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Mother of the Year … not.

I had one of those great days today.  I slept really well last night.  I don’t work on Mondays, and today I got a LOT done while the kids were at school.  I was feeling relaxed and happy with myself.

Until the kids got home.

Michael had a friend over.  For two hours, things were great – they were playing outside, making a lot of noise and having fun.  Apparently, just before the friend was picked up (according to Michael, anyway), there was some sort of illegal move perpetrated on Michael in their soccer game, which left Michael with a dirty and bruised knee.  Since Michael didn’t have a yellow card in his pocket, he decided to throw a punch instead.  Ugh.

When his friend went home, I left Michael at home, doing homework and whimpering, so I could pick Matthew up around the corner at a friend’s house.  I was delighted to find that he’d already started walking home, as I’d asked him to.  “How was your day?” “Good! I don’t have much homework.  What’s for dinner?”

And that’s where it started going downhill, when he discovered that I’d made stuffed shells and didn’t keep any sauce-free for him.  Worst. Mom. Ever.

mother of the year

We came in the house, and Michael was still upset over the incident with his friend.  Oh, and perhaps I should mention that when the friend left, I had had the audacity to ask him to retrieve his shoes from our backyard and bring them inside when he came in.  For which I was labeled “mean.”

Matthew joined his brother at the table to get started on homework.  And when he put a binder down, it generated a breeze that blew away the organized rows of little pieces of paper with Michael’s spelling words on them.  Michael burst into tears and then headed toward Matthew to try and throw his second punch of the hour.  I grabbed his arm before he could hit, and pulled him upstairs to his bedroom, crying.  Him, not me.  Yet, anyway.

I left Michael in his room, came back downstairs and asked Matthew to help me pick up Michael’s spelling words.  When my request was met with some, um, let’s say, resistance, I kind of , let’s say, lost my patience.  I believe there may or may not have been some yelling.

After everyone had a few minutes to calm down, I apologized to both boys for losing my cool.  Because as little tolerance as I have for my kids’ poor behavior, I have even less  tolerance for my own poor behavior.  When I look at it objectively, I think I have pretty unrealistic expectations for my own behavior as a parent.  Because, as it turns out, I’m just as human as my kids are.

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I am a rock star.

There aren’t too many moments where I get to be a total hero to my kids, especially as they’re getting older, and my heroic efforts are sometimes met with a roll of the eyes or a sigh that I can only interpret to be sarcastic.

But last night, I got to save the day (can you save the day at night, or did I save the night?).  Dave has been away on a business trip, so I’ve been parenting solo.  Sometime after midnight, Michael came up to my room, shaking, having been awoken by the beeping of a smoke detector with a low battery.  On a side note, why is it that 90 percent of the time, this does NOT happen in the middle of the afternoon, but shocks someone out of a deep sleep with that annoying sound??

Smoke detector

Smoke detector (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, since our house was renovated relatively recently, we are up to code with our smoke detectors, which means there are several on every level of the house, and one in every bedroom.  I know that’s a good thing in the unlikely event of a fire, but it’s incredibly annoying in the much more likely event that I’m going to have to stumble around in my pajamas, trying to figure out where that infernal beeping is coming from because a battery is dying.  Michael, who was still shaken by being woken up, insisted on following me around the house, until I figured out (after just 3 beeps – yay, me!) that the battery needed to be changed in his room.  I’ve learned to keep the 9 volt batteries in an accessible kitchen drawer, found something to stand on so I could reach, and had the whole problem solved in less than 5 minutes.  Oh, and the other kid slept through the whole thing.

My victory was met with a sleepy “thank you,” and a tight hug from a pajama-clad 8-year-old.  Could there be anything better?

The majority of my triumphant parenting moments these days revolve around finding lost stuff.  A few weeks ago, I found an iPod that had been missing for several weeks.  It was left on a bookcase, under a piece of paper.  You would have thought that, based on the reaction, I’d found Michael Jordan or a big stack of cash under that piece of paper.  But I’ll take it.

Now, I do realize that if one of the smoke detectors on the higher ceiling in my bedroom needed a new battery, I’d kind of be screwed, but for now, I’m going to focus on my victory.

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Excuse me!

I just returned from a quick trip to Costco to pick up a contact lens order that had come in.  I figured while I was there, I’d get a case of bottled water, (which we like to keep around for occasional on-the-road needs … and yes, I know I’m defensive about my carbon footprint-expanding sometime use of bottled water).  And while I was picking up the water, I managed to spend another $100 on a holiday gift, a cute skirt and sweater, jeans for one of my kids, a bag of mini peppers and some dark chocolate covered pomegranate.  Not that you asked.

As I was making my way to the aisle where the water is, there was a man in my way, stopped dead in his tracks with his shopping cart, just before where I needed to get in to reach the water.  So I pushed my cart around him, went in front of where he was standing and hauled a case of water into my cart.  As I turned back around to leave, he’d just started to move again, and as we made eye contact, he muttered a sarcastic, “Thanks,” as he rolled away.

A row of shopping carts.

A row of shopping carts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Really??!

And as a grown woman in my 40s, do you know what my instinct was?  I wanted to cry.

And that really sucks.  Because I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything wrong.  Or if I did, I didn’t realize I did.  And if I did, it wasn’t a particularly big deal.

For all I know, this guy could’ve been having a bad day.  He could have some personal crisis going on that he took out on me.  His wife could have been taking too long looking at cute skirts and sweaters in Costco.  Who knows.

By the way, I didn’t cry.  And about 10 seconds later, I got mad, and really wanted to go tell this guy off.  As I’m writing, I realize how ridiculous my extreme emotions sound.  But I’m pretty certain that lots of people would have had the same reaction.

A few years ago, saddled with two small kids, I ventured to the supermarket, put them both in one of those shopping carts that has the plastic car attached to the front, and started doing my shopping while pushing a small tank around.  As I was waiting in line at the deli counter, an older woman backed away from the counter and stumbled over the car part of my cart.  She didn’t fall or appear to be hurt in any way.  But she began berating me about how I needed to be more careful, because she had had a hip replacement, and couldn’t afford to fall.  I remember my face getting flushed, and I know I responded, but not as strongly as I probably should have.

A few aisles over, still stinging (and on the verge of tears) from the odd deli counter exchange, a random woman walked over to me, and said, “I saw what happened back there, and I’m so sorry.  Are you okay?”  I immediately felt better.  I could see that I wasn’t alone in my reality, and that what I had perceived to be essentially just grownup bullying was just that.  And I realized that thankfully, in a world that can sometimes be a hard place for a sensitive person, the kind words of just one person can be enough to take away the sting of the unkind.

And clearly, I should just stay away from the shopping carts.

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Baby, I was born this way.

Lately, we’ve been a little worried about Matthew, because since school started a few weeks ago, he’s been having a little trouble falling asleep at night.

I should, by the way, preface this by saying that he’s our first-born, so while we pretend that we know how to parent an adolescent 7th grader, he’s really our practice child.  We hope to have it down by the time we get to the next one.

But, back to the problem.

It seems that whatever is on his mind seems to crop up after the sun goes down.  He’s a perfectly cheerful, goofy, seemingly well-adjusted child until then.  And then suddenly after about 8:00 p.m., he worries that he’s going to fail a math test, miss the bus, misplace his soccer cleats, lose his phone, or never get into college.

Last night, I was wondering why this only happens at night.  And then I remembered back to when Matthew was 9, and when he was 3, and when he was born, and realized this has kind of always been just who he is.

A pacifier

We brought Matthew home from the hospital after he was born, and I have some really super memories of Dave swinging him around in that little car seat carrier thing inside the house, trying to get him to go to sleep.  And I remember doing some serious time in the glider with Matthew in my lap, trying to get him to go to sleep.  I remember driving him around at naptime, trying to get him to go to sleep.  In fact, the majority of my memories from Matthew’s infancy revolve around trying to get him to go to sleep.

Finally, when Matthew was about a year old, he could fall asleep on his own, but only with a pacifier.  Out of desperation for some sleep, we would leave 3 or 4 pacifiers in his crib every night, so he could always find one and get himself back to sleep.  He perfected what we started referring to as the “pacifier derby,” where he’d try all of them until he found the one that was just perfect. This worked out well, until we eventually realized that if we didn’t someday make him learn to sleep without a pacifier, he’d need to take a bunch to college with him.  So we started the painstaking process of taking them away, one at a time, until he could fall asleep without it.

To help Matthew get through the lonely nights without a pacifier, we started putting some classical music on the CD player in his room, to soothe him to sleep.  This was a brilliant idea, we thought, until a few weeks later, when he started waking up around midnight, crying for us because the music had turned off.  Every night.  Like I said, he’s our practice kid, so we didn’t really know this was going to happen.

Fast-forward a few years.  Matthew was 9 years old, and finally falling asleep on his own without the help of any props.  We were doing some construction on our house and had to move out for a few months.  We were fortunate to find a nice apartment in our town where Dave and I had a bedroom and the boys had their own loft space upstairs.  Unfortunately, the room wasn’t an exact replica of Matthew’s bedroom at home.  He could hear his little brother snoring in the bed next to him.  Occasionally, the guy who lived downstairs would cook something that smelled weird late at night.  And so it started again.  And unfortunately, by this point, Matthew was too big for a pacifier or a rocking chair, so it just took a lot of patience on our part.  Eventually, we moved back home, and Matthew happily slept in his own bed, with only the need for complete darkness to fall asleep.  That, I can work with.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that we’ve all got our personality traits and our quirks.  And while I do think that sometimes our environment affects how we turn out, if we think about it just a little bit, sometimes we can chalk it up to just coming into this world a certain way.

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Well, that was fast.

I’m posting a follow-up to yesterday’s blog of self-pity.  I’m done.  Thanks for listening.

smile

I’ve been wondering today – when are we entitled to wallow in our own misery (sometimes, when we don’t even have anything significant to be miserable about), and when is it time to just stop talking and let it go?

When I broke my ankle last fall, I had a few conversations with friends who were feeling quite sorry for me.  And honestly, I really wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, so it seemed kind of ridiculous to me, and actually made me a little uncomfortable.  I was able to maintain perspective – that my injury was temporary and not life-threatening.  But after a year of some pain on most days, I think I just lost that perspective for a while.

Really, all it took was a conversation with a friend yesterday to put that perspective right back into my face, when she told me that I had every right to be feeling a bit sorry for myself, when faced with pain and a decision about having a third surgery.  You see, this friend has a chronic medical condition, and even though I haven’t known her for long, I’ve never heard her complain once about her own situation.

And that was enough for me.  Bam. There was my perspective.

I don’t think it’s about finding our perspective by seeking out someone who has it worse.  I think it’s about realizing that we ALL have our struggles, and how we get through life is about the lens through which we view these struggles.  And some days, it’s okay to curl yourself into a ball and wallow in a little self-pity (or in my case, try and shake off the self-pity by cruising through the aisles of Christmas Tree Shops, looking for Halloween decorations.  And FYI, that worked, but not for long).  But most days, you’re going to feel a whole lot better when you realize that we all have it tough in one way or another, so talk to a friend, hug your dog, and then step out into the world.

Just try not to break your ankle when you do.

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Sigh….

This weekend will mark the one-year anniversary of my dislocated and broken ankle, the weekend I spent in the hospital to have surgery, and the plate and 5 screws that still remain in my ankle.

I spent the weekend after my injury feeling stupid for missing a step while carrying laundry and hurting myself so badly.  And then during the months I spent recovering  and enduring a second surgery, I felt nothing but gratitude.  For the many people who did so much for me and my family by driving us around, cooking us meals, walking our dog, and just checking in.  For the injury itself, which showed me just what an amazing support system we have.  For the fact that I’d just broken my ankle, and didn’t have a life-threatening illness.  For the many lessons my children learned about how people take care of each other, and that a broken ankle literally is not the end of the world.

And now, almost exactly year later, I’m just feeling pissed.

ankle

According to my orthopedist, who I saw this morning for a follow-up (because my stupid ankle hurts with nearly every step I take), an “ankle fracture is an underrated injury.”  We’re going to try some physical therapy to see if I can get some relief, but after a year, it looks like the only thing that’s really going to help is another surgery to remove the plate and 5 screws (which, he told me, now that my ankle has healed, are just there for “decorative purposes”).  And after that surgery, I’ll need to be on crutches for a month.

Hey, listen, I know that Derek Jeter had a tough season, and I doubt he’s completely recovered either.  But nobody is paying me $17 million a year to spend my days rehabbing, to get back to a career that I’m about to age out of anyway.

I’m annoyed with myself for being so impatient.  And I’m annoyed with myself for no longer having the gratitude that I felt so strongly for months.  I’m hoping it’s going to return.  I guess when I broke my ankle, I thought it was just a little more temporary than it’s turned out to be.

So now, I guess it’s just time to put on my big girl pants and deal.

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