Lately Found and a Roundup…


So, I’m wrestling with a post that might become 4 posts. Or get condensed down to 2 posts. Jury is still out for at least another day on that.




I still wish I was Charlie Harper from Two and a Half Men. Not Charlie Sheen, he’s a mess, Charlie Harper…What?!!




I’ve been tab hording again. That happens when the availability of information on the internet turns my brain into a jittery chipmunk with an espresso IV and a crack pipe. Eventually this behavior causes Firefox to implode and collapse in on itself, as you can see here…

Tab Hoarding - Ahhhhhhhhh!




I’d like a show of hands from all you who think “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” is an abysmal piece of lyrical crap, but you still can’t stop singing it when you hear it long enough. It’s missed it’s true calling as a means to wring confessions out of prisoners at Gitmo.




I totally wish I had more time to spend on the Food52 website. The more websites I search out the more I wish my skills were more than they are, but the future is open I suppose…




I have been reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” which has been really fabulous, considering that I’m not a reader of any of his books, but I can say that nowhere is his skill as a writer more evident than at the ending chapters when he writes about the accident when he was seriously injured by a reckless driver.




I’ve been losing sleep late at night to this…

Addiction




My Niece has changed her mind and had decided to contest the adoption of the two youngest children that we share (now you know about the posts I’ve been wrestling with), so this will only be decided with the greatest pain possible.




I still haven’t figured out how to fill the $2500 hole that opened up in my monthly income 4 months ago. But I will. Somehow. In the meantime, Reasons For Living #’s 1 through 6 are all oblivious, doing well and looking forward to their long weekend.




And lastly in the weekly round up, I am totally enjoying this site called Post Secret, which describes itself as “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.”  It’s pretty cool. Click on these for a taste…

postsecret.com

http://www.postsecret.com/

http://www.postsecret.com/

(This one about saving the voice mails of the people you love…I have voice messages from my children on my phone from 4 years ago)

Cheers All…

Happy Long Weekend



In a Hundred Words or Less…


Dictionary Funphoto © 2007 Manchester City Library | more info (via: Wylio)


As part of the adoption process, I was asked recently to describe myself. I didn’t really know where to start. In fact, I drew a blank. Reserved, a bit tense and edgy, good in a crises, someone who uses humor to deflect, deals well with ambiguity…tenacious? Maybe.

Am I tenacious? I never thought of myself as being so. Far from it, my whole understanding of myself prior to having kids was of someone who had trouble following through on things. But then they (who is ‘they’? The Universe?) gave me three babies at once, all with medical issues, and it was a job that there was no walking away from. To make things even more challenging, they gave it to me to manage under incredibly trying personal circumstances. Then they gave me another baby and another no fail situation in a child who needed copious amounts of therapeutic interventions. And more trying personal circumstances.

And then, one by one, two more babies arrived. The first one brought with her challenges that eclipsed the previous four in their needs on a quantum scale. And while the second one came bringing nothing else but the start of the long journey to a new life, it was still a responsibility there was no walking away from. And they came with even more terribly, terribly difficult personal circumstances surrounding them. But these ones came with something else. They came at some point, with the possibility of giving the job to someone else.

You can quit this one, they said. And I considered it again and again. I told myself that I could, that I would, that it was alright not to do something this hard, that the cost was too high. I was given ‘permission’ by many people around me to put the burden down, that maybe it would even be best for the kids, all of them, if I did. But I couldn’t in the end. I just didn’t know how to quit showing up. For any of them. When did that happen I wondered?

Am I tenacious? I guess I am about the kids, the things that really, really matter to me. I don’t care strongly about much else, I’ll freely admit it. But it turns out that when it comes to the 6 most important things, I am very tenacious indeed. I have failed a thousand times as a mother, spectacularly at times. But what I’ve learned is that I have an ability to refuse not to come back to the job. I will keep showing up, at times against impossible odds.

People often mistake this part of me, because the boatload of things that I’m willing to walk away from dwarfs the QEII. If the path is blocked, there’s always another way. I won’t beat my head against a wall trying to force things to be what they aren’t. Not interested. I’m not an adherent of black and white when it comes to reality. But on those select few things where I do see a clear path, well, you walk it. More than half the battle with kids is showing up. Everyday. No matter what. Even when you’re getting it wrong. You don’t quit. You show up for more even when you think you’ll get it wrong again, because eventually, you’ve got to get it right. Marriage is much the same sometimes. Those things are clear to me.

So, am I tenacious? Every now and then. It’s a matter of what’s important. I still don’t think I know how to describe myself very well, but I’m learning. I know there is a fairly large discrepancy between how I see myself and how others see me, and I’d like to close that gap a little, because I think it leads to greater authenticity. So perhaps I could safely add tenacious to the list while I try and get closer to finding the words I should have. Have you thought lately about how good are you at describing yourself?



JUST BRING ON THE LOCUST AND GET IT OVER WITH…


It’s started. The beginning of the end is here. The Ten Plagues.  The punishment of God upon our people. Woe be it unto all those who didn’t believe.  Out of fear, I will be marking the door with lamb’s blood, but really, nothing can save us now.

My daughter, who is an angel on earth if ever there was one, disappeared last week, almost overnight. In her place, for 48 hours was an alien creature armed with a stony expression and burning coals for eyes that shot death-lasers of hate at me, and everyone around her, anytime I dared speak. The alien creature spent the whole of the 48 hours making snarky asides to any conversation, whether she was in it or not and provoking fights and dissension with those around her. When she wasn’t doing this, she was stomping around the house, slamming doors and shooting us glares of contempt.

We’ve seen little signs of this before now. Every so often, in the course of the normal day, you’d look into their eyes and you’d see something peeking. A little crazy that wanted to come out to play…but that was still years off, right?  Oh, wrong…SO. WRONG.  My girl just disappeared. Like overnight!  I had no idea that it would be this fast, but when I think about PMS and how fast that arrives, I guess I should have figured it out, because it’s like a dose of PMS, but on Human Growth Hormones.  Perhaps I will entertain myself by thinking of it as “The Cream” and “The Clear”.

My Bestie, The Dragon Lady, was all tea and sympathy for her, “Oh, maybe she needs chocolate!” she said over the phone.  “What she needs is gin, a cigarette and some Valium, but as this isn’t the 1950’s what I’m going to do is offer her some chocolate and a hot shower.”  But the message of what she was saying got through to me.  My Darlingest One was unconsciously dipping her big toe into the waters of The Sisterhood and she would need love, and a guide…and a horse tranquilizer from time to time, but hey, don’t we all some days?   So After the first approximately 6 hours of it all and finding that she had actually barricaded herself into her room to cry with rage and confusion, I brought some tough love into the mix, since she had proven to be utterly intractable in the face of every other piece of love, reason and understanding.

I took a deep breath and stormed the room, ordering her to march herself into my bedroom and get in bed. Then I announced that she would now be subjected to forcible hugging and comforting.  Once she had wept a little more I broke out the understanding and empathy for how hard her day had been.  And then I talked her into a hot shower to help her feel more herself, then back into bed for more cuddling. Basically, I tried to draw the roadmap to self-care for her.

This is not to say that I got the whole 48-hour event right. We clashed, I ranted, we cried and made up, dogs howled, swine gnashed their teeth and men fell, because perimenopause and teenage hormones, as previously noted, are bad. They’re BAD!  At other various times the two girls, my preteen and my five-teen year old were secretly at work sharpening spoons into shivs in their respective cells so they could go after each other in the exercise yard, occasionally triggering a lockdown. Sisterly love, I am told, sometimes looks like this.  One of the nicest women I have ever met, back in our church-going days, once admitted to me that she made her younger sister drink perfume, just because.  I suggested that a real older sister would send her perfume as a reminder for all birthdays and Christmases. How did I get here?

One of the chief features of this hidiosity seems to be the fact that they are unable to assess their own state. They think they’re fine. It’s you (and all the other clueless bastards in the house) who are the problem.  The other exciting discovery I made is that for much of this, there is no right answer. You can’t win and you can’t head it off; you’re just going to have to experience the event.  I think my early assessments here are correct, and it leaves me speechless with horror and fear. I think I’m going to miss my babies over the next few years and I hope they’ll come around for brief visits, but by and large, I fear it will be these evil aliens who will sleep in their rooms at times. I mean, it’s not as if there’s some sort of strong family history for hormonal stability at work here.

Case in point, the following week, her two brothers became snake-charmed as well.  The Golf Pro kind of freaked out a bit. He’s so mellow that he didn’t have an actual mood swing as a teenager. But I argued that if you think of them in single terms, if you isolate their behavior into individual events, then it seems actually kind of normal. However,  if you take that one of them and their head full of bad hormones and have all their interactions take place with 2 other people who have heads full of bad hormones…well, that’s just bad science folks.  Don’t put three people who have undeveloped brains, bodies being poisoned by their own body chemistry and poor social skills together. The results aren’t good.  Then you add the five-teen year old and the 7 year old, who imitates everything, the perimenopausal parent and the coping-challenged 2 year old into the mix, and seriously, I don’t know why the Golf Pro even comes home at all. And I don’t know what’s to become of us all.

To top it all off, during the 8am Friday school drop-off, when I told the 2 year old that he could have a lollipop for breakfast, from his little rocket seat in the back of the car, he screamed “I Hate You.”  #FML. But, during one of the breaks in the storm, I got to hold my baby girl in my arms and watch this video with her. I guess those will be the moments to look for to keep us connected over the next few years…




Way to Go Egypt…But What About Anderson Coopers Mother?


Way To Go Egypt

Photo Credit - Tara Todras-Whitehill - AP

It’s definitely a side story.  Egypt is rocking the world in the best of ways and it is changing as we watch and hope so rapidly that there is no telling what it will all look like in a day or a week or another month from now.  And while I am cognizant of all this, another thread keeps weaving itself through my mind as I am watching the coverage Anderson Cooper struggles to broadcast.

What about Gloria Vanderbilt?  I think of the mother who, having already lost one son to suicide, watches another son rush repeatedly towards violence and danger, driven to witness some of the world’s toughest moments.  I like that about journalists, I think that a good journalist is one of the best examples of bravery there is, but what if it was my son?  Obviously I am not privy to their relationship, but it seems to be a very affectionate one, so how do you measure a woman who manages to get out of the way of her child’s need to live a life of dangerous adventure.  It seems to involve a bravery and respect for her child by giving him the endorsement to lead a life that is of his own making.

Could I give such a life to my own children? I have wondered it before. How would I respond if one of my children chose the military, or fire fighting or law enforcement as a career. Could I suppress the entirely self-serving moment that would need to keep them from harm’s way to let them live their most authentic life? Could I get out of their way and allow them to lead the life they need to?  I hope I could. That seems to me to be the purest form of love, letting them choose things that have meaning to them and them alone without having to calculate the cost to me.

I think it was Simone De Beauvoir who wrote to her mother from the Spanish Civil War in response to her fear that she was there, “If I had two lives to live I would give one to you, but I don’t…” that seems to capture it all right there. We all want greatness and success for our children, but how must Anderson Cooper’s mother fare, watching tape of him being targeted by the violence of a mob that threatened to turn deadly any moment?  How many mothers have stood back to let their children pursue the things their inner maps told them to pursue, sometimes knowing that they would pay with their lives?

We are not them. It was one of my first lessons as a parent as I watched my triplets fight for their lives in a struggle that all but excluded me from its outcome. Their lives and fate are their own. I can protect and guide them within reason, but where they ultimately ended up was not mine to control. They are they’re own people and they will fight battles that have nothing to do with me at times. I would do the one thing I could. Show up, stand shoulder to shoulder with them and tell them they were not alone. I can give them my belief in their ability to fight and win, but I could not fight the battles for them, nor should I.

And so while I watched Anderson Cooper fly in, and ultimately back out of Egypt, I thought too of Danny Pearl, and I wonder, how does Gloria Vanderbilt ever think of anything else when she sees her son under siege in foreign countries? Journalists die in situations such as that with regularity, and nothing that happens to AC can ever be anonymous anymore.  And then I thought of Anderson Coopers mother again.  I hoped that he would get home to her all right.



Far, Far Away…


Today was one of those days. One of THOSE days. The kind that by the end of it I was looking at pictures over at the Pioneer Woman’s site and wishing that I could magically be transported away into another life. One that has landscapes in it like these…

The Pioneer Woman picture

thepioneerwoman.com

Somewhere that looks like the renewing can begin.  Somewhere warm and soaked with good things and full of soul healing peace…

I spent the morning once again working on a solution to our current dilemma. In time, I’ll be able to write about it, but for now, it’s too fresh, too raw, too much. Instead, I’ll keep trying to reframe and bend the humbling forces that these tasks ask me to walk through into something soul searching and worthy. Tasks like spending four hours waiting to throw myself on the mercy of others. And then three hours among the Jerry Springer folk at the court for child support issues instituted by the county regarding our foster kids.

As I sat and watched, an entirely unwilling participant I was forced to entertain the idea that I might have to join this fray in time. I’d rather drive needles into my eyes. Money has always been one of the LAST things I was willing to fighting over. There is something absolutely gut-wrenching about listening to couples argue over the money needed to make children safe. Hearing them use phrases like “that amount is calculated on a 28% timeshare” and to know that they are referring to children.  To seeing people arguing 5 years after their relationship is over about the care and feeding of their children is demoralizing in ways I cannot describe. On the surface, knowing what the right thing to do is when it comes to your children seems about the least complicated thing in the world, but I guess I miss something.

Maybe when you’re alone you can pursue the kind of soul-intact sanctity of walking away. Once children are in the picture, however, you have to get into the trenches.  So, I will do the things that I never thought I could do…and by and by, it will be ok. But right now…it’s awful and full of indignity and fear. But it is also full of the opportunity the make the right choice and I also suspect that when I’m out the other side, I will find that I have come away with more of those character building gifts that sometimes only seem useful when the next storm comes. Whatever. Maybe, if I evolve to a high enough level, I’ll get to come back as this…

Wabbit!

I hope so. Because after the Jerry Springer show was over, I stopped and brought donuts home with the idea of creating some  good cheer to erase the trials of the day. But my newly-minted teen still ended up looking at me like she hoped I would step into a fire and die. And the baby was still peaking with his terrible two year old tantrums, and the impulse-control-challenged child still lost control and spewed rage all about, and the child who isn’t on target in science whinged his way through any attempts to study and the 5 year old and seven year old drew swords once more…and it all went round again. It was just as if the pilgrimage to hell had never ended.  And I have to admit that I couldn’t find my sense of humor about any of it, and I drove the parenting car into the ditch. Again. Those are the times when all you can seem to be able to do is call in the crews and do your best to pull it back out of the ditch, a little worse for wear, but eventually still drivable.

At the end of it all, I have to say, that even though I know it is an utterly useless, soft-headed wish, it would have been nice to have been welcomed home to some kind of tender care. Something that said we know you had a tough day, but we’re together.  You’re home now and safe and we love you. Something that looks like this…

A Hug

Once I recover, I guess I’ll have to teach them how to do this, by doing it to them.  But for now, I’m just going to bed, grateful that tomorrow will provide another 24 hours of opportunity to make amends and get it right again.

Cheers…



My First Guest Post!


That’s right, someone else found my writing acceptable enough to post up on their own site. I am so thrilled to be guest posting about my complete lack of bedtime discipline over at ScaryMommy.com

Swing by and have a look, it’s the perfect site for me and my kind…

1581884212_57276dd550_o



Stress, Ebola and Preteen Mood Swings…


Germaphobia and kids

The Doctors office. It’s on my list of things to do in hell when I get there. I don’t know if there’s anything crueler than locking a germaphobe in a tiny doctors office with a bunch of kids for hours on end, but they’ve been doing it to me for years. Do anyone else’s kids just sit quietly and wait? I don’t know. My kids do their level best to take the place apart. Maybe it’s because there’s almost never been less than three of them and they tend to egg each other on in all things, but it’s insanity to lock a bunch of people with boundless curiosity and no impulse control in a room full of things that they’re not supposed to touch. A room crawling with virus.

So the last week has seen us in our own mini-family land rush to various doctors offices across the county as we fulfill our commitment to the state by proving that we are not requesting permanent legal placement of two small children into a home that may be lethal to them in some way. That’s right, physicals and TB tests for everyone involved. Six kids and two adults. Yay. Break out the Purel and let the rodeo begin.

So yesterday found me for the third time filling out endless paperwork, telling people not to touch anything and pinning people down so they could be injected with immunity producing miracle drugs. Like Noah’s Ark, we broke them down two by two. The littlest two went with me first and lately doctor’s visits have been a prime opportunity for the 5 Year Old to indulge in the kind of soul-soothing drama that she requires. I mean, is there any place with greater potential to be the center of all adult attention? It affords repeated opportunities to wring your hands and ask in a quavering voice if you’re going to have to have a shot. And this can be done no matter how many times your exhausted adult has explained to you the full scope of the visit. It’s a chance for someone who already has issues with ‘dead air’ and nonsense questions to scale a whole new level of her own private conversational Mt Everest.

All the while, her brother is wandering around button pushing, touching, opening and closing and climbing anything and everything, and pausing every few moments to lick the excess Ebola off his hands. We were all sick two days later, but the shots were handled with relatively little fuss and chocolate handed out to calm people who have been manhandled in the name of science. It has long been my policy to stand in front of trembling children with absolutely giant sized, unwrapped candy bars held ready at eye level to both medicate and distract them once they have had the steel driven into their puny little arms.

Visit number second involved Middle Son and Oldest Daughter, who decided silently to enter into a competition for child with most personality in front of the doctor and the nursing staff. With 11 year olds, this is usually not something good, as eventually one of them will cross into the land of disrespectful speech and smart-alecky tone. On this visit it was my normally charming and gentle daughter who was overcome by a combination of sibling rivalry, impending vaccine stress and unsteady hormones. The combination produced a gentle, but clear talking to by the Doctor about her improper interactions with the adults in her general vicinity. I was a tiny bit surprised but I did not intervene. While I will not let someone abuse my children, I have no problem with their experiencing the natural results of their actions when delivered appropriately, and it was. Our doctor is very nice, but no push over. In the end, I also had to break up the stress she was unwittingly pouring out onto the nurse after the second shot by forcefully reminding her that the nurse was doing her job, not fulfilling a personal vendetta. She’s a very good girl, but I begin to see what people mean when they say that puberty is an alien abduction.

Visit number three involved my two ‘Stress Cats’ – Oldest Son and The Kid. I had back up this time in the form of the Golf Pro, but really, his effectiveness there was canceled out by the presence of the 2 Year Old. And here we go again, except the rodeo was for real this time. While we were still waiting for the Doctor, and telling the 2 year old to stop touching stuff and don’t lay on the floor until we were blue in the face, I drew the short straw on a diaper change and thoughtfully excused myself and 2 year old to the next room. Halfway through the change, I heard the screaming erupt in the other room and realized that I may not have drawn the short straw after all. It’s all a matter of perspective, am I right folks?

The screaming it turns out was from the finger stick. Oh great, I think, because that means that it can only go down hill from here since we still have 11-year-old booster shots and TB tests still to go. From there on out, both kids bordered on the edge of panic, greeting everything from the earphones for the hearing test (“is that going to hurt?!”) to the Otoscope for the ear exam (“What’s that?!!”) like skittish, wild-eyed, wild horses. In the end, both kids went down with stress, “My stomach hurts. I don’t feel good. I’m dizzy.” We had to skip the TB test because we couldn’t get them read over the weekend, so The Kid gratefully escaped having only gotten a dose of Flu-Mist up the schnoz. The 11 year old, well his panic got the best of him and he had to be held down. Like horses, you basically have to put your full body weight on their neck, pinning the non-shot arm underneath you and holding the other one down exposed. It also helps if you think about the drink you’re going to have that night.

Despite my all but burning the fingerprints off my hands with Purel, I am pretty convinced that I acquired 3 separate colds from the three different visits.

And we still have to take the two Stress Cats back to be rodeoed through their TB tests. Dear God…



Whatcha Readin Fer?


United States Constitution and Public Education

photo © 2010 Ted | more info (via: Wylio)

“The correlation between student achievement and zip code is 100 percent,” he says. “The quality of education you receive is entirely predictable based on where you live.” ~ Marco Sommerville, City Council Member Akron, Ohio

On a week when my childrens school held an early morning coffee to celebrate being ranked the top elementary school in an already good district, Kelley Williams-Bolar was released from 9 days in jail for lying to have her 2 daughters attend a better school than they were zoned for. The disparity between her experience and mine really struck me.

A special education teachers assistant, who was studying for her teaching certificate, Williams-Bolar may not be able to become teacher, having been charged with a felony for records falsification. The case has prompted national outrage, but an investigation of the widespread discussion shows that it quickly stalls when it comes to solutions. Current and future Presidents can talk all they want about what our educational standards and ideals should be, but with over half of the funding for public school districts coming from local property taxes, they (the federal government) lack the real means to effect change.

Our decision to move here was predicated almost entirely on the school district, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I have not felt gratitude for having that option. It hasn’t always been easy, and I know many families who make regular sacrifices to afford the district, but it’s been entirely worth it for the experience that my children have had at their schools. I believe their experiences here will contribute directly to their future success and I know that I would hate to be in her place. It is definitely a “There but for the Grace of God” type situation.

What makes our district great? Great funding from the high property taxes, additionally, our district get strong financial support from the Irvine Company and that has allowed us to retain music, art and science classes. The economic situation of many families in our district allows a higher than average number of parents to stay at home and this helps to create not only a thriving PTA, but also increases vital support to the classrooms through parent volunteering. And lastly, the educational level of the households in the district; college graduates tend to produce more college graduates. Even through some steep budget cuts, we’ve remained in decent shape as far as our schools.

But at a time when schools are reeling nationwide from the housing collapse and it’s property tax ramifications, I wonder what I would do in her place. I don’t suppose I’d try and beat the system, but I also know how much less my kids would be getting…and how hard that would be for me to tolerate. Our district has taken some hits, and I still know how lucky we are. I have wondered often over the last few years how districts with considerably less resources than ours have managed. My kids have had computer access and teachers with the highest qualifications, music and science and art. What are the schools in the poorest areas doing? What must it be like to be struggling for chalk and textbooks? To have computer access be an unreachable dream, to be unable to afford to hire any but the least talented teachers and administrators?

“When parents flee troubled schools under the No Child Left Behind Act School Choice option, the district loses not only the per-pupil funding, but must provide transportation to the new school. This causes a funding drain that may seriously impact the students left in the school.” ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_choice – cite_note-12

Vouchers, Tax Credits, Charter Schools, Standardized Testing, Systemic failures in teaching methodology, Parental economics and education, there is little consensus for what improves a districts performance. Like most things, it is likely a mix of remedies, and in all honesty, these days I place far more hope and confidence in private entities to make the biggest gains when it comes to repairing our educational system. I think the future lies with groups like The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the innovation behind crowd-sourced creations like TED.com, just to name a few, rather than our government.

There is no question that Williams-Bolars’ two daughters would receive an entirely sub-standard education by attending their home school. A quick check of greatschools.org shows a wide gap between the performances of the district they were zoned to over the one they were schooled in for 2 years. How much difference do we suppose this will make to their future? And how great a leap do we ask them to make to overcome their circumstances? Then ask yourself how many children those two girls represent? And then expect our country to do well on just the backs of the children in this district and the minority of others like it. That seems, at the very least, to be doing things the hard way, if not outright building failure into the system.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of the story, but there is no doubt in my mind that several opportunities were missed on both sides to resolve this issue at a less critical juncture. And it is entirely clear that she willfully broke the law, but it seems equally clear that being put into this position should be unacceptable to Americans across the board. Is it really so hard to believe that our children here in this district cannot ultimately do well with the education they receive if such a large majority of their future fellow citizens will not be equipped to lift up the society in which they live. Her children and mine are not separated by the possible successes of their future. They will live and contribute to the same country and the health of that country will depend on both of them. Children who are unprepared for the future do not just disappear from society.

To charge this woman with a felony seems unreal. The school district valued the cost of the education that her daughters received illegally at $30,000 for two years. I can’t imagine she had the resources to repay that either. She was given two concurrent, 5 year sentences, suspended to 10 days plus time served and 80 hours of community service, possibly jeopardizing her future as a teacher and in effect, putting 3 lives under the sword if she cannot create a better future for herself and her daughters. I’m not saying she was right, I’m saying she shouldn’t have had to face that choice. It is the sickest of jokes, that in our country you can go to jail for trying to get your children a better education. In the American education system, we are not creating all men equally, and it is time to stop pretending that educational access is part of a grand system of meritocracy.

What would you do if your children were doomed by your economic circumstances to attend a school that you knew would fail them?



The Other Woman…


Tea-ceremony Roomphoto © 2007 Masahiro Hayata | more info (via: Wylio)


I first noticed their relationship on Facebook when I was doing a routine maintenance check of my son’s friend list. Huh. My son is friends with the PTA president from his school. I’m not friends with the PTA president, I thought, feeling again both the irony and gratitude of my son having superior social skills to me. Well he’s become pretty good friends with her son this year, I thought, I guess that makes sense.

As the year went on, her house became his preferred after-school destination and she and I eventually became ‘Facebook Friends’ and every now and then she would remark on how she missed him as well when he was gone over-long at his fathers house. Oh, that’s nice I thought, she doesn’t find him annoying. He hasn’t worn out his welcome. He’s behaving well when he’s over there.

And then the moment came when I realized she was more than just the mother of a friend. She was the Other Woman. That day, he stormed into the house, home well before the regular time, and trying to contain tears of rage and hurt, wordless with anger and frustration. What happened, I asked? There had been a fight. In the way of 11-year-old boys, roughhousing had gotten out of hand. Push had come to shove. And although no one was hurt, he could hardly spit his anger out and I put everything aside to try and help this son, who is often my most short-fused child, cope with this moment. But as I was talking to him, I recalled something. The first thing he had reached for upon bursting in the door was his iPod Touch. He was, of course, friends with his friend on Facebook…Uh oh. Two and two came together fast in my head.

Were you going to write something on his wall? I asked, because just stop right there and calm down. One of the worst things you can do is write your anger up in a public forum. This will blow over but if you do that, you are inviting everybody into your private business, and that’s a very bad idea. I went over the whole social media policy with him right there, until he seemed reasonably able to promise he wouldn’t write anything on his friends wall. I mean it, I said, wait until you calm down. These things blow over. Promise? Yes, he said again and we went on to talk a bit more. And although his anger didn’t seem to dissipate too much, he went to his room to chill for a few minutes.

But an itch in the back of my mind kept at me and I checked Facebook just out of caution. He didn’t write anything on his friends’ wall. He wrote something on Her wall. He wrote something awful about her son on her wall. Something including a prime four-letter word we don’t let him use. He wrote it for her and all her friends to see, many of them, one presumes, the parents and other PTA members at school. Oh. My. God. And just like that, we were in a whole different moment. A whole different, potentially crappy moment from which there could be no escaping the judgment of who knows how many other parents besides the recipient. Oh Crap.

The whiplash of my voice dragged him from his room and I think I could hear the sound of the ocean in my ears as I stared at my son. This child I adored. The one with the long history of letting his temper get the best of him. The one with the easily touched pride, the one with the amazingly high I.Q. that he had masked so extraordinarily well in this moment and I was horrified at what this could mean for him. I was furious that every word of logic and reason had been thrown out even as it left my mouth. “Delete it,” I demanded, “and get in the car. We’re going over there for you to apologize to this woman.”

That’s not all I said. I probably fit more scathing and castigating disapproval into that three block ride than at any other time in his short life about how ill-conceived an impulse it was. About what if the mothers of his friends at school see that? What will they decide about him, as well as his brother and sister based on his willingness to publically address another adult like that? We talked about Facebook and rage, we talked about actions taken in the heat of rage, we talked about my rage. And we talked about how I wouldn’t spend his childhood apologizing to other parents like his grandmother had done for his father. We also said goodbye to his iPod.

She wasn’t there when we arrived, but he saw his friend…and immediately began to laugh. Predictably, all was forgiven, which is what I could have told him would happen if he had ever bothered to listen to what I was saying about 11 year old boys and scrapes and feelings blowing over (for the record, no I don’t really think he will learn many things from my words. I actually know it doesn’t really work that way). And as they made up, his mother drove up. And then the laughter was over as it was time to face the music. I told her that Middle Son had something he needed to apologize to her for and I stood behind my son while he braced himself to do the right thing.

She, it turns out, had not seen the post; although I made him tell her about it anyway, because decisions that poor should produce discomfort. Or better put, according to a friend’s bumper sticker, “Stupid should hurt.” But I hated that we were in this position at all. I prayed that having two boys herself would help her to be understanding about the idiocy that they can find themselves in.

What actually happened was totally out of the realm of my understanding. She wasn’t mad. There wasn’t even the pretense of a stern parental face of disapproval. Both my son and I stood there braced for her reaction and she did the most extraordinary thing. Her face was utterly transformed by compassion as everything about her posture gave itself over to this child. She enfolded him immediately in forgiveness. And then she reached out and her hand touched his face, held his cheek as tenderly as I have done myself and I never saw anything beyond that moment, so stunned was I.

It was a moment that triggered a thousand things for me. I don’t know what it triggered for her. Her attention, thankfully, was so focused on him that I doubt she noticed my mouth fall open as I was struck by so many things simultaneously. Her stark empathy, her forgiveness of my son in my place, the easy physical contact, the total lack of judgment, her willingness to absolve him from any burden and her total lack of offense. There wasn’t even a question of forgiveness.

All the way home I examined my own surprised reaction to this moment, mostly my shock and surprise at not being harshly judged and what this told me about how I still came to the world. How completely I expected to be judged. No other outcome had occurred to me, it was only a question of how severe would be the blow. Why was I still living in this mindset? More importantly, was I passing this belief down to my children?

She could not know my shock at that gesture. Not one of the people I come from could have made that gesture, not even the kindest of them would have made the move to break that invisible barrier of physical space, the reserve is that deeply ingrained. And in that moment I understood, his relationship with her was different. It was a relationship of it’s own. In that house he would find something that he hadn’t found at home.

Don’t get me wrong, in reaction to my desperate desire for a more physically affectionate childhood I am very physical with my kids. I have had almost no barriers between their space and mine, often laying about at home like a mother lion with cubs piled all over her. I have only recently moved to reclaim my space when the number of children on me threatened to become suffocating. But with other people, even my closest friends, I am no longer able to cross that space. It’s the legacy of a reserved childhood.

All of this is why she is such a likely candidate as the first ‘Other Woman’ in my sons’ life. And after the first tinge of jealousy passed, I realized that she is exactly who I would want for him. She really likes him. She has shown him unbelievable tenderness and patience. The kind of tenderness, kindness and benefit of the doubt so absent from my own background that it stunned me into complete silence when I saw it.

She is the first female outside the family that he has had this kind of relationship to. The fact that we are not friends is the very thing that makes her the Other Woman. We are not ‘not’ friends either, but if we had been very good friends, her liking him the way she does would have been something that I still shared in, instead of something that was exclusively his.

This is the part where he (and his siblings after him) go out and discover how to like and be liked in the world, how to place value on his relationships with other people. It’s the first step into an independent world, where he will define himself, without my presence, in the eyes of another adult. It’s important. And it’s the first real moment illustrating a truth I’ve know for 11 years now…that from the moment a child is born, they are in the act of walking away from you.

He likes to tell me that she’s nicer than me and that her chocolate chip pancakes are better, but it’s the first chance for this child to hit me with that “his parents are so much cooler than you” right of passage. And I know this child, I know him so well, because he’s so like me. And I also know that differentiating from me, when the time comes, will be a stickier thing for him because of that, and I will have to try hard not to be surprised if he has to strike at me more deliberately because of it.

In the meantime, I think this will be a good first experience for him. She likes him it appears, enormously, and I will always be glad for women in his life that turn a face of approval on him and treat him well, who show him affection without judgment. And in the end, we have to let them love other people…as much as they love us. But in a way, it also felt like a small goodbye, as I became a little bit smaller in the landscape of his life. Don’t these moments always feel like that?



Lately Found…


Women + Inspiration…It’s better than coffee.   Fill Up, Press Play…






*brought to you by the i4ccampaign.com





Vision Boards. Sounds too new agey, right? That’s what I thought the first time I was asked to do it, but I found the very process could sometimes bring more order and clarity to what my subconscious might be working on. And if that doesn’t sell you, Karen Walrond over at Chookooloonks makes one with her daughter every year. Read her how-to post and then tell me you don’t want to find your daughter straight away and share something like this with her…


 Mother-Daughter Vision Boards

chookooloonks.com

*While you’re there, pause and browse some of the lovely images on her photographic website.






Over on Summer Tomato, Darya Pino has a fun and quick Guide to Supermarket Navigation. You should check them out for some great information, tips and advice about eating healthy in urban areas…

Guide to Finding Real Food at the Supermarket

summertomato.com








TED2011 has released it’s line up of speakers. Attending a TED event is on my bucket list, but until then, their website is more than generous.






I love this picture…

Georgia O'Keeffe—Neck

Georgia O'Keeffe—Neck by Alfred Stieglitz