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.