Monday, August 31, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

You may have already heard, but just in case, I have to share that Riley scored a perfect 600/600 on her Math STAR testing! We got her scores from last year's testing last week, and we celebrated for days. She will probably get to help shave her Curriculum Director as a result. She's very excited about that.

I still maintain that standardized tests aren't everything, but right now, she's very motivated and confident, and that's a good place for her to be.

Sylvia is going to get to dance with the LA SparKids cheerleaders at the game tomorrow night. She participated in a clinic with them yesterday, and was one of 3 kids picked to get a solo, too!

It's been too hot here. Every day has been averaging 105 degrees, and the fires aren't helping the air quality right now. We're supposed to get cooler weather in the next few days.

The girls and I went swimming and bowling on Saturday. The girls were able to use the guard rail, but the adults were not. The girls kicked our butts. I couldn't care less what I score in bowling, so it was still a lot of fun.

More news to come this week.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's all about me

This will probably sound like the most self-indulgent post ever written, but I want to say it. I want to say it to the people I've met here in blogland. So if it's indulgent, so be it. And really, isn't that the purpose of a blog anyway?

I feel like I've grown into my skin, into my life, and into a person I'm okay with being.

It hit me tonight quite hard. I'm proud of me. I'm proud of how much I've changed.

I'm not really sure when exactly it started, and I know it's been an ongoing process, and will continue to be so, but right now, today, I can say that I'm on the right track.

I know it's been in the last year. Because I remember having a conversation in this apartment (the one I've lived in for a year - we didn't move this year) with my friend, K, where I was low. Way low down in the dumps. And I can remember a conversation with Kori, both of us crying on the phone around the same time.

It was during another X episode. I was so angry, and mostly at myself. That I'd given my girls this father they didn't deserve. That it was my fault and we would never escape it.

I remember telling K (and possibly even Kori too) that my life was perpetually going to suck. Oh, I knew it would have its good moments here and there, but for the most part, I was always going to have to be dealing with the consequences of my past failures.

No facts have changed from then to now. But I have accepted the responsibility.

Sylvia said something to me last night, something about her dad that I won't share here for her sake, but tonight, I realized that had she said it a year ago, I would have spent most of today crying about it.

I talked about it today. I rehashed the episode with some friends, and then I moved on, and asked about their weekend. And then I did my work. And I shared some great laughs today with RadDude. One in particular that did have me in tears, but the good kind.

And I got the girls, came home, made dinner while helping them with their homework and we all sang along with the iPod, had a lively conversation with them during dinner, did the dishes (and broke up a sibling scuttle), watched a show with Sylvia, talked to Riley about the book her teacher read them, gave them kisses and put them to bed. I watched TV, I made their lunches, got the coffee pot ready, and then checked my email.

One asked about happiness.

And I thought and wrote about it. And I said that I've never been so happy. I realized that I'm no longer letting X get to me (or the girls). I'm no longer beating myself up about it.

I realized, too, that I acknowledge every good moment. With RadDude and Nancy, after a good laugh, I take the time to say "I love us." I acknowledge our friendship and how much it means to me. I acknowledged a good moment with the girls by hugging and kissing them. I acknowledge Kori by telling her I love her every day.

Somewhere along the line, I learned to do that. I learned how to make a smile and warm feeling last just that teeny tiny bit longer. And I learned (as I'm sure you've all heard me say by now, but it bears repeating) that every feeling has a beginning, a middle, and an end. So even the bad ones aren't forever.

I still have money issues, but obsessing about them doesn't do anything. I balance my checkbook, I check my bank account balance every day or so, pay my bills on payday, and just make sure I don't overdraft.

I still have updates for the X Chronicles, but they have just somehow been woven into the fabric of our lives, accepted, and part of us.

I still have a lot to learn at work, but I love love love my job.

I still could be a better person in many, many ways, but I manage to go to bed most nights, knowing I did the best I could that day. And there's always the possibility of tomorrow.

I remember X saying to me once, when I asked him about his dreams, "I used to dream about tomorrow. Now I dream about yesterday."

For a long long time, I was dreaming about yesterday.

Now, I live for today.

As I said, self-indulgent, and pretty sappy, too, I know. Still, it's not something I ever thought before I would ever write about this life. About my life. About me and who I am today. Not perfect, not ever, but a work in progress that finally feels...well, like progress.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

It took me a year to figure out the chair I've been using with my desktop is too damn short. No wonder my shoulder always hurts when I spend too much time online at home. Maybe now that I've got a different chair, I'll be able to keep up a little better.

It's been a very busy week. Riley started 4th grade, and Sylvia 7th. I like that Riley's teacher, Mrs. F, remembered her from last year and already referred to her as we have: Smiley Riley. Riley's very excited that she's going to be trained next week as a valet for morning drop-off. (I know, it sounds so L.A., but it really does help.) I was very proud when I saw the "about me" sheet she'd filled out, and said that her favorite subject is Math, and that her goal for the year is to get better grades in PE. (For those that don't recall, as active a girl as she is, she wasn't too keen on the PE teacher, and her grades reflected that. Of course, PE is the one teacher that doesn't change from year to year.)

Sylvia is also starting off with a great attitude about school. She's really motivated to go to LACHSA for high school, and knows that she must have a good GPA to get in. She's in Choir this year, and is loving that. I was disappointed, however, to see that her English and Math teachers said that their goals for the year is to help the students pass the standardized tests (grrrr).

We haven't heard from their dad yet this weekend.

Work was incredibly busy this week so I've had to mark most posts read.

It is nice to be back in our school routine. We turn on the iPod while the girls do their homework and I make dinner. If there's time, we'll watch an episode of Gilmore Girls, which we're watching on syndication. I never watched this show when it was on, but it's become our latest obsession. Of course, there's the whole single mom/daughter thing that we can relate to, and I love that the daughter is such a great student, a good role model for the girls. The girls want me to emulate the mom a little more, and I wish I had her great wit, but I'm trying.

At Riley's school, we had our first PTA meeting of the year. We found out that the school's test scores jumped about 20%, which is pretty amazing. Granted, I still have the same feelings about testing, but since it will mean we maintain (or receive more) funding, then that's a good thing. Also, as a PTA, we're focusing on providing Arts programming throughout the year and I'm excited about that.

I've also taken on another blogging gig. I'll be posting once a month at Parentella. I'll mention it here when my first post goes up next week. The focus will be on education.

I had a whole Friday night and Saturday day to myself this week! The girls spent the night with my parents, who took them to a family birthday party on Saturday. I spent the time at home, doing laundry, cleaning, and watching crappy TV. It was awesome.

Friday, August 21, 2009

One of the Saddest Texts Ever

Sylvia: "Mom, I'm afraid that you were right that we are going to be so attached that daddy's coming and next think you know he won't come and bails out on us and won't be coming." (Spelling/abbreviations corrected.)

Me: "Did he say he was coming?"

Sylvia: "I don't know."

Me: "I think you just have to think he's not coming, hon."

No reply yet. She's at the Club, and most likely rehearsing, and then my parents are picking her up and they'll spend the night at their house tonight.

I hope she's okay.

And, as horrible as it sounds, it IS a good thing. She's recognizing that he most likely won't come through.

Still sad, though, when you have to lower your children's expectations of their own dad.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

There is no there there

I have hesitated to get into this debate because to me, it is much ado about nothing. We don't have an actual bill in the Senate yet. There are (last I heard) 5 different drafts in the House right now. The truth is, no one knows what we're talking about yet, so why get into the mud?

Because something has to be done.

I have been without health insurance. My children have gone without health insurance, and I considered that my biggest failure as a mother. We made too much to qualify for Medicaid (which is laughable, considering how little we made), and private insurance was just too expensive. Filling out registration forms for child care was embarrassing. To this day, my daughters' immunization records are each about 4 pages long, with various medical facilities filling in a blank here, a blank there. We also have moved quite a few different times, and rarely have my children seen the same doctor more than once.

Even though we have had insurance through my employer for quite a while now, I still act like an uninsured, rarely going to the doctor - only taking the girls when the schools require an updated health record.
Regardless of some of the rumors flying about, we do not have the best health system in the world. One survey ranks us 37th.

But I haven't lived in another country so I won't try and say I know a better one.

What I will say is, I have a predisposition to hate the medical industry as a whole.

I hate making an appointment for a certain time, getting there 15 minutes early as requested, and then sitting in the lobby for an hour. I hate that these appointments usually take time during the workday, and I'm paid on an hourly basis. I hate using sick time for these appointments because what if I need that sick time later in the year for a real medical problem? And I hate that after my appointment, we usually have to make a trip to the lab and wait around yet again. I hate that my time is treated with such disregard.

I hate that I can't figure out which id on my insurance card I should put down on the field trip forms (the card itself lists 4 different numbers). I hate that after I called my insurance company's hotline and went to the hospital that they directed me to, I got a bill later saying that hospital wasn't covered under my plan. And I hate that they sent that AFTER the year was up and I'd already used my PayFlex spending for that year, not knowing that this bill was coming.

I'm one of the lucky ones. My employer actually offers multiple plans. Yet, the only difference I can see between them is, do I pay an outrageous charge every month, or do I pay an outrageous charge if/when the inevitable emergency occurs?

And through all the hoopla over the last few weeks, I hate that the opponents don't offer any solutions. Yelling "you're lying!" or "You're a socialist!" doesn't actually do anything to improve health care.

What's so discouraging to me about all of this hysteria is it's taken away our opportunity to actually debate the merits of health care reform. I'm skeptical of putting our medical records online. I want to know as much as anyone how much this reform would cost me, both as a taxpayer and my own medical bills. I want to know if this will make my wait at the doctor's office longer or shorter. I want to know if I'm actually going to understand my coverage better or not.

What I do know is that I don't know any of those answers yet. Because there is no bill on the floor yet.

Originally posted on LA Moms. 

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

Haven't done one of these in a long while!

Today the girls start school. Riley will be in a mixed 3rd/4th grade class, but it could have been a lot worse. There are only 4 third graders in her class, so I think it won't be that bad for her (although I feel bad for those third graders) and it could've been worse; I noticed that one of the classes had 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders all in one class!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The girls actually haven't started yet - they got up early and now we have a little time.

On Friday night, the girls and Nancy and I went to see Legally Blonde the Musical at the Pantages. We had a blast!

The tour started off a little disappointing, especially if you've seen the Broadway production or the MTV showing of the Broadway production as we had. The original had an elaborate set for the Delta Nu house, and to say they scaled it back for the tour is putting it mildly! Still, the cast exuded the high energy that a show like this requires. (I think it helped that we saw it on Opening Night. They had a red carpet in front of the theatre for some of the more notable arrivals.)

Becky Gulsvig as Elle was charming, funny, strong, and amazing! I got a tad teary-eyed as she took her curtain call - there's just something about seeing a woman get the final bow in a musical that brings me goosebumps.

The rest of the cast was also excellent, and I loved Natalie Joy Johnson's take on Paulette. The only exception was Professor Callahan: he missed some of the subtle nuances and played the character as a straight villain, which is less interesting. Jeff McLean as Warner, however, balanced his charm more evenly so that Elle's obsession with him made more sense.

As one of the featured sorority sisters, Rhiannon Hansen from MTV's reality competition for the lead role in Legally Blonde surprised me with talent that just had not come across on the TV show. I never really believed her as a possible Elle, but in her touring role, she shines.

The show is a great night out; totally fun, great talent, and with just enough empowering messages to balance out the frivolity.

After the show, we went to the stage door, and Sylvia got all of the cast member's autographs. She helped us all by asking each actor who they played :) and was totally stunned speechless when Gulsvig broke the news that she'd played Elle. It was pretty cute.

On Saturday, the girls went horseback riding with the Club and I got to go grocery shopping, do the laundry and some other stuff around the house in blessed solitude :)
We finished our back to school shopping on Sunday, and the girls were too cute getting their backpacks ready yesterday. I love that they're so excited to start 4th and 7th grades!

And now, I should get them to their classes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

LA Sparks: the moms dribble and the kids cheer them on

I used to be a Lakers fan, and was happy they won the championship (that was this season, right?). Still, I gave up my die-hard status at about the time I became a single mother. Between work, motherhood, and the personal issues that came with the divorce, keeping track of how many points Kobe Bryant had scored at the last game just didn't remain on my priority list.

I remember when the LA Sparks and the entire WNBA franchise launched about a decade ago. While I cheered on the concept of professional women's basketball, I confess I hadn't previously gone to a game. As a mother, I want to give my girls the chance to see as much that the world has to offer as possible. So I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to take them to an LA Sparks game last week.

The LA Sparks have five moms on their team. Candace Parker is the newest member of that particular group, and, like a lot of working moms, went back to work 6 weeks after giving birth. Parker proved her star status at the game we witnessed against Seattle Storm, scoring crucial shots. The game was probably the most exciting I've ever witnessed, with the Sparks winning in overtime!

While the Sparks may not have the type of following their male counterparts enjoy in this town, the Sparks fans are loyal die-hards, to the point where we all stood at the start of the game until the Sparks scored their first basket of the game. For the last 3 minutes of the 4th quarter through overtime, the Staples Center reverberated with the noise, excitement and adrenaline.

My oldest daughter, Sylvia, played on the basketball team at her after-school club last year, so there was no need to explain the rules of the game to her. Sylvia and her 8-year-old sister, Riley, studied their program, learning the players' numbers and by the 2nd quarter, they were cheering on most of the players by name.

They loved, loved loved shouting "Defense" every time the Storm had the ball, and chanting "Let's Go Sparks!" when we were on the offensive. They also loved the SparKids cheerleaders, who not only danced really well (through messy choreography) but took to their role as the leaders of the cheer quite naturally!

From beginning to end, the Sparks team welcomes its fans with appreciation and energy. One of my favorite fan contests at halftime was the girl who had to say, in 30 seconds, why she was a Sparks fan without saying "uh" or "um" (she succeeded; I would've failed miserably). The girls loved jumping up and down for the t-shirts that the SparKids gave away a few times during time-outs. Every minute at the Staples Center that night was one that we'll remember with joy.

My only frustration came from seeing that there are only so many games televised, keeping their fan base limited. We also brought my father, a die-hard Lakers fan his whole life who had also never before seen a Sparks game, on TV or otherwise. He's now following them in the paper, and I'm sure we'll make it to another game soon. (And hopefully, this season, to see Lisa Leslie, the biggest WNBA superstar, one last time.)

My girls probably won't become WNBA players, and my intent in taking them was not to put that aspiration in their heads. As I re-discovered the other night, sometimes it's just fun to scream your head off in public. Some of the plays were as magical as any circus performer's or musician. Some nights, it takes a few hours to peel off that ceiling of adrenaline. And, hey, what in life is better than that?

Originally posted on LA Moms, Aug. 12, 2009.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Education Wish List (partial)

Yahoo! Mother Board

This month, the Yahoo motherboard has asked us to talk about our dream schools for our children.

For a year, we had what would be very close to the dream in Sylvia's charter school (until everything fell apart - long-time readers will know all about this already). I'll take the snippets of what I really liked about that and what I would have liked to see happen that would've prevented the dream from coming to an end:

Longer school hours
. Sylvia attended school from 7:20 am to 5 pm her fifth grade year, Monday - Thursday, and Fridays from 7:20 to noon. While that sounds like too long of a day, there were many benefits gained with this arrangement. First of all, the actual classes were longer so the teachers had more time with the students. A common complaint I hear is that there's not enough time. Some schools have even banned recess and lunch to make more time, which I don't think is a good solution. As much as our students need more time to learn, they need breaks in their day. So why not make more time? It also helped me as a working parent that she was in school longer. Study after study has shown that the rate of juvenile crime is at its highest in the hours between the time school lets out and parents come home from work.

It also allowed for more of the "extra-curriculars" to be a part of their regular school day. Sylvia had various electives, some taught Mondays and Wednesdays, and others on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Her electives included music, technology, P.E., and art - all classes that helped her grow both as a student and as a person.

I wasn't crazy about the short day on Fridays, particularly as a working parent, but came to appreciate the lighter school day as the year went on.

Longer school year. Our school year is still stuck on the agricultural calendar that allowed students to help on the farm back in the day. These days, such work would violate child labor laws, so why do we still have such a long break in between grades? I've practically gone broke this summer paying for summer child care that quadruples what I pay during the school year. And I'm in the majority as a working parent (that doesn't get 2-3 months off during the summer). And, as we discussed last month, the long summer break can be detrimental to our students with the summer slide. I think 6 weeks would be a sufficient summer break.

Sensible homework policies. I learned in reading The Case Against Homework that many school districts don't even have a homework policy in place. And I'm not just talking about the fact that some teachers pile on 50 math problems when 5 will do, or the "projects" that are simply something to hang up for Open House (which we "ooh" and "aah" over, even though we were most likely there with our kids the entire time they put it together), but also the lack of resources available for both parents and students.

I read somewhere recently that if the assignment is to read the chapter, that's not the entire assignment. The students are also expected to make a study guide to go with the chapter. Well, if that's not told to the student, how are they supposed to know that? Most parents have discovered that unless you are very, very specific with your children, things that may appear to be common sense to us will not happen. For instance, it's not enough to say "get everything off the floor." They'll get it off the floor and pile everything onto their bed unless you say, "and put it away where it belongs."

And while many of us are perfectly willing to help our children with the homework assignment, the willingness is not always enough. I still have nightmares about when my oldest daughter was learning how to multiply, and while I know how to multiply, I wasn't using the same words as her teacher, so she kept telling me, "no! That's not right!!" I used to wish for a nanny cam to be placed in her 3rd grade class so that I knew exactly how her teacher said it.

At Sylvia's charter school, the teachers were required to answer questions from their students up to 9 pm on homework. It ended up being a resource that we only used a few times, but it was so comforting to know it was there and available to us to keep from having such disagreements.
They also had class buddies to call if the question were as simple as, what's the homework assignment?

I understand that most teachers would balk at the thought of having to answer questions from their students every night, but other resources could also be helpful. For instance, a website where we could not only look up our students' grades, but the homework assignment, with maybe a sample of the problem for those of us that don't quite remember how to divide fractions. (And also, of how the teacher is teaching it, since there are some varieties of methodologies.) Some textbooks now come with cds and/or websites, and I've used those to assist the girls.

School officials that live in the 21st century. I had quite the nightmare experience trying to get a hold of someone that could answer my question about summer school two days after the regular school year had ended. The woman I spoke with at the District office when I couldn't get a hold of anyone at the school acted like I was being totally unreasonable by trying to talk to someone who could tell me the summer school hours that were supposed to start the following week when I called on Friday. She tried to explain away the ringing phone at the school with, "they're probably having a party." Well, really, how nice for them. I don't begrudge them their party, but, like a lot of working Americans these days, I still have my Blackberry and my cell phone when I'm not in my office, and I've been known to answer work-related emails on Saturdays and at night, and even during vacations. Is it really so unreasonable to expect to get an answer to my question at 2 pm on a Friday?!?

Teachers, administrations, school boards being held responsible. The LA Times did a series of articles recently on the amount of teachers being paid for years while awaiting decisions on misconduct charges. I am all for thorough examinations of such charges, but some of those teachers were paid for as many as seven years while awaiting verdicts. That's just ridiculous.

In one school district, parents were informed the last week of school that someone had made an error in calculating the number of hours required for school, and that all students had to go to summer school for at least a month. There was quite an uproar about that, as there should have been. I think most students ended up being able to take home a packet to complete during their summer, but it was beyond ridiculous that this even happened in the first place!

I was dissuaded from my attempt to opt my daughter out of standardized testing one year at one school by the principal. It was not only unlawful, it was just plain wrong. That year in particular, Sylvia was suffering enormous amounts of stress about the testing. It was not only detrimental to her health as she had stomach pains from her anxiety, and was literally losing sleep, it was absolutely the wrong message to be sending to her as a student. I want her to love learning. That's why I didn't want her to do the testing that year. The principal told me that she would be the "only one" not doing the testing and that she would feel "left out." I told her I was all right with that, but she basically said, "no." I knew even then that I could have fought her, but I didn't want to risk pissing her off.

Our dream year at Sylvia's charter school was shattered when we found out the Principal was leaving. As long-time readers will remember, I fought for weeks and months, and took my fight to the Board of Directors (being a charter school, it has a different chain of command than a regular public school). They basically chose money over the Principal. He was a fantastic Principal who welcomed the entire family as Team Members. He hired incredible teachers that went far beyond their duties. He implemented policies that made sense. Sylvia stressed not at all about standardized testing that year. She ended the year as a straight A student on the Honor Roll. However, there were politics involved between the Principal and a certain staff member that happened to be in charge of accounting. The Board decided it was easier to find a new principal than another accounting person. I did not trust the new principal (and have learned since that some of my greater concerns became a reality), and so I pulled Sylvia the next year.

My heart still breaks over that. The Principal that we fought for is now one of our dearest family friends. He came to the talent show that the girls had at the end of the year at the Club, and we've done various things together throughout the last year. I am so glad that he's still a part of our lives, but when he talks about the school he runs now (a high school), I still get jealous of those students and parents that have such an amazing leader.

Our dream year should not have ended the way it did. It should not have come down to someone holding the books. While I understand that the Board of Directors were mainly picked for their ability to raise money for the school, they should've given more consideration to what the parents were saying. I was not the only parent standing up. Parents and students signed petitions. Sylvia cried when she found out, as did many students. Many of us parents cried during the meetings held on the subject. And the worst part was, the school wouldn't have been losing money by keeping the Principal - they'd just have to hand over the accounting books to someone else. The person in question had kept everything so close to the vest that no one else knew the numbers. That should never have been allowed to happen in the first place (and it was one of the reasons the Principal couldn't work with her - the Principal of the school deserved to know the financial information associated with his school).

The Board handled it by just continuing to tell us that everything would be fine, and patting us on the head. Then summer came, and we all dispersed.

And we're back in public schools. We're actually very lucky to be in good schools, and I'm doing my best to stay involved. I'm on the PTA of Riley's school, and like it there a lot. Sylvia's middle school is okay - could be a lot worse but is far from a dream school.

When I went to register Sylvia for the coming school year, as we were waiting in line to go in, we were told that everyone helping us that day was a volunteer and how the word of the day would be patience. I couldn't help thinking, "well, I'm not here voluntarily! I have to be here to get my kid registered for school!" I was also trying to get everything done in an efficient manner to get to work in time for a conference call - another less than voluntary thing on my plate! It was so frustrating to be treated that way. And it's quite normal, which is even more frustrating.

Is it so wrong for all of us to come in with a sense of team and family? A sense that we all want what's best for the kids? I was there, doing my part, why did I have to be chastised before I even walked in the door? Is it so wrong to assume that maybe I didn't plan on being a bitch that day?

Okay, this post has seriously gotten out of hand. Clearly, I have a lot to say on the subject!

Fellow Yahoo motherboard posts on the subject: from Kim, and from Donna. (Other members, please feel free to share your links in the comments.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

There ought to be a law

Being an L.A. family, it's no surprise that we tend to spend a lot of time in the car.

For the most part, road trips are a fairly civil affair. When they know we're going to be on the road for hours to go down to San Diego, or up the coast to NorCal, all is well. We pack snacks, play music and sing, and even have some great conversations.

It's the little trips that can bring out the road rage - and not just in the other drivers, but in those back-seat passengers.

For Southern Californians, our daily commute is really not that bad at all. It's a loop that's big enough to make any public transportation take too long, but small enough that we should be able to do it in 20 minutes. We used to live farther away from where I work, and I confess, I still miss those 25 minutes to myself before picking up the girls at their after-school care. Now, I have about 10 minutes to go from Working Woman to Mom. And my oldest daughter tends to call me halfway through it to see if I'm on my way yet.

So, granted, my patience is not usually at my highest when I pick them up. I want to get home, I want to change clothes, and get dinner started. They usually want to hug each and every one of their friends good-bye (because it'll be 12 whole hours before they see them again), and generally have to make 2 or 3 trips before they have everything to actually leave.

We get in the car, and inevitably, one of them has to tattle on the other. "She was mean to me today!" is the usual complaint. "She didn't let me ___ or play ____ or have ___." "No!" is the usual protest. "YOU wouldn't ____!"

Trying to mediate behind the steering wheel and through the rearview mirror rarely works. I suppose I could pull over and do so, but home is FIVE minutes away. And I want to get there. So I grit my teeth and bear it.

And then we hit the longest light in America. The light that is never green when you get there, of course. In fact, it's usually yellow so I slow down and wait. I wait for those east of me to turn left or continue west-bound. Then I wait for those west of me to turn left or continue east-bound. Then I wait for those south of me to turn left or continue north-bound. Because this light isn't just two-directional - oh, no, it's special. When it's your turn, it's nobody else's turn. But of course, you have to wait three times longer for it to be your turn.

And all the while, the sound of the 8-yr-old and the 11-yr-old girls in the back has gotten more high-pitched. Because they know. They know this is the one time that I really have no control. This is the time where I'm trying ever so hard to be invisible to all the other cars around me. This is the time where even if I do yell my absolute loudest, it still can't drown out the sounds that dogs from miles around can hear coming from my girls. And I'm stuck at the longest light in America where I'm sandwiched between those turning left and those turning right so I couldn't pull over even if I so desired.

So I crank up the volume on the stereo. My 11-year-old immediately forgets the fight and proceeds to belt out whatever song is playing. My 8-year-old is now mad that her sister is SINGING, and yells for a while, but gives up since even she can't be heard over the combination of the song in true stereo.

If I'm lucky, the light is finally green before the song ends.

Yes, I know it's dangerous to talk on the cell phone (hands-free or not) while driving. Because you're supposed to be concentrating on the road. I know it's four times as dangerous to text while driving because you're not even looking at the road.

But when oh when will they make the law that siblings are not supposed to touch, talk, or look at each other in the car?

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

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Linky Love

A reader de-lurked in a big way. She wrote about my blog in her Examiner article. She's been writing a series, featuring single mom bloggers. I'm honored to be among them.

And it makes me so excited about the community of single mom writers that is bursting. I remember when I first started reading blogs how hard it was to find other single moms. Now, I can't keep up with them all.

MindyMom recently posted about the single mom/punching bag syndrome that occurs.

We keep writing. We keep reading. We keep standing up and letting our voices be heard.

And I can't write this without acknowledging the non-single moms that still come by here. The dads, the married moms, the ones that come here for the musical theatre posts (okay, the one that comes here for those!). I appreciate your willingness to hear a different point of view. The single parents are still a minority in the parenting world, and it is your willingness to stand by and support us that will, in the end, make the difference. The suffragettes didn't get anywhere until some men were willing to stand with them. And it's why, as a straight person, I feel such an obligation to stand with and fight for the gay rights movement.

We need to support one another, be subject to one another.

It's why this honor of being recognized is so special to me. To feel that I am a part of this. And if you're reading this, so are you.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The X Chronicles

What follows is the links to various posts I've written about dealing with my X (and if I'm on top of things, I'll update this list on an ongoing basis):

My Story
To My Fellow Single Mothers
Ex Communication
Weekend Visitation
Bring on the Morphine
Xhausting Visits
The Birthday Party Episode
X Meets the Neighbors
The X Gets the Apartment Building
The Promises X Can't Keep
Less Than SiX Months
Mother'X Day
Xmas Vacation
The Last Five Yearx
Speaking of Progress...

Speaking of Progress...(an X Chronicles post)

About the time I met Kori and the others, I struggled a lot with how to deal with X - and, more specifically, how to let the girls see X.

All the divorce advice says that you can't let your own failed relationship interfere with your children's relationship with the other parent. We're told that we shouldn't bad-mouth our ex. Co-parenting is the new pc word for divorced parents.

That's all well and good when both parents are willing to work at it. That's all well and good if you didn't divorce an addict (that's not in recovery).

The trouble with that for my family is that all the reasons for leaving him are reasons to keep him far, far away from the girls. I mean, really, how many experts would advise that you should let your kids spend time with crack-addict jailbirds?

Still, the question of a summer visit came up this weekend. (Two weeks before the girls' summer vacation is over, but still summer.)

Sylvia told me that last week, X had mentioned having the girls come up for their grandfather's birthday. I told her that I didn't know anything about this, and that I would have to approve of everything.

The girls are familiar with some of the rules required already: he can't drive them anywhere, since he doesn't have a valid driver's license, and he can't be the one in charge. One of his sisters usually takes on that task.

So this last Saturday, X called and spoke to the girls first, then wanted to speak to me. He said it was too late to get the cheap flights (um, yeah, that's what happens when you wait until the week before), but could his new roommate, who is a limo driver, drive down with X and bring the girls back up to Northern California. No. I don't know this guy, I don't even know if this person exists, no. Well, if he gets them up there somehow, could the girls stay for the last week of their summer vacation? No! They have field trips scheduled nearly every day that I've already paid for. X offers to cover the cost. I don't bother pointing out that I have absolutely no faith in his word. I simply say, no.

I do point out that we're not just sitting here, waiting for him to call. We have a life going here!

X says that he'll call on Sunday. Fine. Whatever.

X finally does call at 8 pm on Sunday night. Could he drive down with this friend (the one that I still don't know) and stay somewhere with the girls for the weekend? No. Could he do so if his mom comes down? I like his mom, but I know she can't drive, either (health issues). No. Could he come down and meet us at a mall? No. At a park? No. No. Forget the whole thing, X. It's not happening.

Now, for anyone who questions, why not meet him at a mall or a park and let him spend a few hours with the kids?

Well, because I know what would happen. I would be sitting in a parking lot, with two incredibly hyped up kids, waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And maybe X would show up, but maybe not. Certainly not on time.

So how long should one wait? 15 minutes? A half hour? An hour? If I leave too soon, then I'm the bad guy for not waiting longer. If we wait too long, then we're most likely getting baked in the car. Either way, I have crying girls to take home, and try to somehow make up for their father not showing up. And come up with answers to questions that have no answers.

Say he does show up. If we're at a mall, he'll have no money. If we're at a park, how long do I give them? He hasn't seen them in a year. Are two to three hours in a park really going to be sufficient for the girls? No.

He simply had not thought any of this through. So the answer was no.

And what was amazing for me was how easy it was for me to say. I didn't try explaining myself. I felt no guilt for denying the girls their father. If anything, I felt relief that the latest episode was almost over. Now all that was left was dealing with Sylvia.

He asked to speak to her, and I let him (without any words of how he should handle it). When they got off, Sylvia told me that he'd said it wasn't going to happen, that she was to send him her school schedule and let him know of any school events she had coming up.

I told her not to bother with telling him about the school events. I reminded her of the time he was 2 days late. I said that, as much as she would've loved having him at some of the events of the last year, she was never looking for him, hoping he would show up. She knew not to expect him, and she enjoyed all of the events without sorrow. She understood that.

She did cry a little, and say, "I miss him so much." I just held her and said, "I know, honey. I'm sorry it didn't work out." And I told her I would send him the school schedule so that he would at least know when she was in and out of school. She said thanks and we were done.

And so we have reached a year since the girls have last seen their dad. It hasn't been a completely X Drama Free year, but in the end, I think it has been best for the girls that the disappointments have been long distance.

A few months ago marked my sixth anniversary as a single mom. I've just gone through all the posts I've done as X Chronicles, and I know that this has been the most peaceful, for all of us. And amazingly, that coincides with the same year that gave me the most growth as a single mom, and a person.

Time will only tell if the same will be true of the girls. We'll still just keep taking it all as it comes.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

When all else fails, blog about blogging

SV Moms (LA Moms parent group) has started a video series, Byte Out Of Life. Here's the video featuring Kim Tracy Prince from House of Prince (I had the pleasure of hanging out with her both at the LA Moms brunch and at the Tupperware party), and Donna Schwartz Mills from SoCal Mom (can we consider this the 3-named moms series?). I met Donna at the LA Moms launch party (but I was too shy to say more than a few greeting words to her).

Unlike Kim or Donna, I started blogging with the hope of finding a community. Kori, Julie, and FreedomFirst and I had all been part of a moms community that has since closed shop and found that we had much more to say. Through that, I met so many, including Florinda, who brought me into the LA Moms group. Through LA Moms, I met Jessica Gottlieb, and Jessica just recommended me for another website. Through the single mom blogging community, I got the opportunity to be the LA Single Parenting Examiner.

These benefits; the friends, the outings, the opportunities to write more, aren't just valuable for those reasons alone, though.

The real benefit has been the inner changes.

At the time I started this blog, I already had a couple of years of single parenting under my belt. I'd even managed to complete my bachelor's degree. I was in the process of making changes to benefit Sylvia's education.

Yet at the time, I could see none of these accomplishments. I was still very angry and bitter. I loved my kids very much, and was doing a fairly good job, but all I could see was what I didn't have, what I hadn't done.

And yet, even then, I knew that I had to find more balance in life - hence, the name of this blog.

So I started the blog with specific goals for myself. And somehow, I've found that I have surpassed them.

Oh, sure, I still bitch about my ex here. Because part of that balance is not suppressing those feelings, but expressing them.

I don't divulge all here. I can't because I'm not just telling my story here, but the story of my daughters. Some of that is not meant for internet consumption. Some of you get ranting emails from me about what Sylvia or Riley did last night because I need to express that as well, but I can't betray their privacy.

So then I turn to your blogs, and find great perspective on how to deal with my own problems.

So now, the big buzz words in social media contain "addiction" and "obsessive." Do we Twitter, FB, or post too often? Are we spreading ourselves too thin with our various writing obligations and ignoring our duties at home?

Well, take a wild guess what I have to say about that? Yep, it's all about balance. I check in with Twitter, but don't post every 10 minutes. I check in with Facebook every day, and longer on weekends. I get behind on my Reader because to stay on top of it means I'm either not working or cleaning or sleeping!

But if I didn't do these things, then I would probably be closer to that person I was nearly 3 years ago. Angry, bitter, and close to desperate. It's so much easier to find the balance when your life feels full!