Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuna Boy's First Awesome Decade

As of today, I am the mother of a twelve-year-old and a ten-year-old.

That's insane.

That's an entire decade of parenting two kids and I haven't gotten any better at it in the last ten years.

When you're a mom, one of the first questions people ask when they meet you is, "How old are your kids?"

It's funny because back when both kids were under five, people would always react to my answer with something akin to horror. "Oh, you have your hands full!"

Then for many years, people didn't react that way at all. Suddenly, I'm hearing horror again.

But, as hard as it can be, I actually love having kids these ages. They are more fun now. Our relationships are more meaningful. More full. (Plus, they are old enough to really help with chores.) These two kids and I have been through a lot together.

My son and I are especially close. And I am so very happy that his father could be here for his birthday.

He is one very special kid. Words cant really describe how special, but I suppose I could start with empathetic, appreciative, loving, so very funny, creative, musical, exuberant, accepting, smart, hard working and self assured.

I guess that's a pretty good start.

My kid loves life more than anyone I know. And I am so appreciative for that.

So, happy 10th birthday, baby boy! I don't know what I would do without you.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Adam Sandler Can Suck It

Tonight we blew off two local parades (I even had tickets for seating at one of them) to go see Jack and Jill at the movies instead.


I don't know. I just didn't feel like being outside and braving crowds tonight. And the kids wanted to see Jack and Jill. And I wanted to eat popcorn.

That's 91 minutes of my life I'll never get back again.

The popcorn was good and fresh though thanks to all the Twilight fans.

My daughter said the movie was better than she thought it would be. She's getting old enough to get some of the jokes that used to go over her head.

But my son hated it.

I looked over at him at one point and he was crying. Crying! At an Adam Sandler movie!

He said he didn't like it because the brother and sister's relationship was so terrible. He said, "It was heartbreaking!"

As we were leaving the theater he put his hand on his sister's back and asked her, "We'll never be like that, will we?"

Holy crap. Leave it to my kid to be the only person in the world to walk out of an Adam Sandler movie having learned some deep moral lesson.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Failing and Jealousy

Lately I find myself feeling kind of jealous of other parents.

Okay, that's kind of a lie. In truth, I go through phases of feeling superior to other parents (patting myself on the back for the awesome kids I've raised) and being completely jealous of the normal, happy families and kids that seem to be everywhere (when my kids are going through yet another thing).

Sometimes, I want to go up to parents whose kids are doing something normal like riding bikes and say, "Um, hello. Do you realize how completely freaking lucky you are to have a kid who can ride a bike?" My kid couldn't and wouldn't learn how to ride a bike until he was 9 1/2.

I know it probably isn't rational but I am jealous of people with normal kids who seem to have normal problems and often don't appreciate how good they have it.

My kids are great in a lot of ways. They are extremely polite, they get along with each other better than any siblings I've ever met, they are bright and engaging, and they are well behaved at school. And I know that there are people who are probably jealous of ME for having kids with those qualities.

But I feel like they have the "buts".

It is parent/teacher conference time for most and my friends are posting on Facebook about their conferences.

It feels like everyone is saying, "We had such a great meeting with Timmy's teacher!"

Or, "We're so proud of Brittany. She got all A's on her report card. Her teacher says she is the best in her class!"

And I want to throw eggs at my laptop. Oh, poo. It must be nice to be you.

What I get to hear every year is, "He is so wonderful and polite. And funny! And bright and creative. BUT now lets talk about his speech problems and his spelling problems and..."

Or I get to hear, "She is so sweet and well-behaved, BUT she doesn't participate in class and she is overly sensitive and she has melt downs and she is so disorganized it affects her grades and..."

Basically it always comes down to, "Your kids are so great! But..."

I know I am an extremely intense person when it comes to something I believe in. And I believe in teaching my children values and respect. And that is not easy. So I feel like I am constantly correcting and admonishing and teaching and not spending enough time celebrating and laughing.

So, for example, I can't just ignore that my daughter lied to me again and take her shopping. But I am jealous of parents who can!

My husband thinks I am completely nuts. (Probably rightfully so.)

He tells me that every kid has their problems. But most parents choose not to see most of them because they don't want to see them. They hear what they want to hear. And besides, they would be posting, "Our little Johnny is so awesome!" even if he was failing every subject and spending most of his time in detention.

He's probably right but there is a part of me that wishes I could be like that too.

I don't want to be critical of my kids. (My biggest fear in life is turning into my father!) But I am the only one here to teach them the millions of important lessons of life and I can't just shake one off because I don't feel like dealing with it.

But, man. I just wanted one freaking parent/teacher conference without a giant BUT.

And I finally got it.

Woo hoo!

My son's teacher has been teaching fourth grade boys at our school for 45 years. At first she annoyed me a little bit because she isn't quite as tech savvy as most (AND SHE USES ALL CAPS TOO MUCH) but I have come to really love her. She's hysterical. And she loves my kid which of course makes me love her back.

But I walked into this parent/teacher conference not knowing what to expect. Of course I knew his grades but I didn't know how they matched up to the rest of his class. And I'm so used to getting BUTS thrown at me that I brace myself for them days ahead.

So after she told me how great he is doing and gave me his great report card we spent the rest of the time just talking and exchanging stories.

To brag for a minute (Don't hate me!) she said that my son's sense of humor is absolutely legendary among all the teachers and staff. Even the headmaster has shared stories of things my son has said that crack him up. "The teacher next door practically has a crush on him!" she told me. Too funny.

But she ended up telling me how the other parents are always making excuses for their kids. And doing the work for their kids. And blaming everybody and anybody for their kids' failures.

Then she told me that she can tell we are wonderful parents because of the way our son knows himself. She used phrases like self sufficient, comfortable with who he is, responsible for himself, and independent.

And, boy, did I need to hear that.

Letting my kids fail is something that I know I need to do. And I do it. I do. I secretly blame myself and am in agony over every one of their failures. And I certainly don't just let them not care that they failed. But it is the hardest thing I do as a parent.

It makes it seem like my kids are mediocre at everything they do. Because other kids are succeeding because of their parents or they are half assing it and their parents are praising them so much it seems like they are better than my kids.

I hate it!

My daughter and I were sitting together when I felt the need to read the following part of the article out loud to her.

"We’re so afraid our kids won’t measure up that we drive them crazy with overbooked schedules and expectations, and then create a sense of entitlement by assigning blame elsewhere when their performance is lackluster. Sideline parents who challenge coaches, teachers and umpires on behalf of their children are a relatively new development that can’t be considered positive. When I wrote recently about the failure of colleges to teach core curricula that engender critical thinking skills, dozens of professors wrote to complain of students who aren’t willing to work hard yet still expect good grades. Even in college, they said, parents pester professors for better marks for their little darlings."

Then I asked her, "Who do I blame when you fail?"

And she replied, "Us."

"Yup. See?" I told her. "You might hate it but I'm just being a good mom. Aren't you lucky?"

It is kind of sad that I needed that kind of reinforcement but I did. Frankly, things have been kind of hard around here lately. And I needed that little pat on the back and reinforcement of what I'm struggling to do.

Of course what my daughter doesn't know is that I may be telling them to take responsibility for their failures, but secretly I'm blaming myself and judging myself more harshly than she could ever imagine.

And I'm still jealous of normal parents of normal kids.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


So, let's talk a little bit about my parents.

I have gotten to an age when many of my contemporaries are losing their parents. I hear them and see them mourning their parent and I can see how life changing an event it can be.

So, I try to be appreciative. My parents are still alive and together. That makes me lucky, right?

They love my kids. They love my husband more and more each passing year.

I swear on everything that is good in my life that I try to have a positive attitude about my parents. The last thing I ever want to do is complain about some asshole comment my father has made and then have a friend say, "You're lucky you still have a father. Stop being an immature, whiny brat."

But that puts more pressure on me to accept all of my parents' shit than I probably deserve.

When the kids were babies I used to look forward to my parents' visits. It was a break for me. With my husband gone so much, my mother was really the only person in the world I truly trusted to take care of my kids so that I could have a break. (My father doesn't babysit, even his own grandbabies.)

But in the last, well, maybe 5 or 6, or even 8 years, their visits bring nothing but stress and anxiety.

My father is a very selfish person. My mother waits on him hand and foot. (Quite literally, she ties his shoes and everything.) He is as self-centered as it is possible for a person to be. So my mother, who could be a very nice person to be around if left to her own devices, is a complete wreck. She is afraid of him. She treats everyone else in the family like we're going to criticize her constantly the way my father does. She is always apologizing and qualifying.

It is very annoying.

But his criticizing is the crux of the problem for me, his daughter.

I always knew he criticized a lot, but I don't think I truly realized how much until I was an adult with a family of my own. He'd criticize my parenting and I'd say, "But aren't they the best kids in the world? I must be doing something right."

And he'd say, "Yeah, but..." And continue to criticize me even more.

I put up with this behavior my entire life because, 1) I know he loves me. 2) I'm supposed to appreciate even having a father. And 3) because he is my kids' grandfather and they need family associations in their lives.

But, well, my husband has been deployed a long time. He was gone a long time, came back and left again for a long time. And I'm doing the fucking best I can here, with no help from my parents or anyone else. When they visited a couple of weeks ago, I'd had enough.

My mother says I am the only person who stands up to my father. But the truth is that deep down I am just as afraid of him now as I was as a kid. I don't really know why. What's he going to do? Hit me? I doubt it, but what he will do is throw a fit and make everyone's lives miserable. A fear born in childhood can linger a long time.

So, I tried to joke it out into the open.

My father wasn't here five minutes when he started to criticize me. First off, it was my car. I told him, "You know, I am going to keep a list of every time you criticize me while you're here and then send it to (my husband) so he can see what I have to deal with while he's deployed."

He kind of laughed and purposefully added a few more criticisms for me to pass along.

This went on and on during their visit. I'm too hard on the kids. I'm not hard enough on the kids. I'm fat. My kids are fat. My door doesn't work right. I don't clean my car windshield the right way. On and on and on. And every single criticism big or small has a story and a justification to go along with it.

Well, on the last day he was here he was criticizing my husband for something he had done eleven years ago. Eleven years! Our daughter was crawling and headed toward some bricks she wasn't supposed to be on and my husband said "no" to her in too harsh a tone for my father's liking. Though if he had let her crawl on the bricks, we would have heard about that too.

"He yelled at her like a dog!" my father said.

Eleven years ago.

"You know," I told him, "Has it ever occurred to you that he was just trying too hard because he knew you were watching and you are so absolutely critical?"

Well, that did it. I crossed a line. I got yelled at. A lot.

Later that day, my father said to me, "You don't need to be so sensitive. I'm just trying to help. It takes a village to raise a child."

And it occurred to me right then and there that my father has missed one key element of my life that makes me me.

I left the village.

I chose to leave the village because the village sucked. My husband and I both chose to leave the village because we didn't want to have our kids subjected to the same things we were.

I just shook my head at my father that day. I'm done. Done.

My mother always justifies his behavior (and it is much worse than I have stated here. Some things are not for public consumption) by saying that he doesn't drink or beat her (apparently the occasional hitting doesn't count) and somehow her mindset found its way into me. But is that any way to judge a person?

Personally I think the long term damage that man has done to my mother's self esteem by his constant emotional abuse and control is just as bad. (My mother isn't allowed to go into a doctor's exam on her own. Ever. I just found that out. How horrible is that.)

I want to take complete responsibility for who I am. I really do. But the older I get I notice more and more these weird little things that I do because of the way I was treated by my parents.

And so I sit here and berate myself for every similar thing I've done to my own kids.

There is a time to cut people out of your life. I've always believed that. You can only try so much with some people. If they hurt you, even after you've made it clear to them that they are hurting you, then they need to go.

But cutting your father out of you life? That's a tough one.

I really don't know what to do. The "ignore him!" stance I've been trying to use for the last 16 years really isn't working so well.

But when he is gone, I'll be picking up the pieces of my mother. I know it.

And that sucks.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Stealing the Show

Things have been a little craptastic here on the parenting front lately. My choice today was either to fold myself into a ball of despair and cry quietly on the side of the highway (raising 12-year-olds will do that to you) or try to find some damn positive.

So I'm on the lookout for anything even slightly positive with these offspring of mine.

Big time.

My son's play was last Friday night. And although he has made me cry in public at least twice recently because he is killing me by slow degrees, his performance in the play did make me laugh. I thought he did a great job.

But he must have done an even better job in the performance they did during the school day on Friday afternoon for the kids. Because every time I turn around, a teacher or student is grabbing me or him to tell us how awesome he was.

His music teacher even told me, "He really has a future as an actor, I mean, if his violin thing doesn't work out for some reason."

He has been eating up all the attention he's been getting for the play. "My classmates treated me like a star at lunch," he told me, beaming ear to ear. "I had a small role but people loved me the most!" (People always love the comic relief.)

This morning he went to the orthodontist before school to get his braces off. (Holy heck, he looks like my husband even more now.) He ended up being just a minute or two late for school. But he is never usually late.

So when he walked in the classroom his teacher exclaimed, "There you are! I was just going to call Hollywood to see if they had stolen you away from us to go be a big time movie star."

He loved it. Loved it!

I asked him how he replied and he said he just laughed because it made him so happy.

How sweet is that?

His teacher has been teaching fourth grade boys at our school for forty-five years. And, man, I can see why. She has a way of making them feel so good about their unique talents.

Maybe I need a fourth grade teacher to come in and lift my spirits like that.

My parents visited recently and it was just an awful time. My father shot down my daughter's interest in being a music education major. Right in front of her. And he lectured me about discouraging my son's unrealistic dream to be an actor.

Which pretty much only makes me want to do everything in my power to make my baby boy's dream come true.

It's going to be interesting to see how long this dream of being an actor sticks around. I think I'm going to love getting to be in the audience for every minute of the journey. No matter how it turns out.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Neatly Summed Up in One Example

I love my daughter to death. I mean, seriously, sometimes I want to kill that kid I love her so much.

I really worry about her making her way in the world and so I am hard on her. Probably too hard, I know. But we somehow still manage to have a pretty darn good relationship and it seems to be getting better as she gets older.

But I will never understand that girl.

We are so fundamentally different that it is sometimes hard to believe she is mine.

But yet, we are so much the same, that we can drive each other nuts. How does that even work?

This year she is finally able to play on her school sports teams and she loves it. (Same as me.) She already made the volleyball team but she plans on trying out for her two favorite sports, basketball and softball. (Same as me.) She is strong and tenacious but not fast so she tends to be the scrappy one. (Same as me.)

She has been going to open basketball practices at school on weekend nights. She's been the only girl there and so she has gotten a lot of practice time (and face time) with the girls' J.V. and varsity coaches. That's so great, right?

But this week she wants to invite all of her friends who want to try out for basketball to come with her. (So NOT the same as me.)

If I was having this practically secret, under-the-radar practice time with the coaches who would be evaluating me at try-outs, I wouldn't tell a soul.

I guess when it comes right down to it, she is just a better person than me. I guess she had a better upbringing.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

FaceTime from the Front

I pretty much have two separate sets of friends on Facebook. There are my "blog friends", which I think of as my Tuna Girl friends (who know who Rose Johnson is) and my real life friends and family.

Of course over the years many of these lines have crossed but in my mind, they are still two separate groups of people.

Well, last night and today just about every single one of my Tuna Girl friends has posted something on Facebook about the passing of Steve Jobs. But not one of my real life friends and family have mentioned it.

Except one who mentioned it only to say that with American soldiers serving and dying around the world, it is horrible that people are giving so much attention to the death of a celebrity.

First of all, I don't think Steve Jobs qualifies as a celebrity per se. Maybe it isn't fair to all celebrities, but to me that word connotes people who are famous for very little reason.

Second of all, as the wife of a service member, I could sit here and watch my daughter with her iTouch and my husband with his iPhone communicate with each other via FaceTime from half way around the world. And I can sit here with my MacBook Pro in my lap and see my husband talking to me from thousands of miles away.

And I am completely and totally okay with the massive mourning of Steve Jobs passing and the celebration of his life and accomplishments by so many.

True vision is such a precious thing. May Steve Jobs' legacy live on.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Bundle of Dichotomy

My junior year in college was a big year for me. It was the year my husband asked me to marry him. It was also the year I led my college softball team to our first ever championship title.

I say that not to brag, but to shed a little light on the following story:

So, you know, when college girls (maybe especially those at a women's college) get engaged, inevitably the rumors will fly that she is pregnant.

I wasn't pregnant when the rumors flew about me. (In fact, I was the exact opposite of pregnant.) But people like to believe the dramatic.

So the two captains of my softball team came to my dorm room to talk to me about the possible pregnancy. (Never mind that I had just borrowed a tampon from one of them the night before...well...not borrowed. But, you know...got a tampon from her.)

When I explained that I was very much not pregnant, one of them jumped up and hugged me. She said, "I'm so glad! Since you're not pregnant I can tell you this. When I heard the rumor, my first response wasn't to worry about you. The first thing I thought of was, who's going to pitch for us?"

I always thought that was so funny. For all I know, if I had found out I was pregnant back then, I might have thought the same thing.

So, cut to about midnight last night.

Since my husband is deployed, I wake up many times during the night to check my e-mail. (Stupid, I know.) But last night I got a mass e-mail from our violin teacher and my dear friend telling us that at long last, she and her husband are expecting a baby.

I am so happy for her. Really. Truly. She and her husband are just those types of people that you meet and immediately know that they will be amazing parents.

But I couldn't help but think about how this will affect us.

She is the best violin teacher ever. We love her.

She says she is going to take three months off, (April through June) and she has a substitute teacher lined up. Then she says she'll teach a light schedule like she does every summer and then be back to her normal teaching load next school year.

But I say, hogwash.

It is so hard to know what it will be like to have kids before you have them. Plans fall apart. Especially when you don't have any family locally. I know. I've been there.

I just cannot imagine her going back to teaching past 8 o'clock five nights a week when she has a little baby.

The other violin moms and I have been speculating about this possibility for a long time.

So I have told myself a thousand times in the past nine hours, "Her motherhood is a hell of a lot more important than your kids' violin future." And I will tell myself that a million more times before April.

I have been both anticipating and dreading this day for the past three years. I am so beside myself happy for my friend. And I am so worried that this will mark the end of a wonderful violin experience for my kids.

Selfish much? It's my softball captains worrying about who will pitch all over again.

It is such a wonderful thing to see such a happily married couple bring a child into the world. I really am so happy for them. In truth, I hope she doesn't go back to teaching. But I am sure going to miss what once was.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thinking of Me

My husband sent me this picture he found on the Internet...

...just to make me smile.

I think he knows me quite well.

Update: The rest of the photo essay can be seen here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Just a Peck

On the day my husband received his wings (I think it was 13 years ago) the guys in his class decided to honor their wives by giving each one roses as part of the winging ceremony.

I was one of the last wives called up and when my husband handed me the bouquet of roses, I gave him a quick kiss on the lips.

I didn't think about it. I just...did it. Your husband gives you flowers, you give him a smooch. Am I right?

But after, I realized I was the only wife who had done that and as I always do in the aftermath of any social situation, I wondered if I had made a fool of myself. Deep down I was saying, "Well, fuck them if they don't like it. He's my husband. The rest of those wives were weird for NOT kissing their husbands." It's not like I slipped him tongue.

Was it inappropriate to kiss my husband during a military ceremony while he was in uniform?

I don't actually know.

But, according to recently updated regulations, it is now.

Our service recently updated a bunch of regs including some uniform stuff, new rules on tattoos and new guidelines on public displays of affection.

Now I may be cynical, but my very first thought when I read about the PDA changes was that they were getting ready for the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell by making sure no one was going to have to watch guys kissing.

Rather than trust the gossip and hearsay I was hearing about the new rules, I decided to look them up myself. And basically they say no PDA. At all. Except in the kind of social situation like a wedding or leaving for or returning from a deployment where social norms would expect an expression of affection. But then it can only be a quick hug and kiss. They actually use the word "quick".

Now, I may not be quoting my husband exactly, but I'm pretty sure his take on it is, "Fuck them." I'm pretty sure as an officer of sixteen years and a veteran of three wars my husband can determine for himself what proper affectionate behavior toward his wife and children should be while in uniform.

But aren't we all lucky that now we won't have to watch anyone exchange more than a "quick" hug and kiss when they come home from 18 month long deployments.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

As long as he doesn't come home with a tat, I'll keep him.

My husband and I have the kind of relationship where we can joke about divorce. We've been through so much and come so far that the thought of getting a divorce is actually laughable.

So he'll sometimes say, "Hey, I'm coming home early. Better kick your boyfriend out."

And I'll sometimes say, "Well, you better tell your next wife that upfront."

Or, you know, some other much funnier infidelity or divorce based witticism.

But I was recently joking about how he's going to be too good for me when he comes home from this deployment and he'll need to find a better wife, and it hit a little close to home.

You see, he always loses weight while he is deployed and comes home looking all hot. And that's when he's only gone for a few months. This time he's going to be gone a year! Can you imagine how buff he'll be by next June?

He's already lost about thirty pounds and he's lifting. For some weird reason, he always puts his shirt on when we Skype, but his biceps and shoulders are looking...well..damn. (What's with that shirt thing anyway? What? Is he shy? Or...oooh...maybe he isn't sure he can keep it PG.)

So he teases me that he's going to look like the guy in "my" video by the time he gets home.

Yes, yes he is teasing me endlessly about the video I posted here. I don't help matters when I say things like, "Oh, hey you know the guy with the gun at the end? He's Australian!"

And then my husband says, "Yeah, I haven't actually done any research on your video."

So I just had to tell him today that the buff boy who grabs his junk in that video has posted a few more to YouTube.

No, I don't sound obsessed at all. Why do you mention it?

So I'd post the video for the short/buff boy's many adoring fans but I don't want to suffer through more teasing. Plus, the guy...well...it is a good thing he is pretty. I just want to pat his head and say, "Aw, shhhh, honey. Just stand there and show your abs. You don't need to talk."

I guess I better get to the freaking gym (I usually gain weight when my husband is deployed, but this time I'm just losing and gaining the same five pounds over and over again.) If my man is going to come home all drool worthy, I don't want to be the wife people point at and say, "What is he doing with her?"

Besides, all divorce joking aside, I want to keep my man to myself. He's cute and I can stand to listen to him talk.

*Oh, all right Here is the video. Buff boy gets wet.

Oh, dang! Speaking of my man...today is his birthday. Happy birthday, Honey. We love you!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reason Number 498

One of the many of thousands of reasons I miss my husband when he is deployed is his ability to tie a tie. This is especially true since my son has to wear ties to school sometimes.

In the past I have had my long-suffering husband tie a tie before he deployed and then tried to keep the knot neat as my son pulled said tie on and off during the months Dad was gone.

Pathetic, I know.

This year, my daughter had to have a tie for her summer reading project, so I was on the hook again before the school year even started!

Learn to Tie a Tie ap to the rescue. Yes, there is an ap for that.

And here is my little photo journalist report of the outcome.

My first attempt. Eek.

My second attempt. Marginally better.
My third and final attempt. Good enough for a girl!

And that is how I make it through all the challenges of a deployment, big and small. In this case, very small.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just Missed His Fifteen Minutes

The other night I was Skyping with my husband while he was getting ready for work. As he pulled his flight suit on I told him, "I should record this and post it on YouTube."

"Ha," was his reply. That is often his reply.

But later I realized, all I had to do was run that recording backwards, set it to some Britney Spears, and we'd have a YouTube hit on our hands.

Here's to private rooms. RHIP, baby.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Speaking Of...

I love how tall Anthony Edwards looks next to Tom Cruise. And Slider still does it for me, even after all these years.

This is classic.

My husband has enjoyed teasing me about the last video I posted. But he grew up in the Top Gun generation (there is a whole generation of military aviators who were inspired by Top Gun and my husband is old enough to be one of them) so lets see what he can say to tease me about this one.

Hi, Honey. Miss you! ;-)

Counting Days

We are seven weeks into this 52 week deployment. And I have been reduced to watching the volleyball scene from Top Gun over and over.

How am I going to make it another 45 weeks?

I haven't felt this desperate in a long, long time.

Every guy I see gets checked out. Even the way the guy near me at the movies today laughed was grabbing my attention.

Is this how men always feel? Or is it only seventeen-year-old boys?

I have a whole new understanding and appreciation for the way men are.

Ah, men.

51 days down. 314 to go.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Young Love

Last winter my friend told me her middle-school-aged son had a girlfriend. And I judged her.

Never mind that the topic only came up because my own daughter wanted to ask her son to dance at cotillion. But all I could think was he's in the seventh grade! That is too young. What kind of mother lets that happen.

But, oh...people in glass houses and all that.

About a month later in the Spring my daughter came home from play practice and told us that one of her best friends was "going out" with one of the boys from the theater group. Now, since this best friend also happens to be the daughter of one of the school heads (who didn't even let his daughter go to cotillion) my husband and I both asked the same question.

"What do her parents say about that?"

Well, as it turns out, after the boy asked her to "go out" she asked her parents permission. (Smart kid.) And her parents quite reasonably asked her what it meant to be "going out" with someone.

Apparently "going out" in my daughter's sixth grade universe meant...well...pretty much absolutely nothing. They don't actually see each other or hang out together or do anything different at all. I guess knowing that they'll all be graduating high school together in a few years they are just staking their claims now. I don't know.

So, yes we had heard that a certain boy (I wish I could use his real name because it is oh so perfect, but I must protect the innocent and all that)...(let's call him...Neal, shall we?) had told my daughter he was "into her" a few months before. But we hadn't heard much about it since then.

Neal, did however have my son's seal of approval of not being a bad kid. So that was good.

But not long after her friend started "going out" with her costar, Neal asked my daughter to "go out" too.

So my daughter asked our permission. (Smart girl.) And my husband (surprisingly reasonably) asked, "What does he mean by "go out" with you?" And of course it means, well, nothing.

And now my daughter is going out with a boy.

My daughter who just a couple of weeks ago turned 12-years-old and still has to be reminded to wash her hair has a boyfriend.

My glass house is shattered!

For years our friends and families and I have been joking about how intimidating my husband will be to any boy crazy enough to try to date my daughter. I mean, he knows what boys are like. I was 15 when he started dating me! And he's afraid that she'll turn out like me. (It's a very valid fear for a dad, believe me. I spent so much time trying to get my 16-year-old future husband in bed. Or to give it up in the car or wherever! Unsuccessfully, I might add. At least for a few years.)

But I was actually genuinely worried about how he would take her teen years. He's a very stubborn guy. And more than a little intimidating. Plus, his first meeting with his own future-father-in-law involved a gun, so...

I was worried.

But he has totally rolled with it. He's asked her a few times, "So, was Neal there?" or "So, did you tell Neal any of this?" and things like that. But mostly he has been totally fine with it.

I'm the freak.

I had to know more about this kid, so I broke out the kids' yearbook. Honestly, I was expecting kind of a geeky theater kid (sorry, guys!) like her best bud's boyfriend. But he was actually pretty cute and non-geeky.

So, I went on the school website and found out that he has two older twin brothers who just graduated from our school.

And now I know where he got his gutsy, sixth-grade manly man ways. (Can you imagine the conversations he had with his brothers?)

But his last name, and his dad's name seemed really familiar to me. (Never mind that his last name is as alphabetically as close to our last name as you can get and Neal and my daughter will have adjoining lockers for the next six years!)

So, Google, here I come.

It turns out that I had seen his dad's name on a wall in an art gallery. When he had his own show. As it turns out, his dad is kind of a famous sculptor. And he has got mon-ney! Serious money. Plus, he's the director of a very big charity in town.

Yes, I am completely nuts. I Google searched my daughter's sixth grade boyfriend.

But Neal was starting to look like a better and better candidate as a future son-in-law. Plus his dad has aged very very well, so there was that for my daughter to look forward to.

(See, completely nutso!)

A couple of weeks later I went to school to have lunch with my son. I was curious to watch my daughter in her native habitat interacting with her boyfriend. My son pointed out the pre-teen Lothario to me.

And I saw what was possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life.

At one point during lunch, my daughter was on one side of the deli line all by herself. And Neal was on the other side. Neal kept staring at her. And flipping his hair back at her. And trying to get her attention without actually saying anything to her.

And she completely ignored him

And now I know why Neal is interested in my daughter.

Guys love that chase, right!

My son and I thought that it was hilarious, but poor Neal. When I asked my daughter about it she had no clue what I was talking about. She hadn't even noticed him there making eyes at her.

But poor Neal did get to play the Gypsy King to her Gypsy Queen in the play. And they got to sing together and hold hands. (Eeeeeeek!)

Other than that I have no idea what they have done while they have been "going out".

Though she did write to me from summer camp and ask me for Neal's address. That is a letter I would have loved to have read. I wonder what his parents thought of it. Did he ask their permission to go out with a girl? I doubt it. Of course they also have eighteen-year-old twin football players, so they are probably used to a lot.

When she got back from camp I asked her about the dance they had with the neighboring boys camp. She didn't enjoy it. "Too many random boys asked me to dance," she complained.

"Did you dance with any of them?" I asked her.

"Of course not," she replied.

But I couldn't imagine why not. So, I asked her, "Why not?"

"Because of Neal!" she told me, like I really should have known that already.

And right there and then I knew that my husband has nothing to worry about. She is nothing like me.

I would have danced with every single one of those boys who asked me. Cute or not. No twelve-year-old playboy would keep me from having fun. In fact, I would have asked a few boys to dance with me.

So, we'll see how long Neal lasts. No matter what, I hope it ends well. Because the lockers could get quite awkward for the next six years if it doesn't.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

And I worried about my man over there. Pshaw.

So, I was going to write about my grandmother's funeral, but instead, let's all just watch some hot boys.

I totally stole this from Tonka. Oh, and just ignore what I was saying about middle aged men. Sometimes, you must make exceptions.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Mid Life Turns Me On

I think my husband thinks I'm just stroking his ego when I tell him that I love his gray hair.

But I'm not. I think it is so hot. I especially love the gray in his beard.

You know, it's funny...not in a "ha ha" kind of way but in a "you've got to be fucking kidding me" kind of way...but my libido has pretty much been dead for at least three years now. I think I had to turn it off so many times while my husband was away that I forgot how to turn it back on.

(I also think there is probably something wrong with me, but let's not go there right now.)

But now that my husband is gone for a year...A YEAR...my libido is back with a vengeance.

I don't know where it came from. It totally just hit me out of the blue.

That is so wrong.

But it has been a long time since I actually checked out men online (if you know what I mean) and I had forgotten how young they all are.

I'm not really attracted to guys in their twenties, or even their thirties. Somewhere along the way, without realizing it my tastes shifted to guys in their forties. Maybe even early fifties.

But you try finding hot guys in their forties to ogle.

Ugh. This all makes me sound kind of sick.

With so little online options, I'm left checking out real men. And that's not cool, or productive.

So I'm left checking out that one hot cowboy guy in that Viagra ad. Which, maybe, inspired me to read a few erotic cowboy novels. *ahem*

And then maybe I noticed how hot a lot of the guys in those Viagra ads seem to be.

Doesn't that just seem sad and wrong somehow?

When I do see a hot celebrity (Like Joe Matarese who I saw on Chelsea Lately) I maybe do a few more Internet image searches then are really seemly.

But with 48 and a half weeks to go before I can ogle my husband's gray stubble again, I'm just going with it. And if searches for "silver fox" show up in my Internet history more than they should, hopefully my man will find it encouraging (and stop shaving his head).

Monday, June 20, 2011

On Saying Goodbye

Last Wednesday, my husband left for a year-long deployment to Qatar.

I had just started getting used to having him around again after his last deployment, and now he's gone again.

But we're doing fine. Actually, it is a little scary just how well we're doing. Should this stuff really be normal to us? Should we really be used to it?

Maybe it is easier this time because we chose this. My husband volunteered for this deployment to do a pretty cool job in a not so horrible place so that we can stay here until his military retirement and the kids can graduate from our wonderful school.

Truthfully, I'd rather have him do a year in Qatar than another six months in Iraq or Afghanistan.

And he's the type of man who does this stuff without an once of regret or resentment. He's finishing up twenty year of service to his country by contributing to the safety of his fellow warriors AND putting his family first.

I'm not sure how he does it.

So, I always find farewells and homecomings to be awkward and sort of weird. I think this is my husband's sixth deployment and we have never had a big official send off. My husband always insists that we just drop him off wherever he needs to go. The flightline on base, the airport, or the terminal on the Navy base...it doesn't matter.

He always drives us there, hops out of the driver's side, gives us all a hug (sometimes leaning in the window, sometimes on the curb), basically just says, "Goodbye, love you, I'll call you when I get there," and he's off.

I always figured he was just avoiding a big scene, especially back in the days when media was hanging around with cameras. But last week we were just going to the local airport and dropping him off for a commercial flight, so I asked him if we should park and walk him in and say goodbye at security.

But he didn't want that. "Why prolong it?" he asked. And he's right. It's inevitable. Thirty more minutes in the airport won't make it easier. Besides, he shows us he loves us every day.

So we were standing on the curb saying goodbye and there were about six or seven people standing around staring at us. One woman walked by and said, "Thank you for your service."

Part of me thought, "That was nice." Part of me thought, "Um, hello, whore. Private family moment here. Mind your own fucking business."

But I smiled inanely.

With just a few tourists and businessmen watching us, I felt like I was putting on a show. The Poor Military Family show. And I did not like it.

I've always understood my husband's need for the hurried drop off. But I never saw his point quite as clearly as I did last week.

I've spent ten years avoiding the media at all costs. But I got through what will hopefully be our last big goodbye with grace and relative privacy once more.

Driving away from that curb always goes exactly the same way.

I get a little teary eyed, mostly because I can't stand to hear my daughter cry. And then my son manages to say exactly the right thing to her to comfort her (even though I have no idea what to say to her, even after all these years). He's been doing that since he was four or five years old. And then the tears fall on my face because I have these amazing kids even though I've been given free reign to mess them up all by myself for about half of their damn lives.

So we're back at it again. And the first five days have flown by. Here's to the next 360 of them going just as fast.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Turn Around

Being an eleven-year-old girl has got to be the fucking hardest thing in the entire world.

Being my eleven-year-old daughter can't make it any easier. I'm a hard ass with high expectations. Not to mention, being a military brat can't be easy either. Sure it's all we know, and it has its positives, but it isn't exactly the ideal situation for a highly sensitive girl like mine.

So I've mentioned before, the month of February was just about the worst month of my daughter's life.

That girl failed in so many ways in the span of about three weeks that it had me questioning everything I believe about parenting and maternal love.

Sure she failed tests, but she failed because she didn't do the work. And then, worst of all, she lied about not doing the work. She hid stuff. Manipulated situations (or tried to). And in those three weeks, she lied more than she ever had in her whole life combined.

The people who love us kept telling me, "But she's such a good kid..." Yet all I could think was, "Really?"

Do good kids lie? And lie and lie and lie?

It got so that every time the phone rang, I was worried that it was another one of her teachers calling to tell me something else she had done. Or not done.

Our school's entire philosophy is based on an honor code. The kids sign a pledge every year and also sign a pledge on every test, quiz and project. They are known for having "open lockers" with no doors. The honor code is central to all that they do.

So an honor code violation is a very big deal.

During those three weeks, my daughter was caught having not done her math homework. Which would have been okay, except that she didn't tell her teacher. When her teacher called her on it after class, she just cried and sobbed and was so upset the teacher was taken aback.

Lucky for my girl, the teacher decided that based on her excellent (former) reputation, maybe she just didn't quite understand that not admitting that she hadn't done her homework was as bad as lying about it. She gave her a firm but understanding talking-to, and let her off the hook.

Unfortunately, I had to find out about that whole incident by having the teacher call me. My daughter hadn't told me on her own.

And that was the last straw.

Frankly, I don't have a friend close enough to share any of this with. And while I always share with my husband, I didn't want to lay it on too thick, because he was in Afghanistan. The only thing he could do from that far away was worry.

It ended up being my mother who helped me the most. Here is a woman who loves my daughter more than anyone on the planet (possibly even more than me) yet she agreed with me. She wasn't being a good person. She needed something.

My mom advised me that I needed to stop trusting her. Clearly that wasn't working. "You've got to sit with her and watch her do every bit of her homework. You've got to make her study. You have to make sure she has no failures to lie about until she can mature and handle these things. And most of all, you need to get her some help."

My mom never gives advice. She always just says that she knows that I know better than her. (Seriously, she's been telling me that since I was eleven.) So for her to say something like that, well, she only confirmed what I already knew.

She also said, "Maybe she's getting her period."

And I said, "God, I hope so! At least raging hormones would be some kind of excuse."

So our school has a full period at the end of every day when the kids can participate in activities, get extra help from their teachers, or do their homework. I declared she would have no more activities and would spend every free period with her teachers.

I designed a white board to-do list. I set up a calendar system and taught my daughter to use it. I made sure she used it every day. I micromanaged every second of her homework time. I forced her to study even when she insisted that she already had. I made up practice tests and quizzes.

I pretty much became the Tiger Mom from hell.

Sure there were tears at first. But then came the good grades. She went from 30's and 40's to 90's and hundreds. She went from twelve dings on her tri-weekly responsibility report to zero. And slowly but surely, she started to believe me. She started to believe that when you go to a school as challenging as hers, you have to spend three hours a night doing homework. You have to go above and beyond.

We decided to read a book together. The school had assigned the girls to read The Secret Language of Girls as part of their "Ophelia Project", a project designed to proactively teach girls about treating each other well and with respect.

We both hated the book (the writing was weak) but it got us talking a lot about right and wrong. It got us talking about how hard it can be to do the right thing sometimes.

We reaffirmed ourselves to her violin study. Violin is one aspect of her life where she can really have some success. And that girl needed a win more than any child I have ever known. She had been avoiding practicing with me in the morning. So I declared that for every minute she was late to her violin practice time, she would be grounded that many days. (See, hard ass.)

Her teacher noticed the difference. And next weekend she will be playing in an advanced student chamber group.

I grounded the kid for sure. But once my husband got home, I also spent more time with her. We went to the movies and shopping and out for meals. Just the two of us.

And we took her to counseling.

The counselor mostly worked on how to handle stress, how to handle failure, and how to handle anxiety.

The truth is, the counselor didn't say anything to her that we haven't said a hundred thousand times. But having someone else say it probably helped. Also, I think just the fact that her parents love her enough to get her that kind of help affected her in some way.

Oh, and also, she got her period.

It just two months, her life has completely turned around. Her grades are great. (She managed to pull out of that horrible semester with all B's and a C.) She's the Gypsy Queen in Mary Poppins. She finally moved beyond the Vivaldi concerto she's been working on in violin. A boy at school told her he's "really into" her. And she starts softball at school in May.

We're closer than ever.

I deeply believe that when you love each other enough, you come through the hard times even better. Back in 2005 my husband and I had a tough time in our relationship. We grew through it and came out the other side better off. I think my daughter and I have had our tough period too.

The damage was thankfully minimum.

The thing I am most grateful for is that she talks to me so much now. She tells me all the little things she won't tell anyone else.

She's having a tough week this week. One of her best friends is moving this summer and she just found out that her very best friend is switching schools in the fall. And her third best friend...well...she's growing into quite the little bitch.

Her classmates suddenly all seem to be struggling. They've had more honor code violations then ever this past couple of weeks. Actually, these are the first real honor code violations her classmates have ever had.

But, today she told me a story. The kids were supposed to bring in a local newspaper with a tides chart for science class. She asked me to stop on the way to school and pick one up this morning, but she also went online and printed one out just in case we couldn't find a paper.

So when her friend asked her if she had an extra tides chart, she immediately replied, "Yes." But when her friend asked to borrow it for class, she told her, "Um, I'm sorry but I don't feel comfortable with that. You didn't do your homework and if I gave you my chart, that would be like cheating."

Can you even imagine how hard that was for her to do? Her friend is mad at her. She's probably telling everyone what a bitch my daughter is. But my daughter still did what she thought was right.

She learned!

Can you believe it?

Being eleven-years-old has got to be the fucking hardest thing in the entire fucking world. And it can't be easier when you go to a school where the expectations are so high. And it can't be easier when your hormones are raging.

But she's making it though. And now I have hope.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

An Audience of One

So, I wrote this very long post about homecomings. I went on and on about my very strong feelings on the reunion part of a deployment and the media's portrayal of such. I got way too personal to illustrate just how hard reintegrating a member of your family can be.

And I never finished it.

I just had too much to say. I couldn't wrap all of my words around what I was really trying to express. So I decided to let it all go. (I mean, seriously. If I can't choke something to death with words, who can?)

I'll just sum up by saying that it was really hard. Very hard. And it is still ongoing. But we've all learned a lot. We're making it through.

My husband was home for a little more than two weeks when he had to leave again. He is currently nearing the end of a three week long TDY to train for his next deployment.

Somehow, this short TDY has been harder than the entire sixth month deployment. Isn't it funny how that happens? Maybe it is just because I know he'll be gone for a year pretty damn soon and if things stay this way, I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through.

But I'm just so sick of doing everything on my own. I'm mostly sick of sitting in audiences all alone while my kids perform on stage. I'm sick of going to concerts alone. The kids deserve more and I deserve someone to share it all with.

He'll be back Friday and then we'll make the most of our time together until June. And then I'll survive another deployment. We'll all be just fine.

And come June 2012, I'll be looking forward to another reunion and chastising myself for whining about what I'm going through now. But after eight reunions (Eight! Seriously?) I hope I can start to get them right.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Always Blame It on the Sperm

Something just occurred to me about five minutes ago.

I have given birth to the most independent child on the face of the Earth AND the most dependent child on the face of the Earth.

How is it possible that two eggs from the same basket could produce such polar opposite offspring?

I'm blaming the sperm.

The carrier of the sperm is on his way home, finally. It will take all of my will power not to dump the problems of the dependent child in his lap immediately. I can hold them on my own for a while longer. I can. I swear. I am strong. What difference will a few days make?

Thank god the sperm no longer have a means of escape. Another offspring would break this mother's back.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Portraits of Death's Bitch

I love peaking in people's houses. I especially love when someone's home is a surprise.

A few years ago I made friends with a really wonderful former military psychologist. She was one of the most down-to-earth people I ever met. She dressed simply and never wore make-up. She was a lot like me.

And then she invited me to her house.

It was a friggin' Taj Mahal! It was all marble and huge windows and staircases and more rooms than you can count. It was full of original paintings by artists you've probably actually heard of. It had it's own lake.

Her home was so unexpected and I loved it. It is nice to see really awesome people living so well. Rich people have such a bad reputation.

This past weekend we went to a violin concert at the home of one of the families in our studio. They live in a lovely historic home in the trendy part of downtown. Again, I was surprised.

This women is really outgoing and nice. She's bubbly and happy. And in her home is a portrait of her flanked by her small children in which she looks like death's bitch.

She apparently liked that portrait a lot because she has it displayed in three different places in her house.

It reminded me of something that happened when my son was a baby.

I was just getting to know one of the wives in the squadron. She also had a small baby and she and her husband seemed really nice. And then she invited me to her house for a baby shower.

The first thing you saw when you walked in her front door was her wedding portrait. It was a little more formal than I like, but it was a decent picture.

It was also larger than life. Literally. The portrait was at least 6 feet by 8 feet. It barely fit on the wall. In the picture her head was bigger than a beach ball. Big headed much?

A couple of years later she and her husband divorced. I'm dying to know what she did with that portrait! Oh, then she renamed her daughter (who was five-years-old by then) after herself. Yeah. Like she was named Mary and then she renamed her own kid Mary.

I don't know. It's fun to get a glimpse into people's homes. They say a lot about a person. But sometimes, what they say is kind of scary.

I wonder what my house says about me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Deployment Gremlins Can Suck Donkey Balls

So we're a bit past the 4 month point of this deployment. We've had some rocky spots here and there, but overall, things were going pretty well.

Until this week. See, I made a huge mistake. About a week ago (when we hit the 4th month) I stopped and took a moment to reflect. And I thought, hey, we're doing pretty damn well here. I kind of rock.

And then the universe decided to prove to me just how much I don't rock.

Why didn't I knock on wood?

It's been little things and big things. It's been food poisoning and flat tires. It's been pre-teen drama and a stuck front door. It's been scheduling conflicts and missed deadlines.


And all of a sudden I go from perfectly fine to oh, my god, this sucks. I'm done with this now.

To top it all off, I didn't learn my lesson. Because last night I thought hey, it's been months since the boy banged his head in his sleep. I thought man, it's nice to be past that worry.

And of course, you guessed it, his nocturnal head banging woke me up at 2 a.m. last night.

It's kind of like the opposite of "Be careful what you wish for." I wish I could twist it around and make it work for me.

Hey, I love how I haven't been able to sleep through the night for the last month or so. Yeah, that totally kicks ass.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Freedom 2011

I am so very, very thankful that I am past the stage of early parenthood. All in all, those years were pretty wonderful at our house. But society has such intense reactions to new motherhood and I don't miss those at all.

I don't miss the parenting magazines and books. (Though I never read many.) I don't miss the impassioned advice about everything from breast feeding to picking preschools. (Though I never listened to much of it.) I really don't miss the intense and often forced or strained relationships with fellow stay-at-home moms.

I especially don't miss all the judgement. The intense judgement.

So many new mothers are so fearful of messing up that they develop these strongly held beliefs and anyone who doesn't jive with those beliefs is harshly judged, mostly so the insecure new mother can look and say, "See! I am such a better mother than her!"

What? We've all done it.

People look at a stay-at-home mom with babies and toddlers and they want to share with her. They want to teach her and give her advice and lure her over to their ways of thinking so that they can feel right and vindicated!

People look at a stay-at-home mother with school-age kids or preteens and they think...

Well, I don't know what they think.

And I don't care!

Woo hoo! Freedom! It is so freeing not to care.

For the first time in my life I am feeling a bit old. But that's okay. I feel like I have gotten to a place where I know so much. I am seeing the results of my sacrifice and decisions. And I feel good about them all.

I am one of the few stay-at-home mothers left in the car pool line. And I am the only one without a doctor or entrepreneur for a husband. And I am happy. You know what? We were smart. And lucky. And good planners.

I know without a doubt that we have done the right things, made the right choices, not just for our kids, but for our marriage and ourselves too.

It feels so good to be on the other side of the playground. I know this may be the lull before the storm of parenting a teenager but I have faith in the foundations we built. And as always, I am enjoying the present and looking forward to the future.

A future that in a few years will not include deployments.

That's the most freeing thing of all.