Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just another day at the office

Ah. Just returned from a week of vacation, so you'd think I'd be relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to be a nice mom again. Not so.
I think I'm going to ask this blog's board of directors (didn't know we had one, didja?) for a name change... Something along the lines of Mean Mom and her Sweet Sister (guess who I am).
Feels like all I did today was gripe at the kids. Sure, I had a lot to get done (and I did get a lot done) but it wasn't one of those days that I was trying to do too much. The littlest boy got a nap. The oldest boy didn't but he did spend about an hour alone in the room with the door shut (in Quiet Time, which is our nap alternative). But this was just a day when all my buttons were pushed.
I have to admit, days like this are the absolute hardest part of being a stay at home mom. Not the days kids are sick or doctor visits or being the chauffeur to their activities. It's days like this when I'm on the phone for 30 seconds and just about get clobbered with a mini soccer ball. When I'm picking up their toys only to have the youngest in the other room pulling out clothes from the dresser. When I'm trying to get the oldest dressed and he smacks me in the face about a dozen times because he must, I repeat must, do the chicken dance while I'm trying to get his jammies on. When I'm in the kitchen and they are walking all over me. Literally. With their sweet lookin' See Kai Runs. When I say, "Could you pick up that paper you just cut into 100 pieces with your scissors?" and the answer is, "No way Jose." (Don't know where he learned that one.) These kinds of days make me scream.
Unfortunately, I do. Usually at them. Actually, I'm not much of a screamer, more a yeller. Or maybe that's even an exaggeration. I'm just a non-patient person with gainfully employed vocal chords, that's me. I struggle with how to express to them that I'm irritated at their behavior and I'm (even more) irritated at myself for not being mature enough to handle it. And the hard thing about days like this is that I have no colleagues or (in my case) patients who can make a bad day better by offering encouragement or sympathizing or by simply being adults. Instead, I have these two little people who are subject to me and my moods and who break my heart in a million pieces by saying things like, "Mommy, are you frustrated with us? It's hard being a mommy, isn't it?". Sob. On the one hand I'm proud that he's that receptive but on the other hand I wish that wasn't what he had to recept.
Parenting is just hard. Not because it's rocket science but because it's constant and you don't get a mental health day and because sometimes kids and parents just don't get along and because you don't get an objective annual review that tells you how to improve yourself . Trust me, there are tons of rewards, that isn't lost on me. But that's for another post. This post is about the hard part.
So what else can I do at the end of a day like today except spend my post-bedtime (for them) hours eating packets (PLURAL) of Hershey's Kissables (the greatest candy invented, IMHO) and watching a little YouTube for laugh or two.
So if your day has stunk (or if you just like to laugh) watch this. (There are 7 parts, and here's one of them, but watch them all. In succession with Halloween candy in hand. You'll be glad you did.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How to remember

September 11th, that was yesterday.
Today I read an account of the memorial in NYC that occurred yesterday in the rain, not at Ground Zero, but in a plaza some blocks away. I read that several hundred were there for the first hour and by the end of the ceremony there were... sixty people present. Sixty people, out of a city of millions.
At first, I was a bit appalled, to think that only sixty people found the need to commemorate the day at the ceremony. It seems that in our time, we are all having a hard time knowing how to respect sad days. Do we have a parade and wave our flags? Do we light candles? Do we read names? Do we listen to politicians' speeches, saying for the 500th time "we shall not forget" and "we'll never let this happen again"?
I don't know the answer and honestly don't have an opinion. I do know that we must remember. But we must remember like we remember the Holocaust, from a place of true respect for both the victims of the nightmare and the reasons why it happened. But how to do that?
I'm treading on thin ice here, but I'll admit, I get a weird feeling when those of us with no connection whatsoever to the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or the flight that went down in Pennsylvania discuss that horrible day. When those with no connections get all patriotic and relate it to September 11th, it starts to feel more like a badge of honor than an expression of shared grief. It feels trite. Someone I worked with at the time went to NYC with the Red Cross in the days after the attacks. She wrote, "Off to Ground Zero!" on our sign-in board like she was going on safari. I was glad she could go to render her services, but it felt like she was grandstanding more than grieving.

I can not imagine the awful-ness that day brought to the entire eastern seaboard, but especially places like Manhattan and DC and Boston... and I do want to remember and respect that day, but in a way that feels right and not just some simplistic flag-waving and yellow-ribbon wearing. I love my country, and I do fly my flag. I completely respect and admire people who are willing to leave their families and lives and fight under bad conditions. I know I couldn't do that. But September 11th itself doesn't mean the military to me.
That day can mean whatever you want it to mean for you, but for me, it means two huge buildings falling, it means a plane exploding in a field, it means terrified onlookers seeing a government building struck. It means trying to figure out what kind of story my favorite morning show was reading on the news and why they weren't being funny that day. It means arriving at work, sitting motionless with my coworkers trying to comprehend what was unfolding around us. Watching my most professional and intelligent colleague hold her head in her hands and sob. It means going to one of my patients' rooms just to watch the news with him. Witnessing one of my favorite doctors defend his Indian background to an insensitive coworker. Trying to explain for the 5th time to a patient with dementia that he was watching the news, not the Sci-Fi Channel.
I myself feel like an outsider looking in on someone else's horror. But there must be a way for all of us to be witnesses to this event, to acknowledge it for what it is and what it did to our country. There must be better words we can use. A word that means horror, sorrow, shock and disbelief. A word that means "offering support" when there is not a thing we can actually do. Something meaning respect, remembrance and honor for victims of senseless tragedy that has only brought more tragedy. I don't know what that word is, I don't know what kind of memorial there should be, I don't know what kind of ceremony. But I'd use the word, visit the memorial and attend the ceremony. Because I don't want to forget.

Friday, September 07, 2007

As Seen in My Town

In a departure from my recent sentimental schlock, I present to you "Things Of Note I've Seen In My Town."

In the Things That Make Me Chuckle Even Though They Could Turn Out Badly category:
  • I have an irresistable urge to laugh when bad things happen, like when people fall down or walk in to light poles or other clumsy things. I don't know why these things make me laugh, I know I'm awful to get a smile on my face at another's misfortune. But it's just a weird thing and I can't control it. So, the other day we happened upon a traffic accident in the middle of a busy intersection. (Let me go no further without noting that the traffic accident itself was basically a fender bender and no one was seriously injured or died, which I probably wouldn't laugh at. Unless it was really funny.) There was a community policing unit (those volunteers or senior citizens who help out local police departments) "helping out" (I use that term loosely- stay with me) with traffic. One man directing traffic was not completely clear as to how an intersection works and while he'd wave on one lane, the left turn lane from the other direction would obey the traffic lights and he'd nearly get creamed. The best part is he was laughing his head off every time he nearly died like it was the funniest thing, which it was, except for the part that his very life was in danger. Anyway, it was kind of a hoot. He waves on the Jetta and the Hummer turning left who couldn't see him a moment ago screeches to a halt to avoid him. His community policing partner was frantic and running all over trying to remedy the situation which only added to the chaos and hilarity. I'm laughing just remembering it. I'll admit I'm likely the only one entertained by this retelling of a mundane moment but it was like the Three Stooges directing traffic. Except there were only two. (PS The guy made it through as far as I know. At least the paper said nothing about his untimely demise.)

In the Ridiculous Events That Pose As Something To Do In Our Community category:

Our library puts on some really fun evening events, like puppet shows and magicians, which my kids always enjoy. They are free, only about 30-45 minutes and they get to be about 2 inches from the performer which is likely the only way Boy #2 would ever tolerate being still for more than 3 seconds in a row. So the other weekend, I noticed they were putting on a dance contest for local teens and spectators were welcome. I've seen local folks on the sidewalks who can rock it while advertising pizza by waving a sign, so I know there to be a few good dancers in our local community. Turns out those pizza rockers weren't at the library that day. It would have been more accurate for the library to print advertisements proclaiming, "Watch As Local Teens Play Video Games. Fun for the whole family! Pack a lunch and stay all day!!" The "event" was teens playing that video game thing I've seen before called a DDR where they follow a screen that tells them where and when to move their feet. So we got to see some of our towns most unenthusiastic kids pretending to dance when really they were moving their feet to a prescribed place on a dance mat (and by that I mean feet ONLY, not any other part of them was moving). I know I'm completely an old lady now, but here's a question to parents of teens or teens themselves (because I know our readership in the under-20 crowd is real high): Are kids today so unimaginative that they can't even dance without a video game telling them how? Are they that un-organic that they can't connect music and their bodies? The only thing that annoyed me more was the fact that our library actually spent library dollars to buy two of the DDR mats and the software to play this. Oh, and while the "competitors" (I use that term loosely) were waiting their turn, they could play a similar game which was a plastic guitar with colored buttons and you push them as the screen tells you to. Absolutely astounding. I'm almost ready to boycott my library, but I guess I won't. Am I silly for being this annoyed at bored teens with no creative skills and the systems that support that? Am I ridiculous for thinking that maybe the library should be more interested in getting kids to read in the library, not just to go to the library? Tell me, I want to know.

In the People Who Should Not Be Multi-tasking Even Though They Are Bored category:

The other day I was about to turn onto a road that was being paved. At the intersection there was a flagger telling the right turn lane when they could go, since there were steam rollers and the like just waiting to flatten the next minivan. (Note: this section includes no accidents, carnage or hysterical laughing at near-death experiences.) I'm waiting my turn and I notice that the flagger (with her back to me, the only lane she's really needing to direct) has her stop/slow sign leaned up against her tush and it's telling me to stop and go slow in a non-meaningful manner. She turns to the left, I stop. A little to the right, I'm instructed to go. You catch my drift. Then she turns around and in one hand she has a cell phone. OK, I think, she could be talking to the steamroller waiting to hear when the coast is clear. But in the other hand? A cigarette. She's supposed to be directing traffic and she's smokin' and chattin'. It wasn't particularly funny (no one tripped or fell) and it wasn't dangerous (every driver I saw was capable of figuring out how to dodge large equiptment) but it was kind of surreal.

So what's happenin' in your town?

Monday, September 03, 2007

It's over, it's really over.

The summer, that is. This holiday marks the end of summer and with it, the end of long, hot days with no schedule or structure.
Not that that's a bad thing. Or a good thing either. I always look forward to summer and have lamented its end since I was young. On the other hand, I've never hated school, so I didn't dread the fall and the first day back to the classroom. As a mom of a preschooler, I am so looking forward to nine hours a week of time with only one kid. But I must admit, I'm a bit saddened by how fast life is passing by.
My oldest turns 4 in a month. Four. That's how long it took to finish my bachelor's... that's more than half the length of my marriage... that's longer than I spent working as a social worker, and twice as long as it took to become a social worker (clarification: after the BA was earned). Even though I've been at this motherhood thing for almost four years, I'm still waiting for the real mom to step in and take over since there is no possible way that it's legal for me to be responsible for these two little lives. Ah, life. It just goes.
We spent the last day of summer with friends in a park, which wore out my two bear cubs completely. After four hours of sun, potluck food, boucing in a bouncy house, interfering in a teenagers-and-dads' game of volleyball and just wandering around with KoolAid grins on, they were exhausted. It was exactly the kind of day meant to give kids good memories of summer and friends.
I'll miss you, Summer. I'll miss your warm days, your balmy evenings. But I look forward to a few more colors on the trees and the brisk mornings that will come in fall. I'll miss your swimming lessons and going to the water park, but I look forward to pumpkin-themed art projects from preschool and buying decorative gourds for our porch. I loved the free time to have a whole day to go to IKEA or the zoo with friends in our old hometown, but I can't wait for school field trips and checking out the corn-maze at a local farm.
All in all, life is rich, isn't it?