Monday, August 30, 2010

I Melt with You

Greetings from Green Lake, Wisconsin! While I'm off shopping for missionary items for Judson Press's new World Wide Gifts Online, I've asked a former colleague (from my billboard advertising days) to take over the reigns with today's Freakin' Angel post. Enjoy Aimee's reflections on silly love songs!

"You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. But I look around me and I see it isn't so" (Paul McCartney, "Silly Love Songs")

Personally, I can set my mood by the song on the radio. My car is a traveling jukebox. I'm fairly certain that Sarah McLachlan is responsible for my marriage, although my husband rethinks our relationship every time I play a Barry Manilow tune. He prefers heavy metal, but I wouldn't have heard Vertical Horizon's, "Best I Ever Had" if I hadn't met him, so it appears that we all have a soft spot for sappy music. It's kind of like bad pizza - even bad, it's still pretty good.

Thinking about this issue, I got just what I expected by asking some friends which songs they loved but were embarrassed to admit. I won't name names, but you all know who you are:

* "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (Bonnie Tyler)
* "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" (Meatloaf)
* "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" (Chicago)
* "Eternal Flame" (The Bangles)
* "I Melt With You" (Modern English)
* "Crazy For You" (Madonna)
* "Lucky" (Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat)

This brief list says it all - silly love songs win. Today's "Lucky" will be tomorrow's "I've Got A Brand New Pair of Roller Skates," but that won't keep it from being at the top of the list for newlyweds' first dances together.

So why do sappy songs that we used to love now make us cringe?

Indulge me with a scene from one of my favorite movies, "High Fidelity":

Customer: Hi, do you have the song "I Just Called To Say I Love You?" It's for my daughter's birthday.
Barry: Yea we have it.
Customer: Great great... Well, can I have it?
Barry: No, you can't.
Customer: Why not?!
Barry: Because it's sentimental tacky crap that's why. Do we look like a store that sells "I Just Called to Say I Love You"? Go to the mall!
Customer: What's your problem?!
Barry: Do you even know your daughter? There's no way she likes that song! Oh oh oh wait! Is she in a coma?

Maybe time just makes people see things more clearly, but I doubt it. I'm still a sucker for songs like Peter Gabriel's, "In Your Eyes" and as far as I know, no one has ever made fun of that one. It may be as simple as a matter of taste. Or maybe the memory of the person attached to the song is still there. Worse, maybe we wish the song would fade along with the person we'd like to forget. Whatever the reason, there will always be that one song that either makes our day or ruins it. It's part of our memory. We can make fun of it all we want, but we can't run away from it and we can't get it out of our heads once we hear it again.

Me, I think playlists are the way to go. I have one for everything from "Melancholy" to "Margaritaville." Whatever the mood, there is a list of songs guaranteed to fuel it even further than necessary. But I can't tell you why. Even if I could, it would be bullshit. I mean, who are you to judge my personal taste anyway? Just kidding. I roll my eyes whenever I hear Whitney Houston's, "I Will Always Love You," too.

If we are what we hear, then there are plenty of saps running around - me included. Besides, "Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs. And what's wrong with that?" (Paul McCartney)

Nothing, I say. "My Heart Will Go On." (Celine Dion)

Share your own silly love song favorites!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

In a Relationship?!

This I am definitely not ready for. And it's not even my kid. Yet. So here's the deal. Ian's best buddy went to camp this summer for a month. Upon arriving home this past weekend, even before returning Ian's desperate "let's get together" phone call, he went online to update his Facebook status. And I don't mean a "Hey friends, I'm home from camp" update. I mean a relationship status update. From nothing, to "In a relationship." Ack!

How does a boy who seemed to have no real interest in girls suddenly have a girlfriend after just four weeks? Well, according to Ian's friend, "She asked me once, I said no. Then she asked me again and I said no, but she kept asking so I just said yes." (I wish I'd known you could wear a man boy down like that; I'm sure I'd have been more successful at the dating scene if I just shown a little persistence.)

When Ian shared this with me, he added, "I guess you'll be expecting me to ask someone out now." To which I reacted with an emphatic and probably high-pitched "NO!" I then got a hold of myself and mumbled, "Well, not unless you want to, of course." And Ian replied, "I don't know."  I don't know? Don't you mean "Ick, yuck, girls have cooties?"

After once again regaining my composure, I casually questioned, "Well, who would you ask out?" And he again responded with "I don't know. That's why I said 'I don't know.'" At which point Abby chimed in with "What about Susie?" (Susie--not her real name--has been Ian's best girl-friend for a few years), and now it was Ian's turn to respond with an emphatic and high-pitched "NO!" adding, "Then we couldn't be friends anymore!"

And there you have it. The reason men are so bad at relationships. They think the girl they are friends with can never be their girlfriend. Of course, at the age of 12, Ian's probably right. The chances of Ian and Susie staying friends and "going out" for the next 10+ years are pretty slim. The chances of Ian and Susie going out, breaking up after a month, and never speaking to each other again until their 15th high school reunion are much better.

I don't know how long Ian's friend's "relationship" will last with this girl, but I do know that he has opened up Pandora's box a world of possibility that I'm pretty sure Ian wouldn't have entered had not a friend jumped in first. And for that, I may never forgive him. 

Have I mentioned I'm not ready for this yet?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Very Type of Friend You Want to Avoid

A couple months ago I wrote a post on the thrill of new relationships (in the platonic sense.) I should have immediately posted a follow up on how to go about identifying an appropriate new friend. It might have saved you from making the same mistakes I've made. Hoping I'm not too late to be of assistance, based on lessons I've learned personally, here's a brief selection guide to use when you think you may have met that special someone: Ask yourself, "Am I..."
  1. ...Better looking? 
  2. ...Better dressed?
  3. ...Smarter?
  4. ...Generally more popular?
  5. ...More charismatic?
  6. ...More witty?
  7. ...In better shape?
  8. ...A better parent (if applicable) and/or a better spouse?
  9. ...More sane?
  10. ...Less needy?
If the answer to more than half of these is "NO," do not pursue this friendship. It will only cause you heartache down the road as you try to live up to the terrible standards this so-called friend has unwittingly set. I know this because I've had more than my fair share of friendship heartache. It just so happens that I am terrible at choosing my friends. Freakin' Angel Karen is a classic case in point. 

Karen is one of those people you love to hate. She's beautiful, funny, charming, smart, grounded, and insightful, and on top of that she can eat and drink you under the table while maintaining her size 2 figure. She's also a sports fan.Yuck. Makes you slightly ill just thinking about it. Karen has already appeared in my blog on at least two occasions, both times for offering advice and words of wisdom that cause you to smack yourself in the head and ask "Now why didn't I think of that?" (See "Parenting, Swedish Fish, Freakin Angels, and Those Three Little Words" and "You're So Vain, I Bet You Think this Blog is About You")

As with my two previous Freakin' Angel profiles, I've asked mutual friends to offer their assessment of Karen. Here's what they had to say:
Where to start?! Karen's always quick to jump in and help (sometimes before you even realize you need help!) She's sensitive, caring, and completely in tune with other's feelings and I am utterly amazed at her ability to cut through the (pardon my french) bullshit and figure out the heart of just about any issue. Her insight into more than a few situations with my kids have blown me away. I feel incredibly blessed to call her friend,. She'd be damned near perfect if she didn't have the metabolism of the energizer bunny on speed, making the rest of us jealous when she downs burgers and beer and manages to stay the size of a (small) twig!
Karen always has so much going on in her life but is able to remember the smallest details of the lives of others and check in with concern despite all that she is juggling. She is truly one of the kindest people I know, accepting of anyone and everyone. Karen has a delightfully humorous wicked side that comes out when needed!  She is so easy to talk with and makes one feel completely at ease the moment they are in her presence. Her interactions with everyone she comes in contact with are truly an example of Christ's love.
What I admire most about Karen is how she treats everyone like a friend. She will always take the time to stop to see how you are doing, what she can do to help, and is genuinely interested in the well being of her friends and acquaintances. Karen is always there for a chat if you need an ear to listen or even a shoulder to lean/cry on. She is just so darn thoughtful and considerate! And without any pretenses--some people are nice because they should be nice or they have an end goal--not Karen. She is a genuinely nice soul. I am so grateful to have the fortune to be her friend!
One of the things I am in awe of with Karen is her amazing ability to balance selflessly helping  others, with being able to say no and draw boundaries with kindness. As someone who can get overwhelmed to the point of ineffectiveness, I strive to be able to do more of that myself. On a personal note, Karen has walked with me through some of the most challenging and scary times in my life. She was my first call when I was told my unborn baby might have difficulties and she was at my bedside to be my advocate in the hospital when I wasn't able to fight for myself.  I sincerely hope she is always in my life, but should circumstances separate us, she will always, always be a treasured and beloved friend.
Whew! See what I mean? Karen is just the type of woman you want to avoid when seeking a new friend. No one should have to compare themselves to or keep up with someone like her. It's exhausting. And trust me, once these types of friends suck you into their web of love, concern, and selflessness, you'll never be free. I have a feeling that I (and these anonymous women quoted above) will  be stuck being Karen's friend for life. And I thank God for that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What Did You Want to Be?

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" I will occasionally ask kids that question and always enjoy their responses. Remember when you were young enough to still have time to decide? I wonder at what age you are officially "grown up" and therefore supposed to "be" whatever it is you're going to become.

This thought came to me today as I fixed the vacuum...again. I'm regularly sweeping up something major, like bedsheets or carpet tassels,  and those mishaps tend to make the belt come off so I'm required to go into fix-it mode. The frightening truth? I really enjoy fixing the vacuum. It's not so much about replacing the belt as it is about the dismantling of the vacuum in the first place. I enjoy removing the screws and the covers and digging out all the gunk while I'm in there. I feel a ridiculous sense of accomplishment when I unclog a vacuum. Sometimes it's the most productive thing I've done all day. So all this is to say that, if asked today what I want to be when I grow up, I might say "vacuum cleaner repair-woman."

If you'd asked me the same question a couple weeks ago, I would have replied with "jongleur." I first discovered this word when working my way through The Pillars of the Earth. According to the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin,
"Jongleurs, both men and women, first appeared in the tenth century. Often traveling in troupes among European cities, villages, and castles, they earned a bare bones existence through their singing, acrobatics, theatrical productions, and even trained animal acts. Actually, they seem to have foreshadowed Late Night with David Letterman, without the Top Ten List."
Aside from the bare bones existence part, that sounds pretty cool, right? In The Pillars of the Earth, jongleurs were also described as story tellers, and that part really appealed to me. While we all know my basic motherhood skills are lacking, just ask my kids about my dramatic reading ability. I'm fantastic! I can read stories with the best of them, creating cool character voices and all. I just finished reading the sixth volume of Harry Potter to Abby, having read each book out loud. I'm particularly good as Snape and Dobby.

Prior to my vacuum fixing and jongleur days, my post-college, pre-marriage dream job was to be a photojournalist for National Geographic. Unfortunately, I did not discover my love of photography until my senior year of college when, in my short-sighted little mind, it was too late to pursue it.Who knows, had I been more adventurous, today I might be blogging from a village in Mozambique and I'd include a picture of a pride of lions with my post.

Finally, if we went all the way back to my earliest memory of "what I want to be when I grow up," I would have told you "Connie Chung." This was prior to when every broadcast journalist hopeful wanted to be Katie Couric. I wanted to be a news anchor ever since I narrated the school assembly in 5th grade. The school secretary wrote me a sweet note, telling me she thought I could get a job with ABC, NBC, or CBS. I may still have that note someplace because it directed my educational choices from 5th grade till I graduated from college (at which point I realized I had no desire to get my start in the biz by sticking a microphone in somebody's face at a house fire and asking them how they felt.).

Time to share with Freakin Angel readers...what did/do you want to be when you grow up?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Still Brings You Childlike Joy?

This week is Vacation Bible School at Media Presbyterian Church. Let me give a shout out to our children's director Cara Cavicchia who manages to pull off a major production worthy of a regional theater company. It's really an amazing, God-filled week that reaches more than 150 kids.

On Tuesday night, to please me, Ian agreed to join us for the church's new middle school VBS program. I want to briefly note that Ian has been noticeably more agreeable of late. It may be related to his unspoken guilt over the cell phone. It may be a  means for escaping the rats in the basement, or perhaps he wants something big and he's buttering me up. Regardless, with only a small amount of grumbling about having to sing the songs with which we start each night, he came along.

The too-cool-for-pews middle schoolers don't have to sit with the "little kids" in the main sanctuary. Instead, they get to literally look down on them from the heights of the balcony. And on Tuesday night, when I looked up to see whether Ian had sneaked in his Nintendo DS and was otherwise engaged with it, I was delighted to see him in the front row of the balcony, singing, clapping, doing the hand movements, and dancing, all with a tremendous smile on his face. Of course when I asked him to join us again last night he complained that it "wasn't fun," but I had seen proof to the contrary and he couldn't deny it.

While Ian's VBS experience was a testament to how truly awesome our program is, it was also a reminder that there are some things, if you're living right, that you never outgrow:
  • Fist pumping and dancing to VBS songs with 100+ kids ages 3 to 12 (join me tonight and see if you can resist!)
  • Riding a bicycle downhill without putting on the brakes
  • Eating a lollipop
  • Watching fireworks
  • Following dolphins in the ocean
  • Sledding!
  • Dancing in the kitchen when your favorite song comes on the radio
  • Playing with kittens
  • Hugs
As adults we're so caught up in the mundane and the required and the "stuff," that we forget to lose ourselves in the joy-filled moments we took for granted as children. We don't abandon ourselves to the dance, to the ride, to the sights and sounds, and taste of all that makes life worth living.

As someone who set a personal record for the longest bad mood ever over the past several weeks, I needed the reminder that Ian provided from the balcony the other night. And when VBS ends with a carnival this Sunday, I will be the first one in line for the sno-cones, the face painting, and the dunk tank, because you're never too old to be a kid again!

Share something that brought you joy as a child that you've never outgrown (and hopefully never will)!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How Ian Sees It

Dear Freakin' Angel readers, this is the first in what will be monthly posts by my son Ian, age 12. Since Ian is frequently the subject of my writing, I think it's fair that he should have his say (but no more than once a month). He also happens to be pretty damn funny. Enjoy "How Ian Sees It." 

Hello friends, enemies (you know who you are), and random people from Kansas, and welcome to my mom’s blog. This is How Ian Sees It, the monthly blog post debating the world’s MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES. For my first post I’m going to talk about cell phones. An absolute necessity for everyone who doesn’t want to get beat up. I just got mine which is good and bad.

It’s great because, well, it’s a cell phone. I can’t explain it any more than that. You can do anything with a cell phone. The bad side is that now I can’t bug my parents about how they should get their phones implanted in their side because I barely put mine down. Another problem is that whenever I go anywhere my mom will be expecting me to text her every twenty minutes.

The absolute worst problem is that I have to be careful not to let THE BOSS see it. My mom just wanted me to have a phone that could call in case of emergencies. She wanted my dad to get me one of those plastic phones in the scholastic magazine instead of a phone that has a camera, a slide out QWERTY keyboard, and unlimited texting.

My mom isn’t big on spending money. For example, since Abby is the favorite, she gets to eat at the table while I get the leftovers thrown at me. For those of you who are new, I live on a chain in the basement. If my mom doesn’t “forget” to feed me, I MIGHT get food. See, the rats have the advantage in numbers, so they get most of the food, while I get a crumb or two. But that’s another post.

Now, my mom is going crazy about the phone bill, while my dad says my phone is the most practical phone for my age. I’m just going to stay in my basement corner and see how this one plays out. Sorry, I have to go. It’s feeding time and if I don’t beat the rats I may end up with no food.

Monday, August 16, 2010

So there's nothing like getting naked...and thinking!

A friend of mine is currently taking classes to become a massage therapist. Part of her school work requires giving actual massages in the school clinic. Those willing to be her guinea pig pay only $25 for an hour long treat, complete with hot stones. Having recently subjected myself to a number of strenuous workouts which have left my shoulders feeling as though I'm literally carrying the weight of the world, I was happy to play the role of guinea pig and treat myself.

While this wasn't my first experience getting naked and rubbed down by what is usually a complete stranger, this time I made a noteworthy observation:
Multi-taskers and control freaks have a difficult time fully enjoying the massage experience.
I'm the kind of person who is nearly incapable of doing only one thing at a time. Whether cooking, eating, watching television, or bathing, I'm always engaged in at least one other activity. This often has unwelcome and sometimes dangerous consequences, but that's a post for another time. What this means for me and massages is that the pleasure of having those sore muscles worked is in definite competition with the stress that comes from not being able to do something productive while just lying there. Couldn't I get a massage while reading, writing, paying bills, or eating lunch?

Because there's nothing I can physically do to keep occupied during a massage, my brain goes into overdrive. There are basically three categories of thoughts that I will go through in the course of the hour:

Bizarre Questions that I'd Like to Ask the Therapist:

  • What do you do if someone's really stinky?
  • If someone is particularly overweight can you actually reach their muscles to massage them?
  • Do men ever visibly enjoy the experience and how the heck do you handle that?
  • Has anyone ever passed gas while being massaged?
  • Is massaging a friend weirder than massaging a complete stranger?

The Self-Consciousness Series:

  • Should I have eaten breakfast? My stomach is growling, but I guess I'm less bloated and a little less fat, so that's good.
  • I wonder if she's ever seen feet as beat up as mine.
  • Darn, I haven't shaved my legs in two days.
  • Am I the most uptight and tense friend she's ever worked on?
  • Are the moans, sighs, and grunts I'm making inappropriate, just like in that episode of "Friends"?

Random Musings:

  • Wow, I better check and see if Abby's hermit crab is still alive. That would be awful if she came home from camp to a dead hermit crab.
  • Maybe Rob can go to Denver with me in October. Oh, but the Phils will probably be in the playoffs again...How about that game last night? CHOOOOCH!!
  • I wonder if Abby will get invited to sleep at friend's house this weekend so Rob and I can go to the movies.
  • I love going to the movies.
  • "The Kids are All Right" was a great movie.
  • Tomorrow is the Zippilli family picnic. Even though I'm Facebook friends with more than a dozen of Rob's gazillion cousins and second cousins, I never remember their names when I see them. I wonder how many more years that's going to require, apparently nearly 20 isn't enough.
  • Abby calls it the Zucchini family picnic. Ha ha.
  • I need to clean the bathrooms. Why do we have so many bathrooms? Why do we have so many people and pets who shed?
  • I wonder if we can get to the shore again this summer. 
  • Man, summer is going fast. But it's been so hot that Fall will be a nice break. But then there's school and Ian will turn into a nut case again. 
  • I wonder if Ian actually likes Hannah, ya know, like a girlfriend??
  • I can't believe he's off sailing again this weekend. How come I never had friends who went sailing?
  • How come I didn't have more friends when I was his age?
  • I think I'll go for a bagel when this is over.
  • I really like laying here under nice comfy, soft white sheets. I should do this at home sometime.
This small sampling of my massage-related brain activity  makes me wonder if it's worth my while to actually get massages.  Although, I did fall asleep when I got home so perhaps the experience was more relaxing than my brain let on? And now that I'm thinking about, my shoulders are feeling really tight again.

I need to go relax. Maybe I'll watch TV. Let me just get the laundry to fold and a crossword puzzle to work on, and I should probably dust the furniture while I'm at it....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trying on Dresses, Vehicular Homicide, and Haircuts

Last evening I accompanied my friend Emily to an upscale dress shop where she was looking for something special to wear for her son's Bar Mitzvah. I decided to play dress up and try on a few things that I had absolutely no intention of buying (since they all cost more than my wedding gown). What I discovered however, is that either I have suddenly outgrown my usual dress size (which is distinctly possible), or, as Emily explained, dress sizes in these boutiques "run small." Perhaps she just told me that to make me feel better. Regardless, these types of shopping excursions do nothing for my self-esteem.

You know what else does nothing for my self-esteem? Driving past a woman who is the size of my pinkie with legs to die for and six-pack abs, running behind a jogging stroller. One has to assume she actually gave birth to the baby in that stroller, which, as I posted on Facebook, gives me the right to run her down with my car. Upon seeing this status update on my FB page, my son Ian inquired as to why I would want to run over this woman. Eventually he deduced that "you're jealous." Ya think? What was most fascinating about the Facebook post was the number of women who replied to happily support my murderous intentions. Clearly, our gender is more than willing to band together to encourage better pay and treatment by men, but we are not above vehicular homicide when the other woman threatens our self-esteem.

During the high calorie wine and pasta dinner that Emily and I shared after unsuccessfully and depressingly trying on dresses that were too small, we discussed haircuts. Emily is trying to decide what to do with her "do." I casually mentioned that, while I'm currently growing my hair long again, I always admire women with super short hair. Turns out Emily has a theory about this. She noted that other women always compliment you when you cut your hair short. She's not sure, however, if they genuinely think you look great with short hair, or if it's just a way to cut down on the competition from women with sexy long locks.

All of this leads me to believe that it's a Darwinian "survival of the fittest" response that causes us to have these reactions to other women. Probably back in our Neanderthal days we hated women who had the best woolly mammoth dress and drew the nicest hieroglyphics. You just naturally want to do away with the competition so that you're the one the man decides to knock up over the head and drag back to his cave.

Now, I had every intention of finishing this post by noting that men do not appear to exhibit this strange behavior or to possess these self-esteem related neuroses (as evidenced by their being distraught at hair loss, but fine with beer bellies), however, today I read this:
What do celebrities like Mario Lopez, James Franco and Brad Pitt have in common? Their fabulous dimples. The hottest rage in Hollywood right now is dimple implants for men.
There's really nothing more I can say. Apparently we've all gone crazy. And for the record, I think Emily took me along shopping so she could secretly enjoy watching me try to stuff myself into those little bitty dresses. I just hope she gets her hair cut really short...

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Moment of Maternal Truth

As we exited the highway, Abby gripped my hand. My emotionally-connected mothering quotient was about to be tested...
On Sunday I dropped Abby off at Girl Scout camp, a week-long, sleep-away in the woods experience where she would not be allowed to call home unless attacked by a bear or terrorized by wolves. Did Abby excitedly present the camp idea to me, begging permission to go? Nope, I'm the one who sold it to Abby because I wanted to live vicariously through her. I worked at a camp one summer during college and always thought it would have been pretty cool to have been a camper myself.

Now, as we approached the smiling, waving geek club counselors at the entrance to camp, I knew I was about to face a moment of maternal truth. Did I possess even a morsel of warm & fuzzy mothering material that would cause me to shed tears at the rapidly approaching moment of separation from my little girl?

Friends, family, and even anonymous Freakin' Angel readers know by now that I'm not a candidate for Mother of the Year. I've shared my tough love attitude in "Sick Enough for Sympathy?," bemoaned the evils of tweens, and just last week whined about what kids cost us emotionally, mentally, socially, and financially. But my sense from fellow tougher-than-typical moms (and you know who you are) is that sending your kids to sleep-away camp will manage to bring out even Mommy Dearest's softer side.

So here's how it went down. We arrived at the registration pavilion where we were not exactly greeted but rather treated to a chorus of teen Girl Scout counselors standing in a circle singing incredibly annoying and stupid camp songs. I couldn't help but wonder whether they were required/paid to sing, perhaps for a badge, or whether it was just spontaneously joyous vocalizing. I was actually hoping it was the former. My snarky, but unspoken reaction to this nonsense was Strike 1.

At the pavilion, Abby had to first enter the head and feet check room where they searched her hair to make sure she hadn't hidden an illicit cell phone in her ponytail. From there, we turned in the medical records, the signed Girl Scout Code of Conduct, the Bear Protocol agreement form (seriously), and the camper pick-up form which explained that should we be late in picking up our daughter on Friday, she would be turned over to child services. Also at the pavilion, they guilted more money out of us so our daughters could shop in the Trading Post during the week. You should know that "trading post" is a misnomer, as no actual trading goes on in there. They only sell stuff.  And finally, they trotted us past the Monday through Friday mail bins where more loving and thoughtful parents than I had already deposited a goodie bag and/or letter for their daughter for each day of the coming week. Crap. Strike 2.

Abby, my Abby, and Maddie at Girl Scout camp
From there, Abby and I were escorted to her camp site where we were thrilled and not just a little relieved to  learn she would be bunking with two friends from home. We picked the steel frame and threadbare mattress bed most likely to be farthest from the bears. Made her bed. Waited for her friends to arrive. Contemplated use of the latrine. And then, after taking a few pictures to show Dad and Ian at home, I had to say goodbye. The moment of truth had arrived. Would Abby cry? Would I cry or at least feel really sad like a loving mom should?

Abby cried. Not sobbing, clinging-to-my-leg-as-I'm-trying-to-leave-crying, but definite apprehension with a dash of misgiving about the whole thing.

I did not cry. Strike 3.

Right now, half of you are thinking I'm Mommy Dearest in disguise, while the other half is giving me the benefit of the doubt, assuming I was intentionally being stoic so as not to cause Abby to become more upset by seeing me cry.

The truth is, I wasn't sad. And 24+ hours later, I'm still not sad. I'm not even sure I miss her yet because honestly, moms and kids need a break from each other once in a while.

But the good news, the evidence that I am apparently human with some maternal tendencies, is that I struggled to fall asleep last night as I thought of Abby. I worried/wondered whether she was able to sleep out there in the woods, in the dark, with the sometimes scary sounds of nature surrounding her. I wondered if her counselors would be nice, and if the other girls would be friendly. I wondered how badly the latrines might smell. And I wondered whether she might be homesick.

I expect in a day or two, my sense of peace will be replaced by an odd sense that part of me is missing (as my friend Emily explained so wonderfully in her post, "The Whole Truth About Motherhood"), but then I'll just have to remind myself that my beautiful, intelligent, confident and adventurous daughter is probably having the time of her life.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kids: We Already We Know What They Cost Us Mentally...

"Not only am I going to suck the life out of you, I'm also going to bleed you dry financially."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on average, it costs $249,180 to raise a child to the age of 18 in a dual-parent household with an annual income of $65,800+ . That includes:
  • Housing
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Childcare/education (not college)
  • Clothing
  • Health 
  • Miscellaneous
Interestingly, the average cost per year stays roughly the same until the "child" is between the ages of 15-17 when expenses increase about $1,000 a year. This confirms my suspicion that there's a kind of psychological bait & switch going on in the minds of parents everywhere. Every time we think we've beaten the system, the system beats us down. 

The cruel financial reality of child-rearing was brought home this past weekend when Rob took Ian to get a cell phone. First of all, I don't think Ian's lifestyle requires a phone. He never actually goes anywhere that he needs one, and if he did have to make a call, all his friends have a phone. Use theirs, for cryin' out loud. But Rob and I respond to peer pressure, so Ian got his new toy. The price of the phone was bad enough, but then there's the monthly service fees. Naturally, Rob didn't select the basic plan that I would have cheaply logically chosen. 

And that's when it hit me. Earlier this summer I had been doing a little happy dance in my head (cause no one wants to see me do an actual happy dance), because our days of paying a babysitter are nearly over. I was rejoicing thinking of the money we are going to save. And then, voila! An additional cell phone bill. And that unfortunate reality caused me to reflect on all the other times I've done the happy dance just to be slapped in the head with a different and equally costly expense. For example:

  • End of formula, baby food, and diapers = Beginning of preschool tuition
  • End of preschool tuition = Beginning of elementary school supplies, clothing (since no one dotes on your little one with gifts of cute outfits anymore), and sports team fees
  • [Note: all this time, you're paying a babysitter even if you just want to go to Target to get away from the kids for a couple hours.]
  • End of lots of relatively cheap toys = Beginning of a few really expensive gadgets
  • End of paying a babysitter = Beginning of cell phone bills and adult-priced meals when dining out
So that's the level of purgatory where I am now. Two growing kids who eat increasing amounts of food, care about what they're wearing, want every new technological gadget under the sun, and require ridiculous sports team fees or college-tuition priced karate lessons. And the long term outlook for expenses doesn't appear even slightly brighter. 

All the single and child-free couples out there are just laughing at us parents as they jet to Europe, dine in five-star restaurants, ski in Vail, and vacation any old time they feel like it. If I knew then what I know now....

...Yeah, I'd do it all over again.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

If I Don't Stand for Something, Will I Fall for Anything?

This past weekend we had friends over for drinks around the patio fire pit when the topic of conversation somehow turned to immigration. At which point I promptly developed a headache and excused myself to bed. The truth is, I didn't really have a headache; I just couldn't bring myself to discuss such a thorny and difficult subject. The thing is, I don't have a clear opinion on the matter of immigration because I can see both sides.

This happens to be the case for me with nearly every controversial topic you can think of.  
I live my life in shades of gray.

Once upon a time, life was simpler. I grew up with parents who took a clear black & white stance on every important topic. I loved and respected them so I agreed with their views. I'm not sure it ever occurred to me to challenge them. But then I went and got myself an education and this is how my father reacted to the new post grad school  Kim:
"I would have never encouraged you to get an education if I'd known it was going to screw you up like this."
That about sums it up. I'm educated but messed up. Whether we are talking about politics, race, religion, sexuality, economics, or raising children, I'm likely to see more than one perspective on the issue. This has become frustrating not only for my dad but for me as well. I don't like living in shades of gray. I keep thinking that if only I could access every available piece of information on a topic I could make a decision or take a stand. But instead, the more I learn, the more confused I get. Every time I think I've come to a conclusion, someone presents a counterpoint and I can see the value in it as well. And don't point me toward the Bible because any belief that one holds can be supported if you select the right Scriptures. You need only look at the myriad of religious views even within the Protestant church to see what I mean. I'm one well-educated, Christian, wishy-washy mess who can't take part in intelligent conversations because they stress me out. Political elections are a complete nightmare for someone like me. If it's true that "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything," I'm afraid I'm destined for a tumble.

I may start a "Shades of Gray" support group. I think it's a good idea, though I'm sure if you disagree with the concept I'll be able to see the value of your opinion...