Last night, the kids and I went out to dinner to celebrate some great grades the Bee got on her mid-terms, and the fact that the Potato got onto the honor roll.
I raised my glass and made a toast to the two of them, and told them both that I was proud of them.
The kids, being goofy, giggled. The Bee did a fake cough and muttered, “yes, here’s to me for being amazing!”
The Potato, without missing a beat, said, “I think you’ve got opposite cough.”
The Bee and I laughed hard for a solid minute.
The kids have been back to school for a week, and oh my is it wonderful. The Bee is in eighth grade this year, and she’s determined to participate in ALL THE THINGS. Student Council, the musical, field hockey, peer-t0-peer mentoring, and maybe even track and field… She came home today complaining about the fact that all her teachers have required different kinds of notebooks (a binder, some spiral-bound, some composition) which means that she has to carry ten different things in the morning to her first four classes.
The Potato is in fourth grade, and while he’s not laden down with as many extra-curriculars as the Bee–he’s playing soccer, which has two practices and one game every week. He’s been getting more into video-gaming lately, and I’m pretty sure I can see the lanky teen he will someday be, as he is letting his hair grow into his eyes…
I’m not sure how it is even possible, but we’ve reached the end of another school year, and I find myself the mother of an 8th grader. And a 4th grader, but I’ve been down that road before.
Today is the first last-day-of-school that I have been home in 8 years. Yes, you read that right–for the first 7 years that the Bee was in school, I missed every last-day, due to the annual staff meeting at my job, which is always held on the 3rd Thursday in June. This year, since there were no snow days (and practically speaking, no snow) school let out early.
In other years, I’ve had a variety of people pick the kids up, so they haven’t had to suffer through the awfulness of having to go to after-care on the last day. Landisdad has, on occasion, been able to take the day off. They haven’t really suffered, but I have–suffered the guilt of working motherhood, the guilt of never being in two places at once.
This year, I picked them up, and we went home for lunch (it’s a half-day, natch), and then I took the Potato to get braces installed on his four top front teeth. That kid is a trooper, I tell you. He was half looking forward to it, I think.
So we did that, and then I took the Bee to buy her end-of-year present–a Vera Bradley bag. She’s made the principal’s list every marking period, got elected to student council & became a peer mediator at the end of this year–so I felt like she deserved something special. I think those bags are ugly, but she and her friends all covet them enormously, so they’re doing a damn fine job of marketing to tweens & teens.
Finally, we met landisdad in the city for a celebratory dinner, and then I took the kids home with me for the night. It’s nice to have them here, especially after all those nights I missed earlier this year due to my crazy work travel.
Sometimes, I don’t know how we would get through without my nearby brother and his family. I spent a lot of time living on the opposite side of the country from my family…thank goodness we moved home before we had kids (just before, to be honest!).
Today, the kids and I went to my brother’s house–my SiL was having a photobook party, and she’d invited me. My brother took all the kids (mine and his) to our local aquarium so that we could focus on creating with our laptops. It’s nice, on these solo-parenting weekends, to get a little break, once in a while.
Not to mention the fact that my brother’s in-laws watch the Potato after school, most of the time that I have to go away for work. It’s been a life-saver, since we decided that we had to take him out of the after-school program last year.
I definitely need to get them something really good for Christmas…it’s not only been a huge money-saver, it’s also just been great knowing that he’s with people who really understand that he’s a good kid–even if he was having a tough time with the separation for awhile. I have come to understand that he is also spending a fair amount of time with their next-door neighbors, too–they have a kindergarten-aged son who is in love with the Potato.
The Potato and my niece (their daughter) the Butterfly pretend to hate each other. They’re always complaining about having to spend time together—they are in the same class at school, in addition to the after-school time—but then as soon as they see each other, they pair off and chatter away together. My sister-in-law and I were talking about it at the Halloween party—she said, “I feel like they’re more like brother and sister than they are cousins.”
I have a ton of cousins, but I didn’t grow up near any of them. I’m happy that the Potato gets to grow up so close to at least one set of cousins—and seeing the two of them together reinforces for me that we made the right choices, in letting them stay in their community.
and with it, the schedule crazy. I always hate September–between the beginning of school & all the school-related events; a huge, week-long meeting I’ve gotta do for work; and the Bee’s birthday, it’s a crazy, crazy month. This year is no different, in that respect.
The Bee has decided to play field hockey again this fall. She was assigned to honors Language Arts & honors Math–when did they start having honors classes in middle school? The Language Arts teacher assigned a 5 paragraph essay. On the first day of school. Her field hockey schedule has her not getting home until 5, and then it’s time to watch a little tv before dinner, and then spend the whole evening doing homework.
The Potato and I have been working on cleaning up his room, a little bit. We went to back-to-school night at the elementary school last night, and looking at his desk was so refreshing. It seems he CAN keep some space neat, if he’s really motivated. His room at the old house looks like it should be eligible for FEMA relief. Perhaps one can have too many Legos….
We’re supposed to be signing him up for karate this fall, but neither landisdad nor I have gotten around to it. But he needs something to do if he’s not going to play soccer. That boy has energy to burn. His wiggling is legendary.
I’m sorry this has been such a difficult year, Potato.
On the one hand, last year landisdad and I were fighting so much, we practically forgot your birthday. That didn’t happen this year.
This year, we planned your party in June. We had a cake ordered weeks before your party. We went out of our way to make it special, to make the new normal good.
It wasn’t perfect—nothing ever is—but you seemed happy with it.
When I woke up this morning, and we weren’t together, it was very, very hard. I texted your dad to give you a birthday hug & kiss from me, and I cried. He sent me a picture of you eating your breakfast, and I cried harder.
At the end of the day, I met you and dad and the Bee at the house, and we opened presents. You didn’t seem to mind getting extra Legos.
We went out to dinner, and the new normal seemed pretty much like the old normal. And now I’m home, crying again.
I wish that it didn’t have to be this way. I’m glad that you don’t seem to mind too much. I hope that your birthday will always be a day of happiness and celebration of you, that you will always be surrounded by people who think you’re special.
You are a wonderful boy, and I am prouder every day to be your mom. I can’t wait till you come over tomorrow night, so we can build things together.
I’m delurking on my own blog, in honor of my birthday.
Things have been evening out, over time. During the summer, the kids have been spending half their time with me, and it’s making my apartment feel a lot more like home to them, I think. They have things they like to do in my neighborhood, restaurants that are becoming our regular haunts, they have books and movies here that aren’t at the old house, things they look forward to seeing when they stay with me.
Landisdad and I are nearing the end of the mediation process. It’s been challenging, at times, to deal with. A friend asked me the other day, “I thought mediation was supposed to be easier than a contested divorce,” and I said, “Easier is not the same as easy.” I haven’t gone through a contested divorce, and I can only speculate that ours IS easier, having watched several friends going through a hard, hard time. But it is not easy, by a long shot.
But today, is not for difficult.
Today, I am grateful for the love of my wonderful children. Today, I am grateful for the wickedly awesome friends I have, many of whom have sent me birthday wishes and greetings. Today, I am grateful for the new love in my life.
42 was a hard, hard year. I am grateful that I got through it, that I navigated that trip around the sun and survived. I’m grateful that I’ve made it to 43.
Landisdad is out of town for a few days, including at least one school day, so I’ve been at the house, staying with the kids. The first night I was here, landisdad was here too (he had an early morning flight, so I stayed over in order to get the kids off to school after he left). I slept on the couch.
The second night, he wasn’t here, and I slept on the couch again. I’m not sure why. It just didn’t feel right to sleep in the bed.
I don’t think he would’ve cared. It just seemed weird.
So I slept on the couch again, and sometime in the middle of the night, the Potato came downstairs and crawled in with me. I’d been sleeping in a sleeping bag, wrapped up in another blanket, which is not really a combination that a 7-year-old boy and a 42-year-old mom can share. He ended up with the sleeping bag.
At dark-o-clock, he jumped out of bed to Potato around, and went up to his room. After a few minutes, he came back down and covered me up with his special blanket, the one he has had since he was a baby. He is such a sweet, sweet boy, and I know that the separation has, in some ways, been hardest on him. Not just the separation–the whole family situation, with mom and dad fighting more and more visibly over the last year. The Bee has been using the tried-and-true I’m-almost-a-teenager avoidance technique of putting her iPod on and staying in her room. The Potato a) doesn’t have an iPod yet and b) still wants to be engaged with his parents.
We had a kid-counseling session this week, and I talked to the therapist about some anger that the Potato has been displaying recently. She told me it wasn’t surprising that the kids had difficulty managing their anger appropriately, given that landisdad and I are not modeling healthy expressions of anger (which, ouch, though not inaccurate).*
We talked about some things that could make him more comfortable with the whole situation (and dammit, it looks like I have to get a TV after all!), and how to talk about feelings. On the plus side, she thinks that both the kids are doing okay and are going to be able to adjust, over the long term. It’s just all still so new.
*disclaimer–rest assured, this does not mean that landisdad and I are lashing out at each other in front of the kids–she just made some observations about our long-term habits about expressing anger in the course of our relationship.
for the first time this weekend to spend the night. We hung around pretty much all afternoon on Saturday, and then went out to dinner. I’m still not equipped to cook a whole meal yet. At dinner, the Potato spilled what seemed like an entire cup of barbecue sauce on himself. I’m also not yet equipped with a washer and dryer (or the location of a nearby laundromat), so that made the weekend more interesting.
On Sunday, the kids helped with some unpacking—including unpacking some of their anger issues about the situation. I think that the combination of feeling out of place, plus the new apartment not being completely set up yet made them both out-of-sorts. So they started fighting with each other, and that caused me to yell at them.
I’d like to say that I was calm and got them both to talk about their feelings in detail–and that did happen a little bit. But there was some yelling too.
In some ways, it felt almost comfortable—like, “look, here we all are, yelling at each other as if nothing had changed.”
But of course, things have changed.
On Monday, they were off from school & I had a bunch of calls scheduled—so we spent the morning at my place and then came back to landisdad’s after lunch. And here I am now, waiting for him to come home and make dinner while I do the kids’ laundry, just as we’ve done on countless other days.
So a week ago today, I moved into my own apartment. We woke up on Superbowl Sunday to a gloriously sunny (but cold) day. The movers had given me a window from 8-10 am, so of course they showed up around 9:45. I showed them the things I was taking, and they started loading the truck. It took less than an hour. Landisdad & I had arranged that when I left with the movers, he would take the kids out to breakfast–I wanted them to come later in the day, but not to be there when the movers were carrying furniture up 3 flights of stairs.
I drove to my new apartment, and negotiated the payment with the movers (as an addendum–for some reason, every other mover I got a quote from wanted to charge twice as much as the place that did the move, and they were just fine). They unloaded the truck, again taking less than an hour. I tipped them, and they left, and I closed the door behind them.
The unpacking of boxes is overwhelming. It’s been a week, and I’m still digging out from under them. Fortunately, I don’t have much other furniture in the living room yet, so having it full of boxes of books is just fine.
But back to moving day–landisdad brought the kids over in the afternoon. They were excited, but immediately got into a fight about which room would belong to which kid. I started to negotiate it, and landisdad left to go home and cook dinner. The kids and I talked about what they would put in their rooms–they had each packed a box of stuff to leave at my place, and I had bought them both aerobeds, at least for the short term. They unpacked their boxes.
At the end of the afternoon, I took them home, and we enjoyed the first of a new family tradition–Sunday dinner together. The counselor that landisdad and I are seeing had suggested that we figure out some new rituals–to build our new family structure around–and that’s one we came up with. Landisdad had cooked a chicken, and as we sat there talking, I asked the kids what they were looking forward to in the week. That’s another new ritual–to emphasize the positive, to look for the good in this thing.
The next day, I had taken off from work, and told the kids I would pick them up after school. They came over and we did some more unpacking. Then we went to IKEA (oh IKEA, how much money I have spent there in the last two weeks!) and picked out curtains for their rooms.
I had an easy week at work–no travel, a couple of days off—so I spent every night with landisdad and the kids, except for Saturday, when he took them to visit his mom. Landisdad and I managed to get into one, pretty serious fight–but we apologized later. I won’t say made up, because the underlying issue still exists, but I think we’ll get through it, or I hope so.
This week will be a harder test–I’ll be gone for three days, and then they’re coming to me next weekend. Tonight at dinner, when I asked what they were looking forward to, the Potato said, “sleeping over at your house!” and it warmed my heart.