Friday, May 30, 2014

Ten Things Parents Need to Survive Summer

You guys.  Summer is coming.  Summer is coming SUMMER IS COMING.

When my kids were small I used to scoff at moms who counted down the days before school was out so they could get their summer at home with the kids started.   They made plans for museum outings and day trips to the beach, mapped out all the local festivals and carnivals, stockpiled craft items to make art with their kids every day, printed out math worksheets and reading lists, and kept their shiny new pool passes next to the brand-new pool noodles and water wings they bought during a pre-season sale at Target.

Meanwhile, during the last weeks of school I was sitting on the patio staring into the sun every day, enjoying the spring warmth and morbidly counting the days down until the peace would end.

These days, I count down the days until school ends with the kids and the best of the moms, because OMG THE END OF THE YEAR AND ALL ITS ACTIVITIES PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.  I still haven’t mastered the art of filling every available summer minute with things to do, and I probably won’t because it’s not my style.

But here are ten things I’ve found that help me pass the summer days with ease and a minimal of planning, and they can work for you, too, if you just let them happen and stop trying to control everything because everybody knows you're an overachiever and that's just annoying.

1. Wine.  You thought I’d put that at the end, didn’t you?  Nope. Wine is essential for getting through the summer when kids are home.  The best part about wine in the summer is that you can start drinking it in the afternoon, because there are no pesky practices or after-school activities to haul the kids to.  Early drinking is a law in summer.

2. Water.  Some type of water activity is essential for summer when you have kids at home.   If you’re fancy, you can shoo the kids to the backyard to swim while you drink your wine at the kitchen window – you still have to supervise, silly!  If you’re only slightly fancy you can buy a membership at a community pool and haul your kids there, along with the forty pounds of snacks and  pool toys they require.  Or, if you’re me, you tell the kids to drag out the hose and let them squirt each other in the face until someone is crying.  And then you can send them to their rooms for not playing nice.

3. Sunscreen and bug spray.  Preferably together, because there’s nothing better than slathering your kids with chemicals and then kicking them outside.  But the real reason behind this one is that sunburned and bug-bitten kids are intolerable, so do yourself a favor and stock up today.

4. Movies.  I know, going to the movies is expensive.  And the summer blockbusters aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – I’ve had enough of all the superhero movies, myself.  But what’s expensive about dragging out your old DVD collection and forcing the kids to watch The Sound of Music again?  Or having a Lion King marathon?  Turn the volume up, the lights down, throw them a bag of Twizzlers, and you’re done for the day.

5. Garage sale.  Having a garage sale is a great way to put in at least a week of summer.  You know you have tons of stuff to get rid of, and it’s going to take you some time to get it all together, so while the kids are watching classic Disney movies and eating their weight in waxy movie candy, drag out your junk and set up your garage like an old-timey thrift store.  Drape scarves on the lamps and set up the used Barbie dolls in a beautiful vignette, and rake in the quarters as neighbors and strangers paw through your old sheets and socks and ask you if you’ll take a dime.  You will.

6. Lemonade stand.  My kids ask me every single summer if they can set up a lemonade stand, and every summer I say yes, then never help them set it up.  So far, they’ve never had one.  But I think this year could be the year.  What screams summer more than a few kids sitting out in the hot sun in the middle of the day on the back streets of a housing development trying to sell a Styrofoam cup of Minute Maid to the garbage collectors?

7. Vacation.  Summer screams vacations at the beach, trips to interesting cities, camping in tents and lounging at resort pools.  Vacations and summer go hand in hand, and we always have something planned each summer, just to get away and show the kids a little part of the world outside their own.   The best summer vacations are done as a family, especially when you can get some other family to take your kids with them on their vacation.

8. Friends.  Whether your own friends or your kids’, having new faces around is always preferable to seeing only the same sour pusses every day.  We make a point to hang out with friends on a weekly basis in the summer, not only because we enjoy each other, but also to break up the monotony of hanging out only with each other.  There’s nothing quite like the love a family shares, but things can get a little intense when you’re in each other’s faces all day, every day.  I’ve felt an  immediate switch from hating every member of my family to suddenly being able to tolerate their behavior upon stepping into a friend’s house.  Wine helps, too.

9. Junk Food.  Summer is the time when all dietary restrictions go out the window.  My kids eat pop-tarts, all sorts of chips, and ice cream by the truckload before breakfast every day.  Sure, produce is at its freshest, and we try to incorporate as many fruits and veggies into our meals as we can, but I’d be a liar if I said that my kids eat three squares a day in the summer.  If squares were comprised of Doritos, candy, popsicles, and kool-aid, then yes.  They do.

10. The Mall.  The mall is not always an ideal place to be for kids, but think about what the mall offers: Food.  Books.  Wide open spaces.  Cool air.  Let your kids run ahead to get some exercise while you escape the confines of your filthy home, drop some cash at the food court for a plate of greasy Chinese noodles, and try on cute tops and shorts while your kids eat the loose Skittles you’ve found  in the bottom of your purse.  Don’t forget a roll of quarters to feed the vending machines for bouncy balls, stale gumballs, and little trinkets they will choke on later. 

Wow.  This list sucks.  You know what? This summer, just try to keep your head low and your eyes to the ground.  Soon it will be September, and the summer will be just a memory of sunscreen in the eyes and bathing suit wedgies.  That’s what I’m counting on, anyway.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt 5: A list of 10 things every parent needs to survive summer

Friday, May 23, 2014

I Just Don’t Do It

You probably haven’t noticed, but I am not as prolific on the ol’ bloggeroo as I used to be.

Okay, you also don’t care.

So of course I’m going to talk about it, because I need to process this and you are here, so I’m going to make you care, you big old sourpuss.  I’m going to make you love me.

Once upon a time when About 100% was new and I was still wondering if the name was too obtuse or silly or meaningless (is it obtuse or silly or meaningless?) I was cranking out 18 posts a month.

Two points for you if you can spot this photo elsewhere on my blog.

All right – that happened once.  I was a rock star that month.

I’m not consistent in churning out posts.  Certain times I write more.  It has nothing to do with the season, or having more time to write.  Being busy should have little effect on writing.  You can write anywhere, anytime, for as little as ten minutes a day, they say.  I believe them.  Christmas and Halloween (Halloween is a big deal, peeps - get on board) and the end of the school year and even my Birthdayyyyy, heyyyyy are no excuse for not writing.  If I had an office job or worked at Gymboree or shoveled mulch for a living, like hordes of other bloggers do, I’d be plenty busy and still find time to do this thing.  My lack of productivity also has nothing to do with having nothing to write about.

I think it’s been pretty clear if you’re a regular reader of my blog that I don’t always have something to write about.

So why the inconsistency in output?  Why is it that in one month I will write 18 blog posts, and the next, scratch out only 5?

Hold onto your pants now, children, because I’m about to release a truth that will blow them right off your body.

I’m not disciplined.

I don’t write because I don’t take the time.  Of all the measly excuses out there, I have the measliest one.  I just don’t do it.

I have the time to do it.  I have eschewed all but the most necessary of household tasks during the work/school week to make more time for myself to write.  Nary a dishrag runs over a countertop during the days that I am home in the name of writing, of honing my craft, of fulfilling this obligation to myself, my family, the world.  Muahaha.

Oh, coffee.  I can't quit you.

And doo doo dooo, I rattle around the house most days and look out the window, make the bed, drink some coffee and eat a whole bag of chocolate-covered pomegranates from the bulk store.  I cruise over to Facebook and say whaddup to my peeps, try to figure out Twitter for the millionth time and why am I even on Twitter and let’s not even talk about Pinterest.  Then it’s three o’clock and I’m on the couch watching Ellen and the kids are coming through the door.

Freakin’ Ellen.  I love everything about her.

Discipline.  I don’t have it.

It’s the hardest part of blogging for me – having the discipline to actually do it, to sit down and say the words that swirl in my brain.  To write, to type, to make notes on post-its and in journals.  It’s not hard to do, and since it’s my blog, it doesn’t even matter that the thoughts and words make sense, that they help others, that they make people laugh or cry or learn.  This is where I work those things out.  Key word: work.

It’s the ultimate goal, what every writer wants – to change the world and the way people think, to see what we all see in a different way, to touch emotions, to share stories, to relate – oh, to relate.   I created my blog to work toward this, with the understanding that I will get better and better at it, and I have made it my job to do this, have arranged my time at home to do this.  And sometimes I do it, but more times lately, I just don't.  My lack of discipline makes me the worst employee ever.

One who eats all the chocolate-covered pomegranates.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #1: The most challenging part about blogging for you is…

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

RSVP: The Art and The Agony

Planning a party is easy!  You don’t have to have a theme or a reason.  All you need are a few things: a time and place, maybe some snacks and drinks, and some people to party with. 

Turns out the first few things – the prep, planning, purchasing, and timing – the work of it all, the part that takes the most thought, time, and money – this is the easiest part.

Finding out who will be there so you know what to prepare?  That’s hard.  Party day can be the stuff of nightmares, like forgetting you were enrolled in a class, only to find out on final exam day.  Or showing up to work without pants.  You’re unprepared.

Who’s coming?  How many are coming?  I’ve invited fifty people!  How many have RSVP’d to let me know they’re coming?

One, two, three, four, five.  Five have said they are coming.  Five out of fifty.  Oops, four.  I’m coming.  To my own party.  Do I count?    

Wake up WAKE UP!  This is a nightmare.  They didn’t get the invitation.  They don’t know it’s coming up.  I will need to make phone calls and send emails and texts.  It will take days to contact everyone.

Nope.  Not a nightmare.  It’s real.  It’s happened.  I’ve planned parties before, and like showing up sans pants, I was left hanging.

What has happened to the art of the RSVP?

R├ępondez s'il vous plait, which is French for please respond, is often overlooked on present day invitations.  Once described as “inexcusably rude” not to respond to an invitation to a gathering, most modern people don’t care to offer an intention to attend or not to attend.  Some people may try to tell you that they don’t know what RSVP means, but to that I say mmmmkay.  Don’t believe you.

I was taught that to not indicate your intention to attend a gathering that you were distinctly invited to is rude.  Okay, maybe not inexcusably so, but rude nonetheless.  Is it that a negative response is so difficult to offer?  “I can’t come” is an adequate response to a party invite.  No explanation is needed.  I’ve made my share of “no, thank you” responses in the past without much more than an explanation of “we have previous plans.”

In a society where people can’t get enough of watching each other humiliate themselves on television, make callous and careless statements to each other over social media, and regularly flip each other the bird in traffic, I can’t believe that people don’t respond to party invitations just because they feel bad that they can’t come.

In fact, it's cool to respond “no” if you can’t come.  I don’t feel bad over a negative response to an invitation.  I regret that I won’t see your gorgeous smile at my party, but it’s better than preparing for your presence, only to find that you don’t show up.

And how embarrassing is it if you don’t respond and I don’t have food or space for you when you decide to come after all?  What if I decide to cancel the party because nobody said they were coming and you come knocking?  Well, that would be awkward is what.  Oh, hi; come in.  I think I have some crackers and a couple slices of American cheese to give you.  Is water okay?

People: PLEASE.  Respond to the invitation.  Someone has gone to the trouble to invite you, to request your presence.  They want you to be there.  They are asking you to be there.  If you can’t be there, tell them so.  Do it right away.  Give your host time to prepare.  Don’t be the person who just doesn’t show.  Don’t be the person who shows and isn’t expected.  Just RSVP.  Let a sister know if you’re coming or not.  It’s so easy.  With all the impersonal means of communication available to us these days, you won’t even have to deal with watching the disappointment cloud your friend’s face when you tell her you can’t come to her party.

You also won’t see the relief in her eyes, either, but that’s a life lesson for another time.


Monday, May 19, 2014

The Dance

Today we're going to talk about school dances.

Do you remember in the movie Sixteen Candles when Samantha and her mom talk about their plans for the evening and Samantha was all angsty about her family forgetting about her sixteenth birthday?

As a kid my reaction to this was all "I will rip my jelly shoes to shreds in outrage if that ever happens to ME!!!" As a parent of small kids I was all "YEAH RIGHT like any parent would ever forget their own child's birthday, AS IF!" And as a parent of t(w)eens I'm all "Jeebus, this almost happened to me just the other month; I need to stop day-drinking."

Anywhoopsies, Samantha was all defeated about her stupid family forgetting about her most important birthday, and muttered to her mom "I think I have a dance to go to" in order to get out of the house and escape the horrors of spending the weekend with them and her grossly inappropriate and thus totally normal grandparents.

Sixteen Candles came out at a formative period in my life, and as such I have used its wisdom in many life situations.  I use the "I think I have a dance to go to" line all the time when my husband asks me to help him with something, tailoring it to any situation.  Him: "Honey, can you help me reorganize the shed?"  Me: "I think I have to check the yard for worms."  "I think I have to buy some pickles."  "I think I have to go to the mall for new pantaloons."

It works.  Any seemingly more important event trumps whatever someone else has going on.  It helps if the task is incomprehensible to the person making the request.  Pantaloons are hard to find, peeps.

We all know what happened next in the movie.  Because Samantha was so distraught about her birthday being a dud, she went to the dance and gave her underpants to a nerd.  Obviously that was a brilliant idea and so it became my go-to response for every crummy thing I experienced in my teens. And twenties and thirties.  As for my forties, I haven't really tried it yet, but fingers crossed that it still works.

The lesson here is that anything can happen at a school dance.  A school dance is scary and exciting at first, eventually becomes no big deal, and turns into a great way to avoid your family.

And this weekend, it was a big deal for this one, who went to her first big school dance on Friday:

Don't worry.  I warned her about the underpants.


Friday, May 16, 2014

If You’re Wondering What I’ve Been Doing Lately

After the horror show that was this past winter, I’ve been spending some time outside in the yard fixing it up.  I know – it’s shocking.  I – queen of the indoors – have been working outside.  I’m as surprised as you are.

Gardening really isn’t my thing.  I mean, I’ll do it, but tooling around in the yard isn’t my first choice of activity.  There are bugs, people.  Lots of them.  And dirt.  And worms, and spiders that are still in their underground winter homes but now I’m digging where they live and I’m trying not to think about the one that crawled over my hand.  Have I ever mentioned that poison ivy and I aren’t friends?  Fingers crossed that we won’t cross paths this summer.

Despite my aversion to the outdoors, I’ve been out in the yard, making it gorgeous.  Okay, maybe not gorgeous.  I am not a landscape artist.  I could use some professional help.  I’m doing my best here.

This week, I bought flowers.  I went overboard.

Plant us!
Last year, I didn’t buy any flowers.  We blew our wad on a facelift for the house and I decided that we couldn’t spend any more cash on flowers. 

I missed having flowers.

So I blew this year’s wad on them.

Along with the annuals, I bought a few perennials to fill the holes in our landscaping, a shrub, some herbs, even a couple of tropical plants.  Tropical plants love humidity and heat, and our area brings it every summer.

I pulled out all the pots we have and overfilled a few with coleus and something else that is pretty but I don’t know what it is called.  At the store, I quick checked the tag for how much sun it requires and piled some in my cart.  I hope they grow.  They are going to get lots of sun.

We're pretty!

I planted geraniums that had no blooms so it’s a mystery what color they’ll be.  I hope they bloom so I find out.

We're mysterious!

I still have work to do.  There are window boxes on the playhouse and hanging baskets to fill with begonias.  And I planted some marigolds in spots that I meant to place perennials, so I have to casually rip out some marigolds to make room.  

The herbs get their very own pots, as they should.  Look, I’m Martha Stewart.

I have my own pot!

I threw an old poinsettia into the ground to see what it can do.  It suffered this winter by being shut up in my husband’s office, protected from our houseguest.  It can’t do any worse than this.  Did you know that poinsettias are a shrub?

I'm a shrub!

It’s going to look so nice when all the work is finished.  I’m looking forward to the yard looking nice again.

I’m also looking forward to being done with the planting, so I can get back inside.   Who wants to come over and water?


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thirteen Things I Love About Vacation

So summer is almost here, and school’s almost out. 

School’s almost out.  Can we say a prayer?  Dear Lord, please let me survive the last month of school.  The sheer volume of things going on is making my head spin.  I feel crazy.


When I’m feeling crazy, I like to think about vacation.  Being away, doing fun stuff, being away, being away, being away.  When you’re a stay-at-home mom, being away becomes the stuff of dreams, the goal of life.  Being at home, especially during the school year, can be stifling.  Homework to check, uniforms to wash, tests to sign, meetings and activities to run to.  Plus all the normal stuff, blah blah blah toilet cleaning blah blah blah.  It never ends.  Are the walls closing in?

Let’s talk about what’s awesome about vacation, shall we?

1. You’re not at home.  My house is a vortex.  It sucks me in.  Leaving can be a struggle – there’s always a coffee cup to put in the sink, a window to close, a jug of milk to put back in the fridge.  On vacation, I don’t even realize that all the lights were left on when I leave for the spa.  My bed is made for me.  I am encouraged to leave my towels on the floor.  And every hotel door locks by itself.

2. Simple choices.  On vacation, the complexities of everyday life are left at home.  Juggling appointments and figuring out tax brackets become “do I have pie or chocolate lava cake for dessert?”

3. You do things you’ve never done before.  Sometimes on vacation you get to do new things.  On vacation you become fearless.  On any given day you are an explorer, discovering new lands and encountering new people.  You might do something scary. Or maybe you’ll just sit around.  Either way, you’re doing something different than the norm, and that makes you awesome and brave.  Maybe you’re not so brave if you’re just sitting around.  Or awesome.  But it feels amazing, doesn’t it?

4. You become rich.  When we’re away, money suddenly is no object.  Twenty-four dollars for a hamburger?  NO PROBLEM.  Yes, we’ll take the souvenir cup – here’s ten bucks.  Who cares that it comes in a container so large that we can’t possibly store it in our kitchen cabinets, and is so awkward that no one will use it, and I’ll throw it in the trash a week after we get home?

5. Caloric intake limits do not exist.  I usually do a little half-hearted dieting attempt before a vacation to appear svelte when I get there.  But that is quickly undone as I become a human food vacuum upon arrival.  Have you ever been on a cruise?  You can eat as much as you want, any time you want.  Okay, the last time I was on a cruise was thirteen years ago, so the rules may have changed since then.  But then I was five months pregnant, and one night I ate two dinners and all the desserts, and that was probably the best night of my entire life.

6. No chores.  If you rent a house on vacation, you may have to do laundry once or twice, or go to the grocery store.  Even so, chores are a novelty, not a necessity.  If you’re lucky enough to stay in a hotel, there are no chores at all.  Wipe up the sink after your brush your teeth?  Big deal.  An infinite chore loop does not exist on vacation.

7. Everything is more fun. We go on a beach vacation every summer.  We play mini golf, go on boat rides, swim and lie in the sun.  These things are available to do at home.  They become other-worldly events when we think about doing them on vacation, and we count down the days until we get there to do them.

8. No schedules to keep.  At home (waking up): OMG I SLEPT IN FIFTEEN MINUTES THIS DAY SUCKS.  On vacation (waking up): Wow, I slept in.  I should call room service and have them bring me breakfast.  And lunch.

9. No need to keep up appearances.  When I’m on vacation, makeup doesn’t exist, and my hair’s a mess.  And I wear the same clothes for a week.  There is no pressure to look put together, which for me is a huge ordeal usually.

10. Rejuvenation, renewal, refreshment.  Everyone says that certain kinds of vacations are more work than being at home.  I’ve been on trips like this.  But the break from the crushing tedium of regular life is always welcome.  And darn it if I don’t feel like a million bucks when I get home, ready to take on the world.  Or at least not want to stick my head in the oven.

11. You can be anyone you want on vacation.  Because no one knows you on vacation, there’s no one to say Hey! You’re not an astronaut – you work at Old Navy!  Or – You went to a state school, not Oxford!  Or – you don’t have a British accent!  On vacation, you can be anything.  A club-goer.  A bikini-wearer.  A smoker and a drunk.  Or my favorite: a dirty hippie who wears the same clothes for a week.  The possibilities are endless.

12. You have something to talk about when you get home.  Face it.  Your life is so tedious and boring that everything you talk about is a snoozefest.  Vacations fill in the gaps of your poor conversational skills and make you infinitely more interesting than you really are.  Vacations allow us to bond with others as we discuss our favorite ride at Disney World (Space Mountain), the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower (breathtaking, but not when it’s foggy), and how scary it is to snorkel over a manta ray (SO SCARY).

13.  The memories.  Oh, the memories.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #2: List 13 things you love about vacation.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What Happened Here?

They are everywhere, even when I can’t see them.

Their stuff fills our house.  Their activities fill every blank spot on the calendar, especially at this time of year.  At times I am totally preoccupied with their schedules.  Their faces, words, personalities fill my mind and heart.

When we go away from them, we still have to take care of them.  Is there a sitter available?  Can they stay with friends?  Can my mom come to watch them?  Can your mom?  If nobody’s available, we can’t go.  Can they stay home alone for just these few hours?

We call them.  We text.  How are you?  What do you need?  Good job!  I’m proud of you.  I love you.  You are handsome (Mom, don’t text me that.  It’s weird).

We try to make them laugh, try not to make them cry.  Try to teach, instruct, soothe.  My prayer life is filled with concerns about them.  Dear God, please protect them.

What has happened to our life?  Fifteen years ago we were only concerned with ourselves.  Let’s go out to eat.  Let’s go see a movie.  Let’s go to a horse race and a house party, bake ourselves in the sun for hours, travel to Paris on a whim.  Shopping for furniture and/or a car was just another weekend activity.  We were so cute back then.

I’ve seen every animated movie ever made since 2001.  A hundred times if we’ve got it on DVD.  We probably have it on DVD.  I have not seen many Oscar winners.  I want to see Oscar winners.

I’ve eaten more chicken nuggets than anyone should.  Ones with bites already taken from them.  Surely my life was meant to be more glamorous than this, filled with better things to eat than this.  Once I was asked if I ever ate a meal that was so good it made me weep.  No.  I haven’t.  I HAVEN’T! I WANT TO EAT A MEAL THAT WILL MAKE ME WEEP

I have resigned myself to wearing sneakers every day.  I need to consider that I may be walking through a sports field at any given point – I cannot wear heels to a baseball game.  Sigh.   One of these pairs of sneakers is a hand-me-down.  It’s humbling to rock a pair of Chucks when you know that your son once wore them. 

I have been puked on, drooled on, coughed on, peed on, picked boogers out of other people’s noses with my fingers, and have caught poop with my bare hands as it falls out of a diaper.  I have wiped butts.  OMG so many times.  There are some people in the world who have never wiped another person's butt.  I don't know what that's like.

I have lain awake worrying about a weird noise coming from a bedroom down the hall.  Did it just happen again?  What time does the doctor’s office open?  Is this an emergency?  Should we have the phone service rouse the doctor from his bed?  They have on call weekends – is this a worthy concern?

I know that on a Sunday morning at 4 am, it only takes 35 minutes to get to the children’s hospital that is normally over an hour away.

Our lives are not only ours now.  They are theirs, too.  I have tried to keep them separate, tried to keep the progression of our lives linear but parallel, raising them but living my own life just a few steps away.  It doesn’t work.  We are intertwined, tangled up.  We are rooted to each other. 

This life is wonderful and awful, sometimes simultaneously.  I wonder what life would look like without them.  It’s impossible – they fill my mind and my heart.  Our lives are forever changed. 

Whose idea was it to have these kids, anyway?


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #2: Whose fault was it?

Monday, May 5, 2014


“MOM!  I was getting something out of the refrigerator and the couscous fell out and the top fell off of the container, and it went all over the floor!  Can you help me?”

I rolled my eyes.  This was the second interruption I’d had while at my desk.  I told everyone at noon that I was going to be reading blogs today.  It was 7:30 pm.  I just sat down to read thirty minutes before.

My immediate response was to help.  Of course I would help.  Couscous is hard to clean up.  I envisioned the mess, little congealed balls of pasta exploding as they hit the tile, tiny bits rolling under the oven, the fridge, everything.  They smear when you wipe them up.  What a mess.

But then – she’s ten, almost eleven.  She knows how to wield a paper towel.  She can do this.

“No.  You can do it.”

“But MOM!  It’s all over!  It will take me forever!”

“It won’t take forever.  But it might take some time to do it right.  Get the paper towels.  You can do it.”

I heard the stomping, the muttering.  I went back to reading blogs.  I expected the guilt to follow, imagined its tentacles squeezing my conscience.  I’m a MOM.  My job is to help my children thrive, grow, succeed.

No.  Cleaning up a mess for her, at the very least supervising her while she does it, won’t help her in any of those things.

The guilt never came.

Maybe it was the week I had.  I had juggled all the balls unaided, deflected chaos, managed daily schedules, and solved problems.  I tackled large projects.  I threw a birthday party sleepover.  I was going to sit still and read some blogs, darn it all.

Or maybe it is because I’ve spent so much time wallowing in mom guilt that I’m over it.  I can’t still allow myself to feel badly for all the things I don’t do for my family – my weary soul can’t take it anymore.   I’m breaking free from being everything for everybody.  After years of preaching it to others but not always believing it myself, it’s time to take my own advice.  Don’t feel bad for not doing it all.

It’s easier now that they are older.  That I am older – I literally can’t do everything.  Things are more of an effort these days – I’ve decelerated as they have become more capable.  We’re trading places, slowly.

I make a mental list of all the things I recently no longer felt badly about: Not making dinner, cleaning, or washing that one shirt that was found under the bed after I did the laundry. Watching my own TV shows, reading for hours, going out with friends.  If they haven’t dressed appropriately for the weather – hello, it’s 45 degrees outside, shorts are for summer.  Saying no, I won’t help you find your iPod, notebook, permission slip, phone, shoes, hat, hoodie, book, headphones.

And saying no, I won’t help you clean up that mess.

In grad school, I was rushing around in my apartment to get to class on time.  I had a long, busy day planned, and in my haste to grab something out of the fridge for lunch, I knocked over a pot of soup, spilling it on the floor.   I couldn’t be late, so I cleaned up what I could but had to leave most of the mess for later.  I spent the whole day thinking about what waited for me when I got home.  After that, I learned to take my time in the fridge.

That lesson was a valuable one.  Although small, it shaped me in a big way.  It taught me to take my time, that lack of physical deftness was a real obstacle.  What this meant for others, for me.  I found out that I was meant to be more deliberate.

I don’t know what lesson my kids will learn from having to clean up a mess in the kitchen, other than to be careful.  I don’t know what else they will learn from suffering through a chilly day with only half of their bodies covered other than to dress appropriately for the weather.  Maybe they will learn common sense, basic skills, self-sufficiency.  Maybe they will learn something more about themselves.

As for me, I’m learning not to feel bad for letting them learn these things.  I’m learning to be nicer to myself.

It is a good lesson.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ten Things I Love About Mad Men

A few years ago, a friend of mine told me that she watched an episode of this new show about ad execs, set in 1960s New York.  It was funny because it was true to life back then, but so wrong – moms smoking in the kitchen while kids ran around with dry cleaner bags on their heads?  Crazy!  Dads driving around town with kids crawling over the seats?  Insane!  And it was about being swanky in New York in the 1960s.  I was mildly intrigued.  At the time I was waiting for Weeds to start its new season, and I needed to fill the expanding holes in my mind with something other than whatever I was doing before I started blogging.  In any case, I started watching, and then I couldn’t stop.  It was not meant to be a funny show.   I didn’t care.  I was hooked.
I love Mad Men.  And, like all good things, it is coming to an end.  Let’s not talk about that, though.  Let’s not even think it, and my goodness especially let’s not think about the fact that I only own seasons one through four on DVD and we’re already on season seven for pity’s sake.  And let’s definitely not think about how many awesome (and not-so-awesome) shows air for years and years (Hello again, The Simpsons and Law & Order! That’s enough, Two and a Half Men.) What up, Mad Men?  You’ve still got a decade or two left in you, certainly.

Let’s not think about how my list of favorite shows will go from four to three when Mad Men ends.  Let’s not think about the pouting or the sobbing or the wailing or the despondent cookie eating when that happens.  Let’s think about all the things I love about my favorite show.

1. Jon Hamm.  Sure, he’s Don Draper, the jerky jerkerson cheater cheater pants on fire liar on the show, but he’s soooooo handsome.  Does that make me shallow or stupid?  I don’t know.  He's handsome.
2. 1960s swank.  When I got a load of Don and Megan’s crash pad, I almost had a conniption.  All the mid century mod!  Everything’s low to the ground, all white carpet and sleek lines that I only see in the home of my dreams.  The scenes where Megan is playing house, cooking in the tiny kitchen, made me cry.  “Girl, turn off that hot pad! What’re you doing, heating a ham slice and a can of corn?  Put on your micromini and make that man take you to Lut├Ęce!”  Do people say conniption nowadays? 

3. The business.  It’s so… business-y.  I am terrible at business, but I love that the characters on the show seem to work hard while appearing like they’re not doing anything but sitting around looking crisp and fresh.  Closing deals and mergers and making millions never looked so effortless.

4.  People are dressed.  Mad Men’s wardrobe is eye candy.  Even Betty the housewife has gorgeous bathrobes and matching pajama ensembles.  I love the fashion on the show, even though it makes me question my own choices.  Today I went out in my yoga pants and a white sweatshirt I wore every morning this week AND last, and I wondered where life went wrong.  I want mod minis and sweater sets, pencil skirts and pretty dresses every day!  And get my nails painted red and my hair set and look pulled together instead of like I found my clothes on the floor of a frat house. 

5.  John Slattery.  His Roger Sterling is the comedic element on this show.  This silver fox has nine lives, and he’s always smiling.  He is ageless – he looks 50 but acts 15, is drunk and/or high always, and is an insufferable cad, but I look forward to his one-liners each week.  Plus he's always, always in a suit.

6.  The way they talk.  People were still polite in the 1960s, and they are polite to each other on the show, even when they're back-stabbing each other.  There’s little name-calling or lashing out.  The pursed lips and side-eyes on this show are much more interesting than hearing a litany of curse words any day.

7.  The drinking and smoking.  So I live in a world that still operates under the illusion that strong drinks and cigarettes are glamorous.  Bar carts in offices and an ashtray by the bed are de rigueur on the show and never frowned upon by the characters.  Kids are taught to mix drinks and use a Zippo at an early age.  Okay, so they had heart attacks in their 30s.  Still, try to tell me you didn't want to be them before they hit the floor.

8.  The art! These people have money, and they show's all about an ad agency! So the offices and homes are filled with art.  I’m too much of a hick to know what they’ve got hanging on the walls, but darn if I don't notice something pretty over there in the corner in every episode.

9.  Christina Hendricks.  Her corporate ladder-climbing office manager-turned partner Joan Harris is a woman who is out for herself, ambitious and selectively kind.  Be sure to stay on her good side or you’ll find yourself sharing an office with the Xerox machine.

10.  It’s on Sunday nights.  Ah, you think I’m stretching with this one, don’t you?  Nope.  Sunday nights are my favorite nights for watching TV.  It’s because Sundays are typically lazy days, and there’s nothing to do those nights - we’re all tucked in, ready for the week.  All but one of my favorite four shows are on Sundays. 

And when Mad Men is over, there will only be three.  I miss it already.  *sniff*


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #5: List 10 things you love about your favorite show.