Inconsiderate Mom Award

I’ve had a huge mental barrier about writing this post. I know that we, as normal people, hate to make ourselves look bad and open up our less than attractive traits for the world to see. However, this has been clawing at me to get out and onto “paper” since it happened.

Mother’s Day is not the easiest day for my family. I don’t demand things or gripe that it’s My Day or any of that other garbage. I’m just a horrible “receiver”.

On past Mother’s Days I have, at different times, been presented with breakfast in bed (4 hours after I was ready to be out of bed… cold food/coffee…) and a single rose (the only bloom on my rose bush in the front yard) and left all by myself for peace and quiet (while the rest of the family laughs and talks and plays during their breakfast in the kitchen). So I thank my loving, generous, and kind family… and say “Please no more breakfasts in bed… I’d much rather enjoy breakfast with you guys!” I also may or may not have grumbled about having my only rose plucked from my bush.

This year, Sierra said “I don’t know why we do breakfast for you… it never ends well.” I felt like crap that I make them feel like their gifts aren’t appreciated. The SENTIMENT is always appreciated. But I feel like if it’s a gift FOR me, it should be something I want and enjoy.

So… this Mother’s Day, I got up at my normal time and spent some time hanging out with everyone. Anna was generously, once again, trying to please the unpleasable mommy. When I went to the kitchen for my lovingly prepared breakfast, I officially requested that we start going out for brunch on Mother’s Day.

My sweet daughter had placed on a (paper) plate:

  • One apple – Rarely has she actually seen me eat one of these… and I don’t eat sugar/carbs in the morning because it makes my blood sugar spike/drop and I get sick.
  • One container of yogurt – expired
  • 3 pieces of bacon – shaped into a smiley face! AWESOMENESS
  • 1 Bagel – still cold from the refrigerator and only slightly toasted
  • Jam – see above about carbs and blood sugar

She stood in the kitchen, SO disappointed, while I put the bagel back in the toaster, threw away the yogurt, put the apple back in the fruit basket, and fried myself an egg for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese bagel. YES I felt like shit. YES I knew I hurt her feelings. But as my friend Heather (who was visiting) said that morning “I’ve only been here 3 weeks and I know you don’t eat sugars in the morning…”inconsideratemomaward

I know that it makes my family think they can’t possibly please me. Hell, it makes ME feel like I’m completely inconsiderate and ungrateful. No amount of kisses and hugs and “thank you for trying, baby” will make her feel like less of a failure that morning. But really, who accepts gifts that make them unhappy, lonely, or physically ill?

I know I should be more laid back about receiving gifts… but I’m not. And, if you’ve known me for longer than five minutes, you’ll know I probably won’t ever be. I’m just not programmed to paste on a smile and go with the flow. So I guess that means I get the Inconsiderate Mom Award. Uh… yay me…

Who’s Your Momma?

I know everyone has their own spin on Mother’s Day. For my friends and family members who’ve lost their moms, this is one hell of a tough day. Brad and Jeremy, please know that my thoughts and love are with you today.

If you come from a large family, a close knit community, or a broken home… chances are that you’ve got more than one person who soothed your tears, paddled your behind, fed you, bandaged your knee, listened to you pour your heart out, gave you advice, and loved you immeasurably… in other words, more than one “Mom”. In my life, I’ve been so blessed to have many of these people.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

And Uncle Doug – I’m still trying to get the family to let me make them peanut butter gravy. They have no idea what they’re missing!

And Mama Kaye – I’ll never forget how you saved my sanity when Anna had colic.

And Mrs. D – Thank you for the hours and hours of phone time… and for raising an amazing son. He still makes all my dreams come true.

Thank you for all the good things you’ve brought to my life. I’m thinking of you today.

Last Week, You Learned To Walk

I have no idea how time passed so quickly. They were laying you in my arms for the first time ever, just a few short months ago… surely it couldn’t have been longer than that.

And wasn’t it just last week that you were learning to walk?

annababy2

And making everyone fall in love with those round little cheeks…

annawithneal

And developing your comedic timing (I think you peaked at just about this moment)…

anna5thbirthday

And becoming the big sister that your little sisters have always looked up to…

halloweenanna

How is it possible that you became a young lady…

prom

And achieved so many milestones…

driving

And had such fantastic experiences…

homecoming

In such a short amount of time?

 

To my dearest Anna Marie,

If I had done all the “right things” as a teenager, my life would never have held the richness, the love, the laughter, the tears, the memories, and the dreams of a bright future that having you has brought to it. I’m so thankful that the universe chose me to be your mom; and I’m stunned at what an amazing, beautiful, smart woman you have grown into.

It’s your time now… your time to go out and chase your dreams, make your mistakes, and achieve your successes. We’ll be waiting right here to catch you if you fall… now go spread those wings!

Happy 18th Birthday Anna!!

Back Camera

Of Music and Dreams

There was always music in our house growing up. No matter where we were or who we were with, music was always a part of our daily life. To say that I had a diverse exposure to music would be putting it mildly.

Granny taught us to sing as little children from old church hymnals. My cousin and I cut our teeth on old 8 track tapes of Kenny and Dolly, trucker music, Conway Twitty, and Hank Sr. We were always singing at Granny’s and even now I think she had the sweetest singing voice I have ever heard.

At Uncle Doug’s house, where my older cousins controlled the tapes (Cassettes ya’all!), it was Motley Crue and … ok, so thanks to my cousin Tim it was mostly Motley Crue! I still get excited when I hear the motorcycle rev at the beginning of Girls, Girls, Girls. Sad, yes?

Spending the night at my best friend Angel’s house meant that I would get to enjoy Meatloaf, the Eagles, and Nancy Sinatra. I used to think it was ridiculously cool that none of our friends had any idea these people existed and we knew all the words on all the albums.

In my dreams, I was going to have a career in music. I sang constantly and was told over and over again how talented I was. I just knew I was going to be the next best thing since The Judds. Of course, those dreams have changed and evolved over the years, but the music has remained a fixture.

So when my daughters all expressed an interest in singing, I encouraged them to participate in chorus and follow their dreams. Last Thursday night, the musical theme in our family brought about one of my happiest moments as a parent. Anna stood in front of a theater of people at her Senior Recital and entranced us all with her voice. Her talent, hard work, and dedication have brought her dreams… once the dreams I thought were mine, but were generation too soon… into the realm of the possible.

Wherever she decides to go in life, I hope she takes my love of 80s hair bands and Mark’s love of Elton John and Stereophonics and all of the other musical influences in her life and keeps heading toward her dreams.  I may just be a proud momma, but I think she’s going to go a long way.

Fair Weather Friends

Over this past weekend, I realized that I’m a really crappy fair weather friend.  I know that people generally see the term Fair Weather Friend as a negative… someone who is only around when times are good.  But what about the friends who only make time for you when times are not?  Is that just as bad?

I forget to return phone calls and emails, can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to reschedule lunch appointments and just quiet hanging out time, and can’t be found on sunny breezy days.  Is your life falling apart?  Need an emergency babysitter or a place to crash or help with a crisis?  I’m SO there.

I had to stop and wonder if that makes me a rubbernecker.  You know the people I’m talking about… the ones who seem to ALWAYS be around whenever something bad happens.  Do I just enjoy the train wreck?  Is it that I’m ridiculously curious about other people’s bad luck?

goodfriends

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that every single person that I count on to be there when I need them… the ones who come hold my hand in the hospital… the ones who helped shovel out my parents belongings after the 500 year flood… are the friends that reschedule lunch, forget to return my phone calls and emails, and can’t be found on sunny breezy days.

I think it boils down to this… everyone I think of as a good friend shares only one trait.  They all need to bring something of value to the table.  If they can’t lend a hand, lend their experience, lend their knowledge, or lend their shoulder, chances are that I’m going to spend more time thinking “I haven’t seen her in a while, it’s been too long” instead of saying “It was great seeing you today.  Same time on Thursday?”

I’m sure there are some people who manage to find a balance… who manage to be there often during sunny times and just as often during storms.  Maybe they don’t live between 10 and 75 miles away.  Maybe they have better time management skills.  Maybe they try harder at it.  Whatever it is, I am certain I’m never going to achieve that balance… so I’ll just be thankful to have my stormy weather friends and our sprinkling of sunny days together.

Cobb County School Board – Common Sense is DEAD

Today is a rare occasion… when my political opinions intersect directly with my parenting opinions and my PTSA President opinions.  In Cobb County, GA (where we live) the school board held a vote last week and 4 to 3 voted for a 2011-2012 school calendar that went against the (VERY VOCAL) wishes of the parents, students, teachers, and administrators of this county.

Last year, the CCSB voted for a calendar that pissed off a LOT of people.  They called it a Balanced Calendar and it forced the children back into the classroom on August 2nd this past Fall.  Everyone was up in arms about this calendar because in return for the early start to the year, the children AND teachers received:

  • 1 week off in September (Fall break)
  • 1 week off for Thanksgiving (as opposed to just Wednesday/Thursday/Friday)
  • Standard break for the Winter holidays
  • 1 week off in February (Winter break)
  • 1 week off in April (Spring break) as usual.

To say that there was a lot of opposition to this new calendar would be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made.  People screamed that childcare for those weeks would be difficult to procure (although, I’m sure that daycare centers are happy to take your money in February and September just like they do in August).  People screamed that the facilities costs for air conditioning would be ridiculous.  People screamed that the children would have a harder time learning with all those breaks.  The truth is… PEOPLE BITCH ABOUT EVERYTHING AND HATE CHANGE EVEN WHEN THE SYSTEM IN PLACE SUCKS!!!

Anyway… fast forward to today.  Board members were voted in on the promise that they would revoke this calendar the moment they could.  And shock of all shocks if they didn’t.  Citing voter preference (which was true last year) and lower facility costs for the “old” school calendar, the board kicked the balanced calendar out.

Except… between last year’s elections and last week’s vote, some things happened that they didn’t expect.

TEACHER SICK DAYS:

(This section has been updated to reflect real numbers and not assumptions, as I’ve located actual documentation):
The new balanced calendar has resulted in a reduction of 8740.5 teacher sick days in ONE semester.  Wait… what?  You read that correctly.  Teachers did not feel so burned out and exhausted because of these added vacation weeks that they didn’t call in for as many Mental Health days.  Let me break this out for you:

  • 8740.5 fewer sick days meant that 8740.5 fewer substitute teacher days were needed.  Saving the county $651,342.06 IN ONE SEMESTER (Putting us on track for saving over $1 Million for the full school year), on just the base salary of the substitutes alone.  This number does not include any employer side costs or Human Resources salaries to manage substitute teacher days.
  • 8740.5 fewer sick days meant that there were 8740.5 fewer classroom days spent watching videos and having Free Day because the students had a substitute.  In other words 8740.5 TEACHING DAYS got added back to this county’s students, at no extra cost.
    • A little side note on this one: At Pebblebrook High School, one substitute teacher spent Sierra’s ENTIRE CLASS (Math) talking on her cell phone… and when the student chatter got so loud that she couldn’t hear, she left the classroom to talk in the hall.  A few weeks later, this same teacher spent the entire Choir class spewing propaganda at Anna.  She even made a reading recommendation: The Militant. (Folks, I can’t even make this crap up.) EIGHT THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED FORTY POINT FIVE LESS OF THESE DAYS PEOPLE!!!

STUDENT IMPACT:

  • Yep, you guessed it.  Student absenteeism was down ALMOST 50%.  Guess what?  Part of the schools’ funding is based on student attendance.
  • Students come back from these vacations well rested and ready to work too.  WHO KNEW?  Guess what?  Part of the schools’ funding is based on student achievement.
  • Students get a chance to spend time on these breaks studying for subjects they’re struggling with, work on projects, and work with tutors to help then when they’re struggling, BEFORE it’s too late to do anything about their failing grades.

OTHER STAFF MEMBERS:

I don’t have any actual data for the other staff members, but I’d be surprised if the levels of absenteeism and productivity have not been just as impacted as they are for the teachers and students.  To quote one of our county’s school bus drivers this morning:

The (winter) break is almost over. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about this week off, but I for one am really happy we had the break. Even with cut in pay, I feel ok. Just when you feel like you are freaking out – there’s a break. Proof for me – I’ve not really been sick this year. Last year I had pnuemonia and the flu so missed two weeks right there. These were a much more enjoyable two weeks. – Tracey

THINGS CHANGE:

Guess what else?  Things change.  People get so worked up about things they FEAR will happen that they knee jerk and do stupid shit like oh… vote in a school board that is also knee jerk and not willing to listen to facts… and then when things calm down and the true impact of the change is seen, realize that they’ve already screwed themselves by being Chicken Little in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong.  Not everyone was happy with the balanced calendar.  Some people liked the old calendar and voted for it.  But you can’t make everyone happy all the time.  Just how much of a “majority” did the Board vote against?

Responses in favor of the Balanced Calendar:

  • Students – 79.2%
  • Parents – 66.8%
  • Teachers – 82.1%
  • Employees (Non Teachers) – 81.3%
  • Residents Without Children in CCSD – 73.6%
  • Total Results after all duplicate entries removed: 77.2%

Responses in favor of the Traditional Calendar:

  • Students – 13.6%
  • Parents – 21.7%
  • Teachers – 10.6%
  • Employees (Non Teachers) – 13.6%
  • Residents Without Children in CCSD – 14.3%
  • Total Results after all duplicate entries removed: 14.7%

So… way to go Cobb County School Board… you made good on your campaign promises, even though people overall decided that their fears were unfounded and that the balanced calendar has been great for the district as a whole.  Way to continue the short sighted, rigid, and self destructive methods meant to prove to us you have only your own best interests at heart and NOT the interests of the education of our students.

OH and thank you for saving us some money on air conditioning. **Except, that’s not true either.  The “Traditional Calendar” costs $62,333 more in utilities just by being open those extra two weeks in September and February instead of August.

**Edited to add quote from one of our bus drivers and to note that this article, along with my comments, was sent to both David Morgan and Tim Stultz (the board members representing Pebblebrook High School and Lindley Middle School, where my children go) and there has been no response.

Forever Changed

Occasionally, when you’re all alone and the house is quiet, you have blinding moments of realization that your children have infected your brain in ways that you can’t even comprehend.

If you ever wanted to know what really goes on in my house when nobody is home but me… it’s this.  Just now… on my way to the kitchen to clip coupons… I stopped in my tracks when I realized I was doing the conga (YES ALONE) through the house quoting a Disney movie.

Dory“No eating here tonight, no eating here tonight, no, no, no, eating here tonight, you’re on a diet!”
– Dory, Finding Nemo

 

Right… so on to the coupon thing.

Just now… on my way to the kitchen to clip coupons… I stopped in my tracks when I realized I was doing the conga (YES ALONE) through the house quoting a Disney movie.

My Summer Vacation – By Ida Davidson

Whoa this thing is incredibly dusty! Let’s see if I can remember how to work all the knobs and switches.

Remember when you were a kid in elementary school and the first week of school you had to write about your summer vacation? Where you went, what you did, what you learned while you weren’t doing something “productive”? Well… here it comes!

The day I quit my job, our family and some friends loaded up and went to the mountains for a few days. It was quiet and beautiful and without internet or cell phone coverage. Talk about “roughing it”. But I read a couple of books, played games with the family, sat in the hot tub for a few minutes, and spent hours writing down notes, blog post ideas, and working my butt off.

For weeks, I obsessed over the new business I want to start. I drove everyone around me crazy with idea after idea and question after question. To be honest, I was driving myself crazy too. Finally, Mark said “You know that YOU are the only one who expects you to start this business and earn money, right? You’re the only one who won’t let you relax and enjoy this time you really need.” (Have I mentioned how much I adore this guy?)

So, I took the summer off from “work”. Thank goodness I could.  So many things popped up that I probably couldn’t have dealt with while being all entrepreneurial.  I slept late a couple of times (admittedly, not many), took morning walks with my best friend, played Rock Band with the kids, ate out, spent time with friends, did housework, ran errands, sold Avon, had an emergency trip to Mississippi and then to Memphis, toured a college with Anna, took off for the weekend in Savannah, and spent a whole lot of time trying to get all the To Do list items checked off.

School has been back in session for 5 “business” days  now.  Now it’s time for me to learn what day to day life is going to be like as a “stay at home” mom and how to integrate my dreams of a business into it.  I won’t say it’s been a perfect summer.  It hasn’t.  But I’m well on my way to having my batteries recharged and choosing my path for the next part of the journey.

How has YOUR summer been?

Before I Was A Mom

I read what a lot of other Moms say, every day. Some make me think. Some make me laugh. Some make me weep. Some make me remember what my girls were like when they were tiny.

Today, they’ve made me do some of each… most of the articles were all on the same topic: Before I Was a Mom. This is a writing prompt from Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop (of which I am not a participant because I didn’t know about until all these links to today.)

By the time I’d read the 10th one, I thought “cool… think I’m going to give that a go.” Then I started to mentally tally the list of things. You know what? My list made me sad and more than a little ashamed.

I don’t have a Sex and the City past. I was never “just me”. That’s what happens when you’re pregnant at 16… you don’t get to be you as an adult.  You don’t get to travel.  You don’t get to live with reckless abandon.  And you don’t learn until far later who you really are. I’m still not sure if I know.

Before I was a mom:

  • I was the fat kid with the giant curly hair who never shut up that everyone loved to make fun of.
  • I was the teenager who finally melted off all the baby fat and turned into a curvy pretty girl… that still felt ugly and fat.
  • I had sex with boys just because they paid me 10 minutes of attention. Which, of course, was as long as they stuck around afterward.
  • I drank and smoked pot for the exact same reason.
  • I was amazingly smart and I knew it… so I blew off school and skated by on my test scores.
  • I could sleep through tornado sirens, car accidents outside my bedroom window, and bone jarring thunderstorms.
  • I LOVED babysitting other people’s kids and hanging out at their houses… because it meant I didn’t have to be at mine.
  • I was an angry and combative teenager with no future because I was pissing it away.
  • I thought the purest love in the whole wide world was what I felt when I was with my granny (turns out this was pretty close to the truth).
  • I NEVER EVER thought that the life I have today was within my reach.

Almost every moment my life that makes me proud has been since I became a mom. I really don’t think I would have ever gotten off the self destructive, unhappy, broken path that I was on if I hadn’t become a mom. I think becoming a mom saved me from me…

17 Reasons My Teens Aren’t Jerks

Yesterday I wrote that my teenagers are scarily normal people and haven’t been abducted by aliens. I’ve been planning to write about this for a while but, over the weekend I asked the girls WHY they weren’t asshole know-it-all teenagers. I got very different answers than I was expecting, but I’m still happy to know I’m on the right track where they are concerned.

I started the conversation by saying “Most teenagers we know are assholes…” and heard an immediate and emphatic “YEAH, WE KNOW!” (Evidently, they share the same opinion. I’ll have to write about that another time.) Then I asked “Well… why do you think that you’re different? What makes you not behave that way?”

Surprisingly, they had quite a few answers to that question. I really expected “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.” So, here are both lists… the reasons I think they aren’t rebellious and angry… and the reasons THEY say they aren’t.

The kids say:

  1. When you say no, you tell us why. (Ida says: Sometimes the answer is “because I said so”, but I try really hard to let them know there are rational and reasonable reasons for the decisions I make.)
  2. Sometimes, when you want to say no, you give us all the risks and then let us decide for ourselves. (Ida says: It’s VERY hard to not just say no, but sometimes I use their requests as teachable moments. If the only danger in saying yes is that they aren’t going to like the result, I’ll let them roll with it and see how it turns out.)
  3. You don’t lie to us. (Ida says: This is Rule Number One. I don’t lie. I may be obnoxious, rude, and have a bazillion flaws, but at least you know you’re getting the truth.)
  4. You’re really open and you talk to us. (Ida says: They roll their eyes and groan and mutter under their breath… but dangit we communicate!)
  5. You’re the same person when your friends are around as you are when it’s just us. (Ida says: I wouldn’t want to be someone around my friends that I’m not proud to be around my kids. Of course, convention weekends are completely excluded from this!)
  6. You don’t micromanage us. – Anna says “Like the time I wanted to paint my room. You let me pick all 3 colors and you even helped me paint it. Most parents would veto the colors or make the decision for us.” (Ida says: It’s always best to pick your battles. Blue bedroom with green and yellow trim? That’s an easy yes. The more decisions they make now, when you can help if needed, the better.)
  7. You make it easy for us to talk to you. – Sierra says “Like the dinner topic. It’s easier for us to talk to each other than the other families we know.” (Ida says: To be fair, the dinner topic was Mark’s creation, I just participate. It’s been the best thing we’ve ever implemented in our house.)

I say:

  1. I never make the mistake of minimize their feelings. Telling them they’re too young to have valid feelings is the fastest way to alienate your kids. I have never said:
    1. It’s just puppy love. You’ll find someone new in no time.
    2. I know she moved, but you’ll make new friends.
    3. You’re not old enough to know what x, y, or z feels like.
  2. I recognize the signs of PMS or a really bad day, and take it easier on them during those times. I know that some days just suck. On those days, I don’t want to have to deal with chores, bad attitudes, or people in general… why think that it wouldn’t be the same for the kids? Signs that you should bite your tongue and be more understanding:
    1. Sudden acne outbreaks
    2. Mood Swings
    3. Coming home from school in a dark mood
    4. Emotional outbursts for no reason (or out of proportion to the reason)
    5. You know your kid best… what seems “off” for them? Look for the signs.
  3. I try to remember how I would have felt at that age and treat them the way I wish I’d been treated in those instances. I’m not talking about failing to punish because I wish I hadn’t been punished. But I am talking about trusting them to do the right thing and treating them as young women instead of children.
  4. I never ever settle disputes between them. I DO remind them (often) that they “are speaking to someone you love” when they’re snippy with each other, but I keep my nose out of who is right and who is wrong. As a result, I don’t have to spend time in the middle and they work harder to resolve their own disputes.
  5. I expect the same behavior from their friends that I do from them. In my house, the rules are the rules are the rules. I’m all for fun and games and hanging out playing Rock Band or whatever… but if you’re rude, inappropriate, or otherwise misbehaving in my house, you are just as in trouble as the kids I gave birth to. Why does this even matter? Having a double standard is a surefire way to lose their respect.
  6. I enforce what I expect. I don’t tolerate bad behavior. I don’t tolerate backtalk (debate yes… expressing their own opinion yes… backtalk no). I don’t tolerate bad grades. I don’t tolerate hurtful words being hurled. There is a standard and a code. When they don’t live up to that, I call them on it. Every. Single. Time.
  7. I listen to them when they talk. Teenagers are notorious for not talking to their parents after a certain age. They clam up and give one word answers to questions. But I’ve learned that if you shut up and listen, they’re talking. They will tell you everything you need to know as long as they aren’t on the defensive. And yes… I DO know how much babble that you have to listen to in order to get to anything meaningful. J It’s just part of the joys of parenting.
  8. I let them be responsible for their own actions. The single biggest problem I see in teenagers is that they are no longer scared of consequences. SOMEONE will bail them out, fight the school to bump their grade to passing, clean up their chores to keep dad from yelling, buy them replacements for things they wantonly destroyed or simply didn’t care enough to take care of. Screw that. Life is tough. They should learn it while they’re still in the relative safety of “the nest”.
  9. I encourage them in everything they do. Chorus, French Club, Plays, Talent Shows, Band, ROTC, Karate… if I can make it happen, and they want to pursue it, I do my best to support them. It makes them feel important, heard, cherished. We all need that to boost our confidence in life.
  10. I trust my parenting skills. I trust them to do what I’ve taught them. I let go of the bike and wait to see if they keep pedaling or if they fall over. If they fall over… at least they’re falling while I’m still here to catch them and NOT when they’re out on their own and the falls are harder.

What say you? Can you add to this list? Disagree with something on here? Let’s chat.