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Take This Blog and Love It

Today a friend called me a name and I was insulted.

She dropped it casually into conversation, tossing it out like a flick of a cigarette and even over the phone I jumped back singed.

She called me a… Blogger.

A blogger. Can you believe it? Every day I slave at this computer writing essays and editing manuscripts. I am a contributor to Huff Post and What to Expect. I’ve been on the NYTimes Motherlode for crap’s sake. Every day I’m grinding my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut as I press send on submissions to Slate, Brain, Child and Modern Love.

A blogger? I felt categorized and marginalized. I felt defensive.  She may as well have stepped on my face in a pile of mud.

Wait. I am a blogger. And I love not only blogging but the essays that I write.

Why did I have such an immediate and negative reaction?

Could it be because my friend is a ‘legitimate’ author and I’m a bit competitive and sensitive? Probably.

Was she being a little condescending? Probably.

It’s like the article by the debate editor of Brain, Child Magazine, Lauren Apfel that I just read in Time, I’m a Mommy Blogger and Proud of it about the old negative stereotypes associated with mom bloggers as overly confessional, full rants and vents, grumbles and gripes. And a bunch of us are, and a bunch of us aren’t. Either way, most of the bloggers that I know are damn good writers who are at their craft daily. If we rant or overshare, you can bet it will be a well written and well-structured essay.

These days, many mommy bloggers use their words and their blogging platforms to reach a larger audience, to open doors that otherwise might remain closed and to network. We are freelance writers, aspiring novelists, bloggers who strategize and monetize.

Back a hundred years ago, I wanted to be a writer and I wrote essays, short stories and manuscripts that I placed lovingly under my bed. Yet I didn’t push hard enough for what I wanted. I let it go accepting a career in advertising that I ultimately let that go as well to stay home with my children.

Now that they have grown just enough that I can tell them to go play in the basement and they do, I am re-discovering myself and my passion. On my blog I have written hundreds of essays, most of which I am extremely proud. Yes I write about being a mother. That’s who I am. I also write about being a daughter, a friend, a human; the heartbreak and the heartfelt; the ridiculous and the pain of the every day.

I don’t want to be in anyway embarrassed or perpetuate a negative perception about something that has offered me so much personal and professional, if not exactly financial, satisfaction. I want to own it – strut my blog around the block in stilettos shouting “I’m a blogger!” instead of holding back and hedging, “I want to be writer and I have a blog.”

Actually what I want to say is that I am a writer and a blogger and I’d like to be appreciated as both.

icescreammama

Victory and Defeat from the Mom on the Sidelines

Yesterday…

I hold my breath, huddled in the minivan staring at my phone in frustration.  The Iscore site that generally gives me the play by play of my oldest son’s baseball game won’t load, so instead I wait impatiently patient for the texts from the other moms to fill me in. They are there in the trenches, their butts numb and frozen to the bleachers on this chilly evening tensely watching our championship game which is down to the final at bat with bases loaded.

The major leagues wrapped it up weeks ago, but we’re still out there. I am using the Royal ‘we’ of course, because once again my son gave me the official ‘hug off’ before leaving early with Coach Dad for warm ups.

“Bye Mama,” He said, his head nuzzled against my chest.

“Have fun,” I answered, squeezing him.

“Are you coming?” He asked, not looking at me; the hopefulness in his voice piercing my heart.

“Do you want me to come?” I asked, equally hopeful but knowing better.

He shook his head, looked up and gave a bashful smile. “No.”

I nodded. I know the score. Apparently I make him nervous. I get that he wants to impress me which is sweet, but also frustrating, especially when you’re hiding behind trees. Still, I generally respect his wishes, especially on freezing November evenings when my younger boys have a birthday party to go to anyway.

But now the party is over and we are minutes from the field, sitting in our heated car in the restaurant parking lot where the team – win or lose – will be celebrating after their final game of this Fall season. The name of the restaurant is Champions. I hope it’s a premonition.

So I stare at the screen willing a text to appear while my youngest climbs back and forth over the seats, and my middle hangs over mine, breathing hotly into my hair, watching with me. The game is a batter away from over. Bases loaded. 2 outs. We are up 5-4. It’s not my son on the mound – he did his stint admirably in the first
4 2/3 innings, but I feel for his mom, shaking in her shoes on the bench watching her boy up there. That is the kind of pressure on your 12 year-old that makes you want to throw up.

It is taking f o r  e v  errrrrrr! I have nothing to do but whip off text after text to the moms allowed to attend. “I am freaking out!… What’s happening?!…. Come on, Boys!! Do it! Do it!…. ARRRGGGHGhthtghghtitheifrp!!!… Guys!! Tell me what’s happening!!”

Granted they are biting their nails through their gloves, sweating in the 40 degree temps, and their cells screaming silent shouts for attention is not a priority. But they are good to me and after painful, torturous minutes we finally hear, or more accurately see the verdict – WE WIN!!!  photo (14)

I picture my beautiful boy’s joyous face and those of his teammates and friends all jumping on one another, up and down, smiling with pride and relief. It’s the best feeling in the world – winning and knowing you’ve earned it.

And in the bleachers, the dugout and the minivan, the moms and dads exhale.

Today…

I am again sitting vigil in the minivan grinding my teeth, the younger boys in tow. Yesterday’s win was awesome but it’s a new day and right now it’s the final cuts for the middle school basketball team.

Forty boys have already been let go, and they are down to the final 20, but only 15 will make the team. It’s dark, almost 6pm, and the parents tensely line up outside the gym, engines humming restlessly, ready to either bolt for home or do donuts in celebration.

Finally the boys emerge, a few at a time and then a mass of long shorts and growing limbs, patting each other on the backs happily. In the commotion and anticipation, you almost don’t notice the random boy sneaking off to the side, his head hung low. There will be five of those boys and my eyes frantically scan the group.

Will he or won’t he? It could go either way.

Then I see him and I know.

I suck my breath in deep, hold it and try not to cry.

Tomorrow…

 

The i Generation

I’m waiting for my kids to finish up an extremely important video game. If they don’t, apparently it will be catastrophic. Everything they have worked so hard for will be destroyed – the levels completed, the points accrued, the hours spent ignoring me. It will all be for naught.

I wish I saw this same level of commitment when it came to putting their clothes away, finishing up  homework, reading a book or just generally focusing one tenth of their attention to the words coming out of my mouth as they do to the zombies trying to eat them or the football players running on electronic fields of green.

Gone are the days of carefree casual communication. When my boys walk in from school, they drop their backpacks and head straight for their devices like homing pigeons drawn by some unconscious motivator. I try to intervene with small talk – Hey, how was your day? Anyone want a snack? What happened in such and such class? – and general fussing about but they swat me away with nods and non-communicative grunts.

I consider ripping devices from their little paws and demanding attention, have in fact done it many times but now I’m trained and generally sigh and shuffle off and wait till they’ve had their fix. I’ve seen addiction and they’ve just gone through 8 hours of withdrawal. It seems cruel not to give them 15 minutes.

These days it seems children and teens and their devices go hand in hand. Where they go, it goes and communication goes out the window. I can’t even say it’s just about the younger generation. We middle-aged folk are similarly attached, yet we were around before microwaves, ATM’s and computers and we still know how to use a pot, get money from a teller and write freehand. We hold our books to our hearts but lug Kindles in our bags. We still have CD’s and even cassettes stored away, if nowhere else but in our brains. So yes, we are attached to our technology but we know how to live without them, because we have.

But the kids have not.

The iGeneration is all about technology, and communication without personal contact. I’d like to blame them for my oldest son’s questionable social skills but I can’t. He’s as naturally shy as my other son is naturally social and my youngest is somewhere in between.  It has nothing to do with the technology.

And so it goes. Every morning, sleep still on the brain, coffee in hand, my oldest gets into the car and we head off to school. I immediately pepper him with questions about his day while he answers only to the device in hand.

I sigh, turn on some music, sip my coffee and shake my head as I bob along to the new CBS FM, no more golden oldies, just recent oldies for getting oldies like me. I pull to the curb and he shoves his phone away. “Bye Mama,” He says, and before he gets out allows me to push the hair away from his eyes then flashes me a gorgeous heart stopping grin.

All is not lost.

 

Alisa Pnone through dec 31, 2012 046

So yeah, there’s this…

 

But there's this too

But there’s also this…

 

Mama’s Boys are Growing Up

I have no one to blame but myself.

I mean, raising mama’s boys was almost a goal. I loved how much they needed me. I loved doing things for them.  It was my twisted pleasure to find myself at 2 am sleepwalking between nursing a baby to comforting a boy who woke with a nightmare to helping another boy to the bathroom.  I took pride in refusing help; taking all my boys with me to doctor appointments or errands, snubbing carpools to drive myself crazy instead. I catered three different meals at night, picked up their toys because it was easier, zipped my son’s jacket at five years-old and tied shoes at 10.

They asked and I answered. “Can you pack my back pack? Can you get me a snack? Can you can you can you…?”

‘Yes! Mommy can!’ was my war cry.

And mommy did. Again and Again.

See honey, no one else will cut off those crusts, make you a perfect scrambled egg or wash your Spiderman shirt so you could wear it every day like I can.

Was it dysfunctional and co-dependent? Yup. Would I do it again? Probably.

Because back then, we were all one happy needy bunch of love and it was good.

But now that my boys are 6, 9 and 12, I see things a little differently.

In fact, I see them at 30…

They would of course still be living at home because why would they leave free room, board, a stocked fridge and complimentary housekeeping?

There would be hair scruff in all my bathroom sinks, dirty underwear and socks on the floor and loud snoring from every bedroom.

I probably would suffocate from all the gas inhalation.

Or die from embarrassment when they run in on me in the bathroom to demand justice when one of them uses the others deodorant or finishes the last bag of chips.

I may as well just put a cot by the washing machine and sleep there.

And I could never just sit and enjoy a cup of wonderful, steaming coffee in the morning since I’d be dragging their asses out of bed for work – if they had jobs – and making them eggs, three different ways.

All of a sudden, raising mama boys didn’t look as appealing.

So lately I’ve been loosening those ties, and giving my boys more independence and responsibility. They now get themselves dressed in the morning, wash up and tie their own shoes. They do the recyclables and empty the dish washer. They put their clothes away and make their own snacks. They know what they have to do and do it.

Well, usually.

Okay, sometimes.

It’s a process.

But we’ll get there. Because now I see that you don’t mess with the natural order of things. Children grow, you lovingly guide them on the road to being responsible and then you gently shove them out to greener pastures.

Of course they must still call daily, visit at least once a week and marry girls you deem appropriate.

I may no longer want mama’s boys, but mama’s men just might work.

 

But not yet... sigh

But not yet… sigh

 

All Bout That Bass…

At least half the days I wake up in the morning I feel as though I probably gained five pounds overnight. It could be because it was a Monday and I had just come off a weekend of baseball field snacking, movie munching and Saturday night dinner out, or it could just be a random Thursday feeling bloated, or maybe that my nightly sundae had gone off the deep end of the bowl.

Whatever the case, it genuinely amazes me when I do get on that scale and it informs me I am basically the same weight, which these days is a solid five pounds under my skinny weight.

Under!

It’s a weight I haven’t maintained for any period of time since my crazy mid-twenties when I ate zero fat and skipped happy hours and dinners with friends for gym class. Even then I could barely pull it off, which is why I’m so amazed that after some months on Weight Watchers and some months after, I am still living the skinny jean dream.

I really thought that losing this amount of weight would liberate me. “That’s great,” my friend said, “Now you’ve got a nice cushion.” I totally agreed, thinking I could loosen the restraints a bit. I was already imagining the enormous ice cream I could eat later.

But it’s a lie!

There is no relaxing when it comes to weight management. Now at my thinnest point in decades, I still feel the weight anxiety almost every day. Who am I kidding? It’s every day. Am I eating too much? Can I maintain this? The funny thing is that I was happy with my weight being five pounds heavier. I was actually still okay, 10 pounds heavier. But now that I’m low, I have a hard time seeing myself – or that number on the scale – going up. So while my pants size is down, my general anxiety over my weight has not decreased at all. I feel no cushion. And I’m still having fat days.

I was talking with a friend the other day about the craziness of it. She is trim and exceedingly fit, but still tells me, she can’t relax. She feels she must exercise every chance she gets and she’s got to work it hard. She knows her body needs days off; that it’s literally aching for them, but her brain won’t let her. ‘If you do, you’ll get fat,’ it says.  Trust me, she’s far from the only friend caught up in this cycle.

It’s ridiculous.

So when does this madness end? At 120 pounds? 110? What is the magic number?

The answer is… There is no magic number. It ends when we decide it ends.

I’m finally realizing that my body issues are not necessarily with my body but with my brain. Okay, stop laughing people who know me. Physically, I eat healthy and exercise regularly. It’s obviously the mental aspect that needs work because it’s become pretty apparent that self-image really is in your head.

So I’m making a point to appreciate what I’ve got; to lighten up a bit mentally and indulge a bit more.   I work hard to keep myself thin, so I’m also going to give myself the pleasure of enjoying my body.

And my ice cream.

photo (5)

Yeah, yeah. I know. The hat…

 

Homework – To Nag or Not To Nag?

It was 10pm last Sunday night and I knew where my children were, two already asleep and my 12 year-old on the verge.

I went in to say goodnight and found my boy warm and mushy and wanting of hugs; which was perfect because I was exhausted, layered in my comfy pajamas and wanting to hug. I had just enough ounces of energy left to rub his back, almost ready for bed myself when he said, “Uh, I just remembered. I have homework and I might have a test tomorrow.”

Immediately I went from a sleeping dog to one who senses danger. I’m at attention, ears perked, heart pounding. As usual, I had reminded him about his homework at least half a dozen times; more, if you counted the silent but overt raised brow directed at his untouched backpack. In response, I had been ignored, grunted at and eye-rolled.

My bright goodnight smile darkened and my arm tickling sweet circles on his back halted. “Are you kidding?” I asked, although clearly it was a rhetorical question. He was not kidding.

And the mad scramble began…

The next morning when all that was left of the insanity was a harried overtired mom and a cranky child; we had a discussion on time management, his responsibility to his work and of not making me the nag. It was brief, as the circumstances seemed to speak for themselves.

Waiting till the last minute is something I have a hard time understanding. When I have an assignment, I’m at it the first chance I get. How else could I double check, edit or revise? How could I even sleep with the ‘assignment’ looming over my head?

The answer is that I can’t. Which is why barring a special circumstance, my children do their homework when they come home. This worked fine through elementary school, but now that my oldest is in middle school, the same rules don’t apply.

First off, he doesn’t always come home right after school. He plays on the school soccer team. He also plays in a basketball league and of course there’s his year round baseball training. On top of that he attends Hebrew school two days a week and has just started guitar lessons. I’m sure it seems like a lot but he loves and manages it all, and if something has to give, it gives. As long as it’s not his schoolwork.

Thankfully he’s a good student, but weekends are especially challenging and I admit to tossing semi-constant reminders  very subtly his way – ‘What would you like for lunch? Hey, did you do your homework? Okay, grilled cheese’.

But this weekend, I vowed not to be the nag and to make him responsible. So I reminded him on Friday evening and told him he was on his own. Then I watched the hours and days pass with mounting anxiety.

Would he forget? Could I let him go into school unprepared? I really didn’t know if I could, even if ultimately the lesson was to his benefit.

Thankfully, I wasn’t put to the test. Sunday evening I found him sitting in his room, his book bag flattened, an explosion of binders and books strewn about.  He caught my eye and gave me a self-satisfied smile.

At bedtime, as we were saying goodnight, wrapped in our warm sleepy hug, he whispered, “Mama, don’t stop reminding me to do my homework. It’s good.”

Nothing better than knowing your nag isn’t a nag.

It’s appreciated.

photo (9)

Okay, so it’s 9:15pm. Baby steps.

Yup, I’m annoying. It’s a talent.

My six year-old rolls around the carpet of my floor while I try to squeeze in my half hour on the elliptical and try to finish up an episode of Masters of Sex, which is now on pause because of the rolling child who is supposed to be out front with my husband and his brothers doing yard work.

“What’s the matter?” I ask, each word a small puff of exertion.

His head is somehow underneath his behind and he mutters something I can’t make out. “I don’t understand what you’re saying when you’re upside down and talking to your butt.”

That gets him all silly. “Hi butt!” He says, “How ya doing?”

I wait for the ridiculous to work itself out so I can find out the actual problem and get back to my show. Finally, he sits up and the frustration bursts out in a gush, “I wanted to rake, but daddy said I can’t and he let everyone else!”

Apparently it is serious.

“Did you ask daddy if you could rake too?” I ask.

“YES!” He exclaims completely exasperated.

There must be more to the story but I work with what I’ve got, “Well, maybe there aren’t enough rakes. Did you ask to take turns?”

“YES!”

There is no way he did this.

“He wants me to shovel,” He complains. “I don’t want to shovel!”

“Shoveling is fun!” I say, “Why don’t you try for a little and then switch with one of your brothers.”

“I don’t want to shovel. I want to rake!”

I’ve got about 12 minutes more on this machine and I have exhausted my diplomacy skills. I can see that without physically going outside, my child will continue whining and waiting for my help. That’s when I stop trying to solve his problem and focus on a few of my own.

“Well, I know you haven’t brushed your teeth yet. Please go do that.”

He looks at me horrified. That’s not why he came to see me. He wanted retribution not a chore.

But that’s what I do to my children. Sometimes it happens right at the beginning and sometimes it closes out the conversation, but ultimately I seem to turn every interaction into a nag.

For example…

Imagine you’re contently sitting on the chair watching your favorite episode of Austin and Alley?

I’ll interrupt, “Don’t you have homework to do?”

Maybe you just finished your lunch.

I’ll remind, “Don’t forget to put your dish in the sink.”

You innocently walk into the kitchen for a hug.

I’ll note afterwards, “Gee, looks like the recyclables haven’t been done for a while.”

You’re happily brandishing a large bag of gummies from the candy store

I’ll scold, “You haven’t eaten dinner yet.”

You’re so excited that Daddy said you can watch a movie.

I’ll look at the clock, shake my head and tsk, “Sorry guys, it’s late and there’s school tomorrow.”

I’m the bearer of bad news; the annoying voice that always interrupts their games, their fun, their relaxation. I’m Debbie downer. I’m the waa waa waa. I’m… I’m the annoying mom!!

So be it.

At least I’ve managed a few extra minutes on my elliptical and my kid has clean teeth. Now get outta here. Don’t you have some work you should be doing? And comb your hair.

I’ve still got seven minutes.

photo (1)

 

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