Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Parent-teacher communication should mean more than teachers lecturing to parents

April 16, 2010 marked the 14th Annual Day of Silence for students to demonstrate how discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender youths forces them into silence. From the beginning, participation from all students, regardless of sexual orientation, has been encouraged.

I had spoken to Sylvia weeks before the day about whether or not she wanted to participate. She was afraid of getting into trouble, which I could respect, but the day before the event, she received a notification at school that all students were welcome to participate by either wearing red, or remaining silent. Unfortunately, that night, I got an email from one teacher that openly expressed her disappointment of the school's involvement in this "political" event and letting us parents know how it will negatively impact her ability to run her class if students participated.

If you read my posts back in November 2008, you know that this is an issue where I simply cannot stay silent.

I replied to the teacher, expressing my concern that she was losing sight of the message of the day; that it's possible, if not probable, that she had students that were struggling with this issue, and that silence can too often lead to suicide, bullying, or other harmful effects. I never received a response.

This same teacher is now asking for parent participation. I'm less inclined to help her now. I'm less inclined to take time out of my evening to attend her meeting. I'm now just enduring the month that Sylvia has left with her as a teacher, and will hope that Sylvia doesn't have her as a teacher next year.

The more I thought about it, the more upset I got, and it stopped being about the issue of the Day of Silence, but about the fact that I was ignored. Dismissed by her own silence.

We hear so much about parents needing to respect the teachers, help the teachers, and while I agree with that concept, what I can say is that I help more, I respect the teachers more if I feel like there's reciprocity. Is a reply really too much to expect? It's like she's missed the point of email. She uses it to save on paper, but doesn't think of it yet as a form of actual communication.

Yes, parents and teachers need to come together. I don't think it's too much to ask for the teachers to meet us halfway. Or at least, reply to our emails!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another late wrap-up

We had a milestone weekend: Sylvia participated in her first professional dance audition. She was really excited to do it, but found the experience somewhat humbling. Outside of her comfort zone, she saw some of the best kid dancers in L.A. She held her own when it came to the combination, but needs work on her free-style. I'm really proud of her for how well she did, and I think it was an excellent learning experience for her. (We don't actually know if she got in or not, but we're pretty sure she didn't get it this time.) We're starting to think about the next auditions, which is an art in itself, as well as what training she could use.

I was telling some friends, part of me feels badly that I didn't get her started more seriously earlier, as she's now competing against kids who have been doing this for 9-10 years now. At the same time, I don't think she was ready for it back then. We can't spend too much time saying "coulda, woulda, shoulda," but just take it from here.

Riley watched "the video" last week, the first of many reminders that my little girl is growing up. We had our own talk about what the future holds for a girl. She said she's very happy that she has a mommy that will talk to her about this stuff. I can't imagine doing otherwise!

All else remains the same. I'm still obsessed with Glee, still learning new things at work on a daily basis, and have pretty much figured out my summer budget (YAY!).

Friday, April 23, 2010

An open letter to the married folk

This has become a theme of late: not just from me, but from other single people in my life. It's not directed at any one person and it's not meant to offend. Still, I thought maybe we could just talk about this for a few minutes.

Why do couples always have to sit together? If you're at a party or event where you're going to spend time with other people, why is it necessary that you two sit next to each other? I've been relegated to the children's table sometimes because I'm the odd person out. So just because I'm not coupled, I don't get to talk to the grown-ups? Because, frankly, if I'm just going to spend time with my kids, I could've stayed home!

Appreciate your spouse. Sure, anyone you live with is going to get on your nerves from time to time, I get that, but I know some people who complain about their husband (yes, it's usually the wives) so often that I just want to scream at them: "He's a good guy! WTF is your problem?!?" And frankly, it says more about you if you treat your spouse so disrespectfully. A good rule of thumb might be for every complaint you voice, state at least 2 things you like about your spouse. And if you can't? Well, maybe there's an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

Please, please, please don't reassure me that I'll meet "the one." It's just flat-out patronizing.

I can't believe this is still an issue in 2010, but it seems that some women still dismiss their single friends for their significant others at every turn. We know and can appreciate that you want to spend time with your man, and sure, you have your family events and your special anniversaries and all that. We get it, and we're happy for you. You think we've turned "bitter" when we stop being there for you as much as we were, but really, you've conveniently forgotten all the times you've flaked on us. You've canceled plans, you've stopped returning phone calls, and you always want to bring your SO. Sometimes, we just want to spend time with you. Eventually, we just stop trying because you've made it clear we simply don't matter anymore. We wish you well, but we've moved on.

Finally, when we admit to moments of loneliness, it's not an invitation to set us up (unless we specifically say so), it's just something we feel from time to time. Don't assume it means we're crying ourselves to sleep every night, just like we don't assume you want to leave your relationship because of one fight. Be the friend you've always been. Offer your ear, your shoulder, and mean it when you say, "we should have drinks sometime." We'd love to!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Parentella Posts

There's a study that brought teachers, parents and students together to talk about high school drop-outs. I've written two posts on it: one about the finding that school is boring, and one about broadening parent-teacher (and student) communication.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seven years later...

So much is better than it was. So much progress has been made over the last 7 years that it feels like I've been hit in the stomach when I'm reminded of the loss of no longer being the matriarch of a nuclear family.

When I was growing up, my parents had friends that had started off as neighbors, but even after both our families moved, we got together on a regular basis. The kids hung out together while the parents played. It's too late for my kids ever to have friends like that; friends that they'll have from before kindergarten to the time they graduate. Still, they have cousins. That'll have to do.

When my friends share stories about their significant others, I can't share mine. Even the good ones. It just makes everyone uncomfortable. So it's better to minimize the discomfort and keep it to myself.

Even if I met someone tomorrow (and no, I don't want to, but for argument's sake), they will already have missed too much to be able to fully appreciate all that my girls have been and how that shapes them into who they are today. Their own father has missed too much that, even if he gets out 100% rehabilitated and is there for them every minute from now on (which I know won't be the case, but again, for argument's sake), he still couldn't ever make up for these last 7, incredibly formative years. I'm the only one who knows.

Most days, this is something that I can completely accept, and even embrace. Still, every now and then, in a vulnerable moment here and there, it hurts. Most days, I can feel strong and unaffected. Every now and then, I have to close the door and cry.

This post is not meant to generate sympathy or pity. It is simply a reminder that we can be okay for a really long time, and then sometimes, we just aren't. It's not anyone's fault, it's just the circumstances, it's just life. I don't doubt that this moment shall pass. And I know that there were still be other moments to come. It doesn't make me weak, it doesn't make me wrong. It's just something that still is, even 7 years later.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wrap-up of the Tuesday variety

The girls and I enjoyed a nice, quiet weekend at home. Actually, the whole week was enjoyable as Riley had standardized testing all week, which means no homework. Yay! She helped me with dinner almost every night and loved it. Sylvia was happy because I finally let her get her own email address. She said before I did that I would know the password, and be able to keep track of who is emailing her, so that works for me! This week, both the girls have state testing all week so it should mean for another good week at home every night.

X got sentenced, and he'll be in for the duration of the school year. That will ensure their stability so I'm glad.

The good news that I was hoping for regarding Sylvia did not happen, but that's okay. She's excited because she gets to go see Chicago with her fellow dancers from the Club. I'm pretty proud of how well she handled everything.

I got new glasses that I'm supposed to wear both while in front of the computer and driving at night. I've been wearing glasses to drive at night for a while, but whenever I try to wear them in front of the PC, everything looks slanted. It hurts my eyes to try and get used to it!

This song never fails to make me smile:

Of course, I'm obsessed with Glee and thrilled that it's back!!

Obviously, nothing exciting going on. Which, given the possible alternatives, is good news, I think.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eating Green and Healthy

Eating green has been on my mind lately. At the LA Moms event earlier this year, I talked to a Whole Foods representative that invited me to a tour of the store. I confess, I'd never been in one before. My time and resources are both limited, so I kept my shopping to my neighborhood store.

Just a week before my Whole Foods tour, I found out that my usual grocery store had discontinued two different items that we would miss. One was my dark chocolate/chili bar; the other was Hansen's soda. I found it ridiculous that my grocery store wouldn't keep one of the few sodas that doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup on the shelves, so I was glad for the opportunity to try something new.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not the most eco-friendly mom out there. My kids haven't grown up vegan and they've eaten processed foods. While they are healthy and fit, they know enough about junk food to know what they like.

Not only does Whole Foods carry my missed items, but they are indeed a one-stop shop for foods and products that are not only free of artificial ingredients, free of processing, but they are also fair trade-conscious, and are helping to promote small farmers, both locally and internationally.

Sylvia was thrilled they actually carried a jam with rhubarb (my aunt made some, and she loved it), and Riley was perfectly content with their substitute for Oreos. Now, I'm not naive enough to think that just because the cookies are from Whole Foods that they're actually good for Riley, but they're still better than the alternative in moderate doses.

The 365 Everyday Value products are on par with other store brand products on pricing. Still, the specialty products are what gives the store the reputation for being expensive.

Surprisingly, however, my grocery bills from Whole Foods ended up a lot cheaper than my last shopping trip at Ralph's. Ralph's seduced me with their club card savings; I may have "saved" a lot, but I did more impulse shopping. The prices at Whole Foods were high enough that I knew to keep some items out of my cart.

I was also really excited to learn that in their produce department, I could ask for "cut to size." We won't go through a whole head of cabbage fast enough, so it's nice to know I can only pay for what we will. I also liked the 0.5 refund on my receipt for every reusable bag I brought in. (Their 365 brand of wine was good, too!)

In the past month, I also tried the Fresh and Easy that recently opened in our neighborhood. I noticed a lot of name brands that Whole Foods would never allow on their shelves, and I wonder how many consumers think these brands are healthier than they are because they're in such a store, but I might shop there for those last-minute items.

I really didn't think I'd end up saying this, but for our family, it's actually more economical - as well as eco-friendly and health-concious - for us to make Whole Foods our regular grocery store. Just don't go there on a Sat. afternoon. CRAZY crowded!

This post was inspired by the SV Moms book club pick, National Geographic's Green Guide for Families (click on the image to buy), which was given to me to read. Whole Foods provided a tour, and some samples of products to try. Purchasing links included in this post generate referrals through my Amazon Affiliates account.

Friday, April 16, 2010

National Health Care Decisions Day

Today is National Health Care Decisions Day. If you are single, this is something we absolutely need to make sure we document. If you are married, use this opportunity to talk to your spouse about your wishes. Please see the initiative's website for resources and information.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's all good

X isn't out of jail yet, and I don't know when he will be, but my perspective on all of it has completely changed.

In case it wasn't abundantly clear from my previous posts, I was quite anxious about what it would be like, having X in the same city as us, and free. Since I haven't had any contact with him in the last 6 months, I had no idea where his mind was, what he could possibly be thinking.

I finally asked one of his family members if they knew his plans after release. They told me of their own frustration that every time they've tried to speak to X about it, X can't give a clear answer. In typical X fashion, he's full of big ideas for the future, but can't answer what happens when he steps out on the sidewalk. He can't answer where he will stay, how he will get from point A to point B.

Circumstances vary, but he stays the same. And, having gone through this time and again, I know I don't have to worry about a thing.

He may say when he gets out that he wants to see the girls, that he wants to be a real dad, but I know that when I respond that he has to earn that right, that he has to prove it, he will come up empty. All I have to do is guide my girls through this journey. I may not know the specifics of it, but I know the sentiments. And I know the end game. I will continue to manage their expectations, and keep their weekly therapy appointment, and ensure that they are aware that I am always here for them.

He just can't get to me anymore. I hear some of the "big ideas" he has for the future, and I just laugh! He simply does not live in the real world, and it's no wonder that some of these ideas are nowhere near grounded in reality. They're big, lofty ideals, but with no plan of grounded, concrete action.

Sure, I take time out to escape reality; to imagine a Sideways world, to disappear into a good musical, but I don't live there. I live in the real world. If there's something I want or need, I know I have to figure out what steps to take to get there.

For instance, I was guide-surfing the other night (because who channel surfs anymore?), and turned to the Suze Orman show. I am now motivated to pay down my credit card debt once and for all. I am starting with the small steps. First, I have to figure out how to pay for their summer child care. In two weeks, I've saved $60 to put towards it. That pays for one week for one child, but it's a start. It's the first step in my goal to not live off of the credit card over the summer months. While it's not actually paying off the debt I have, the first step is to not add more debt, right? It's grounded. It's reality. It's a lofty goal but one that can't be met without taking that first step.

X doesn't know how to do that. As he's approaching fifty, I don't think he ever will.

So no, I am no longer fretting about what to do when he calls and says he wants to see the girls. I will tell him calmly, "figure it out. Come up with a plan, and I'll let you know if it works or not." If he figures it out, great. If not, it's a mere few minutes out of my life to have that conversation.

And if you're not sick of me yet, stop by the LA Moms blog, where I choose between a week in Paris or a week alone. Go ahead and guess which I'd rather have!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I love you, now leave me alone

These past few years blogging, I have written hundreds of posts about my kids. Bragging about them, obsessing about one problem or another, trying to do better for them. Before I blogged (and now), I've had thousands of conversations about parenting them; about what parental involvement should mean, about problems in public education, about getting them to eat healthy, about what stores carry tween sizes...For the past 12 1/2 years, they have been at the forefront of everything I do. And the thought of a whole week without them sounds better to me than a vacation in Paris.

My mother told my oldest daughter a few years ago that she wanted to take her to Paris when she turns 16. My younger daughter will also go because my parents can't really afford two trips to Paris in 3 years.

I've actually never been to Paris. I hear nothing but great things about it. It's not that I don't want to ever go to Paris. Still, the thought of having my parents take the girls to Paris, knowing my girls will be loved and well cared for, I want to just take the week off and relax.

The trip is still a few years off, but I can't stop thinking about the possibility. 6 days without listening to the girls bicker? 6 days of not having to wake them up? I could totally handle that. I love my children with all my heart, but they exhaust me.

I think it's good for me to take a step back every now and again. I'm a full-time single parent. The time I'm not at work, making dinner or dealing with homework, I'm answering a gazillion questions, listening to their stories and dreams, dealing with their roller-coaster emotions, making decision after decision, dealing with the enormity of the task of raising these children to become educated, well-rounded, emotionally healthy, compassionate adults.

While I do get out every now and then to meet up with friends or see a play, what I really love is when my girls spend the night at my parents' house and I can just be home alone. Sometimes, even my cat feels like too much trouble. I just want to be totally and completely alone.

I say this now, but I usually need my girls back after 4 days. My payback for writing this will be missing them terribly on Day 5 and just wanting to see them and hug them again. This I know. But in that time away, I will be able to look at them with a fresh perspective after a few good nights' sleep. I will be able to appreciate their wonderful qualities, think about new ways to approach problems. And within 48 hours of their return, they will bicker about something completely trivial, and I will wonder why I missed them. But then they'll go to sleep, and I'll remember why I love them so.

If this makes me sound crazy, so be it. Maybe a week alone will be just what I need to regain some sanity.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Apr. 14, 2010.

Earth Day 2010

I started doing Earth Day posts two years ago so I'm going to reiterate some points I've made before. (Oh, and I'm posting this well before Earth Day on behalf of Yahoo! Mother Board.)

First off, let me just say that my 9-yr-old Riley is the fiercest advocate in our family when it comes to being green. I think that might come from the play she did in 2nd grade that was in honor of Earth Day. (Yet another example of how the arts can enrich our children. 'Nuff said.) I'm much encouraged by this future generation's second nature when it comes to protecting Mother Nature.

Wherever we are, they ask if there's a recycling bin for their papers or plastic bottles. Riley makes sure the lights are off before we leave the house. Clothes that they've outgrown go in bags to give to Goodwill. (Actually, it can be annoying sometimes: they don't seem to think anything's trash!) They even put their unfinished drinks into the fridge to be enjoyed later.

Two years ago, we made the switch to cloth napkins and compact fluorescent bulbs. In my trunk, I always carry the reusable shopping bags I've accumulated for my grocery shopping. Last year, I switched from Instead to a DivaCup. Even with my prior experience with alternative methods, it still took a little while to adjust to the DivaCup and being confident that it's inserted correctly. When it is, it works amazingly well! There is no leakage, I can't feel it at all, and it's saved me about $40/year, compared to Instead. Still, this method can take a little while to get used to. I'd recommend starting with the Instead product if you're on the fence about it. At $10.50 a box, you can try it out before you invest in the DivaCup.

(*This seems like a good time for a disclosure. No one has compensated me or even approached me about talking about these products. This is all stuff I want to say for no other reason than, well, to say it.)

Ironically enough, while I was writing this, I received an email about a campaign known as Pennies for the Planet. The general idea is to get kids to collect their pennies and change and, once their jar is full, convert it into a National Audobon Society contribution. In addition, the site has lots of project ideas for families on greener living.

My goal for this year involves the girls' school lunches. I bought them Laptop Lunchboxes at the beginning of the school year, and my heart almost stopped when I found out that Riley had lost hers. At $50, that's not something I can easily replace. I did replace it eventually with another reusable lunchbox that I won't name because poor Riley has a heck of a time opening and closing it. (Sometimes, I do, too.) So I'm still on the look-out for a lunchbox/bag that is not only green-friendly, but wallet-friendly.

I am by no means the greenest mom ever. I confess, I leave the computer on most of the time. At the same time, some things we do in honor of our planet, I don't even think about. I had to remind myself to write about using reusable shopping bags because it's such a given for us. It took a while to get there. I'd forget to put the bags back in my trunk, or leave them in the car once I got to the store, but now, it's as natural as locking the doors.

This is why it's important to me to remember Earth Day every year. I reflect on how we're doing, and what we still need to do. I wouldn't recommend trying to do every single tip every single day from the start. Start with one idea that seems easiest for you and your family. Once that becomes habitual, move on to another small change. We can all do better, but we don't need to beat ourselves up about it. We do what we can do. And then we do a little more.

Visit Yahoo!Green for much more info. Visit Yahoo!Mother Board for more Earth Day posts.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An anti-climactic update

I've been waiting for news. News that has yet to arrive. News of X's court date, possibly really good news for Sylvia, but there is no news yet to report. I'm not good at waiting, but I have no choice in the matter.

I had a really nice birthday weekend. Riley made my coffee, and I asked her who taught her that. She answered, "no one, I've seen you do it every DAY." Oh. Right. Sylvia made me breakfast, but what really really made my day was that Sylvia did the laundry! The chore that I hate most in the world!! She's done a load here and there, but this was her first time doing the weekly laundry. It was awesome!

On Sunday, my sister and her family came up to meet us at my favorite Mexican restaurant; the very same one we've been frequenting since we moved to L.A. when I was 12. I make us go every year :)

What was particularly heartwarming was watching our kids together. My nephews are 21 and 17, hard to call them kids anymore, but they are to us. And they suffer from that syndrome that one sees in a lot of young men; they don't talk much, they'd rather be listening to their music and/or playing with some device. But they sat with the girls, smiling and talking away, completely animated. It was clear that they all love spending time together. It was just beautiful.

We went back to my parents' house for cake and presents. My strong hint paid off: I got a GPS!! I'm so friggin' excited about this. Hey, what's not to love about a product that tells you where the nearest Starbucks is?

While I continue to wait, please come visit me at Parentella, where I am once again advocating for the arts.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Former Project Runway contestant's tales of motherhood

Laura Bennett was the only contestant that's been pregnant on Project Runway. Already a mother of 5, she made it to Bryant Park and came in second. I loved her clothes, but didn't think I could ever have related to her.

Still, I jumped at the opportunity to review her new book Didn't I Feed You Yesterday?, and found that we actually have a lot in common.

Bennett's first child is a product of a previous marriage, and she was a single mom for three years. Then she met Peter, and along came five boys. And a stint on one of the best reality shows on television.

Bennett's writing style is just as sophisticated as her clothes, but as a mother, she's way more casual.

She doesn't sweat the small stuff. She accepts that it takes a village, and pays tribute to every member. She has clearly considered all of the alternative ways of parenting, and even if her decisions might be controversial at times, it is clear she has made her own informed choice.

Her book is full of humor, most particularly at herself. She makes no apologies, but can admit her mistakes or shortcomings.

Her book is best enjoyed with a glass of wine, curled up in your favorite reading space while your kids sleep. Warning: you may lose track of time and go to bed too late. Each chapter is its own story, but I kept turning the pages anyway, thinking, "just one more."

The ending was a little abrupt, but the acknowledgments make up for it and give a sense of closure.

I asked her for any advice she might have for single parents: "When I was a single mother and dating in New York, I never felt that I was damaged goods. I never felt that having a child was a liability, or made me any less desirable that any of the other women out there. In fact, I think it is what made my relationship with my current husband so successful."

I think that must be Bennett's strongest asset; her self-confidence allows her to overcome any challenge that comes her way.

You can read an excerpt of the book on The Daily Beast. And then buy it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


According to Riley, I'm officially pre-old now.

Well, with age comes lots and lots of memories. Here are 37 of my favorites. They're in no particular order, and I'm afraid I had to go through old posts to remember some of them (because I'm pre-old) so you'll see a lot of linking here.

1 & 2. the first time I looked at my girls out of the womb. There they were: these perfect little beings for me to screw up.

3. Our trip to NY this past Xmas. All of it. Every moment. Even the ones of me walking up and down 30 flights of stairs to get laundry done. I consider it the price for such a great trip.

4. Getting my promotion. It was an awesome day. Everyone was so happy for me, and they all said I deserved it, which made it all the sweeter. On top of that, Nancy and I had a date that night to see A Chorus Line, one of my favorite shows!

5. Graduating from college. My girls were there, my family was there, and before the big day, my department had thrown a party in honor of my graduation. And after the big day, the family held a party. It was so amazing to know so many people wanted to celebrate that day with me.

6. Watching Sylvia play Cha-Cha in Grease. Oh, how I wish I'd had my Flip then. She was so amazing.

7. All of the events with the LA Moms. I love these women. They're amazing, they're smart and funny, and I'm always honored to be in their company. I especially loved the Tupperware party in Malibu.

8. I once got to sing the National Anthem at a celebrity basketball game. That was fun.

9. My 19th birthday in Bermuda. I was working on the cruise ship at the time, and that was our port for the day. Pink sand, blue water, music, friends and alcohol. Perfection.

10. Sylvia's first birthday party. She walked on her birthday for the first time! Very exciting.

11. Riley's second Christmas. We'd been living in Pittsburgh and came home to L.A. for the holiday. It was a lovely 80 degrees (snowing in PA) and the kids played basketball outside, and we saw my sister's house for the first time, and met her dogs. I loved being home. (I probably shouldn't have left. Bygones.)

12. Our trip to Walt Disney World. We spent 3 days there alone, and then my parents joined us for the last 3. It was nice to have that time just with the girls, and then nice to have my parents' help! It was the first time the girls went on Thunder Mountain, and soon turned them into enthusiasts. Now, they'll go on Screamin' at DCA, but I won't!

13. Our trip to San Francisco & Santa Cruz. The girls went to their first gay pride parade, we spent hours watching the seals, and had a blast at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. We also really enjoyed the road trip, blasting away our Broadway musicals :)

14. I went to a special anniversary concert of Company, where the original cast performed. Before the show, I met Patti LuPone and Rosie O'Donnell. After the show, I found my way to the green room party, and shook hands with Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim. I actually blurted out to Sondheim, with my knees shaking, "I just love you!"

15. I've seen Les Miz 7 (or is it 8?) times, but my favorite is seeing it on Broadway with the original cast. My mom was amazing; talking her way into getting us tickets. And in the 2nd row!

16. A few years later, we were waiting in line to get into a preview of Into the Woods in L.A., and people were leaving because they couldn't get seats. My mom was with me and asked if we should just go. I said no, I'm waiting for my turn. I got up to the box office and said, "two tickets, I don't care where they are, I just have to see this show." He took pity on me, and found two. I kissed them before I even saw where they were: 5th row center!

17. Last year's talent show where both the girls performed. They were so so good, and clearly having so much fun. I was also so pleased how many fans they had in the audience. All in all, there were 6 of us there to cheer our girls on. We're so lucky to have so many who care about us.

18. Meeting Kristin Chenoweth.

19. That's my girl, front and center:

20. This one's a crowd favorite:

21. Seeing Johnny Depp live and in person! Didn't get to talk to him, had to walk by him nonchalantly, and then I screamed and jumped up and down like a little girl!

21. My road trip with Nancy to see Avenue Q in Vegas. We got to see the original Broadway cast, and we had a blast.

22. Riley's first day of kindergarten. I truly did not expect to get emotional. I knew she was ready, and when I saw her sit on the carpet and raise her hand, I left knowing that she was going to be fine. And barely made it to the car before I started bawling!

23. The girls' first time on Space Mountain. Sylvia was more nervous than Riley. Riley had her hands up in the air, and a big smile on her face.

24. The girls' first trip to Disneyland. It was Riley's third birthday. We walked in the park, and there were Mickey and Minnie, waiting for her. My parents were there, my sister and her whole family were there...again, so lovely to have so many people that want to share these special days with them.

25. Sylvia's graduation from kindergarten. I couldn't take pictures, I couldn't see through my tears. We still have her cap and gown.

26. Watching Riley get four shots in her arms, and just sit there, completely fascinated by the needles. I don't know how I managed to give birth to a child that doesn't freak out at needles.

27. My booze cruise weekend with two friends last year. OMG, we had so much fun!

28. Spending time with Nat at her great place in AZ. That whole weekend was wonderful. Great road trip, fun times with her, and fun times with the family.

29. The day we moved to L.A. We'd been living in Santa Cruz, and moved out here so I could go to LACHSA. Dad found the pizza place within walking distance and we ate on the carpet, and slept on the mattresses my dad managed to pull out before passing out.

30. Doing West Hollywood Story. It was a parody of West Side Story. I played Tiff, the girlfriend of the head of the "straight" gang and sang, "You Look Shitty." That show was so much fun, and even better, it raised money for AIDS.

31. Seeing Falsettos with most of the original cast.

32. When I was working on the cruise ship, we spent a day in Cabo San Lucas at a resort. We swam, drank from the in-pool bar, laughed, danced.

33. Picking up a guy driving down the 5. It didn't amount to anything, but it was still pretty fun.

34. The 6 weeks I spent in Miami rehearsing for the cruise ship gig.

35. Performing at an awards event at the Pantages.

36. Having dinner with Ed Asner, and getting my first grandpa bear hug from him.

37. Every hug, kiss, and snuggle from my girls; every time we've held hands, laughed together, every "thank you," every moment where I can see their own pride in their accomplishment, every time we say I love you, every time we work through a problem together, every time they teach me something new, every time they've learned something new, every first day of school, every time they've called me with exciting news, every text they've sent that says "I <3 you," every time they've opened up their hearts to me, every day we've spent together. And every day we have in the future.

Happy birthday to me indeed. The girls have the entire day planned and I can't wait to spend it with them.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Sideways world of our own

There is a post on singlemommyhood, about a mother of two leaving her addict husband (um...yeah, I can relate) and the question is that the father has offered to terminate his parental rights if she won't go after him for child support.

A few months after we moved to Los Angeles, and X had been calling the girls regularly for a while, he stopped calling. I found out he was in jail, and then that he'd moved to Colorado, but he continued not to call. In more than a moment of rage (because I took the time to consult others, and then overnight the letter to him), I offered X the chance to be absolved of all parental rights and responsbilities to the girls, including child support, in exchange for never bothering us again.

Because we're Lost fans, I'm calling this my Sideways post; an indulgence of "what if." What if he had agreed?

First of all, our second of many moves to come would not have been necessary since the only reason we moved was because he not only knew where we lived, but his fellow addicts knew where we lived, and one of them had called our home with a veiled threat against the girls. Home was no longer a safe haven anymore. The girls would've stayed in their fairly good elementary school for at least a few more years, and had a more stable home-life.

While Sylvia would surely have missed her dad, and would still be hopeful for a reunion, the longer life without Dad would've continued, the more that fantasy would have some semblance of childhood innocence to it; like wishing she could fly. I could have told her openly and honestly that X had realized that he could not live up to the responsibilities of fatherhood, and believed that she was better off without him. Riley, all of 3 at the time, would only know her father from some pictures and stories from her sister and me of his better qualities: he could juggle, he was funny. She never would've had to be told on her birthday that Daddy was in jail. Again.

While they might remember some of the time we all spent under the same roof, there would be no new memories: no memories of a bad Mother's Day, no visits canceled at the last minute, no more broken promises.

It goes without saying that there would have been no money lost, since he never has paid child support, other than a few hundred here or there. I'm sure I would've gotten by without that spare change since I've never counted on it anyway. But maybe I would also stop torturing myself every summer, thinking how ironic it is that almost exactly the extra money I spend on child care during the summer is how much I should be getting from X. I would not torture myself with the irony of the fact that MY tax dollars is what is giving him food and shelter every time he's in jail. That MY tax dollars paid for the transportation that puts him mere minutes away from us now. And hey, if he had never come back to California, then it wouldn't even be MY tax dollars!

Of course, in Sideways world, one cannot know all of the unintended effects of such different decisions. It is entirely possible that cutting off all ties to his children might have been just what he needed to get his life together. And if that were a consequence, he might have been able to someday meet the requirements of visitation, and actually be a stable figure in their lives. He would have had to fight for the right, but really, what would have been so wrong with that? He absolutely should have to earn that right.

But of course, this is not our reality. And while I can maintain control over physical visitation, he still might call Sylvia. He doesn't see how selfish and short-sighted that is. Sure, it might make her happy in the immediate, but if he disappears again, it'll devastate her. Again. He doesn't understand at all the effect he has on her. Or maybe he does, and just soaks it all in to make him feel better about himself that he can make her happy. Until he disappears, and she's left to worry about him. He puts her in the position of having to be the adult in their relationship; where she has to manage her expectations. Even worse, as the most important male in her life, he's teaching her to take what she can get from the man she loves. That's what I hate most about this. She needs to know she deserves so much better. Had he forfeited the right to call himself her father, he just might have given her that.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's been a few hours...

since I've posted a link. My latest Parentella post is up: my musings on what a difference a great teacher makes.

Drama, drama, drama

I'm reading Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman, and while I'm only halfway through, it has already provided much blog fodder! I'm reading the book to help my daughters with their schoolgirl dramas, but I'm learning some surprising lessons on how my own girlhood behavior had a long-lasting effect on me.

We want to believe that these moments of "she's my best friend" and "I hate her" are just a normal part of social development, and that this too shall pass. While I agree that the former is true, I'm dubious of the latter.

My days of rebellion in junior high came from knowing that I simply wouldn't fit in with the crowd, so what better way to deal with it than to go all the way with being different; black trenchcoats, crazy belts - goth-lite, if you will. I'm forced to look back now and face that the rebel wasn't really me, either. It was someone else's standard on how to be different.

In high school, I had the rare opportunity to be different in conformity with my fellow classmates. We went to a high school for the arts, and while we relished the fact that the most popular was the most talented (instead of the football hero or cheerleader), we still conformed to what we thought being an artist meant.

Most importantly, everything was dramatic. And if life itself wasn't dramatic enough, well, then, we'll just create our own drama!

I think by the end of it, we'd all had our turns in the spotlight, both in good ways and bad. No one was really the Queen Bee, we just passed the torch around. We'd treat each other horribly at times, and then all would be forgiven with a passionate apology.

While there's really no one to blame, I now see that it took another 10 years before I could actually appreciate simplicity, normalcy, being "average." I made some huge mistakes, and some things just happened, but now I dread drama. And my girls are at ages where their friendships are going on their own roller-coasters.

I already learned a few years ago that giving advice during these times will just be met with eye rolls and exasperation, so I switched to active (and sometimes faked active) listening. I figured that girls will be girls, and they'll get through it, just as I did.

Now, I'm beginning to see that I have to pay more attention to what these friendship dramas are all about. I have to pay attention to patterns that my girls may be creating for themselves. I know I can't stop the drama completely, but I hope that I can figure out how to guide them through it to become women that are truly socially developed.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Apr. 5, 2010.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

I have about 4 different posts running through my head, but this week has been way too crazy busy to even log on. I'm afraid I'm woefully behind on catching up on my Reader, but I'm hoping to change that this week.

We had an amazing weekend last weekend at the Esmeralda Renaissance. I took Monday off from work to do my weekend errands, but then the X news kind of put a damper on that, and I spent the rest of the week at work catching up on missing those 8 hours.

On top of that, the girls went crazy when we returned. They were fighting non-stop, testing me constantly, and I almost wished I could be fired as a parent. I know they are struggling with the news about their dad even more than I am, which just makes me dread his inevitable release that much more.

Still, being busy at work was probably the best medicine. This I can do. I know what I have to do, and the only struggle getting it done was having to count on anyone else. Is it any wonder I'm a control freak?

I stayed late on Friday to rescue my desk from the mountain of paperwork. It was such a great feeling to leave work, knowing I accomplished what I needed to and having space cleared for whatever may come on Monday.

The girls and I went to DreamDinners on Saturday. Riley can do more on her own now, and was so excited. She kept saying, "I'm cooking, I'm cooking!" Sylvia is completely independent when we're there, and is planning my brunch and dinner for my birthday next weekend. It was a family moment we really needed.

For the past 18 hours or so, I've been enjoying a nice break. My dad called earlier this week to say he missed the girls and could they spend the night with them Saturday night. I tried not to sound too excited :) I spent a few hours at my parents' house while the girls colored Easter eggs, and then the girls were pushing me out to be with their grandparents without me and I went to the grocery store, and now have my last load of laundry in the dryer. I watched Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and was outraged. While this scandal is pretty ancient, I wonder how much of that same frame of mind is responsible for the economic troubles of the past couple of years. Especially with the mentions of the likes of Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan.

Otherwise, I've just been reveling in the time by myself. As a single parent, I never cease to be amazed how often I absolutely crave being alone!

We have a family get-together later. Hope everyone is having a Happy Easter!