Monday, December 31, 2007

The Last Post of 2007

I know, momentous, right?
Well, I'm finally starting to feel like me again...I think that's a good thing!
Okay, so 2007 wasn't marked by any great accomplishments for me. But it could've been much, much worse.
I'm not big on resolutions, but I do think of this time of year as a time of reflection, which can lead to goals.
I started this year thinking I wanted to be a paralegal, but a few classes showed me that if I'm going to pursue a better career in law, it would have to be as a lawyer. Which is not an option right now.
Come to think of it, I did keep a goal. Once I decided not to complete my paralegal classes, I told myself to wait at least a year (which would end in the summer of '08) before pursuing any new path or direction. So I guess I'm halfway there!
2007 was really about Sylvia. I started the year freaking out about her middle school education. She's now in my dream middle school, KIPP LA Prep. They've been excellent to her, and most distinctly different by making me feel like I finally have true partners in her education. And they've become friends as well.
Sylvia closed the year learning some difficult truths about her father, but couldn't have handled it better. By me not being in school anymore, I'm able to be there with her every school night, and she has told me how much it means to her that I'm there. I'd say 2007 was a major bonding year for the two of us, and gives me hope for the coming years with her.
2007 was also the year that I made "online-only" friends, and they've been great. Kori, Nikki, Christy, Kate, the ladies on the AP group, and all my other CafeMoms and Zoom ladies...they've all shown me new ways of looking at things, and let me into their worlds, and been there for me in ways that have been much appreciated. And the internet has kept me close to those friends in real life that are far away. Pretty cool.
Then there are the people at work that have been there for me for years now. It's a pretty awesome group of people that I get to see every day.
2007 was also the year I got to move back home. There should be more demons here, but there aren't. I guess all the good vibes were too strong for the bad ones. And I'm so silly, I still get excited about getting to park my car in a garage, run the dishwasher, do the laundry inside without quarters...
So it's already 2008 in part of the my fave MD said, I am SO last year right now! And, truthfully, I thought I'd be sadder right now. I thought that I'd be thinking more about what I lack than what I have. But I guess I've thought about that enough lately. Right now, I'm fully appreciating all that I have. Not as much as some, but definitely more than others. And I'm proud right now. I still have a few more obstacles to go, a few more challenges to meet...and I guess I always will. Still and all, for now, it's good.
Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Exes and Roofers and Life - oh my!

So I haven't blogged lately. I've been in a funk. A lot of stuff went down over the holidays, and I'm only going to get so personal here. Actually, I don't have any problem being personal about me - but about others.
But I have absolutely no qualms about bitching about my ex here! He was the cause of some of the pain and anxiety. As were DirecTV and roofers. But I'll get to that in due time.
I've been on the brink of a breakdown for a few weeks now. A few times, admittedly, I went over that brink. I was trying really hard to hang on until December 26.
The day after Xmas was supposed to be the start of a Mommy vacation. My ex was going to fly down here and take the girls up to Northern California to spend a week with him and his extended family.
Instead, he disappeared for a while and ended up where I suspected he would: in jail. We decided to cancel the trip during the disappearance, unsure of where and how he'd show up, and very sure that he was doing drugs pretty heavily.
I came clean to the girls about his drug use, and the canceled trip all in one fell swoop. They actually took it really well. I think I've cried more about it than they have!
I had big plans for my week off. Well, actually, I had no plans, and that's exactly what I wanted. I took the time off work, too. I wanted to experience a week of freedom from responsibilities. I wanted to watch Oprah and maybe even a soap opera or two. I wanted more than an hour or so of adult TV time.
I suppose not many people get that kind of opportunity for a break as it is. Married folks don't tend to leave their children with others for a week at a time. Then again, married folk can sometimes go to the grocery store while their spouse stays home with the kids.
It was hard. It was hard to lose that. Particularly as I was still majorly stressing about $$ for Xmas presents (spell check says majorly is not a word - I'm going with it anyway).
The holidays, to me, represent a time of reflection. While there have been many good things that happened this year, every single one of them has come with a hefty price tag (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally).
Sometimes the unfairness gets to me. Particularly when there's someone like my ex in my world who seems to never have to worry about paying the rent, the utilities, the food, and no one expects much of him.
At the same time, I know that I'm luckier than a lot of people. I have a job that provides for us, understanding bosses that don't give me a hard time about coming to work late to see my daughter's holiday show, supportive family and friends. So while part of me is feeling sorry for myself, the other part of me is mad at me for feeling sorry for myself. Trying to balance those two parts can feel like drowning at times.
That saying that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger...I'm just not feeling it these days. I feel more like I'm just treading water.
So it stands to reason that I felt a break would be in order.
Well, we don't always get what we want.
So plans were rearranged. I've been home with the girls since I got off work on Xmas Eve, with the exception of the day they spent at Disneyland with their aunt and uncle and cousins.
To add insult to injury, my DirecTV box died a week ago. I lost all the movies and shows we had recorded. So much for Oprah.
The new box was supposed to arrive Thursday. Okay, we can survive a couple of days without TV.
The day after Xmas, the roofers came. The roofers that were supposed to come weeks ago. The roofers, who ripped out the satellite antenna so that even though the box did arrive on Thursday, it does me no good while the roofers were still here. And then I get to pay DirecTV $50 to re-install it.
And then there's the pounding. The pounding, the hammering, the constant noise from above for 3 days. I've had a perpetual headache for all 3 of them.
I kissed the girls good-bye as they left with my sister today, who took pity on me and offered to take them for a few days. I know they'll be loved, and I know they'll have fun, as they always do at her house.
So now I get to cram what had been planned as a 7-day break into 2 1/2. And wait for the DirecTV installer that is thankfully coming tomorrow.
It could be so much worse, I know. I have healthy, wonderful girls that are dealing with their father's shortcomings with more strength and less trauma than I ever did. They've made me laugh and given me so much love. They are both better people than I am.
But I won't deny that it has been hard.
Maybe this time, next year, I'll be able to see some wonderful thing that came out of this time. I'm not convinced of that, though. Right now, the lesson I have is to keep expectations low. Low expectations help lessen disappointment.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Human Condition

I'm not your typical girl. I don't like jewelry, I can get myself ready in under a half-hour, and I hate shopping.
I'm not your typical "butch" girl. I'm not into carpentry and I scream at the sight of a spider.
I'm not your typical liberal. As I've blogged about before, I'm anti-union and also have a problem with pat answers from either side. I just happen to agree with the left side more than I do the right most of the time.
I want everyone to like me, but I'm not going to bend myself into a pretzel to try to make it a reality. I want people to like me because of our differences as well as similarities.
I can be outspoken, but I'll turn into a wallflower at a party where I don't know anyone.
I know many people would label me "emotional," but I feel like I'm suppressing my emotions at least 10 waking hours of the day.
While I'm no traditionalist, I'm not so far out there that I don't take my responsibilities seriously.
I don't know how to be anyone other than who I am. If I could do it better, than I would be.
At the same time, I try every day. I see my failures, my flaws, my downfalls pretty darn well. But I'm not sure how much more I can change them or grow or try harder. And, yes, there are days when I just don't even feel like trying. There are also days when I can drive myself to that place called crazy either trying, or in spite of all my best efforts to steer the other way.
And at the end of any and all those days, all I am is human. Full of questions, attempts at answers, dysfunctional, jumbled up, confident, vulnerable, passionate, gloriously right, hideously wrong, plain old-fashioned human.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

10 Things

I was tagged elsewhere to do the 10 Things meme.
1) I am a has-been child actor. (Thus, the web address formerlyaprildawn.) You can look me up on imdb. Although they left out "The Wonder Years" and gave me credit for "Young Warriors," which I was not in.
2) The acting days lasted long enough for me to be on a cast recording. "The Cradle Will Rock" 1994 Los Angeles cast recording, to be specific. You can buy me on Amazon.
3) I have lived in Huntington Beach, Bakersfield, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Denver, San Jose, Pittsburgh, and Rochester (NY).
4) I truly have a best friend forever - I think it's been 21 years now.
5) I hate mustard.
6) I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. (Or, I'm experiencing a mid-life crisis.)
7) I am half-Irish, half-Mexican (which means that I have a fiery temper, and I love to drink).
8) I hate jewelry and do not have my ears pierced.
9) I could play solitaire or hangman all day, if given the opportunity.
10) I try to be as balanced and fair as a bitter divorcee, bleeding heart liberal, feminist can be.
Again, I'm not going to tag anyone - use it as you like. Just let me know so I can go read yours as well!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dealing with a Deadbeat, Irresponsible Ex

I originally posted this in a moms community, specifically for the members of a single moms group. I decided to post it here as well, as I got a lot of good feedback on it, and I can't think of what else to write!
It's taken 4 years of good and bad experiences, 2 years of therapy (for both me and my girls) and a myriad of other conversations, trials, tribs, blah blah blah to get where I am with this. Not that I'm perfect at it, but these are the things that are most important to keep in mind.
1) Child support and visitation are, for the most part, exclusive of each other. Check your local laws, but usually, you cannot withhold visitation for lack of child support.
2) If it all possible, get sole legal custody. This means that you do not have to get the deadbeat's permission on school forms, out-of-state travel, and a myriad of other things that may come up.
3) If you're concerned about alcohol or drug abuse, or any other problems that might make the deadbeat an unfit parent as well, set up conditional visitation. For instance, my visitation only applies if my ex has (a) a driver's license, (b) established residence in the same county as us, and (c) random drug tests at my discretion but his cost. So far, he hasn't made it past (a) yet, so he is not entitled to any visitation whatsoever.
4) I do allow visitation under proper supervision. Now that he's living with his parents and near the rest of his brothers and sisters (and their children), I do allow about 2 prolonged visits with them a year. (This also gives me a break from being "Mommy" for a few days.) However, they must arrange and pay for flights or other forms of transportation. The girls are also old enough to understand that their dad does not have a valid driver's license, and therefore, is unable to drive them anywhere. The girls have a great time with their family, and I feel safe about their well-being.
5) The major question that you should ask yourself is whether or not your child will be safe, or what can be done to make the situation safe? If nothing can be done to make the visitation safe, then you need to say no.
If your deadbeat tries to make you feel guilty for keeping the child away from their father, try to keep in mind, is this person really a father or not? Can he live up to the responsibility that the word "father" implies? If you have any doubts whatsoever, then you are under the obligation as the mom, to NOT let your child/ren be alone with him. If it's just your anger or hurt that's holding you back, then you need to let it go. Every child does deserve as much love and support as they can get.
Of course, it's important not to badmouth your ex (however bad he may be) to your child/ren, but it is acceptable to tell them the amount of truth that they can handle at their age. For instance, at this point, my daughters do know that their dad has not lived up to the "rules" in place by the court in order to have regular visitation (i.e., every other weekend, like some of their friends). They know he doesn't have a driver's license and does not live in the same county as us. They do not know the last condition, but it's only a matter of time before it becomes appropriate for me to share that with them. Throughout certain events, they have learned that their dad isn't very responsible, and they are aware that he does not give me money on a regular basis.
They are also learning, just through our daily existence, that I am the one that's here for them. I'm the one who has gone to every school event, every Halloween parade, signed all their report cards, gone to all of the parent teacher conferences, and taken them to every doctor's appointment. As the years go by, while they still love their father, and miss him, they do not rely on him the way that they rely on me.
As hard as it is, as frustrating as it can be, the rewards are there. They're there in the tears you wipe, the hugs and kisses you give, and the oohs and aahs you exclaim over their latest drawing. The truth always outs. And being the responsible parent always pays off in the end!

Monday, December 10, 2007

An Open Letter to Los Angeles Drivers

Dear L.A. drivers,

Hi. I’m someone else on the road that, and I know this may come as a great shock to some of you, YOU DO NOT OWN…particularly those of you in a Mercedes or BMW. Just because you paid more money for your car, you still don’t have right-of-way at all times.

I know for some of you, it has been a while since you’ve read the DMV rules, and some of you may not ever have read them, so let me enlighten you:

A stop sign does not mean to simply put on the brakes, and once stopped, to go. A stop sign means that you do not have the right-of-way and should wait your turn! 4-way stop signs (I know these are confusing, but hang in there) mean that we all take turns.

If you are going to turn, there’s a little handy device called a blinker that should be used so that those either behind or oncoming to you can know that you will be turning. While it may seem like an awful lot of work to flip that handle, you never know when you might be the one waiting to make a left-turn only to find out the car for which you were waiting was turning, too, and you totally could have gone! Think of it as self-serving, if that helps.

Putting on said blinker doesn’t give you the right to go, however, if again…well, it just ain’t your turn yet!

Putting on said blinker from the far right lane does not mean that all the cars to the left of you will suddenly disappear so that you can turn left from there.

Turn the bleeping blinker off once you’ve changed lanes!

When there is traffic, and people are merging onto the freeways, what works best is if we let the cars in one-by-one. We’ve all been waiting a long time and letting that one car in is not going to kill anyone!

When there is traffic, riding my bumper is not going to change the fact that there are about a million cars in front of me. I can only go as fast as the cars in front of me.

When on surface streets, revving by me when I’m already going 40 in a 40-mile-zone is only going to mean that I get to laugh at you when we reach the stoplight and are indeed face-to-face again.

When there is a picture of a U-turn with the circle and the line going through it, it means NO U-TURNS ALLOWED. I’ve never seen a disclaimer under it that says, “oh, except when you really, really want to.”

If you’re running so late that you don’t have time to wait for the cars that have the right-of-way to go before you merge in, guess what? That’s completely your problem and not mine.

While I appreciate the drive-through service of flowers and oranges by the side of the road (and I generally love all drive-throughs – Starbucks, if you’re listening…more, please!), only buy if you’re prepared with the money in hand and you keep an eye on the lights.

Whatever happened to hugging the curb when you’re going to turn? That was a nice little gesture to the cars behind that aren’t turning. Can that please make a come-back? I’ve tried to re-ignite the trend, but it just doesn’t seem to be catching on!

So that’s my list for today. I’m sure I’ve neglected a few items that will most likely occur on tonight’s drive home, but I’ll try not to obsess about this. At a certain point, however, something has to be said!

Thanks to anyone who heeds this list in their future driving…most especially if you’re driving in L.A.!



Sunday, December 9, 2007


Have you seen those commercials where they say they live in [shorten the name of various cities and countries and put in all one word] land? I think it's for cellular service.
Well, my land is here on the world wide web.
This week alone, I've been involved in online discussions about abortion, tax and health care reform, separation of church and state, deadbeat dads, female suicide bombers, the gag rule, Xmas wars, gay marriage, the shooter in Texas, the London baby, the MySpace mom, the 6-year-old arrested for a felony tantrum, vegan eating and the dangers of dairy, the Catholic priests guilty of child molesting, the cult that encouraged raising "sexual children," best and worst business stories of 2007, life insurance options, and had a tiramisu thrown at me.
And yet...still can't think of anything to write here!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A MeMe

I'd like to thank Hallie's Place for giving me something to write tonight. I'm completely out of sorts, but don't feel like ranting, and can't bring myself to talk about it right now.

Play along if you’d like. Leave me a comment so I can go read your answers.

1. What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now? White Rain shower gel

2. Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator? No. I may live in L.A., but I don't think even we have watermelons right now!

3. What would you change about your living room? something that keeps all those kid things off the floor!

4. Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty? dirty

5. What is in your fridge? It's way over there. I'm not getting up to look, sorry. There's food and drink.

6. White or wheat bread? Wheat.

7. What is on top of your refrigerator? candy

8. What color or design is on your shower curtain? dark green - it was here before I moved in, and I liked it so it stayed.

9. How many plants are in your home? none - I have a black thumb.

10. Is your bed made right now? No.

11. Comet or Soft Scrub? Comet

12. Is your closet organized? Yes, it is! I totally love my organized closet.

13. Can you describe your flashlight? Adding to grocery list: flashlight.

14. Do you drink out of glass or plastic more at home? Glass - cheaper.

15. Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now? No, but I normally do in the summer.

16. If you have garage, is it cluttered? I do have a garage :), and it's not too cluttered, although I could restack the boxes.

17. Curtains or blinds? Blinds.

18. How many pillows do you sleep with? one. There are 2 in the bed, but the other one is used by my cat and my kids when they crawl in (usually Riley).

19. Do you sleep with any lights on at night? no, but I leave a light on in the girls' room.

20. How often do you vacuum? I'd like to say once a week, but usually, it's every 2 weeks.

21. Standard toothbrush or electric? Electric. But I need a new one.

22. What color is your toothbrush? Again, that requires getting up and checking. Not going to happen. Oh, I think it's red!

23. Do you have welcome mat on your front porch? yes

24. What is in your oven right now? Nothing.

25. Is there anything under your bed? Yes, my blue overnight bag is stored there. And that's all I'm going to cop to at the moment.

26. Chore you hate the most? cleaning my cat's litter box. Somehow, has never managed to be fun.

27. What retro items are in your home? My fave is the sauce pan I have that was my parents' in the '70s. It's got blue flowers on it.

28. Do you have separate room you use an an office? No.

29. How many mirrors are in your home? Including the wall in my daughters' room, 4.

30. Do you have any hidden emergency money around your home? If I did, I would've forgotten where it is. But I have found money in places I wasn't expecting to. That's always fun!

31. What color are your walls? The living room and dining area are a light blue, my bathroom is light green, my bedroom is a much hotter pink than I expected, but I'm dealing with it, and my daughters' room is a light pink.

32. What does your home smell like right now? I can't really smell anything specific.

33. Favorite candle scent? vanilla.

34. What kind of pickles are in your refrigerator right now? kosher

35. Ever been on your roof? nope.

36. Do you own a stereo? yes

37. How many TV’s do you have? 3

38. How many phones? one cordless, two cells.

39. Do you have a housekeeper? LOL no.

40. What style do you decorate in? whatever's given to me, cheap, or on sale.

41. Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints? solid

42. Is there a smoke detector in your home? Yep!

I realize this isn't the best meme ever, so sorry about that. My brain's just a little too discombobulated today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy/Merry [fill in the blank]

I know I'm not the only one out there who is fed up with the so-called Christmas wars. And I was going to write a typical rant about how everyone needs to get over it. But then, I asked myself, why? Why are people getting so worked up about this?
I think it's because we're all completely freaked out about this upcoming holiday season. I've had quite a few conversations with many different people about their financial fears and woes over this season. Yes, we all know it's not supposed to be about commercialism, and we all believe that the holidays should be about spending times with the ones you love. But we also want to give those ones we love something special. We want a gift from us to make them smile.
Those of us who are parents want to see our children's eyes light up with what they really want.
It's ironic, isn't it? This Christmas war (whatever side of the fence you may be on) is actually a sign of what we all have in common. Our wish to give our loved ones the very best, and the scary realization that we'll most likely fall short.
It's easier to get mad at "them" than to stay mad at ourselves or our circumstances. We can spew and rant and rave, but once we've gotten all that out of our system, what do we have left?
Our disappointment and our fear of our loved ones' disappointment...well, maybe not their disappointment, but not the sparkle that we all want to see in their eyes when our holiday of choice comes around.
I came clean with my girls tonight. I told them that I'm going to do the best I can, but that so far, I haven't bought a single present for them. We usually go get fast food on payday for dinner as a treat for all of us. I told them we're going to have to put a stop to that until after Christmas. They looked over their lists (my kids know about Santa), and pared them down for me a bit. That was helpful, because now I know what will light up their eyes, and I can set more realistic goals, and know exactly what it is I'll be shopping for when payday comes around.
I managed to have this conversation without drama from any of us. I didn't cry, neither did they. I reminded them of the great vacations we took earlier this year. I reminded them of the $400 I've had to spend to keep our car in working order over the last month or so. They were quick to jump in and tell me that they know I'm trying. Then, they started conspiring about what to give me for Christmas.
I'm reminded of a saying the girls taught me: "you get what you get and you don't get upset." I have to take that to heart right now. I have to accept that I just don't have what I want to have financially this Christmas. So be it. I will find a way to make those eyes light up, and we will have a Merry Christmas, dammit!
It's easy to find the scapegoats or even get depressed this time of year. But it only takes just a little more digging, just a little more acceptance, and I think we all can find a way to have a happy/merry [fill in the blank]. Happy shopping!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Parent Teacher Conference 1

Today was the first parent teacher conference of the year with Riley's 2nd grade teacher. *deep sigh* On some points, we completely agree. Actually, on most points, we completely agree. The trouble is, what happens now?
Riley is a good student. She's not the best, she's not the worst, but she's good. She gives me plenty of reasons to be proud of her. Of course, there's always room for improvement.
Problem 1) Disorganization. I've lost count of the times she's forgotten to bring homework all the way home. She's left papers in the car that need to go to school with her. She once even left her whole backpack! I do my best to nag appropriately: Put it in your backpack. Do you have everything? Where's your jacket? Where's your lunch box? However, I'm not there with her at the end of the day. I'm not there when she gets picked up by her after-school program. I'm only there in the morning, and in the evening. And even then, well, any mother knows how it goes! Sometimes, you just miss it.
The teacher (I'll call her Ms. R) said that there will start being more consequences for not having homework completed. She'll start getting red tickets, which can affect their grades. Hopefully, this will be more of an incentive to Riley to take on the responsibility.
Problem 2) Writing. This one's two-fold. One is, she rushes through her work, not doing it as neatly as possible (or, conversely, erases and tries again so many times the paper looks like one of those old carbon copies where you can see every imprint). Ms. R said Riley doesn't seem to enjoy writing, which I find surprising because at home, she writes all the time!
The second fold is the more troublesome. Ms. R was showing me an example of a test where Riley hadn't followed the directions. As far as I could tell, she had. Ms. R finally acquiesced that the directions were confusing (she'd thought they meant the same thing that Riley and I thought), and that she was incredibly unhappy with the program. She gave me the name of the program (Lucy Calkins Writing Program - anyone familiar with this?) so tonight I've begun a rudimentary search for resource materials on this.
I stopped my so-far fruitless search to blog instead! Because here's the thing: where are the parent resources?!? I've heard over and over (and, yes, over) again from LAUSD that parents need to be involved. Yet, when I asked Ms. R if there were any resources on the Internet that Riley and I could use to help her understand this program, I got a blank look. Followed by "oh, that's a good idea!" Okay, I know the internet is still fairly new. I know that she's been teaching longer than the internet has been around. Yet, shouldn't this revolutionary program at least be in touch with the times? Shouldn't there be some way that I can help my daughter with this without getting a teaching credential?
Problem 3: Math. Specifically, number sense, statistics, data analysis, and probability. And yes, you read it right. My daughter is in the 2nd grade. She actually does really well on her in-class tests (she's gotten 100% on 3 out of 4) - it's just the standardized tests that bring her down to an 84% average.
Someone from KIPP described exactly why I hate tests: they're designed to trick students. You've got a 1 in 4 chance of getting it wrong, and the other 3 answers are exactly the kind of mistakes that students are prone to make. Well, isn't that nice? Isn't that encouragement for students to love learning?
But I know that she's got to know that oh-so-lovely standardized 'language.' She's got to learn how to decipher all the tricks they use to still get that right answer. Now, on this, there is some help available. So one of my homework assignments is going onto our State Education website and pulling some of that stuff to go over with her.
Ms. R did agree with me philosophically. And I had a realization that everything that Riley's doing less well in are the things that Ms. R herself doesn't like. I can accept that. However, now I have to pick up the slack and do these things that I don't like, either! "Parent involvement" seems to mean to home school - even when you're sending your kids to school. Fine. Last year, I fought it tooth and nail. This year, I'm saying, fine. I'll do it.
Riley and I sat down tonight and went through her report card together. We talked about these areas where she needs improvement (oh, getting distracted was another problem area - hmmm, wonder where she gets that from?!?), and while I set a goal that we should see all 3's on the next report card, Riley wants to get all 4's. I told her we'll make that the goal for the final report card.
When we went through the comments, Riley started to get very...inward. She does this "turtle-like" impression where she just wants to shut down completely. That was the moment when I was most frustrated with Ms. R. All in all, Riley's a good student. At least one of the comments should have been positive. She got mostly 3's and some 2's. The girl deserves a little praise - I mean, her fluency scores are well past benchmark! So I had to pick up the slack there as well, tell her how proud I am of her, what a good job she's doing. Mind you, not that I wouldn't have said that anyway. But it doesn't seem too much to ask that a little descriptive praise could've come from her teacher, too!
I guess I need to count my blessings, too. After all, I'm only going through this with one of my children now instead of both of them. Sylvia and her teachers and I are in communication as much as we need to be. I can email, call, check the parent website whenever I want. Sylvia can go to tutoring as much as she wants. I'm already seeing big improvements with her.
Just two and a half more years, and Riley gets to go to KIPP, too. This too shall pass.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Power of Positive Thinking

I am not getting sick, I am not getting sick. I don't have a headache. My throat does not hurt. I am not getting sick, I will not get sick.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Sharing

Oh, the drama of 2nd grade friendships!
I remember the constant on-again, off-again friendship Sylvia went through with her best friend. Now it's happening with Riley and her friend, whom I'll call L.
Riley is by nature incredibly giving and empathetic. As much as she fights with her sister, she's usually the first to give in without my intervention.
L made friends with Riley during the first week of school. This is Riley's first year at this school (poor thing, she's gone to a new school every year so far). It seems that L takes full advantage of Riley's giving nature, and Riley sacrifices partly because she's afraid she'll lose L's friendship otherwise.
I learned that L (and others, but mainly L) were eating a lot of Riley's lunch. Riley wanted me to start giving her more and more with each passing day, but hey, I'm not in a position to feed more than my own 2 daughters every day! I told her that her lunch is hers, and that she could tell L and the others that her mommy told her not to share.
It feels weird to say that, but at the same time, it felt necessary.
Danimals were on sale a few weeks ago, so I'd gotten some for the girls. The other day, Riley came home very upset. L and some others had taken her Danimals, and Riley finally went to a teacher to get it back. L then went on to tell the entire class not to be Riley's friend anymore.
Sylvia and I were ready to kick some ass lend some help when we heard that! First, we offered words of support, like “she doesn’t sound like much of a friend,” but Riley didn’t agree with us on that one. We both offered to write notes to L – I would write about how I don’t want Riley to share her lunch, and Sylvia would write about what a good person Riley is.
We added it to that night’s homework. Riley, being Riley, didn’t take them to school the next day. But L had offered her one more chance. That burned me even more! How dare L string my Riley along like that!
They’ve been back and forth like this for a while. And I have tried to be fair about it, taking each situation individually, and telling Riley when she’s done something that could be hurtful to L, trying to teach her how to be a good friend.
But, more and more lately, it seems that L and I have completely different definitions of how friends should treat friends!
Now, I have to figure out how to balance encouraging Riley’s innate kindness, but also, teach her how to toughen up a little more. I did praise her for going to the teacher, as that was the only way she felt she could defend herself, but I also wasn’t pleased with the teacher’s response, which seemed to be an off-handed, “oh, you’ll work it out.” I’m sure they don’t have tons of time to engage in active listening and all that, but it doesn’t seem to me that it would’ve taken too much time for the teacher to tell the kids not to take Riley’s food away from her again.
This navigation of human relationships starts very early, doesn’t it? Learning how to give and take, learning how much one gives or takes…
It’s much easier when they’re toddlers, and you’re trying to teach them how to share properly. Then, you get into the whole equality issue, particularly with siblings! And it seems most of our focus is on teaching how to give.
But at some point, with some people, the teaching of taking can become necessary. Well, not taking so much, but at least learning how to keep what you have. That’s a difficult concept to explain to a 7-year-old.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rambling My Way to a Point: Discipline

I already blew NaBloPoMo, but I'm still going to try to write every day. Why is it whenever you set a goal like this, all of a sudden, your mind goes completely blank? So I'm digging deep into the archives of my history to find something of interest that happened to me. Hmmm....okay, now I'm going to try and think of something interesting that didn't completely suck. Wait for it.
Being in this home really should bring back something. For those of you who don't know, I recently moved back into the condo where I grew up. Since I gave the master bedroom to the girls, I'm actually sleeping in the same bedroom that I slept in when I was in jr. high, high school, and some beyond that as well. So there should be tons of history for me here. And there is! And, actually, most of it isn't so bad, either.
I had a pretty good childhood, when I think about it. I had parents who loved me, supported my ambitions, and I can't think of any time where they said no to something really important to me.
Oooh! Got it! Found a topic! (yay me!)
"Bad Punishments."
Sylvia told me the other day that her friends think I should give her "bad punishments." I'm not real sure what that means andI don't think she knew, either. Sure, she gets on my nerves at times, and she tests me, of course. I yell, send her to her room, and then we both cool down and try to assess what just happened. I know, I shouldn't yell, but I do. That's probably my biggest downfall as a parent.
I let them yell, too. I'd much rather they yell, get the feelings out, hopefully not say anything too hurtful than hit/destroy/let feelings fester/some bad thing that hasn't even crossed my mind yet.
So that's how it works at my house. Yell, separate, come back together, talk, cry, hug and kiss.
I remember on "The Brady Bunch" (I totally loved that show when I was a kid) how the Bradys said that no one should ever go to bed angry. For some reason, that stuck with me. I've experienced the feeling (not with my kids, but I won't go into details) of going to bed with an argument still looming. You wake up, disoriented, not knowing how things stand...ugh, it's awful. Whatever I can do to prevent from ever feeling that way again, I'll do.
So I make my kids talk to me. I make us come to some sort of conclusion. Sometimes, when I think the "crime" has been bad enough, I'll tack on a consequence, too. Things like, not being able to pick a movie, or have soda with dinner. But, frankly, after that, I'm kind of lost as to what kind of privilege to take away. It's not like they go out without me, or have a phone in their room (or even cable). What else is there to do, make them write standards? I want them to enjoy writing, not loathe it! And I make us talk long enough so that I know they get it. I make them say to me what it is that upset me, and why. If I feel it necessary, I'll apologize for my part in it. And then, usually, I feel like it's best to have the matter be closed.
That's pretty much what my parents did, too, come to think of it. There were a few exceptions to that, but they were definitely times when I deserved worse.
I told Sylvia that she really hasn't done anything bad enough to warrant a "bad punishment." I hope that remains the case for a long time!

Monday, November 26, 2007

8 Things

The goddess Lunanik (she knows why I call her that) has tagged me to do this, for which I am grateful because I was clueless on what to write tonight!

8 Things I Am Passionate About:

1.) My children's education. It's why I'm so passionate about KIPP (oh, wait - should've saved that, huh? Oh, well, not too hard for me to find things for which I'm passionate). KIPP fosters an environment that encourages critical thinking, a passion for learning, teamwork, positive peer pressure, and is the first school that truly treated me like a partner.

2.) The United States Constitution. I wasn't raised with religion; I was raised with the morals and values instilled within this document, as well as the Bill of Rights. While I recognize that some of it is broad enough for different interpretations, I truly admire the thought and detail that our forefathers put into creating this country.

3.) Open-mindedness. I do believe that if we truly try to understand another person's point of view, solutions can be found.

4.) Idealism. If we can't dream the impossible, then how would we ever innovate, progress?

5.) Realism. At some point, one either has to take action to create the impossible, or accept and adjust.

6.) Entertainment. I just realized something - I get annoyed with Sylvia for constantly wanting to be entertained in some way, but really I'm just as bad. Movies, TV, music, the internet, Broadway musicals, books, magazines...entertain me already!!

7.) The power of people - and I don't just mean this politically. I mean this in the awe I sometimes feel driving on freeways that people thought up this thing, and built it, and here we are, millions of us, driving over these bridges, these houses, every day! That's really, pretty cool when you think about it. And, in the negative, people can really tick me off, too! (A lot of times, it's the cars in front of or behind me on those blasted freeways!)

8.) That it really is all about balance.

8 Things I Want To Do Before I Die:

1.) Go see a Broadway show in NY again. We're planning a trip for 3 years from now at Xmas - hope I don't die before that!

2.) See my children graduate from college.

3.) Go to Hawaii.

4.) Take another cruise - this time, as a passenger. I used to work as an entertainer on a cruise ship.

5.) Make some type of major contribution to society. I know, it sounds cliche, but my dream is to build and run a community for single parents (not a virtual community, a real one). Anyone out there want to help? Anyone? Anyone?

6.) Sing again in public before I die. I miss that.

7.) Own property.

8.) I would totally love to argue a case in court one day as a lawyer. Or at least, play one on TV.

8 Things I Say Often:

1.) OMG. Blame it on Legally Blonde the Musical. I do.

2.) Seriously...I'm with you on this one, Lunanik. Damn Grey's Anatomy!

3.) Actually... I didn't realize how much I said it until the girls started saying it all the time.

4.) Girls, I woke up late, we gotta hurry.

5.) I'm so tired. Apparently, I find life very exhausting!

6.) I need more coffee. S'bux gift cards are welcome at any time!!

7.) Girls, stop it! Usually preceded by high-pitched screams. Followed by them, too, actually.

8.) Are we there yet? Yes, I say that. Whenever we go to Disneyland at Autopia. I say it over and over and over. The girls crack up - they're an easy audience.

8 Books I Have Read Recently
I almost skipped this one because I'm embarrassed to confess that I have not read a non-ChickLit book in quite a while. I think I'm still recovering from all the serious reading I did at Antioch, followed by my 2 semesters of paralegal school. Plus, all the non-fiction of late is either depressing or enraging, and I'm not in the mood to be least, no more than I already am! *deep breath* Here goes:

1.) To Be The Best by Barbara Taylor Bradford: So I finally decided to read A Woman of Substance a while back because it had been one of my mother's favorites so I'm blaming my whole Emma Harte series on her!

2.) Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LeZebnik: oh goody! I get to blame my mother again! She gave it to me to encourage both my love of knitting and reading. And it was a fun book.

3.) Hold the Dream by Barbara Taylor Bradford: Part 2 of the Emma Harte series.

4.) A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford: Yes, the one that started it all.

5.) Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner: I loved this book. I've liked all her books! The way she writes about motherhood...humorous, touching, inspiring.

6.) Marrying Mom by Olivia Goldsmith: Not as much as a man-hating book as some of her others, which I found disappointing. I got it 'cause I was in the mood for a man-hating book!

7.) Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie: I've read this book like 10 times now, and still love it. It's stupid, corny, but funny and still gets to me.

8.) Liberated Parents Liberated Children by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlich: While I can't say this book completely changed my life or anything, it did solidify and clarify things I was already trying to do as a mom, and I can't recommend it highly enough (or any/all of their books) to moms who are looking for ways to better communicate with their children.

8 Songs I Could Listen To Over And Over
I definitely have more than 8 of these, but here are the ones that come to mind first.

1.) So Much Better from Legally Blonde the Musical (this one is especially special to me right now because the girls and I have so much fun belting it out together)
2.) Defying Gravity from Wicked (again, fun song to sing, but also inspiring and energizing)
3.) For Now from Avenue Q (whenever I feel like I don't think I can take another day, this song helps me put it all in perspective again)
4.) The Finale from Ain't Misbehavin'
5.) Without Love from Hairspray
6.) anything from Sweeney Todd
7.) anything from Into the Woods
8.) Seasons of Love from Rent

8 Things That Attract Me To My Best Friends

1.) Being able to talk for hours and hours - not just one of us, but both of us.

2.) A wicked sense of humor. 'Cause I'm sick that way.

3.) Something important in common - being a parent, loving musicals, hating Bush...just something! Preferably more than 1, though. There's only so much mommy/musical/madness talk I can take!

4.) An ability to actively listen. To attempt to understand what I'm feeling - not necessarily agree with it, but at least to try and understand.

5.) Someone who will kick me in the ass when necessary! (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

6.) I love it when my friends can take one look at me or hear in the sound of my voice that something is wrong.

7.) Enough self-knowledge to know that they're not perfect, either.

8.) They get it when I just don't feel like talking.

Kori and Kate - I tag you now!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Type A personality? Moi?

I was browsing this article on ideas for gifts, and the knitting section caught my eye because I learned how to knit earlier this year. It was because Sylvia wanted to learn, so I went to this mini-clinic to learn for her, and ended up falling in love with it. The article stated that knitting is perfect for Type A personalities that have to have everything their way. Ouch!
Okay, yes, I admit it. I like things my way. But here's what I don't get: are there really people on Earth who don't like things their way when possible? I know some people can be fairly easy-going about things, but can you seriously tell me that they'd rather not have things go their way? That takes masochism to a whole new level.
I think - and if this smacks of rationalization then so be it - that people who don't have any idea of what they want are in a more difficult position than those who do know what they want. And, believe it or not, I can relate. I'm currently going through an early (well, at least I think it's early) mid-life crisis still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I can't say it's any less frustrating to not know what I want than to not get what I want.
Knitting is a perfect antidote to life for me. I still have some control - and there's no one I can blame but myself when things don't turn out right - but my mind only needs to be somewhat engaged. Never good at standing still completely, it gives me something to do with my hands. And completing a project successfully gives me a sense of accomplishment.
Once you're out of school, there are so few moments to feel that pride of accomplishment. With kids, just as you've accomplished one hurdle, another one's staring you in the face. At work, the euphoria of a completed project lasts about 5 minutes before you're onto the next one. The home never stays completely clean, and the laundry is never done. And I was a good student, too! I loved those A's, those Antioch assessments tailored just for me!
I really enjoy being a novice knitter, too. I don't expect perfection from myself on this, and every finished project is an accomplishment in and of itself.
I may be the lady protesting too much here, but I also think the person who wrote that article has some serious issues that don't need to be taken out on knitters or Type A personalities!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gauging the Horseplay or Countdown to the Screams

We were at my sister's for the holiday. This morning, we were watching their 2 dogs who were playing. They were wrestling around a bit, so I told them to stop. Sylvia told me, "but they're just playing." I told her, "yes, but that's how you and your sister start. And before you know it, the physical play starts getting too physical and someone gets hurt."
The dogs managed to hold it together, but I stand by the remark for the girls.
It's that blasted balancing thing again - balancing the "just having fun" to the screams and the tears (and possible bruises).
I keep hoping that they're getting old enough to outgrow this stage. But I think I remember my nephews still doing that up to last year! Does the fact that they're girls give me any hope at all?
I'm sure that some of it is from just being together too much. They're only apart when they're at school (and then they act like they haven't seen each other in years), and they do have to share a bedroom, but at the same time, they refuse to spend time in separate rooms unless and until I demand it.
I can relate to a certain extent, but at the same time, my sister and I always had our own rooms. Then, she was 6 years older than me, so she stopped living with us when I was in junior high.
When I was in 7th grade, a teacher asked me if I were an only child. I said, "yes, but I have a sister." The answer made perfect sense to me!
I honestly don't remember us getting physical with each other, although I wouldn't be surprised if my sis or parents remembered it differently.
I try, of course, to use it as an opportunity to tell them that there are better ways of dealing with their anger, but I also understand that feeling of sheer rage, where reason is the furthest thing from my mind. So I know I can't get through to them at that point.
The only thing that I've found works is just trying to separate them as fast as possible. Or, if we're in a moving vehicle, blasting the music so loud (and belting as loud as I can on top of it) that the audio overload will momentarily make them forget why they're so mad at each other.
No matter how many times we go through this, though, they still look at me so innocently when I tell them to watch their sense of the foreboding that I see no matter how many times we live the experience. When will the recall set in?!?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Holidays!

As today marks the official beginning of the holiday season, I wish you all season's greetings! I hope you are offended by no one, and appreciated by everyone. May your holiday travels not be marred by fog, rain, sleet, snow, or canceled flights. May union strikes not affect your joy of entertainment (or livelihood, as applicable). May you be overindulged with lavish gifts of great monetary value, and may you be overwhelmed with love and warmth. And may your New Year not be fraught with nightmarish credit card bills!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Way We Never Were

So someone posted this "so true" (if you're to believe the comments on it) bit of "wisdom" on another group:
Our 'drugged' generation The other day, someone at a store in our town read that a Methamphetamine lab had been found in an old farmhouse in the adjoining county and he asked me a rhetorical question. 'Why didn't we have a drug problem when you and I were growing up?' I replied, I had a drug problem when I was young: I was drug to church on Sunday morning. I was drug to church for weddings and funerals. I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather. I was drug by my ears when I was disrespectful to adults. I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or the preacher, or if I didn't put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me. I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profanity. I was drug out to pull weeds in mom's garden and flowerbeds and cocklebur's out of dad's fields. I was drug to the homes of family, friends and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair the clothesline, or chop some firewood; and, if my mother had ever known that I took a single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the woodshed. Those drugs are still in my veins and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, or think. They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin; and, if today's children had this kind of drug problem, America would be a better place. God bless the parents who drugged us.
Are you serious with this?
I don't know how I didn't end up a crack addict, then, because I was never "drug" to church, or had my mouth washed out with soap, or even got a bad report card. According to this, though, I should be strung out on heroine somewhere.
Why do people feel the need to reminisce on the "good old days" that never existed? I'm not quite sure what time period this person grew up, but if it was during my day, there were drugs aplenty. I just never chose to indulge.
If they were talking about my parents' generation, they also had drugs aplenty. They just chose never to indulge.
If they were talking about an earlier time, there still were drugs and alcohol. And there are plenty of stories (in our own personal histories, as well as historical accounts) that show that addiction has existed as far back as we can see.
To try to tie it all up neatly in a fictional account of how things were is not only a waste of time, but can be dangerous.
We do need to actually talk to our kids, to actually treat them like human beings worthy of our respect (as we expect from them). The more we distance ourselves from our kids, the more we lose sight of who they really are. The type of attitude shown above is how we end up with babies being born and dumped in public restrooms and trashes. When our kids don't feel comfortable talking to us, opening up to us about their imperfections, their fears, their doubts, their worries, their concerns, where are they going to go to get the advice they need?
I read somewhere that parents train their children rather than listen to them, and this is what causes confused adults (or irresponsible, drug-addicted, insert negative attribute here). I don't want to be that type of parent. I want to be the type of parent that actually does listen to my children.
This is not to say that discipline is not important. Of course, I discipline my children. Of course, they must learn that their actions cause consequences.
In fact, the girls and I were talking quite seriously about consequences and blame when listening to Into the Woods yesterday. We got to the song "It's Your Fault," where the characters blame and snipe at each other about the giant in their midst, the Baker's Wife's death, and all the other things currently going wrong in their little kingdom. It was the perfect opportunity for us to discuss that sometimes, we don't even know what our actions will cause (i.e., the Butterfly Effect). We also discussed the characters' wishes, the problems that those wishes caused when they came true, and how each wish simply led to more wishes.
I think teaching our children to think, particularly before they act, is much more beneficial than just dragging them around!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

105 Facts About Me


-- 7 years

a GC from the MomsTeam

Of course!

Like worked out a problem? A scheduling conflict?

My kids.

A sandwich.


For Now from Avenue Q

Los Angeles

L.A. County High School for the Arts


13. FAVORITE MALL STORE: - I hate malls

This one - 4 years.

Oh, I'm sure the girls have a pair in one of their games

NO - drunk dial, yes.

My nephew Ian's.


About a month ago

Del Taco

Everything happens for a reason.

Anyplace where I don't have to pick up any part of the tab!

that's debatable.

Toyota Camry

I plead the 5th

last night


I can laugh at myself

getting too emotional

New Year's Eve at my old job. I worked from 8 in the am 'til about 2 the next am.

Can't pick one, but one fave is Desk Set.


Bette Midler - over 7 years ago.

does my daughter count?




Desktop I wish I had a laptop

Couldn't choose one, but one is Lewis Black

All right, fine, yes! Leave me alone!



I know of one very successful one


french toast

Does a bear...

over easy




plead the 5th


jeans, t-shirt, sweatshirt.

The difference between a cow and a bean is a bean can begin an adventure!


I can play, but I'm not any good!



I like Thomas Guide.

I once sang the national anthem at a Byron Scott basketball game




7:45 am.

living in L.A.

8 years ago.


Jack is cool.

Had B'fast with the Principal yesterday, then went to Dream Dinners, then got to have a few hours to myself, went to see a play, had drinks afterwards, and today we're going to a family b-day party.

It was 1973

Yeah, I don't know.


not currently

no one in particular





black (of course)

Not in school








I never wear jewelry

finish cleaning the house, get ready to go to the aforementioned b-day party.

Nikki - I tag you to do this next!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Why We Still Need Feminism

Nikki wrote a blog about how feminism creates more divorce, and cited this article in Forbes. And all I could think was that feminism still has a long way to go.
Now, this isn't to say it's not moving fast enough. Sure, I'd like progress to move faster, but given all the other problems we all face every day, it has to take its place in line.
Statistics and stereotypes. I was going to write a blog on "the blame game" yesterday, based on a different debate about welfare assistance. But now I think that statistics and stereotypes are really where the blame lies on most of these arguments.
The first statistic to overcome is this one that's supposedly been proven over and over again that married people are happier (or, according to Noer, healthier) people. How have we come to this foregone conclusion? I certainly wasn't happier when I was married! And it had nothing to do with me being a "career woman" (I can't believe I meet his criteria, because all I am is a lowly secretary). It had to do with the fact that my husband was a drug addict loser that stole $$ from our family to support his habit. I wasn't happier in my first marriage, either. I was pretty much just an idiot (I was only 19) who thought that a cruise ship romance could work in real life. Not.
But I know I'm just one person here. But here's my first point: when are REAL people going to start mattering? When are we going to start actually looking at individuals AS individuals and stop counting on statistics to tell us what to think of them?
And here's the point that Nikki made, and not necessarily as a negative, but simply for what it was. When divorces became easier (not easy, mind you, but easier), when more opportunities opened up for women, women took them. And we're supposed to be shocked that the divorce rates rose? Well, duh! That was the whole point! Women didn't have to be stuck in loveless marriages, or even at home with kids if that's not what they wanted. And I don't think women in happy marriages left. I don't think women who loved staying home with their kids felt like they were being forced into the workplace.
Now, some are. I still don't think that's the fault of feminism. It's the males who prove themselves incapable of being real men that leave single moms with no choice but to pick up the slack. Or of not being man enough to accept that their wife is making money, or because men can't handle the changes in the "labor specializations" that Noer describes. Or, in the cases of those former career women who are now SAHMs, supposedly unhappy with their lives, maybe it's because their husbands treat them like idiots now that apparently only care about their kids' poopy diapers.
It's not surprising I guess that Noer, being a man and all, can explain away all these statistics as the fault of women. And I suppose, if I wanted to be fair, I'd have to say that it can't be the man's fault all of the time. But isn't it worth at least exploring their part in this instead of just blaming it on the career woman?
Most women I know that work, but would rather stay home (and have a husband working), have come to terms with the knowledge that they want the extras, the luxuries that their working affords them. One woman commented on Nikki's blog that woman who have children should stay home with them.
I'm still not convinced of this. I believe that some women can do both, and that the real question should be, what does the woman want to do? Because if she's doing what she wants, then she's showing her children by example that you should and can go after what you want, and make it work.
I've also had discussions regarding the concept of "having it all." Women of this generation have come to understand that having it all is a loose term that can be manipulated to fit your wants and your realities into a compromise that fulfills you. Will some women take it too far on one end or the other? Sure. We all struggle with finding our balance. But I don't have a right to judge another woman's struggle, nor do I have to. There are always consequences to our actions, from the kids who resent/hate their moms for never being home to the later years in a "career woman's" life where she has no one to greet her at the end of the day.
But I will take issue with men like Noer who continue to point the blame at the women, and never look at men to see where their responsibilities and faults lie.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Anti-Union Blog

I'm a bad liberal. I dislike unions.
Oh sure, I get choked up when I see Sally Field holding the UNION sign in Norma Rae, and one of my favorite musicals that I've done was The Cradle Will Rock, the pro-union rock opera written in the 1920's. But that was the 1920's. This is now.
Today, we almost have enough federal laws to protect workers from discrimination, all workers (that are citizens, at least) are protected from slave and/or child labor, and we do have litigation options in the event of other forms of violation. It's not a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination. But the imperfections will not be fixed by the segregation of union workers versus non-union workers. The existence of unions today, I believe, do more harm than good.
Although I live and work in Los Angeles, I'm not directly affected by the current writers strike, but of course, I'm hyper-aware of it.
Earlier this week, I was questioning myself on why I just can't get worked up on the writers' behalf. I realize they have a point...but I also know that pretty much every worker in America today is getting screwed on some level by someone, and why should they get special treatment?
This article gives a good overview about those workers that are affected by this strike, yet won't gain any protection. Do you think the caterers are going to be able to claim a percentage of DVD profits? Or the secretaries that work in the studios?
And let's say the strike is effective for the writers. Does Tina Fey actually think that NBC is just going to give up that money without anyone else being affected? Can anyone say "salary freeze"? Or lay-offs?
I became more sensitive of this issue when we had the grocery workers strike a few years ago. Over the holidays. I knew a family of five where both parents worked at the grocery store, and the strike dragged on so long they were making a whopping $50 a week each in December. When the strike was finally over, the husband did not get the promotion that he was supposed to get before the strike. Two grocery stores near my parents' house closed down...wonder what happened to those workers? It was all done quietly away from media attention, but you better believe that the big bad grocery stores made up the losses!
It is naive to believe that this kind of "fight for fairness" won't be incredibly unfair for those that live and work outside the umbrella of a union. And that happens to be a very large class of people, including myself.
Do I get to just stop showing up for work because I was denied a promotion? Or because I didn't think my raise was big enough (nor is it ever enough to truly meet the "standard of living" pay-out increases)? No. I gotta suck it up and deal.
Then, there's the question of how accountable these unions' leaders are. The grocery workers' strike had more to do with the unions' bad money management than the "outrage" of the rise in health care costs. The members had been paying into a fund that was supposed to cover the difference when the grocery stores inevitably had to raise the cost of insurance, but the union had squandered that money. While my neighbors were trying to survive on $100 a week, the union leader continued to take home his $2 million/year salary!
Oh, yeah. And then there's the point of: hello! Welcome to the 21st century! The REST of us non-union workers have been swallowing the rising costs of insurance for years. Why did you get to be immune for so long to this nationwide problem?!?
A few friends of mine belong to a production-related union. I've NEVER heard them say a positive word about their union. Ever. They've had their 401k funds screwed up, they haven't gotten the raises or the chances of promotion that they should be getting, they've had their union dues go up to the point of taking home less money from year to year...and yet, to remain in their job, they're REQUIRED to be members of this union.
Which leads me to another issue with unions. The loss of freedom. Suppose there was a writer somewhere in Hollywood today saying, you know. I'm all right with it. I have a nice, good steady job, getting to do something I love. I recognize that MOST Americans don't even have that right now. I recognize that some Americans are getting their limbs blown off in Iraq right now. I recognize that some Californians lost their homes in fires a couple of weeks ago. I'm quite thankful to have what I have, and I'd rather just keep doing it.
But they can't. They can't because if they cross the picket line, they're barred from the union for life. Which means that if and when the strike is over, they can't be hired because the writers have to be union. Are REQUIRED to be. Even if you think the union sucks, even if you didn't personally vote for the strike. You either strike or forfeit your right to ever work in this town again. But, really, it's for your own good.
And it's the good fight, right? The creative talent is getting pushed around by the big, bad corporations.
I'm not saying they don't have a point at all. But we ALL do. We all have to suck up some unpleasant aspects of our job because that's how the real world works.
And those of us in the real world need our escapism. The entertainment industry counts on our need to escape in order to exist. Well, we need them right now. It may be pathetic and sad, but I get through the day by thinking about what I have to look forward to watching that night. Monday: "How I Met Your Mother" and "Samantha Who?" Tuesday: "Boston Legal" Wed: Yay! "Pushing Daisies" and "Dirty Sexy Money" Thurs: the big night! "My Name is Earl," "The Office," "Grey's Anatomy."
This is what I think about when my alarm goes off at 5:30 am. This is what my friends and I talk about when we're not bitching about work or our kids. This is why I want Sylvia to finish her homework already so I can see what's on my List, and pull out my knitting and stop thinking already! Stop worrying about the fact that my credit cards are already maxed out and I haven't bought a single Christmas present yet. Stop wondering if I'm caught up on laundry enough to not do some tonight. Stop adding to the growing and growing grocery list where all I hear is "ka ching..." The only way I can ever listen to President Bush is when it's followed by Jon Stewart's "he he he" impression. And, yes, try not to think about the fact that I'm quickly approaching the dreaded 35 with the brightest hope in my future being, at least I'm not still with my ex. Try not to feel alone, lonely, depressed, sorry for myself, sorry for my kids...just not feel. Or project my feelings into someone else's story, at least. Make myself believe that I'm crying because Kitty Walker's baby died instead of crying for myself.
Or get a little self-help in humor...shaking my head at the incredible thing that Steve Carrell just did/said on "The Office." Feel better about by myself by thinking, well at least I don't work there!
I'm well aware that there are other forms of entertainment. And I do read a lot, too. (No, really, I do!) But you can't knit and read. And sometimes, the reading just inspires more thinking and makes it hard to sleep at night. Sometimes, I just don't even want to work that hard! I just want to stop. I just want someone to indulge me by entertaining me.
So, yes, I feel personally slighted by the strike as well.
It's a sweet concept that a group of people standing up together can make a difference. And they probably can. For themselves. But until we all belong to the same union, we will not all be able to stand together.
To truly make a difference, we need to stand up united as the working class. Anything else just creates greater division.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Haunted Halloween

Oh, goody! Riley won. A fish. Great.
At the Boys & Girls Club Halloween party, Riley won a fish. I'd squeaked by this once before a few years ago at the school fair. They'd run out of live fish and were giving out coupons to go to the store to redeem for the fish (again, Riley was the winner). I told the girls we couldn't get it because of our cat, and then something shiny caught their attention and the fish was forgotten.
Last week, Riley was handed a fish in a bag. Wonderful.
It's Halloween! I'm supposed to go buy a fish bowl, fish food, figure out where to put this fish sometime between dinner, trick-or-treating and celebrating Sylvia's birthday? And then there was the issue of me being broke. Not happening.
Riley actually took it well, the dear girl. But while I was explaining the myriad of reasons why this fish would be happier somewhere else, Sylvia was trying her luck at the same booth. She comes up to us, crying hysterically that she didn't win, and when she heard Riley had given her fish back, somehow manages to find the strength and tears to cry even harder. On her birthday. In the middle of a gymnasium where the sounds of children shouting, music blasting and the feet pounding echo all around.
Then, today, I read a post in a forum about a woman who was WAY nicer than me and had let her child keep the prized fish. She even went and bought another fish to keep it company. Then that fish died. Now she's trying to figure out whether or not to buy yet another fish.
Why, oh why, do these places insist on giving our children these fish, and torturing us parents with these type of dilemmas?
Riley saw Sylvia crying, and then went off on me for making Sylvia cry on her birthday. Still in the middle of said oh-so-quiet gymnasium. GET ME OUT OF HERE!!! So I said, that's it. We're going home.
Sylvia went off to get her stuff, and Riley tried to run away to another booth. I go after Riley, Sylvia comes back, and starts crying again because I'm not still in the exact position I was when she'd left. She now thinks I abandoned her on her birthday.
Halloween has turned me into the Wicked Witch of the West.
I manage to pull it together enough to take a good long look at my just-turned-10-year-old. The cacophony of sounds still around me, it hits me the type of day she's had.
We had awakened early so that Sylvia would have time to open her presents before school. Then there was the excitement of getting dressed up in costume. Then, of course, going to school and seeing everyone else's costumes. Plus, as an Ambassador at KIPP, she had an interview with a local radio station. They ended instruction a couple of hours early to have a Halloween party. Once that was over, it was off to the Boys & Girls Club for their party. And I never had the stomach to ask just how much sugar she'd consumed thus far.
I came down to her level and said, "you're just overwhelmed right now, aren't you? This has been a very big day." She starts crying fresh, stammering "yyyessss" and bawling all over again. I held her as she sobbed and said, "let's get out of here." She nodded, sharing my sensory overload.
Prior to her birth 10 years ago, Halloween had never been a favorite holiday of mine. This year reminded me of all the reasons why.
Once we left the madness of the gymnasium, Sylvia calmed down almost immediately and was quick to tell me I was right about the fish. Thank goodness for small favors!

Monday, November 5, 2007

For a Few Good Laughs...

I'll add this to My Favorite Sites, but I had to highlight this enjoyable blog.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What I Learned Today

It's been a very interesting day. Today was my first "full" day on a debating moms' site where it's been me against a slew of very conservative Christians. We debated homosexuality and religion ad nauseum! But I actually learned something. I don't know if they did, too, but I'm not there for their educational purposes. I'm there for my own.
So here's what I figured out. Christians think homosexuality has been shoved down their throats, and those (like me) that support the gay rights' movement think Christianity has been shoved down ours! Part of me wonders why they're so upset about it because by my count, their side is winning.
However, it was a very interesting lesson in propaganda and visceral reactions.
They believe that the homosexuals "started it." It started for me when Bush tried to amend our Constituion to support segregation. But as I told them, I don't have the inclination to go back in time and see who shot the first bullet. I just find it really interesting that each of our side's propaganda about it says the other one did.
I have visceral reactions to people trying to quote the Bible to me or my kids. They have visceral reactions to people trying to say homosexuality is okay to them or their children. Really, it's our own strong beliefs that make us feel so strongly about it! Because I certainly didn't care when Riley had a fellow classmate that had two mommies - but I cared a lot when someone tried to show Sylvia "Passion of the Christ!"
Looking at it as a mom, I have to recognize that my children are going to hear things from others that aren't my belief system. It's my job as a mom to deal with it, as I have. A well-meaning neighbor left a postcard for a Halloween event her church is giving. My kids knew right away that we weren't going since it took place at a church, so they've obviously learned my belief system! And she's a very nice person who simply invited us to an event that I wouldn't go to, but I think I'll just tell her, thanks for the invite but we're busy - and not get into my whole "I don't believe in organized religion" thing.
In learning to accept that our children will learn different views, we learn to accept that our children are their own individuals. I wrote elsewhere about how my children delight me the most when they say or do something that I wouldn't necessarily expect (in a humorous or nice way). If I can supposedly embrace their individuality, shouldn't I be able to embrace that they're learning from others as well? Or that they can decipher the material with both my take and someone else's take and reach their very own conclusions about it?
In other words, I'm going to try and lighten up a little! This does not mean, of course, that I will stop espousing my beliefs and values to my children, but I will try not to become such a mother lionesse about it when someone mentions JC in front of them!
Being reasonable doesn't come easy, but when it comes to being a mom, it's always the best answer.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Kids and Communication

Let me start by saying I know I don't know everything, or even everything about this topic, but I feel like I need to say what I do think and I'm hoping that writing this will act as a reminder to myself as well on how to behave now and in the future.
Lunanik has written about the birth control debate that has been the subject of a forum on a community we're both in, and Mommy Needs Coffee wrote about the lessons she's learning as the parent of a teen. I thought one of the comments was very interesting to Mommy Needs Coffee's post regarding how this is a time when adolescents discover that indeed their parents don't know everything.
I have never said that I did. I don't think my girls are in for any great shock to discover that there are many things that I don't know. This is one of the reasons that I apologize when I'm wrong (another being, it's the right thing to do, and I expect them to do the same), that I admit when I don't know something and let's look it up on the internet together, that I allow them to see my humanity. I have never tried to pretend that I'm perfect to my kids, nor have I ever demanded perfection from them. I have expectations about their behavior in public and at home, I don't let them get away with "but I didn't know" as an excuse when it's something that they absolutely have been told at least 30 to 300 times before, and I continually tell them that I only get mad when I know they can do better, to which they both agree.
I found it interesting to note how many mothers on the birth control issue that were so adamant about this being a terrible thing don't actually have kids even in grade school yet! They are still experiencing the wonderful time when mothers might possibly know everything they need to know.
The other interesting thing about one of the comments on the Mommy Needs Coffee blog was a note that since Americans keep kids in school longer (than what country? I'm not sure) that we actually are dealing with adults but treating them like children. I completely disagree with this.
Considering that our brains aren't fully developed until we're 25, I actually think we're letting them out of the "nest" too soon. (This is why insurance is more expensive for under 25 drivers, btw.) However, they have reached a level of "enlightenment" that allows them to understand how little control we actually have as parents.
One of my favorite moments ever from "The Sopranos" was when Meadow had thrown the party at her grandmother's house, and Tony and Carmela were trying to figure out what they could actually do to her. Tony commented (probably not an exact quote), "as soon she knows we are completely powerless, we're fucked!" Truer words have never been spoken.
Any parent that actually believes that they have "control" over their teenager is just plain wrong. I even know a few mothers that have sons that tower over them!
Now, hopefully we've developed the sort of relationship with our kids that they will actually listen and follow rules, curfews, etc. When they don't, what's the answer?
Shouldn't the first step be talking? The phrase "a cry for help" has often been uttered as maybe not so much a reason but rather an explanation for why certain kids do certain things. Maybe that should be our first response as parents. Maybe we look at the "incident" as a symptom for an underlying problem, and deal with that.
If that's not the case, then what's next? Consequences seem to be appropriate. Taking away certain privileges, or allowing the school to deal with the problem when they've been brought into the situation.
After that, we must ask for outside help. We must recognize that we don't have the solutions and try to find counselors, organizations, other parents, other friends, anyone that is at least willing to step up and say, "hey, I might have an answer for you." (Of course, keeping in mind that we use some common sense here and don't send our kids to one of those camps that has been found guilty of negligence or anything like that!) I think really good parents are willing to recognize when their own solutions haven't been effective.
And sometimes we just need to step back and let our kids fall.
Already, I feel like my job from Monday through Thursday is that of a drill sergeant, and it ain't fun. Girls, get up! Get your lunchboxes. Get your glasses. Get your shoes on. Sylvia, what homwork do you have? Break's over, back to homework. Riley, stop bothering your sister, she's doing homework. Girls, finish dinner already! It's time for homework! Sylvia, I'm not signing your agenda until you put everything away.
And a few times, I've even taken a step back from that. The other night, I told Sylvia, "Don't do your homework. Get a ZAP. Go to bed." Of course, she protested (ZAP stands for Zeroes Aren't Permitted and when you get one, you have to stay an hour after school) and got to work.
Middle school has become a time where she's expected to take on more responsibilities, and there's only so much I can do for her. She did tell me once that she appreciated that I stuck by her and cared enough to make sure she got it done. I guess that's supposed to last me through these past few weeks of whining and carrying on about homework!
I'm still struggling to find the right balance there between being involved and letting her be. And I guess it's the start of a very long road of the next 8 years until she's at least legally considered an adult.
At our last breakfast with the Principal, he was telling us about a group of boarding schools that will be coming to the school in a few weeks to recruit some of the 8th graders. He mentioned that boarding schools offer the best education for high school. I'm wondering how much of that has to do with the absence of parent-teen conflicts. At first I had told Sylvia I'd never send her to a boarding school.
Now I'm beginning to re-consider that...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Embracing my Inner Bitch

A few loving words of encouragement from other mothers (both working/single moms and stay-at-home moms) have allowed me to regain my hope and faith that most of us are indeed in this together so thanks to those who have taken the time to express that to me.
I've embraced my inner bitch again! I'm fighting the battles that I can fight and every time I do, I feel SO much better.
Part of me wonders if it's wrong that I'm gaining so much joy this way, but the other part of me is saying, you know what? Whatever works!
I've been quite depressed for over a week now. I needed something to get me going again. And, really, I am just defending myself here and calling someone on their ignorance and their misguided attacks. It's all helping me gain confidence in myself again, which can't be a bad thing. Tonight, I'm supposed to be charming and an asset to KIPP as one of their speakers for a fundraiser. I feel so much more ready for it now.
I cannot give up. I cannot stop fighting. I cannot stop being who I am...however much I want to sometimes. And if I'm given the forum to speak my voice, then that must mean I'm supposed to use it.
I realize this may be offensive even to some of those who have expressed their support to me. I can't explain it. But I can say that I think that this "bitch" mode is a transitional state. I think I will find my own "happy" place again. But some days, some weeks, it's just one step at a time that we can take.

I Was So Wrong

I really thought that the media had taken the "Mommy Wars" of SAHMs versus working mothers and completely distorted it. I really believed that most mothers supported each other. I guess it's time for me to accept the fact that, like most faiths I've had in anything, it's time to let this one go as well.
On a Moms board I belong to, two - not one, but two - are saying without question that it's working mothers that are the cause of "violent kids." That we don't take our jobs as mothers seriously enough, and that if we really thought about it, we'd find a way to stay home with our kids.
Of course, neither of them had a solution as to how I, a single mother, with a friggin' deadbeat loser addict dad for an ex am supposed to do this with no money coming in. I know in my heart they're wrong, and it's not so much that I feel the need to defend myself as it is that I hate being wrong about believing that women would treat each other better than that.
Oh sure, I knew there was more than one Ann Coulter out there, making trouble. But I really thought that they couldn't affect me, couldn't hurt me. And I know, I shouldn't let others affect how I feel, but since I've posted so much before about how we need other people even to feel anything, then I think it's safe to say that yes, I do give them the power to hurt me. But if I didn't give them that power, I couldn't also accept help from the people that offer me that. How do you have one without the other?
And you know what else?
Sometimes I wish I were them, those other mothers that can just sit there and believe that I'm perfect and find blame in everyone else in the world for all the faults that surround us. Sometimes I wish I could hold onto ignorance as a way to get through this world, as a way to find answers. Sometimes I wish I could even turn my heart off.
But wouldn't that make me a bad mother as well? By not being open to listening to others? By not showing that other people deserve my respect of being taken seriously?
I don't have any answers today. Being proved wrong takes everything out of me except questions.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


My sister sent me this email. Thought I'd post my answers here instead:

Complete it, then send it back to the person who sent it to you and the rest of your friends!

Two Names You Go By:
1. April
2. Mommy

Two Things You Are Wearing Right Now:
1 Pants
2. heels (I'm actually wearing heels today!)

2. Two Things You Would Want in a Relationship:
(I am going to assume in this case romantic relationship)
1. Laughter
2. Thoughtfulness

Two of Your Favorite Things to do:
1. Sleep
2. Smoke (yes, I'm all about health)

Two Things You Want Very Badly At The Moment:
1. $$$
2. No more unexpected bills

Two pets you had/have:
1. Bobbie
2. Sissy

Two people who will fill this out:
1. hate these questions
2. n/a

Two things you did last night:
1. Watched "Pushing Daisies"
2. Brushed the girls' hair

Two things you have eaten today
1. Coffee
2. coffee

Two people you Last Talked To:
1. Terry
2. Lisa

Two things You're doing tomorrow:
1. work
2. laundry

Two of your longest car rides
1. Driving from Denver to Los Angeles
2. Driving to Santa Cruz, a number of times.

Two Favorite Holidays:
1. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (no commitments - just enjoy!)
2. President's Day (same reason)

Two Favorite Beverages:
1. Coffee
2. wine

If you'd like to add your own two's, just comment to this post.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Balance between Independence and Interdependence

I wrote this post a few days ago about our need for human connection. But how much need is unhealthy? When does interdependence turn into a lack of independence, or, that common “buzz” word, co-dependence?

Having been married to a drug addict, I’d see people get that look, if not even just say it out loud, “aah. You’re a co-dependent.” And maybe it’s a lack of self-knowledge on my part, but I’ve pondered this and pondered this, and still can’t believe that I am.

It’s just so easy to slap a label onto someone, and leave it at that, but I just can’t – not surprisingly I guess, but particularly with myself.

I consider my relationship with my ex to be a labor of love. I didn’t go into the relationship, knowing that he was a drug addict and thinking, “I can save him.” I had already fallen in love with him before I knew the extent of what he was doing (crack, I finally learned). I don’t necessarily want to drudge up all of the details of the story, but the best answer I can give is that I believed that you don’t walk away from love just because it’s not easy.

I had a conversation recently with a friend about why I hated the movie, “Knocked Up,” which I didn’t actually hate, but I had a problem with the ending. [Spoiler alert] The movie is about a woman who gets pregnant from a one-night stand, and not anyone’s idea of an ideal father. He smokes pot every day, his “job” is putting together a website with friends about where to find celebrities’ breasts in movies, and he’s basically still living like a college frat boy (another generalization, but it gives the picture I’m trying to create here, so please forgive). By the end of the movie, he “grows up” and is a good dad.

I wanted to scream like Kathy Bates in “Misery”: “BUT THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS IN REAL LIFE!!”

And I suppose I was living in some kind of fantasy world where I did believe that somehow, actually having the girls would change him somehow. And, to both his credit and mine, he did try. But it would always end up falling apart. First, I stopped believing in him. Then, I stopped loving him.

Does that make me a co-dependent? I didn’t necessarily believe that I could change him, but I did believe that offering him the right kind of support, and sticking by him would mean something. And I guess eventually I did have to learn that I had to “accept the things that I cannot change,” but I also don’t feel like I’m in any danger of going through something like that ever again.

Now, having said that, I still depend on others. Co-dependent? Too dependent? A healthy balance of interdependence? You decide.

Sometimes, I think that I do need other people too much. Sometimes, I do need to reach out and have someone there.

I’ve been having a bad time of it the last couple of days. I had car issues, which led to money issues (putting it mildly), which led to me just feeling overwhelmed, bitter, and depressed. I reached out to a few friends.

I just thanked one of them for “giving me permission” to take some time for myself. We talked about how we both need validation (which was a constant theme of mine I learned through therapy), and both commented that it was probably an unhealthy need.

But the more I think about it, the more I don’t think it is unhealthy.

We are both single, working mothers. We don’t have the benefit of a spouse to go home to at the end of the day, who will talk us through stuff, help us unwind, help the kids with their homework, make the dinner for us, take out the trash for us, listen to our workday woes, make the coffee for us in the morning…

At the same time, we both pride ourselves on our independence. We have to. We both have deadbeat exes who don’t pay their child support so it’s up to us to take care of everything; from car issues to the parent teacher conferences. We do it all. Our way of accepting this is to pat ourselves on the back for being able to do it all. And, heck, why shouldn’t we?

You think back to the ‘50’s, not only did all moms get to stay home, they also had friggin’ maids to help them around the house! And not just upper class homes, either. Middle class homes had them, too. So we’re essentially doing the job of three people as single moms. And yet we still have to defend ourselves against politicians who bemoan single parenthood as one of the “problems” of this country. I am not the problem. But I digress.

My point is that I probably shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for needing someone to talk to on occasion, someone who gets me, someone who will help me when I can’t figure out what to do. Yeah, sometimes I need validation. Well, you know what? I’ll live if I don’t get it. But is it so terribly wrong of me to want it sometimes?

When you consider the amount of time I spend being completely independent, I probably shouldn’t feel guilty for the times that I do need to connect to human beings (other than my kids). Every now and then, is it so much to ask for a little counter-balance of interdependence?