Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Employee Benefits

Motherhood is full of wonder. Sometimes you sit back and think: "There's my son's necktie and wallet in the laundry chute. Hmmm...that's odd. To me, necktie = dry cleaners and wallet (with driver's license inside)= should be in the pants you wear when you drive!", but maybe that's just me. Or when I say to my daughter: "You don't have to make your bed because it's Friday, but could you just pick up your room a little?" Apparently I emphasized the word "little" too much. Or perhaps, in her mind, "picking up" literally means picking a couple things up off the floor and throwing them over her chair....regardless of whether they were dirty!!!

What am I, an idiot? Wait, don't answer that. I must be. They say insanity is continuing to do something after it stops making sense. Wow, I guess issuing the order: "Clean up the basement" 15 times without it being done is about 13 times past making sense. And still, I show up here every morning, trying once again to make it all work. (Well, I do live here but let's not cloud the facts or stifle the whine.)

If this was a real job in a real company, I would have quit long ago. The constant frustration coupled with the lack of a meaningful performance review would have sent me packing. My resume would SO be in the mail by now.

The benefits of this unpaid position? Well, the co-workers/bosses leave every day for several hours. Bonus. When they return, they're often in a bad mood and blame me for things that happen on the road. No bonus. I can yell at them when they're gone, go into their work areas and arrange them as I please. Bonus. I often do their work even though it's not my job. No bonus. I can watch TV while I fold clothes with little or no guilt. Major bonus.

I keep in touch with a lot of my friends who are still working "outside the home". (What a dopey euphemism. Don't landscapers work "outside the home"?) Anyway, they tell me stories about vindictive bosses, lazy co-workers and projects gone wrong and I think to myself: "You poor schmuck. There's no way that I'd put up with that." Then it occurs to me: I am putting up with that...every day!

What's the one thing that keeps me here (besides the bi-annual hug from a child or the dog that only asks that I pet her)? Job security. You see, as much as I do really care about how well I do this job, I know, deep down that if they don't like how I do my job, tough. What are they gonna do, fire me? A girl can dream, can't she?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Appreciation 101

I'm hooked on the new "reality" show "Wife Swap" on Wednesdays on ABC. It's a typical reality show in that they take so-called average people and place them in unusual situations. In this show, they swap moms between two families for two weeks. The moms are generally polar opposites - for instance, a vegan is switched with a mom that loves to hunt or a neat freak is switched with a slob. It's fascinating to watch in the way that a car accident is watchable. You know it will end badly, hopefully not horribly badly, but you can't keep your eyes off of it. On the other hand, unlike a car accident, the people involved usually come out of having learned something, whether it's appreciating their kids, their mom, their wife, their husband...whatever. In a few cases, you could tell that the husbands wanted the "new" wife to stay a while longer because his "old" wife's shortcomings became painfully obvious. For instance, the woman who slept as late as she wanted and expected breakfast in bed PLUS expected her husband to clean the entire house AND work full-time. You gotta know she's not looking too good after 2 weeks.

So I'm trying to figure out why I'm hooked and I guess it's because I use this show as a way to feel better about myself. In general, I'm usually about mid-way between the two extreme moms. We watch TV, eat junk food, clean a moderate amount, etc. There's not really anything unbelievably interesting about my life. I do not, my husband is happy to know, spend $3,000 a week on clothes. On the other hand, I do clean more often than once a year.

So while my husband and I watch this show (he's hooked too, though he won't admit it), I'll casually ask: "So I wonder what the opposite of me would be? I'm not a total slob or a total neat freak or anything very extreme..." To which he replied: "They'd probably find someone with absolutely no personality." AWWW....wasn't that sweet? He thinks I have a personality - very cool! Does that make up for my violent mood swings or regular bitchiness? Probably not, but it's a start.

See, every gal needs to know they're appreciated, especially if they're a stay-at-home mom. Other than garbage collector, it's gotta be in the top 10 of thankless jobs. So when I watch this show, it's like I feel appreciated because it's suddenly obvious where I'm doing things pretty well. When I know that my house is relatively neat, compared to the sloppy mom, I feel a small sense of accomplishment.

I know, it's petty and self-serving, but hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Puppy Love

Well, it finally happened. My daughter has her first crush. And just like her mom, it's a "funny" boy. Gosh, I remember those days. I always fell for the ones that made me laugh hysterically. They weren't necessarily cute but I wanted to follow them around and just listen to them all day. Always it was unrequited puppy love. The funny boys still liked cute girls and I wasn't savvy enough to learn to make friends with them when they didn't want to "go out" with me. (Of course when they're making fun of you and saying mean things, it's difficult for friendship to develop. This and the fact that I didn't have much self-confidence back then.) In fact, I still remember slow dancing with one of my "funny" crushes and him telling me that I should stop leading. Ouch.

In any case, what surprises me is how open my daughter is about this. She tells me about which girls and boys like each other and so I finally worked up the courage to ask if there was anyone that she liked. She said yes but wouldn't say who. I asked if I could guess and when I did, she laughed and said: "That's what everyone said! How did you know?!" I knew because hey, I've been there.

Now I need to treat this situation delicately. I can't bring it up too much and I can't really tell anyone. And, hard to believe if you know me, I won't even kid her about it.

I just hope she doesn't get her heart broken and that the boys today aren't as mean as the boys back in my day. But if they are, I'll be there to pick up the pieces and tell her what a great girl she is, even if she is leading.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

SpongeMom Tight Pants

I'm amazed at how my children's moods can taint or enhance my morning. Today, for instance, my son is up on the computer, downloading his Sociology project onto a CD. I hear the mouse clicking. Then I hear it clicking harder...and faster...and finally like a machine gun accompanied by sounds of disgust and anger. He comes downstairs and starts spewing about how the project isn't working and yesterday it wasn't even there and he's got to turn it in today and he's going to get a zero and he's the only one who actually did anything on the project and....AAAARRRGGGHHH. What I wanted to say...what I almost said (but didn't) was: "Why are you just finding this out now? Why are you downloading it onto a CD 5 minutes before you leave for school? Why didn't you do this last night when you had time to fix it? Hello?! You had time to IM your friends, write in your blog, chat with your girlfriend and play drums." But I didn't. I just let it wash over me and soak it in, like the maternal sponge that I am.

This is my job. To take it in until I'm totally saturated and then finally wring it all out (a.k.a. a mother meltdown.) If I did chase after them and get a list of their projects and then nag them, I'd be accused of being totally uptight and that I shouldn't worry. Well, if I don't...WHO WILL???!!! Not them!

OK, I feel better. It's his project, not mine. I won't let it bother me that he might do badly in school and then not get into the college he wants. Oh, who am I kidding?...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Stage Mom

There's nothing like watching your child perform. You can't help but be incredibly proud. This morning my daughter sang at mass - like an angel, I might add. I wanted her to have a "starring" role but she was sharing this gig. Still, it always brings me to tears. I want to jump up and yell: "That's MY daughter!" But, I maintained my self-control and held back. I didn't tell her I was going and I didn't congratulate her afterwords. She would prefer that I keep my distance. This is our unspoken agreement. Others can hear her but not me. Gradually, she's letting up on this silent rule. Maybe someday I'll get to hog the front row.

I'm just as proud of my son. He has a passion for music and, unlike my daughter, he often shares his creations with me or lets me listen while he performs. It never fails to amaze me. My kids have talent that I could only dream of having. I guess all those years of hoping and praying paid off. (Not to mention a few lessons along the way.) When I was young I wanted nothing more than to sing or play an instrument. Neither was in my future, despite several attempts. So now I'm living vicariously through my kids. Neither will become pop stars or fabulously famous but they do get recognized for their talent, which I'm sure is gratifying for them. I hope they enjoy it while it lasts but most of all, I hope it gives them the self-esteem that makes life just a little bit easier.

Meanwhile, I'll remain their biggest fan...forever.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Birthday Whine and Blessings

Today's my birthday. I'm 44. If you know me, you know that I'm really big on birthdays. I'm not sure how it happened, but that's the way it is. To me, your birthday is THE most special day of the whole year. It's the day when everyone should be surpremely nice to you and make you feel really special. I try and do this for my family and it took a while for my husband to catch on that this is how I do things. He comes from a family where it was common for siblings to be wrapping a gift on Christmas morning while others were opening their gifts. They sort of treat birthdays and gifting as an obligatory thing. But they're OK with that, so it's not really a problem for them. That's not my way, for some reason.

However, I have to give my mother-in-law HUGE kudos. Every year, like clockwork, she sends a birthday card and a check. On time, eternally thoughtful she is. My mom, on the other hand, every year will call me and say: "I'm sorry that I didn't get around to getting you a card - I really meant to. Happy birthday." Every year, this makes me mad. Here's why: It's not like my birthday is a surprise. It's the EXACT same date every year. She could buy a card TODAY for next year. But every year this seems to sneak up on her.'s not like she's busy. She's at home reading, making doctor appointments and watching the Today Show. I don't want a gift. I have everything I could possibly wish for. But a card would be nice. It shows effort.

Every year I try my hardest not to let this bug me but every year it does. I do my damnedest to avoid the phone so I don't have to hear my mother utter that sentence. Maybe she'll surprise me and send a card. That would be really nice.

Here's why this is an issue: I feel like if I was a really mature adult, this would not bother me. I'm 44 for heaven's sake. People shouldn't care about being acknowledged on their birthday at this age. But I do, and I guess I always will. I'm such a dopey person that until last year, I figured that everyone knew that October 15th was MY birthday. Until last year, my stomach would flip when I heard that date. Finally, I'm outgrowing that a bit.

Yesterday I received SIX cards in the mail. That was amazing. I stood them all up on a table, looked at them and felt really loved. It just really touched me.

Here's something else that bugs me (hey, it's my blog, let me whine if I want to!)I hate e-mail or digital birthday cards. I can't even explain why. Sometimes they take more effort than real ones, but not much. They just seem like such a....cop out. Like you didn't have time to run to Walgreen's and buy a card, sign it and stick a stamp on it. I guess because I love getting real mail. Actually, that's sort of what it is - I'd much rather have a long e-mail with birthday wishes than a "digital" birthday card that somebody clicked on. It shows effort.

OK, I have to stop now. I'm ranting and I sound like a TOTAL bitch. But I just had to let that out and, after all, it's my blog, right? OK, I'll be much more upbeat from here on out.

My hubby bought me a cool speaker thingy for my iPod and my kids made me an adorable card with Dan Fogelberg on it. Sigh - he's such a hunk. Even though I know he's a tree-hugging, left-leaning ultra liberal who I probably couldn't stand being around. Nevertheless, he wrote some GREAT music in the 70s.

Today my friends are taking me to Cedarburg for shopping and lunch. Wow. Just the best. What a great way to spend my birthday. Then tonight my hubby is taking me out to dinner - I'm not sure where. I love surprises. And next week my other friends are taking me out to dinner. How cool is that?! It's like extending your birthday by a week!

They say that with age comes wisdom. For me, it's taking a lot longer. It's one of my huge flaws: scorekeeping. I tend to focus on the negative instead of the positive. Maybe my birthday resolution will be to change that this coming year. After all, I'm so blessed with family and friends which is the best gift of all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Dog Days

Sometimes mornings are just yucky. First, my favorite sports team, the Green Bay Packers, totally collapsed last night on Monday Night Football. If you're a sports fan, you'll understand how this affects the next morning. Then, I exit our bedroom to a strange odor - oh great - the dog has puked in her crate. I won't go further - it's too icky. But then later, I take her out and she seems to have an upset stomach on the other end too. This is a smelly horror in a Golden Retriever. Lots of hair to cling to. So, I just spent about 30 minutes on the deck hosing the poor animal down. Good thing it's a balmy 45 degrees outside. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Next, I get to look forward to going to my annual OB-GYN appointment. Every year I ask myself the same question: Why don't men have to go through this? It's like a manual, inside-out MRI. The least they could do would be to knock us out for this or give us a drink first. No, it's not painful, it's just....embarassing. There's no way around it. The only thing good about it is that it will be over soon.

On a positive note, my children did not fight or whine this morning. On the other hand, my daughter has totally lost the ability to wake up more than 20 minutes before we leave for school and therefore her bedroom looks like a FEMA disaster site every day. I'm debating how to handle this: Should I work around it and amend the rules, or dive into the foxhole and get ready for the war?

Somehow, the pet problems seem a little smaller right now.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Letting Go

Yesterday, we went with our son to the university that he wants to attend. On the one hand, it reinforced our belief that this is a good choice of school for him. On the other hand, because he wants to be in the school of music, he must audition and the requirements are more difficult than we originally believed.

Suddenly, we're all nervous, although nobody is saying that. Nobody wants to say anything negative that might discourage him, but the question is: Can he do it?

I guess we have to leave it in God's and my son's hands. If my son wants it badly enough and if it's in God's plans, then it will happen. It will take a lot of work that only my son can do. Accepting this would seem to make things easier, but I'm sure this won't stop my worrying.

Wow, this is hard.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Old Mom Buffet

I swear, lately motherhood has been conducted on a wing and a prayer. It's not like the kids have done anything particularly wrong, but it just feels like my super-mother powers are tingling a lot. I worry, I yell, I question, I deduct, I presume, I's like a smorgasbord of parenting all in one big ole buffet. If it's not a pack of adolescents taking over my house and throwing apples at passing cars (yeah, that was great when the neighbor called to tell me that), then it's the nearly adult one sulking one moment and bubbling the next. It's like an amusement park and each of my kids is a ride. And just when you think you want to cry or jump or quit, they do something really nice (i.e. the ride stops and the relief floods you).

One of my new guilty TV pleasures is "Wife Swap," where two moms go and live in each other's families. Of course to increase the drama, they try and pick two women and two families who are POLAR opposites. Watching this, somehow, makes me feel a teeny bit better about my parenting skills. Not because I'm better than these women, but more because being a good mother is incredibly subjective. What's good for one family is often not good for another, which is why it's just amazing that the Brady Bunch ever worked out!! No, seriously, it made me think that although I could improve a lot on many facets of myself, I'm not all that bad. Crazy, I know. Hey, I figure if it gets me through another week at the mommy buffet, then why not?!