Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Do these jeans make me look momorexic?

Photo: StockXchng/katagaci
I heard a promo for some show with a story on "Momorexia." Are moms too skinny?

Give me a break!

How often are moms judged poorly for never losing their pregnancy weight? How much pressure is there these days to be a MILF?

I'm so done with it. Most of what makes me so content with my life right now is being free of anyone else's expectations.

I stopped wearing heels a few years ago. I'll still wear them when wearing a dress - which I avoid for the most part, but it happens.  98% of the time, I'm in my flats, and I'll let you in on a little secret:  no one cares!

I'm over this low-waisted look. From muffin-top to...shall I say over-sharing, there's just way too much cause for undue stress when the pants are too low. And, as a friend says, no one over the age of 12 should wear skinny jeans (I'd say, 18, but okay). Yet, whenever I go shopping, I'm hard-pressed to find any pants that are otherwise.

To be clear, I don't wear clothes (or shoes) that make me feel frumpy. It has to be something I actually like. And most of the time, I even pass the Sylvia test!

Moms are under enough stress. We're figuring out how to be two places at once, we're trying to be attentive to our children while giving them enough space to avoid "helicopter" accusations, we're constantly re-working our budgets to make room for our kids' wants and needs along with the food and housing, while still trying to maintain strong relationships with our families and friends. Like Jessica, all I really want in a pair of pants are decent pockets.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Accepting the Incomprehensible

Hearing people talk about Amy Winehouse is eerily similar to the conversations I've had about X. Granted, he's not dead yet, but every time he ends up in jail again, the questions come up: why hasn't he straightened up? When will he ever learn?

I'd lost all hope when I'd left him. That's why I left him. But every time something like this happens, the questions still arise.

My short answer is, I don't know. I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty sure his drug use is a form of self-medication. The most likely cause, I think, is bipolar disorder, but I'm not even sure if it's that simple - and yes, I see the oxymoron in calling bipolar disorder simple. But there are only so many labels.

When others, or even I, wonder why I stayed with him so long, it's because I did know certain things about addiction. I knew it wasn't something I could solve for him. I knew he had to be willing to do the work, and I just kept hoping that this time, it would work. From having children to getting arrested, for all the time I was with him, there was that hope that this time, things would be different. And I did love him enough to have belief in him far beyond any evidence that he deserved it. And even more, I believed in love; that it was capable of conquering all. So yeah, I stayed with him through a lot.

I did reach my breaking point, however. I loved the girls too much to continue to put them through that. And if there was any hope left, it was the hope that losing them just might do the trick.

And with the benefit of retrospect, I know now that all the visits, all the attempts to keep a bond between him and the girls was something I had to do. I wanted to believe that he would fight for them.

He does love them. He loves them the only way he knows how. He loves to hear them smile and make them laugh, and see the adoration in their eyes, but he doesn't know how to give of himself to them.

There are no easy answers. He grew up in a loving home, the rest of his family are healthy, loving people. He had opportunities, and he wrecked every single one of them. He couldn't handle any obstacle. While most of us pick ourselves up and keep going, he never could (or would) do that. He'd give up like I've never seen anyone give up - before or since.

It's still heartbreaking to see a human destroy themselves. Especially when you know there have always been people there to love him, help him, accept him. And it has taken years to truly accept that someone could give up so completely. But I do think that for him, what most of us would find unacceptable, it's not so bad.

I think it's a relief for him to be in jail, to not worry about where he's going to sleep or how he's going to eat. He has always easily made friends, and always does fine. This is enough for him.

I heard some people talking about waiting to get that phone call about Amy Winehouse. I'm never surprised by the phone calls I get that he's back in jail. I will never understand it fully, but I have accepted it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Easily We Become "that" Parent

Just like most parents, as much as I think and want and try to be a good parent, there are moments where I fail, which is horrendous. And there are moment when I'm sure I'm being perceived as a bad parent, which is almost as bad.

In one of our crazy days of picking up Riley and getting Sylvia where she needed to be, we had about 20 minutes to eat. Perceived bad parent example #1: we went to a fast food place. And, of course, ran into people we know. Well, hey, they can't accuse me of being a bad parent because they're eating there, too, right?

I avoided perceived bad parent example #2. I wanted to go to the Starbucks next door while the girls ate, but because of the other family there, I didn't. I know my girls can handle eating their burgers without supervision, but I decided it wasn't worth the potential eyebrow-raising. (And would you believe that the fast food restaurant didn't serve coffee? All family-friendly restaurants should serve coffee!)

Perceived bad parent example #3: I checked my Blackberry. I had left work early and wanted to make sure everything was fine at work. I answered one email, and then put it away. But I'm sure someone in that restaurant was thinking, oh, she's one of those moms.

I performed this same bad parent example when I took Riley to the eye doctor. It happened on a day where something absolutely had to be done, and I really shouldn't have left work that day, but at the same time, canceling dr's appts is costly, and Riley really needed new glasses so I put my child first and took her to her appointment. And I know the other mothers thought I was obnoxious when I was on my cell in the lobby, but then there's that other bad parent example; not being attentive enough to your job. More importantly, I do actually take pride in my work, and getting things done. And it had to get done. So yeah, in lieu of sitting with Riley while she was in her exam, I got it done. When she came out of the exam, the cell phone and Blackberry were put away and I was there with a pair of glasses I thought she'd like. (Which she did.)

When I see a child melting down in the grocery store, and a mother looking frazzled, I try to catch the mother's eye, and give her a compassionate smile. I get it, I've been there. It would have been nice if one of those other mothers in the eye doctor's lobby had done the same for me, but I can swallow the perception from them that I was/am a bad parent. I know that's just not true. I'm just a parent, doing the best that I can, getting us through the day, one meal at a time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend Reading

At Parentella, my post is A Western Parent on Praise.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

If you Nominate Me, I will Post

I'm very excited to be nominated as a Top 25 SoCal Mom blog on Circle of Moms. So I guess that means I should post something. (And, of course, I've put the button on my site so you can vote for me every day ;)

As evidenced by the sporadic posting here, our routines are still in transition, and my downtime has been more like turn-off-mind time. When I sit in front of my pc at home, I get obsessed with FreeCell. I've been playing the games in order off and on for years now. I'm up to #5731.

Outside of work and the normal brain activity required in everyday parenting, the rest of my thinking has been exhausted figuring out the transportation schedule.

Sylvia is trying out dance classes for her scholarship, and she's had to be there every night this week. Meanwhile, I've started the commuting with Riley already for her summer school session so I have to make sure I pick up Riley before her campus closes and have enough travel time to get Sylvia where she needs to go. I had to call in reinforcements (i.e., my parents) when I had a mandatory family meeting at Riley's school. And then, of course, fitting in 40 hours for work.

I've said that the early years of parenting are physically exhausting, and the later years are mentally exhausting. I think my car will be most exhausted of all of us!

But the overall theme of our summer thus far has been laughter. I love that the girls are older and can appreciate my humor a little more now, but even more than that, I've been better able to be just plain silly a lot more.

I've found not quite a Zen place when the girls show pubescent attitude, but an ability to shrug it off, to not take it so personally. I think I can actually relate to them more, as I remember those years more clearly and can empathize with what they're going through. And I believe in myself a lot more as a mom, too.

I'm no longer stressed that every moment of pain they have can be attributed to the divorce and daddy issues. I come from a happy two-parent home, and I remember feeling just as insecure, or annoyed, or obsessed with something.

That's not to say that they can get away with anything. But I've let go of the concept that this one instance will define how they will deal with everything all the time for the rest of their lives. I've seen them grow, I've seen them mature. I know I may have to say it about 1,000 more times before it finally comes through, and most likely it won't be my words that makes it through, but hey, I'm a mom. I can't help myself. 

And every so often, I hear them repeat something I've said. Little nuggets that give me hope that they might actually be listening, after all! Sometimes, I can see I need to go back and re-word it because the way they're using it, well, as Inigo Montoya said, "I do not think that word means what you think it means." But sometimes, they get it right on the money. Those little rewards are like a massage or a day at the spa for me. They relax me like nothing else can. They give me permission to be a little silly myself. And play a little FreeCell.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend Reading

At MomsLA, my post is on the so-called summer slide.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mandy at Since My Divorce asked us about our children's adjustment to divorce. How did they feel then? How do they feel now? Ironically enough, we just had the chance to find out.

We got word that X is back in jail. We don't know yet for how long, but the reaction this time was different for all of us. It was a 5-minute conversation, and easily followed by focusing on the events going on.

The first two, 4, 5 times the girls were told X was in jail, it was unbelievably difficult for all of us. They'd cry, I'd cry, and we'd all be a mess for a while. We'd go back to therapy, get ourselves normalized again, and then hold our breath when X would get out, wondering what would happen now.

Riley asked why they even needed to know. Just so they'd know that they wouldn't be hearing from him, wouldn't be able to return texts or calls. As it is, they don't text or call often. Sylvia said the last time she texted was Father's Day. Even then, she wasn't surprised that he didn't reply.

I'm sure they're sad about it, but they clearly don't want to dwell on it. And they do have so much going on right now that is good in their lives.

Riley loves her new school, Sylvia loves her animation class and is starting her dance classes. Nothing has changed about what's good in their lives. They stopped waiting for their dad to show up a long time ago.

Oh, sure, if they thought there was a possibility they would see him, they would love that. They have accepted him for who he is, and love him because he's their father. But there is no expectation that he'll be there for them. And that has made all the difference.

My colleague commented on how much has changed since the first time I heard he was in jail.  Not so much for X, but for us. I'm proud that these last 8 years have brought about so much growth in all of us, and thankful for all the support we've had along the way; from friends, family, therapists, and of course, you thoughtful, compassionate readers.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Household Expectations and Opportunities

*Storitz, the leader in Los Angeles Self Storage, asked MomsLA bloggers, "how do you get your kids to help around the house?" Here's my answer.

Since I made that video, my answer has changed a little. As some may recall, I've implemented a new system where the girls can earn money by doing certain chores around the house. There's a cap on how much they can earn each week, and they have to start with the smaller paying jobs, and can work their way up.

The response has been mixed. There have been a couple of weeks where Sylvia has made the maximum, and at least a week where she earned nothing. Riley has steadily earned some money every week, but not the max.

I like this system because it requires no nagging on my part. Everything on the list are things that are normally my responsibility, so I'm happy to pay for the help. While they have whined a little here and there about not getting paid to take out the trash or do the other things they're expected to do, they've accepted the system.

There was one week when Riley was being particularly stubborn and whiny because she argued that she'd done something that she thought was worth more than I did. They're supposed to talk to me first and make sure we're in agreement about how much they'll earn for a specific task, and she had to learn that one the hard way. I gave her a warning, but she continued to act up so I cut her off from any more earning opportunities that week.

They've both spent some of the money they earned. For the last two weeks, in lieu of cash, Sylvia had compiled a shopping cart online so when she had earned enough (including shipping and tax), I placed the order for her. Riley bought her own backpack for school. They've also bought themselves snacks and treats, but they check with me first for permission.

Overall, we're all very happy with this new Opportunity system.

*This post is sponsored by Storitz, the leader in Los Angeles storage. I was paid for this post, but all opinions and content are entirely my own.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Weekend Reading

It's a holiday, I can still post this as weekend reading, right? 

For the Yahoo! Mother Board, I wrote about how Broadway musicals help us thrive in SoCal traffic.

At Parentella, my post is on what my children are doing In Lieu of Homework.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Sad Goodbye

Riley's having her last day at the Club today. She starts her middle school summer session for new students next week, so it's time to say goodbye. And she's sad about it. And that's okay.

I know, as a mother, I'm never supposed to want my children to be sad. And it's not that I want her to be sad, but I accept that it's a natural emotion to feel when saying goodbye to a place and people that have been a part of her life for three years! The Club has been so great for both of them. If she wasn't feeling sentimental, that would be more wrong, I think.

I know it's hard to start over. I did it a lot myself growing up. But I also know I wouldn't trade any of those experiences.

I remember one time in particular writing in my diary that I hated my parents for making us move again. Of course, I didn't really hate them, but in a diary, we should be allowed to be overly dramatic. (Even without a diary, I tended towards dramatic!)

We went shopping for her new school supplies and she was excited to pick out what she wanted, and I know she'll be nervous and scared about starting a new school, but that won't stop her from doing something that she knows is right for her. And she was thrilled to tear up and recycle the paper from the neighborhood school, knowing that she was going to this school instead.

Change is hard. Saying goodbye is hard. And it should be. So if my Riley's a little sad today, I'm not going to try to take that away from her. I'll snuggle with her tonight, and let her pick something to do to ease the pain. I'm sure she'll miss the Club and will speak of it fondly for years to come. We'll stop by the Club when we can to say hello. It'll always hold a special place in our hearts. But the sadness, like every emotion, will soon be replaced with another emotion, and another and another. And she'll be okay.