Thursday, April 23, 2015

The things I learned in my first year as a band mom...

More than anything else, parenting has taught me that I really don't know much. I might be pretty good by this point at dealing with newborns and toddlers, with handling the general things facing parents of elementary school aged kids. I can help friends navigate all kinds of conditions and situations with their younger kids, sure.

This is my first time around as the parent of a teenager, though, and it's a whole different ballgame.

Sort of.

In a lot of ways, more than I realized until I was here, parenting teenagers isn't actually all that different than dealing with much younger kids.

They get whiny when they are tired.
They will eat you out of house and home.
They have wicked growth spurts.
They absolutely still play with their friends.
They need naps and snacks.
They aren't always able to tell you what they need.
Communication can be difficult.
There are tantrums.

Sometimes they want you to go away, but most of the time they want you around. Just not right there. Like, over there. Far enough away that you aren't harshing their vibe, but close enough that they can holler and you'll come.

The Oldest just wrapped up his first year as a member of the drumline. He's not even in high school yet, but joined this year, mostly because he's wanted to be on the drumline since he could walk. Some kids dream of the day they'll run out onto a field under the lights. Some kids can't wait to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time. Some just want to make music and wave jazz hands.

It was a steep learning curve for us all this year. I know that I wasn't really sure what we signed on for back in the Fall when we walked into that first meeting. For anyone out there who has kids approaching high school, particularly those who will be participating in band (or, really, any activity for that matter), I wanted to share the things I learned this year.

- Someone always needs money. Every time you turn around, someone needs money. Whether it is for uniforms or fees or practice time or instruments or shoes or travel or lunch...someone always needs money. There is likely going to be some dollar figure attached to the activity that they are open about, the amount that you will inevitably panic about, then go home and run the numbers and try to figure out how you'll make it work. You'll set up payment plans and cringe a little bit every time you write a check...but then you'll realize it isn't just that money you'll need to come up with. There are always other things. Always. I can't emphasize this one enough. Don't sign up for this stuff without realizing it, trust me.

- There are likely ways to help offset at least some of those expenses. There might be scholarships or used uniforms or shoes you can borrow or open practices. There might be discounts for siblings or costs waived in exchange for volunteer commitments. One thing I can guarantee...if you don't ask and aren't looking for these opportunities, you won't find them. Ask. The scholarships especially exist to help make sure that all the kids who want to participate can do so. It's hard to ask for help, but if you need it, ask.

- Your life will revolve around this for weeks or months. You will feel like this is all you are doing, because it likely is. You'll give up sleep and weekends and lazy afternoons to sit on bleachers, to sit out in the sun for hours. You'll show up even if it is raining or snowing. You will.

- If they love it, they probably won't be complaining about all the time they are putting in. Unless they are. And they might. A lot of these activities are so intense, so time consuming, that it becomes quickly overwhelming. All those hours of practice aren't for nothing, though, and the benefits show up. They do.

- Pack chairs and snacks for yourself. You're going to be doing so much sitting around and waiting. Bring a book. Bring things for your other kids to stay busy. Just about any activity brings with it a whole lot of down time. Just leave sunscreen and water in the car all the time. Trust.

- You will meet so many new parents. Almost all of them will be amazing. Most of them will raise their hands and volunteer to help out. You're going to spend a lot of time together. You'll get to talking to some of them and realize that there really are other people out there who understand the madness you live with for the things your kids love. You will trust them. They will become like another family to you, because they are.

- You will cry. You're going to cry a lot. Those tears will be big sloppy crocodile tears of joy when you see your kid falling in love with this thing that they do. You will be so proud of them, more because of how proud they are of themselves than anything else.

- They will blossom. They will find a connection with people, likely in a way they haven't ever had before. They will fit in with a group, maybe for the first time ever. They will have nicknames for each other and speak in a bizarre language you hardly understand.

- When it ends, and it will do it abruptly, you will feel relief initially. You will get your evenings and weekends back. Your budget will loosen up a little bit. You will regain lazy afternoons. And then you will miss it. You will absolutely miss it. They will miss it a whole lot more, and there will be a period of withdrawal they go through when it ends.

- Next year will be here before you know it. 

- For band parents, there are a few things in particular I need to warn you about. 

  • The songs they perform will create permanent earworms in your brain. You will hear them almost constantly. 
  • They will likely switch instruments, pick up new ones, and do it faster and faster. 
  • Every surface in your home/car/life will become a drum. 
  • You'll never look at parades the same way again.
  • They'll all look the same, but you'll know which one is yours immediately.
  • They will tap their feet constantly.
  • They will walk in step even when not doing anything related to band.
  • Their taste in music will likely change and they'll constantly ask you to listen to something. When they play Pink Floyd for you, your heart will swell with pride. Stay cool. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Springtime and the living's easy....sort of. sometimes. okay not really.

It's so weird how cyclical I am. It's as though the individual cells in my body can anticipate things before my brain starts to figure it all out.

I get edgy this time of year.

There are reasons, so goddamn many of them.

Yeah, so this post will likely have a lot of the swears. You've been warned.

I was reminded of one of them this morning by my Timehop app. I think I may need to seriously delete that thing. As fun as it is to see old pictures of the kids and all that, it's hell on someone with PTSD because I get transported back in time.

Today it was this one.

2012 was rough. I mean, it wasn't as bad as 2011 because holy shit that year sucked from beginning to end, but 2012 was rough.

This day, three years ago. I can't honestly even remember who the second person in the hospital was that day, but I know for sure that one of them was my Mom. She had been flown to a hospital almost an hour away from here because they were trying to save her remaining leg. I was leaving my kids here with my inlaws, then driving back and forth from that hospital almost every day so that I could sit in a chair and watch her sleep, hoping to catch some doctor that never showed up, trying to ask questions that never had answers. Until one day when the conversations all stopped because she decided they couldn't talk to me anymore. HIPAA is a law with good intentions that makes life hell for families.

She told me that afternoon that I hadn't been there for her, then told me that she was leaving as soon as she could get out of the hospital and that there was nothing I could do to stop her.

She told me this after I'd left my children for her, drove almost an hour to be there and sat beside her for hours before she woke up.

I was stuck firmly in the middle of the generational sandwich, trying my hardest to take care of her and my kids and my marriage, failing at all of it miserably. I was never enough to anyone, for anyone and my health was suffering as a result. I ended up in therapy. My kid ended up in therapy.

It was awful. Truly.

I start to think that maybe it's finally time that I write about some of these things that happened and then my throat feels like it's going to start closing up and my heart races and I shut that right fucking down because I don't need to be throwing myself into a panic attack.

I'm in a good place most of the time, and I need to stay here.

Sorry, Timehop...I know you're a cool app for most people, but I just can't right now.

I was telling a friend, one who is struggling in some of the same ways I do, that most of the time I am good. Upright and functional, I even shower and go outside sometimes on purpose.

Then there are the other times.

Thankfully they don't happen all that often, thankfully the kids are so busy and needy and demanding that they force me out of my funk almost all the time. Thankfully.

Thankfully this time of year brings longer days and brighter sunshine and abundant vitamin D to go along with the unsettling it does deep in my psyche.

Thankfully I'm to the point where I force myself to go outside and soak up the rays of the sun because I know that it helps.

And thankfully I have been doing this long enough that I recognize when I'm having a bad day. So I let it happen. I feel all the feelings, wallow in the mud a little bit, binge watch something on Netflix, cry in the shower and get it over with.

So, like I told my friend, if you need to talk to someone who understands, I'm your gal.

And if you want company down there in the hole, scoot over. I'll join ya.

Just know that I'm dragging you out of the hole with me tomorrow.

Because it's spring.

And spring is fucking beautiful.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the suck a bottle cap edition

Hi. I don't have much time today because I have to leave in a bit to pick Little Boy up from school. He fell off of the couch weird over the weekend and hurt his foot. The xrays didn't show a clear break, but kid bones are squishy and fractures can hide. It's either that or a severe sprain, and the orthopedist didn't want to take any chances so they casted him yesterday.

The novelty wore off quickly.

He's my kid who is usually climbing and then jumping off of something, so the idea of sitting is foreign to him. He was all excited about the cast for about three minutes and pretty much hates it already. Fortunately, he only is set to have this one on for ten days. He'll be re-evaluated next week. If everything looks okay he might be released from sitting.

Crosses fingers, toes, legs, eyes....

Anyway, I'm not actually all that fired up right now because I'm tired. Exhausted is more the correct word for it. I'm not even sure why I'm so run down, but I am. And when I'm tired, it's hard to get riled up about things that make me want to throw stuff and do high kicks.

But I'll try....for you guys.

Seriously. The things I do for you people.

Can We Not?
I honestly don't care what political party you belong to or what you think about particular jury decisions or people running for office. I don't.

Pinky swear.

What bothers me a lot right now is the blatant disrespect being shown to certain people, to certain situations.

Like how the night that Hillary Clinton announced that she was running for President, the gravesite of her father was vandalized. Or how the memorial tree planted for Michael Brown in Ferguson was cut in half almost as soon as it was planted.

Not cool, you guys. Not cool at all.

Don't do this...
There is apparently this new thing where teenage girls want to have pouty lips like Instagram queen Kylie Jenner, and they're willing to do whatever it takes to get logically that means that they are sucking on bottle caps until their lips become engorged with blood...

...and in the process bruising the hell out of their faces. It's so bad in some cases that they may possibly be doing permanent damage to the tissues of their lips.

Don't do this. Seriously, you guys. Just don't.

While everyone was arguing over failed food stamp challenges, this happened...
So we all know that these food stamp challenges taken by celebrities and politicians are mostly bullshit, right? That, even in the event that their intentions are genuine and good, the idea that "living like the poor" for a week is good enough to give them some hint of perspective is a joke, because assuming they even make it through the entire week (spoiler alert, Gwyneth didn't), they go right back to champagne wishes and caviar dreams as soon as it is over. Meanwhile, the people depending on food stamps to survive are still depending on food stamps to survive.

The whole idea of all this is ridiculous, honestly. Politicians talk and talk and talk about welfare and food stamps as though they are what is bankrupting the system. Nope. Nope, nope, nope.

It's a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to other types of spending that get waved through without anyone flinching.

And after what the GOP pulled last week, it's pretty obvious that they really don't give a shit about helping out the poorest people but they'll bend over backwards to help the rich get richer.

They eliminated the estate tax in a move that will benefit only the 0.15% wealthiest Americans.  "Combined with other tax bills approved by House Republicans so far this year, our debt would grow by $584 billion to finance tax cuts for the wealthy."

And you probably didn't even hear about it.

Way to go, USA.

Sport hunting gone off the rails
Opens can of worms.

Stirs pot.

Pops some popcorn.

Okay, so one of the pro-gun universe's favorite arguments is that people need guns for hunting, for survival, for meat to feed their families.

And fine. I'll give them that, so long as whatever it is they are hunting is being hunted for food.

I'm not a fan of sport hunting. At all. **ducks because I know people are going to start throwing things at me...

It's not even just guns though, it's any weapon used to kill animals for fun that I take issue with.

Like the veterinarian who shot a cat in the head with a crossbow just because she could. Fortunately her dumb ass posted it in a humble brag on Facebook and it backfired magnificently.

Or like the crazy trend towards hunting large game in other parts of the world, taking gross pictures with dead elephants or giraffes or whatever with big gleaming smiles full of entitlement and wholly lacking in shame and posting them all over social media...then getting bent when the rest of the world says what the fuck??? When did killing giraffes become a thing?

Also, I'd like to address Rebecca Francis directly for a second. You aren't getting death threats because you are a girl. You're getting death threats because you're an asshole.

(disclaimer: I don't agree with the death threats AT ALL, but her argument about why they are happening is asinine.)

Oh right. We're supposed to believe that it was an old giraffe and you were doing it a favor. Uh huh.

Bangs head on wall.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

To The One Most Like Me...

Though it isn't technically your birthday yet, you've already declared that you are celebrating birthday week from now on, so I guess it's okay for me to write this a little bit early. You've always been a fan of early.

You'll be 10 years old in a few days. 10. Double digits.

It seems like just yesterday that the little girl with the long golden hair was dancing in circles on her tippy toes in this living room. I think it really was yesterday.

It all goes so fast, sweet girl.

And you? You always want it to go faster.

Rarely content to be where you are, it seems like you're always longing for the days in the future where you'll be older. You've always been that way. Trying, and usually succeeding, in keeping up with your older siblings.

We dreamt of a world with you here long before you arrived. You were the one who urged us to change those life plans of ours with intention. We thought we would only ever have two children, but something told us both that we weren't quite done yet. Only a few short weeks after your father and I decided to try again, I found myself reeling in the desert, the sky spinning as we stood in front of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas.

I didn't need a pregnancy test to tell me you were on your way. I already knew.

Your pregnancy was a difficult one, from beginning to end, but once you arrived everything was different. You were unlike your brother and sister before you. Quiet. Joyful. Content. And gorgeous.

Oh, you were such a beautiful baby.

You had a head full of hair already when you were born, which explained all that heartburn I endured (even through those cravings for hot wings almost constantly surely made it worse). You were a mellow baby, squishy and happy and delicious in every way.

As you became a toddler, you started to show both your sense of humor and your stubbornness, refusing to say anything but "no" and "mama". You'd call your father "mama", then giggle. About 200 times a day. You haven't stopped antagonizing him yet.

You are passionate about everything, a feeler like I am. It's overwhelming sometimes to feel everything you feel so deeply. Believe me, I know. Trust me when I tell you that it will get better as you get older, and I'll help you along the way.

Everything is bigger for you. Your hopes, your dreams, your disappointments. It's all bigger. It just is. When the rest of the world doesn't understand you, know that I always will.

The rest of the world is going to try, oh is it going to try, to tell you not to feel so much. The rest of the world is going to try and quiet your passion, silence your voice, convince your heart that you shouldn't feel everything you feel.

Don't listen to them.

Stay true to who you are.

This thing that we do, you and doesn't come without negatives, but oh, it is something amazing too. You'll see. I promise.

Your capacity for love is endless. It just means you have to deal with a lot of other stuff that life will throw at you. You'll be okay, though. I promise.

You're a worrier like me too. I wish that part of my personality hadn't transferred so much to you, but it has. I'll do my best to help you.

You love to document the world around you. You've loved to take pictures for what seems like forever and recently fell in love with writing. I hope that you find comfort in these forms of expression, that they give you an outlet in a world that won't always make sense to you, that you find some peace with them both.

When you were a little girl, the thrills you'd seek always involved speed. You even stripped the tires on your little Power Wheels Jeep spinning them so much. Don't always go so fast. Life will go fast enough, I assure you. Slow down sometimes.

There is a part of you that will always be my little girl, the one who still snuggles in with me in bed in the morning. The one who asks for help with things you've known how to do forever, just because you still want us around. The one who wants to go and do all the things, but wants us there, watching, just in case you need us.

And we'll be there.

We'll always be there.

Of all my babies, these past few years have been the hardest on you. You've absorbed more, seen more, felt more, cared more, loved more, hurt more. I wish that there was a way to ease all these burdens life has set on your shoulders. I do the best I can to help you carry them, but I know I can't take them away completely.

It's okay though.

You're strong. So much stronger than you know.

You're brave. That part of you that makes you feel everything more than most people also pushes you harder. You run until your lungs burn. You won't stop until you finish. You don't give up. You play and play and play.

You're smart. You are so smart. You have a perception about the world most people could never imagine. You see things most people never can or will. You remember everything. I swear you've been here before. You have what we call an "old soul", the wisdom that just seems to come from having done this all already. You are smart in ways that tests at school could never begin to measure, which is why I always tell you that I don't care about them. Not even a little bit. All I ever ask is that you do your best, because your best will always be good enough.


Always remember that.

Happy birthday, sweet girl. I love you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the oh SNAP edition

It's one of those no-holds barred weeks around here. I'm telling people how I really feel, so you might want to duck.

Just kidding.


Off we go.

P!nk and shaming the shamers
You know....this whole story pisses me off. P!nk is gorgeous, she is strong, she is powerful. She could probably (okay, almost certainly) kick my ass AND yours. At the same time. With one arm tied behind her back. Seriously, though....have you seen some of the stuff she can do???


She went to a charity fundraiser over the weekend and wore a black dress with a plunging neckline. She posted a picture of herself online and out came the grumpy old trolls who live under the bridge. They had to tell her that she looked fat in just about every way imaginable (and no, I'm not linking any of the things they said).

Her response, though, was just about perfect. She basically said that she's happy and that she loves her body and she isn't worried about you, so don't worry about her.

Take that, trolls.

Do YOU want a mother/grandmother/vagina owner as President???
I'll be the first to tell you that I don't love love love Hillary Clinton as the Democratic front runner, but (and this is a BIG but) we're gonna have to rally and deal with whatever our issues with her are, you guys, because she's absolutely going to be the candidate and it's either her or whichever version of the same dude gets tapped from the GOP.

If you are one of those oh but I don't love her and wish Warren would run kind of people, please go read this and then come back....because Warren isn't going to run. She just isn't. And there are much larger issues at stake here that we need to get serious about.

Anyway, the thing that is actually pissing me off right now, aside from the fact that the Presidential election is very much underway already even though it's over a year and a half before the election is the fact that the pundits on television and the other potential candidates seem to think that just because she is a woman, there is a whole new set of rules that apply to only her.

Kinda like how there was a whole new set of rules that only applied to President Obama.

Namely, that it's somehow acceptable to question if people would elect a mother or a grandmother. What in the actual fuck??? Do we go around addressing the qualification of male candidates based on whether they've had children or grandchildren?

No. No we don't.


Which is kinda like the ohbutracismdoesnotexist argument.


How About We Stop Doing This...
There are far too many examples of this available online, so I just grabbed one for you to read about in the event you haven't heard about this trend already.

Basically, there is this thing where self righteous people decide for themselves whether people parking in handicapped spaces deserve to use them, then they write obnoxious notes shaming the people that they decide aren't handicapped enough.


Not only are most of the people who do this TOTALLY WRONG about their assessment of the disability of the people they are shaming, they are total assholes as well.

Not all disabilities are visible physical ones. Some people have other conditions that affect how far they are able to walk.

It's none of your damn business what is or isn't "wrong" with someone. For the love.

Barbara Walters
Normally, I don't like to single people out and call them by name, even in these TTPMOT posts, but it's happening twice today. You are in for a treat. A treat, I say.

First up is Barbara Walters, someone who has had a long, lucrative, successful career in "journalism". (I use the term loosely...)

She ran a piece on Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. In case you don't remember who they are, they are the teacher and 13 year old student that "fell in love" even though the law said they couldn't. She went to jail for child abuse, got out on parole, hooked up with the child pregnant....and then was released from prison early. The abused and abuser ended up getting married (because that doesn't have Stockholm Syndrome written all over it) and Walters interviewed them to talk about how blissful their lives together are now all these years later.

Except that she's a convicted sex offender, their teenage daughters are older than he was when she molested him, he's confessed to mental disturbances and substance abuse AND SHE WANTS TO TEACH AGAIN.

So. I'm not linking the ABC piece because they are as gross for running the piece as Walters is for interviewing them in the first place. This was a ratings stunt, a glorification of sexual abuse and wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I just can't.

Gwyneth, I'm trying not to hate you but GAWD you make it so hard...
There's this thing where people in positions of privilege and wealth experiment with living on the amount of money the average SNAP beneficiary is given, so as to somehow convey that they "understand" the struggle of those with less money than they have.

Uh huh.

Not to be left out, Gwyneth Paltrow did it. She bought mostly calorie free produce, including an inexplicable number of limes.

I could go on and on about what she bought and why her perception is wrong and why people need to stop doing this and pretending that they get it, but the internet has done a fantastic job of taking care of all that, so you can read some of the best stuff here.

I'm sure I'll catch some hell for writing about this, but so be it. I try...I reallllllllly try to give her the benefit of the doubt. She really doesn't seem to realize how out of touch with normal people she is, and I suppose that isn't exactly her fault. But just stop it. Stop trying to relate. Just stop.

Get back to writing about the merits of vaginal steam baths, please. The world needs more comedy.

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