Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mother to Mother

In what ways are you like your mother? And if you’re a mother, how is/are your kid(s) like you?

Oh dear.  There are so many ways to respond to a prompt like this one!  Here we go ..

To start with, Mom and I both like to write.  She is much better than I am and she is an inspiration to write more frequently.   As a child I would be lulled to sleep by the sound of her typing in the next room on her blue Selectric.   As a preschooler I remember typing up a page full of random letters.  I then handed it to her and asked what I had written.  If she were a few years younger I’m positive she would’ve been one heck of a blogger!

Family Portrait circa 1975:  That's me in the dorky Peter Pan collar and the bad hair cut
Mom raised independent children.  To this day I’m not sure if that was really her goal, or if 70s –style parenting was just a lot more hands off than today’s style is.  In any case, I’ve done my best to give my kids a Diane-esque upbringing like I got.   Participate in scouting and school activities.  Take academics serious (but not too seriously).  Take responsibility for yourself, ESPECIALLY when it hurts.  And every now and then randomly sing “Oh ee oh ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang” in the kitchen.


I sound like Mom a lot too.  Her words can fly out of my mouth without warning at any moment.  When angry I will call out to my child by their first, middle, and last name plus “get down here right this minute!”  When one of my darlings tells me something isn’t fair I respond without missing a beat with “Nobody ever said life was fair.”  When someone says they’re cold Mom says in my voice “Well put some clothes on, Dimwit”.    

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My own kids follow in my footsteps in their own ways.  They’re all analytical with mad-skills in math and science, plus they each write well.  Two of the three take their lives very seriously, self-monitoring their own progress and achievements, just like me.  The third will get there eventually.   They are all driven batty by inefficiencies, just like me .. that’s our overly analytical side at work, always seeking out the better way to do things.   Luckily they got the best traits from their Dad too, including humor and resiliency, two things I lack.  

Life is Good!

What is the best and/or worst thing about your life right now?

When I was kid I had very little idea of what I “want to be when I grow up”.  When I was in college I changed my major four times (engineering, journalism, business, political science).  When I was thirty, I still didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do with my life and I was starting to think I never would.  After all that indecision, at forty-something I can clearly say what I want to be when I grow up, and better yet, I’m living it!   

On the career side of my life, I’ve managed to fit myself into a job I love .. as an accountant of all things!   Never once did I consider THAT when I was younger.  I work with nonprofits and I love being able to put their financial affairs in order for them so that they can focus on their very worthwhile missions.  Better yet, I’m blessed to be able to work part time thanks to an accommodating office and husband.  In another couple of years I’ll probably ratchet up to full time, but for now I have the time to balance my career with my family.

On the personal side, I’ve lived through the all-consuming years of raising children and I’ve come out the other side.   Twelve years ago every outing required careful planning with nap schedules, meal times, or babysitters.   Even a trip to buy gas required preparation, herding, and Barney songs on the car stereo.  Oh, and patience.  Now I get the joy of going where I want, when I want (oh the sweet freedom!)  Our teenagers have busy lives and my husband and I frequently find ourselves Home Alone, another oddity in the post-baby world that we are thoroughly enjoying.   

I love to watch my kids from the sidelines as they go about their lives.   Every achievement they make feels like a little reward to me for everything I poured into them when they were young.  I’m in a sweet spot right now.  They’re old enough to run their own lives with limited supervision, they are mature enough to handle life’s difficulties with tantrums or ugliness, and they still live at home where I can enjoy spending time with them.  

Joe and I just celebrated our Twentieth Wedding anniversary.  Some of those years were very difficult, but we persevered and like our kids we’ve now got the maturity to handle life’s difficulties.  I’m blessed to have a partner who understands who I am, knows what I’m thinking, cracks me up on a regular basis, and has similar lifelong goals.  I like sharing my life with my best friend.

And as for the fun stuff .. we’re well enough established that we can do the things we want to do.  For us, that frequently means travel.  In October we spent a long weekend in New York City.  In December I took my daughter to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  And for next summer, we’re looking at family vacation at a beach resort in Bali.

Well, that’s the good stuff.  Sure there’s bad stuff, but it all seems so minor when you count your blessings.     

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

That Cracks Me Up!

Today's Prompt:   Who or what makes you laugh so hard that milk shoots out of your nose and why? Slapstick, dry witty comedy, your kids, Monty Python?

As anybody who knows me will testify, I tend to take life too seriously.  At one point a number of years ago I decided I really needed to lighten up so I offered my kids 25cents every time they made me bust out laughing.  To this day they still say "You owe me a quarter!" whenever they hit the mark.   I wish I had video clips of all the times they have cracked me up, but since we haven't wired our house for closed-circuit TV, I thought I'd go with my favorite TV clips for today's prompt.    These are the clips that have stayed with me long after the scene was past .. and make me grin just thinking about them even today.

When Ross on Friends gets a spray tan.

When Sheldon on Big Bang Theory creates an algorithm for making friends.  Or when he recommends Penny try out wholesale club shopping.  Or just about a hundred other great scenes! 

When Family Feud answers go awry.

On Modern Family  when car wrap doesn't work out as planned.  Or when the girls poke the bear. 

How I Met Your Mother .. Happy Slapsgiving!  And Barney Stinson's pick up lines.

And lastly, The Middle, where Axl reminds me of my own sons.  This clip is my favorite.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Never Say Never

I don't like absolutes.  However, given today's prompt for ten things I would never do I'll do my best with the following top 10 list.  

1)     I would never abandon my family.  Really, this one is a no-brainer.  Family comes first.   Husband, kids, parents .. these people are the most important people in my life.

2)      I would never intentionally cause harm to any person.   I’m sure I do it every day in little ways, as we all do.  But I would never reach out and hit a person, even in my most angry moments.  

3)      I would never choose to live for very long without a dog in my life.  Let’s face it, the little guy keeps me company when I’m alone & keeps me warm when I am cold.  Besides, he is so soft and fuzzy!

4)      I would never go back to school.  This falls into the “Been There, Done That” category.  I used to think I’d go back to get a law degree, or maybe a psychology degree, but when it felt like torture to consider sitting in class again I decided those days are behind me.

5)      I would never own or ride a motorcycle.  I don’t understand the burning desire to put your whole body at risk in such a blatant way.  Color me conservative.  I’ll stick to cars, thank you.

6)      I would never give up reading.  A day without reading is a like a day without breathing.

7)      I would never drive slowly in the left lane.  Really people.  It’s called the fast lane.  If people are passing you on the right, you are in the wrong lane!  You’ll frequently find me cruising in the left lane, but when some speed demon comes up behind me I get out of their way .. it’s not a race, it’s just the rules of the road.
8)      I would never give up cheese.  Favorite snack ever.  

9)      I would never take a risk without first analyzing it up, down and sideways.  I have come to accept that I will always over think stuff.  Luckily, my husband over-thinks more than I do, so I can safely think all I want at home.   And I can hide it pretty well when I’m out.

1)0)  I would never voluntarily move to another city.  I’ve lived in 10 homes within a 10 mile radius in the last forty years (college years excluded).  This spring I will have lived in the same house for 20 years.   I’m a creature of habit.  I like being near family and friends.    Besides, I could never get past over-thinking whatever move I would be inclined to make (see #9).  Analysis Paralysis will always keep me firmly rooted right where I am and have always been.

      I can't wait to see everybody else's lists.  I had to write mine before I read so I wouldn't steal everyone else's ideas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you were going to do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do?

I’ve always said my goal is to put myself out of a job as a parent.  I want to raise responsible (uggh, didn’t I use that word in my blog post yesterday?), self-sufficient children.  My kids are seventeen year old twin boys and a lovely almost-fourteen year old girl.  The day they leave for college I want them to be able to everything for themselves.  I vow never to be the mom who drives over to campus to drop off a load of freshly laundered and folded clothes and to pick up a basket of dirty laundry.  No, my kids know how to pre-treat and how to tumble out wrinkles when they forget to unload.  My kids know how to cook a frozen pizza (plastic and cardboard off, boys!), how to change a tire (so far they’ve gotten to do it in the dark, in the rain, and in the snow), and how to balance a checkbook (uh, oh .. one year left to teach that one).  They know how to shake hands firmly and look adults in the eye.  They know how to make a decision and live with the consequences.  I’ve sat on my Golden Parenting Throne and pitied the masses who send their children off without these basic skills, knowing I had done my job well.

Jenna, James, Jason - 2011
Here’s the thing:  I can easily give up the cooking, the driving, even the homework scolding.  What I didn’t realize would also be hard is the emotional separation that is inevitable during these same years.   When my six foot tall man-boys come home from their day’s adventures, I’m lucky to get a “Oh, hi Mom” as they breeze through the room.  What I want is for them to drop everything and tell me what was great about today, what was hard, and what made them laugh.  I want all the gritty details.  Instead, I learn more about their lives by eavesdropping on their conversations than by chatting with them directly.  Just yesterday I learned one son had broken up with his girlfriend three days ago  and never once thought to tell his dear ‘ol mom.  The other was invited to a statewide academic competition, but doesn't want me to attend.  Oh, a mother's angst!  The fact is, they're teenage boys who are breaking up with their mom.

James, Jenna, Jason - 1999
It’s normal, it’s natural, that a seventeen year old boy would NOT tell you everything about his day.  But this (nearly-adult) man that I need to give the space to develop his own life is also my newborn son sleeping in my arms.  He is my adorable-if-clingy two year old who would never leave my lap.  He is my five year old who ran home from school to tell me all about the wonderful kindergarten teacher.  He is my seven year old who drew me love notes every single day.  He is my thirteen year old who was nervous to go to his first school dance and mingle with the (gasp!) girls.  When I look at each of them, I cannot see them for simply who they are in this moment.  To me, they are always a strange conglomeration of all the ages they've been .. young and old at the same time.

Jason, Me and James - 1995
In my heart of hearts, I never thought I would actually have to let them go.  Now I know better.   They belong to themselves.  I have given them all that I can; the end of what I can do to influence the outcome of their lives is fast approaching.  They will make their own way in life and I must sit on the sidelines and wait for them to share with me.  No more pestering them for details, no more helping in their classrooms, no more knowing every detail about how they spent their time.  On the days that they choose to tell me all about it, the sun shines brighter, life tastes sweeter.  And on the days they choose to keep it all to themselves, my world dims just a little bit (OK, a lot).  

Me & Mom, circa 1981
Once I'm done looking wistfully back at a reality that used to be, I remember that I too must make my own way in life.    My years as “Mommy” are over and now I have three beautiful, successful teenagers to share my life with (albeit in a much more separated way).  More importantly, I have my OWN life to live and I'd better get busy.  And I also think of my own mother who is probably sitting at home thinking about me but giving me the space I need to live my life.  I think I’ll go give her a call.   

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fuddy Duddy

I’m participating in #ReverbBroads11, a month of blog prompts. Today’s prompt is: How did you become more of a grown-up this year? Or did you pull a Peter Pan and stubbornly remain childlike?

When I saw today’s prompt, my first thought on this was .. yikes, the last thing I need to do is become MORE grown up!  For the last eighteen years I have been relentlessly responsible, adaptable, patient, prudent, altruistic, and an all around self-sacrificing.  No matter what I was doing, I would look at it closely through the lens of the needs of family,  .. never through the lens of what I needed for myself.   Somewhere along the line I became a first-class Fuddy Duddy.

This past year I worked hard on becoming LESS Grown-Up.  I’ve been looking for new ways to enjoy life that are not necessarily first and foremost about my family.   I’ve accepted all invitations, sought out new friendships, taken some risk, and tried new things.   

I spent this past weekend on a mother-daughter double date to Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter attractions at Universal.  It was a party of four ..  my daughter Jenna and her best friend Halina, as well as me and Halina’s mom.  In the past I would have avoided something like this because of any one of a long list of reasons I came up with in my head .. it cost too much, its unfair to her brothers, I’d miss my husband, I don’t want to share a hotel room, etc etc etc.  

How glad I am that I did what I wanted to do and carved out this weekend to focus on the best aspects of being a mom .. having fun together!  We explored Harry Potter’s world and cast magic spells with wands.  We rode some amazing roller coasters that pump you full of adrenaline and made my thirteen year old daughter impressed I was still cool enough to ride them over and over.  (Take a virtual ride on The Hulk and The Rip Ride Rocket) We ordered dessert and then stayed up late watching Harry Potter movies.  All in all, we acted like kids.

I guess I associate being grown up with the “R” word .. you know, Responsibility.   Suffocating, boring, responsibility.   Always, always, always remember to have fun.  Nobody likes a Fuddy Duddy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reverb 10 - 5 Minutes

Prompt: 5 minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010

Bad news, Darling, you’re losing your mind!  So, like Lucy Whitmore in the movie 50 First Dates, here are things you’ve got to remember about 2010 …

Remember:  You got out of town, Girl!  Whipping down a ski slope on the top of a mountain and realizing you really can still ski.  The views from the top of the mountain.  Waking up on the ski bus in the middle of the night one the way home, looking out the front window, and realizing the bus driver can’t see diddly because of all the fog ... it’s a weird feeling hurtling through the Kansas night at 60 miles an hour with visibility exactly the distance of your head lights.

Remember:  Your first cruise.  Being on deck at midnight with the winds strong enough to hold you up if you try to fall over.  Snorkling in Cozumel and three of the family barfing from the rough seas.  Sitting on the balcony and watching the sunrise over Mexico.  Formal dinners that the kids actually enjoyed.  

Remember:  Your number one activity .. Spectating!   Cross Country, Track, Volleyball, Swimming .. you were there for all of it, watching your kids develop into athletes and closer to adulthood.  Plus, you got the added bonus of hanging out with your friends while you watched!

Remember:  Letting go.  Jason went away for 9 weeks of summer camp and that was hard for both of us, but it was absolutely the right thing for him.  Jason and James started driving and now they’re off, running their own lives.  Jenna moved to middle school and with that switch came, blessing of all blessings, a school bus.  Now she’s off on her own too.

Remember:  Joe .. Although he was gone a lot this year for his work, we spent a lot of time together.    We manage to squeeze a lot of living into those weekly three day weekends.    His bad jokes, his bad driving, and all the great dinners he’s cooked for us.   Hanging out in Lawrence, checking out the art fairs, going to the theater, dinner with friends.  Watching, together, our children pass those little milestones and marveling at how fabulous they are.

Remember:  Hospitalizations.  Four gallbladder surgeries in the extended family this year.  What’s with that?

Remember:   Friends.  The lunches, walks, and coffees with all my favorite women.  These smart, well-read, funny women inspire me to always work towards making myself and my life better, and they make me laugh along the way.  I’m so blessed to have people in my life who “get” me.