All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hell Days... Down to the The Home Stretch

Eleven days until the kiddos go back to school. E-lev-en. Almost there... almost to the end. In the home stretch. Steady as she goes. And of those eleven, today is the real watershed moment. Today is the final "in the office day" cranking through tasks before we head out on family vacation. (Insert "Holiday Road" melody courtesy of National Lampoon.) Today is the last office day of this Summer's "Hell Days." These are the hellish days you see on the calendar every year between school dismissal and day camp start, then between day camp end and school return. There are usually a few peppered in the middle of Summer somewhere too. But these long blocks of days, "these are the times that try men's souls." And women's. Even if you don't have kids, trust me, it's a stress bomb rippling through facets of your life too.

"Hell Days" know no time zone, school district, or part of the country. It doesn't matter if your school lets out in May or June. Rest assured, it will conveniently fall 1-2 weeks before your town or local Y can ramp up enough college kids to watch your kids while not texting their own friends their drinking plans for the night. Provided my own sons are safe, I don't begrudge them their good time. In truth, I'm jealously nostalgic about it. I just wish they'd assemble a little earlier. Then, regardless of what college these counselors all attend, the day care option will slam shut 2 weeks before you can safely drop your newly-backpacked kid at the school's door. In all good conscience, you know you can't send them to the school bus stop with lawn chairs and tents to camp out for days like American Idol tryouts. (Sigh) If only.

For working parents, it's more than a basic cost issue, though that is a factor. Beyond hiring and paying for some short-term childcare (assuming you don't have 4+weeks of vacation time), there's the air-traffic control job of knowing who's where, with whom, until what time, with how much spending money. My husband works from home for the most part, so the main juggle falls on him. I know I've got a good thing going there. I delude myself that he is just hyper-happy to see me for the sake of me at the end of the day... as opposed to thrilled to be able to retreat to his office without 50 gillion interruptions of, "Can I/Can we/When are we/ Why can't we? etc etc etc" We save on a babysitter, but he's paying his proofreader through the nose.

I used to think this was only a gripe of working moms, until I started Facebook and saw stay at home moms complaining about trying to entertain way-bored kids for these two week clips. You can only do so many arts and crafts projects at your table, spend so many hours at the community pool it seems before insanity sets in. I get that. I can barely get through Easter egg dying or pumpkin carving without ER visits. Looks like one more area in the mom-debates in which the grass that always seemed greener is now coming into true focus. You want your kids out of your house just as badly as I do.

I said above this affects all, whether you have kids or not. I really feel for anyone working with the general public during his or her region's Hell Days. Imagine the throngs of frazzled moms, bored kids, and dads just internally begging for a cell phone call without screaming in the background. We can't be the easiest consumers to serve. It's just got to suck for you all. I'm sorry. We're just stretched to the ends of our ropes. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Old Navy and Staples sales tell me so daily.

So now, instead of standing around with my kids texting their buddies for drinking plans, all the college students have returned "to classes" (cough, cough) -- to discuss those plans in person. While they've flown off like swallows to San Juan Capistrano, we're dealing with a 10 and a 12 year old crawling the walls expecting constant stimulation and our respective sets of clients expecting their work. Ya know, the work for which we get paid, to afford the constant stimulation? And so, the vicious cycle rolls on.

Lest you think I will do anything to avoid spending quality time with my kids, Sunday starts vacation. I'll go on record now that as two self-employed parents, our vacation does come with iPhones and laptops. WiFi is as much a resort consideration as on-site dining. But, I'm determined to make lasting memories for Son1 & Son2 next week, and focus more on the "mom" part of "working mom."  I'm looking forward to some time away and adore VA where we're heading. We'll toast each other to celebrate the end of Summer reading assignments, enjoy the fleeting weeks of late evening sunlight, and rest up for the impending school projects knowing we have made it through another year of childcare-free Hell Days. And if we barely keep our grip on sanity during vacation with our rambunctious two-some... well, I am happy to report VA has a bustling region of wineries.

Friday, August 20, 2010

No WE don't have homework, YOU do

Months back I talked about how being a parent causes psychosis. We begin to speak about ourselves in third person, in out-of-Mommy-body references. While watching the news this morning, I saw a story about getting kids ready for college. Now mine are just middle school-aged, but there was one item that caught my ear. It scared me, because I thought, yet again, I was going down the personality disorder path. The reporter called me out on that fact that I have, at some point, become more than one person in my head. Or I've taken to the royal "we." So am I crazy? Pretentious? No, worse... Oh my God I think I am becoming a helicopter parent.

Points #1 and 2 of this rocket-science list of tips covered buying used textbooks to save money and not encouraging your college student to use credit cards to their max. It's true my first reaction was, "Really? Someone got paid to write this list? And they had to find an 'expert' to interview for these pearls of wisdom." But then I heard, "Stop saying we." And I froze. "You make them less independent. You make their work appear to be yours too." I DO do that. Ugh. "Then you get upset they do nothing for themselves." Hmmm. Maybe this guy was on to something.

This week, I was trying to desperately to put a dent in the Summer reading assignments. Wait, I  take that back. I was trying to make sure a dent was put in the Summer reading work- THEIR Summer reading. So why was I was chasing around Son2 two days ago for his identified theme in "Hank the Cowdog?" And why did Son1's "Tuck Everlasting" journal entries seem an everlasting nightmare? They read, they actually enjoyed the books, and each are reading a second without accompanying essay (praise God). So my work as parent was done, right? I made sure they had what they needed by way of books and URL of their assignment summaries. Beyond that, why did I stress more than they did? Why was this a "we" situation? Why do we do this to ourselves? And BTW at this moment I'm speaking about you and I as the "we," in the hope a reader or two does this also so I'm not alone in liberally-used royal we-land.

Summer reading is fine. Summer reading assignments, however, are just really sick jokes by teachers. They know working mothers are daydreaming of back to school time. They're reminding us that we should be careful what we wish for, given that school projects will come with blissfully-routine school schedules. But these vacation assignments become albatrosses over our heads. I mean, how the Hell am I supposed to have time to do anything the rest of the summer like clean the garage, read, or, well, blog about how much I hate sumer reading assignments if YOU, not we, YOU two don't finish these (bleep)ing things. Do you two little morons think I can just sit down and crank this blog out like a madwoman on a rant? Ok, bad rhetorical question.

School is just around the corner. For some of you, it may have started. Then all "We Hell" breaks loose. I start slipping in to plural like crazy. "We need to get poster board... We need to study for the Math test... We need to check the online homework page." WHAT? No WE don't. You do! I've got enough going on to lose my mind without some societal pressure to co-construct every shoe box diorama.

Because that's it, isn't it? We feel like we'll be looked upon as some inadequate non-caring parent if the stuff is not done, and done well. If we stopped "we"ing every responsibility our kids have, they may not care. (No way!) They may not do it. (Ruh 'ro Raggy) They may fail. (Gulp) But are we trying to prevent them failing, or trying to be sure they know we think it's important?... and trying to make sure everyone else, from teacher to soccer coach, knows we really do care?

So I kept on going back in my head today to the college-student check list guy, and his "Stop saying we" comment. Tonight, when Son1 sat at the laptop he has literally tried to break instead of finishing his essay while down the Shore, the hubs and I nudged, coerced, reminded. (OK, let's be serious, we screamed & carried on until he sat there.) But then, once he was there, I decided it was now my time. I wanted to write. I wanted to read some blogs, then fire up the Kindle. I had a Skinny Girl Margarita with my name on it.

So sorry Son1, I'm picking tonight to push you out of the essay-nest. "We" aren't doing anything as a "we" other than sharing oxygen. "You" will be left to do your work. Make it good, because it's your grade. It's a reflection on you, not on me (as I still need to remind myself).  Me? I've got a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo waiting for me for two weeks now. She and I have a long-overdue date, so "we" will be spending some bonding time tonight.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I know I should miss my kids

Last weekend, Sons1 & 2 embarked on journeys to that great American nirvana, "sleepaway camp." Sure, convenient would have been the same camp, perhaps the same state at least. Still and all, it's been nearly a week of Son1 & 2-free peace and quiet. Tomorrow, the retrieval begins as the hubs heads to fetch the 10yr old from his NJ camp and I head down to VA for Son1 accompanied by Jersey Diva Grandma. I miss the weasels, I really do. But I'm laying it on the line because we don't mince words in Jersey. I don't miss them enough to want them home this minute.

Think of me what you will. In six days, I have not asked a single human to brush his/her teeth. Dirty clothing has not appeared, as if by Harry Potter apparation, in the middle of the stair case. I haven't sounded like a mob-boss with threats like, "I really don't think you want to find out..." or "How would you like it if I slapped/teased/kicked you like that?" Not once, this whole week, have I looked at the clock at 10pm and thought, "Oh alright, I guess I'm on bedtime patrol tonight." Our utility bill has plummetted with every single light not left running 24 hours. The toilet has not backed up once.

The house has been so much calmer, I look like I've had botox. A lot of botox. I may have to get some if it will make me look so much less angry all the time. When I go to take a shower and get dressed, I can ... (wait for it)... take a shower and GET DRESSED. There are no fights to break up. No one has used my flat-iron as a light saber and broken it. I start my make up, then *poof* I simply finish my make up. It's amazing. I'm getting ready for work in a third less time. My days fly by in productive bursts without calls from school teachers or bored stuck-at-home-kids. It's like I picked up a billable hour each day. If  the recession would end, I may actually bill that time. A girl can dream.

I know I'm not alone when it comes to being ok with longer separations. There are multi-week and multi-month camps. There are even boarding schools. There is glaring geo-political evidence to prove other parents share my feelings. In addition to secured banking, gorgeous watches, and killer chocolate, the Swiss have some of the world's finest boarding schools. That's why no one invades them. That's why they can remain neutral all the time. EVERY country wants some place to send their kids from time to time. They carved out this much needed niche, surrounding the little hellions with the soaring Alps to "safeguard" them. Every country has a vested interest maintaining this haven. It's political genius, really.

Please don't get me wrong. I do miss my sons. I do want them home, at some point. Soon. Basically.

I'll be really happy to see Son1 on Saturday morning at his Naval Cadet Corp graduation. Obviously, I'll be happy because that means I'll be off I95 at some point, but in a bigger sense, yes, I'll be excited to see him. I'll be psyched to get his half-hearted "please don't cry or hug me in front of the guys" greeting. I'll be happy to see him greet Jersey Diva Grandma warmly. (Apparently it is always cool to hug one's grandmother, even through tween years.)

When I return to NJ late Saturday night, I'll creep in to kiss Son2's little blonde head. I'll be excited Sunday morning to hear all his stories. Sunday evening will be a return to routine in the house, the semi-contained chaos that is our zoo. For now, I do have to say I'm enjoying the waning hours of quiet. Time to stowe the keyboard and head for one last romantic dinner with the hubs as our mini-holiday comes to an end. And so, as we'll await our cocktails, and discuss the practicality and affordability of the boarding school near my aunts' home in Maine, I will think of them fondly. And then I'll fondly think how nice it is to start eating without cutting anyone's meat. Like I said, think of me what you will. ; )

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My marriage advice to reality TV brides

I can't say I'm a big reality TV fan. Most of it seems over the top, and the drama in the most mundane events  is enough to drive me to the remote each time. While relaxing for a few minutes before going out to dinner today, I've stumbled over to TLC. A mere thirty minutes of TV later, I have to speak up. Into the hall of "people I'd like to smack" I feel compelled to add: every bride in today's episode of "Say Yes to the Dress."

Ironically, I sat down to watch this show waiting for my husband to head to dinner for our anniversary. Technically yesterday was our anniversary, but we were three states apart yesterday, for our kids' overlapping camp drop offs (more on that in a minute). But you'd think I'd be in such a wistful, "oh aren't weddings wonderful" frame of mind. I'm surely in a "isn't my husband amazing" and "marriage is hard but soooooo worth it" frame of mind. Which makes it ironic to me that while I'm watching these girls and their hyper annoying best friends, I'm not getting swept up in their moment. Instead, I'm thinking, "Girls~ get a grip. I pray to God you put half that effort in to your actual marriage." I'm shouting to the TV, "Shut up you spoiled little brat!"

Yes, every bride should have a fabulous day, and you will be photographed in that dress ad infinitum. I was a bride, so I know you want to look amazing. But ladies: perspective check. Now!

1) When to stand up
Pardon my French, but grow a set of balls now with that bitch sister/ best friend/ cousin of yours. If your family can't leave you alone and be supportive for what YOU want picking a dress, smack them now. If they're making your dress about their wishes, or critcizing your personal taste at this moment, God help you when you start raising kids. Put her in her place now while you're in magical bride mode or your life will be Hell.

2) When to shut up
We've all have moments that we would die to see as recorded playback. These girls and their families act like sheer bitches, why? Simply because it's her wedding, and that makes them special? News flash: You're in a bridal store. They see hundreds of brides like you each year. Being the center of attention as a bride does not give you carte blanche to be a bitch. Life's not like that. The people in that store are professionals, there to help you. If you can't treat them with dignity, then please go home, and send the ring back. If you can not be kind to a bridal dress salesperson whose job it is to serve you, then you are not mature enough to deal with any of life's trauma. Get over yourself and get a grip, or give the ring back.

3) If you can't manage a budget for a dress, don't ever try a kitchen renovation
And to the bride I heard say, "Don't tell Mike," (her groom): DO NOT keep money secrets, or you'll be picking out which dress to wear to divorce court before you know it.

4) Your groom is a person, not a prop
It's "your" wedding, with a plural "your." Just because he's rolling his eyes and letting you have your way with everything doesn't mean you should go nuts. This isn't your social debut, it's a wedding. See, the thing about getting married that seems to be escaping many of these young women is that the day is the start of their lives together. So don't be disrespectful about him. If all you can do is make fun of him, shimmy out of the dress, go home, and end it. Free him up to find a girl who may tease him, but not disrespect him. And this should go without saying but, "duh! maybe not on camera?!?"

5) You're shopping for a dress design, not an organ donor
It is a dress. A garment. Yes, you have a vision in your head and it may or may not be easy to match. Don't let that ruin the fun. Bone marrow matching needs to be precise. DNA sequencing needs to be precise. Matching a dress to a picture in your head as a relation to the success of a marriage? Life will go on, and you will look great. Not once, in the most difficult times of my life have I thought, "This day would suck soooo much less if the dress I wanted came in ivory instead of winter white!" Breath.

6) Save this tenacity for your relationship
It's very easy to get sucked in to the bridal mayhem, and maybe the cameras and liberal editing just exaggerate bad behavior. The reality beyond reality TV though, is that you will need this tenacity and determination in your marriage... just not over the great lace or organza debate. Once all the dress drama is done, the words "for better or worse" will be uttered. Save your bitch-overdrive for the "worse" when you may have to fight for something of consequence.

I said at the start that the hubs and I were apart for our actual anniversary. I had to drive Son1 down to Norfolk VA while the hubs took Son2 to his camp. The return drive took eleven hours (should be 6.5) thwarting our night's plans. Yes it sucked. Yes, I wanted to have a nice kid-free night with the hubs marking our wedding date. And then I stopped the next day to get a snack, and saw a charity can for a 5 year old with leukemia and thought, "my son is strong enough to spend a week 6-10 hours away from us for pleasure."  All the driving stress, all the cancelled plans, all the frustration ...all washed away as my "for worse" was dwarfed by the reality of that family's "for worse."

So in the scheme of things, young TV brides, quit your selfish and whiney bitching and enjoy this happy time. Go ahead, "say yes to the dress." Just make sure you're mentally prepared for what happens in the years AFTER the dress. And for the love of God remember you're being filmed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

How Facebook helped me be cool

I'm putting my sons on notice today that I am preparing to recapture my swagger. Henceforth, I will will be emerging from the house a true Jersey Diva Mom, filled with confidence and swagger (basically). I won't be moving around with an entourage, but I will be taking care to think of myself as a fun loving, moderately fit woman surrounded by people who like me. While my sons' adolescent minds may be dripping with all the ways I am NOT cool, I'm committed to this mindset. I consider it neither delusion nor imagination that I may still be someone with decent taste in clothes and music. Instead, I'm leaning on a self-validation tool generations of moms before me could not enjoy. I have Facebook, and Facebook has helped me recapture my cool.

Son1 is 12, and has asked about getting a Facebook page. So far we've put it off. I think he sees it as a haven for the "uncool," my people call them "parents." He's gotten increasingly curious about this site. He's heard me relaying stories to the hubs, laughing at comments of high school friends, and bitching about him (about Son1, not the hubs). What surprised him the most was that I actually had 200+ people that would own up to knowing me.  He asked if I knew all these people. He seemed shocked I did.  "But I've never heard of half of them." He heard the hubs and I talking about our feeling abut friending old HS or college boyfriends/girlfriends. Son1 had no opinion either way. He was fully floored we had dating experience.Well, kids, I know this shocks you-- but Mommy had a LIFE before motherhood.

Today, I'm heading out to meet up with my college roommate, with our collective five boys in tow. We'll catch up on kid stuff, we'll go on rides, but we'll also talk about US... how shocking will that be for our 12 & 13 year olds? While inside jokes and stories will get censored a bit, it will be clear to their pubescent minds that we had a life, we had fun, we did all those fun Penn State student things... we dated. Were it not for trying to set a good example, I would lay it on the line to see Son1 squirm at the thought of his own mother at a frat party. While I was never the life of the party, I was at the party. Thank you Facebook, for facilitating today's reunion and for once again reminding me that somewhere, sometime, someone thought I was cool.

In addition to helping me reconnect with long lost friends, Facebook has also helped my health. Hear me out. Back in the day, you always had a good 3-6 months warning that you needed to look good. Weddings, reunions, 30th Bday parties, etc. all came with advance warning. Now, in the pop-up reunion world that it is Facebook, at any moment's notice, I may be seated next to my middle school crush or a girl who made my life Hell in high school. You never know, so you have to be on your game all the time. You can only edit your own family pics so much if you're going to post, and you know only horrid ones will be published and tagged by others. This constant state of ready has left me feeling comfier in clothes I haven't worn in years. And just like that, another ounce of swagger crept back in.

Our kids have a wonderful way of making us feel totally clueless. I know it's the nature of a teen (or pre-teen in my case). Well, think back to your own parents. You can make the case it's a parent's nature to embarrass their kids. Tricks of that trade used to be restricted to coddling in public and rocking mom-jeans. How awesome is it that we can re-embrace our own cool to embarrass our kids instead? Armed with a cute Hurley bathing suit thanks to the constant reunion threat/motivation, my music playing in the car again thanks to a FB friend's "throwback" Duran Duran post, and the self-confidence that comes with being reminded not EVERYone sees you as a dufus, I'm off to enjoy my day. Thanks, Facebook! 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dear Penn State... We're Done

Dear Penn State:
I'm not really sure how to start this, so I guess I'll just get right to the point. I'm breaking up with you. With heavy heart, I'm returning my degree.

Now before you get all ready for me to say, "It's not you, it's me," think again. It is you. I thought you had educated me well. I thought you were the kind of place I could recommend to friends, and now friends' children. Alas, unless it's just "For a good time, call (814)...," there'll be no more good will from me. All these years of total Penn State pride are now crumbling before me, for reasons I never saw coming. For now here I sit, a forty (something) year old woman, faced on a daily basis with children, mere wee babes, who know more than I do. On. every. single. topic. I can no longer get frustrated with their misguided whining, their pre-teen condescension. If by age twelve, my child boasts the wisdom to contradict everything I say, everything I assert, is there not a point at which I turn and listen to his endless interjections?

Clearly, the caliber of my education must be called in to question. What other explanation could there be for being of my age and yet so stupid compared to everything my kids say? For the money you charged, twelve year olds should not be rolling their eyes in disgust. They argue every statement I make including whether the sky is blue. Their little, "uh.. NO!" jibes leave their sting over time. It bothers me that my own kids are showing up my knowledge. I'm tired of being spoken to like a dufus. I want my money back. Ok, my parents' money- whatever- just give it back.

As if this all weren't humiliating enough, imagine the torment I face knowing that, according to them, "EVERYone knows ..." and "well NO ONE would ever..." How could I be so dumb, after thinking for all these years I was so smart? Frankly, I'm blaming it on you, dear Old State.

I vividly remember (as clearly as I remember anything in our time together) taking statistics courses, sociology, even Astronomy. All apparently were shams. Son1 has made it clear over and over again that the Earth revolves around him. So it looks like Galileo-Schmalileo to your flunkee Astronomy faculty and the students you scammed. I can't even imagine what other scholastic flaws my sons will root out in their teen years.

I wish this could be different. We had some great times. Some really great times. Look, maybe when some time has passed, I'll feel differently about you. When my sons are past their teen years and no longer speak to me like a know-nothing cash dispenser, I may feel more confident in my education's merits. We'll see. For now, please don't make this awkward by calling or emailing. I'm not donating to your fundraising. If you want to call, speak to Son1 or 2. They will share their omnipotence with anyone. You may want to consider a faculty spot actually. In their minds, they are truly brilliant.

~Jersey Diva Mom

PS- tell JoePa I said hi, and that I'm not breaking up with him. He passes the "know it all 12 year old" test, so things are cool for now.