Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just another day

I saw this bumper sticker I liked: Losing my faith in humanity, one person at a time! That person right now is me.

Had kind of a breakdown. Just a moment with the girls where the moment itself isn't important, but it did me in. Opened my eyes to all my failures as a parent. I'm doing about a hundred things wrong a day.

It's not them, it's me. I know that. I know that I'm responsible for their actions, and I have screwed them up big time.

I know all parents make mistakes. I know we're all human. I'm making more mistakes than some, and less than others. And time will tell if they succeed in spite of my failures.

I'm seriously questioning my ability to do this on my own. Maybe I wouldn't have spent so many hours crying last night if someone else had been able to intervene; that it wasn't always me in that position of dealing with every single fucking something that comes up. Mind you, I had already dealt successfully with about 10 other things already, but the 11th? Couldn't fucking do it.

Yes, I know this makes me a lousy mom. Yes, I know grown women that aren't totally fucking insane aren't supposed to curl up in a fucking ball, crying, counting on their cat to calm them down. I am aware. Really and truly aware.

I am fully aware that I am not the biggest loser on Earth, that I have gotten myself and my daughters through a lot of shit. That no matter what, they have been fed and clothed and loved, and sometimes their hair's even brushed. I know that I managed to work full-time and put myself through college and I'm paying off the student loan every month to remind me. I know that I have made their lives better by doing it on my own, and I am able to feed and clothe and love them because I left X. I got myself back on my feet, with help from friends and family, did a good enough job to get promoted at work, and have had success with this blog and have lots of friends that love me. Yet, today, last night, I am also aware that I am a Lima Loser.

So why the hell am I sharing this? It's not that I'm proud of me for this, it's not that I think my loser status should be celebrated, nor am I fishing for compliments or consolation.

I'm saying it because I spend a lot of time here (and elsewhere) talking about parenting. This is a mommy blog. And today, this mommy is saying that this is fucking hard. Not every now and then. Not on a bad day. Yesterday, my work day rocked. I mean, it was awesome. One of my best days ever at work. But by 10:00, all that was forgotten and I was a crying fucking mess because a good day at work only gets you 'til 6:00. There are still enough hours left to break you. Break me, at least. And today, I am broken.

Well, I was. And then I got the call that Sylvia got in the show!! And just like that, I can't wait to see my girls tonight and celebrate.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up: Family Reunion

The fun has not stopped. If anything, summer is getting more intense. Last week, we had stuff on our agenda every weeknight but one, and a jam-packed weekend.

Monday night, Sylvia went to her very first community theatre audition. She had to sing, dance and act. She was nervous and excited all at once. My parents, thankfully, were available to watch Riley since I knew it would be a long night, and boring for those of us who weren't auditioning. I forgot my book, tore through 3 magazines, and bemoaned the poor service on my Bberry. And the lack of chairs with backs available. Sylvia felt like she did well, but at the same time, that she probably wasn't the best. Most importantly, as Riley had told her before we left, she had fun.

Tuesday night, I had my parents advisory meeting at the Club. As usual, we laughed a lot, had some fun, and also got some things accomplished. I'm so thrilled that the Program Director has lined up someone to talk to the girls about Mean Girls. We also have some fun events coming up for the families.

Wed. night, Sylvia got to go to the taping of "So You Think You Can Dance" and even got to be in the very first row! A friend who lives in another time zone alerted me that I'd be able to see her on TV, and sure enough, there she was!!

Thursday night was our only night at home, but it was still eventful because we found out that Sylvia got a call-back! Friday night, we had dinner with my uncle (on my dad's side) whom I haven't seen since I was in high school! Then, Sylvia and I left for her call-back. This time, I was totally prepared! I got out my chair that I'd used for Riley's soccer game to have a comfy seat, brought my book, my iPod, and had fresh Starbucks. I was SO ready for a long night. Of course, it only took about an hour or so.

When we got back to my parents' house, my mom had taken out the scrapbooks my grandmother had made, and my dad and his brother told the girls stories from their lives. The girls absolutely loved it, and were so happy to finally meet someone from my dad's side of the family.

Saturday, we were supposed to go to a friend's house to go swimming, but I started freaking out because I had no idea when I was going to get the laundry and grocery shopping done so we rescheduled, and I spent the day and night doing some much needed housework.

On Sunday, we drove down to my sister's and saw my cousins on my dad's side, and I can't even remember the last time I saw them. We're guessing it's been about 25 years. It was so great to spend time with everyone, and the kids all had a blast swimming together and doing twists & turns off the diving board. Everyone had a great time, and I'm so happy we were all able to get together like that. Especially, as someone mentioned, since it wasn't for a funeral.

So even though it was a crazy week, it was a really good week. This week should be slightly less crazy, and that's good, too!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Girl in Gratitude

After reading Girl in Translation for the SV Moms Book Club, I am haunted by these thoughts.

I don't understand the hatred and anger towards immigrants. I'm three generations removed from immigrant status, and as Americanized as you can get, and still, I can't find it in me to think less of any human for simply walking on American soil. My reaction is quite the opposite, actually. On the occasions that I have driven down the 5 freeway and seen the signs warning of families crossing, I am humbled by their efforts, their deep desire to be here. I don't know how I "earned" the right to be born here, and they did not.

I remember telling my parents when I was about 10 or so and just starting to grasp the concept of what the world can be like beyond America that I most likely would not have survived long had I lived anywhere else. I would think about girls growing up in countries where they aren't allowed to speak their opinions, aren't even allowed to be educated, and I believed even then that it would not have made a difference in how opinionated I am had I been born elsewhere; that it was more nature than nurture.

I am a Mexican-Irish American. The girls and I saw a PBS documentary on In The Heights, where one of the actors said she always felt like a fake Latina, and I totally got that. The girls agreed, we have all felt that way.

We have always been told that we don't look Hispanic. When I was growing up, it was said like a compliment. When my girls are told by their peers that they don't look it, it's said as an accusation; like they don't have a right to call themselves Hispanic because they are also Irish and Greek. And I remember what my mom asked me 15 years ago when I first told her I was seeing X: "does he know you're Mexican?" Like somehow, that would affect his interest in me. When she was growing up, it was very important to be as Americanized as possible.

When I was younger, my mom tried to teach me Spanish, but I didn't want to learn. I couldn't see how it was important. We lived in a "white" neighborhood at the time, and being Mexican felt like something I didn't want to be. I could hide behind my Irish traits.

We moved from that white neighborhood to East L.A. I think about 20% of the student body at my junior high was black, 75% were Hispanic, and I included myself in the 5% of white students. Sure, I could have been in the "majority" had I stuck with the Hispanics, but I was too white for them and I knew it.

I was just glad when I went on to the High School for the Arts, and ethnicity stopped being an issue. When it came time for college applications, though, I started to wonder just what bubble to fill in. Was I Hispanic? Was I White? Was I Other? I filled them in randomly, never choosing the same one twice in a row.

It didn't come up again until I had the girls, and their schools hosted Multi-Cultural Nights. At least now, there are a lot more kids that have more than one ethnic background. The girls celebrate all of their heritages.

That may have seemed like a bit of rambling away from the subject, but it all goes back to my original point: I had no control over where I came from, nor did my girls. While judgment is still going to happen, I wish it were more based on our character, on our contributions, on what we're doing with our lives today rather than where we happened to be born.

The heroine of the book and its author, Jean Kwok, humble me greatly. I am reminded that I am so lucky in so many aspects; that I get to raise my girls without interference, that I have a job that I love that challenges and nurtures me, that I can make enough money on my own to provide a few of the extras for my girls. And yes, that somehow, I was one of the lucky ones to be born free in America.

Girl in Translation is the June book for SV Moms Book Club. While I was given the book to read for free, I have not been compensated for this post.The link to the book is connected to my Amazon Associates account, and any purchase made from it will generate a small referral fee for me. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up: busy fun

I'm trying to pace myself here, but it's not easy! There are only so many weeks without homework in a year, and we are filling them up.

Monday night, we went to the XBox/Cirque du Soleil World Premiere of Kinect. I'm not a video game girl, we don't own any console, but this looks really cool! The dance game looked like so much fun, and Riley absolutely loved the sports games they displayed.

Thursday night, I spent a few hours away from the girls for a Happy Hour get-together with a variety of friends; all people I really like so it was fun, but also a little bit stressful because I wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time. There were a few people who didn't know everyone there, and that takes some maneuvering. We're already trying to plan another one, and I'm excited for it already.

Friday night, Riley and I went to a family event with the Club at the Griffith Observatory. I've lived in L.A. for most of my life, and I can barely believe it was my first time there! It's very cool and I'd definitely want to go back. It was nice just spending some time with Riley, too. Sylvia opted to go to Teen Night at the Club instead.

Sylvia has exhausted me this week. For the most part, we've been getting along really well since she's been out of school, but this week, her other personality came out again. We got through it all relatively unscathed, except there were some days I just felt like a walking zombie, so emotionally drained.

Sat. morning, we went to a screening of Toy Story 3. If you didn't see it this weekend, go soon! This movie is just as good as the first two; arguably, better even. I laughed a lot, but I think I cried even more. Like, OMG, get it together, April, you are losing it sobbing!! I'm sure my own experience, seeing this movie from a mother's point of view, seeing my oldest daughter change and grow up so much this year, had a lot to do with it for me. Still, great movie no matter how old you or your children are.

After I got some weekend chores done, I watched yet another movie: The Paper Chase. I'm not sure why I put it on my queue, but I'm glad I did. Excellent film, too.

We took my dad out to an Italian restaurant for lunch on Father's Day, and then went back to their house and watched another movie (3 movies in 2 days - and prior to that, I can't even remember the last time I watched I film!) Animals are Beautiful People. Really well-done documentary with tons of personality. We all had a really nice afternoon.

The next few weekends will continue to keep us busy. We've got family coming in from out of town (most of whom I haven't seen since before I was a mother) next weekend, and then, I'm so excited, I bought tickets to see In the Heights here in L.A. with the original composer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The girls and I are SO excited! Ok, I think I'm more excited than the girls, but they're looking forward to it, too. Then, we've got my department barbecue, Sylvia will have a couple of auditions coming up, and the trip to Yahoo! is also coming up.

Oh, and work has been crazy busy, too! So all this to say, I know I've been neglecting my duties as a reader and commenter in the blogging community, and I'm sorry. I'll continue to read when I can, comment when I can, and hope that you're all enjoying your summer as much as we are.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Celebrating the real fathers

A very good friend told me earlier this week that he didn't think he deserved a Father's Day this year; that he hasn't been a very good father. I couldn't disagree with him more. No, he isn't perfect, nor am I privy to all that goes on in his house, but he certainly talks enough about parenting, about trying to do better, that even on his worst day, he's still pretty damn good.

We celebrate Father's Day with my parents, and I couldn't thank my dad enough in my lifetime. While we've certainly had our ups and downs, I have always known that he is and always will be there for me. I know his love for me and my sister and our children is endless. I know that his family is the most important thing to him. He ingrained in me a work ethic, a strong sense of responsibility, and the ability to find sarcasm in almost any situation!

Last year, we had two fathers incredibly involved in our PTA. One father is the PTA and Booster Club Treasurer, the other co-chaired our Book Fairs and other events, and both of them volunteered their time regularly to the school. Our Treasurer in particular impresses me because he gives of his time not just at school, but he is also heavily involved in local politics. And not just fun politics; he is working to improve our drought situation!

Of course, I wish I could include the girls' own father in this list of fathers worth celebrating (and the fact that it's a short list doesn't mean I don't know more; I'm just keeping it short). And I can think of so many single mom friends who wish that, too.

There are also men in our lives who aren't fathers, or the father of our children, but who still act in our children's best interest. Our favorite Principal comes to mine. My best friend K. My girls' uncles. There are a lot of men in our lives that care deeply about my girls, want the best for them, and would do anything for them.

I thank them all and wish them a happy Father's Day, in the truer sense of the word.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This blog is 500 posts old!

I don't know what that number means, exactly, except it's a milestone of sorts.

Honestly, it's a little bittersweet. As you may have heard already, we received word this week that SV Moms Group, the umbrella organization that runs LA Moms, is putting up its last new posts on June 30.

My first LA Moms post went up October 28, 2008. Not even two full years, and yet, it dramatically changed my life. Instead of being just another mommy blogger, I was part of this dynamic community. I started meeting fellow local bloggers, and count them among my friends now. I look forward to events, not just for the event, but for the opportunity to spend time with some of my favorite ladies. Jessica Gottlieb, a former LA Mom blogger, hooked me up with Parentella, and I was part of another dynamic blogging community. And then, I was invited to be a Yahoo! Mother Board member, and am so excited for our summit next month and I love covering the monthly topics. I have LA Moms (and particularly Florinda, for first inviting me to apply) to thank for all of it.

As I try to celebrate this anniversary, I mourn the loss of an incredible community. I know the friendships will continue, and we are already trying to find a way to keep the LA Moms community together, but it won't be the same. It is indeed a milestone in this journey of the blogosphere.

Not to sound too maudlin, I am eternally grateful for everyone who has been a part of this journey with me. No matter how long it lasts, no matter how many milestones there are, the journey is most enriching because of you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up of Theatre Weekend

Long-time readers will know of my love of Broadway and musicals, so I was happy to dub this past weekend Theatre Weekend. On Saturday night, we went to see Rent at Hollywood High with sweatpantsmom and her two daughters. We all loved the show, and I have to say, it far exceeded my expectations for a high school production! I really appreciated that they kept the integrity of the show intact by keeping all of its original content and the performances were for the most part really really good.

Prior to the show, I splurged a little and took the girls to Lucy's, a great Mexican restaurant with the most delicious salad dressing ever! I was thrilled that they both found favorite foods there, too.

Sunday, it was the Tony Awards! While it wasn't my favorite Tony's ever, I still enjoyed the show. It was very cool to see Chad Kimball, starring in Memphis and Tony nominee, as I'd seen him previously (with Alice Ripley, last year's Best Actress Tony winner) at a small theatre in Hollywood where his pipes practically blew off the roof! Too bad his mic was having trouble last night because he's a phenomenal singer. I found American Idiot the most compelling new musical, but I still didn't run to iTunes at any point during the show to buy anything.

Earlier in the week, I'd gotten this favorite text ever from Sylvia:

Sylvia: "You were right as always."
I texted back, "I'm SO keeping this!"

I've registered her for jazz and ballet through our local parks and rec program for the summer. She's really excited and I think it's a perfect next step in prepping for high school.

After the incident last weekend, I wondered if Sylvia might benefit from going to Alanon/Alateen meetings. I asked her about it, but she declined for now. She knows the option remains open to her if she changes her mind.

I had my first conversation with X in nearly a year last week. I tried to catch him up on all that's happened in the last year, but really, how can one accomplish that effectively? If he does see them next month, he'll start to get an idea of all that he's missed, but he'll never be able to get back that time he's lost with them.

I had a flashback of my days living with him. It was crazy how quickly I could remember what it was like to be that person. It has felt so far away for so long and frankly, I didn't like the reminder of what my life used to be like. I know that 98% of the time I am past it, but there remains a part of me that will never forget. I don't know if that's good or bad, but I do have to accept that it just is.

I loved loved loved the season finale of Glee, but at least I can lay off the iTunes purchases for a while!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No license to surf

This month, Yahoo! Mother Board has asked us to talk about how we parent cyberspace.

This topic is timely for me, as I was just reading a post on SingleMommyhood where a single mom discovered that the laptop had history of visiting p0rn sites when in use by her 10-year-old son. Some of the comments floored me.

While a few recommended some cyber-safety tools, more parents than I would have expected felt that it was time the mom accepted that he is going to explore the web on his own. Part of me wonders just how many would have responded that way had it been a girl instead of a boy.

My oldest daughter is 12, and I still don't let her roam free in cyberspace! We have one desktop, and it remains in the living room where I can always see what she's doing. She has internet access at her after-school program, where she is also supervised by staff. Her cell phone's web access has been disabled. For now, that's enough pc time.

I have many reasons for this, but the absolute first is cyber-safety.

My daughter has already had to deal with in-real-life bullying and Mean Girls, she doesn't need to encounter it online, too! Nor does she need to befriend anyone she doesn't know personally on a social networking site. Her life is full enough without spending too much time online.

Now, I realize this might sound hypocritical. I'm on Twitter, FaceBook, I blog, I participate in a number of online activities (including Yahoo! Mother Board, of course). Still, I'm 37. I constantly think about the information that I put online, I take responsibility for it, and I have set up daily alerts to see just what is out there on me and my girls.

I know that the time is coming soon where Sylvia will have more opportunities to be online without my supervision, which is why I talk to her (and Riley) frequently about all that can happen on the internet. They have seen some stories on the news that we discuss, too. At some point, I will have to trust that they know what they need to know to make the right decisions when they're out there on their own. But we're just not there yet.

Even when Sylvia needs it for homework, I like to see what she is doing. I consider that part of my "parental involvement" role; to guide her in finding the credible sites to cite, how to narrow her search, and when she's writing, I'm always reminding her not to rely on spell check!

I think that their time is better spent doing other things. As it stands now, the girls always have to ask before they go on the computer, and I always ask why. If their only reason for wanting to go on the computer in the first place is to play games, then my answer is usually no. Frankly, because I am most likely going to go on in just a few minutes! Also, our pc's kind of old and too often, the games crash it. Not to mention, the dreaded sibling rivalry: if Sylvia goes on, then Riley wants to go on, and then we have to set the timer and make sure they've both had equal time to play, and oh, just forget it! Find something else to do!

I realize this may sound helicopter-ish to some, and even naive to a few, but this is what works for me and my girls. They're not adults yet, and just as I wouldn't give them the keys to my car at their ages, I won't give them unsupervised access to the world wide web.

For safety tips, check out Yahoo! Safely

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's Election Day (again) in CA

So it's not as sexy as a Presidential election, but I would argue that it's even more important. All politics is local, right? Well, here in CA, we're voting on local representatives, primary candidates for Governor and other statewide positions, as well as yet another round of initiatives.Think we have too many initiatives? All the more reason to go vote them down; otherwise, just the "Yes" crowd will come out.

Find your polling place, and be counted!

Monday, June 7, 2010

X Drama Part 324, Monday link

OK, I really don't know which Part this X drama really is, and all things considered, still tame, but just proof that when there are kids involved, X drama never fully disappears.

I found out last week that Yahoo! Mother Board is holding a summit for us in Northern California, and providing hotel & transportation (I'm SO excited!). Since it's pretty much where X family's lives, I contacted X's brother and sisters to see if the girls could see them while I was at the summit. I've told the girls that if X is still up there, not in jail, then they probably would see them, but that their aunts and uncle would be in charge of the girls. (Standard rules.)

Last night, X tells Sylvia to ask me that if he gives me money upfront, would I have dinner with him and the girls.

This pissed me off on several levels. First, DON'T go through Sylvia to ask ME questions. He has my phone number, he can call me directly. Second, it makes it sound like all I would care about is the money, which isn't the case. True, I said never again would I have dinner with him after the Mother'X day fiasco of a few years ago when I ended up paying for it, but all in all, I'm just not that interested in faking a family dinner with him.

The girls have their relationship with him, and their relationship with me. They know they're two separate things. It's been seven years. They don't need to adjust anymore. And if anything, this facade of a "real" family would just be a reminder of what they don't have.

Not to mention, I don't think I'll be available for dinner. Yahoo! already has dinners planned for us the two nights we're there, so even if I wanted to (which I don't), I probably couldn't do it.

He was on the phone with Riley when Sylvia informed me of this request. I told Riley I wanted to talk to him when she was done, and that upset Sylvia.

I told X not to send messages through Sylvia anymore. She's 12; she doesn't need that kind of responsibility. He said he understood, and he would call me. (Of course, he hasn't.)

Then, I had to deal with Sylvia. She said she wanted us to have dinner together so I could tell him how good she did at the Showcase. I told her I would be happy to tell him that anytime. Then she said she felt guilty because when he had been in jail, she'd written him a letter, pleading with him to never commit another crime again.

She said she'd only done it because everyone (meaning me, her therapist, and I think her friend) had told her it would help her feel better. I asked her if it had, and she nodded through tears. She said she was glad she'd done it, but he'd sounded sad when they had talked about it. I told her that's because he felt bad about letting her down. As he should.

I told her, "you know I'm always honest about your dad. I promise you, you can always tell him how you feel. He will never stop loving you. He may not know how to be a dad, but he does love you and he always will." She hugged me then.

So it ended up being okay and helped her get to a better place.

In other news, I've got another post up at Parentella, asking if school standardizes students.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

We survived 7th grade!

There were times I wasn't sure we would make it. There was Mean Girls drama, there was re-defining communication, daddy drama, academic struggles, and sometimes, the only thing getting me through was knowing that in 3 years, I'll have a vacation from parenting. Just days after completing 7th grade, my daughter has transformed completely. And I like it.

During the Mean Girls drama, I was talking to someone at their after-school program who not only has a Masters in Child Development, but is also the mother of two now grown daughters. She reassured me that this sort of thing is absolutely normal at this age, and also that 7th grade is the absolute worst.

I may eat my words once I have a true teenager on my hands, but it makes sense to me that 7th grade is even harder. They're not teenagers yet, but the adults in their lives (teachers and parents) have larger expectations of them. At the same time, there are still so many limitations that it's clear to them that they're not trusted just yet. Their peers expect more, too.

My 12-year-old told me of one boy who gave her a hard time for wearing the same jacket every day, and he was sick of looking at it. Who knew boys cared about girls' fashion? She was also expected to listen to certain kinds of music, watch certain TV shows, and even wear her hair according to her friends' requirements!

Sure, it's easy for a grown-up to say, "you shouldn't care what they think" or the old "if your friends jumped off a bridge..." I tried it a few times, but the pain on my daughter's face was real and I simply couldn't dismiss it. After all, don't we all just want to feel secure in our place in the world?

On top of all that, I was struggling to figure out how to have a simple conversation with this person before me that bore some resemblance to my little girl, but one that had lost all sense of respect for others (namely, me). If we got through one conversation in these past few months without her whining, it was only because I had said yes to what she wanted! Either that or I wasn't asking anything of her.

Every request of mine seemed to agonize her. It was no longer acceptable, apparently, for her to be expected to set the table for dinner, or really, be helpful in any way without making it absolutely clear that she was doing it against her will. And pretty much everything I said was either offensive, lame, or otherwise unforgivable.

Yes, it's been a tough year. And since the day she finished school, she's been a pleasure!

She does what I ask, she talks instead of whines, she even gets up in the morning without me having to tell her 20 times! She may be taller and older, but she feels like my little girl again.

Now I just have to figure out a way for my younger daughter to go from 6th to 8th grade and bypassing 7th altogether.

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

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ahh, better now!

We spent the holiday weekend at my sister's, and it was perfect! We even had fun in the Friday traffic, blasting Glee practically the whole way. The girls had a blast, and I had no obligations for two days. Awesome.

I always love hanging with my sister. And once again, we both said the exact same thing at the exact same time with the exact same inflection. It cracks us up. We talked about maybe going somewhere, doing something, but in the end, all we wanted to do was just hang by the pool, talk and relax.

We came home on Sunday so that I could have a day at home to do laundry, go shopping, blah blah blah. That was nice, too.

I still don't have the writing mojo back, though. My head is a little too clear right now to form anything coherent. It's a process. Pretty soon, I won't be able to shut up! Yes, that's a warning.