June 16, 2015

We'll Always Have Arizona

It's often said that travel changes you.  How could fourteen hours with two children in five different vehicles not change me?  Especially two children who are experiencing mountain sickness and a two hour time difference.

Writing this blog vaguely implies that I have some wisdom or, at the very least, useful tips for single moms by choice.  Ha!  I got nothin'.  And so, this will be my last post.

Truth be told, I started here when Liam was a baby with a secret hope.  I was homebound with a young toddler and nursing infant.  I dreamed that my mother would read my posts and swoop in with helping hands.  Fold the laundry, make dinner, empty the dishwasher...oh the simple wishes of an overwhelmed working mom.  It never happened but I continued with bravado, flying in the face of those who said I took on too much, I did this to myself, I should have known better, I got what I deserved...

Having been continuously employed in the same profession with full benefits for twenty years, earning graduate credits well past my Master's degree and paying off my single family home on a leafy suburban street, I thought I was good enough, capable enough, responsible enough to be a solo parent.  Who could look at my track record and say otherwise?  Apparently lots of people beginning with the social worker who said "No birth mother would ever pick you."  Maybe I should have quit the journey right there and then.  Instead I stubbornly pursued parenthood and became a mom to Henry.

I never had a large village but when I became pregnant for a second time, there was an exodus of remaining friends and neighbors.  To this day, subtle comments are slipped into casual conversation to remind me I am truly on my own.

This blog has been good to me--filling in parts of the void at times but I just can't keep up the pretense any more.  I wasn't mothered, I don't know how to mother and yet I have years of mothering ahead of me.  Right now, parenting feels like traveling from the floor to rim of a huge canyon.  I'm stuck halfway up the steep hike and only now realize that I don't have what it takes.  I can't go back down, that's for certain.  Clearly it's time to stop blogging about the scenery and just put one foot in front of the other on the parenting trail.

Thank you for indulging me--not just reading this post but so many others over the years.

June 2, 2015

School's Out


Well at least we will--when it warms up around here.  This weekend the daytime temperatures were in the 50's.  I refuse to turn the heat back on, but this morning the thermostat read 61 degrees!  No worries, summer will get here when it gets here.  While the boys have finished school, I am still teaching for a few more days.

It's not an easy adjustment from school to summer.  In the past, it's been more difficult for me.  I had to adjust my expectations.  Summer break used to mean free time, long walks and uninterrupted crafting or reading.  As a mom it means (in random order) making three meals a day (plus snacks), policing screen time, chauffeuring/coordinating activities, a daily load of laundry, sticky floors and keeping little ones coated with SPF and bug spray.  It's actually more relaxing to teach middle schoolers.   But unlike previous summers, I'm going into this one with my eyes wide open.  It's going to be a lot of work.
Last Day of Kindergarten
I'm more worried about my boys' transition to unstructured, unschooled days.  Their behavior is already showing signs of stress.  As much as we all wanted a release from the strict routine of parochial school, that routine provided a certain comfort level.  

While summer does not resemble a free-for-all in our family, it does have much less predictability and structure.  (I must remember to display our dry erase weekly calendar--that seems to help the boys manage our days.)  There are plenty of rules around here for school vacation.  Some new and specific, many that we have all year long.  It's just going to take time to adjust expectations (theirs, mine and ours). 

It was so much easier when there was a strict, no nonsense teacher in the room and a principal down the hall.  Plus, I suspect that my boys thrive on being compared behaviorally with their peers.  In teacher-speak, that's a norm-referenced assessment.    They are praised as role-models and then continue pleasing teachers by being uber-compliant.  At home, there's no bell curve.  It's a criterion-referenced assessment.  They either meet individual expectations or they don't.  And the expectations aren't easy or intuitive.  If they were, I wouldn't have to create a chart. 

There's also that dreaded brain drain.  Actually, I don't worry much about that.  Henry reads all the time.  Liam has a very inquisitive mind and learns by putting his hands to work.  I did, however, create these learning bins--mostly so I could have an hour or so to hear myself think each afternoon.  Liam needs practice with printing and I'd love to see Henry work on his written expression.  In reality, they will probably do more math than any other subject.  Numbers are big with my boys.

We have two road trips planned.  Again, not vacations for me but adventures for the boys combined with  long overdue family visits.  (We didn't travel at all last summer.)  There will be lots of learning as we see different parts of the country and practice our best house guest manners.  

I used to have two Pinterest boards--JuneJulyAugust and Let's Do This Now.  I would load them up with things I expected to accomplish on summer break.  Fun, exciting, developmentally appropriate.  It was all too much. Mid-August came and went with very little to show for the summer except a few big ticket items like amusement parks, beaches and zoos.  So this year, I've set four goals (and yes, I made a chart for myself).  I will teach Liam to tie his shoes, ride his bike and sleep in his bunkbed all night long.  Both boys will learn to sew buttons.  Eclectic list, right?  Sure, but those are the things I have deemed worthy of our time this summer.  Oh, and ice cream.  Lots of ice cream.  And watermelon.  And swimming.  And county fairs....

May 19, 2015

Boys will be boys...

This week's post is all about the photos--I have a terrible cold which includes a fever that comes on at night.  You can imagine how well that mixes with teaching all day and caring for these two yahooligans afterwards.  It's all I can do to get dinner on the table and make lunches for the next day.  I've appealed for the boys' help to no avail.  They simply can't grasp that Mommy feels like she's been run over by a truck and no, she doesn't want to mediate yet another argument over Legos and pizza Goldfish.  I have a faintly delirious memory of holding my head in my hands yesterday and pleading "please don't make any more work for Mommy.  Pleeease."  Not my finest moment.  Lucky for all of us, this too shall pass.

May 10, 2015

No Offense, Giant Global Card Company

Recently I read a heartfelt blog post entitled "Adoption Does Not Cure Infertility".  It offered  an interesting perspective, one that I hadn't thought about.  Yet having read The Belated Baby by Kelly James-Enger, I'm not too surprised at this mom's residual sadness.  All that is really another post (or maybe even a blog--oh, wait you can just read Ashley Talks a Lot.)   But with apologies I am hijacking paraphrasing her post title.

   Becoming a Mother Does Not Cure the Mother's Day Blues.  

Recently, this post on Mothering in the Middle resonated with me. It is about caring for a mother who never cared for you.  You see, for some of us this holiday is not all sunshine and roses in spite of the fact that our children bring us...well, sunshine and roses.  I love mine dearly and hold especially tight to them as I remember all the lonely years I couldn't celebrate this day at all.  But on the second Sunday in May, I also remember an unmothered childhood.

On this treacly holiday,  I feel both full and empty.  I guess that's just life in a non-Hallmark universe.