Supermoms Anonymous

Can I really have it all and why would I want to?

My dog ate my homework…

Well, not homework per se, but at least the last 9 months of my blog posts!

Okay, I admit, the dog only eats paper (and cardboard,  upholstery foam,  & innocent tomato plants – but that is beside the point) so it is unlikely that she ate 9 months of my would-have-been amazing additions to the blogosphere.   But some days, she makes me mad enough to blame her for all this blogging silence.

Life has been more than the average crazy level. Time to kick “busy” crazy out the door and just have “fun” crazy instead. Home school is on pause for the summer… at least my kids think so. As any teacher can tell you, learning never really needs to stop; we just put away the textbooks for the summer.

In the meantime, we still attend co-op classes, try new gymnastic programs, and visit with friends. What, don’t you learn when you hang out with your friends?  A good friend will tell you that your new awesome outfit is not wonderfully eccentric but more of a Clash of the Titans meets the Titanic mash up. See what I mean? Learning all the the time…

Don’t forget that summer is an amazing time to get those P.E. credits finished: swimming at Key Biscayne, walking down Duval Street in Key West, weight lifting on the Fourth of July (try lugging 50 pounds of beach gear, food, drinks, and a camera),  bicycling around the neighborhood (to find the aforementioned dog who has gone missing after you refused to walk her),  and conditioning (try not to pass out from heat exhaustion on the hottest day of the year which just happens to be the same day as the OUTDOOR Renaissance Festival).

On top of all that, I get plenty of exercise in trying to juggle the calendar. My daughter has stopped denying her closet extrovert and is indulging in a veritable  marathon of social activities this summer.  Between the cheap seat movies, photography class, teen crafts at the library, gymnastics, 2 youth groups, and just hanging out with her new friends – did I mention that she suddenly developed a fondness for the mall, shopping and TCBY? – my calendar is filled with red marker notes, telling me where my minivan will be parked each day.

Since I am going to be in such great physical shape by the end of summer, maybe it’s time to plan for a little R&R this fall.

red calendar

Photo credit Amanda Rose at http://www.flickr.com/photos/amanda_r0se/7750299026/

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A time for everything…

The clock and I are mortal enemies.  My archenemy, the alarm clock, has many tricks up its sleeve.  Not ringing loudly enough, have a far-too accessible snooze button, blinking “12:00″ like a madman every time the power stays off longer than the battery can stand the suspense. That darn clock tries to trip me up every morning.

There is a clock in just about every room of the house. The kitchen has FIVE clocks (counting appliance clocks).  None of them have the same time on them.  No matter how I try to synchronize the clocks in my home, they never agree.  And, I don’t mean they are a minute or so off – more like five or ten minutes.  My clocks are like a bunch of in-laws at a family reunion.  Not only do they never agree with each other, but I don’t even get a say. (After all, I’m not real family – just married into the mess.)

I have given up setting the time on most of the appliances and other electronics in the house.  I live by my wristwatch (which of course I set five or more minutes fast just in case).  Even the kids have given up hope in the clocks around here. They just come looking for me and ask conspiratorially “Mom, what time is it REALLY?” I glance at my watch, subtract five or so minutes and declare that it is maybe, almost, around quarter till four.

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Parenting Problem #2: Babies never stay babies.

They grow, and grow and grow…sort of like that irresistible puppy in the window that soon becomes the Great Dane that has staked claim to the couch, the chips AND the tv remote.

So anyway, back to that kid. Just when you get a handle on one problem, the kid outgrows that phase and is well on his way to the next crisis.  It is sort of like a duel where the bad guy sees you counter his cunning attack.  Then, he says “Oh yeah… see how you like this one!”

(P.S. I know babies aren’t that devious but wait a few years and this simile no longer seems like a Hollywood script but more like a daily ritual. Parent vs. child. Any last minute bets, people?!)

If you master getting the baby to sleep through the night, then maybe the next phase is something like starting solids or teething or crawling or who knows what.  But it is always SOMETHING…We act as if we can just get through whatever the current “thing” is then, we’ll sleep or then we’ll be happy or then we’ll consider ourselves good parents.

Parenting is a constant challenge.  But the “something” we think we are just muddling our way through isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It is just one more step in the path we walk with our loved ones.  Granted, sometimes that stepping stone is buried in manure and we’d rather skip it – but you can’t.  (Just remember to wear sensible shoes for the journey.)

I used to think if I could just SURVIVE having three kids under the age of 5, then things would calm down. Well, yeah,sure…maybe. But the day we got rid of the last highchair, exerciser, playpen, baby gate, and all the rest (don’t forget the baby swing), I cried like… well… like a baby!

Now I face dilemmas far tougher than what diaper to pick so my baby won’t have a rash. And with each choice I make, I continue to wonder how much fodder I am providing for their future therapists when my kids become adults!  It is very “pc” to blame parents for ruining your life but then I became a parent – not once, but three times over (grounds for insanity plea on really BAD days!).

I originally wrote the post above when my kids were just hitting middle school age. Now that my oldest is going on 15, starting his sophomore year in high school and about to get his driving permit, the post seems more apropos than ever.  I have convinced myself that I was an excellent mama of my babies, a great mommy of my grade schoolers, and a fair to middlin’ mom of my middle schoolers. But in this phase of our lives…I just suck.

Everyday, torn between what is the right decision.  How much rope to give them before they hang themselves with their mistakes?  Or better yet, how high to let them fly and still learn to land safely.? Lots of poems and songs talk about learning to fly, to soar in life and love, but we ALREADY have wings. We can all fly in life: take chances, make decisions, try new things, but can we land? Can we survive the crash landings in life caused by our own mistakes, other people’s mistakes, failing economies, natural disasters, illness (shall I continue or is it just depressing?).

I keep reminding myself that in a few short years, they will be out of the safety of my nest. If they fall now, we can still catch them and teach them to land better next time.  However, if I make all the decisions and all the rules, demand compliance, fix problems, absolve mistakes and disregard consequences, how will they ever earn their landings. Worse yet, if they don’t learn to land without crashing, how can they ever fly again?

I have heard many good metaphors for failure and success.  For example, when my daughter was learning to skate, the employee that gave her the rental skates said the secret to being a good skater was to get back up one more time than you fall down.

Or, once a customer of mine tried to reassure me while I was still a new cashier. I had made a mistake on the register and I was embarrassed but I fixed the problem. He told me not to worry, that making mistakes was a sure sign that I was working.  I replied, “Well in that case, I must work a lot!”

My final thought on mistakes and bad landings: Take a word of advice from Launchpad McQuack (the pilot from the cartoon Duck Tales, duh!). Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.

So here’s to mistakes and flying even higher the next time!

p.s. Credit for the puppies photo goes to http://puppiespics.net.   Aren’t they adorable!?

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I Love Lucy episode #349: A day at the pool

If you are not familiar with my phrase-ologies, an I Love Lucy day is a day so ridiculous it feels like you’re trapped in an I Love Lucy rerun (my favorite being the candy factory episode, my least favorite is the wallpaper hanging episode).

It starts as a beautiful day with an innocent question: can we go swimming? Translation…Mom, where’s my stuff? Are the towels clean yet? (Check the linen closet) Have you seen my goggles? (In the trunk of the van where you FORGOT them after the last swim day) Do you know where my swim trunks are? (In the closet…with the rest of your clean clothes) This one was a little harder. I had to go look for them personally. It seems that when I tell my nine-year-old to put away his clean clothes, swim trunks belong on the closet floor, wadded up and left in a pile next to the dirty clothes bin. No wonder I was stumped.

What time are we leaving? Translation…everyone is outside wondering when I am going to unlock the van. Meanwhile, I have to let the dogs out, close the frosting can, put away the cupcakes left on the counter, let the dogs back in, lock the back door, turn off the lights, grab my stuff and lock the front door behind me. Something about an hour in bleach water makes kids lose their minds, but I have to drag them into the tub.

The only things we still need are sun block and cash for the pool admission. Next stop is the dollar store. Of course, I traverse the whole store TWICE before realizing there is a small HBA section next to the checkout. I finally find the sun block on an end cap facing a back wall. I am so proud of my discovery that I want to plant a flag and claim the display in the names of weary moms and sun-burned kids everywhere.

I spend the next fifteen minutes reading labels. My kids detest sun block. One quick spritz or squirt of liquid sun armor and they are fussing it burns. Given the choice of sun block or no swimming, they have actually gone home in dry bathing suits. Finally, after much deliberation, I put back the baby sun block because what self-respecting 10 and 3/4 year old is going to wear something that has a pink label with the caricature of little miss droopy drawers on the front?  I grab kids’ sun block.  It promises no sting and it is chock full of vitamins. Good because we ran out of gummy vitamins over the weekend. Plus it says it is rub-resistant and water-resistant. Maybe not so great.  If it does burn, my only choice will be a fire extinguisher.

At the checkout, I am rudely reminded by the uncooperative debit card machine that I cannot get cash back at this store. What else can I call it but rude when it doesn’t even ask me if I want cash back? Thankfully, I rummage up enough cash in my wallet to pay for pool admission. Back in the car, my daughter is putting on sun block while my son rolls down his window and holds his nose. The girls and I debate which fruit concoction the lotion most resembles.

After much adieu, we get to the park only to see a huge banner posted on the fence: “Pool Closed.” (It definitely should have been printed in all-caps since I am screaming not only all-caps but a few symbols inside my head.) I had a van full of kids, not all of them are even mine. They are even wearing sun block!

Turns out the power had gone out during the last thunderstorm, shutting down the filter as well as monkeying up the water-chemicals mojo.  My oldest does not like to swim at the indoor pool, so we leave to take him home.  Less than ten minutes later, we arrive back at the pool.  Walking into the gym, I get a sinking feeling. Lots of other people are also asking about the outdoor pool and leaving. UGH! I had forgotten the two pools have different schedules. It would be two more hours until we could swim.

The kids are reluctant to go home yet again, so we head off to the playground for a surprisingly uneventful ninety minutes of peace for me. Eventually, I round up the kids – not as easy as it sounds. First, my youngest son came to the car for a snack. I asked him to go get the girls. The girls came back to the van but they had no idea where my son was. The girls went to look for him. He comes back and says he has been in the bathroom. Finally, I tell him to stay in the van and I eventually find the girls myself.

We are in the pool at last. After two hours of swimming, even my son is tired and hungry. Just when I am about to tell the kids to get out of the water, the rain starts pouring. Half the people are out of the pool and outside playing in the rain.  I decide to read rather than wade to the van.  When the rain begins to subside, I round up the kids to leave just as the lightning starts and the lifeguard closes the pool.

The End…and that is all the ‘splaining I am going to do today, Ricky Ricardo 🙂

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Back to School

Here in Alabama, the neighborhood kids are getting ready to go back to school already. Monday, AUGUST 9th is the first day in fact. My kids are looking at me like I have lost my mind. The oldest asks, “What happened to Labor Day? Did I miss it?”

We sort of saunter into the school year. In June, we hit the local thrift stores to pick up practically new items at thrift stores, such as backpacks and lunch boxes that mom and dad had to replace most of the way through the school year.

In July, we cruise the Wal-mart school supply aisles, stocking up enough glue, pencils and paper to get us through the year (or sponsor a third-world school if we ever invent the truly paperless workplace).  In late August or early September, we go to “NOT Back To School” pool parties and picnics. Finally, by mid-September our home school co-op classes have started and we are already looking at ways to slow down the hectic go-go-go pace of activities, meetings and field trips.

At least, I like to pretend to be so casual about all this back-to-school funny business.  While the surface of the pond is calm and smooth, millions of things are happening below.  Plants are attempting to grow faster than they are eaten, micro organisms are planning their next conquest of the earth and aquatic animals are doing what they do best: eat, sleep and make babies.

So while my family is sorta, maybe, kinda toying with the idea of getting back into the routine of math books and home school co-ops, I am swimming around trying to get all my ducks in a row.  Scoping out interesting books, locating local groups for our interests, and – EEK – getting my paperwork done.  This year the stress of the official paperwork looms over my head slightly heavier than usual.  New state, new laws and regulations to learn, new cover school to choose.

Cover school…brings a new level of red tape to home schooling.  I will comply because I have not the time nor the quixotic strength to fight every instance of ignorance and inefficiency I confront in life.

Cover school: def – a middle man between the state and the homeschooling parent to act as buffer in case of public uproar, possible blame and idiocy.

The basic premise is that the homeschooling parent (yep, that’s me ) will enroll the students (my kids) in a cover school. The cover school acts as a church school (even though the kids will be with me, not in the church school). I report their attendance to the school (three or more forms per school year). The school reports to the state. The school also reports truancy or withdrawal from the school if the parent does not file said forms.

The minimum state legal requirement is the attendance report.  Attendance is compulsory, education is not (a.k.a. you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, at least not without risk of a horseshoe upside the head). The fact that someone has finally acknowledged this is a major triumph in the grand institution of education.

p.s. The word of the day is “red tape” (technically 2 words I know, but you get the point). In the 18th century, British government documents were bound in red ribbon (also called tapes) and we all know how much paperwork any government office produces. So I can only imagine how much red tape a single office worker had to deal with on a daily basis.  Maybe I should tie little red bows around my attendance reports. (Grosgrain or curly ribbon?)

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Multiple Choice Parenting

Ever wonder what parenting and the SAT have in common??  You can plan ahead, sign up way in advance (up to 9 months) . You pay your fees. You buy a book about what to expect on the big day.

A few more similarities…

1. Loss of sleep worrying about how you will measure up.

2. Lots of studying in advance.

3. Headaches! Probably due to reason #1 and #2!

4. Test-taking strategies: Don’t spend too much time on one question or you may run out of time to finish. Translation in parentese: PICK YOUR BATTLES!

5. Constantly compared to everyone else in the group. What score did you make? When did your baby take his first step? Did you understand that essay about deforestation? Can your kid read yet?

Upsides to the SAT or ACT exams

1. You know in advance what to expect. It really is pretty much like they tell you in the test prep books.  Bring your sharpened #2 pencils and be on time.

2. You get a final score and it is done. Finito. The end. Unless… see #3

3. You can get a do-over.  Just take the darned thing again. This time, don’t take it the morning after prom!

Upside to parenting

1. After childbirth, they send you home with all sorts of useless brochures, samples, and a cute baby picture (and don’t forget the grand prize: BABY). All I got at the SAT exam was writer’s cramp.

2. Usually, you get to drop a few pounds from pushing out a 7 pound baby.  College on the other hand is nearly guaranteed to send you home at Christmas 10 pounds heavier.

3. Last but not least – In ten years nobody will care what your SAT score was. But your children won’t fade away into your distant memories along with SAT scores and class schedules.

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Language Barriers a.k.a. “Do you hear me?”

Everyone kept telling me to enjoy the diaper days because before you know it they will be teenagers.  I could not believe that life could get more complicated than being surrounded by babies.

Well it is not FAIR, I tell you. My oldest is about to become a teenager and most of the time I feel completely clueless as to what the heck his problem is.  Most conversations seem to end with him saying “FINE” or “Yes, Mom” or something similar. But it sounds like he is saying “Whatever. You can make me do what you want for now but in five years (minus 1 month,  2 weeks, 3 days, 12 hours, 7 minutes, and 3 seconds), I will be free from your tyrannical rules. Then we’ll see who gets to drink caffeine, stay up all night, skip showers, abolish toothpaste and live on doritos…”

We do not even seem to speak the same language anymore.  Something as simple as “please go get the mail” suddenly causes him to come down with a rash of complaints like “Why me? Didn’t I do my chores today?  Why don’t you pick on someone else? Fine, I’ll get the mail…” Translation: You are a slave driver. I hate you.  Maybe I can drop some of the mail in the ditch.

I ask “Have you showered today?” He retorts, “I showered last night.” Translation: My body, my business. Back off,  Mom!

I say “Dinner is scrounge. Tonight is leftovers night.”  We usually empty the fridge the night before shopping. Because I am not cooking, he replies “I’m not hungry yet.” Translation: If I have to put any effort at heating up my own food and bringing it to the table, I am not eating. Besides, I ate all the good leftovers at lunch.  Mom will probably feel guilty later and cook something.  In the meantime, I can sit here and sulk.

I miss the pampers and formula days.  One cry meant hungry. Another cry meant hurt.  I was pretty good at baby translation.

I have a long way to go in my quest to understand the teenagers. Did I mention that I also have two tweens? Maybe by the time my youngest reaches the ripe old age of 13, I will speak fluent teenager-ese.

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Feminism, my way

I never really understand what people mean when they say “the feminist movement.” I mean, I understand we want equal rights, we want to vote and we want equal pay.  But people talk about this vague thing… “the feminist movement.” Do they mean more, like they can bash on men and still expect men to pay for the date?  Some act like women are better than men.

Worse still, MY choices as a woman, a wife and a mother are constantly critiqued by others against this imaginary “feminist movement” yardstick.   When I got pregnant, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t go back to work when the baby was the prerequisite 6 weeks old. People kept asking me right up until labor started if I was really and truly coming back to work.   I looked at them like they were crazy. I didn’t understand their doubts… until I held that baby.

No, not even then did I get it. But having to drop off that baby boy every morning for someone else to take care of him. Not seeing him for 9, 10, or even 12 hours a day. Listening to the babysitter tell me about my own son and what he could do now… that pretty much told me where I needed to be… at least for now.

When I became a stay-at-home mom, people wanted to know why I was wasting my education. When I went back to work, they wanted to know, why would I take a job outside of my field of study. Why didn’t I go back and finish my grad school degree?  When would I do something with my life?

Now they look at me like I’m crazy when I answer,“I am doing something with my life. The rest can wait…”

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