because everywhere I turn, people are telling me that single moms can't do it. That no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, my children are destined for failure.

I refuse to accept that. I will do everything in my power to ensure that doesn't happen.

Still...I wish that people would stop saying it. And when I write that I'm frustrated that my deadbeat ex won't pay his child support, I shouldn't have to defend my children's right to that money. I shouldn't have people tell me that I don't care about my children - that somehow that $400 a month makes me a c**t.

The truth is, I've given up on any hope that I'll ever get that child support. That doesn't stop me from getting angry when I know that the reason I'm having trouble paying for groceries this week is because I didn't get that $400 a month - which would've covered the extra costs in summer child care.

I'm a single, working mom. I can make a dollar stretch. I divide every bill I get by the number of paychecks until it's due. My girls know they can only buy the cereal that's on sale. The credit that my X skewered is almost completely repaired. I have not received a past due notice in years. I'm almost there.

I don't want my ex thrown in jail for not paying child support. That doesn't help me pay for the groceries. I don't condition his visitation on whether or not he's paid me, but whether or not he's sober. I want him to do well. I would be thrilled if he was the kind of father that could actually be a father to my girls.

I wish I had a better answer for them when he doesn't return their call. I wish that I didn't have to lower their expectations to keep him from breaking their hearts. I wish that he was there cheering them on at the soccer game, the talent show, the choir performance. But we all have to accept that he's not. That he doesn't show up at their birthday party because he's in jail. We've dealt with that, too.

I don't expect miracles. And hey, if he even sent $100 a month, and he sent it regularly, dependably, I would be okay with that. As hard as it may be for some to believe, I actually don't want to be able to honestly call him a deadbeat.

But he is.

Not just because of the support he doesn't provide financially, but the support he doesn't provide emotionally.

I tried. I tried to co-parent, but he wouldn't be there. Every problem that led to the divorce is still there.

No, they will never have the father that they deserve to have. And no, he won't send any money dependably ever. And there will be no consequences to that. And we will deal. And I truly believe that we will prevail. That my children will prevail. That they will not go through life feeling that they aren't whole somehow. They will know they are loved.

Still, Mr. President, there has to be something that can be done to make it just a little easier for single moms and their kids. Whether it's better child support enforcement, or more mention of the millions of kids raised by single moms that don't end up in jail, or health care facilities open on Saturdays, public education that supports a family's right to NOT spend their evenings on dioramas. Something to make it just a little bit easier.

Thank you,

*This post is written in conjunction with SingleMomMindy's Open Letter. If you'd like to share your own, please add your link in her comments.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Well, okay then

Things are going. Nothing incredibly great, nothing incredibly bad. Financial situation is not great, but I'm not worried about the roof over my head. So when I put everything in perspective, it's okay.

Still, there seems to be that proverbial cloud over everything right now. Mostly stemmed from trying to understand why some people feel the need to support deadbeat dads. It's like those that support Polanski. I just don't get it.

And then I read Kori's post. In dealing with a different situation (but similar question), she writes: Really; I don’t get to decide a person’s value based on whether or not they support ME, but in how they are with the world at large.

I totally agree. In fact, most of my regular readers and most of my friends and I have areas in our lives where we wholeheartedly disagree with each other. I'm okay with that, really.

And I've certainly tried to be there for friends when I feel they've been attacked unfairly.

But then again...that's for my friends. That's for people I know and love.

These comments aren't from people that know me. And if in fact they're trying to defend X, I know X well enough to know that he'd never stand for it. X is a lot of things, but he knows what I do every day. He goes through periods of not calling because he knows he's not doing right by his kids, and he can't face them or me. X has thanked me many times for what I do every day as their mother. X doesn't argue with me when I've called him a deadbeat because he knows that it's true. These people that are trying to defend X do not know X.

So I go back to not understanding it.

Today, I read something by another single mom, advising moms going through a divorce on how to handle their finances. Someone had to comment that they just shouldn't get divorce, and should stick it out.

WTH is that?!? How is that constructive, how is that helpful, how is that nothing other than disrespectful?

How would it go over, I wonder, if I just ran around, telling every married person I know that they should just get divorced? That half of marriages end in divorce so they should just get it over with. Or telling all bald men to go get a toupee (or vice versa)?

I bet if I said those things, 90% of people would tell me, "it's none of your business." Hmmm...I think they'd be right!

I guess I just don't understand where anyone gets off telling me how I should feel about my own situation. I think I've earned the right, by raising these kids by myself for 6 years (officially; their whole lives, unofficially), by NOT being on government support, to have my OWN feelings on the subject, and to write what I want about it. Legally, I am not guilty of libel or slander because not only is everything TRUE, but I have not used X's real name.

I was accused of censorship. I thought long and hard about it. Have I deleted comments? Yes. Most of them because they were forms of advertising. One or two of them because I was done dealing with it, and it's MY blog. And one commenter specifically requested that all of their comments be removed, and I honored that request. Still, I don't require my approval before publishing a comment, I allow anonymous comments, and I have allowed many a comment that disagrees with me. So no, I don't think I'm guilty of censorship.

I know I'm not easy to like. I'm opinionated, I have some radical ideas, and I don't follow the traditional set of rules. I get it.

So for those of you that still love me, still give a damn about what I have to say, thank you.

*I'm not posting links in here because I'm really not trying to make things worse. And I know that by writing this, I'm not going to change anyone's mind. Still, I need to do it for me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My open letter to Gloria Romero

The Honorable State Senator Gloria Romero,

I heard the report on NPR about your quest for more parental participation in our children's schools, and I wanted to respond. I am a parent who is serving on the PTA.

You mentioned that we're more likely to "attend a protest than a PTA bake sale." I don't know if you've noticed, but most PTAs don't actually hold bake sales anymore. Some schools have banned them for allergy concerns, and a large majority of us moms are working and not so much available during the day to bake a cake and bring it to school.

But this isn't about the so-called stay-at-home moms versus working moms war. This is about the fact that most of us moms know that we have a greater chance of actually having a larger impact on our child's education by showing up at a Board of Education meeting than selling brownies for a dollar. I find it more than a little shocking that you don't know that.

Did you know, for instance, that PTAs are only allowed to raise and spend money on that which will benefit the entire school, and that a PTA can't save a teacher's job by holding a bake sale (or yard sale or any other fundraiser)? Did you know, for instance, that PTA actually stands for Parent Teacher Association, and that normally only one or two teacher "representatives" show up at a PTA meeting?

This is not a slam against teachers - I know they're busy - but your comment is representative of most people's attitude on what the PTA is and, sadly, not representative of what it can do.

But let's go back to the concept of working mothers for a moment. I remember getting a newsletter from LAUSD a few years back, touting great news! Parents can now use vacation time to volunteer at their child's school! I was flabbergasted. Anyone with vacation time can use it for whatever they wish. There was nothing stopping us before from using it to volunteer at the school! Not to mention, that presumes that most parents actually receive vacation time at their job. Many hourly employees do not have this luxury.

I'm incredibly frustrated about this idea that parental involvement will suddenly solve all of our problems in education. While I agree that being involved is a positive reinforcement to our children that we value their education, and we value them, it is not the magic elixir.

Our children need qualified, passionate, excellent teachers - no matter their number of years at the job. Our children need classrooms that aren't overcrowded. Our children need to not be rushed through lessons to meet standardized test requirements in April.

And while many parents are absolutely willing to help their children with their homework, the implementation is often harder. If we've been at work all day, and are trying to get dinner on the table, and meet our weeknight demands, and haven't been in school to teach the mathematical problem using the same terms and methodology as their teacher, our children may not be all that willing to learn from us. Our children may have more pressing matters to discuss with us - like their fight with their best friend today, or what's for dinner. Our children may want some off-school time when they're home with us, and may just want us to be their mom or dad, not their teacher.

Parents are already trying to teach children better communication skills, social skills, relationship skills. Parents are trying to teach their children how to be a well-rounded, well-liked and well-respected independent being. Parents are working to keep their children in clothes that fit and trying to feed their children well-balanced diets. Parents have to become HTML-code proficient to ensure that our children have a safe environment when they're online. Parents are monitoring their children's television time, reading time, and driving their children to soccer practice to ensure that they have the right amount of physical education time. Parents are supplementing their education by paying for museum memberships, paying for arts lessons and/or music lessons and/or science camps and/or tutoring to make sure their child doesn't get left behind.

And the parents that can't afford such things? They're working 2 jobs. Or looking for work. Or going back to school themselves to get better-paying work. They're scraping up change to pay for their children's arts supplies at Michael's so their children can do their required diorama "book report."

You may not see me at my child's school every day (although, yes, I have taken vacation time to help out). You may not see me pick up my child after school every day because I am at work. But you also don't see me at night, trying to get everything done. You don't see me on weekends, reading articles on education while waiting for the dryer. You don't see me take my children to the theatre. You don't see me talk to my children about their latest sibling rivalry episode, or their absent father, or rummaging through boxes of clothes to find clothes that fit.

I take pride in spending most of my waking hours thinking of my children, working to do right by them, and our snuggle times make it all worth it. Still, it might be in my children's best interest for you to concentrate on the budget fiasco and finding more money for their schools than telling me to bake a cake.


Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Oct. 2, 2009.