Monday, November 23, 2009

"This is more fun than TV!"

The twins had a birthday last week.  This will probably be the last year that we give them a party for ANYONE they want to invite.  Both invited their whole class.  T1 invited the Cub Scout troupe, T2 the soccer team.  We expected about 30 kids at this party.  It was absurd.  We booked an indoor playground (I know it's California and it was about 77 degrees outside, but still) for two separate parties with two separate cakes, snacks, paper goods, and goody bags (don't even get me started on the goody bags...).  We had light up Mickey Mouse ears for 50 people.

While all of this seems like a lesson in excess, it is nothing compared to the haul of gifts they got.  Gift cards, Lego sets, books, Barbies, science sets, and a marshmallow shooter (coolest toy ever. Really).  I mean, the living room looked like Christmas morning.

I marveled at how generous all of their friends were.  Way more than what their Christmas will look like this year.  And I wonder about the message associated with all these gifts.  While the kids were appreciative of what they received, I wonder if they will have a sense of entitlement at all gift-giving opportunities.  Will they expect extravagant gifts from their friends next year?  From us?  What about giving back? 

But something wonderful happened.  They began playing.  They opened Legos and built them.  They colored, they read.  T1 said, "this is more fun than watching TV!"  That's when I knew there was some redemption in it all.  If I can pay this generosity forward by raising self aware kids who want to explore their world instead of being told how to react to it, I'll be very blessed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Discipline -- Part 1

Okay, so I am thinking about some sibling squabbles that are ending up in fists and tears. The typical scenario is this: T2 tells T1 he cannot do something, or he is bugging her, or he is generally breathing in her sacred space. She tells him to leave her alone, he persists, she gets annoyed and yells, he gets frustrated and ultimately, because of his inferiority in the verbal skills department, as well as his upper hand in the physical skills department, he hits or kicks her. Dramatic tears ensue, I come running, he blames her, "She started it!" She cries, "He hit me!" Blah, blah, blah. Neither kid is hurt, really, so I usually sympathize with the hit-ee, scold the hitter, and then move on.

It occured to me recently, then, I wonder if this is how he solves his problems when I am not there. What about on the playground? Does he hit other kids, or is this just something that he saves for his sister? What is going on when I am not around? I did a little investigating. It is hard to get information about what happens at school from the kids who are there, you know? He claims that he never hits anyone at school. I have not heard from teachers or anyone else that he is, but I am not sure.

I wonder if she is as antagonistic with other kids at school as she is with her brother. Does she turn off playmates because she so much wants to control whatever game they are playing? Again, investigation is warranted. When we meet for school conferences, I am going to be like, "yeah, yeah, I know about the reading and math; how about their playground etiquette? How are they interacting with other kids?" (This is the main goal for 1st grade anyway, right?)

I made a new rule for at home. A consequence needs to happen for hitting. We need to have a zero tolerance for solving problems with violence. But I am certainly not going to single out the hitter. I think the hit-ee definitely has a part in this. So far, since I instigated the "time-out" rule for BOTH kids if hitting happens, no hitting has happened. What do you know?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Family Vacation -- an oxymoron

I heard once someone said a vacation is something you do on a South Pacific island or a Mexican resort. When traveling with kids, you're on a trip. There is nothing remotely vacation-like about it, other than the fact that you're eating out at restaurants. When you're with kids, however, the restaurants force an inedible kid's menu on children with the same 4 deep-fried, questionable chicken items on it.

Traveling with kids to visit family is an altogether different kind of trip. When we travel to visit my family who live on the same coast, but two, long states away, it's as if we went to another world, my kids think. They love seeing their cousins, their grandparents, aunts and uncles. They relish in the sleeping in a hotel and watching TV in the morning.

They get excited that they get to sleep in and maybe even get a day off from school.

I, on the other hand, find this trip to visit my family (which we do at least twice or three times a year) to be difficult on so many levels.

First, I hate, and I really do mean hate, being so far away from my family. For reasons that are best for everyone, I live in Southern California, and they live in the Pacific Northwest. Every time we go there, I long for them more and more. To just hop over and visit, or have my brother come by and hang out while I wash my car would be dreamy. Alas, it is never to be, so I feel like I have to cram in together time. Too much togetherness does not make for the carefree, happy days of my childhood that I think I'm trying to recreate. We just end up getting on each others' nerves.

Second, my mother is in a nursing home. She has a degenerative disease that has her wheelchair bound and unable to walk. (This trip, she held T2 on her lap in the recliner. This was the first time she has held one of my children since they were born. Damn, too, if I didn't leave the camera in said hotel room in the moment that I would have wanted to capture the most.) Nursing homes and small children don't mix, people. I think you get the picture. I wish that she didn't have this disease. I wanted my kids to have a grandmother who would babysit or take them to the park or walk with them. This is not what we have, so I have to take whatever time with her I can get.

Finally, the over-stimulated, TV-laden, junk-food haven nirvana that my kids find this trip to be is exasperating for me. While trying to create all the together time mentioned above, my kids get my shortened temper, lack of consistent discipline, and annoyance. Sometimes it's hard just to keep them moving forward. They, too, find each other intolerable after 16 straight hours together. Their short fuses combined with mine are a volatile combination.

And then, after 4 days, it's over. I'm back home and wondering how soon we can go back.

I was filled with a kind of ennui today as I went back to my routine. Something about the trip, despite all of its difficulties, is exciting, a way to escape the everyday. A vacation it's not, but I'll take the trip anyway, and many more like it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Did someone say group hug?

We had a cool "balance-affirming" moment this week.

Last month, I had to reluctantly sign up my kids for after-school care with the local parks and rec department. I thought I could cram my full time job into the 6 hours a day that my kids are in school, but I just can't do it. I was frantically ducking out of meetings in order to drive 21 miles on the freeway (God, I hope there's no traffic) to get there in time to pick them up. The after-school care means that there's a little less pressure on me, and I feel like I can do my job without people judging my "leaving early."

This week, the kids were at the after-school program on Monday for 8 hours because the school was closed for a "pupil-free" day. Not very "working-family-friendly." My meeting lasted until 5 pm, so my husband picked the kids up at 5:30, and I ran in the door at 5:50, threw an apron over my skirt and blouse, and started cooking dinner.

In a brief moment of passing, I stopped to hug my husband. My daughter came in the room and said, "I want a hug too!" She ran at us and grasped our legs. Then T1 came in. He wanted in on it too. "Family hug!!!" we all cried. And we picked up the kids (really not very easy, now that they're almost 7) and had a good long squeeze.

This was very affirming to me. This is why I do it. I really feel so lucky to have such sweet kids, and I sincerely recognize that luck when I spend a little time away from them. If I were home with the kids all day, which I also love, I don't think I would have appreciated them as much as I did in that moment. Likewise, I don't think they would have wanted to be around me at all anymore. I shared this story with my colleague at work the next day, and he said, "It's about balance. You're showing them that work matters, and they matter too."

We're taking a family trip this weekend when we'll be together 24/7 for the next 4 days. That's a different post altogether....

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And now I REALLY want to go home!

I am sitting in the airport in San Francisco waiting for the flight that is delayed 2 hours (it's a 1 hour flight, people, from San Francisco to Los Angeles!) to board so I can go home from a conference that I've been at since Wednesday (it's Sunday).

DG has done an amazing job of taking care of T1 and T2 while I've been gone. He even went and got them Halloween costumes and he did the laundry! He's been such a good Mr. Mom that the twins don't even want to talk to me when I call. And, as I look at the clock and think about how I would have been driving up to my house and seeing their adorable faces in about 30 minutes, and now I have to wait another 2 hours, I just get mad.

When I left on Wednesday, I was really looking forward to the respite time that a conference affords a working mom. Maybe you have not had the luxury of staying in a hotel room by yourself, eating room service, and watching movies. My colleagues asked me to go to dinner. Are you kidding? And give up the quiet time? No way. They have no idea how much that down time is precious. But now, I'm just anxious to get home.

The balance between working and mothering is tipping in the wrong direction right now.

Mothering first -- working second, not the other way around.

I have a goal for when I get home. Instead of worrying about the emails, the laundry, the lunches, and all, I plan on spending the week playing cards, kicking the soccer ball around the back yard, and playing hide and seek. I'm hoping to tip the scale back in the other direction.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ahhh, they're asleep.....

I love watching my children as they sleep. They are so serene, so peaceful. I place my hand on their faces and arms and I long for the days when I held their little bodies. Their warm baby breathing, the feel of their chests rising and falling in my arms reassured me that they were alive--that I really was a mother.

Now I can no longer cradle them the way I did. Oh, but I try. Their long, bony arms and legs poke me and prod me, but as soon as it's begun, it's over. They're off to play or ride scooters, anything but be with mom.

When they were toddlers, I was sure my twins would always need me. I scooped them up when they fell; every wail, "Mommmmmeeeeeee" was always followed by me hovering with my hands outstretched and back hunched over making sure they didn't fall into anything or break anything. It was like triage. Who was in the most danger? One twin would hopefully not get hurt while I tended to the other. I yearned for a break, screamed for it. "When will this ever end?!?"

It did. Their wiggly toddler bodies that I used to prop up on both hips like saddle bags, grew up.

It occurs to me now, as I marvel at the changes in their sleeping faces, that I can't scoop them up anymore. I can't carry them, and the break I desperately wanted is bittersweet. Sometimes I crawl in bed with each one. I get close to feel their breathing, to remember that luscious, baby cuddle. It's like that book, I Love You Forever. I will hold them close as much as I can for as long as I can, all the while knowing one day too, this will end. Hug those babies, people.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'm Dancing, and So Are They

Note to the little people who live in my house: This is it. The jig is up. Thought you had it made with the vacations and the swimming and amusement park visits, but Ha Ha, now you have to go back like everyone else!

Oh yeah, you get your new lunchboxes and fancy new supplies like a Hello Kitty pencil case and an X-Men superhero binder, but don't worry, I'm not jealous. You've got a brand new wardrobe of fall favorites from the fabulous back to school sale, but of course, it's still 100 degrees out, so Ha Ha again, just back to the grind for you. Suck it up. No long faces over here.

What's that? You're EXCITED?!? You can't wait to go back to school and start first grade? But I'm doing the victory dance; I'm thinking, "now they'll learn that life is hard and you don't get to do what you want to do all the time. Life isn't all fun and games."

Wait. I guess first grade is fun and games, pretty much. I'm thinking, "now you'll get it. " Life should be fun and games. Everyone should love what they do. Every fall I get excited about starting school again, as a teacher now instead of a student.

So I say Ha Ha, one more time, only this time we're laughing and dancing because we love it. I hope every new fall is a beginning of happiness for you. Going back to school is fun--for you and for me.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

When Life Hangs in the Balance

I have lived in Southern California my whole life. The San Gabriel Valley is east of Los Angeles and nestled into the foothills. As a kid, I always knew that north was where the mountains were. And every fall, we entered into "fire season." The hot, relentless Santa Anas whip up and fuel any relentless spark and the mountains go up in flames.

While I am used to having some smoke in the air every once in a while in fall, I have never seen anything like this Station fire consuming La Canada/Flintridge. To exacerbate matters, I have friends who live near the firestorm. When the fire started on Wednesday or Thursday, I didn't pay it any mind, but by Friday night, it bacame evident that the spreading was moving more toward homes than away from them.

(photo by Robin Swanson from LA reader's photos)

This is what the fire looked like from the top of my hill, probably 10 -15 miles away.

By Saturday morning, my closest friend's family was evacuated from the canyon. Our house has become a respite and a hell for them. They have two kids, a cat, and tons of computer equipment as they both work at home. They don't know how dangerously their house is threatened. They can't get enough information on the news or the Internet specific to their exact area. They are sequestered, isolated, and even in the age of technology with iPhones and instant information in the palm of your hand, they feel so desperately unaware of how close to their home the fire is burning. Facebook is their only link to their friends still staying to fight or waiting until they are mandatorily forced out. The posts on Facebook are heart-breaking. Some people are leaving their homes for what may be the last time. Do they know if they've missed anything in their frantic rush to leave and keep their children from inhaling any more smoke?

My friend threw clothes in suitcases yesterday as the Sherriff's' cars were coming by to tell them to evacuate. She's amazing in a crisis. She has training in crisis management in a mental health setting, but when it's happening to you, you don't react as carefully. She managed on Thursday and Friday to pack all of the important papers, pictures, kids' baby books, etc. You know, the stuff you remember to take. But this morning, she cried, "I wish I brought everything." My heart sank. I can't possibly know how she's feeling.

The house is chaotic. The girls, my T2 and their 6-year-old are watching TV in the front; the boys, T1 and their 9 1/2-year-old are watching episodes of X-Men on the computer. We have make-shift beds in several rooms, make-shift offices in the dining room. Making meals is like a army KP production. Industrial quantities of paper plates at the ready.

As I support my friends, I think about how natural disasters leave us completely powerless. What would I do if I had to leave my home? I remember when I moved in here. I didn't like the house. I longed for my old house and neighborhood; as a mother with toddlers, I felt isolated and sadly lonely, away from my community. Now, five years later, we have built a circle of friends. We see our neighbors in town, at the store, and I can't imagine living anywhere else. If I had to leave I'd want to remember to pack the brick that identifies our family name near the front door, but, obviously, I'd have to leave the lemon tree. My friends worry that their house will burn in this apocalyptic fire. There won't be anything left to buy or rent in the neighborhood. They will have to start over, they fear.

I feel scared along with them because all parents live to preserve their way of life, their home and community, the routines that make their children feel safe. I am supporting them, hoping for the best.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beaches and Theme Parks and X Games, Oh My!

Summers are different when you have kids. When I was younger, before marriage, kids, you know, responsibility, summers were for relaxing, sitting around, staying up late, reading lots and lots and lots. Now my summers are jam packed. I wouldn't necessarily call what we do in summer a "vacation." I remember my last "vacation." There was an over-water bungalow and the words, "Bora-Bora" on the hotel stationery....ah memories. No, now we take trips. Trips to theme parks, the beach, places with cotton candy and merry-go-rounds.

I love my summer "trips" with my family. Maybe they're not the most relaxing or rejuvenating, but they are FUN. The looks on our faces can attest to that. Here are some highlights:

Parrot talons in your shoulders do feel really weird.

Big hat is a must.

Always gotta find a place where the kids can go on one of these

At the X Games in Los Angeles, we watched the inaugural "Big Air Rail Jam" skateboarding event. These guys skateboarded down that giant ramp, landed on a tiny rail, jumped off the rail and came down another ramp. Pretty amazing.

Don't we look happy? I hope you had a great summer too. Back to school (and back to work) is just around the corner....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Photo Tag

I have been tagged by clueless but hopeful mama to post a photo.

Simple Rules:
-Open your first photo folder (I took this to mean oldest digital pictures folder).
-Scroll down to the 10th photo. (okay, I'll have to use the 9th because there aren't 10 photos in the folder. I have photos from 2008 to now on this computer.)
-Post that photo and story on your blog.
-Tag five others (or more) friends to do the same.

This is my dad opening presents on his 80th birthday. If you look really close, you can see the really funny (read stupid) message on the shirt, meant to look like Japanese or Chinese characters. His sense of humor does tend to go the potty-mouthed, adolescent boy slant.

I really love my dad for a bunch of reasons. He's so self-sufficient, even at 80. Loves to do carpentry, computers, painting, gardening; he plays the trumpet, for God's sake. On his birthday, all of his cronies came out for dinner and we toasted his wonderfully productive life. He's a real renaissance man; keeps reinventing himself all the time. I hope when I retire that I want to be involved in half as much stuff as he is, so I won't be bugging my kids all the time.

Wish I knew 5 friends to tag for this post, but alas, I am new to blogging and don't know anyone, other than CBHM who tagged me. Stay tuned. Maybe I'll make some friends soon to tag here.

Summer Camp

I did not really like summer camp as a child. I remember I had to go to the YMCA day camp for a while, and then my mom sent my sister, brother, and I to Vacation Bible School at a Baptist Church. We were Catholic. Go figure. I guess if it's all Jesus, that's okay, right?

Anyway, the YMCA day camp felt very isolating. It was in this big, cavernous gym, with bunches of kids, none of whom I knew. We went on field trips and had contests--everything that should have made a kid thrilled. Not me. I was painfully shy and had trouble making friends. Mostly, I remember playing by myself and sticking with the counselors, who were like surrogate mommies to me, when what I really wanted was to be home with my mom, who was at work--like me now.

Fast forward to my own kids going to summer camp for the first time. I had a revelation yesterday that they are now forming their own childhood memories. These are the summers they'll remember as the "when I was a kid..." times. Oh, the responsibility of this makes me so nervous. What if they don't like camp? What if they have a bad experience that they remember forever and blame me for putting them there--for working.

I took T1 and T2 to camp for their first day on August 3. They knew 3 kids there from their previous pre-school. Long standing friends with whom they had fantastic relationships. There was even a counselor there from their pre-school. They'd be okay, I told myself. They had "people" there.

T1 has a similar personality to mine. He's sensitive, shy, and slow to warm. I projected all of my own childhood fears onto his experience. T2 will be fine, I thought. She's the social butterfly. No problems for her. I packed their lunches (special sugary treats included so they'd think fondly of me during the day. Why that works, I don't know), kissed them goodbye, and crossed my fingers for a good day. When I came to pick them up, the counselors' reports were all happy and upbeat. They had a great time! they said. T1 actually joined in the games and made friends faster and more easily than T2. T2 got into the game late in the day, but really, overall, they loved it.

You mean their lives aren't going to be the same as mine? Their childhoods will be different? As twins, their experience will always be different than mine. They will always have each other wherever they go together. I suppose that takes some of the pressure off. A week-and-a-half into camp now, and they're both loving it. And why not? Playing games, going swimming, and making new friends (friends that may last a lifetime, as other people tell me happens sometimes at camp) are infinitely more fun than hanging out with Mommy.

They're growing up.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sometimes You Just Gotta Say Okay

Decisions can be made in an instant. Faced with a challenging decision, one usually analyzes and then acts. I am compulsive; I almost always act before thinking. This has been a habit most of my life--talking before thinking, acting on impulse, instead of directed, reasoned thought. But if you ask me to go on a roller coaster, that's another story altogether.

Last week, I went to an amusement park with DG, T1, T2 and my 18-year-old niece. She's a roller coaster junkie--the scarier the better. She wanted to conquer them all. I was the opposite of compulsive on this point. I wanted to go on the rides with her because she really wanted to go, but the twins were too little for most of them, so DG went off to the mellow rides with them. So here I was, scared, not wanting to show it, and really, a little worried about seeming a wuss in front of this sweet girl who I have adored since she was born. How could I disappoint her?

I knew logically that nothing could truly happen to me on these roller coasters. I'd scream, feel the terror, and then it would be over in an instant.

I stood in line for this one 3 times. I chickened out twice. The third time, I went using that same over-in-an-instant rationale. This ride is called the Xcelerator. It takes off at 82 MPH, goes straight up, over a hairpin turn, and straight down. I remember looking at my niece right before it took off saying, "no turning back now." I barely remember what happened after that and the next thing I knew, we were over that turn, through all the other loops and drops and the brakes were put on. "I did it, I did it!" I cheered. The whole car cheered for me too.

I think it's weird but I feel the enormous sens of accomplishment at going through these fears. Somehow, it gives me hope that I can go through lots of scary stuff and I'll be okay.

T1 and T2 were impressed with my roller coaster rider abilities too. "Will you go with me on that when I'm older," T1 asked me. "I think I can," I answered him in all honesty.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Door-to-door salesman

Times are tough, right? People are trying to make money any way they can. I remember when I was a kid and the Fuller Brush Man would come to the door selling cleaning supplies. Moms have always been saying no to salesmen. Just now, a man came to the door with a "stimulus package" deal on new windows. Windows, door-to-door. Really. Times really are tough. I politely said no; we have new windows, thank you very much. The twins are watching TV. T1 says, "Who was that?"

"A guy selling windows," I say. "I said no; we have windows."

He says, "Awwww. I love rainbows."

Too bad they don't sell rainbows door-to-door.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

'Twas the Night Before the Big "Go Back"

I have been on sabbatical from my job for 12 months. That's a crazy long time to be on "vacation." Although I have been working on a project for the college, I've mostly been a stay-at-home mom. This transition back feels a little scary for me. But, like a good friend once told me, I've been working much more than not in my lifetime, so working is the norm, not staying home.

Still, it feels tentative. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and everything will be back exactly the way it was before I went on sabbatical, and I'll be comfortable in the routine. No such luck, however. I have to go through the transition--like most teachers at the end of summer vacation, or after winter break. We get through it. I bet my students feel nervous tonight too. Maybe some of them have kids they have to ship off to summer camp too. We'll all get through it.

In the meantime, it requires some organization. Here's me, getting organized to go:

Purse, check.

Work bag, check.

Sunglasses, check.

Keys, check.

Kids backpacks, check.

and what's in here? Don't forget the lunches....

The mommy creature is always stirring on the night before "going back" whether it's going back to work from a sabbatical, summer vacation, or just a weekend. You guys understand, no?

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Yesterday's Schedule

3:30 am -- Awake -- worry about all the stuff I have to do. Gratefully, I fall back to sleep.

5:30 am -- Wake up, read emails, answer students' questions, grade online papers, write 1/3 of new syllabus

6:30 am -- Walk dog

7:30 am -- wake kids, eat breakfast, drive to summer school

9:15 am -- Sculpt and Tone class at the Y, read 3 pages of a journal article waiting for class to start

11:30 am -- pick up kids from summer school, drive home, fix lunch

1:45 pm -- drive to library, realize we forgot library books, drive back home, drive back to library, drive back home.

3:00 pm -- Work on syllabus

3:05 pm -- Stop working to diffuse meltdown because one twin took something from another

3:15 pm -- Work on syllabus again

3:45 pm -- drive to swim lessons

4:00 pm -- stamp PTA address on envelopes as part of volunteer obligation

5:00 pm -- drive home, make dinner

and on and on and on

I'm smiling because I love this. Did my syllabus get done yesterday? No. Did it get done today? No, but it is getting done, a little at a time. This means that things get done M U C H S L O W E R, but I get to be involved in so many things. It's all worth it.

I've been learning to do my job in between the myriad of activities that my kids need schlepping to. Working in snippets, I call it.

It's interesting how the "Mom Taxi" has such a bad rap. Yeah. It's a lot of miles and running around, but can you make it more interesting? How nice is it to sit and read a magazine, or get a little bit of work done while waiting for your kid to finish soccer practice? I find it an opportunity to work on projects one little bit at a time. Yesterday is a prime example. I watched my kids playing in the back yeard while I set up an online course interface platform. My friend brought over her kids to swim, and we took turns watching the kids and completing our "snippet" work.

I'm a classic procrastinator. When I was in college, I had to get a full time job so that I ONLY had certain times to do my homework. Now I HAVE to grade papers, answer emails, write, plan lessons in between taking my kids from here to there.

And I couldn't be happier about it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Video Games

Note to self: Next time you complain because your husband and children love to play Wii for HOURS on the weekends, remember how amazingly satisfying it is to read, write, and take time for yourself. I'm just saying....

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Not-Altogether-Negative Look at Growing Older OR Happy Birthday to Me

I've always been one of those people who really loved my birthday. By all means, let everyone know. Celebrate with abandon. Getting older doesn't matter because I'm happy. I have a wonderful family, career, life. But something has shifted. I still love my birthday, and I'm hugely grateful for everything that I've learned and that I have, but let's face it. Getting older does matter. I've been thinking about what parts of my life have been affected as I've aged. Here goes:

My Metabolism Matters--Well it seems as if I"m working out harder than ever (keeping in mint that I wasn't athletic as a young person) but my metabolism is as sluggish as walking through mud. There's a woman I work with who eats an apple and a piece of turkey for lunch. She's 70. She looks great. She's still working. But come on? Is that what a slow metabolism reduces us to? Saying hello to smaller meals is something I'm reluctantly embracing.

I Have Wisdom--I have a book called, What I Know Now. It's a series of essay written by famous women to their younger selves. If I wrote a letter to my younger self it would say, "Don't worry about what people think of you. Your family thinks you're terrific," and "Don't waste a moment of time obsessing about being fat." As I look back at pictures of my younger self, I realize that I was relatively normal. Experience has given me the wisdom of acceptance. The wisdom of acceptance creates such peace.

While I Wish They Didn't, Wrinkles Matter--I see now why Nora Ephron wrote the book I Feel Bad About My Neck. I don't have the full turkey wattle, but I do have LOTS of sun damage. And in the age of Botox and fillers, a woman can look the best she can, within reason, with relatively minor procedures. Check yourself, though--see "Wisdom" above. Again, I'm learning to accept every wrinkle as a testament to my life in turns both storied and challenging. But I insist--as soon as I see my family pull out of this economic crisis a little, I'm going back to the dermatologist.

Young Children Matter--Having twins at age 40 definitely puts me in the "older mom" category and having young children in middle age is certainly interesting. I have enough life experience to know that no matter what happens to my children, I will have had some experience or coping mechanism so that I can love them and get through anything that comes our way. Is it too much to ask, however, that they be just the littlest bit less annoying at times? I think about my children rowing older as I do and I see a wide gap. But I'm willing to explore and learn how to make myself interested in things they will be interested in. My children represent all that I wanted for myself. Growing up, it was always my sister who was the babysitter. I really didn't care about kids. I think if I'd have had my kids in my twenties, they would have a lifetime of sessions on the therapists couch. But since wisdom and responsibility come with maturity, my late motherhood is all the more exactly right.

Aging Parents--My aging parents matter just as much as my children. My disabled mother and step father need much more help in their daily functions. My desire to help them comes from a sense of obligation. I owe them for all those years and all those life lessons they gave to me. Giving back to them helps me to be a better parent. I remember what it's all for.

Style and Hiding Flaws Really Matter--Will someone please make some cute, designer jeans for women who don't have a 25-year-old body? Preferably some that aren't so low that the post-pregnancy muffin-top and plumber's crack show. Any while we're on the subject, how about some tops that are as cute as Nanette Lepore but not as pricey?

Accepting Strength and Body Ability--I am remarkably amazed by what I can do physically at 47. I've recently started indoor cycling. I can't believe I can keep up with these people. I am finally learning to accept that my body is a functioning machine that gives me mobility. This is something I do not take for granted. My mother's Multiple Sclerosis has her confined to a wheelchair. She gets so frustrated that she can't take a few steps. I take the stairs. Because I can. Everyday.

My Friendships Matter--If there's nothing else I've learned, as I am fully in the throes of middle age, it's that my friendships are the wellspring of my sanity. I have friends who are mothers, teachers, grandmothers, leaders, athletes, and motivators. Who better to talk you off the ledge when you're feeling overwhelmed then a woman who's on the same path as you or one who has walked the path before you? When I make time for my friendships, I am a better person.

Marriage--I am so blessed to have found the perfect partner. I spent most of my youth lamenting lost loves, crying over unobtainable men, and wondering would it ever happen for me? or would I be willing to settle or be alone? My mother said, very commonly, "you've got to kiss a lot of toads before you find your prince." Cue eye roll and disgusted tsk. I swear if I say this to my daughter at any point in the future, remind me of my erstwhile complaints of my mother's cliche. But, damn, she was right. Practically middle-aged when I married, and certainly over 40 when we had children, God knows I paid my dues. But waiting paid off. I look forward with absolute relish to the future old selves of my husband and me. I can see us sitting on park benches bickering, laughing about it, and smiling as we continue to create delightful memories. I am most excited to have someone to go through this thing with me. Bring it on.

It's nice to know that I feel like I am growing older without kicking and screaming. I may be whimpering a little and every once in a while throwing a little tantrum about it, but overall, I'm ready. Life is a ride alright. Ups, downs, glitches, but mostly, joy.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Saddle...Not Sandwich

I am a part of what they call the "sandwich generation." I think it's more accurately described as the "saddle generation." I straddle a fissure between my aging, disabled parents and my young, energetic children, and, like negotiating a saddle for one who is newly accustomed, it is not always a comfortable place to be.

I'm travelling to Washington to visit my parents for the weekend. You'd think I was going for a month as far as my children are concerned. "Hug, Mommy, hug," baby-like from my six-year-old daughter as I get out of the car at the airport. Maybe she does it to work the guilt factor. "Why do you have to go, Mommy." says the other twin as we skip on the way to school.

"Grandma needs me," I say.

"But she's got Granddad. Can't he take her shopping?"

My son doesn't understand the extent of their disability. The perfect storm of co-dependent care.

My mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis about 20 years ago. After this, she met a wonderful man and they married, knowing that he'd signed on to help her up from the couch, a chair, the car. Her deteriorating mobility over time was less noticable as he did more things for her; she even struggled to do more and more for herself. I can't imagine the freedom of mobility slipping away even as I worked more and more at trying to regain it. Last year, my stepdad was diagnosed with dementia.

BOOM. We all know what the blow meant. As his memory falters, his ability to care for her in the same way is slowly ticking away.

This is not a sad story. They live in a fabulous nursing facility with 24-hour care and 4-star hotel-like surroundings. The facility is even green-designed for heaven's sake. It is Seattle after all. They play bridge, go on outings, eat with the other residents in a restaurant-style dining room.

But my mother is bored. She misses her children and grandchildren. Seems to be the most enjoyable thing for her to look forward to.

I'm excited to see her even though I'll be doing some regular everyday sort of tasks, the kind my brother usually handles but who will be given a break this weekend by my visit.

I hope to reconnect with my mom. She has wonderful memories from my childhood that she sees me recreating for my own children. I'm in the saddle with one foot planted firmly with my mom--relaxing, reminiscing, and the other foot back home--hearing about the end of the school year party that I'm going to miss.

Oh, to be in two places at one time...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The class gift

Placing the twins in separate kindergarten classes was a no brainer for us. One, the outgoing extrovert, we surmised, would only smother the introverted shy one if they shared a class. There is something to be said, though, for having your twins in the same class. One teacher, one set of homework assignments, one class project, and one teacher's gift.

We're nearing the end of the year and the teacher's gift has become the primary topic of conversation. The room parents in my daughter's class had this all worked out at Christmas. They are putting together a scrapbook with a 2-page spread for each kid. It's to include photos, drawings, stickers, anything the child wants, and it should have a completed questionnaire about how the child feels about kindergarten in the child's own handwriting. I am the room parent for my son's class, and we just copied the idea set forth by the parents in my daughter's class. Here's what we made:

We made one for my daughter's class too:

What they wrote about their kindergarten experience made me pause. My daughter (T2) said that her teacher taught her she could do anything. My son (T1) said that his teacher made him happy. Interestingly, he said this after he first said that he couldn't think about anything to say about his teacher.

"What's something nice about him," I said.

"He's not nice," he says. "He's mean." What's mean about a kindergarten teacher? I'm not sure if he's trying to cause me to say in alarm, "Oh, he's not mean" or if he's really had a hard time of it in kindergarten. Ultimately he says:

"... Mr. S. makes me feel happy."

I look at my two very different children with very different personalities and I know that T2 feels she can do anything. Will T1 be happy in school or will teachers be constantly disciplining him?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Why Are You Doing This?

I find myself here at the end of May about to put the cap on a year-long sabbatical, during which I was able to stay home with my kids who are finishing their kindergarten year. This presents me with an odd dilemma. I'm ready to go back to work intellectually; I do miss my students and the collegiality of working with other professors on a college campus, but I'm wondering if the transition will take its toll on my kids. Both have really grown up this year. They're learning social skills that are hard to learn in a home environment, like "why do I have to color a school bus when there's so much fun to be had with my new friends?", and "holding up two fingers to indicate that I have to go to the bathroom? What's up with that?" They're becoming well-versed in the structures of many social institutions including group conversations, school environments, and playground etiquette.

I was here when they had questions about what happened at school. We could work on homework after lunch and still have the afternoon for free playing and extra curricular activities. When I go back to work, will I still be able to give them this level of attention? I've worked full time since they were born. I've had nannies and daycare, which were wonderful in their early childhood development, but school years are different. And this year was different. Time will tell what will happen as I am willing to explore here.