Dodging the Teen Driving Bullet

I dodged a bullet this summer. I actually feel a little guilt being happy about it, considering the circumstances, but I just wasn’t ready for it. Driver’s Training is what I’m talking about.

My son is 15 and should have taken driver’s training this summer. You might have read that we had a challenging summer with him, though, and we neither had time, nor was he in the right mind set, to take the course. That means he won’t be driving when he is 16 which is unfortunate for him. But considering he will be 16 in a few months – Uh… that’s awesome! Because there is no way that boy is ready to be behind the wheel of a car.

He is doing fantastic by the way! And maybe if now were the beginning of summer and he had this current incredible attitude, he probably would be taking driver’s training. Then I would just have all the normal stuff to worry about. … him staying focused, not getting lost, figuring out a car for him, buying car insurance and roadside assistance, where he’s going, and with whom he’s going… and so on.  It’s funny. As summer approached and I thought about all these things I got really upset and worried. But now – it sounds kind of fun. I just realized my whole attitude has changed on the matter. This is testimony to how great he is doing since being released from the treatment programs and settling back into life. I’m still not crazy about all the meds but we will get to that in time. For now he is getting A’s at school, helping his little sister with homework, and smiling all day.

You know what? I’m glad  I got my kid back to enjoy for a little while before he gets his license and starts running around with his friends. Is that bad?

Sassy Pants First Day of Middle School

Well – Sassy Pants went off to middle school today and my mind has been on overdrive. I am glad school is back in session. My sanity has really been tested this summer. Lots of drama and no vacation equals insomnia, anxiety, twitching, snapping, and under eye baggage. “School” on the surface is a good thing. I’ve sent my daughter off to her first day of middle school to get educated and socialized. But when you dig deeper, school is not so great. It is filled with young people making bad choices and being mean to one another. Cliques. Mean girls. Bad teachers. Stress. Vending machines. What have I done?

I should add that Sari has only ever had exceptional teachers. But I know bad ones are out there and I was letting my hysteria run its course.

My Sari is an individual. Which I like. But she also has low self esteem which makes her a follower sometimes and vulnerable to the backlash she will get for not liking the same clothes and music as the other girls. She gets lonely and wishes to be more accepted but she doesn’t want to pretend to be something she is not in order for that to happen. I get it. I really really do. I love her sassiness and uniqueness, but I want people to be nice to her. Even the ones who suck and would judge her for being different than them. I don’t want her to feel lonely.

Sassy Pants is very against labels. I once attempted to start a discussion about a guy we saw downtown. He had white contacts in and some crazy monster movie hair. I wasn’t judging at all – I sincerely wondered if he was in character for something or if this was his every day look. Pantsy threw a fit and told me she was disappointed to see me being judgmental.

With the same curiosity, though, I asked her, “What would you call your look?” I got the usual – you can’t put me in a box response. I told her I wanted to understand it better so that I could confidently pick up clothes and accessories if I’m out and see a good deal on something she’d like. She said “fine then. I am skate punk rock emo goth artist.” Okay then. Shopping just… got… easier?

Although it was true that I wanted to understand what she liked so that I could help her perfect her look,  I also wanted to try and understand how SHE saw herself so that I could keep a look out for any red flags. All the black clothes and her appreciation of creepy music and scary movies, even though her demeanor is for the most part cheerful and sunny, has me on alert for potential trouble down the road.

No I absolutely do not think that all emo kids are cutters or that all goths want to commit suicide. I had similar tastes when I was a kid. And I think some of her looks are really cute. I actually got her to pair a plaid skirt with a graphic tee shirt – to add a little femininity to what she’s got going on – and she surprised herself by loving it. But I also know that, alternative scene of the moment aside, adopted kids and kids who have suffered trauma are prone to depression and dark periods. As a parent I want to be as aware as I can of what’s going on with her and how she’s feeling. I don’t intend to ever try to “change” her as she comes of age and tries to figure out who she is, where she fits in, and why other families didn’t want her. But I’ll be there to guide her, listen, and be a safety net as she blossoms. I’m not expecting the worst by any means, but my eyes are wide open.

Unfortunately society isn’t as kind. I know that I have sent her off to school today where many of her girly girlfriends from last year will snub her today. They started calling her “goth” at the end of last year as her pink and purples changed to dark colors and skateboard styles.

I read an article today about kids and goths and such. A commentor said that he would rather see a “knocked up teenager” in school than any kind of alternative kid. His explanation was that the pregnant teenager represented the beginning of a new life, while the goth/emo/etc. kid was ruining hers. It occurred to me then… Is it more socially acceptable to be pregnant in school, or even a mean girl, than it is to be artistic and different?

And I know Sari. She will get in the car smiling and say, “Great!” when I ask her how school was, because she wants me to be happy. Then she will cry it out in the night and start fresh and hopeful the next day.

I suppose I do sound kind of negative as I read this back. But she has been subject to some pretty intense bullying the last couple of years, and that was just based on her unique views of the world when she was still a little pink and girly. Middle school, for better or worse, is a bigger place, and she’ll have access to more diversity. Right? This is a good thing I think. It’s almost time to pick her. up. I’m excited!

If you could look back and label yourself by today’s buzz words, what would you be? Prep? Skate punk? Emo? Goth? Scene? Nerdy? How did you fit in?

Swimming in My Thoughts Today

I can’t believe summer is almost over. It has flown by for us – and not necessarily because we have been having fun. Because we haven’t. Between the rapid decline in my Father In Law’s health and the recent bipolar diagnosis of my Son, it’s been more hectic than anything else. My Daughter is already looking forward to school. I wish we had a pool so that  when vacation plans don’t pan out or there is no time to go to the lake, we could still cool off from the scorching hot Michigan sun, and relax and have some fun together.

I always wanted a pool when I was a kid. Every year my Mom said, “next year we are getting a pool.” I believe she thought so, and that she and my Dad really wanted to, but the commitment kept them hesitating. When you’re a kid you don’t think about chemicals, pumps, and pool liners. You just think about splashing, diving, and floating. I didn’t get that then, but I do now. As much as I would love to take a dip with the kids every day and know what an impact it would make on the premature summer boredom, I still hesitate.

At $15 to $25,000 as an average cost for an inground pool like we want, cost is definitely a deterrent, especially because we never intended to be in this house for so long. But with the current real estate market and our upside down value, we are not going anywhere too soon, so we have deleted that fact from the minus column. Even so, we can’t help but question the common sense in taking on a new bill in a recession, especially when we have been so affected – as an autoworker and real estate agent. Even just the operating costs, whether for an inground or above ground pool, would cause a little discomfort right now, so ultimately, that’s the reason we are sans swimming pool, I guess. Maybe next year.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if the enjoyment of the pool would outweigh the burden of cost. Pool owners – what do you have to say about that? I have been told that if you want to get a pool next year you should start shopping at the end of this year because pool companies negotiate more and savings could be a bundle. Now I’m confused all over again. :)

To Blog or Not to Blog- That is the Family Dilemma.

Alright. I’ve had it. This writer’s block is 50% distraction and 50% unsure how to handle sensitive family matters and the privacy of my loved ones. And I’m sick of it.

I started the year out by going on sabbatical from work and contemplating quitting that job and focusing on writing full time. The sabbatical ended up being a shit storm of anything but quiet contemplative time. I made my decision, though, to work for myself. I still love that decision. However. I don’t respect myself as a boss. Otherwise, why would my new writing career have gotten off to such a slow start?

In February I was officially a freelancer. And at the same time I also started selling V3 because I went crazy for the focus it gave me to be disciplined and focused on writing while sitting alone in the house all day surrounded by TV, books, laundry, a puppy, and chips & cheese.  And also because I wanted the discount =)  You know what else happened in February? Kidney stones. Tons of them. I was sick for a day, then in the hospital a couple days, then had a stone busting procedure followed by more sick days and more doctor appointments. I finally gave up following up. I knew I had a piece left cramped up in my left side but I was over all the doctoring. So I left it until it finally worked itself loose and tortured me for one final time last week. Now. Could I get up and around and do laundry and such during that time? Yes. But the days broken up between doctor appointments, as well as the pain and pain medicine, hindered my writing process. It made sense at the time, and had I picked up right after that and gotten productive I wouldn’t be so hard on myself thinking back on February. But the truth is, I could have worked more than I did. If I had still been working for D.O.C. or Dr. Foote I would have been back to work the next day. Sure I might have passed out in the bathroom or fallen asleep in the middle of my sentence back in my eyeglass days, but I never neglected to show up and do my best.

On the heels of kidney stone February was cancer March. Something new came up in my Father In Law’s condition every other day. He was in and out of the hospital every couple of days. When there wasn’t a decision to be made, a task to perform, or a pep talk to give, there was just quiet time to dwell. “Working for the man” would have been a blessing at that time because all I did, when I wasn’t doing, was cry. I couldn’t write each day about the topic at hand because I couldn’t get past “My Father in Law has cancer and we had a bad day.” Until I wrote that, nothing else would come. But I refused to write it. As if putting it out there would have made it more real and harder to deal with. When in fact, writing about it would have likely been very helpful to me. Maybe to somebody else, as well. And definitely to my bank account. Those bills continue to add up even when you’re distracted and grieving. Looking back it’s so easy to see how just a little writing each day would have eased the burden on my mind during the crisis and on my financial situation in the aftermath.

Sigh.

So here it is August and I should be well on my way to having a big fat pile of assignments again, even after losing so many clients during the cancer period. But guess what. After almost 2 months of erratic behavior my Son was diagnosed bipolar last week and is in a partial hospitalization day treatment program for risk assessment and anger management. And I haven’t written about it.I have a family blog and have not written word one about our situation today and how we got here.  Partially because I have been so distracted that I can’t focus on anything else. Partially because my son is 15 now and there is a chance that people he knows may stumble upon this blog. Here’s the deal though…

  • Life is full of distractions! Everybody has them, yet they go to work and manage their obligations. The world doesn’t stop moving, and neither can we. Allowing myself to stop and dwell has set me back in depression recovery from the breakdown of ’08 and created more stress in getting behind in bills and other responsibilities. Withdrawing from friends and social situations has robbed me of support from girlfriends and the opportunity to create fun, happy, healing situations to balance out the tough ones.
  • Writing is therapeutic. And I’m a writer! Internalizing things is dangerous for me. Also, leading into summer I redefined Her Family Blog and set up new blogging topic schedules. I did that for all my blogs actually, to make them more honest and informative. But how can I achieve that if I continue to censor myself?
I was wishing the other day that I had maintained anonymity with this blog so that I could do and say the things I want to say without worrying about the privacy of my kids. But then it was suggested to me that I simply ASK them how they feel about it. After some thought and discussion we decided “it’s just life.”  And whether we’re dealing with experimenting with new medications to treat bipolar disorder or experimenting with new hairstyles or homework techniques, they are just “happenings” in life. They “happen” to everyone. And although I may give my own deepest darkest thoughts and feelings, I don’t give theirs.
Because it’s not THEIR Family Blog. It’s HER Family Blog. And the HER is ME.
So it appears I’ve been given the green light as long as I share from MY perspective and not give out pieces of my kid’s thoughts and feelings without permission. That makes sense and I love that they helped me define my goals here and work through my writer’s block. They are smart kids. I’m sure we all share that perspective =)

Prioritize Thy Self


Hey Ladies! Have you done your workout yet today? No? Then quit reading right now and pound that treadmill. I’ll meet you back here in 30!  Otherwise you will have a less fabulous and less than productive day. Here are the top ten reasons for taking care of yourself and the top ten ill effects of not.

BENEFITS OF BEING FIT, HEALTHY, AND NOT IGNORED
• Better sleep and earlier to rise which adds more valuable hours to your day
• More energy to avoid crashing in the afternoon, interfering with the day’s obligations.
• Less aches and pains, increased strength and flexibility
• Happier
• Increased swimsuit confidence to enjoy beach and water parks with kids
• Clear skin and more youthful appearance
• More focused on the many tasks to be completed at work and at home
• Being a healthy role model for your kids
• Feeling sexy and improved relationship with spouse
• People respect you when YOU respect you

DISADVANTAGES OF NOT TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF

(better make sure you have a variety of life insurance types in place because this road leads to less vibrant and long lasting life.)
• Low energy and need for frequent naps
• Decreased production
• Aches and pains
• Stiffness and lack of flexibility
• Aged skin and overall appearance
• Swimsuit fear and missed fun in the sun time with kids
• Lack of confidence which effects everything negatively
• Lower performance at work
• Tendency to draw away from people
• You’re teaching your daughter a pattern of not taking care of HER self.

 

As parents we often feel guilty to put our needs above anyone else’s, when, in fact, the best way we can take care of those around us and meet all their needs IS to first meet our own needs so we have the power and resources to take care of everyone else.  So what will it be today… Turbo Jam?  Or Hip Hop Abs?

Growing Happy Kids

I joke a lot about how wild my kids are and how my Hubby is a ManChild. (A nickname lovingly bestowed upon him by my Dad who TRULY couldn’t love him more if he was his own son.) And although it is true that marriage and parenthood brought out a crankiness in me that I never knew existed, there is not a move I make on this earth that does not have the sole purpose at the root to maintain a happy house and grow happy kids.

A few examples would include

• When I accept another job it is not to further my career or get rich. It is to enrich my household in the form of summer vacation, extra curricular programs for the kids, movies at the IMAX (guilty pleasure), or extra spending after hours spent at Barnes & Noble devouring the shelves and filling our arms, and using our Target coupons to fill a shopping cart with paper and art supplies.
• When I begin yet another diet it is no longer to try and look good in a swimsuit. It is to have the energy to play ball and jump on the trampoline with my kids and to restore my confidence so that they don’t have to miss out on beach time because I am insecure.
• When I talk about my Mother, and tell the kids how she would have doted on them and spoiled them and hardly ever let them out of her sight if she’d had the opportunity to meet them before she passed, it is no longer to console me for needing her to help me be a good mom. But to make them feel the crazy love and specialness that every kid should feel.
• When I wake up Saturday morning and make the chore charts for the weekend that is SOOOO for me! But the bonus is it benefits them too and gives them a sense of independence and accomplishment.

The difficult part of this, for Moms in particular, is the danger of sacrificing everything that it is important to them on behalf of the family. Being a learn-it-the-hard-way sort, I went down this path and it is brutal and has the opposite affect of the desired outcome. My journey has taught me that I can put my kids above all else and still have some joy for myself. I mean look at my list, by thinking of my kids first, I actually have some pretty cool stuff put in place for me!

At tough times we might catch ourselves thinking our kids are ungrateful and supremely self centered. But in my experience, sacrificing to the point of near martyrdom did nothing to make my kids happy. It wasn’t until I figured out how to prioritize all four of us that my kids really started to blossom.

Which brings us full circle and proves that even by making time and allowing a few spoils for myself, I do so with the sole purpose of growing happy kids.

So Ladies, if you aren’t spoiling yourself at all, I am here to tell you that you are doing your family a disservice. And if you are spoiling yourself, Dish! What’s your favorite treat?!

Mom the Business Manager

It takes a lot of work and organization to run a business. The same goes for running a household. The task has become more complicated as parents each work more hours, the amount of kids homework has increased, and children take part in so many activities. It takes a lot to pull it all together. It’s a lot like running a business so write it down, get organized, and treat your household obligations the same as your work ones.

MANAGING THE STAFF
Sibling rivalry can get out of hand. Mom has to keep it under control and try to nurture a civil relationship between brothers and sisters.

DELEGATING
If Dad is working all day and Mom is working all day, who does the chores? Everybody. Mom divvies up the jobs and assigns them appropriately. Even Dad gets a chore list – this is how we make sure that everything gets done and we don’t duplicate. Ending up with two coach gifts and no token of appreciation for the teacher at Christmas time is going to result in stress for somebody as they scurry to make it right. So work together, Mom and Dad. Some great jobs for kids are maintaining the kitchen trash can, loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning bathroom mirrors and counter tops, dusting, and vacuuming. All easy stuff but they will grumble nonetheless. Delegating is not enough. The manager has to make sure it all gets done!

SCHEDULING
There are too many activities which need to be coordinated around Mom’s and Dad’s schedules. Here are just a few.
• Transportation needs to be arranged to get kids to and from school
• Play dates
• Sports and school activities
• Dentist and Doctor appointments for the family
• Holidays
• Outings

PROFIT SHARING AND BONUSES
No one is better at handing out rewards than Mom! Whether it is an ice cream sandwich after organizing the toys together in the garage or a trip to the movies just because, Mom is a great motivator.

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING
Some companies have gotten creative lately and designed planner systems and date books that accommodate Mom’s work schedule and home schedule so that she can see everything expected of her at a glance. Writing everything down and keeping track of what needs to be done to keep your house running smoothly is what makes the difference between and over worked, stressed out Mom who’s struggling to stay afloat, and an over worked, less stressed and in control Mom who is on top of everything. Which one are you!?

Mom is Not Here Right Now. Please Leave a Message.

So I was at the video store engaged in a conversation with the clerk about the advantages of joining their club. He shared some funny stories about his kids and joked about how many popcorn buckets I was buying. All in all a lovely conversation except for the awareness of something noisy and aggravating behind me in the far distance. Only as I became less focused on the beeping of the POS gun scanning my choices before me, and more aware of my surroundings I realized the annoyance was not in the distance, but right behind me. Once I was fully tuned back in I realized it was my kids running wild in the video store.

Can you say you have never honestly been there? Never focused so hard on what you were trying to hear or do that became briefly unaware that your kids were present and going wild?

I remember before I had kids I would be appalled at what children got away with in public. How loud and rambunctious they were while mom seemed not to care. I realize now that what I mistook as uncaring and lack of courtesy was actually the glazed over gaze of a woman trying to survive.

I am glad to say that most of the time my kids are actually great. But when their wild mood comes at a time when I must get something accomplished, that is when I tune right out. Take the grocery store for instance. Early on I was very strict in the store. I tried to correct them on everything they touched and every inappropriate remark they made. The only thing I really accomplished was spending twice as much and forgetting half of what I needed, such was my lack of focus.

That’s when I came into possession of the gift. I had heard of the phenomenon before, the ability of a parent to tune out completely from the chaos behind her and carry on with her business as if she had not a distraction in the world. I have gotten so good at it that it is as if I exist on two different planes. I am not only tuned out and into the grocery zone and unaware of any noise around me, but I am also shooshing the kids and periodically corralling them with my arm without even realizing it. Some kind of crazy autopilot.

No amount of wishing or trying will bring it on. You just realize one day that you have acquired it, like when you’re at line at the video store trying to figure out if you rent enough movies to justify joining the club.

I know we all use the term “tune out” or its equivalent. But that time at the video store was the most aware I have ever been of it. Have you acquired your ability to tune out yet? What’s your number one place to tune out?

Focus on Family for Success

It is difficult to be happy when everything is out of order. The house is a mess, life is hectic and days are flying by. We try to GET ORGANIZED and SET PRIORITIES but we don’t know where to start. So I ask you this. What is your main objective? To be the biggest brown noser at work? Doubt it.  To be presented with a big brass plaque with your name embossed in giant bronze letters? Probably not.  I am sure your answer is some form of “a happy and healthy family.” And if so, you answered your own question. The only way to get the happiness and success in life that you desire is to focus first on family.

That sounds great except for two things
• Your boss doesn’t take “No” for an answer and there is always the chance that your job won’t be there for you if do not treat it right.
• Your family DOES take “No” for an answer and regardless how much you put them on the back burner, they will still be there for you. Waiting.

Now doesn’t that sound sad? Now I am not naïve enough to say that you should necessarily ease up at work or tell your boss to shove it for being demanding. That would make me a hypocrite. But what I do suggest is to make just one change on your daily to do list as well as your long term goal. Put your family in your number one slot.

Although there is a good chance that stepping back for a minute and reviewing your routine would provide opportunities to shift things around and make more balance, that is a more advanced step. What we are talking about right now is much more simple, one step strategy. The importance of everyone, regardless of work status or time spent at home, to start each day doing something nice for or with their family. Whether it be waking up fifteen minutes early to make pancakes and strawberries for breakfast or turning your phone off until everyone is off to school. These are small things that make a big impact on our families and send them off for the day feeling good. For you, the simple act of thinking of your family first thing when you wake up will set the pace for the day and keep family at the front of your mind as you make your choices throughout the day.

I just recently started doing this myself, inspired by an interview I saw with Dr. Wayne Dyer who starts each day with an act of kindness. I was blown away. Hubby has a commute gets up for work at 2 or 3 in the morning, depending on the day. So I made a habit of setting the coffee timer at night and setting a pretty table for him in the morning with his cereal bowl and variety of cereals before him. It sounds silly but it makes him happy in the morning and less lonely feeling at that hour. I have been struggling to come up with kind and loving things to say or do when I wake my kids up in the morning but beyond heart shaped pancakes and strawberries I seem to be stumped!

Anybody have any ideas?!

Sacrifices and Such

As mothers and wives we make sacrifices, don’t we ladies? We prepare food to please the household, give up girl time/me time if it means someone else can do something important to them, our tv viewing changes, we give up Eminem for Kids Bop, and we never take the last donut. If you’re like me you don’t really mind because none of those things makes you as happy as does the happiness of your family. But when they’re gone and you find yourself alone for a day or two in the house – You can get wild and have whatever you want! For me this weekend, while Hubs & kids went tubing to give me some time to catch up at work, that meant CHICKEN NACHOS! Mmhm. With lots of spicy pepper, onions, scallions, and cilantro. Not your “family” nachos at all. And ohh yeeeahhh –

I blackened the edges of the chips just a little bit.  Is your mouth watering? Mine was! Too bad my V3 was still going strong and only let me eat a few bites. Barely made a dent in it! Just wait til Mama’s mojito time later. I’ll make up for it then.  😉 What tiny things have you given up that didn’t fit in with family life?