Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking back, looking ahead for... a Bridgewater Soccer Mom

Yesterday's entry was bleak. I write today's blog while listening to NPR and drinking my coffee. NPR just went through the decade. A decade ago I lived in a different world - or, well, in a different country. I had a job I loved, but was in the middle of a year-long maternity leave. A decade ago I probably was thinking that it might be the year I would lose my Mom - and I did in July 2001. A decade ago I thought I had the best neighbors in the world - as the decade ends I have even more proof that if you are a good friend to others you'll never be lonely.

January 2010 will always be the month of doctors appointments. Looking back now I counted 20 in my planner. It started with an ER visit and my son's "stapled head". Two weeks later my husband ran over his foot with a truck. Yes, it is possible! That was also the day my son could claim he jumped out of a moving truck. At least he has something interesting to write on his college applications! "When I was 9 I jumped out of a moving truck". My husband's foot has recovered except for some lingering bruises. I'm still traumatized however by the thoughts that in a matter of a few seconds I could have been a widow.

We had many good times in 2010. My son won his first award in school and we spent a lot of time in my home town. My friends gathered together. I went to a wedding in New Hampshire and reconnected with people who were vital to my in my childhood. My daughter discovered she loves summer camp. She flew on an airplane alone - perhaps that was a step for me as a parent: letting go. We spent time with relatives on both sides of the Atlantic. I knit projects, read books, spent time with friends and drank too much wine. I spent time in a bikini (whether a woman of my stature belongs in a bikini is a matter of taste) on various beaches, my toes planted in the sand. I cheered my kids on... aloud and silently. They both made new friends. I did too... and we had lots of guests - as usual. This year I think we actually had 15 weeks of guests - including my Dad who was here for more than 8 weeks (and we had another guest from England during one of those weeks), my in-laws were with us for a total of 4.

I don't want 2010 to end because I am apprehensive about 2011. I have sick friends and relatives who will need a miracle to make it into 2012. I am worried about my 85 year old Dad. I am worried about myself. I've applied for several jobs this fall and I keep getting turned down - a dream job last week said I didn't make the 2nd interview. My kids need me less and less and I am looking for more and more. I want to lose weight - but I'm even scared to do that. Change is scary.

Then again, I have to admit I'm optimistic. What if 2011 is the year I get a dreamy job - one that lets me balance work and home life? And if I don't get that, what if 2011 is the year I take the bull by the horns and take the roadtrip I've been dreaming about for years starting in Vancouver and ending in San Diego visiting all my friends along the way? What if 2011 is the year my house suddenly becomes a bastion of neatness or my mind clear? What if I learn Spanish in 2011 or decide to do something drastically different - start a business, start a religion, start a country? The options seem endless.

But for now, I'm not done with 2010. I've got about 40 rounds on the arm of "the sweater" that I started in August of 2009. Finishing that by 2011 is an attainable goal. I might need some coffee in order to make it. And usually a coffee is best with friends. 2010 isn't over yet. Call me, I'll see if I can still fit you in for coffee this decade... before the ball drops.... there's still time!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking back, looking ahead for BRRSD

As you may have figured out - we have been away. It was strange to be away on Christmas - in a warm place (Aruba) - and actually both kids agreed they would rather have a traditional family celebration than even be swimming in the sea.

When I came back, reality was in my in-box. One of my friends had sent me this link about the BOE and next year's budget. As I was writing this blog, the Messenger showed up in my driveway with this article. I had originally planned to make the board meeting on that Tuesday night, knowing there would be important information, but, if you read my blog, you knew I was visiting a friend instead. My priorities are in check - sick friends trump BOE meetings any Tuesday night! (Most Tuesday nights I'm driving my daughter home from Tae Kwan Do which conflicts with BOE meetings too).

Still, that doesn't mean I don't have an opinion on the 0% raise as planned in the budget.. if you're interested here it is:

I feel the Superintendent has underestimated the negotiation skills of the unions and overestimated the skills of the BOE - if recent history is the working model. But I'd love to be proved wrong. Isn't unrealistic to think the teachers and supervisors will work with no raises over the next year? And when they win the fight to keep raises, perhaps with smaller percentages, where does that leave us when the budget doesn't include the obvious. It's feels like me saying I'm going to Wegmans to get dinner for the next three days, but I'm only bringing $50 in cash. Oh, and we are planning on having steak (Latin), scallops (Forensic Science) and lobster (hockey). Of course there are costs associated in having a great program - we need to budget for them. There are also consequences in raising class sizes to the numbers mentioned in the Messenger's article. They are not acceptable numbers if you ask me!

I am not up for a long war between the board and the unions. I really, really like my kids' teachers this year and would like to keep it that way. The animosity I experienced last year is something I don't want to repeat in Spring of 2011. But I guess even close friendships need to weather storms from time to time - and I might have to deal with the grumbles as I fight to keep the board's attention on academics, and keep the teachers' focus on the kids.

And the kids' focus on school.

But for now we can just basque in the break. I'm going to get my knitting and sit by the fire for a while. It will all be there waiting to be dealt with in 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Belated Christmas

It's the holidays and time for a break. Christmas Eve the fridge/freezer died. This meant that Christmas morning I woke to lots of food going bad, and a change in plans. It's a  bit too much to expect a new fridge to materialize on Christmas Day (turns out the day after isn't an option either). Like Ralphie's family from A Christmas Story our Christmas Day dinner this year was from a Chinese restaurant - we got take out. Singapore noodles for me... It will definitely be a Christmas Dinner we remember.

Other things I wish I could change: I never got around to sending Christmas cards to everyone on the list. If you didn't get one, please believe the proverbial "it's not you, it's me" because it is true. Finally, my dear brother and his family will have to wait til 2011 to open their gifts, because they still aren't in the mail. I could have sent them something from Amazon to insure on-time delivery, but then they lose something else: the special touch that Amazon just can't deliver.

Like millions of other people throughout the world, Mother Nature has reeked havoc on our plans by throwing a wrench in the weather. Good thing we've always got a plan B. Instead of the expected activity: we went to the movies.

Sometimes it is important to let the kids decide - we saw Jack Black in Gulliver's Travels.

Since this is a Mom's View of the World... I must admit that I would never have chosen this movie for myself. In the spirit of Christmas I didn't pick it. A Mom's life is about what works for others. And, as it turns out, after throwing hundreds of dollars of food out - laughing at the stupid jokes where just what I needed!!!

Whether your are snowed in or enjoying the sun - or maybe unexpected flash flooding has you in a bit of a panic - I hope you are making the most of it.

Best wishes dear readers... TTYL.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"I see"

Spent a few hours with my dear, sick friend, E. I'm completely heartsick. Promised I will love and watch over her lovely daughter. Forever. But how could I, or an army of surrogate Moms, fill the void in L's heart once her Mom is gone?

Here is a musical interpretation of how I feel.

I see that you are tired,
but I can't walk the steps for you
You must walk them yourself
But I will walk with you
I will walk with you


I see that you are in pain
But I can't cry the tears for you
You must cry them yourself
But I will cry with you
I will cry with you


I see you want to give up
But I can't live life for you
You must live life yourself
But I will live with you
I will live with you


I see that you are scared
but I can't die for you
You must taste it yourself
But I will turn death into life for you
I'll make death a life for you 
(Bjorn Eidsvaag song, Soccer Mom translation)




Saturday, December 18, 2010

This parenting thing sucks!

Whenever I am feeling like I want my life to be different I try to remember a friend of mine (whom I've mentioned lots of times before) who doesn't have kids but really really really wants them so that I return to my regular state of gratefulness.... Part of me wants to call her now and warn her that being a parent is very difficult and sometimes painful.

This is one of those nights!

C breaking boards
It was blackbelt testing at the Tae Kwan Do school. C was the belle of the ball. She messed up big time right in the beginning.... she almost lost her cool, but her panic forced her to channel her energy and then everything else went very well.

N started strong but he didn't stay strong. He mixed up many of his forms. In sparing he did fine but not great (in my humble opinion, but apparently the judges thought otherwise). Ultimately he didn't break his boards. Not his first, not his second, not his third try - which is 20% of the grade, but worse, horrible on the psyche.
N attempting board break

In the end he failed. His sister got 90%. Both kids did well over 155 push ups (my count for what they were assigned in groups of 25-30 at a time, plus there were several minutes of straight push ups in addition - my guess is the actual number was around 250), probably 100 knee bends, with their fingers touching the floor and the actual testing started at 6pm after a full day of school and lasted 3 hours. C had been up more than 12 hours when testing started. N had missed the previous 3 days of school with fever and then a stomach issue but he still tried the test anyway.

How should I handle this? I already said one thing totally wrong: I told C that part of her good score was luck.  Last night N was practicing his board break in a class of 40 some kids. C practiced hers in a class with only 3 adults. The school is definitely at fault too, when kids aren't practicing the board break regularly until the last 2 classes before testing.

I just want to crawl under the covers with my son and cry. At the same time, I want to shower my daughter with the praise she deserves, but I can't because it is too painful for N.

Bridgewater is full of some of the most competitive parents in all of the world. They constantly brag about their own children and hardly can admit to a single fault in their perfect spawn. I'm not like that and can understand how they find parenting so easy and fun while it is so hard for me to reconcile these mixed feelings. Even when things go well, I don't want to make my kids egotistical.

Where is my culpability in this? How could I have prevented this? My poor son.... it's one thing to fail - it's another when his sister passes. And is it the school's fault - for setting him up to fail. He shouldn't have tested if he wasn't ready....... they said his forms were weak - and they were - why have him test if he isn't ready?! So shouldn't they have said something to me - like yesterday when I paid for the testing - that this test isn't in his best interest? He had been home sick for several days in a row - should I have used that as an excuse to keep him home? He was perfectly healthy during testing.

Does this make me want to give up parenting - of course it doesn't. It ust hurts so much to see him cry. But it does make me wish my Mom were here to advise me and to comfort me. She had twice as many kids as I do, so I think she'd been through this before. I need her magic answers. Sometimes it's just hard to be a Mom.... I just wish I could do it without these conflicted emotions. Maybe there is a lesson here? Maybe N will get something out of the failure? It sounds silly right now. Who knows, maybe N is learning more from the experience of not getting what he wants since for most of us life is a mixture of success and disappointments.

(Written Friday at 10pm, Published Saturday morning).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wed-nes-day

They're here...

my MIL and FIL arrived today for a near-3-week stay. Beds were changed, kitchen wiped and rooms with clutter have been made to look like human beings live here. I even discovered the floor below my linen closet which has been covered in mis-matched socks for the better part of 3 years.

My son was home today with a fever, but other than being pale had no other symptoms. He'll probably stay home tomorrow too. C looks like she should stay home, but I doubt she will, she really needs the rest as she is a candle burning at both ends.

Despite this whirlwind of activity (for me it's mostly cleaning today) I have been distracted all day. I got bad news about someone yesterday, then a confirmation of it today and even though she isn't part of my family nor someone I have known for very long (+/- 2 years) I can't stop thinking about how sad I am. I keep inside but it bubbles to the surface not through tears, but through my irritation about completely unrelated things. My husband, for example, said he understood a friend's side when we had a disagreement two weeks ago, and I was upset. Why should I be? It must be displaced emotions.

So my friend, as you sleep through your morphine, know that many a heart is breaking with you. Even when I'm putting away groceries... I'm thinking of you. I hope you are dreaming of happy things as you sleep in the hospital tonight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Treading water

I'm just working toward the goal of getting my to do list done so I can finally relax and enjoy my favorite time of year. I just finished a little item: clean out refridge and wash shelves. But I added a new one "bathe Diego" so it is a zero-sum gain. (Washing Diego also adds to the list: extra laundry, clean floor, etc.). Most of the list is semi-done. For example the Christmas cards, are mostly written - 1/2 addressed, 1/4 stamped  Since I've only received a couple, I'm guessing I'm still OK for time. Gifts are on the final push - still no clever ideas for my husband - got two gifties with low levels of pizazz. Any chance I'll finish the sweater by the 25th so I can give that? I cleaned out the garage after my October garage sale.

Blogging is not on the list of must-dos, so I'll step away from the computer. If I don't return it's not because I wouldn't rather be writing. Hope your to dos are not spoiling the spirit of the season (whatever that means to you).

Here's a little anecdote to illustrate the relationship I have with primary 2 of the 3 (the 3rd being N, my son) MEN in my life. My car's rear driver tire has been leaking for several weeks. The car is a leased Acura (file under WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING, WE CAN'T AFFORD THIS!). It goes back in July 2011. The leak is very annoying, since I have been filling air more than once a week. My husband told me not to get it fixed since we a) can't afford a new tire right now and b) it's a lease being returned in "a few" months.  My father is a paranoid pathologist (retired). He gave me the spiel: This car tire could rupture while you are driving 65 miles and hour and you and the children will DIE! (no drama there!).

I took it today to STS on the circle and guess what. For $30 they found a nail in the tire. No puncture. They filled it and I'm hoping that it will last me until July 15th. It never even occurred to me to look for something that simple. Have car looked at: CHECK!

A glass of wine and 5 minutes of quiet in front of the tree may help me get closer to my goal of a listless Christmas. Let's hope a break inspires me to finish. Be well.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Where did the time go?

Ready for presents
Since Monday I have started 3 blogs. But I have been so buys I didn't finish any of them. Now they seem dull. Rereading this blog, you may agree since they were all variations on this theme.

It's the time of year when reflection competes with to-do lists. Reflection of yearly events (the anniversary of my brother's death, my late-mother's birthday and the annual presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize, not to mention the actual religious meaning if that is your tradition.  Yet the to-do list and overpacked schedule seem to dominate.

Christmas gifts for my nephews: check. Get and decorate tree: check. Christmas lights? Check, uncheck, check, half-check (we are a strand short for outside, so back to Target I go. Before Target (bought, returned and repurchased online when the same ones went on sale on Cyber Monday) we looked at lights at Costco, Home Depot, Walmart, Wegmans (bought and returned 8 strands) and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Sound familiar???

Would you want to cut this open??
And I've been knitting. I've knit gifts for several people, some of whom read this blog - so I won't elaborate. (Finished some, others things in various stages of "almost done"). Pam - the Courier's knitting blogger helped me earlier this week and I am very, very, very grateful! Kind of her to take time to help me. But I have less than a week to finish the final arm of T's sweater so my mother-in-law, the knitter extraordinaire can help me put it together. In order to complete the sweater I will have to (GASP) cut out a place for the arms (sewing first) and then sew in the arms. I will also have to sew in the band around the neck. I did this once or twice with a lot of help, back before anyone had ever heard of Bill Clinton - (1990? 1991?). So I am more than a little nervous. And since my MIL is an expert knitter I look forward to her help. Still, it seems like open heart surgery on a sweater.

Yesterday I got the tree from Gray's Florist (yes, I know I should have got it at one of the places where the money goes to the schools, but I really like supporting a business that is walking-distance from our house. Plus the people who work there are warm and their flowers are always perfect! Don't let the dull website scare you, they have great stuff.)  It was the first time I ever did this on my own, but at the ninth of December I felt the biological clock of the tree ticking.  C and CW helped to decorate it. We've never done the tree as a "check off" item - it's always been a family event. It is a near-perfect, albeit on the small side, but not putting it up together meant it is missing something. Can you see it? Oh, as I took a picture I realized that it was the star or angel on top! I can't do that: that is an honor for one of the kids... they are at school. Another check-uncheck-check item!

It is one of those very busy pre-Christmas Fridays. Both kids have things after school (N has "Mad Science" and C is cheering for her first Middle School basketball game) and then we will rush off for my husband's office's Holiday Party. My husband, however, has been in bed with a fever for 3 days. Every time he travels his body gets so run down, it seems, that he ends up in bed. Jetlag takes its toll. But it was worth it this time. He was able to tag on 3 days extra to this business trip to spend time with his 93-year-old grandmother. The highlight? He took her to visit her friend. Something so simple - a ride across town and help maneuvering stairs, sitting with them for an hour, etc. - provides such meaning for an elderly relative. I wish we lived closer, I'd make time to take her once a month! What can you give a 93 year old for Christmas: time and a ride for something other than a doctor's appointment.

Anyway, we will try to enjoy his holiday party without him. We have to go... Santa will be there with presents for good children. My kids qualify.

But it is also time for enjoying the spirit of Christmas and we have been doing that too. Last Friday we went to Radio City's Christmas Show. This year we are adding two new events (sort of by accident). It was a serendipitous success story that N, SM and her son TM and I headed to Princeton (so close, yet so far away) to see A Christmas Carol. Dickens at the McCarter was perfect for two 10 year old boys. The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future didn't fail to capture their attention and imaginations. The lead was believable. The set and costumes fantastic! A great evening indeed. We even had a great pre-theater meal for an 1/8th of what it would have been in NYC. The Greek soup I had at the diner warmed me up on such a cold night.

I call it serendipity, but really it was a big $200 mistake! I meant to get tickets to A Christmas Story but I bought Carol instead. OOPS. Did you hear me freak out all the way to your house??? $150 mistakes (the difference between 4 tickets to Princeton and 4 tickets to Hillsborough) are not cool a few weeks before Christmas Credit Card Bills are due! But this time it was just as well since Princeton turned into such a nice way to see full scale shows without the stress of Manhattan. We will have to do it again! Santa prevails: we are also going to enjoy watching a boy be told, "you'll shoot your eye out, kid" later this month.

This weekend will be check-out, prepping for check-in at the Inn. My Dad is leaving us after a 4 week stay and my in-laws arrive on Wednesday for about 3 weeks. Laundry, cleaning and clutter-clearing will the next few days' focus. Then Sunday is the annual "cocktail and shopping" day for me, JB and CM. JB and I had a tiff earlier this month. I hope she's over her anger and I'm over mine. Every year we get semi-decked out (after all, we're going to the mall), have a nice meal with appetizers, dinner, desert and drinks and finish our shopping. Always fun. Let's hope this year is too!

So now you see why there have been lots of blogs that have started and not been completed. There is simply too much going on to blog... or edit blogs. Spend a few minutes in front of your tree (if you have one) and enjoy. Don't get stuck in the consumerism. Easier said than done! I promised to try to make the final PTO meeting of the year. It started 20 minutes ago. Better run. Enjoy the blog. Enjoy the day. xo Soccer Mom. Bringing that final arm to knit. I need every minute of it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's that day of the year...

Every year on this day I reflect, but today I reflect even more. 25 years ago today my brother Dino died. I have blogged about his death numerous times. Like here and here.  There really isn't much more to say.

Losing Dino has given me lifelong survivor's guilt. When he died I often thought that my Mom's favorite died and her definitive least favorite lived and wished it would have been reversed. But now I see it all so differently, because I know a Mom loves all her kids and any of their losses would be tragic. His death pushed me to try new things, and my life took a direction I could never have imagined before he got sick in 1984. Dino was like the family's own Fonzi... and maybe, just maybe, a little of his charisma lives on in me?

Everyone has some hurdle in their life. Some people face these challenges as young people, others never know loss until they get very old. If nothing else, I know how to deal with something devastating, and that life definitely goes on.

Besides, I think I know what he would say if I were still mourning today. "That's just not cool! Go out and have some fun!!!!"

So I share with you this song which was played at his November 1981 wedding to Colleen:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Friday on Sunday

C made a difficult decision on Friday - miss school or miss a day in the city seeing the Christmas Show (which we do every year). I wasn't even intending on making it a choice. On Thursday night I informed her that the next day was Radio City Day and she freaked out. I can't miss school - I can't miss Latin! I pressured her to go to NYC and she refused.

Often I use this blog to criticize my own parenting or the parenting I see around me.  Even more often I criticize the schools.

This week I really can't criticize the teachers, at least not two of them! C Language Arts teacher called me in to see what she can do to keep her challenged in her class. "If I could tell you "just come to my third period e-class" I would, but I can't." So she gave her some books and tips on how to do her best at everything even when it's dull, told her how special she thinks she is and much she hopes she will strive for the higher, more challenging classes next year and in high school.


This morning I am remembering how wonderful her Latin class is and how C strives to do her best, even missing a day in New York to spend a period with the class doing research in the library. Would I have made the same decision at 13? I doubt it. She's going to do a project on the goddess Minerva (Athena in Greek mythology).

"Mom, she's the goddess of math, science, music, crafts... she's the goddess of everything!" She said with an excited tone.

That's how I feel about my daughter right about now! Smart enough to know when to stand her ground on something important, confident enough to do it. The Goddess of Everything!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Art in the home?

Black for N, Red for C
I am in a frenzy trying to get everything done, made and wrapped. It's only December 1st, I know, but goal one - the advent calendar (see left) for my kids - is almost done. I just have a few things to figure out - some of the packages aren't gifts but things we do - and it will be 100% complete. Luckily there are more than enough packages for the kids not to miss the few stragglers. I finished the basket and its contents last night at 2am, so I'm running on fumes today.

Against my better judgment, I told C I would hem her dress to make it quite a bit shorter. But I didn't realize the last bit is flared. How do I fix this? If only my Nonny were alive. I'd give it to her - or have her show me how. Even my Mom, who was better with upholstery than clothing, could probably have given me a tip. My Dad, unfortunately, isn't much help, and I really don't want to pay to have it done. I should be able to fix this myself, don't you think??


Puckering hem
The Dress
I took an hour break from writing the blog to fix the hem. It is puckering. I found two issues, but not much I can do to fix them. I am sure none of C's friends will notice - I'm thinking about all those "nice Jewish mothers of nice boys" who will judge me for letting my daughter go to a bar mitzvah in a much-too-short dress (actually, it's short, but I'm am 100% sure others are shorter). Will they notice the pucker, or will C be dancing too fast? Hopefully the latter. And why do I care? C's friends were sporting some very sexy dresses - which I saw on Facebook - but I refused to let C look "like a putana". So while the dress is short and a little bit busty, the dress is actually conservative.... just like the Temple Shalom. She has to wear a shall - which C was happy to remind me I'd have to buy - but to my delight (and her surprise) I had the perfect fix. A glittery shall/wrap in the exact same color of purple hanging in my closet. It was meant to be.


And now I will fold a little laundry, and then sew the yarn left on one of the presents. I have another present 50% done, and a third is still in the planning phases. There is not a lot of cash in the bank this December, so I am hoping that my relatives like labors of love instead of typical store-bought gifts. I might not get paid for it, but I promise you knitting things for people I love is just as meaningful to me as work I've been paid to do.

Finally, I need to start looking through the 2010 jpgs to find candidates for our Christmas cards. This is also a labor of love every year. I try to make something original, beautiful and fun each year. I'm thinking about commissioning "a work of art" for the 2010 card.... stay tuned.

I often think about what my daughter is learning from me staying home. Perhaps she is learning that she would rather work outside of the home (as I felt when I was her age) because my life seems to be dishes and laundry. Actually, I have a lot of fun - with many hours spent eating and shopping with "the ladies who lunch". Today, though, I hope C learns something: that things you do yourself mean more than things you pay to have done or made. The homemade advent calendar that I spent many hours putting together is much more than the sum of its parts. A special family tradition that I didn't have. (My Mom always got us the chocolate or picture calendars, depending on the year).

It's raining outside and the wind is forcing the rain to go in unnatural directions. Horizontally it hits our house making me think of how lucky I am to be warm and cozy. (Dare I think about the homeless on this awful day?). Perhaps my British dad might be keen on a spot of tea! I'm writing this on my sofa, curled up with my dog. In a few minutes I'll knit, in my bed curled under the comforter while the storm rages on. Maybe I'm not setting such a poor example for my daughter after all... there are benefits to staying at home. Tea, a down comforter and soft yarn. And a dress that is respectably shorter... My own little paradise, indeed.