Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"God, Mom! You Make Every Morning Suck!"

You know, usually a statement like this (uttered by my 13-year old this morning) would send me over the edge or into the liquor cabinet. However, today, in the aftermath of the greatest natural disaster to ever hit the United States, Katrina, I'm actually feeling rather fortunate. My house is dry. I have a roof. We have food. Everyone is healthy. And although gas is expensive, I'll still be able to fill up, although probably less often.

See, this statement was made as a result of a half-discussion about the rolling of the waistband of the uniform skirt. If you have teenage girls in parochial schools, you know this is a huge issue. For some reason, the skirt is never short enough to satisfy the child. As a result, it's always too short for the mom. I could put my foot down and demand that it be unrolled, but as a grizzled veteran of parenting, I know that it will be rolled again once she's in the doors of the school. Yes, folks. I'm pickin' my battles.

Here's what I hope happens: I'm hoping that she gets busted by the uniform police the minute that she gets in her class. Perhaps it will result in a detention. I will not say anything and just hope that she feels that the consequences are not worth the action. But, it's unlikely that she'll get busted. Because although she's a skirt roller, she's not a trouble-maker.

Here's what will happen: Once again, we will have a long talk about respect. We have this talk about once a month. Sometimes it sinks in, but often a refresher course is needed. In any case, my point will be made, albeit a bit delayed.

As the song says: "Nice work if you can get it." And I say: "I've got it bad, baby. I've got it bad."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Party On, Hendrikje!

Well, here it is, buried in the news, far below the devastation of Katrina...the secret to living a long, long life. Unfortunately, for some of us, it's too late. But if we listened to Dutchwoman Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, the world's oldest person who died at the age of 115, we'd find out how to live well into a second century. Sure, she credited not smoking and not drinking too much alcohol. But those of us who can read between the lines, and have experience, know what really kept her alive.

Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper had no children. That, my friends, is why I will not live to 115...and why I definitely still drink alcohol. Cheers!

I Think I'm Alone Now....Wheee!

I think we're alone now
There doesn't seem to be anyone around
I think we're alone now
The beating of our hearts is the only sound

I'm not sure why it didn't hit me before this morning. Maybe because the house already seems quiet with college boy gone. But here I am - just me and the dog and the cat -'s the first day of school!! Be still my heart!

Gone until 3:00 pm is the attitude. No sounds of instant messaging for at least 7 hours. Sure, the bedroom looks like a war zone and the bathroom resembles the Rockette's dressing room, but I don't mind much, cuz it's blessedly quiet. After three long months, I finally have my house and my schedule back. Hallelujah for small things.

Actual conversation prior to departure for school this morning:

Mom: Oh! I have to take your picture - it's the first day of 8th grade!
Daughter: (Dramatic eyeball roll) No.
Mom: Please........
Daughter: No. No way.
Mom: I'll let you have anything you want for dinner.
Daughter: Fine.

What happened to the days when she couldn't wait for the first day of school and she proudly posed for the picture? Seems like the milestones are whizzing by faster than I can appreciate them. On the one hand, we drive each other nuts on most days. On the other hand, I know that I have 5 short years before she leaves for college and I begin the rest of my life...a.k.a. "PK" or "Post Kids."

It almost makes the sleep-deprived toddler years seem like a cinch.

Monday, August 29, 2005

No Sleep for the Sympathetic

I've been a mother for 18+ years and I realized that I've developed a disorder that I previously thought was unique to my mother. I call it "sympathetic worrying." My mom worries about everything. Big, small and in-between. My sister and I know not to mention to my mom that we have a cold or my mom will call back in a day or two, already concerned that we've developed something chronic. I don't dare tell her that my kids are struggling with anything because she'll practically be in tears in no time.

I thought I was above this worrying thing.

Then last night, I made the mistake of watching CNN for COMPLETE HURRICANE COVERAGE. I heard about everything from devastating winds to catastrophic damage to (my favorite) toxic gumbo that would be created when Katrina hit land and toppled the many petrochemical plants around New Orleans. Wow.

I don't know anyone in New Orleans...or Mississippi or Alabama. My hairdresser is going to New Orleans on vacation, so I'm a bit worried about her trip. I live in Wisconsin, hundreds of miles away. Still, there's nothing to explain it.

It's approximately 6:30 am. I have been up since 4:00 am. I couldn't sleep. I was worried that the world was ending at the hands of Katrina. Rather than toss and turn and wake up my hubby, I got up and started my day, thinking I'd see when the devastation began. I'm not sure why, but I needed to wake up and watch more CNN.

This is bad. I need to get a life. Right now I'm really tired.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hakuna Laguna?

OK, welcome to my latest maternal freak-out. It's about the show Laguna Beach on MTV. My 13-year old daughter is obsessed with this a big way. I watched a couple of episodes because I believe that as a mom, it's my duty to know exactly what my kid is watching and perhaps it will help me understand what the hell she's talking about, at least some of the time. I also thought it might help me to know why a Dooney & Bourke handbag is something that I should want.

Here's my take on the show: It's sort of a non-reality show. It follows a group of late high school/early college kids around Laguna Beach, CA. It goes to their parties, their hangouts, and, most importantly, their closets. These kids are beautiful...drop-dead gorgeous...and rich. The least beautiful girl probably wears a size 12. All of these kids wear designer everything. Head-to-toe. On a slow night, they go bowling...arriving in a limo. To say this is unrealistic would be an understatement.

This is the problem I have. I'm developing this desperate fear that my daughter will think that this is how life should be - beauty and money. I want to scream at her to turn it off and haul her down to the social security office so that she can meet real people. Really real people dealing with real issues.

On the other hand, this is just an updated version of me watching the Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family and thinking that Florence Henderson or Shirley Jones were dispensing real advice. I spent my late teens and early adult years taking the typical lumps of growing up and finding out that sitcoms are not an accurate snapshot of life. As a result, I'm just fine. Slightly cynical, but generally OK.

So I guess I'm telling myself to just relax and not anticipate a problem until there is one. No worries, right? On the other hand, I wonder why my daughter's suddenly obsessed with Sephora lately? Hmmm....maybe I'll start watching my Partridge Family Season 1 DVD and perhaps we can watch it together. Yeah, dream on.........

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Games People Play

I found this "Interview" on Mundane Superhero or the blog formerly known as Frances McPantses. I almost always love answering questions, so I played along. If you wanna play too, just comment or e-mail me.

The Official Interview

1. Is there some moment in your life that you think about nearly every single day? If so, what is it? I'd like to say no, but that moment when I was standing in a church and realized that my skirt was tucked into my panty hose is usually right at the front of my brain.

2. Who's on your top ten list? Well, my top 10 list of people that annoy me are 1) Oprah Winfrey - spouting advice simply cuz she's rich; 2) People who break rules; 3) Bill Maher - cuz he's so smarmy; 4) Katie Couric now that she wears 8 inch heels and lip liner; 5) Spammers; 6) People who stand too close; 7) Arrogant people who are smarter than me; 8) The pest control guy with no teeth that visits 4 times a year; 9) People that tell stories over and over and over again; 10) Randy Moss (Sorry, but I'm a Packer fan and hatred runs deep.)

3. List five things from your childhood that define you or that contributed very much to the person you are today. 1) Having good friends; 2) My dad; 3) My younger sister dying of leukemia; 4) Rock music; 5) Getting my driver's license.

4. What is your biggest fault? I care WAY too much about what people think. And I'm addicted to eating...a lot.

5. If you were hosting a dinner party, how would you prepare and where would you hold it? What would you serve? I'd freak out, annoy my family and then try to make reservations at a nice restaurant. Otherwise, I'd hold it at home and try to relax and get my hubby to help. We'd probably serve something Italian.

Want to play?The Official Interview Game Rules:
1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below asking to be interviewed.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.
3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Because a Few Ruined It for Everyone....

Because some creepy people have posted SPAM in the comments on my blog, and because I can't figure out how to delete those comments, I can no longer allow anonymous comments on my site. Sorry. I understand if you don't want to register, but I hate being used as a commercial vehicle. Geez, at least they could pay me for using my space!!

Surfin' for Purpose

Yep, there's no doubt about it. I need to get busy. Teen boy has left for college, leaving me alone with estrogen overloaded 13-year old Super-chick and ever supportive hubby. As a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom for the uninitiated), you'd almost expect me to consider re-employment. After all, it would support my dangerous shopping addiction. (Have a mentioned that a Crate & Barrel is opening here next week? Take away my car keys....NOW.) However, I have sufficiently burned my middle-aged self out on working and am still recovering.

Nevertheless, I'm spending far too much time surfing the internet. So much time that I've developed carpal tunnel. What am I doing, you ask? Sometimes I look for silver jewelry or I read a favorite blog or two. Then I like to read the scoops on celebrities and after that I want to see someone make fun of them. As you can see, this is what some would call "busy work." Total nonsense. Waste of time.

It's time for me to "give back" and get out. I'll be frank, I'm nervous about it. I have the tendency to do and say stupid things at the most inopportune times. I'm not sure where to start, I only know that I should...somewhere.

Anybody have any good ideas?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sure Sign That the Apocalypse is Near

For the love of Pete (whoever he is), what are we thinking?! We tried this once and it didn't work. This was the least flattering fashion trend when it debuted in 1974 and it's still the least flattering fashion trend. All I can say is, I wish I had saved my Frye boots and my crocheted vest. God help us.

Oh go ahead and look, if you must. But I warned you.

Of course, you know what's just around the corner? Maxis and Midis. And we're not talking feminine protection here. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Phone Scraps

This is nuts. We dropped off our son 4 days ago at college. Here I am with only one teenager in our house (loaded with enough hormones to fill 3 bodies) and what do I do? Do I go to a spa and get a mani and a pedi and pamper myself? Do I read a great book I've been dying to read? No. I'm walking around carrying two phones - constantly. One is the regular house phone, in case someone calls, and the other is my cell phone, which my son will call me on because we can talk to each other free. (Thank you, Verizon.) This must stop....soon.

It's just that I'm craving information from him. I know that he's generally doing well and seems to be adjusting, but I want to hear the stories. The things that he used to tell me when he'd come back from hangin' with friends. The funny anecdotes about the new people he's meeting every day and the new experiences he's having. I get a little of that, but I really wish I could hear more.

Now I remember coming home from college and seeing my parents staring at me like puppies waiting for table scraps and me just biding my time till I could get out and be with my friends. Now I get it.

On the upside, at least I'm not calling him constantly. I vowed to back off and let him do this...without me intervening.

So, I'm sure that eventually I'll put the cell phone back in my purse and risk missing a call or two. For now, it's the little crutch I'll use to get my own table scraps.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older too

Someone once told me that one of the 12 steps in AA is to "Let Go and Let God." And although we are, thankfully, not dealing with substance abuse, this advice is oh so relevant as we prepare to take our son to college tomorrow. All around me are poignant moments, happy memories that make my eyes tear up and the realization that we're all taking a huge leap of faith together. Of course, he has the hardest job of all, actually being the new college student and everything that comes with that.

I watch him walk around our house and I know that he's looking at things as if he's never going to see them again. I'm as nervous for him as he is for himself but I'm doing my best not to be maudlin and just pack, dammit, pack.

As hard as this is, I realize two things: First, the idea of this not happening would be way worse than dealing with some teary moments. He gets to go to college and get ready for real life. Many, many kids never get that chance. Secondly, he's not going to war or dying. There are parents all across the nation that are sending their kids off to war and are legitimately scared for their welfare. I have to keep that perspective or lose my mind.

Above all, I have to remember to let him make mistakes, get lonely, miss home, screw up a class, hate his teachers, get annoyed by his roommate and generally grow into an adult as he deals with these situations without our help. And that, my friends, is the deep, dark secret of motherhood - the hardest part of all is letting go. You spend all your life loving and caring for them and they're gone in what seems like the blink of an eye.

For me, this is where faith comes in. Whatever you believe, I think it's gotta help to believe that somebody is watching over them when you can't. Let Go and Let God.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I give up. I should have given up long ago, if I was really paying attention. But like our eternally loyal dog, I'll just never stop trying. Until today.

Yesterday, as I was supporting the local economy at Target, I spotted a rack in the front of the junior department. There were what I thought were adorable peasant skirts and they were front and center...guaranteed cute, right? Something my 13-year old daughter would love, right? They're cheap so I'll pick one up and she'll thank me, right? WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Before it was halfway out of the bag, her sneer began. Then there was that humiliating chuckle she gave when I asked: "You don't like it, do you?"


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Long Distance Love

My son leaves for college in 5 days. And although I'm filled with lots of ambivalence and dread about this next step, I'm trying to look on the positive side. I just figured out something that I'm looking forward to about him being gone. Care packages. Or, as I like to call it - an opportunity for me to show my love and make my son happy.

Now, before you start gagging on the shovel-full of sugar I just force-fed you, allow me to explain. When my kids were l'il babes, only I could make them happy, usually by allowing them to hang on my body or scream in my ears. There were days, when I felt like my body was not my own and I longed for touch-free zones, like my office at work, the car or the laundry room. As they grew, my body became my own, but I could still make them happy with Happy Meals, a new Disney movie or an ice cream cone. Now that they're teens, there seems to be little I can do to make them happy. Sure, they're momentarily happy, but they quickly forget who's responsible for that fridge full of their favorite soda. Basically, I'm at the point in my maternal career where I'm getting none of the credit and all of the blame.

Suddenly, there's an opportunity, at least in my mind, to turn that around. I've got this kid who is about to move 6 hours away from me. He'll have shelter, food and friends, but it's the little things that will soon be missed. The cabinet with favorite snack food. The clean laundry that magically appears in his dresser. The home cooked meals.

So as I walk around my kitchen, I see things that I know that he loves and I make a mental note of them: Fresh cheese curds (if you're not from Wisconsin, don't ask), A&W Root Beer, homemade cheese quesadillas, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, my homemade chocolate chip cookies....the list goes on.

In my feeble, June Cleaver-inspired mind, I imagine packing up some of these "treats" and sending them to my first college kid. I envision his look of happiness of glee and his sigh when he thinks about what a great mom I am. I hear his excited voice when he calls home and says: "Gee Mom, that was so cool. I love you!" God, I live for this.


Now for reality. I will, for the first few months, religiously send him care packages. He will open them with anticipation, rip them apart, hopefully share them with his roommate and definitely miss the sweet note that I will enclose with the goodies. (And if there's anything perishable, he will forget to open the package for at least a week.) If I'm lucky, I'll get a phone call or an e-mail thanking me for the package and then asking when he can have more money and where did I put his grey sweatshirt. Very quickly, I will be back to no credit/all blame.

It's all OK, because there's no script here. Much like new parenthood, we're just making it up as we go along. He might surprise me and I might surprise him. And, I'm sage enough to realize that it takes years for kids to truly be thankful for their parents. Sometimes it doesn't happen till they have kids of their own. I'm a class example of that.

One of the few things that I do remember about my college years is that I learned to appreciate home and all the things that means. I'm about to find out if that lesson will get passed on to the next generation.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pope Dreams

Last night I dreamt that the Pope visited our house. Yes, the Pope. Besides the obvious, there were many odd things about my dream. First, there is the fact that the Pope has a separate elevator from everyone else (who knew?) and secondly that we (our family) was getting an award from him. OK, we're Catholic, but we're not THAT Catholic. In fact, one of our favorite car games, post-mass, is to criticize the priest's homily and most of the teachings of the church. I think they call us "Cafeteria Catholics." We pick and choose and put together a religion, at our convenience.

Anyway, towards the end of the dream, as the Pope and I are sitting at the kitchen table (I told you it was weird), my 13-year old daughter comes bounding downstairs as she usually does. After I stumbled on my words reminding her to "say hello to Mr....His Holi...The Pope!" My daughter dutifully attempts both a curtsy and a ring kiss (one of the oddest greetings ever) and here's what I noticed: She had on her typical American Eagle somewhat too-tight t-shirt with another underneath it, and jeans. My daughter was wearing American Eagle to greet the Pope. It drove me nuts. You know how you try to scream in your dreams and you can't? Well, I tried to tell her to CHANGE YOUR SHIRT but I couldn't. And then I woke up.

I guess there's some deep dark need I have to tell my daughter to WEAR MORE APPROPRIATE CLOTHES. It's not actually that deep or dark, it's more like a daily occurrence. Yes, I've sunk to the level of dreaming about yelling at my kids. Sad, isn't it? It's not like she dresses any differently than every other 13-year old I see at the mall, but there are moments, like when we get a papal audience, that it just sort of bugs me.

On the other hand, it makes me think about the fact that I'm sure that my mother experienced the exact same thing. Moments when she watched me walk out of the house and had to chain herself to the stove (as if she wasn't already chained to it) to stop herself from dragging me back in by my Carol Brady shag haircut and make me change. Don't we all feel that way - trapped between being a mom and letting our kids be kids and making their own mistakes - fashion or otherwise?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Paper Pushin' Mama

It took a while, but I finally realized one more thing that nobody tells you about before you become a mom - paperwork.

Those of us who used to work in offices figured that our days of pushing paper were behind us when we left our cubicle behind. Au contraire, mon ami. A mother's year is marked by seasons and prior to each season, there is a tidal wave of paperwork to sort through, fill-out, organize and mail. You do it before school starts, prior to each season and well in advance of summer so that little Suzie or Johnny will not be sent home because - gasp! - paperwork is missing.

The first thing you have to face is who you want the school/team/scout leader to call if Suzy breaks her arm and your feet are in stirrups in the OB/GYN office with your cell phone off. If, like me, you don't have family in town, then you have to call in favors from your friends so that you can put them down as emergency contacts. This consists of deciding which friend would hate you the least if they were called in the middle of a day.

Next is the medical form-o-rama - a marathon event that consists of you digging through every nook and cranny in your house to determine when Suzy or Johnny had the chicken pox and the dates of their MMR vaccines. (Let me pause for a moment to say that yes, I realize that some of you are chronically organized and have this information readily available. To you, I say, go ahead and gloat. I want to say "get a life," but actually I'm jealous.) If you're really lucky, you get to take this form to your physician and find an easy and fast way to get it signed...there isn't one. Just bring a book along and deal with it.

Then there's the prepayments and registrations. This is where you write your address and sign your name so often you start to get it wrong. Every registration requires a check, which, according to Murphy's Law you will run out of before you're finished.

Once you've finished with the seasonal paperwork, you get to look forward to the smattering of permission slips. This is where the world of law and the world of education intersect. This is also where someone has created a form that will be used for no less than ten years (because why change something?), upon which you have to write your entire life history in the space of two square inches. This is also when you make the life and death decision of whether or not to chaperone. Warning! Proceed carefully! I use a complicated formula that takes the number of the kids in the class, multiplies it by the number of future juvenile delinquents and divides it by the number of times I have declined the chaperone duty in the past.

I'm an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of gal, so my dining room table is Command Central when it's paperwork season. There's a stack for every activity and/or every school. One of the most difficult things about doing paperwork is when it's finished and you can't mail it just have to wait. And, of course, when the day comes when you can actually get rid of it, someone will have either spilled something on it or accidentally moved it out of sight causing panic, mayhem and general mom madness.

If you've made it this far and haven't gotten carpal tunnel or a headache. Congratulations! You get to do it all over again in just a few short months or maybe even weeks. Once your kids hit their teens, you are certified paperwork pro. You can do this in your sleep. In fact, you're probably now qualified for a big, fat government job.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Hold On To Your Hormones!

This week's issue of Time Magazine has a cover story on "Being 13." I'm here to say, save your money, I can tell you everything you need to know about living with, and formerly being, a 13-year old girl.

To put it bluntly, it's like going to hell in a handbasket with your eyes closed. It's wanting to know about sex, not even knowing what to ask, but figuring that if you listen long enough and closely enough, one of your friends will say something about it that you'll actually understand.

Being 13 means you are the sun and everything revolves around you. Not because you're selfish, although you are, but mostly because of the raging tidal wave of hormones that ebb and flow as you klutz through your day.

It's feeling pretty one moment and ugly and fat the next. It's knowing who you should be friends with but secretly wanting to hang out with the popular kids because, well, duh, they're popular!

It's reading fashion magazines with a hunger normally reserved for steamy novels. It's being excited, terrified, angry, depressed and ecstatic all within the same hour.

It's wearing things that don't look good on you, simply because everyone else is or, better yet, because no one else is and you'll be the first. Bonus!

It's going to movies to be scared or sad and enjoying every moment of it, only if you're with friends.

It's hating to be around your parents, but needing to because, well, they have money in their wallets.

It's wanting to be smart, but not having any clue how to show it. It's feeling passionate about everything and having no idea why.

It's having opinions that you share loudly, especially if they conflict with those of your parents.

It's wondering why God chose you to have zits and be chubby, while your friends are skinny with china doll complexions.

It's needing to be alone, and always being bored. It's wanting attention and hoping you won't be noticed.

It's liking boys and showing it in really strange ways. It's thinking that nobody will ever find you attractive but praying that you're wrong.

It's the end of the world and the beginning, all rolled into every day.

It's needing your mom around, while constantly pushing her away.

It's praying that one day, all of this will make sense.