Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Physical

My 12-year-old had a physical today. It went a lot differently than the one she had four years ago, before she was leaving for her first-ever overnight camp. This time, she's as tall as I am, and I would guess, is not done at 5'6". When she sits on the table in the pediatrician's exam room, she looks perfectly ridiculous, an adult in a room filled with child-sized furniture. She has come a long way in 12 years.

Today, the doctor doesn't talk about chicken pox or whooping cough or how washing your hands often will prevent you from getting sick. We talk about cervical cancer and menstrual cycles and body image. My little girl has grown up.

While the content may have changed, the ending, sadly did not. Only this time, as she sat waiting to receive five shots, I didn't have to bribe her, hold her still or wipe away any tears. I just had to buy her Coke. I guess that's a bribe. But this time I was honest (instead of saying, oh honey, these won't hurt). I told the truth. That Tetanus shot? You're gonna feel it tomorrow.

Just when I was getting used to the little kid physicals, my little girl had to get all grown up. But I like the new getting a Coke part.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not All ATwitter

As a marketing professional, I try to stay on top of the trends. I listen to what movies people are seeing, what programs they're talking about, what books are interesting. I read the papers (yes, the paper kind) and I read the blogs. I follow the latest in electronics and the newest in games. But I am a bit of a loss on Twitter.

It's not that I don't like it; my Tweet Deck is on right now. I just don't quite get it. It may be my lifestyle. Who wants to read a Tweet from me standing in line at Albertsons? Or running a lost lunch to school? Or filling up--again--at the Shell station. I am, simply put, not interesting. Even when I'm working, I am not interesting. Who wants to read "I just finished a really cool sentence for this new Website..."? Exactly.

I mentioned this to my friend, Jackie, this morning. She and I are happily (for us) and sadly (for Twitter) living the same life. As she puts it "I'm not a celebrity." This is true. And it is also true that perhaps people are enjoying following celebrities because they get a peak into their lives and get to see that they also go to the Shell station and stand in line at Albertsons. But somehow it is much more exciting that it's Ashton Kutcher or John Mayer performing these mundane tasks than a self-employed mom. Go figure.

I saw a great campaign yesterday that worked amazingly well with Twitter. It was free ice cream day at Ben & Jerry's. When you're giving away ice cream, people Tweet. Even me. And I am positive it generated a lot of great buzz for them. For this initiative, I can see how Twitter was a handy communications platform. 

So the next time I am giving out Otter Pops in the front yard, I'll know I've got more options than having my seven-year-old run up and down the street yelling, HEY MOM'S GOT OTTER POPS!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tween Hang Ups

My Tweenager lost her cel phone last night. By the sound of it, you would have thought that:
- someone had shaved her head
- she had an enormous zit on her nose and it was the night of the Prom
- her cat had died
- all of her blue jeans and black t-shirts had been stolen

It was quite a commotion. And a loud, and obnoxious, end to what had been a very lovely, quiet and largely uneventful night. Suddenly, a small electronic gadget is at the center of my daughter's small, but evolving, world. Apparently it holds the secret to her social universe. And here I just use it as a random communications device. What do I know?

Now, it's unfortunate when things get lost. And it's fair to get upset. But to run up and down the halls, screeching? To slam your bedroom door so that the hall reverberates like we've been hit with a 6.5 earthquake? To hit your brother and call him a stupidface because he is snickering at the drama? All but the last one (mostly) take it a bit over the top. At least in my "lost a few things in my lifetime" book.

Like when my laptop went to blue screen in the middle of a massive deadline. Besides the  heart failure, immediate onset of dread, and instant activation of the nagging little voice repeating "see! should have backed up!!!" I managed it as well as one can when a massive project just zapped itself from your existence, never to be seen again. No running up and down the halls. No door slamming. No screeching. No hair pulling (hey, that stuff costs too much to keep highlighted, that's a precious commodity). 

And the whole event has me wondering what's on her phone. But knowing my Tweenager, it was just a drama thing, the like of which would have made Scarlet O'Hara proud. If only it was an effective way to return lost items. 

What she doesn't know is that the ice rink called today and some nice person turned it in. But since my personal hang up is that I'm tired of seeing her fingers texting at Olympic rates, I think I'm going to sit on that little piece of information for awhile. Maybe she'll try my favorite communications device: conversation. 

I know. Yeah right.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Overscheduled Much?

According to the calendar, it is Monday. And, according to my project list, by 3:00 p.m. I will be exactly 10 hours behind schedule. Even if I pulled an "all-nighter," there is no way I can regain what was lost before my week started.

If being busy is good news, I am on the right side of the equation. But, happy moment that it is, it also adds another layer of stress. And I just noticed that my son has a hockey clinic tonight, for which I had best head to the garage and ensure that he has his bag packed. It is going to be a busy day, and it's going to roll over tomorrow.

As I scan my week, complete with school Open Houses and concludes with eight 11-year-old boys convening for a sleepover, I can see that I might as well give up, put the coffee pot on and get ready to push through it.

Because, as I sit here fretting, I have now added another 16 minutes to my 10 hours' lost...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mom Can't Always Have Your Back

We start out, all of us dedicated moms, trying to protect our children from all of life's miseries. We fix skinned knees with the non-stinging antispectic and colorful bandaids; we intervene when another child in the sandbox smacks yours on the head with a shovel; we counsel our kindergartners on how best to keep their hands to themselves; and we are continuously advising them that kind words are just as easy to say as the hurtful ones.

And then, sometime between third and fifth grade, it all unravels and your child is left to use all of the "tools" you've provided them--in their own words. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not. And when it doesn't, I'm not sure who feels worse, you or your child. 

This weekend, my newly 11-year-old on learned some difficult lessons. Lessons that we all learn eventually. But he had to get his in quick succession in three days. First, on his birthday, I brought him a special lunch only to find him totally "shut down" and fairly non-responsive. A group of boys were continuing to taunt him. It has, apparently, escalated. He has not told me; he doesn't want me to worry. Or, probably more to the point, get involved. As he stared down at the lunch, I watched the four boys giggle, whisper and point, and say something low enough that only my son could hear. So much for a happy birthday lunch. 

After school we packed him up for his first two-day campout with his new boy scout troop. From a parental perspective, it looked like Treasure Island, complete with tents, a fishing dock, rock climbing walls, camp fires and hikes. As the tents sprouted up, I left excited. Surely this will be a most memorable experience! And when we picked him up, we could clearly see that it was, and for all of the wrong reasons. Excluded in some instances; intentionally sidelined by the 13-year-old tasked with being the "leader" in others, it wasn't what he had hoped for. As a result, he may drop out.

It is hard to watch your child suffer, whether it is from illness, scholastic issues or peer trouble. And unfortunately, there is no non-stinging antiseptic and colorful band aid that can clean it up, patch it up and instantly make it better. If only.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I blinked, and there went eleven years

It is my son's 11th birthday, and he is beside himself with happiness. I watch him from across the table, and I marvel at how he has grown and how we both have changed. Because this birthday is unlike any other, and more likely how this day will unfold for years to come. 

There will be no birthday cake slaved over for hours just to get the frosting just right. There will be no house filled with small children shrieking, or a visit from the Creature Teacher with some exotic little primate stuck in the tree in my front yard. There will be no night-before frantic filling of extra gift bags to accommodate the last-minute RSVPs that came in. There will be no fretting about the "perfect" present, or a special birthday picture. That's all chronicled in his baby albums. That is not now.

Today, he will go to school like any other day. Then he will pack up and go with his boy scout troop for a weekend campout. He doesn't want any "perfect" present, just cash, so he can save it for a video game or an iPod. He doesn't like cake. And singing "Happy Birthday" causes him to get extremely shy and pretend he doesn't know us. After which he always says "Seriously Mom!"

Everyone says that you should enjoy your children while you can, because it goes by so quickly. And when you're in the midst of diapers, potty training, sippy cups, mounds of laundry, the terrible twos, etc., you mostly think it doesn't go by fast enough. But now, today, as his duffle bag sits in the hall and the birthday cards sit on his desk, I think about how much fun he and I had. 

Today he will remember jogging around the school track for the PTA fundraiser, making s'mores with his friends and trying to sleep in a tent for his first outdoor camping trip. And while he is making new birthday memories with his friends, I'll be remembering the 10 birthdays prior and hoping that someday, he'll think about them, too.

Everything is just as it should be, but the birthday cake flavor, had I baked one, would have been bittersweet. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Empty Nest Syndrome

I'm quickly approaching an occurrence so unusual that I think I can confirm only three previous documentable episodes. It is the oft-talked about, but rarely (for me, anyway) experienced situation known to some as Empty Nest Syndrome. To my husband this is known as "Yeah, It's About Time" day.

The stars must have magically aligned to create this phenomenon, but all three children will be enjoying themselves elsewhere, leaving myself and my husband to figure out what to do with ourselves for 24 straight hours. I'm thinking, wow! I can catch up on my books, get a few thank you's written, go to the gym, redraft a story idea I mind reels with possibilities. My husband's eyes are rolling into the back of his head. None of these options was on his 24-hour "bucket list."

I'm also fairly confident that: mowing the lawn, organizing the garage, taking the car for an oil change, fixing the shower door, recaulking the tub or any of the other items on my growing "around the house" list is on that bucket list--or any other list, for that matter.

Something tells me that he may even pass up the opportunity to catch a movie without having to pay three times the ticket cost for a babysitter. Instead, he is inquiring about the status of my favorite coconut bubble bath...Hey, wait! Maybe he IS considering recaulking the tub!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Check Your Horrorscope

Lately my tweenager has been grabbing for the Life section of the newspaper before she grabs her breakfast. It's not because she wants to read the Society column, find a new recipe, or read about something interesting in the community. It is because she wants to read her horoscope.
I understand. I've been there. But I discovered an interesting phenomenon: was the writer of these horoscopes absolutely psychic, or was it something else? Was it that, having read "your day will be difficult; have patience" I was convinced that this would be the outcome, and thus made it transpire? Given that the horoscope writer for my town seemed to have a hate complex that was focused predominately on Virgos, thus giving us a preponderance of two-star days filled with words like "complicated," "disorganized," "boring," "good  day to clean the closet," and "your lover doesn't understand you," I decided to quit reading my Horrorscope, as I came to call the daily missive, and take my chances on my own. 
Now it's my daughter's turn. Given that she's excited to read it, my guess is that either the writer I came to know has retired and the new writer is more balanced and more positive OR she's hoping that the next day is better than the last. I mention this to her. "You know," I say, trying to sound casual, "it might be better just to let the day unfold and then read today's horoscope tomorrow and see if it was right."
This causes her to look at me in the same astounded way she does when I wear something other than blue jeans and a sweatshirt. "Why would I do that?" she asks as she tears through the pages. Horoscope addiction. What's next.
"Here, I'll read yours!" she exclaims. Yay. "Work from home this week. Your partner will be difficult. Take time to read."
Excellent. It would appear that my original writer has not retired. That, or Virgos are just prone to lackluster futures. Now, if I didn't work for myself, I might take that first part as an ominous message that could be a clue to a layoff or a firing. But, in my case, I take that as a "don't go to a bunch of meetings because you'll be backlogged with work." That is not a psychic moment; that's a reality. The second part doesn't surprise me, taxes are due on Wednesday. And the last part, that's just good common sense. But because of the two other sentences, that's just plain old wishful thinking.
Now that I've analyzed this, I think to myself, have I created my backlogged, busy, difficult week because of these words or were they doomed to transpire in any event? 
I don't know. I'm too busy to worry about it.  

Monday, April 13, 2009

state of the State Report

I hate fifth grade. I hated it when I was in fifth grade, during which time Mrs. Grant made my life perfectly miserable with her "waterfall r's" that I simply could not replicate, causing me to spend the entire nine months I was entrusted into her evil care to be called "Lou". "LOU?" she'd query, as she peered around the room with one paper left in her decaying clutches, "I didn't know we had a LOU in class!!!" Leaving me no choice but to make the slinking walk of shame to the front of the classroom to retrieve my paper, to the snickers of the rest of the class. (Oh, and did I mention that I was also the NEW KID, making this insult the one-two punch of "youaresonotcool"). This transpired daily, to the point that I considered changing my name to "Lou." Unfortunately, I didn't take to the name and so I just became "thatnewgirlthathasbadhandwriting." There's a moniker you want.

So I have no good memories of fifth grade. I have no good memories of Katie's fifth grade, either. She had the most miserable year, mostly at the hands of another young lady who was quite a bit more clever and absolutely masterful at starting things and not getting caught. 

And now my son also is having a lousy fifth grade. Is it just fifth grade? Or is it being 11-going-on-40? Is it my bad handwriting gene? Or my "I don't have any patience for stupid" gene? Or are all of us doomed to have the teacher from hell in fifth grade. For my son, hell is called "the State Report." His personal Hell? Virginia. 

For most of us, Virginia is a lovely and attractive state, filled with trees, birds, picturesque Williamsburg, historic Jamestown, a cool Spring Break locale and all sorts of rolling landscape. For my son, Virginia is an Epic Fail, filled with geography, climate, history, famous people, and something else but he can't put his finger on it because he can't find his notecards. In addition to a multi-page report, he has to make a poster, a float and something else (he can't remember, he can't find his notecards). And, having read through his report, he is doomed to a fate worse than Mrs. Grant. He leads off his geography page with: "Virginia is a small state that has a lot of geography." I couldn't really read past this; I was stopped cold on so many levels.

So tonight, the night before the rough draft is due, he brings his pages to me to edit. Eleven in all. Eleven filled with sentences like "Virginia is a small state that has a lot of geography." And I am trying to decide: Do I help him fix this and dive into it or let him learn a lesson about not waiting to the last minute? I'm thinking...mostly about Mrs. Grant....

Hey, Mrs. Grant! My lack of ability with waterfall r's has not deterred my ability as a human being nor has it prevented me from promotion in my career. Imagine that!!!

Now I have to go figure out what "Virginia has a lot of geography" really means...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Basket Case

Easter is one of those "no-sleep" holidays. Which automatically makes me add a level of dread to the whole event. Since I have to get up at the crack of dawn daily to get the tweenager to zero period, weekends and holidays are sacred; I'd like to sleep in until 8 a.m. if at all possible. 

Easter Eve also has the added stress of having to stay up long enough to ensure that all children are assuredly asleep, so that  I can play Easter Bunny without getting caught. The no-sleep element makes it all that much harder to deal with the sugar-induced added bickery that is sprinkled atop the usual sibling bickery. I am told that one day I will miss all of this. I need more convincing.

This year is especially fun because I'm still stuffy, my son is still sick and my husband has locked himself in the office, desperately attempting to finish up the taxes. I think that's code for "I'm busy until your mother goes home" but I'll take the high road and figure that he just doesn't want to file an extension.

And the only basket the Easter Bunny had in store for me this year was a basket case. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?

Lately I find myself talking in lyrics. Somehow my generation lucked out and we grew up with musicians who are entirely quotable for every situation. Who knew that I would sound profound and wise as I whisper "YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT...BUT YOU'LL FIND SOMETIME YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED!" to my tantrum-throwing son as I step over his flailing body in the toy aisle at Target. Thank you for that, Mick Jagger.

And today, as I once again endure the endless bickering that is produced by three stubborn and cranky children, my mind wandered over to my favorite Elvis Costello song "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding." I ask this of my annoying brood, who look back at me with the "trick question, right?" look. As I fumble for my iPod, all bodies bail out of the SUV. Nobody wants to listen to mom rock out. Or, apparently, learn anything.

Perhaps I should have played "Watching The Detectives" instead. Perhaps it would instill some fear. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Starting Out Where I Left Off

In my column in Simply Smart, I left off with the engine running, and a nice puddle of water pooling beneath the car, thanks to the A/C. It's been a while.

In the meantime, the magazine went through two "tests;" focus groups declared their love for it and the elated editorial staff moved forward with the editorial calendar. Then the economy started to slide and higher ups decided that rather than spend money on a rack magazine they'd use it to shore up other divisions. And so, quick as it appeared, there went a really cool idea. 

Since then, I've created two companies, restructured one, written more than 15 websites, 25 articles, and created numerous marketing materials. Yep, it's back to marketing maven as it were, but my lead role is still as mom. And as such, right now, I'm unfortunately not the woman I once was. Literally.

My daughter started this. She told me about how "everyone" was "sick as dogs" at school. It almost affected the girls attending the weekend's state FHA finals in Fresno. Luckily, everyone was well enough to attend. So just as I was patting myself on the back for making it through the winter illness season with not even a sniffle, the very worst happened. That's right: Mom got sick.

Now, I know all about how to keep illness to myself, having survived millions (it feels like, anyway) bouts of flu, stomach bugs, rashes, etc. over the course of the kids' preschool and elementary years. And I did what we all do: soldiered on, while we all know we need to be in bed with someone bringing US some chicken soup (yeah, we can still dream). And once again, just as I thought, hey, this is working, it didn't. My littlest started coughing. Here we go.

But now I'm working as half the woman I once was. You see, whatever this is, I can't smell and I can't taste. Suddenly, I can't tell if the milk is off. I can't determine whether the boys' bathroom has hit the "get the Lysol STAT" moment. I can't conduct the "did you brush your teeth??" test at the door as the kids head to school. (at least not with any conviction). I can't tell you if the cat box needs emptying or if the tadpole is stinky. I can't say, with conviction, that the hamster cage needs cleaning and I can't open the chicken and be assured that it's fresh. 

Of all my senses, I always thought my sight and hearing were the two that I used day in and day out. Now I'll admit, my sense of smell has overcome both and probably leads my day. Without it, I am not nearly the force I used to be.  

Hopefully, whatever this is will pass and once again I will be able to smell all of the wondrous smells that I once declared "I wish never to smell again!!!" If you see some lady sobbing as she sorts her laundry, it's not because she's angry, overwhelmed, or mad that clothing that has been only worn once is in the basket. She's crying because she can once again smell the stinky socks of her unappreciative tweenager. Ah, a day to look forward to!

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