Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quick Update

Thanks, all, for your support. I know we'll get through this, but I just had to get the venting out.

Otherwise, things have been going really well. Loads to blog about, but not a lot of time right now, I'm afraid.

So I'm sending you to Parentella again, where I've written about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

Monday, March 29, 2010

X Venting

So X was released, but he's right back in jail again - only this time, he's in downtown LA, mere minutes away.

He has a court date scheduled for mid-April and it's anyone's guess whether he'll be out that day or sentenced for longer. I don't know anything about the charges. Chances are he was extradited from Northern California down here to answer for some previous arrest. The girls asked if they could see him in jail, but I nixed that right away.

I hate that he's here. And that, whether it's in a couple of weeks or a few months, he'll end up being free here. And at some point, I'll have to deal with him.

He has no legal rights to the girls, he doesn't know where we live, but now I know it's only a matter of time before he's back in our lives somehow.

Of all the jails in all the towns...of course, he had to end up here.

Linking again

My Parentella post today is on why parents might not be apathetic so much as broke.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I am

For this week's Female2Female Blog Challenge, we're to complete these sentences:

I am me, faults and all.

I love my girls, my friends, my family, my job, my life.

I taste coffee.

I believe in humanity.

I hope my girls will understand that, despite any obstacles, their destinies are up to them.

I wish that one day, I can open a non-profit to benefit single parents.

I laugh multiple times a day.

I feel emotions that have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

I dream sometimes so vividly, I have to remind myself it was just a dream.

I smell coffee.

I fear what happens next, but at least I know to just take things as they come.

I won't tag anyone, but feel free to play along!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another X post

My X was supposed to get out of jail today, but they re-scheduled it until Friday. Which is good because I really didn't want to deal with it/him on a Monday - especially since the girls were on Spring Break last week. Still, it/he has been on my mind.

I sat up straight when I realized I've known X almost 15 years. I've known him longer than I've known some of my closest friends.

Somehow, even though I've known for a while that divorce doesn't get an ex out of your life when you have kids, I always thought of it as their life. I sat up straight because it means he's actually in my life, too.

Because of his impending release, he's been on my mind. I've been wondering what it'll be like when he's out. I know what's most likely. He'll start calling again on the weekends for a while. He'll apologize to the girls, tell them it's never going to happen again. Sylvia will want to know if she can see him over the summer. It's been a year and a half since she's last seen him. It's been the most normal year and a half of their lives.

I'll wrestle with whether or not to plan a trip. I'll probably plan it. And it's anyone's guess whether or not he'll still be free by the time it's all planned. And then the re-planning will begin. I know that I can't be the one to keep him from them. I know that will only register to Sylvia as I'm withholding him from them. (I say Sylvia because Riley generally takes a backseat when it comes to their dad. I know she has her own issues, but she keeps them to herself. Now that she's in therapy, I hope that she'll at least talk about it there.)

They're old enough now that they know the rules; they know that someone else has to be in charge. They know that sometimes their dad hangs out with bad people.

X may talk a good game right after he's released, but he usually hangs out with "new friends" after he's out, and finds himself in trouble again soon enough.

My biggest concern, however, is not about a trip/a visit that may or may not happen. My biggest concern is that he'll be bound and determined to move down here and attempt to be a dad.

After knowing him for 15 years, I don't think my disbelief in those abilities are unfounded.

I can only hope that he has no resources left down here; no friends that will take him in, no money for transportation to get down here and attempt a new start.

I love our lives right now. It's not perfect, and we've got our own set of problems, but it's all manageable. I can handle this.

It's been so long, it's been such a relief to know he had no chance of hurting them anew, to just keep on working on what we're already working on. I don't know if I can handle all that again.

Letting him in their can I be expected to do that when I have absolutely no faith, no ability to trust him not to hurt them?

And that hurt? Just brings it all back again for me. And that just means I have to squeeze out another few hundred dollars a month in my budget for my own therapy. I don't mind going, I just don't know how to pay for it.

I want to believe that I'm stronger now than I was two years ago. Truth be told, he's only been in since November, so there was a year there where he was free and still never got under my skin. But I always wondered if he will attempt to return. And once he gets released, I get to start wondering about that all over again.

And then there's that part of me that feels guilty. How could a mother not want a father to be a part of their lives? Aren't we supposed to encourage that? But that's a small part, because I really do know that he's toxic. Of course, then I get to feel guilty for giving them a toxic dad in the first place.

At this point, all I can hope is his release date gets re-scheduled again. I don't know why it happened this time so anything's possible.


All I really needed to know...

My Parentella post today is about the lessons I learned outside the classroom.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Single Parents Day!!

Yes, it's that time of year again: March 21 is Single Parents Day. Last year, I posted why I'm grateful to be a single parent. This year, I'm going to post things I've learned thus far about single parenting:

Accept help. People wouldn't offer if they didn't feel they could do it. (And hey, if they do offer and they can't, then they'll learn to not offer what they can't!)But for the most part, anyone who actually offers to babysit, take you out for lunch, pay a bill for you...they really want to help, and you're actually doing them a favor by accepting the help!

Reach out for help when you need it.
I suffered for a long time from the "must do everything myself" syndrome. Like I needed to somehow prove I'm a single parent or something. I finally realized, with the help of friends, that's just silly.

Make routines. They say the routines help the children; I believe they help the adult! Pretty soon, you stop forgetting to make the lunches/do the laundry/sign the homework because it's built into your system. (FlyLady really helped me with this.)

But be flexible. Things are going to happen. Your perfect plan for what you're going to get accomplished at work will be ruined when the school calls and you have to pick up a sick child.

Be where you are. I know a lot of working moms (single or not) think about their kids when they're at work and their work when they're home. Then they feel guilty for not being where they're not. Again, silly! If you know your children are safe, then go ahead and focus on that project, that conference call. And then you can leave work behind when you go home and actually spend quality time with your kids!

Forget multi-tasking: one thing at a time. Have you ever hit send on an email because you were also having a conversation and later realized you hadn't actually finished writing the email? Burnt dinner because you were trying to empty the dishwasher at the same time? Told your children "yes" to something you don't really want them to do, but they totally caught you off guard? Yep, I've done every single one of things. I've since learned that my brain has to be focused on one thing and one thing alone (as much as possible, anyway).

One day at a time. I commented to someone earlier this week that the only times I've felt complete despair, it's because I think that my life will be like this (whatever this may be at the time) for the rest of my life. My life today is nothing like I thought it would be 10 years ago. Even 5! I now know that we don't actually know anything about what the future holds. So living in the moment is all you really can do.

Those are my words of wisdom, for what they're worth.

To all the single parents out there, Happy Single Parents Day!! Please take a moment to pat yourself on the back today...and then hug and kiss your children who are everything they are because of you!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wrapping up the week with links

Two Parentella posts in one week. The latest is a bit of a rant on the ongoing blame game.

I was quoted in a post about one of my favorite subjects: Johnny Depp.

I just discovered Lamebook and love it!

That is all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Making room to get closer

My eldest and I recently had a Date Night at a Mother-Daughter event, and once again, Sylvia asked if she could sit in the passenger seat.

Somehow, she knew. She knew that I'd just been thinking about this. She's asked me multiple times already, but I've always said no. Even though she meets the safety requirements now, I've preferred keeping both the girls in the back seat.

I've grown accustomed to having that passenger seat for my own needs. I practically resent my friends sitting there when we go to lunch because I have to move my sunglasses, the garage remotes, my night-time glasses, papers going from work to home, etc. One of the advantages, frankly, of being a single parent is having the front of the car to myself!

Still, it was going to be at least an hour drive to this event. In truly honoring Date Night, I decided to let my Date sit next to me in the car.

Sylvia was so excited to finally be in the front seat. I found new places for everything - a few became Sylvia's responsibility - and amidst the rush hour traffic, Sylvia would announce every now and then, "I love being in the front seat!" I think she liked the mirror in the visor best.

After the event, we had a lot to talk about on the way home, and it was nice to be able to look at her at times and talk in a normal tone of voice.

I gave her a few conditions for permanent passenger-seat privileges, and she seems eager to comply. I'm not quite sure how her little sister, Riley, will react to this change in seating, but even Sylvia agreed that for longer road trips, she would prefer to be in the back seat and spend time with Riley. And it's possible that I may have to break up fewer drive-time battles!

Anything to keep us close, even if it is merely in the physical sense.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Mar. 18, 2010.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Two parenting seminars in one post

As I previously mentioned, I won tickets to the Girl World Tour, courtesy of LA Story. It's sort of a combination of a book tour and a mother-daughter seminar (of course, dads or other guardian welcome, but the event we attended was solely made up of mother-daughter pairs).

Rosalind Wiseman
, author of Queen Bees & Wannabees, the parenting book that was the inspiration for Mean Girls, is adept at speaking to both sets of participants. She did a great job of explaining the teens to the moms and vice versa, using humor and her clear passion for the subject.

I haven't read the book yet, but here are some things that stuck with us from the event.

I had an a-ha moment. One of my concerns for Sylvia has been that she takes everything so hard. She's an emotional girl that wears her heart on her sleeve. I have been there. I know how hard it is. I know how deeply she feels, and I don't want the same for her. I don't want her to be as affected by others as I am.

Yet Wiseman said something that made me re-think my approach. One of her main goals is to help these girls become what she calls "women of substance." She explained that if these girls aren't given an opportunity to express these feelings, they start shutting down. They don't speak up for themselves, and they begin to suppress their own wants and needs. Obviously, that's not what I want for her. So it's up to me to help support her in expressing them in ways that make her feel heard and understood and valued.

After Wiseman said that, I whispered to Sylvia, "I think I understand now, and I'm sorry." She beamed at me, and told me later that was her favorite moment of the event.

We picked her adult allies, those that she could go to if and when she didn't feel comfortable coming to me with an issue. We found we doodled the same way on our papers. And on the way home, we had a long heart-to-heart about one relationship in Sylvia's life, and how I could help her with it.

It was a good Date Night.

The next day, I attended a Parenting Your Teen seminar, provided by my employer's behavioral health care program. The room was packed with parents, whose children are as young as 11 and as old as 19.

It being a lunchtime event, there wasn't a lot of time to really go into depth about anything, and it was a little disappointing because I found that a lot of the recommendations didn't come with specifics on how one accomplishes this. And on one point in particular, it was interesting to see that it was the exact opposite of something that Wiseman had stressed the night before.

In discussing social issues, Wiseman talked about how deeply important these are to our tweens and teens. She said that these issues can even affect their schoolwork as their brain can't process that information when it's being controlled by this factor in particular. (She talked about it more scientifically, but I'm no scientist.)

In the seminar the next day, the advice was to stress quality over quantity friendships. I don't think anyone would disagree with that alone, but frankly, I've already tried that and it means nothing to Sylvia. Wiseman also stated that the advice to ignore a "mean girl" doesn't work either.

Basically, these tired catch-phrases are not only useless, but they're the reasons for the eye-rolls and feelings that Mom just doesn't get it.

One valuable piece of information from the second seminar was that it's important we remember the details of these stories of their friends and their dramas. I've certainly seen Sylvia's frustration when I can't remember the salient details of who did what to whom, so I made a mental note to actually engage in active listening the next time she tells me a saga. (I've been faking it lately with "I'm sorry" or "that's too bad.")

While I'm certainly no expert, and I'm still hungry for more information, I was encouraged by how much sounded like things I'm already trying to do, and in some ways, I've seen accomplishments. Sylvia still tells me a lot about her friends, we talk about physical issues (in the broadest sense), and she even told me about a friend that wanted to try drugs and how she helped set her friend straight.

She's not quite a teen yet, I know, but if it's all about the groundwork, which I believe it is, we're off to a promising start.

Monday, March 15, 2010

When you have a few minutes...

I hope you'll read my latest Parentella post. I hope I've done this family justice in telling their story.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is it the weekend yet? Wrap-Up

I'm finally starting to feel like my life is getting back into a manageable rhythm! Despite the fact that we have two Open Houses this week, and despite the fact that something really really major happened at one of my girls' schools that I'm itching to talk about, but in protecting their privacy, I just can't. Despite all that, I've got a better handle on my Reader, blogging fairly regularly, and still spending quality time with my girls, getting my work done, and all in all, moving along quite nicely.

So I'd accepted that this will not be the year I go to BlogHer, and then I get an email that they're adding a special event: The White House Special Project at BlogHer. OMG, how I would love to go to that!!

Still, I am very excited about one event I'll be attending. Thanks to LA Story, I won tickets for Sylvia and I to attend Girl World Tour! I think it's fair to say that my 12-year-old and I are certainly enjoying what could best be described as a hot and cold relationship right now. I know, not surprising to any mother that has raised a daughter, but I still hope for better. The best part is, we'll both get a book (one aimed at parents, and a young adult novel for the daughters) to help us take the experience home. I had just been thinking how Sylvia and I were in need of a Date Night, and this sounds perfect for us.

I wanted to bust up laughing when I overheard Riley telling her older sister, "what part of 'deal with it' do you not understand?" I held my breath, waiting for Sylvia to implode, but I guess Sylvia decided she'd deal with it!

Continuing the "funny things our kids say" theme, I had Red Carpet coverage on before the Oscars, and Sylvia had asked me if Johnny Depp would be there. I told her, probably not, he generally doesn't come when he's not nominated so she went into the kitchen to look for a snack. Usually, she'll then come out and ask for what snack she's decided she wants (they can go in the kitchen without permission, but they can't take anything without permission). So she comes out of the kitchen and asks, "Can I have Johnny Depp?" Freudian slip! She meant to say, "Can I have a bagel?" We both completely cracked up! (Oh, and, btw, sweetie, no. Johnny Depp is ALL MINE.) And we've decided that in our home, bagels are now Johnny Depps.

Ok, to try and find a way to talk about it without talking about it, I'm just going to say that another adult in Sylvia's life that she trusted and adored has disappointed her. Disappointed all of us, really. And I hate that both my girls have to constantly be reminded that even people that seem great and have some really great qualities can hurt people.

Speaking of disappointments, their father will be let out of jail later this month. We'll see how that goes.

I'm reading Eat Cake, and the lead character has a father that, while not a drug addict, was also absent for most of his daughter's life (she's now grown, raising a teenaged daughter, which is why I wanted to read it). Her father ends up back in her life, and to describe her relationship with him, she says, "he's not terrible, just terribly disappointing." That just hit me as such an apt description of the girls' own father. (Although Riley's in an "I hate him" phase about her dad, I know that just means she's angry with him right now.)

And so I don't end on a complete down note, before all the Leno/Conan drama, I saw Jay driving one of his classic cars and everyone was waving and he was being nice enough, but like the rest of us, just trying to get home. Yesterday, I saw him driving down that same street (around the same time), but this time, he was in a more regular car. It was still obviously him, but I was just amused that he really was trying to go unnoticed!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blog Challenge: Q&A

Thanks to Female2Female for this blog fodder. I'm to answer these questions and then pass them on to 4 bloggers.

1. If you could give the world one piece of advice, what would it be? It's all about balance, of course!
2. If you could have a room full of any one thing, what would it be? I'm going to assume that it can't be people, since it specifies "thing," so I'm going to go with books.
3. What do you value most in other people? Empathy.
4. If you could only see black and white except for one color, what color would it be? Blue, so I could still enjoy water and sky.
5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Ha - just one?!? More patience.
6. If you could choose one of your personality traits to pass on to your children, what would it be? I already see certain traits in both of them that they got from me, but if I could choose, I would choose my work ethic.
7. What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? Running for office.
8. Would you rather teach a young child to read or have to learn again for yourself? Teach a child.
9. What is the best advice you’ve ever given and received? As far as advice I've given, that's a hard one because what I might think is good advice might not be what the recipients felt! But I'll go out on a limb and say The Power of Negative Thinking. Received? Going back to something I said in Re-Examining an Old Label, during the worst of my angry, bitter days, a friend at work reminded me that it's okay to empty my bucket. She encouraged me to cry and feel so that I could go home to my girls without having all that tension inside me.
10. How would you like to die? As swiftly and painlessly as possible.

And now for the bloggers I'm tagging:

SingleMomMindy, because she recently tagged all her readers, so I'm considering this my tag-back.

Danielle at Mid Life Mommy

Cat at Young Old Crone

Florinda at The 3 R's Blog

Oh, and of course, if you weren't tagged, but still want to play along, please feel free!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Re-examining an old label

Annie (and I hope I got the right hyperlink - if not please leave your URL in the comments!) visited a very old post of mine, written in October 2007 entitled The Bitter Divorcee Explains it All for You, and asked me if the passage of time has changed the way I feel. I hadn't read this particular post in a long time, so it was quite the experience to go back and see who I was and how I felt back then.

It's been nearly two years since I've had my last therapy appointment, so I'm no longer ending up in therapy at least once a year. That's not to say that I won't end up back in therapy next month or next year. I have no shame in recognizing that every so often, I need help. Still, the anger and resentment does not boil up quite so often as it used to, and usually, a good ranting post or talk with a friend will help me get past it.

I still believe that the anger and resentment I felt back then was perfectly valid and reasonable, given the circumstances. There are truths in my life and in my daughters' lives that are simply not fair.

They deserve a better father that doesn't end up in jail on an (almost) annual basis. They deserve the financial support that the court ordered.

Since then, however, I've learned that these emotions have a beginning, a middle, and an end. When I am angry, I don't try to just "get over it." I know I will get over it, once I've had a chance to express it somehow. I don't deny myself the moments of despair, helplessness, or anger I feel. I don't allow myself to feel guilty for needing a moment to myself every now and then.

Of course, there are appropriate times and places for those feelings.

As far as my feelings on men go, I maintain that I just don't have the will to pursue anything. While it's not even worth venturing to guess how many "good" men are out there versus men like my X, I do believe that the odds are against me finding the right one anyway, and really, why bother? My life is very full as it is. I'm sure some will still think that I hate men or that I'm too scared to put myself out there, but whatever, really. I can't control what other people think of me. I can just say I've considered both of these things, and have decided that those are labels that just don't fit. Making the decision to not pursue a relationship and to live my life as happily single has been one of the most freeing decisions I've ever made for me.

My promotion also really helped me feel fulfilled at work. I love my job. It still surprises me to say that, but I do. I love the people I work with, I love the challenges, I love my routine, I love my office!! Given that I spend 40+ hours a week here, I think that enjoying it so much has lightened my spirit a lot.

I can also say, quite happily, that life is less exhausting than it used to be. I don't wake up anymore, thinking I just have to get through today. I wake up thinking, what am I going to do today? I still have many areas of my life that require my focus, but I'm learning to just take small steps and give myself a break. My priorities are clear to me, and while every day is still a challenge, nothing feels insurmountable anymore.

I used to worry a lot that writing something like the above sentence would somehow jinx me. It's not like bad things still can't happen at any time, and while I remain acutely aware of that, I've chosen to enjoy every good moment that comes along because I never know how long it will be until the next one. I can enjoy the now by being completely pessimistic about the future!

And that right there says it all. There are a lot of cliches that I don't buy for one minute. I don't believe in The Secret, I don't believe that everything happens for a reason, I don't believe that just because tomorrow is another day, it will be a better one. And back then, it did bother me that those platitudes left me empty. Now, I have accepted that for me, they could use some adjusting.

What I believe, what I know from my experience, is that I keep surviving. I was telling an old friend a few weeks ago, no matter how bad it is, I know whatever it is will be a past memory soon enough. Most of my friends are like me: we're survivors. We're scrappy because we have to be. We've been in some tough situations and then we go, hey, we got through it! We're never going to have anything handed to us on a silver platter, but we can have an amazing time just being together - be it at Denny's or over a nice bottle of wine. We'll spend money we don't have, but it'll be totally worth it to have that experience of that Broadway musical, that weekend getaway. We've had dreams crushed, and somehow still find new things to get excited about, and we still charge full speed ahead.

Don't get me wrong. I'll still bitch and rant when I feel the need. But I do believe that it's the bitching and ranting that make it possible for me to love my job, and enjoy every hug and kiss and cuddle with my kids, and cherish everything in my life that's worth cherishing.

So, to try and close this really long babble, I'm still a bitter divorcee, but my life is still full of love and happiness and passion.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm in two places at once

In addition to the LA Moms post about communication between parent and child, I'm also at Parentella, discussing parent-teacher conference communication.

When the time for talk is over

I'm a huge believer in communication. I want my girls to come to me. I will endure inane stories about middle school friendships that are on-again, off-again because I want my girls to talk to me. I believe that an open door of communication does wonders for any relationship.

Lately, however, I'm learning that sometimes it's okay to be all talked out.

When they were little(r), I thought it was good for them to know why Mommy said "no" to this or that, especially when it involved safety issues. There's always that chance that my head will be turned and they'll think it's a good time to try their fingers in the socket! So I didn't mind taking a little extra time to follow a "no" with a "because."

As they get older, the issues get a little more complicated than "Mother, may I?" From having "the talk" to discussing friendship issues, priorities, a bunch of things that they throw at me and I rely on some old improv skills to get me through.

I had to have a serious talk with both of my girls the other day about school. Coming off a parent-teacher conference, my nine-year-old and I talked over dinner, and I have to admit, it went really well. I was able to give her a lot of praise and encourage her rather than lecture. We hugged, it was all good.

Wouldn't you know, that very night, my 12-year-old was up until past midnight, working on a paper.

I was able to not say anything in that moment. She had to focus, and it was not the time to talk about managing time effectively.

The next day, I had a chance to talk with her one-on-one, and it started off well. She, of course, hated having to stay up that late doing an assignment, but I thought the problem went a little deeper than that. I had to put down the hammer. If she doesn't start taking her school work as seriously as she takes her other activities, then one or more of those activities will have to go. I told her she couldn't be in her school's talent show, and she accepted that. But when I started talking to her about ways she could improve her study skills and time management, she responded with whining and complaining.

And that's when I was done talking, and told her so. I reiterated the choices and consequences, and ended the conversation. And she pulled out her homework.

An open door of communication is great, and still my ultimate goal. But I'm learning that sometimes, it's okay to close it.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Mar. 8. 2010.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Because it's the weekend...

My brain can be expected to be fried, and I can just write about American Idol, right?

So here's my number one complaint. You know those really cheesy numbers that the contestants do at the beginning of a results episode? Why are they so cheesy? It was more understandable before Glee moved into the neighborhood, but now that we know that group numbers can actually be entertaining, can someone from Glee please take a side job at AI (or make a recommendation) to give these contestants something to do that doesn't make me want to go wash my dishes?

I'm enjoying Ellen as a judge. Yes, she's still finding her footing, but at least she hasn't overstepped her boundaries. She knows what she knows and what she doesn't, and I look forward to her learning more, but in the meantime, she's still funny and since I'm not home during the week, it's nice to see her in prime time again!

I know this will sound like just another bitchy blogger, and I'm sorry, but Paula, I just don't miss you at all.

So far, for me, the only standout performance has been Siobhan Magnus' rendition of "Think." At first, I thought, who does this little white girl think she is, taking on Aretha Franklin? And she's just really odd. But I think I may be a believer.

There's no one that has been voted off that I'll miss and there are a few that I'm still waiting anxiously for them to be gone already.

Did anyone else notice Todrick Hall completely freaking out after he was standing there with the guy that got voted off? Usually, the contestants just look relieved that they were the ones that got to stay, but he looked like he was totally shocked that he came that close to leaving. I don't hate him, but I don't see him winning this competition.

I like Crystal Bowersox, but not nearly as much as the judges do! They seem to pant and go in a frenzy whenever she performs. She reminds me of Brooke White from Season 7, another one of the judge's favorites that I thought got way more credit than she deserved.

I'm a little scared that these contestants aren't ever going to get it (besides the 3 that currently do). They are trying so very hard to be interesting, to do something, but as Kara pointed out in one performance this week, they aren't paying any attention whatsoever to the lyrics of the song. Some of the performances have been so self-indulgent, I almost think I'm watching something indecent, the way they're getting off on themselves up there! (Most notably: Jermaine Sellers, who has thankfully been voted off.)

Going back to the "why I love musicals" theme, I love music that says something. It doesn't even have to be something that life-changing, as long as it's honest.

So I'm paying the price right now by enduring some of these frankly awful performances, but I'm really really hoping that I'm rewarded by some amazing ones later this season.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reading Substance over Style

The Yahoo Mother Board has asked us to talk about encouraging our children to read.

The first thing I thought of was a Stop Homework post entitled I Hate Reading Logs.

I love to read. I mean, I love it. I even love to write papers on what I've read. I love to disappear into a book. I read voraciously as a child. When I was growing up, I didn't have a ton of homework, but I'd get it done quickly so that I could read.

Most school nights when I was growing up, I had rehearsal. On the way to those rehearsals, I would be reading. I even got a book light so that I could read on the way home, too. My favorite author growing up was the fabulous Judy Blume.

I have nothing against reading. I have a problem with the mandated 20-30 minute reading that my daughters have habitually been assigned since kindergarten.

My girls used to love to read. And sometimes, they still do. They will pick up a book that interests them. They will look for a book on a subject that interests them. After learning a movie they love is based upon a book, they will want to read the book.

Yet these same girls have fought me hard when it comes to their assigned reading.

Not assigned reading when it comes to reading their textbooks (although, sure, that too, sometimes), but the reading that's assigned strictly for the purpose of assigning reading.

Sometimes, the teachers assign certain types of reading: mystery or non-fiction, for example. My 9-year-old will agonize over which book to read rather than just picking up a book and reading. She will set a timer to read for only the allotted time. She will obsess over how many more pages, how many chapters, rather than just enjoy the book. Yet, when she reads a book because she wants to read that book, I have to tell her to put the book down to come eat/get out of the car.

I hate what assigned reading is doing to the love of reading. It's another example of how we take a child's innate desire to learn and stomp all over it.

I remember when the girls were little, and they would pretend to read "like Mommy." They worked so hard to learn their letters to be able to enter into the world of reading. Sylvia memorized the Dr. Seuss books I would read to her so that she could "read" it herself when she was little.

It hurts me when I hear them complain about having to read. It hurts me when I ask them about the book, and their response is, "I read 20 pages" or "I only have to read 2 more chapters." But how is the book?

I am encouraged by smaller victories. I always buy the girls new books at their school Book Fairs, and I was so glad when Sylvia loved her last book, and couldn't put it down.

I am encouraged that when the girls want to learn more about something, they use the internet as a resource.

I am encouraged when Riley comes home all excited that she won a book in a classroom contest.

I encourage them by stressing substance over style. I ask them to read me the letter or memo from school while I'm putting the dishes away or read me the directions when we're driving. I give them articles to read about their favorite celebrities. We play word games when we're waiting in line or stuck on the freeway (name everything you can think of that starts with the letter "a" and on through the alphabet). And I will say yes to (almost) any book they want to buy.

They say that my girls are at the age of "reading to learn" rather than "learning to read." But the true love of learning and reading comes from wanting to experience the world. As much as I may be frustrated by reading logs and the like, I still see the wonder and excitement in each new opportunity they have for such experiences.

Please visit the Yahoo MotherBoard for more posts on reading.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

13 is not the new 18

This isn't going to be a sappy post about my little girl growing up. This is an angry post. This is a post where I lament the loss of my child care tax credit.

Because my baby's turning 13 this year. And apparently, the government thinks that makes her old enough to take care of herself. I disagree.

Yes, I trust her. Yes, I think she would follow any rules I would give her. Yes, I think she's a remarkable girl.

But she's also young. She's still immature - meaning she has not reached an age of maturity yet. And there are a whole lot of people in the world that I simply do not trust.

Do I think she would start committing juvenile crime? No. Do I think she's responsible enough to look both ways before crossing the street? Yes, but I've also seen enough crazy drivers that I don't trust that they won't be speeding through a light or on their cell phone, or, worst of all, see her as an easy target.

She means too much to me. She is my flesh and blood. She is the love of my life.

I like the situation we have now. She takes a bus to her after-school program and calls me to let me know she's on the bus safely. When she gets to her after-school program, she does homework, takes her acting or dance class, spends time with her friends, and is surrounded, always, by people that care about her. This works for me.

It is worth the cost of the program; however, I do appreciate the tax credit that I receive at the end of the year. I've pretty much been putting the program on my credit card and then paying off as much of the balance as possible with that refund.

This year, I lose that credit.

While I may look at other options for the summer, I hesitate to pull her from the program where she knows everyone and everyone knows her. She knows what to expect, and I know what to expect. The staff are our friends now and have earned our loyalty. And quite frankly, I don't think any other options would be more affordable, except to have her stay home. Alone. For 9 hours a day.

And the really scary part? At least we have a program available. 15.3 million children don't even have that.

I asked the after-school program if there any lobbying efforts to change this, to make the credit available until a child reaches the actual age of adulthood. Nope.

Yet another example of how "family values" so rarely apply to my family.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Mar. 3, 2010.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up: Beautiful Blogger edition

I'm a little late with this, but I have a good excuse. I was out of town this weekend, and am just now finding my way back into our regular routine.

We went to Arizona for a family party: my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. We stayed with my wonderful friend, and had a marvelous time!

We drove, and I was thrilled because I got this gadget so I can listen to my iPod in the car. I so love the Shuffle feature; keeps me from getting bored! Because I won the new iPod last weekend, I gave Riley my old iPod so there were times when the girls were stuck in their headphones and other times where they took them off so they could sing along with me. The drive was a lot of fun.

But it was way more fun when we got there. I got to spend some great quality time with my friend, and the girls get along with her son beautifully so we all had some fun just hanging out at her fabulous new digs. Oh, and the wine bar we went to was also great. Not too pretentious, good wine, good food (my fave was the bruschetta with dates and chorizo), and great conversation.

Saturday, we went shopping with my sister, then had lunch with her, her husband and my parents. Then we got to spend more time with our friends before heading out to the party.

Things have changed so much from when I first came back to L.A., and only felt like I knew a few cousins. Now I really enjoy the company of so many cousins and other family members. And the girls are really close to my cousins' kids so they had a blast, too. We all had a good time.

And then we went back to my friend's and opened another bottle of wine :) (Not the kids, obviously.)

The drive home on Sunday felt longer (of course), and the girls were crankier, but they just wanted to get home already, too. When we finally got home, we all retreated to separate rooms to enjoy some alone time.

I took Monday off work to do laundry and everything else that didn't get done on the weekend, and have to say, I especially enjoyed the quiet!

But now we're back in full force. I have a PTA meeting Tuesday night, a parent-teacher conference Wednesday, Open House on Thursday...oh, and of course, there's my job!

I also was happy to come home and discover that Vivianne's Vista honored me with this lovely award:

She might not be so pleased to discover that I'm going to break the rules of the award, which are:

* Thank and link the person who gave you the award,

* Pass the award to 15 bloggers you recently discovered and think are fantastic,

* Contact the winners and let them know they've won,

* State 7 things about yourself.

Well, of course, I'll say thank you to Vivianne! She's one of my newer bloggy friends, and I'm so pleased I found her (don't remember how).

And being a blogger means I have no trouble stating 7 things about myself:

1. My friend observed this weekend that I'm very calm in a crisis, and wow, this wasn't me for so long that I'm really proud of this change.

2. She also noted that I'm a total sap. She caught me teary-eyed while we were watching Sixth Sense. So not a movie you'd think of as a reason to cry, but yep, I got a little verklempt! And I sobbed during the Gilmore Girls series finale. Twice.

3. I'm really really bummed that my local grocery store has stopped carrying my favorite chili dark chocolate bar.

4. I only like dark chocolate. Don't like milk chocolate and HATE white chocolate.

5. I get lost very easily. We have a lot of construction going on in town (I'm convinced that our fair city got the lion's share of stimulus funds for transportation because I cannot currently get anywhere without running into road work), I even got lost on my way to work last week. I gave some very strong hints to my parents and my sister that I do not have a GPS, and it's my bday next month!

6. Songs that still leave me with chills whenever I hear them: "Defying Gravity" from Wicked, almost anything from Next to Normal, "Get Out and Stay Out" from 9 to 5, "Epiphany" and "Finale" from Sweeney Todd.

7. I broke my vow to never watch American Idol again. Because, you know, I'm not all that good with vows anyway!

So, clearly, the rules I'm not going to follow are about passing it on. I have been such a bad, bad bloggy friend lately that I'd be hard-pressed to find 15 winners that would actually remember me! Let alone, 15 that haven't already won this.

So if you are a blogger and you are reading this, consider yourself awarded!