Category Archives: Parenting

Just Keep Passing Out the Peanuts

On April 12, 2017 while attending a conference in Philadelphia I received a text from my ex-husband.  I knew he was also down in Philadelphia, his trip was to visit a surgeon at Penn hospital to remove a growing bump on his neck.

“I have anaplastic thyroid cancer.”

I originally thought, “oh jeeze, like me need this.  But whatever, we will get through it.”   Having never heard of this type of Thyroid Cancer I immediately looked it up.”  Tears filled my eyes, my hands started to shake, and stresses ripped through my body settling with that tingling feeling in my calves as I read…

“Rare…aggressive…deadly.”

I immediately asked him what stage he had…afterall, isn’t that one of the first thing they tell you?  I thought of our three teenage daughters…but as I dug a little deeper into the internet from my phone, I learned that this cancer is always stage 4.

As I look back on these last six weeks (it seems like I have been in a time warp, I have realized that at that moment John shared his news with me the plane our little family usually travels on started experiencing extreme turbulence.  And just like a flight attendant, my job would be to stay calm and just keep handing out the peanuts.

But let me tell you, that has not been easy.  He left his original surgery with a tracheotomy and was not able to speak for weeks.  Upon learning the results of surgery (which did not produce the miracle we hoped for), and many times since I have been the one to share news with our three daughters, and none of it has been particular good.  I was the one who told them the actual diagnosis, “dad is back in the hospital.”

I’m just now realizing the importance of writing about this.  My dear sister Susan reminded me of my gift and the cathartic impact.  Not to mention that I have a resounding message, that every divorced parent needs to hear…which will be shared with every post…

For the sake of your children make friends with your ex.  As divorced parents it is the greatest gift you can give to your children.

View From the Death Seat

As most of you know, I have courage that knows no bounds…I am not scared of nuthin.’  I will speak in front of thousands, climb telephone poles and zip line, start a business, reachIMG_7343 out to a stranger on a dating site (hey, a girls got to eat, right?), and ask for meetings with power partners with ease.   However…

As it turns out, we have found a bound – that which nearly paralyzes me, stops me in my tracks with the voice in my head screaming NO!!!!!!!   I DON”T WANT TO!!!  What could this activity be that stops my heart and sends my blood pressuring soaring at the same time?

Teaching my teenage daughter how to drive.

She sits in the driver seat, me in the death seat.  She grips the steering wheel at 3 and 9 white knuckled.  I sit in the death seat and realize how dangerous this is.  This is not fooling around type of stuff.  I look at this as if I am teaching her to shoot a gun…only this gun is moving and can hit a variety of objects including neighbors and garbage cans – all at the same time.   I clutch rosary beads given to me by my Aunts on my First Holy Communion (and I’m not even religious).  If I am going to die I might as well go down with Jesus in my palm clutching one of my oldest possessions.

I wonder, how can it be that the little girl who read Teletubby books upside down in the family room while babbling about fish and frogs, now has my life in her hands?

And more interestingly, how can it be that this child, who takes 5 honors courses and has already formed opinions about gender equity NOT remember to look both ways when turning a car?  Why does she slow down when turning a corner into oncoming traffic (well it was ‘all clear’ but since you were driving slower than my grandmother we just kissed death – again).  As we make our way to school there is a parade behind since we sometimes forget to put our foot on the gas – well, that is except when we are heading down a hill around a curve in the rain – my gosh I could not have been closer to that guardrail unless I was sitting on it.

It is almost like her brains fall out of her head when she gets behind the wheel.

My biggest question to date when teaching a teen ager to drive is how is it possible that driving permits are not issued with a parent valium prescription or gift certificate to the liquor store?  And how is that parents are not allowed to drink alcohol in the car when their child is learning to drive?  This would considerably cut down on stress and screaming.

A few notes from our journeys (you can also put these in the archive ‘things I thought I would never have to say’).

  • I am on the white line, move the car over.  I am about to hit that tree – move the car over.
  • A stop sign means stop, all motion ceases. It does not mean, ‘wow, that is a pretty color red on that octagonal sign let’s keep going! ”
  • Stop speeding up to red things…tail lights, stop signs, red stop lights. When you see red of any kind – for instance stop light or tail lights of another car, slow down.
  • I scream STOP and SLOW DOWN interchangeably because I am scared for my life. You do not get to throw the traditional millennial BS in my face of “you are confusing me mom.”  Pay the freak attention to the road.
  • Just because you WANT to switch lanes does not mean you just switch lanes. You need to make sure there are no cars where you want to go.  Two cars cannot occupy the same space at the same time.   That is called an accident.
  • When I am screaming it is probably best to just stop the car.
  • Yes, you have to learn how to park. No, there will not always be a bit open empty lot waiting for you.  Yes, the white lines mean something.
  • When driving in the rain do not speed up to red lights (seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?).
  • When you are exiting the car it is best to first put it in park – that way it will not continue to roll as you are trying to get out.  It is also a good idea to bring the car to a full stop before putting it in park…that proces will avoid the car lunging forward.
  • School busses are required to stop before they cross railroad tracks. This means all the cars behind them must stop as well (or crash into the bus).  If you are behind said cars stopping behind the bus, you must stop as well…so stop…no, I mean STOP…STOP THE F’IN CAR RIGHT NOW!!!!

Once you get past the fear (oh who is kidding who, you NEVER get past the fear), teaching your child this major life skills is awesome.  I will tell you that I did like snuggling in with her on the couch and teaching her to read much better than this.  There was FAR less stress and fear involved in that.

One week ago  today (Friday) she had no skill in driving and was shaking in her Doc Martins about the idea.  We started driving one mile home and at that point set a goal of having her drive the full 20 minutes to school by Wednesday (thinking that I would give up at points and take control). Not even 24 hours later she not only wanted to drive but got us safely to her swim meet at school.  Goal achieved early – we were still alive.  All good.

My daughter was scared herself, very nervous about learning to drive.  This was one of those times when I got to share with her my boundless courage and how I walk through paralyzing fear.  When we share with our children that we are also scared, we teach them to walk through that fear, that is a valuable life lesson as well.

Seriously…who is bringing me my French Martini?

To the Bitch at the Door

This Saturday I had the great honor of attending my daughter’s swim meet.  I won’t go into details about where they were held or for what team. That would not be fair to the bitch at the door.

I arrived at the meet a little frazzled trying to get too much accomplished – I had dropped off said daughter and ran to a coffee shop to work.  I was popping in to see her first race, then off to food shopping, then back to volunteer to work at the meet and enjoy her last race.

I was a bit suprised when I arrive that they were charging admission at the door.  Back in NJ we do not – so I never expected to need cash.  I was relieved when I realized that the mom at the door taking cash was from our team.  I quickly introduced myself, explained that I was running in to see a first race, and I would bringing back my $5 when I ran out between events and volunteering.  I was thrilled to be meeting a mom from the team since I am the new mom on the team.

This woman blasted at me with a vengeance and tone fit only for someone who just ran over a puppy – she cited league rules with a bitterness that literally made me take a step back, “I can not let you in without paying,” “everyone would be running amuck,” “you probably will not come back with the money.”  I explained that I had given my daughter cash for the team breakfast yesterday and had yet to get my change – she suggested I text my daughter, pull her away from the team, even though cell phones were not allowed on deck.  She told me to text another parent on the team to come and give me cash, I replied “I’m new, I don’t know anyone here.”

She was so mean from the minute I put out my hand to introduce myself to the point where I was at least five feet further back.  She is on my team…our team…I was coming back…I explained to her that I was also about to miss my kid’s first race.  I’m new, explained that but not as an excuse, just please do not make me miss my daughter’s first race.

To gain entrance she demanded my PA driver’s license.  I surrendered it quickly and  dashed up the stairs and made it just in time to see my daughter’s first race.  As I left the building (to run errands and get cash) she said “Ma’am, did you forget something?  You owe me $5.”

I wanted to ask her where the ATM was in the stands – since, as the NEW MOM I had clearly missed it.  Instead I clearly explained AGAIN that I was going out to get the money. I didn’t even know where a cash machine was in town!

Her sidekick behind the folding table suggested I take my license back since I would be out driving.  I snapped “oh, thank you, I was not dare going to ask for it back.”  Bitchy, yes – ok, we all lose our cool.

At the heart of this I felt really bad for this poor woman.  Afterall, she had the opportunity to make a friend, do something nice for another mom, take care of a newbie, and put out some great karma to the world.  She knew who I was, could easily track me down if I never paid, but instead chose to be a complete bitch.   She clearly does not know how to be  team player, help others out, or most importantly how to help another mom out.

But here is where I can show her the way – so, to the bitch at the door – if you ever need anything from me…AT ALL…I am here for you.  You see, I am the type of person who understands that we all make mistakes and when I can fix a problem for another I do, or help another mom out, on her best or worst days…I jump at the chance.  Need something retweeted, an onion from the grocery store, your kid needs a ride home, a blue sweater on spirit day – knock on my door, heck give me a call and I’ll bring it over.  And for the love of all things holy – if you ever need an IOU on a swim meet admission I’ll just give you the money.  To repay me you can take me out for a cup of coffee and we can get to know one another – mom to mom.

 

 

Mom Management

I just dropped my youngest off at a birthday party…on the other side of town…and we had to pick-up gifts on the way.  She had forgotten to pick-up gifts the night before (when she was out with her sister and my credit card) so that was annoying.  But ya know what?  For a 13 year old who is still learning the ways of the world she handled the entire situation beautifully.   As we talked about how well she did, we decided she has mastered Mom management.

Sure the party was on the other side of town, before my workday ended, we had no gifts and had to make an extra stop.  How did she avoid a lecture and some mom crazy?  Read on:

  1. Know thy schedule and make sure it is on my calendar.  She did this weeks ago when the invitation arrived.
  2. Provide a pleasant reminder at the beginning of the day.
  3. Give me a pleasant 5 minute warning and ask if there is anything you can do to help.  For me this includes finding my car keys.
  4. Be pleasant when we are on our way.  Ask me how my day was and more importantly tell me about yours.
  5. If you need something (like a gift) ask “is it ok if we leave early to pick-up…?”  Best if you can make your sister do it the night before – oh, you forgot, “mom, sorry I forgot to get it while I was out.”
  6. If you leave gifts to the last minute, you should have a plan to conveniently pick them up.  My daughter thought this out and got her friends gift cards to Starbucks at Acme.  Practical, easy, and very very useful.  She asked if we could pick up three total since she had two other parties to attend and we should pick them all up at once.

Brilliant!   After all, the Mom in our house is running a business, preparing a household to move, and helped you earn your spot on the JV cheer team at your new school.  I am juggling quite a lot and am not a big fan of being treated like a taxi service. My daughter realizes her attending these parties is not a right and I have no responsibility to drive her.

My children are very well aware my responsibilities to them only include food, shelter and clothes.  They know that extras are my gift to them.   Sure, I provide far more than the basics but they best be appreciative, help out around the house, and manage me when they need to.

Cell Phone Bill of Rights

Over the last two years our cell phone plan data component has, from time to time, been an issue of great concern.  By great concern, I mean my children have chewed through record breaking amounts of data in short amounts of time causing overage charges.  So the great concern is for my wallet.

This first hit my radar screen when I was getting a daily overage charge for an extra gig of data – cost me $10 per day after the first 1/2 of every month.  I would wake up and there would be a text message from AT&T that they had loaded another gig onto my plan.  Trips to the store, calls to customer service…lots of research – and I could not figure out the problem.   Then I learned my older daughter was playing Pandora radio on her phone every single night.  Since we had horrible internet service (thank you Comcast) our wifi would often turn off and she was running music all night off of our data plan.  So I was paying for her to listen to music while she was asleep.  I hit the roof.

Since that time I have started discussing costs to run a household with my children.  They understand mortgages, insurance, and how much food costs.  I also told them it is their responsibility to help me save money.  If the cell phone bill is out of control and I am concerned use your brain and think about it.  We have had the “I am responsible for providing you with food, clothing and educational support until you are 18, anything else is a luxury.”

Now, when there is a problem, and I they are approaching their data limit, I simply turn off their data access. I have an app on my phone where I can view usage and shut off at will.   Call Dyfus?  Alert the media?  No, I am the parent, I own the cell phone and pay the bill.

So I thought it was time for me to put some rules and regulations down for other parents to use when setting limits for their children.

  1. When it comes to your cell phone, you have no rights.
  2. If you have any problems with this document, please feel free to get your own cell phone plan and a job to pay the bill (including the overage charges you incur when you run out of data.)
  3. When I refer to “your phone” please do not take this to mean it is actually your phone.  It is my phone.
  4. When I refer to “our data plan” please do not take this to mean it is actually your data plan.  It is my data plan.
  5. We have a 10 G of data and 5 phones.  Everyone gets to use about 2 G.
  6. If you start to approach your 2 G limit your data plan will be turned off for the remainder of the month.
  7. If you start using an exorbitant amount of data, I will not launch an investigation digging through our online account information.  I will not go to the store and complain.  I will just turn off your data.
  8. If you believe there is something wrong with your phone then you are welcome to try to fix it yourself.  I am sure there is a Youtube video on it.
  9. You spend a majority of your time at home and school.  In both places you should be connected to wifi.
  10. You are not allowed to have your cell phone in your room…ever.

Mean right?  Not to me – this list is all about parenting.  In today’s world parents want to be friends with their kids, I want to raise responsible children.  I want my kids to have what they need, a few fun extras in life, lots of fun, but really the ability to get out there and grab the brass ring on the carousel for themselves.

Who Wants a New Iphone 6!!

This is a warning…many of you will be shocked with this tale.  In fact, for those who know me well, you may sit in disbelief.  Afterall, I do not spoil my children.  They have what they need, there is an occasional treat, but they save for things they want, ride public transportation, and work during the summers.

As you read this you may judge my parenting…and I get that.  Honestly, what I did was beyond comprehension and I am still a bit embarrassed.

You see, a few weeks ago on a late Sunday morning I sat my children down for a family meeting and informed them they we were moving to PA over the summer.  I was faced with hysterical tears, sobbing children begging me not to go.  And so, as I looked into their eyes and saw their crushed little souls being yanked from the only home and school system they had ever know, I did, what any other modern parent in 2015 would do…I asked a simple question:

“Who wants a new Iphone 6?”

As the words left my mouth I wondered what demon had possessed my body.  New phones were combined Christmas/Birthday gifts – I’m not sure if I have ever just purchased any of them a new phone.

I spent some time attempting to convince myself that the really “needed” the new phones.  One had a cracked screen she could seriously injure herself (you know you have heard about all those iphone injuries).  The youngest had a phone that would no longer hold a charge – so the only way to use the phone was to plug it into the wall…the horror in this day and age.

But what was this all really about…..Mommy Guilt.

So yes, we marched right into the AT&T store and while I did attempt to get the cracked screen upgrade covered by my insurance plan (it would only replace the 5 not upgrade to the 6), I looked into their little eyes and authorized our AT&T helper to load them up with brand new 6’s.  I…am….pathetic.

Now, when you get new phones at AT&T, it takes as long as watching the Titantic.  New plans are explained, things signed, computers crash, shopping carts do not upgrade, phones need to be retrieved from storage, plugged in and set-up.  During the time we spent with  our salesperson he heard the reason for our visit…and about the sadness…and also heard me say….

“Look, you have new iphone 6’s…no more tears…you have been sufficiently spoiled.”

Who the hell was I saying this to my children?

At this point it really didn’t matter.  I was completely out of control.  I paid my $99 for each new phone, signed away another $30 in monthly fees to AT&T and happily marched out of the store thinking what else I could “get them.”  I had a devil on one shoulder and angel on the other each making the same arguments and each speaking from both my heart and head.  My voice of reason had exited the building with Elvis and I was determined to “make them happy.”  I was a hot mess operating from a place of “solving their problems.”  I was the very parent who created monster children.

Reason kicked in as we made our way back into the car.  I was quite satisfied with my lunacy but knew it had to end.  It made everyone laugh, did dry the tears, and we bonded over the endless time we were in AT&T.

Of course, within the first two weeks of having said phones two of the precious cherubs chewed through 60% of our data plan…this, when, they are connected to wifi most of the day.  So now cell phones have been banned from the second floor of the house…

They really don’t make this parenting shit easy…do they?

 

Telling Your Children You are Moving

It was time to tell them…all issues had been discussed, adult-level decisions made.

So on a beautiful Sunday morning in April I attended worship, centered myself, and called a family meeting as I walked in the door.  My children were on the laptop looking at new cell phone plans and asked me when they were due for upgrades…I pocketed this inquiry to be used for my advantage.

We gathered in our family room, and I barely had to say a word.  They knew something was up and guessed “you are getting married,” to which I responded “well, yes, eventually”

Kids:  “Wait, are they moving here?”

Me:  “well, no.”

Kids:   “We are moving to Pennsylvania?

NO!!!   MOM!!!   NO!!!   PLEASE!!!  NO!!!”

And that is about all I remember from those initial minutes.  Because what happened after that time was an eruption I had not even fathomed possible.  Two of my children were sobbing uncontrollably.  Of course, I expected them to be upset, but never expected such a strong reaction.  I reminded them they would only be 45 minutes away, would get their drivers licenses earlier, and would be attending better schools.  I gave a laundry list of reasons of how the move would benefit everyone…but in the plans I had for this discussion I knew I had nothing that could dull the pain of leaving their friends.

Honestly, I was a bit stunned during these few minutes.  It was the first time I saw how my children really do love their friends and their schools.  Sure, the cops visit the hallways often, there are weave fights at the bus loop, and a few kids with ankle bracelets walk the hallways.  But to my children our home and this school system is all that they have ever known…and a part of me knew I was ripping them out their comfort zone.

Going in I had no idea how they were actually going to react but knew their would be sadness.  I did not expect hysterical tears.  Very quickly, through the waterworks, they did say they were happy tC and I wanted to kick our relationship up a notch.  My heart has been called across the river – they knew I was planning on moving as soon as the youngest graduated from High School.  We talked how we were moving up the timeline because we didn’t want to wait any longer, we wanted to blend the family now, and I wanted them to have roots where I plan to be as they go through college.

I had a few pangs of guilt, but know this is a fantastic move for them.  For the immediate future, I had no idea how to stop the tears…until it finally hit me and I announced…

“WHO WANTS AN IPHONE 6!!!!”

Please park your judgement at the corner and read on…