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Let Them Be Chickens

freerange

So, it’s official.  I am officially on the PTSA board of our school as of today.  I am still wondering if I have done the right thing, and also just what I have gotten myself into. My default is to jump in with both feet, and have already been brainstorming some fundraising ideas.  I was told to relax, hold back, and take a “let’s see” approach.  That’s not really my style.  On one hand, I am chaos personified.  I’m the mom screeching into the parking lot at the last minute, but I get there.  I am the mom who gets it done, even if it doesn’t look pretty.  There is some method to my madness, and I usually need at least a baseline plan in place to keep the stress levels down.  I’m not very structured, but I need a basic idea of a plan to get started.  At the moment, I’m floundering and I feel dazed.  I’m not a fan. I will therefore sit back, and try very hard not to think too much about things.  It just won’t be easy.  I’m more of a doer than a not think about it type of gal.

After getting voted in, I was chatting with a mom friend about the changes, about summer, after school care next year for her daughter, and she asked how I manage to work from home when the kids are home.  She was surprised by my answer.

“Well, the older one will play video games or read and entertain himself pretty quietly, and the younger one plays outside or with the neighbor kids.  I’m trying this whole “free range parenting” thing out.”

She looked stunned.  The video game comment gave her pause and a raised eyebrow.  The free range parenting comment made her appear quite surprised.

The fact is, my son is an old soul.  He is extremely smart (way smarter that me, to be honest).  He’s responsible, a rule follower, and very mature.  (Not like me).  He gets great grades and is respectful and kind.  That, along with some chores, is his “job”.  As long as he is doing his job, and his grades are good, I don’t sweat the small stuff.  I let him play video games with his friends after school.  Sure, I keep the time down to a decent amount, but I let him play.  It’s a form of socialization, and he enjoys it.  It’s also sparked an interest in coding, which could be good for him.  He accompanied me to the apple store and jumped into a coding class there.  The instructor was very impressed with his knowledge and demeanor.  I may take him for more.  Currently, my son and his bike have disappeared down to the school to go hang out on the field/playground with his friends.  He has his sister’s ipod which has wifi, so he can text me if he needs me.  I’m only a few minute drive away.

The little one looks most forward to racing outside each day.  I can see her from my home office window.  I can call to her.  We have a system, and it works.  She never leaves the front of the house without telling me where she is going.  There are also a group of great kids in the neighborhood that she plays with.  The parents know each other, watch out for the kids, and text each other when kids are on route from one house to another.  It’s working.  I now have a happier child, who enjoys being outdoors and playing with friends.

For years, I have struggled with balance.  Work vs home, fairness  with the kids, and a constant battle of how their childhood is vs mine was.  When my son got older, my daughter was still 4 years younger, so it was easier to keep them both inside.  With my work schedule, there wasn’t any time to just hang with the neighbor kids.  Growing up, I raced home, did homework, and jumped on my bike.  I rode the back roads about a mile from my house to my best friends, and we would go back and forth between our houses, playing, riding, laughing, and making memories.  I did this when I was about 8 or nine.  My parents trusted me to do right, to call when I arrived, and to do be responsible.  And you know what?  I WAS.  I DID.  I called, and I was responsible.  I knew quite clearly that bad behavior, or not doing as I should would eliminate my freedoms.  Looking back, I believe my mom would drive the neighborhood to make sure I was safe and keep an eye on what I was up to.  I fell off my bike once and she was there in minutes, without a phone call.  (no cell phones when I was a kid, folks!).  Nowadays kids have technology at their fingertips.  Luckily they have ipods and the neighborhood is a wifi hotspot, so they can text me if they need me.  That’s more than I had as a kid.

playborhood.jpg

The fact is, kids were kids, but in many ways, we were more grown up than today’s kids.  We had more freedoms and we learned to handle those freedoms appropriately.  We learned responsibility.  We had street sense.  The small freedoms I received made me feel more grown up, and I behaved better.  Why? Because I didn’t want to lose the privileges I had been given!  Cause and effect is an important learning tool.

It occurred to me one day my kids might not really know how to cross the street safely.  As in, which lane cars drive in, where to look, how to listen for cars, how to double check.  I was horrified.  The fact was though I was always with them and guided them. I started teaching them more street sense.  How to manage if I wasn’t there.  How to be safe, and to help their friends be safe. I started taking them on bike rides, to learn the layout of the neighborhood, where cross walks are, and how to read the traffic signals.  It’s an ongoing lesson, but an important one.  I keep an eye on them, but I am allowing more freedom and choices their way as they get older.

I notice other parents doing the same more than before.  Maybe I’m just more in tune with it because giving the kids so much freedom is a bit daunting at first. The fact is, I am raising future adults.  I have to balance teaching them a healthy dose of reality (ie. stranger danger, car safety, etc) vs teaching them to be independent and responsible.  I need to teach them that outside is where magic happens.  Healthy habits, spending time in nature is good not only for the body, but for the soul.  Not to mention, they sleep AMAZINGLY now.

I’ll still be nervous.  I’ll still keep an eye on them when they don’t know I am watching.  At the end of the day though, this free range parenting, allowing the kids more freedom and responsibility has thus far been a good thing.  The better they do, the better I will do. There are parents allowing their kids to navigate the city by themselves, take the subways, etc.  I’m not there yet.  We’re keeping with the neighborhood and going from there.

 

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One Day

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Oneday

One Day.

That’s all it took.  Just one, unimaginable day, and she was gone. I woke up to a call from my father saying I needed to come quickly, as the time had come and she would likely pass away soon.  The problem was, there was no “quickly” about it.  I was a good 5+ hours by car away, and still a good 4 if I tried to take a plane instead.  There was no quick. There was only tears, and fear, and horror as the “should be” 5 hour drive turned into 11 painstakingly slow hours.  I was right near the George Washington Bridge when I got the call.  I was too late. I also had a very long drive ahead.   But I am ahead of myself.

One Day.

That day I got married, and she couldn’t be there because cancer made her so weak she couldn’t travel up.  It was a Justice of the Peace wedding, not at all as I had planned in my youth.  But if my mom couldn’t be there, I didn’t want the big wedding.  I married the love of my life without either of my parents able to be there.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.

One Day.

The day my son was born.  The day I truly believe she fought and battled that cancer to be able to be there for.  She couldn’t get there until well after he was born, but she was there.  I remember her telling the nurses to be extra kind to me, because her mum was dying and there was all just so much STRESS when there should have been only happiness.

One Day,

That day my daughter was brought into this world, without her Grandmother there to wonder out loud if she had a curly haired grandchild, and to marvel how pretty and delicate she was.  I remember telling the nurse that I had held it together all day in front of visitors that I was just so heartbroken that my mom wasn’t there to meet this beautiful baby, but I couldn’t hold it any longer.  That nurse called the station to say she would be a while, sat down and let me cry while she held my hand.

One Day.

The day my father finally remarried, and I wrote a lovely speech that thrilled him, smiled for pictures, and made peace with the idea of him making that next step, all while hurting that the change had to take place because she was gone.

One Day.

The day I had my uterus taken out and knew I’d never have another baby for my mom to meet, but that same nurse was working, so I asked for her and thanked her so profusely for what she had done for me to get me through the happiest day that was still tainted with a touch of sadness.

One Day.

That day every year when mothers, including myself, are celebrated and revered, but the day is so bittersweet.  The card displays I walk past, the gift ideas I scroll past online, and the thought of “oooh, she’d love that!” only to know I won’t be buying it because she’s not there to give it to. The day when my husband and kids take me out, and I feel so special, but also a little tinged with the reminder of the loss.

One Day.

That day that I remember how she trusted me to get on my bike and ride to my friend’s, and my son asks me to do the very same thing.  Only this time, I say yes.

A lot can happen in One Day.

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It’s been a busy couple of weeks.  In my last post, I revealed I need to start working out.  It hasn’t been an easy process.  I HAVE been going to the gym and pool.  So there’s that.  However, after I am done, I want ALL the calories.  ALL the calories in the world! In.My.Belly.   I’m thinking that’s not going to work in my favor as far as losing weight, so I need to make some changes there as well.  Right now, the goal is just to move more than before, and take things step by step.  More changes will come, but for now, I’m starting with making moving around a new habit.

Look, I am a firm believer that most people don’t really change all that much.  People are who they are, and that’s that.  People don’t magically become a totally different person, and if they tell you they are, they are full of shit.  People’s edges wear off a little, they get new habits, but the core of who they are is what it is.  For example, I have a temper.  I have a batshit crazy, will rip your face off temper.  I also am a grown woman who knows it’s not cute to be losing her temper and doing the crazy stuff I used to do when I was younger, so I work hard at trying to maintain my temper.  Don’t be mistake, I can snap back to the rage of my youth in a New York second, but for the most part, I keep it on the level.  I am a woman who loves ice cream and chocolate.  That’s not gonna change.  I just know that I’m at an age where I need to eat more salads these days.  So I will give it a go….

….after I take the kids for ice cream tonight, that is.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

In other news, I had a great trip visiting my dad and stepmother this weekend.  The kids and I drove down to his house, about a 5 1/2 hour drive.  They watched the kids for me the first night so I could make a few stops to see friends.  The first stop was my good friend’s grandmother’s 90th birthday.  Yes, my vacation started off with a 90th birthday party, and it was amazing.  We didn’t tell her I was coming, and surprised her.  I spent a lot of time at her house in my early 20’s, and she was like another grandmother to me.  I walked in and she looked absolutely delighted to see me, giving me hug after hug after hug.  She hadn’t aged a bit since I had met her, even though decades had passed.  We were so happy to see each other (it had been about 5 years) and it was an utter joy and honor to be there for her birthday.  My friend’s family and other friends were there and I hadn’t seen many of them in years.  People were coming up to give me big hugs and ask about my husband and kids, asking how we all were.  Some of the folks there were kids when they first met me, but they remembered me and ran up to give me a hug.  I was so touched by all the love and friendship.

After the party, I headed the half hour back to where my dad lives to have a late dinner with another one of my good friends.  It’s funny, my friends down there are all parents, and we don’t talk much on the phone.  We’ll send the occasional facebook message, or touch base a few times a year, but as soon as we get together you can’t shut us up.  We fall right back into our friendships like not even a day has passed us by.  We’re all the same kids who were running amuck back in the day, creating chaos and hanging out for days on end.  These are some of the people who know me the best.  They know who I’ve always been, where I come from, and they know that I’m still that same girl, if not a little older, wiser, and ok, calmer. We’re all very different from each other, and there’s a lot we probably disagree on.  But what we do have is a history of good and bad times, a solid knowledge of each other, and we agree to disagree. It’s times when I go down there to visit that I am always touched by how long we’ve been friends and how lucky I am to have had friends that long.  While she doesn’t live down south, I am still friends with my first best friend from school.  If something happens, she knows me through and through. When I do a facebook post about my mom, she and my friends from down south always comment.  They knew her well and loved her too.

Sunday and Monday I hung out with my dad and step mom.  We went boating, went out to eat, fished, and sat around talking with my step brother and his family.  I wish I could have stayed a few extra days.  There never seems to be enough time with my dad.  He’s the quiet sort.  He has a lifetime of amazing stories that he never thinks to tell anyone, until he suddenly will mention something off hand and I have to say “wait…what?”  I’m fascinated by all the things he knows and has done, but I know he’ll never tell me it all.  Not because he doesn’t want to, he just doesn’t think to.  I don’t think he realizes how interesting he is.

The drive home with the kids was actually one of the best long road trips in a while.  The three of us laughed and laughed, told stories, listened to comedy shows on netflix, and it was a nice no-pressure time.  I didn’t have to be mom, which can sometimes be exhausting.  Momming is hard, man.  I’m a mom first, their friend second.  With the husband working, I have to be the bad guy more than I’d like….having them pick up after themselves, reminding about homework, saying no to stuff.  Sometimes it’s nice to just be another person in the car.  My daughter asked why I call my dad’s house home as well as our house.  “Wherever your parents are is home” was my response.  “When you grow up, and have a family of your own, or a career of your own, wherever Daddy and I are will be your home too.  You’re always welcome there, you’ll always be loved there, and home is where the love is.”  I’m glad I got to tell the kids that.  They both seemed to like that answer, and I saw them both settle into a little smile.

Well, life is short, and ice cream is yummy, so I’m off to treat the kiddos (and myself).  Tomorrow, I’ll try and eat a salad.  Everything in moderation.

Only Kindness Matters

  
it’s been a while since I wrote. Life has yet again caught up to me, but as the holidays approach, my mind is bubbling over with words and stories to share.  It’s late, and I should be in bed, but today’s events have me wide awake and filled with emotions. I have to get it out of my head so I can rest this tired brain. 

I occasionally see a free share/giveaway site on my facebook page.  I try not to pay it much mind because I am already fighting the battle of “stuff” and have been on the kids to join me in said battle. In other words, I am trying to get rid of stuff, rather than bring more in.  I saw a post the other day from a woman thanking people, because without their generosity in donating things, she would not have been able to provide her family with a proper Christnas.  Now, I will say that while I believe the spirit of Christnas isn’t about stuff, my mom always went big at Christmas.  Christmas was magical when I was a kid. My mom and dad did spoil me quite a bit, but my mom in particular went out of her way to add a magic feel about the season (when she wasn’t freaking out with stress over getting everything done….oh, I am SO my mother.)

The post got me thinking about how lucky we are I got a small bonus from work this year.  It will allow me to pay a big bill that’s looming over us, and I was able to treat my husband and the kids to a few nice gifts.  Out of it all, I purchased myself one book as a treat (Humans of NY Stories, because it’s beautiful and fascinating). That’s it. I said I would allow myself another treat for about $25 and call it a day. That would be my portion of a years’ worth of work of a bonus.  I was thinking about this post, and how impressed I was with the simple “thank you”.  It had me mulling over Christmas, both this year, and my Christmases of childhood.  It was in that frame of mind when I saw another post pop up later that day.  It was from a mother of two asking for help to find you donations because she had lost her job before the holidays.  I felt the fear. I remembered losing my job and wondering what we would do. How would we manage? I was lucky to get a severance package when I was laid off.  She didn’t seem to have the same benefit.  

The kids and I found a toy or two, and I posted asking if she would like them.  She said yes, gratefully, and we arranged a pickup day of today.

Feeling useful, I posted various other free toys to the site, and they were quickly claimed by people looking to add some extra toys at Christmas.  All except 2 were going to come to pick the items up from my house the following day while I was at work, and it was supposed to rain. I carefully wrapped all of the toys in plastic, put the people’s names on them, and sealed the names in ziplock bags.  Everyone except one person showed up.  I messaged that one person and they never responded.  I was irked about the no call, no show.  I raced home tonight to pick up the toy to meet up with the woman who had lost her job. Feeling a bit disillusioned after the no show the day before from someone else, I messaged her to confirm she was still interested (she was) and that she still was going to meet me.  She told me she couldn’t, and apologized profusely saying she had messaged those she was supposed to pick up things from but had somehow missed me.  Turns out her car got towed.

Yep.  It got towed because she was behind a ridiculously small amount on a car tax bill, and now she not only had the bill, but she had to pay for the car to get out of impound.  As my son said “so if you can’t oh the bill, they make it more expensive and then make it impossible to get there to pay it?”  I told y’all he is a smart kid.  I mulled it over and offered to drive to her house about a half hour away. She seemed surprised I would do so, and said she felt bad about it, but I told her I was in the mood for a drive.  Off we set, the kids and I.

When we arrived, she came outside and was so….nice.  Just so nice! And I could tell she hadn’t really wanted to ask for help that way.  I told her I understood, and that losing your job is scary enough.  Losing your job when you have kids and it’s Christmas is heartbreaking.  She was grateful for the toys and I explained I would look for more things for her.  We were two moms, talking about love of our kids, loss of jobs, tough times, and trying to make magic for our kids in a scary world.  She said the hardest part is that her oldest child wants the more expensive toys and  she had tried to explain it might be tighter Christmas.  Her daughter replied “it’s ok, that’s what Santa is for!”  My heart cracked a little. I imagined how she must feel heating her daughter say that, and the stress she must feel to keep the magic of Santa alive a little longer.  I reached into the car and handed her a gift card, explaining I had picked it up for a store that sold clothes and toys, so she could have something new to give them.  Tears welled and she grabbed me and hugged me.  Best $25 dollar gift I could have gotten for myself out of that bonus check was getting her that gift card and getting a hug in the street from a stranger. 

I left her house, and I thanked the kids for donating their toys, and explained how the little boy would probably be very happy with them and love the toys as much as they had.  We talked about kindness.  About being helpers.  I quoted Jewel and said “in the end, only kindness matters”.  

After they were in bed.  I spent a lot of time thinking about that mom.  The holidays are a tough time for me as I miss my mom TERRIBLY at Christmas, probably more than any other time of year.   It’s hard to grieve when you’re supposed to be happy and Christmassy.  I thought about all the stresses I have, but at least I have a job and we scrape by.  Sometimes we barely scrape by, but we do. I know the mom I met tonight is sad and scared and frustrated. I thought about what she had said about her daughter, about the big toy and her belief Santa would bring it to her. That’s what got me in the feels. What made big fat tears roll down my cheeks.  That little girl believes in magic. And that should never be dulled.  I looked up the toy. I know anyone who follows my Twitter will roll eyes or smirk when I say this, but I used my trusty Ebates and after working codes and cash back, saved over a third on it in the shopping cart. I decided to mull it over.  After all, we are pretty strapped for cash ourselves.

My husband came home and we talked about our day.  I told him the story.  I cried through parts of it.  (I cry at commercials these days, he’s used to it). I told him the whole part, right up until the fact I had looked up this toy. I wanted to see what he would say first.  He’s the more cynical of the 2 of us, usually, but he will give the shirt off his back to help people.  He grew up helping to run a homeless shelter, so people in need are always helped when he can.

“Well” he said, “I know we are strapped for cash and have a ton of bills…but maybe, just maybe we can get her that toy?” 

This? This is why I love him so.  

I explained I had already searched it and found coupon codes.  

I said “you know, it could all be a bunch of BS, all of it, but if we do it, we do it with an open heart on our side and not worry about if it’s legit or not on the other side, right?”  He agreed. He made a great point: “look, even if it’s all bogus, then probably things may not be thAt great for the kid regardless, right? So let’s help make magic for another child anyway.”

I’m ordering the item tomorrow.

Every child should believe in magic, and if I can help them believe, then I and my kick ass husband are going to. 

A few years ago, someone told me I do nice things but I talk about them, so it was Like was trying to get recognition for them. Sometimes I talk about doing things for others, sometimes I don’t.  When I do talk about them, it’s not to get recognition for them, it’s that I want to spur other people to do the same in doing an act of kindness, no matter how small.  Yesterday there was a mass shooting in California.  People went about their day and then didn’t come home. The Sandy Hook kids went to school a few years ago and didn’t make it out alive.  Evil is alive and well.  I can’t prevent all the evil from happening. I can only fight the evil with little acts of kindness, and try to inspire others to do the same. Love Wins, right? 

I’ve tried to help people in the past and it has blown up in my face. I got disheartened and angry.  My husband said it best when he told me that I needed to do the kind thing, with true intent, and if it wasn’t received well or he kindness was abused, to try to be kind anyway. I won’t lie, I benefit from it.  It feels great to do nice things for others!  It also feels like I am making magic in my mom’s memory.  She would LOVE the little plan to help this mom give a little Christmas magic to her kids.  It’s eased my grief a bit.

Well, I am off to bed.  Tomorrow I will see how to get the toy to the family with some Santa magic to keep a little girl believing for one more year.  Sorry for any typos. It’s late and I am sleepy.  Plus I had to write this from my phone with my tired old eyes trying to see the screen.

Be kind. Happy holidays!

Love,

Messy. Xoxo 

 

A Day in My Messy Brain

Every now and again it’s good to not take yourself quite so seriously. Luckily, I have a touch of crazy about me, a strange inner monologue, and afamily who enjoys joking about my mishaps. Therefore, I am going to share some of the thoughts/moments that occurred throughout my day.

7:30 am. Woke up to brain misfiring, laid in better utterly confused about what day it was. Thought it was likely a weekday and I should therefore get out of bed immediately to get ready for work, but a tiny part of me held out, just in case it was Saturday. Realized it was probably Friday, and dragged myself out of bed like I was doing the “Dead man walking” hallway to my inevitable demise.

Got in the shower, and tried to stretch a little. Realized I am quite unflexible, but consoled myself in that I am at least flexible to wash my own ass in the early morning hours.

Went to get out of the shower and caught a glimpse of my husband’s black shirt hanging on the bathroom door. For some reason in my decaffeinated state I thought there was a stranger in the bathroom, aka psycho. Emitted a scream of terror, but no sound came out, confirming that my nightmares have been a good litmus test as I always scream in terror during a nightmare but no sound ever comes out (furthering the nightmare aspect). Resolve myself to the fact I am a. Never going to be a scam queen in a horror movie, and b. an incredible target for psychos.

4 year old comes in the bathroom and uses the toilet. Requests toilet paper and that I wipe her butt. Living the dream,

Took child to camp. Parked on a slight incline, and when I went to disembark from the vehicle, the drop to the pavement seemed greater, making me feel like I had leapt of a cliff. Yes, I have short legs. My son laughed at me and commented how he is almost as tall as me.

Saw frustrated mother attempting to drop her child off at camp. He was bawling and carrying on. She was red faced and angry. Been there, done that. Wasn’t sure who to feel worse for. They got back in their car and drove away. Was secretly glad though that it wasn’t me, as my little one has been a challenge lately, and I know how she felt.

Had coffee. Sometimes it feels like the world is in chaos, but that first sip of coffee? It’s as if the world slides to a halt for one second, and all is well and soft and blurry. Ahh.

Realized my new coworker looks a bit like Danny Trejo. Patted myself on the back for actor recognition. My husband is appalled at my lack of movie trivia knowledge. I never know movie lines, yet he speaks them fluently. Was able to quote a line about dicks from the movie “clerks” today and felt like a superhero.

Was still left pondering my experience from yesterday. I had a bad day yesterday, and on the way home, some jerk cut me off. I actually sat and pondered whether the satisfaction of slamming into the back of his car while giggling wickedly would be worth the subsequent hassle and rise in my insurance. I’m still mulling it over.

Remembered the guy in town who has the same make and model car I do, in the same color. It’s rare to find them, but whenever he used to see me, he’d honk and wave and point excitedly at himself and his car. he even stopped and pulled in behind me while I was at a friend’s house one day. He got out and proclaimed “we have the same car!”. Um. Ok. I haven’t seen him in a while.this is a good thing.

I like baked beans on toast with cheese,
I will probably fart all night after eating it.
Don’t care.

Daughter’s feet smell like vintage fritos. Why is this? Bath for her,

And that’s it for me. Bed time! Again, thanks for reading!