Tag Archives: parents

Shake it up

Well, the last time I wrote my blog it was with kids running around on holiday vacation. This time I have an entire hockey team of 10-year-old boys “watching” the Super Bowl at my house. From the noise I hear, I am not sure how much watching is actually going on. But with the reward of a hug and “you’re a cool mom” when I surprised my son with the invite I sent, it is worth it (or so I tell myself at half time).

 team

January has been an interesting month. The last week of the month is the only full week we have had of our normally scheduled life. School has actually been cancelled five days due to cold. (Prior to this, our school hadn’t had a snow day in 15 years.) This has caused a lot of interruption and forced flexibility into my routine. A routine I count on to get everything done.

So instead, I have gotten through the month by stumbling along with a lot of apologies for missed deadlines, cancelled appointments and not being full-time anywhere. I actually wrote a thank you to my boss for putting up with my constant absences. Between holidays, weather and an out-of-town hockey tournament, it was six weeks of barely working. Her response was short and simple, “I was a working mom for 22 years.”  With her youngest just heading to college, she is telling me she actually misses the chaos and balancing act.

You would think I would enjoy some shorter work weeks. But what it really meant was adding full-time job with full-time caretaker. If you are one of the moms in this freezing state with school-age kids, you know how I feel. It doesn’t matter what your job is … at home or at an office … kids who were just off for two weeks for winter break now being given random days off due to cold temps  throws off your schedule. You come to count on those hours when they are in school. Instead six more hours of responsibility is added onto your already overly hectic day.

Every time another closing was announced, kids would cheer and moms would start texting for trades. Kids cooped up too much with no routine and parents running out of vacation days and patience were not a good mix. Add to that, my major winter blahs and work piling up, I wasn’t sure how to dig myself out.

As one girlfriend always says … shake it up.

Well I have been shaken up by recent circumstances (namely weather) and now let’s add a few kids and a party. When a few of the moms said I was nuts for hosting a SuperBowl bash (especially learning that I would be alone with the boys because my husband had his own party plans), I realized it didn’t phase me at all. Totally unplanned and unprepared. And it felt great. I know, it seems silly that a spur-of-the-moment kids party would do it. But underneath all the responsibility and expectations, this is me … or at least used to be me. Those random moments and spontaneous things are what make me light up. Having my routine shaken up just loosened up my tight control, and so what if everything isn’t perfect?

So at this moment, I am enjoying the moment. Instead of tackling all my projects that have piled up, I have the Super Bowl turned on, a glass of wine in my hand and I’m enjoying the sounds of too many boys crammed into my basement. I am even feeling a bit of nostalgia thinking that soon these boys–enjoying “a party,” feeling cool and grown up–are actually getting older. (Yes, Stormy’s last post may have gotten to me a bit, as I often wish my kids would hurry up and grow up.)

As long as there are no more days off, I think I can now look back pleasantly and think about how this past crazy month shook me up again. It gave me the chance to experience some time that I could never have planned for (nor would want to). Although I am looking forward to a February with school intact.

 bus

By the way, a boring Super Bowl makes for a loud home. All attention to the game is lost and has now shifted to a knee hockey tournament. You let me down, Broncos!

The rantings of a bad daughter

I yelled at my elderly mother tonight. If this blog is supposed to be a slice of life—an honest chronicle of being a certain age—then I should be “mature” enough to admit this ugly fact. I’m not proud of myself, of course. As soon as I stormed out of my parents’ house and slammed my car door, I turned to my husband and demanded to know: “What’s WRONG with me?!? Why do I let her GET TO ME like that?!” But my outburst had taken him by surprise, too, so he just shrugged sympathetically.

Everyone pitches in to do yardwork at Stormy's parents house

Everyone pitches in to do yardwork at Stormy’s parents’ house

I alluded to my aging parents in an earlier post. My dad has dementia and my mom has a host of other ailments, yet she’s reluctant to move into an assisted-living facility, even though my parents are no longer capable of maintaining a home and living independently. Now, my mom needs surgery on her hip and both knees. Despite her advanced age (86), the doctor is willing to do the hip surgery because he thinks she “still has a lot of life in her.”

That’s no understatement. While my dad is continually amazed that he’s lived this long and greets every day as a pleasant surprise—a gift to be slowly savored—I believe my mother fully expects to achieve centenarian status. She is in complete denial about the limitations that aging is placing upon her and who knows? If “will to live” counts for anything…or sheer stubbornness…she’ll be leading the chorus of “Happy Birthday” at my 100th birthday.

So if you’re half as astute as I know our readers to be, you’ve likely surmised that the aforementioned “yelling” had something to do with my mom’s impending surgery, her stubbornness, and the general stress a grown woman feels when she’s trying to do right by all the people in her life and constantly coming up short. Short of time, short of patience, short of grace.

box_ornamentsWhile it’s tempting to try and garner sympathy by relaying the whole conversation or past childhood laments, that’s all irrelevant. Overall, my mom has been a good mom. I know I’m not the only grown daughter who has baggage about her mother, and I’m fully aware that these incidents will seem small and insignificant when she’s gone and I’m facing my first Mother’s Day, birthday or Christmas without her.

But it’s sort of like telling the exhausted parents of a newborn to cherish the sleepless nights because “they grow up so fast.” After all, hindsight is 20/20—today’s myopic view is the result of a gray November day, relentlessly busy work schedule, upcoming business trip, Mom’s impending surgery, my equally stressed siblings trying to coordinate schedules to care for Dad, etc. So my mom’s assertion that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect one of her kids to spend hundreds of dollars and take several days off work to fly down with her to Florida so she can retrieve old Christmas ornaments (and let me add that one of her sons did this just last spring, but she didn’t take the gesture seriously enough to pack up the items she wanted to bring home) Just. Set. Me. Off.

The key to our harmony? I hadn’t learned how to talk back yet.

As I said, I’m not looking for sympathy. I don’t deserve it. She’s 86 and she raised me and that’s enough justification for me to go recover a moldy Santa or two. All I really want is to get this anger out of my head and onto this blog post, so I can let go of it and do the hard work of trying to regain my patience…because I know I’ll desperately need it in the days ahead.

And if any of you can relate to this story—and know that you’re not alone in your frustration—then that’s the silver lining.

*****************************

Postscript: This was obviously written a couple of weeks ago. My mom has since had her surgery and although it went well, the recovery process (with mom in a transitional care unit and dad at home with us kids trading off staying with him) is about as challenging as we all expected. However, I’m so blessed to have an abundance of siblings who are working peacefully together to shoulder the burden, and I empathize with all of those who must navigate the challenge of elderly parents on their own. My siblings are truly my parents’ greatest gift to me.

What goes up must come down: A Spring Break fairy tale

Well, I am back, and not too happy about it. As Stormy mentioned in her last post, I was off enjoying Spring Break with my family. Now usually, I would say “enjoying” a family vacation is a bit of a stretch. It usually means whiny kids out of their element, too much together time and expectations set way too high on the quality memories we would create together. Plus, family also includes my parents who we stay with in Arizona. This adds to my personal stress of keeping my children from disrupting their calm lives and of wanting to show off how great my children are turning out due to our fabulous parenting skills. (This usually is when my parents witness all of us at our worst, as I try to force the unrealistic image of a perfect family which then turns into a complete family meltdown.) Toward the end of vacation, I usually start dreaming about my escape back to work. But, this trip was different.

Perhaps my children have reached a new stage. Now they are old enough to also appreciate the difference the warmth of the sun and relaxed schedule can make to them and their parents’ mood. Nor, do they need the same strict routines to function like somewhat tolerable human beings. Or, it could be that I have

View from my thrown

View from my throne

relaxed a bit and decided if my five-year-old daughter wants to do her normal nonstop morning chatter to her grandparents, instead of me, there is no need to intervene. Instead, I took the selfish approach of picking up my book and enjoying the morning quiet. After a couple days, it became the morning routine and household joke as I stumbled through the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, waved to all (without a word) and headed outside to my lawn chair to read. “There goes Mom again.” I’d be joined a couple hours later as the kids jumped into the pool. Which leads me to another great stage, I didn’t have to be in the pool morning till night watching the kids play. They both can swim on their own now. I could pretend to watch (with my sunglasses masking my gaze) all the “look at me” and “watch this” tricks poolside. Once in awhile I would make my appearance as the special guest jumping in and getting lots of excitement and applause for it.

Aside from a few outings, we pretty much just hung out, relaxed and enjoyed the setting. (One outing was on horseback, a favorite activity since childhood of mine that I will post about in more detail later.) I didn’t even check in at work more than filtering through emails once a day. Pretty impressive with a new website launching the day I returned. I do have to give my unplugged-from-work credit to my great and completely self-sufficient staff, who told me (and meant it) to STOP whenever I tried to check in. It was the only time I actually liked being told to “STOP” and I paid attention and took the advice to quiet my rambling thoughts. For ten days, I truly relaxed. I won’t get into full boasting of all of the luxuries and other tidbits that made this trip so perfect, but it was simply a fabulous escape from reality.

What goes up must come down. And I realized this up in the air, just before midnight on Sunday and about 30 minutes away from landing back in Minneapolis. I had planned the late return thinking the kids still had the following day off to catch up on sleep and after all of my rest, certainly one day short on sleep wouldn’t be too hard to handle in exchange for taking full advantage of my vacation time. But on that last leg of the plane ride it suddenly all hit me. Tomorrow, instead of leisurely walking outside groggy from so much inactivity, I would be running to a work in 30-degree weather after only four hours of sleep. I would be faced with issues from a website launch, a frantic pace of catching up on all that sat idle waiting for my return, and to top it off, it was my birthday. Yes, I was turning 44 up in the air and I certainly didn’t see it as a something to celebrate. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had lost an entire year and only recently realized it wasn’t my 43rd birthday. With midnight looming, it looked like I was facing my own Cinderella story.

It was no fun realizing I was right. I kept a good face on at work but inside I was miserable. All of the things that had made me so happy had been swept up and taken away. I kept trying to be mature and told myself I was lucky to have had that time to enjoy, but the more rational I tried to become, the more irrational I felt. I wanted my fairy tale back.

cinderella

It would be a shame to end the post that all was lost and it was a horrible, no good, very bad day (I loved that book as a kid!). There was a slight happy ending that I made for myself. I did what any mature working woman/overstressed mom would do. I came home, put on my pajamas, and hid in my bed with a bottle of wine. Under the birthday disguise, I claimed a free night and wanted my servant children and husband to bring me food as needed. After spending my night with hours of T.V. (all favorite shows I had recorded but never time to watch) and a few too many glasses of wine, I finally dozed off, content.

Looking at the forecast ahead, the temps are rising so hopefully my mood will follow. Onwards and upwards! I won’t give up hope on for my own happy-ever-after ending though.

Fear the Yeti

If you’re wondering what the hell a Yeti is, you’re not alone. I found myself googling it during my son’s hockey game as I heard the parent next to me shout it out as our boys came onto the ice. I was already having trouble keeping up signswith understanding the game … icing, offsides, cross-checking … I never could figure out why the referee was blowing the whistle. (I called him an umpire till my son scoffingly corrected me on a drive home one evening.)

I’m assuming you’re already getting the impression I am not the world’s best hockey mom. And, if you had asked me what sport I would be managing my life around—that is if I actually had to choose one—hockey would not have been it. For starters, I hate the cold. I already live in Minnesota, so why would I add on the torture of standing inside a cold arena? There’s not even a chance to warm up from the below-zero walk from the car. Plus, I was not so ignorant about the sport to not know that the costs and time dedicated to it were much higher than for those of many other activities my son could choose to participate in. But, in tandem with how the rest of this parenting gig has seemed to go, nothing turns out as I would plan it. He fell in love with hockey. 

With three practices a week and at least one game, hockey has become the center of family activities. We plan around it. The schedule hanging on the fridge at home is synched with my Outlook at work. There have been times we have been dragging kids out of bed for a 7:30 a.m. game and others starting a long drive home from an outlying rink an hour past normal bedtimes on a school night. My daughter’s most whined phrase has become, “Do we have to go to hockey again?” 

And let’s not forget the mandatory volunteer duty. As my son moves up the hockey ranks, so do the hours as parents we are committed to serve. Twelve hours this year that my husband and I had to work off at the concession stand. Looking on the bright side, it saved me a lot of snack money and calories once I actually had a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations. hotdogs

It was looking to be a long season. Never having been an active sports participant or fan, I just didn’t get it. Well, then I started to. 

Something happened as I watched these boys play together as a team. It was something I had never before seen in my overly competitive and fairly self-centered son. Everything was bigger than him when it came to this group of boys. It was all about The Team. If one of them had a bad game, there was no finger-pointing or griping as I witnessed too many times in even a casual game of kickball in our front yard with friends. These boys rallied around each other. Every scored goal was an exciting win for all. I would hear detailed recaps of all the parts played by each team member in getting that puck to just the right position. I would watch the team hurry back to protect their goalie when the other team grabbed the puck. Never was a goal blocked or scored without everyone on the ice patting our goalie in congratulations or “good try” before lining back up for the next face off. And they weren’t the best team. In fact, the season started with a 12-1 loss to a farm team who towered over ours and skated rings around all our players. But these boys grew together as a team. Soon I found myself cheering and yelling for each of the boys by name right along with the others. I took pride in watching each of their huge strides in development as individual players and as a team: Proving their growth as they lost only 5-4 in overtime to the same team two months later.

And it wasn’t just on the ice they were a unified team. These boys bonded as friends. It was very different than their relationships with school friends. There were no pretenses. They didn’t have to act cool, dress a certain way or have a pecking order. They were just the crew. At an out-of-town tournament, I would watch my son wake up in the morning grab a hotel key and throw on a hat to meet the other boys at breakfast. This was the same boy who normally would want me to find out where the other kids were, determine whether or not they were they in their pajamas and wouldn’t join others till invited in the group. I heard other parents on the team saying the same thing. There were no insecurities. They could fully just be themselves and fit right in.

I met some great parents, too. None of us were too intense about the standings, but we all would be jumping up and down on a good play and nervously pacing as we watched our kids in a final shoot out to end the game after two overtimes had past. (I did learn some of how the game worked!) We knew each other’s kids and cheered for them as loudly as our own. We knew how each boy would react to a win or a loss. 

Well, the season is now coming to an end. At our last game, the kids were begging the coach to get them all on the same team again next year. They didn’t hockeywant to play with anyone else. Well, that isn’t how it works, and the coach promised them they all had a lot of hockey ahead of them including other great teams to be part of. I found myself feeling sad, and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I’m already looking forward to starting it again next year. It was fun to be part of something. Working (or cheering) together and sharing in both the wins and the losses. I also now understand why you hear so much about the importance of girls also playing team sports, especially during high school years. A feeling of being part of something beyond yourself is so important, plus feeling like you belong somewhere. That team dynamic I had never experienced. (It was pretty amazing just witnessing it.) But, I will make sure my daughter does, and I am happy to tag along on my son’s journey for now.

One thing I won’t mind is a small break from the dictating ice-time schedule. This week, as I invited friends over for dinner, I had to add the caveat, “…that is, if we aren’t placed in the evening bracket.”  Though my friend’s response was, “We’d love to. But, I can’t say for sure till I know how my son’s basketball tournament pans out.” With the end of the season, I can take back control of my schedule. That is until baseball starts. 

And, if you haven’t googled it yet, a yeti is another name for the “abominable snowman” who is pictured on our Storm team’s jerseys. “Fear the Yeti” became our team chant. It may also make for a good vision board slogan next year, I find it seems to help me as a meditative chant in my mind that both makes me smile and feel some power. Much better then that “ohm” stuff that has never worked for me.

Florida vignettes, part II: Del Boca Vista

So, Dear Readers, you may recall that our Florida story began with a work conference. But after a successful conclusion of that industry event, it was time to leave the luxury resort in Ft. Lauderdale for the second phase of my adventure. Next up? A 3-hour drive to senior-infested Central Florida to visit my beloved parents in their winter haven.

Now, whenever I mention that my parents flock to Florida with the other Minnesota snowbirds, I get the same question, “Is it anything like ‘Del Boca Vista’?” To which I respond, “Yes, but imagine the Costanzas living there instead of the Seinfelds.”

After getting turned around a few times trying to find the route recommended by the GPS function on my iPhone (it seems all of the freeways in Florida are labeled “Florida’s Turnpike”), I pulled into the Carefree Country Club in Winterhaven around five o’clock. The next 48 hours were filled with visiting some of Mom and Dad’s favorite eating establishments (the upside of dining with seniors: I got carded when I ordered a beer), listening to my dad play the organ (unfortunately, he plays about three beats behind the pre-programmed accompaniment) and visiting the local flea market.

I’ll take my fleas to go

A "sharp eye" will spot the transposed letters...

A “sharp eye” spots the knock-off pens

The flea market was interesting. Imagine the 20 worst garage sales you’ve ever been to and string them all together. That was the flea market. One large tent in particular was a veritable treasure trove of shit. Knock-off products of every shape and size jockeyed for the attention of shoppers trying to stretch a fixed income.

I was particularly amused by the “Sharpeis”… Aren’t those the wrinkly dogs? The contrast between that redneck flea market and the oceanfront resort where I had been just one day earlier was both amusing and a bit depressing.

What’s a lifetime of sacrifice worth? Apparently $29.82. 

One of the pleasures of being an adult is the ability to buy your parents a decent meal. I mean, my parents raised NINE children, which obviously entailed a considerable amount of physical and financial sacrifice on their part. As someone farther down the batting order, I know that my existence is more due to the Catholic church’s ruling on birth control than it is based on the fact that my parents really wanted an 8th child/5th daughter. So how does one say, “Hey, thanks for all the love and sacrifice?” Well, in our family, food is always an appropriate way to show love, so my plan was to take my parents out for a nice meal during my visit. Sky’s the limit, I told them. Pick your favorite place. After much debate, Mom chose the local Bob Evans. The tab for the three of us? Under $30–so much for gratitude (I had spent that much just having margaritas on the beach earlier in the week). To be honest, my parents would be appalled to know how much my husband and I regularly spend on eating out, as it contradicts the frugal approach necessitated by raising nine children. But my parents enjoyed their meal, and I, their company. So I guess that’s what really matters.

Check out those gams

Being from a large family, it’s an interesting exercise to speculate on which parental traits have carried through to the next generation.

My mother’s nose is…um…prominent. She inherited it from her father and a couple of my brothers and I inherited it from her. My four sisters all lament the fact that they have no pinky toenail and blame my mother. They all covet my pinky toenail—I guess it comes from Dad. My predilection for colorful phrases comes from my father. My love of reading? That’s Dad, too. My sharp tongue? Weird sense of humor? Mom. And so on…

But check this out:

86 years old!

86 years old!

These are the legs of my 86-year-old father. Not bad, eh? In fact, it’s become a bit of a family joke to kid my father about his gorgeous gams. But seriously, this is an unretouched photo taken from my iPhone last week. Look at those legs! I’m hoping this is one of the physical traits I’ve inherited from Dad (my mother’s legs–having withstood nine pregnancies–naturally show a little more wear and tear). Check back in another four decades or so, and we’ll see whether I won the genetic lottery on legs.

Putting the bite on the sandwich generation

The most difficult part of my visit was revisiting an old argument with my mother: The “It’s-time-to-downsize-and-move-to-an-assisted-living-facility” discussion. The fact is, my parents are no longer able to winter in Florida so far away from the assistance of their kids. My mom has her hands full with my dad, who (in addition to great gams) has dementia and no short-term memory. My siblings and I have jobs and families of our own and can’t always drop everything to help out, although we try our best. We all live in dread of Mom getting sick or hurt, because even the most minor hospitalization would require one of us to immediately fly down there and care for my dad.

My sibs and I would like to planfully arrange for my parents to move into a nice senior apartment where they could retain their independence, yet still have a social life and be able to get help in an emergency–rather than waiting for a health crisis to necessitate an emergency move into whatever substandard place has an opening. Ironically, my father–the so-called demented one–is amenable to this; however, my mother is adamantly opposed to the idea. So we defer to Mom’s wishes and continue to persuade and cajole, but the fact is, we’re stuck. We love our parents tremendously and know that these sacrifices are the ones my siblings and I are required to make in exchange for all those our parents made while raising us. As much as I wish otherwise, dinner at Bob Evans just won’t settle that debt.