Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Nice Work, If You Can Get It

It occurred to me today that there are very few jobs available which last forever. In today's world, you interview, you are hired and then one day, in the words of Martha Stewart, you "just don't fit in." Or, something better comes along and you move on. Either way, it's rarely thought of as a permanent situation.

Today, however, I can confidently name two jobs that are almost always held for life: Supreme Court Judge and Parent. Both are by appointment, but only one requires confirmation hearings...unless you count dinner with prospective in-laws. Both jobs require wisdom and the dispensing of justice. Regardless of popularity, both parents and Supreme Court Justices report for work every day and try their best to carry on.

Both professions involve ruling on weighty issues. For the Justices, their decisions affect our entire nation. Decisions made by parents often affect the entire family. In both situations, suffice it to say that lives are touched.

Despite the importance of both professions, it is incredibly difficult to lose either job, whether it is by impeachment or termination of rights.

Both are honorable professions that people aspire to, perhaps from a very young age.

There are also great differences between these professions. Supreme Court Justices have large staffs of eager clerks and assistants to do their bidding. Parents often work alone or with assistance from spouses and children.

The primary difference between these two professions is the way we treat them at the end of their "term." When a Supreme Court Justice decides to retire or becomes very ill, media and politicians hover around them like vultures and speculate on when the end will come.

When a parent's time is nearly over, family and friends gather to support them and each other and realize that nobody on earth can ever really replace them.

I'm proud to have one of these jobs, even if it is the lower profile one.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tag, You're It

Well, I found this on BusyMom's site and thought it would be fun to do a bit of mental gymnastics. Do play along with your own answers!

Ten Years Ago...I was working full-time and going insane and feeding my kids way too much fast food and feeling like I could never catch up to anything. I was also watching a lot of Green Bay Packers football which was really fun.

Five Years Ago...
I was working part-time and volunteering WAY too much, to try to make up for when I was working full-time and couldn't.

One Year Ago...
I was nagging my son to finish/start his college applications and figure out where he wanted to go to college.

Yesterday...I was doing very little and spending way too much time on the computer.

5 Songs I know all the words to...
"The Joker" by Steve Miller
"The Beverly Hillbillies Theme"
"Dixie Chicken" by Little Feat
"Since You've Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson because my daughter plays it INCESSANTLY.
"Look for the Union Label" - It's a commercial from the mid-70s.

5 Snacks...
Potato Chips and French Onion dip
Pretzels dipped in chocolate
Goldfish crackers
Chocolate Chips
Home-Popped (not microwave) popcorn

5 Things I'd do with 100 million dollars...
Buy my sister a house
Buy my parents a house
Buy a vacation home
Buy a 1964-1/2 Ford Mustang
Set up a charitable foundation

5 Places I'd run away to...
Door County, Wisconsin
Napa Valley
Los Cabos, Mexico
New York City

5 Things I'd never wear...
A Thong
A Shrug (Don't understand it and I think it would look bad on me.)
A Bikini
Any tight clothes
5" Heels

5 Favorite books...
Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O'Toole
Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Holes by Louis Sacher
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

5 Favorite TV Shows
Amazing Race
Gilmore Girls
Desperate Housewives

5 Greatest joys...
My Husband
My Children
My Friends
My Faith
Getting the mail every day

5 Favorite toys...
My iPod
My computer
My cell phone
My pedometer (but I lost it!)
My digital camera

5 People I'm tagging to do this...
Well, I don't like to pressure people, but please e-mail or comment if you wanna do this too!

Current reads...(all book club selections)
"Kindred" by Octavia Butler
"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini
"The Girl That Loved Tom Gordon" by Stephen King

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

If By....Then

Teenagers form our cultural language. Even though we hate what they say and, most of all, how they say it, eventually, it seeps into our subconscious and we wind up mimicking them.

For instance, the overuse of the word "like." If you've spoken with a teen lately, you'll notice that this word is used so much, it's as if it's taken the place of breathing. They have no clue that they're inserting it into every pause in every conversation. It drives me to distraction. Nevertheless, I find myself using it and I'm pretty sure that most of my friends and acquaintances do too, although not quite to the same extreme.

I also admit to uttering other teen phrases, such as "Dude!," "Awesome!" and "______ sucks." I swear I'm not trying to sound younger, it just seems like when I'm in a pinch, it's what pops into my head.

Even the finally fading "Your mom __________" has jumped to the tip of my tongue only to be pushed back by common sense.

Well, folks, there's a new one, at least to us adults. And, I have to say, it's kind of clever and I'm sure I'll be guilty of using it in the near future. Today I saw it in the cartoon "Zits." I like to call it "If by...then."

Here's an example: My daughter and I will be watching a TV show and I'll innocently say: "That's funny, isn't it?" and she'll respond: "If by funny you mean stupid, then yes." Or we're eating dinner somewhere and my husband will say: "Your soup looks good." And I'll say: "If by good you mean disgusting, then yes."

See what I mean? It's brilliant in that subtle-teen-angst-with-attitude kind of way.

To which you'll reply: "If by brilliant you mean soon-to-be-irritating, then yes."

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Life of Mommy

One of my favorite magazine columnists is Rick Reilly, who writes for Sports Illustrated. His column, The Life of Reilly, is on the last page of SI and the topic of his September 19th column was the genesis for my last post. This weekend, I reread his column and came upon this paragraph:

O.K., so maybe Molly Shattuck makes you want to nail her with a cream pie. Not me. I don't get all these moms who say, "My kids are my life." They spend every Saturday watching their kids play in yet another soccer tournament and every Saturday night sitting in some icebox watching their 4,008th hockey practice. Their conversational skills range from "Amber is kicking butt in field hockey" to "Amber loves goalie camp." That's great, but since when does Amber starting mean you ending? Get out there!

I saw those last two sentences and I cringed. On the one hand, he's right. Mothers are often guilty of abandoning their own hopes, dreams and aspirations to feed, clothe, nurture and love their children. Sometimes we cheer too loudly for our kids even when nobody cheers for us. I can't speak for all stay-at-home moms, but my conversational skills have fallen off the radar.

On the other hand, and this hand is WAAAAAYYY bigger than that first hand, that's part of the freakin' job description! In many cases, it's what men like Rick Reilly have asked us to do for the sake of the family. Some of us feed, clothe, nurture, love and add to the family bottom line. Others stay home and try to make the bottom line stretch as far as possible. In both cases, sacrifices are being made for the family.

And now, here's prehistoric Rick Reilly telling us that it's not good enough. He wants us to slim down, shape up and "get out". I guess he wants us to drop the laundry basket and pick up a barbell. And he wants us to pay for this how? Most of us are not married to a millionaire or have a 30-hour per week nanny. And Rick, shall I iron and starch your shirts before or after I write my Pulitzer Prize-winning novel?

When will men like Rick Reilly realize that motherhood is a full-time job, whether you work outside the home or not? Some of us have dreamed all our lives of sitting in the stands cheering for "Amber" and her teammates. Do we do it at the expense of our own personal goals? Sometimes. Will our worlds come crashing down on us when Amber goes off to college and leaves us with an emptier laundry basket? Perhaps, but that's the chance we take.

To say that a life devoted to children is less worthwhile than one that has children and a glamorous career, is a slap in face of centuries of motherhood. At the risk of being a drama queen, motherhood is all about sacrifice. It's day after day of putting everyone's needs ahead of your own. Now I agree that we have to take time for ourselves, but to flippantly command: "Get out there!" without an appreciation for what we do on a daily basis is just plain ignorant.

Sure, Molly Shattuck has it all and does it all. But I'll bet if you asked her, even she would say that she's made sacrifices to have this life about which Rick Reilly is so enamored.

So Rick, next time you go to a soccer tournament, don't sit down next to the woman who obsesses over Amber. In fact, try to sit next to the Molly Shattuck in the crowd. Oh wait, you might not find her there. She didn't have time to watch the tournament so she sent the nanny.

What's the old adage? Oh yeah, "Ignorance is bliss." Rick Reilly must be pretty darn blissful right now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Poor Sport

You know, I was pretty proud of myself last week. I not only cleaned my 13-year old daughter's bedroom (a.k.a. The Black Hole) but I also made a dent in cleaning out my own closet and finally parting with many of the clothes that will never fit me. I was also happy that my faithful dog and I had managed to walk a few miles this week, despite the unseasonal heat and humidity. I was just reaching around to pat myself on the back when I found out about Molly Shattuck. If you haven't heard about her, just wait. Your husband will probably introduce you.

Here's a brief bio: She's a Baltimore Ravens Cheerleader, she's blonde, she's beautiful, she's got a body that won't quit, and, oh yeah, she's 38 and has 3 kids under the age of 6. And, if that isn't good enough, she has run a marathon, is learning to play piano, tap-dances and sews. She had 250 people over for dinner last week and did the flower arrangements herself.

Finally, someone to hate now that Martha Stewart has done her time.

Upon Molly successfully making the Ravens' cheerleading squad, her husband commented: "Suddenly, I wake up and I'm married to an NFL cheerleader! How good is that?"

About which I will tell my husband: "Yeah, in your dreams buddy. Right after the marital property settlement."

But wait, don't throw in the towel just yet. There's another side to Molly Shattuck that has taken a back seat to her accomplishments. She's married to Mayo Shattuck, one of the wealthiest men in Baltimore and....she has a 30-hour-a-week babysitter. That's right, Molly Shattuck is a privately-funded, one-woman mid-life crisis avoidance project. Thanks to Mayo and his fat paycheck, Molly has the time and resources to make the rest of us look like underachieving slobs.

Now I don't wish Molly any harm. It's just that here in the trenches of THE REAL WORLD, life just isn't quite that glamorous. For every Molly, there are ten women who are out-of-shape, tired and without a babysitter for 2 hours, let alone 30. You see, Molly's story doesn't empower us, it depresses us. It doesn't inspire us, it's a reminder that no matter how many closets we clean, there will always be someone doing it better, faster and looking cuter while they're doing it.

Those of us who have a few years on Molly know the truth. This fairy tale ain't gonna last. Sooner or later the abs will become a 12-pack, the boobs will begin to sag, the roots will start to grow out and Mayo might start looking around for a cheerleader with a few less miles.

I wish Molly the best but hope for one thing: When she's in a kickline and pulls a hammie, I'll be in my kitchen pulling a ham out of my oven watching it on TV.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sick and Tired

I haven't posted since The Great Bedroom Cleanup of 2005. Guess I'm trying to regain my strength. Still, life goes on and with life comes the recurring challenges that remind us all why parenting isn't a glamorous job. My challenge today is the borderline hypochondriac child. Today, it's a bad stomach ache that caused tears and much angst. I threatened, I cajoled, I persuaded. I even offered a trip to the new H&M as bribery...I tried everything short of dressing her myself and throwing her in the car. Alas, she's hunkered down in her bedroom supposedly sleeping off this gastrointestinal distress. And I'm pissed.

Here's the problem: It's not like this is a huge inconvenience for me. Outside of a dental appointment, I have nothing planned today. I didn't have to reschedule meetings or find a sub for some committee or disappoint a lunch date. And this is part of why I'm home - to be here when a child needs me. If she were green and hurling, I wouldn't bat an eyelash. But her symptoms are always questionable and invisible. Nothing to be proved or disproved. It's her word against mine. I think she should tough it out, she thinks it's so bad that school would be intolerable. What's a mother supposed to do?

So I tell her that her day will consist of staying in her room with no TV and no computer. Just books and bed. This, in hopes that school would look more appealing. It didn't and so here we are.

It's going to be a long day.......

Friday, September 16, 2005

Creme de la Crap

Finished. Yeesh. 8 hours to clean one bedroom and one bathroom. On the other hand, there was probably 8 years worth of crap in each of those rooms, so an hour for each year isn't too bad. I filled NINE garbage bags of various sizes, 3 bags of craft projects to give to a friend's daughter, 6 bags of American Girl and Build-A-Bear things for my niece....PLUS probably 5 bags of stuff to donate to Goodwill. Un-freakin'-believable.

And as with all great projects, there is often treasure to unearth. Today, it was many, many gift certificates from birthdays and Christmas. Thanks to me, my 13-year old shopaholic will be able to fuel her addiction till the cows come home. This girl is gonna owe me...big time.

One HUGE Step for Momhood......

Dust rags - check.
Vacuum cleaner - check.
Radio - check.
Hasmet suit - check.
Garbage bags - check.
Patience - check.

Alright, I'm going in. No, you can't stop me. It's been too long. I've needed to do this for too long. Of course I'm crazy. Why else would I do this? Wish me luck.

I'm cleaning my 13-year old daughter's bedroom. If I don't come back by dinner, send somebody in to find me.....

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ooh, Fun! What Should I Wear?

I just got an "invitation" in the mail. Here's what it says:

Dear Friend, (If you were my friend, you'd know my name.)

Because you were referred to me, (By the person that sold you this mailing list?) I wanted to personally invite you as my guest to attend the nation's #1 Women's Conference. (They couldn't come up with a better title? That's the name of our local Chinese Restaurant.) Featuring some of the Greatest Super Stars all live and in person, including the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson.(I thought she gave up that title).....As my special VIP guest, (Who are you?!) I have enclosed 2 complimentary tickets. Other attendees will be paying the full tuition fee of $69. (Bet they won't!)

At this once in a lifetime Women's Conference you will learn how to:
1) Use the 7 keys to build lasting relationships at home and on the job. (I have lasting relationships and I'm trying to get them to go to college and start a life.)
2) Apply the 21 secrets of self-discipline to always look and feel young. (Is this applied before or after mascara?)
3) Be recognized and rewarded for your efforts. (Ooh, ooh, make me employee of the week!)
4) Buy real estate for 31%-48% below market value. (Oh sure, another house to clean.)
5) Rapidly expand your circle of influence. (Does this include the catty flock of women that gossip outside school every day?)
6) Develop opportunities for networking. (Oh, I get it! When the cable goes out, I'll be able to fix it!)
7) Use the top money-making secrets millionaires are using. (Like Trump? You mean have a bad comb-over and marry a European model?)
8) Improve the quality of your life and the lives of your loved ones. (If this doesn't include Sephora, Guitar Center and Casino gift certificates, it's not going to improve anything.)
9) Use the essential principles of highly successful women. (Maybe I'm wrong, but this seems kinda vague...)

Whew! I don't know about you, but I think this just made my week. To think that they're giving away the 7 keys AND the 21 secrets all in one free conference. Plus, an audience with Fergy to boot! Be still my heart....I think they have the wrong address. I am not a Martha Stewart or Sarah Ferguson wanna-be. I'm quite happy, thank you. I think I'll just stay at home and apply my own secrets and keys.

13 Going On 30

I really shouldn't panic because she's just like me. In fact, she's so much like me that it's scary. I can practically read what's on her 13-year old mind. I know that she's insecure about how she looks and wishes virtually everything about herself was different. She wants straight hair. (I wanted curly.) She wants to be skinny. (So do I.) She'd like to be smart, and she is, but being popular is much more fun. (Ditto.)

What she doesn't know is that I think she's beautiful. I try not to stare at her or risk hearing "WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? GOD!" But I can't help myself. She may not be model material, but there's a sparkle in her eyes and a twinkle in her smile that's infectious. She's fun to listen to and is way more witty than most 13-year olds. In fact, she's really funny. She can actually have a conversation with adults...and it doesn't include the word "like" every three seconds.

What worries me is that she wants to be anybody but herself. She emulates everyone, except me, of course. She wants the same clothes, shoes and purses that her friends have. I should just ask to go through their closets so I know what she likes. It's not that she's a sheep, it's just that she lives for their approval, their affirmation. Like I said, this worries me.

I wish she could have her own style and feel comfortable flaunting it. On the other hand, if her own style included multiple piercings and black lipstick, then nevermind. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I want her to be an individual without rebelling. I don't think the two can be separated.

I was just like she was when I was 13, but she never believes me when I say that, so I've stopped mentioning it. Because, like her, I thought everything my mom said was so incredibly lame. Like me, my mom tried pretty hard to connect with me. Like me, my daughter pushes me away.

What I want to tell her is to enjoy this time now, even though it feels confusing and stressful and irritating and boring. I want to tell her that there will be too many years ahead to be an adult, so she shouldn't spend today wishing she was there already. She doesn't care. She wants to be older, even at the expense of her youth.

Yes, youth is definitely wasted on the young.