Monday, February 18, 2013

The Power of Friendships

To my darling children,

I know it is hard to comprehend why mom is excited to go away on a little trip without you guys at this age and that's okay, flattering really.   Moms need to recharge too, wives too, well actually all people do, and it's hard for me to recharge in my own domain.   Even when I'm "relaxing on the couch" I'm aware that there is a part of the crown molding that needs to be touched up, and goodness, when was the last time I dusted tv?
AK, I wish, pray, and hope that you will be blessed with great woman friends like I have been.  I learned by example, from my mom, who always had some dear sweet ladies who knew her, in some cases, better than my father did.  I am grateful for these woman who still check in with me every once in a while, even if talking to them is painful.   I would do the same for one of my friends daughters.  I am grateful for the power of girlfriends, who laugh and cry right along with me.  I'm grateful for the secrets they keep, for the strength they give me, and for the unconditional love.  I love them.  I love their kids. I love that our kids think they are all cousins, and that we are all related somehow.
I love that they know me so well, they have seen me struggle and overcome obstacles, and cheered me on.  When I confess, "I have NO idea what I am doing as a mother... what if I screw my kids up!?"  They are the ones who say, "You're doing a fine job, and we all end up screwing them up, because nobody is perfect." 
 I am grateful for a husband, who sends me off on girls weekends knowing I will return better than I left.  I return more patient, more centered, and more confident, and Mr. Boy, I hope you do the same for your darling wife.  Love, Mom

I am grateful for the Ya Ya's who I spent the weekend with, but I am grateful for the lady friends I have made everywhere I have lived.  As I drove home I thought about how lucky I am to have the Ya Ya's and a whole bunch of great friends.
Would you believe that  I returned home to this?   My house full of non YaYa's but friends just the same,  for our annual Super Bowl Party! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dear Mom, Two years later,

There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
There's a pain goes on and on.
~Les Miserables~
Dear Mom, 
Two years ago today, you succumbed to breast cancer. I still have the pervasive thoughts of... This is still so hard.  I didn't want to do this. I want to rewind the clock so badly, before there was cancer, hospice, and a funeral.  I woke up this morning and thought about you and the last few weeks of your life.  Those last few weeks were so hard, and when you passed away there was relief knowing you were not suffering.  Even though it was hard, I'd go back to those weeks in an instant to be able to see you one more time. 
A few weeks ago, I went to a women's conference and the speaker spoke about losing her mom and how hard it was. I envied the speaker, because she was 62, and had just lost her mom.  She had almost 30 more years with her mom than I did.   I still feel way too young to navigate my life without my you.   When I said this to a friend whose mom passed at the age of 96, she said, "Everyone feels that way,  no matter how old you are."  
Dad has a new life, and he is happy, which good, but the little girl in me feels like I've been orphaned. I know I'm being immature. I know this,  I should be happy for him.  When planning Christmas, there was only Mr. Man's family to coordinate with, and I felt a little left out.   Mr. Boy is still furious with Grandpa for moving "too far away to see my soccer games".  He refuses to talk to him on the phone or send him a letter. Last night AK burst into tears talking to Grandpa and just handed the phone to me and said, "I miss him too much, you talk to him."  Mom, I took for granted your presence in my life and my kids lives. I hear your voice in my head saying, "You need to forgive your father, he doesn't cope the same way you do."   I'm trying... well,okay, I'm not really trying, but I will someday.

I still wish you were here to help me figure out how to navigate the school system. Your knowledge as a teacher would really help right now. AK has some serious learning challenges and I have all these meetings with the school... IEP, SST, RSP, SECC.  Sometimes I feel like they are blowing smoke or trying to check off a box on a checklist.   I wish I had you here to prep me for these meetings so I can go in armed with knowledge.  Instead I'm trying to decipher and translate this all as I go along.   As for Mr. Boy, you'd be proud, he reads ALL the time, and his grades show it.   Right now he is struggling through fractions and I tried to tutor him.  Apparently, fractions aren't my forte because I taught him how to do it wrong!  I still vividly remember moaning and crying while I rolled around on our burnt orange shag carpet while you tried to teach me fractions and screaming, "I'll never ever need to use fractions again in my life."  You were right, I needed to learn it, because now I have to teach my son how to do it.  I wish I listened more. 

Mom, it still hurts.   Two years later and your loss is still painful.  I'm okay, I really am, everyone says it gets better... easier...and it has, but I still get these pangs of grief.   I just want to hear your voice one more time, to get some reassurance that I'm doing things right.   I see my friends with their moms and I want to tell them, "Oh, I know she makes you crazy sometimes, but  trust me you'll miss it so much when it's gone."   

The kids love to hear stories about you, we talk about you a lot.  The kids take comfort in knowing you are watching over them.   They love to hear about the time you got mad at my 2nd grade teacher. They also love to hear Part II of that story which hasn't been written down yet.   I am grateful that I grew up knowing I always had you in my corner.   I am trying to give my kids the same gift that you gave me, that no matter what, mom is on your side.  

You were such a vibrant person, and embraced life.  I'm trying to be more like you, and take advantages of opportunities as they come. When I would tell you about something, a trip I wanted to take, a pair of shoes I saw, you would say, "Wendy, make it happen. Life is short."   Today, to celebrate the life you lived, I will take my kids to the beach, I will laugh and play, and I will buy those shoes that I've been eyeing for a month.  Life is short, live it to it's fullest, you taught me that.  I love you. I miss you.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Days of days gone by.

I don't know exactly what event it was that turned me off to Valentine's Day, or  if it was just a jumble of unfortunate events that made me come to loathe the day.   By the time I met Mr. Man, I had decided to pretend the holiday doesn't exist.   Every day should be like Valentine's Day full of romance and gratitude and it is.... that Mr. Man of mine treats me well. 
Mr. Man proposing, it really has nothing to do with this post other than it is romantic.
Then we had children, and Valentine's Day took on a new meaning.   We always have a special family dinner, and this year will be no different.  It's a nice time to have dinner where we pause and tell each other things we like about each other.  After spending the weekend with the YaYa's and hearing about their older kids having their own social schedules, I am savoring this time where my kids are home a lot.  Over the past few years, I have made my peace with Valentine's Day and no longer loathe it.   It's a great family holiday in our house. 

I've talked about Valentine's of years past. I have pretty fond memories of "Fork Lift Guy" in all his awkward glory and my date with "Hugh Grant"  was perfection except for my hasty rude exit.

I always felt like an odd duck in high school, later on, I learned that almost everyone felt the same way I did growing up. I was anxious to grow up and move out on my own. I was the only child at home, my parents were going through a rough patch, and I was struggling to find my place in the world.

 At the age of 16, I got a job at a gift basket company.   My boss was young and empowered and she treated me like her equal.   She taught me a lot about small businesses and she influenced a lot of the career decisions I have made so far.  I'm incredibly grateful for her wisdom and for all that she taught me.    

The only drawback to my job was Valentine's Day.   Lots of people send gift baskets for Valentine's Day, especially women.   For some reason, women think men want a teddy bear gift basket or a beers of the world gift basket sent to their office, and maybe they do....  but according to the phone calls we received and the reactions the delivery people received, it doesn't sound like they liked it.  Most of the male recipients didn't like the attention.  Did I mention we offered a singing telegram add-on or you could have your basket delivered by someone in a cupid costume?  My boss and I spent the day fielding phone calls and keeping customers happy.  (I skipped school that day to work instead.. where were my parents?)

At the end of the day  the extra beers of the world basket would be cut open and everyone would collapse and giggle about the most ridiculous orders.  "Please make sure the card says, Dear Schmoopykins, You are loviest, wuviest, teddy bear.  Love, Twinklestars"  (That one was actually addressed to my high school PE teacher, ordered by his girlfriend.)

One Valentine's Day, as I left work at the gift basket company,   I walked outside to find one of the vendors we worked with, waiting for me.   We had been on one or two dates before and he was a nice guy, but a few years older than me.   He held up a picnic basket and asked if I might like to join him on a picnic. We sat on the beach that night and talked about our crazy day and laughed at the ridiculous requests.  I don't really remember if it was particularly romantic, but what I do remember is looking at the ocean and feeling like I was on the right path.  I may not have felt like I fit in at school or at home, but I was okay.   I had found my way and my little job was helping me sort out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life.

For today, I'm grateful that I don't work in a business where I have to write out, "Dear Honeykins..."  I am grateful that today, I have a lot more inner peace than I did in high school and I'm proud of the path my life has taken.  I'm grateful for those little moments I have had over the years that have given me the reassurance that I'm on the right path and doing the right thing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Parenting Fail #2,098

I know I've mentioned it before, but I grew up with quirky parents as evidenced here, here, and potentially coming soon in book form.

Every Saturday when I was growing up, my brothers and I would have to wash the family cars. Rain, snow, sleet, hail, my brothers and I would be out washing the cars on Saturday morning. It wasn't as though we were washing Lamborghinis, my dad, an engineer by trade, doesn't believe in buying "depreciating assets".  Our cars were always American made and nothing fancy.   I hated washing the car, loathed the chore, and still vividly remember having chilled, purple fingers that tingled when I washed the car in the winter months. (We lived in Southern California, so no need to cue the violins, I had a pretty posh childhood.)   While I am a big fan of giving kids regular chores, as soon as I moved out, I vowed to never wash a car again. 
 I really have no idea what I am doing when it comes to raising my children.  Truth be told, sometimes most of the time, I'm just guessing at what the right thing is to do.   I'm trying really hard to raise good and humble citizens with a work ethic. In today's world of instant gratification, this is not an easy task.   

Somewhere along the line, I got the idea if my kids aren't going to be responsible for washing the cars, they had to at least put in the time by sitting at the car wash.  So, they come with me and we sit and watch the car get washed.  Over the years, it has became a tradition to walk across the street and get Slurpees while we wait.   

Last week we waited until AK got home from dance to go, because it was "important everyone put in their time at the car wash."   While we sat waiting for our car to be done, Mr. Boy asked me, "Mom, why did we wait all day to bring AK with us to the car wash? Why didn't we just go while she was at dance? Why does everyone have to go to the car wash?"  

I stammered.... because I wanted to say, "This was my chore when I was little, and you have to at least put in the time we would have spent."  But then I realized, my thinking was not quite right.  What was I really teaching my kids?   "Hey Kids, your job is to sit and watch someone else do a chore you could easily do!"  or "Hey Kids, when you grow up pay someone else to do the things you don't like to do!" 

Truth is, once I thought about it, I really didn't know what lesson I was trying to teach or if there was actually a lesson to teach.   So, I made something up, because that is what I do best.  

"Mr. Boy, when I was little I hated washing the car, we had to do it every Saturday instead of watching cartoons.  It made my fingers numb in the winter, and since I was the youngest, my pesky older brothers always sprayed me with water.   If I wasn't careful, they would dump a bucket of water on my head.   So, I got good grades, stayed away from drugs, went to college, and have a successful career.  All my hard work has paid of because instead of doing something I hate, I can afford to use a service to do it.   The best part of all this, I get to drink Slurpees and hang out with two of my favorite human beings."  

That seemed to satisfy Mr. Boy until he asked, "Mom, if I pay the car wash man $5 will he dump a bucket of water on your head?"  

Friday, February 08, 2013

Month in review - January

We visited the Space Shuttle Endeavour which made me feel very patriotic.  I had taken the kids out of school to see  Endeavours final flight as it arrived in California.  
Mr. Boy had repair work on his jaw from the bout of cellulitis he had three years ago.   All in all, my kids are healthy.  As I sat in the waiting room with other parents who had children in surgery for serious medical reasons, I realized it is a blessing I take for granted. 
I made my first batch of cheese, which is my cooking project for the year.  It was a lot easier than I thought, and quite tasty. I am dreaming of summers eating fresh mozzarella by the pool with fat homegrown tomatoes.
We did a lot more of this as Mr. Boy is having a fierce battle with asthma this winter. 
The weather turned crazy cold, like high in the low 50's and we cityfolk whined and complained.   The rains came and with a puppy that means playing in mud. I spent most of the month spending some quality time with my mop.
The clouds parted and the sun came out again to warm us up. Zoey tested the pool out to make sure it was still working and soaked up the rays after.  This is quite possibly my favorite picture of Zoey.
Flu's of all sorts hit our house in one weeks time.  Miss AK had the stomach flu, which meant she spent plenty of time reading to the dogs on her "floor bed", which is her favorite part of being sick. 
Mr. Man was a great sport and we dressed up for Mr. Man's Swanky Company 1920's themed Party.  I think he should try and bring knickers back, what do you think?
 And somewhere in my month was my birthday, which as always is a time for reflection,  where I wonder, "What am I doing with my life?" 
I came up with a new plan in addition to the Yes Project... stay tuned. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

The day I turned 36

I used to loathe my birthdays, but as the years go by, I have embraced them.  Mr. Man and I snuck away from a lunch out the day before my birthday to say farewell to 35.  
That night I took AK on a Girls Night with her Aunties.  
I have a plan for my 36th year with 36 individual goals for the year.   One of them involves hiking more, and to start my 36th year my friend Laura and I hiked my favorite hike.
We are stuck in somewhat of a restaurant rut and we went on an adventures to find the closest thing to NY Pizza in LA.Turns out, Village Pizza was the winner.
I couldn't resist getting some fancy cupcakes while we were out.  And Miss AK couldn't resist telling folks it was my birthday, notice they taped a candle to the box.  
My family sings the most rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. 
Another year older, hopefully wiser too.