Recently in Parenting Category

January 20, 2009

Snow!!! :)


Yeah, I know, you may not be as enamored of it as I am right now but this is the first actual snowfall we've seen in years. And I got today off because of it. So yes, I'm gushing.

Here is a picture my daughter took this morning of a statue in our back garden. You can barely see Buddha now.


November 24, 2008

Teen angst

In June of 1989, I went swimming on a gloriously sunny, hot day in Alligator Point, Florida, a little doohickey hanging off the panhandle. Because of its location (Gulf of Mexico, can you say bathwater warm?) and the season (ever changeable summer), I should have known to be careful. Instead, I swam out pretty far and laid on a raft, just floating, soaking up the sun and enjoying my time away from my (then) husband. I was listening to the sound of the water lapping at the raft and the distant noise of kids playing on the beach. I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to take this trip as a family someday, with kids and diaper bags and chairs and coolers in tow. As I drifted in the waves, I was rocked to sleep, all sounds of the beach fading off into the distance. What I didn't know was they were fading away because I had floated out to where the current grew erratic, out of the protected inlet, past the sand bars and into deeper water.

When I realized I was hearing the sound of nothingness, I looked around and saw that the beach was just a smudge of brownish beige and I had gone far west of the beach access. I began paddling back toward the beach but my arms became very tired fighting the current. I thought it would be smart to slip off the raft and kick, knowing I had much more strength and stamina in my legs.

I was fighting a losing battle. For every stroke forward, I was being pulled back, so it took forever to make any headway. It felt as though the water was pulling on my feet, trying to pull me back out to sea. Every kick was a monumental effort, a struggle against the riptide's embrace. Several times, I wanted to give up, so sure I was that I could not make it. Lord knows it would have been easier to just give in and float on out but, for some reason, I kept kicking. Instinct kicked in and I was full of survival adrenaline.

When I finally did make it to shore, I was quite further down the coast than the point where I had gone in and I had to drag my sorry, sopping wet, sunburnt ass back to my stuff, all the while being berated for being stupid and clumsy by my (now) x.  Later that day, after I thought I had coughed up all the sea water I had swallowed, I tried to sleep off the exhaustion, only to be woken up every few minutes to retch more fluid. Turns out, I had a bit of sunstroke and eventually I was swollen, feverish and shivering uncontrollably. It didn't quite ruin our vacation but it wasn't the most pleasant trip I've ever taken.

Funny how when you are dealing with teenagers, your mind makes connections. I feel the pull of the tide of my children's emotions, knowing any minute I could be pulled into the swirling vortex and drowned. It is so much easier not to fight, just give up and wait for it to be over. For some reason, though, I keep trying new ways to communicate, to relate, to keep us all afloat.

I'm on pure survival adrenaline now. While the boy (17 next month) seems to be coming out of a bad patch (thanks to a new girl, apparently), the girl (just turned 15) is in a downward spiral. Her best friend is, and I mean this with love, a little shit and since the girl can not help but act like the people that she hangs around with, she is being a little shit too.

Tell me ... where are the parenting magazines and websites for single moms dealing with just everyday teen angst? My kids aren't troubled or in trouble, they are just "normal" kids. Since I was pretty much left to raise myself, I don't have a good model of parenting to hold myself up to. I guess I just really would like to know that I'm not on this raft alone. 

November 15, 2008

Some kind of monster

Last weekend, my son made a bonehead move during breakfast that caused a bit of tension in the house. T was here, I had just pulled 2 trays of biscuits out of the oven, we had sausage and gravy ready for a decadent Sunday morning. T and I had gotten our biscuits, the girl had just gotten hers and he was getting a plate when suddenly I heard a loud *clomp* sound. He had his plate in his hand and a look of horror on his face. Apparently when he turned, his fingers caught the edge of the bowl of gravy and sent it flying onto the floor. *splatter*

My immediate reaction was "How on earth did that happen?" I didn't scream at him, I didn't call him names, I didn't make fun of him, I just didn't get how it happened.

Then I told him to just step away from it and let me clean it up. It was an accident and, as accidents go, a fairly innocuous one. I spent the next 20 minutes cleaning up (because of course I had to empty the sink before I could use the mop and I had to empty the dishwasher before I could empty the sink) in silence. I wasn't the only one being quiet, though, everyone around me was watching, waiting, like I'm a time bomb with a hair trigger.

When I was done, T talked to me, told me not to be too hard on him, he's a kid, etc. He made a lot of sense and I appreciate him being the voice of reason but, honestly, I already knew what he would say. It mostly served to calm me down and was supposed to get me in a better mood so life could go on as normal. And it did, in its own time.

I've been thinking about that incident and others a lot lately, though. Incidents where, although I'm not totally proud of how I handled myself, everything got resolved in a grown up and peaceful manner. I like to think I'm a fairly decent parent but I have doubts and they run deep, especially lately.

I just don't get how I have this reputation for being such a mean parent. The girl has said several times that she didn't want to ask me something or she was afraid to tell me because I would get mad. And the boy, apparently, thinks I'm a raving banshee and tells his friends all the time how mean I am and how I'll yell at him if he asks me  for anything.

What went down tonight really bothered me, though. The girl had a concert tonight (she sung a solo beautifully) and I bought her flowers. After all the buildup and then sitting through the show (I'm a nervous wreck for her!), I'm waiting in a crowd (which I HATE) waiting forever it seems for her to come out. She comes out in street clothes (everyone else still had their concert dresses on) and when I go to hand her the flowers and tell her congratulations, she snaps "What is it with you and flowers?" She then proceeded to talk to everyone BUT me for the next 15 minutes.

There had been talk that she and her best friend and I and her best friends mom would go out to eat afterwards but that turned into best friend and best friend's mom (and alcoholic boyfriend) and 2 brothers AND at least 6 other people and the restaurant we wanted to go to closed at 9:30 so they decided to go to Chili's (decidedly more expensive) and it was all too much for me. Between the girls flighty, snippy attitude and my awkwardness in these situations, I told her we would talk in the car.

Well, the talk turned into an argument that lasted all the way home about how I always make her feel guilty and miserable and she was just joking. She was sobbing by the time we got home and you know what? I give up. Apparently I'm some kind of monster because I talk to my kids like rational adults and make them take responsibility for their actions and attitudes. Apparently, growning up Catholic did something to me and I have the guilt gene deeply embedded in my psyche. And I'm making the people around me miserable.   

October 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom

Remind me why I actually tell you anything?

Phone call today. My mom was upset. She got a call from my brother. He has been sick and went to his doctor, where they found he had an elevated white blood count and something on his lung. Well, he finally got a CAT scan, which revealed it is a fluid filled cyst and he's having surgery.

Ummm ... yeah, this is the same thing I had last summer, except I had 2 cysts, one on my ovary/fallopian tube and the other on my kidney. And I had to have surgery. An oofrectomy AND a kidney bisection, thank you very much. Did she call my brothers and my sister all upset? Hmm ... lemme think ... umm, that would be a big fat no since no one even knew I had surgery.

What happens to me is not nearly as important as what happens to you and your friends and your other children.

We talked about when I could take her out to dinner for her birthday. She went on an on about how busy she is, how much she has coming up. I just bit my tongue. What she has are voluntary social obligations, things she has gotten herself into. Lunch with the girls, an Oktoberfest party, a reception at the museum, all places where she can be the center of attention, if she plays her cards right. She's squeezing us in tomorrow afternoon. 

Me, I'm a slacker. I just have a presentation to give on Monday, surveys and a presentation to prepare for Tuesday, a School Improvement Plan to present with my team next month, an application packet to fill out (Media Coordinator of the Year), a library to weed, a collection development plan and a LSTA grant to write, as well beginning my National Boards and getting my Media Helper program going for the year ... not to mention the day to day work of working full time and being a single mom with two busy teenagers whose car needs an oil change and 2 new tires, like yesterday.

Can you tell I'm just a bit bitter? 

There was a time when my family was *this close* to being on the street, unable to pay rent or bills, and who was there for us? No one. You know why? Because I was an embarrassment to my mom and her "what will the neighbors think?" mentality.  I couldn't ask for help and she wouldn't get any for me. Yet when I got my shit together and bought my first house all on my own, did she celebrate?  No ... she was pissed that I didn't include her in the process.

No wonder I pull in and become reclusive ... because no one in my family actually cares about what happens to me or my kids.

I have succeeded despite my family and I will continue to succeed without them. I don't count on anyone for anything and its going to stay that way. 

Doesn't keep me from wishing I had a family for support.  

October 5, 2008


There are certain people in life that shape the structure that you cling to in tumultuous times, people who are constant and stable, people that are there to catch you up when you most need it.  Through my childhood, my Aunt Sue and Uncle Ritchie were those people for me.

Uncle Ritchie, my father's brother and a big gentle bear of a man, married Margaret Sue, a tall Texas belle with a hearty laugh and a quick wit over 50 years ago. They had a long, happy life together, raising three kids of their own and occasionally pulling me and my siblings into their fold. When my own parents' marriage began falling apart, they were quick to scoop us up and take us away from their drama.

Uncle Ritchie was the antithesis of my father, filled with gentleness and humanity, a quiet man who enjoyed just making kids laugh. My dad, while charming to most people that met him, was a narcissist with a mean streak a mile wide. He was quiet, too, but his quietness was sinister, a weapon that he would use to manipulate anyone he could. And kids? Umm, yeah, my dad didn't like them very much once they got old enough to question him.

Aunt Sue was the perfect mate for Uncle Ritchie. She was bold, funny, loud, solid as a rock and honest as the day is long. You always knew where you stood with Aunt Sue and she would defend us kids whenever we screwed up as just being kids. She was accepting and loving and understanding and never seemed to be put out by any request. My mom was loud, too, but in a different way. A more desperate, strident way. My mom was the prettier of the two (and Aunt Sue always told my mom this) and my mom loved it. Mom wasn't the most loving or accepting parent, still isn't.

I learned how to cook and paint ceramics and sew and knit and crochet while at their house, but these hobbies were never jobs I needed to learn so I would be a good wife someday. These were things that everyone in their house did together, things that they learned and did because they LOVED to do them. Creativity was encouraged, hugs and laughs were liberal, and you always knew you were loved with them. They even said it. Out loud. A LOT.

At my house, on the other hand, I had 2 self-absorbed parents who did not laugh with us (unless they were teasing or they were drinking), who did not encourage our creativity, who didn't hug or ever say they loved us.

At my house, we were sent to our rooms, doomed to listen to arguments late into the night most evenings. At their house, everyone sat in the den together and watched TV together or played board games until we all went to bed.

At my house, it was clear what a burden we were. At their house, even extra kids were no burden and most summer afternoons would find most of the neighborhood kids hanging out in their yard or in the pool.

At my house, you never knew who would be there in the morning (or what kind of mood they would be in) when you woke up. At their house, you were greeted by breakfast and hugs as soon as you got up. 

When we kids screwed up (and we did), my parents didn't like to talk about it. What would the neighbors think? This left us all dealing with shame issues, even today.

When their kids screwed up (and they did), their parents rolled up their sleeves and helped them out, accepting advice from whomever would give it. They understood the concept of "It takes a village" long before it was in vogue. They even offered to take in my troubled older brother after one particularly nasty fistfight he had with my father but my mom was mortified. She still is to this very day

I would have lived with them if I could have. In a heartbeat.

Last night, I was driving to pick up my daughter when my phone rang. My mom called to tell me that Aunt Sue had passed away. Pneumonia. I had to pull off the road. Sue, the strong, larger than life, smiling rock of my childhood, one of two adults that I knew loved me unconditionally, is gone. Even though I haven't seen her for a couple of years, if I close my eyes, I can still hear her laugh, still feel her hug.

It breaks my heart to think of Uncle Ritchie alone but I can't do much for him from here. He does have his 3 kids up there to watch over him but he may not last long without her. We O'Neills have a history of dying of a broken heart.

Aunt Sue, thank you for being the Mom I wished I had, the Mom I try so hard to be like with my own kids. Thank you for helping my understand my flawed parents ... your insight always helped me gain perspective and let me know that it wasn't MY fault that they were broken.  I am a healthier, wholer, happier adult for the memories that you and Uncle Ritchie gave me and the world is a sadder place today.

August 12, 2008

The road runs both ways

I just got off the phone with my daughter. This week, she is 694.51 miles away. Not that I'm counting or anything. *sigh*

When her best friend's mother asked if they could take her with them to VT to visit family (did that make ANY sense at all??), I really didn't think my girl would want to leave me. We have always been very close, from the time she was a newborn who balled herself up screaming whenever she wasn't in my arms (or, let's face it, on my boob) to now, as a teen who still calls me mommy and likes to cuddle in bed with me when she can't sleep.

Not that she has had a choice. On the way to the hospital, her father told me that he would never be able to change her diaper or give her a bath because of his religion. I was all "The HELL you say?" and he was all "oh, did I forget to tell you?" and I was all "Ummm, YEAH, dipshit."

(ok, that last part was in my head and a lot more vulgar. I just sat there and cried, pressing my forehead to the window as the next contraction came and I realized just how screwed she was going to be to only have me as her parent. I had no idea it was going to be for real forever.)

If I go to the store and get stuck in traffic or in a long line in a store and am not home when I estimated that I would, I get a frantic call asking why I'm late. God forbid I go away for a couple of days, to a conference or a visit to VA, she is always almost frantic by the time I get home.

Now, I have to point out that when the going away is HER idea, she seems much better off with it. She can go overnight to a friends house and totally forget to call me for a day, or even a weekend. But a week. No, make that ELEVEN days PLUS a trip on a train PLUS to a totally different state WITHOUT ME!! 

Ouch. Did you hear that? It was my ice cold bitchy heart shattering into a kabillion pieces.

I got the kids phones over the summer so that we can stay in touch.  I asked her to promise to call me every day while she was gone, thinking it would make her feel better to have to make an excuse to call her crazy mom than admitting that she was homesick. She promised she would and I am happy to say she has kept her promise. Every day, like clockwork, she has called from Madison Square Garden, from JC Penney, from the outlet stores, on her way to the Tri-State Fair. Hmm, come to think of it, it did sound like she has been in heaven, shopping and giggling and eating junk food but, you know, maybe that was just her being brave in front of her friend.

Todays call just about did me in, though. They were out shopping *AGAIN?!* and she asked me if it would be ok if she bought a few things for school and I can pay her friend's mom back when they got home. OH, and to let me know they are going camping and that she can't call me until *eep* MONDAY.

I get the feeling this is a new chapter. And here I thought it was she that was so attached to me.

August 7, 2008

Welcome to my world, little one

Next week, my gorgeous almost 15 year old daughter Jazz is going to Vermont with her best friend. She's been saving the money her father has given her over the summer for spending money and I agreed to pay for her trip because she has been an AWESOME kid this year, working very hard her first year of High School to stay on the honor roll and helping around the house without question.

She has been diligent drumming up extra jobs, though, just to make sure she has enough to buy presents for us while she is there. This morning, for instance, she got up, took a shower, and called my mom so that she could go over her house for the day. Her Nonnie can't get down on her knees and clean out cabinets or climb on top of the counters and dust of the chachkis on the highest shelves, but Jazz is a natural monkey.

She just came home from my mom's house with a funny smirk on her face. She was holding something behind her back and when I asked what she had, she asked me not to laugh. That was when I knew ... my mom got her clothes.

Let me spell this out for you. My daughter (who loves jeans and t-shirts, as long as they are black or grey and have minimal decoration) just got clothes from my mom (who loves to bargain hunt and thinks she knows what is the best for everyone and the best apparently has beads and sequins and lots and lots of glitter). 

She got a HOT PINK tank top with a HUGE swirly heart on the chest ... in the middle of this heart is a sea of stars and glitter and the word SASSY like a neon sign saying "LOOK AT MY BOOBS< AREN"T THEY SASSY?!?!"   Exactly the message a body conscious almost 15 year old wants written across her boobs.

Ummm, yeah. To say my mom is out of touch doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. She's been giving me cowl neck tops with embroidery and dangly embellishments all my life. I'm only too glad to pass this torch.

I do feel kind of sorry for the girl, though. I couldn't help but snicker. She was mortified when I asked if I could take a picture of it.

I did give her a hug when I said "Welcome to my world, little one."

May 18, 2008

Being a mom lately

I know I complain a lot about my kids. I know sometimes I focus on the worst of them, not the best. And sometimes I resent the fact that I am the sole parent and provider for our family of three, especially when I am not allowed to have a moment to myself while the sperm donor can go a month without even thinking about them.

I have to say, though, that most of my complaining comes from guilt. Guilt that I am not a better mom. Guilt that I want a moment to myself. Guilt that as a sole parent and provider, I am not able to provide everything they need ... time, money, clothes, toys, indulgences that their friends all have. Guilt that I, by choosing this life of single parenthood, have cheated them out of a normal childhood. And now I'm facing guilt that by putting myself through school for my second licensure so that I could get a better job (and being "insufferable" in the process ... my daughter's word for me) and then NOT getting it ... well, I have screwed up, big time.

Go ahead, say it. Suck it up. Cry a river, build a bridge and GET OVER IT. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Yeah. I'm trying. I really am. I've been trying since December. It's not getting better. Or at least it keeps coming back.

I find myself now with only 3 weeks left of the school year in front of me, a week of work after that, and a full summer to recuperate because I didn't ask to be a part of Summer Academy and I'm not taking any classes and I'm not spending the entire summer working for once.

So what am I going to do? Can I make up all my parenting deficiencies in 10 short weeks?

I don't know. T won't be coming down until sometime in July ... and I shouldn't complain because he was here all last summer helping me move and get settled and then recover from surgery but it still hurts, this distance growing larger every day. Sure, I am going up there for a wedding at the end of this month and for a race next month but those will be one day events, with me rushing to get back home because of the kids. Because I can't leave them with anyone. Because of the guilt.

It all comes down to being brought up Catholic, I'm sure of it.

April 5, 2008

Heard tonight at a concert

When I Close My Eyes
by Jim Papoulis

When I close my eyes I can see,
When I close my eyes I'm alive,
When I close my eyes then I can see
And I am not afraid.

When I try not to see the reasons why,
If I ever could understand,
I would find the hope to let me try
And I am not afraid.

Take me to the river, take me to the sea,
Climb the highest mountain
And go there with me.
When I close my eyes then I can see
And I am not afraid.

Now I am learning the magic within me
and that is the reason I am standing so tall.
Deep in my heart is a voice that is speaking,
If I keep believing then I will not fall.

Take me to where the wind blows,
Take me to the sun.
Take me to the river that flows to the sea.
When I try to see the reasons why,
If I ever could understand.
I would find the hope to let me try
And I am not afraid.

ed. by Francisco J. Nunez

Sung by an incredibly talented group of young singers, of course that brought tears to my eyes. My daughter was part of the older group, the Youth Chorale, who followed the littler ones. I'm glad I came out of my routine enough to let her join the Choral Society. She obviously loves singing and has great respect for the music they chose. I watched proudly as they sang songs in German, Latin, Hebrew and finished up with a good ole' American Folk Song. She stood tall, strong, brave ... I thought she looked very professional. Was that my girl?  *checks program* Yeppers. Who knew?

April 4, 2008

Proud momma

A follow-up to a book I read to my students last month, Ice Bear ... come on, people, we have got to do something to ensure their survival. I will be linking to more anti-consumerism, pro-environmental issues. I want my kids to have a future and there should be polar bears in it.

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