A toast to the moms and the motherless

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On the last Mother’s Day I spent with my mom, I gave her a keepsake box, with a Maya Angelou quote on top:

“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends, and living our lives.”

That box now sits on my dresser, holding some of my most precious mementos: photo of my kids, my mom’s charm bracelet, the hair clips my stepdaughter and I wore at my wedding.

On Mother’s Day 10 years ago, my husband gave me a jar of baby food. We had just learned that I was pregnant a few days earlier. Yesterday that little baby scored a couple runs at his baseball game and a touchdown at flag football. Today he gave me a handmade card:

“Thank you for being so supportive of me, caring for me, and giving me so many opportunities though my years so far. I know how hard it is to take care of a kid, so I just wanted to say thank you for everything you have done.”

That one’s going in the box.

And my beautiful stepdaughter is about to have a daughter herself. She was the first one to make me a mom when she came into my life 15 years ago, and soon she will make me a grandma.

That Maya Angelou quote is fitting for this holiday, which is wrapped in so many memories and emotions. On this day reserved for Moms – who, let’s face it – will still be doing laundry or changing diapers, packing lunches and checking homework – we all have reasons to celebrate, and reasons to mourn.

Many of my friends are without their moms today too, some for the first time. And there are the heartbroken moms who have lost their children and women who long for babies of their own.

This Mother’s Day, I had brunch with my husband and son. They toasted me and gave me flowers, and I felt their appreciation. Thanks, guys. I love you.

And I thought about my mom, of course, because so much of who I am today I owe to her, and I will always miss her. I thought about all the strong women in my life who are mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, aunts, single moms, nieces, cousins.

As we make our way through this life, becoming mothers and motherless, I will take Maya’s words to heart.

I adore you. I cherish you.

 

 

First crushes and being crushed

1 A girl has a bigtime crush on my 9-year-old son. She is cute, smart, and funny, with a bit of attitude and a bold streak. She has not been subtle about her feelings for him.

She has recited a poem to him, rushes to sit with him on the bus, and talks to their classmates about how cute my boy is. Other times she chases him around the playground and they pretend to hate each other, because, well, they’re third-graders.

I admire her confidence and find the whole thing pretty adorable. I’ve known this girl for a couple of years and her mom for much longer. I like this girl. My son likes her. But he is not ready for this talk about “liking” someone.

“We are in elementary school!” he says emphatically when the subject comes up. “El-e-men-tar-y school.”

I agree with him. I’m glad he can be friends with girls and boys, and I told him no matter how he feels, to always be nice to her. (“Obviously, Mom!”) I don’t want her feelings hurt. Kids aren’t always kind, and boys don’t always express their emotions in the best way. I think my son has a good handle on the situation, and I predict they’ll be friends for a long time.

But I remember how those crushes go. Don’t we all? Even as adults who have survived actual heartbreak and real relationships, we remember those childhood hurts.

The boy I was in love with when I was 9 presented me with a palm branch at church on Palm Sunday and asked me to marry him. I was over the moon. I kept that branch, that token of his undying devotion, until it was brittle and brown. We flirted off and on for a few years, but as childhood romances go, nothing else ever happened and I was crushed when his crush subsided.

(I’m happy to report that we are still friends all these years later and he is happily married to his husband.)

I remember those feelings that you don’t really understand but that you can’t avoid when you’re just a kid. Palm branch boy broke my heart for a minute, and I did the same thing to another boy.

He was a bit of a nerd, super smart with curly hair and rosy cheeks. He always wore turtlenecks and his favorite thing to do was study ancient Egypt. He was intelligent, nice, and made no secret of how much he liked me.

He wrote me notes and complimented me. One year he drew my name for a class holiday gift exchange and I remember him literally squealing with delight. He gave me a perfume and powder set. The powder came in a bright green plastic apple and the perfume in a bottle shaped like a turtle. It was a much nicer present than kids usually exchanged.

Our school took an annual trip to the roller rink, which was a highlight of the year. And there was always the “snowball dance,” when they would dim the lights, turn on the disco ball, and skaters would make their way around the rink holding hands. (I know this would never happen in elementary school today, but it was the ‘70s.)

The boy approached me in front of all my friends and asked me to skate with him. I was interested in this hand-holding idea, but I wasn’t so sure about doing it with him.

I said no.

He looked grief-stricken. It took him a lot of guts to come up and ask me, and I rejected him. My friends giggled as he walked away. I have felt bad about it for decades.

After that, we didn’t talk much, and the next year we went to separate schools. I saw him again when I was a senior in high school when we shared a class together. I said hi, but neither of us initiated any more conversation. I feel bad about that too. It seems like it was up to me.

Who knows if he even remembers me or this slight that haunts me. I have Googled him a few times – he has a distinctive name, so I thought he’d be easy to find somewhere. But I have never located him. I don’t know what became of him and his life, but I imagine he’s successful, and I hope he’s happy.

I’d like to tell him thanks for asking me to skate. Thank you for the gift and the notes. Thanks for thinking I was special. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.

But you know, we were in elementary school.

(Do you have a story about a childhood crush? I’d love to hear it in the comments. And if you liked this post, feel free to share it.)

 

 

GTA? N-O

I’m back on Ravishly today talking about the challenges of  boys and video games:

No, I will not allow my child to play Grand Theft Auto. Please check it out!

And if you’re not reading Ravishly, you should be. There’s so much great stuff there — a little bit for everyone.

 

Please stop calling our kids assholes

My kid is not an asshole.

There’s this trend lately – that apparently a lot of people find pretty damn hilarious – for parents to talk about what big assholes their kids are. I’ve seen columns, blogs, memes, Instagram photos, entire Facebook groups full of parents throwing around the term about their little darlings.

Look, I get the idea. I understand the sentiment behind it. We all have our days, our trying days, when our kids drive us to the brink – or to drink. But what’s with the name calling? A 2-year-old throwing a tantrum might be exhausting. But he’s a 2-year-old. Not an asshole.

My son is generally good natured and adorable, but he can work my nerves pretty good on occasion. But I teach him not to call people nasty names or label them with derogatory terms. We don’t call people fat, stupid, or weird.  Would I permit him to refer to another kid as an asshole or a dick?  Hell, no.

So why would it be OK for me to do it? I don’t think it is. I’m not a prude when it comes to language, believe me, but I don’t find it amusing to see a photo of a beautiful sleeping baby with overlaid type declaring, “I was an asshole today.”

Let’s save those choice words for people who willingly hurt or betray us, not a child who is testing his boundaries or learning a better way to communicate which shoes she wants to wear. I think these little wonders we create and are raising deserve better. I remember the time I screamed at my then 3-year-old to stop being such a pill and he ran to his room crying. Pained and angry at myself for losing my cool, I followed him. He wrapped his arms around my neck, and tearfully said, “Mommy, I’m sorry for being a pillow.”

Nothing assholeish about that.

I’m sure these parents don’t intentionally call their children assholes to their faces. But if the word is in our minds, if it’s repeated with such regularity, kids sense it. And it would be a whole lot easier to let it slip in one of those moments when our heads are about to explode when they just won’t put on their socks or go to sleep.

When my daughter was going through a rough patch with a friend, she was dropped off early after being out with her. She burst through the door in tears and went straight to her room. My husband went out to talk to the friend’s dad to see if he could sort out what happened between the girls.

The dad shrugged and said of his 11-year-old daughter: “She’s just being a little bitch.”

We were stunned. Who calls their little girl a bitch? To another father?

While I’m on the subject, can we do something about the incessant use about that word too?

“Bitch” has worked its way into our vernacular in a way that more than unsettles me. I find the word offensive because of the venom with which it has been used against women for decades. I hate the way women now use it as a term of endearment. “My bitches!” women exclaim on Instagram photos with their girlfriends dressed up on a night out. It’s all over TV now, with women greeting each other, “Heya bitches!”

We wouldn’t accept being called a bitch by our male partners or a boss. So why is it OK to use it with each other? I can only think of one time in my life when I have referred to someone as a bitch – and it wasn’t to her face. (And believe me, she deserved it.)

Words carry weight. I think we should use them judiciously.

I have to believe other parents agree with me. I’m sure a lot of them won’t, thinking I should just lighten up.

Maybe I am too sensitive.

Or maybe I’m just an asshole.

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Why this mom is mad for Macklemore

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I mean, what’s not to love? Photo (c) Zoe Rain. Used with permission.

If you pay any attention at all to popular culture, you know about the meteoric rise of Macklemore, especially if you live in Seattle like me.

The hometown boy is pretty beloved around here, but he’s getting some unfair and harsh criticism over his latest album with Ryan Lewis, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.” Some call him preachy, others call him cheesy. Critics have excoriated him for “White Privilege,” in which the white rapper takes on racism, and others just don’t like his music.

But for a lot of reasons, this suburban mom – who admittedly most often has the car radio tuned to the news or ’80s hits – is a major Macklemore fan.

Ever since “Thrift Shop,” blew up after Macklemore and Lewis put it out independently I’ve been listening. “Same Love” really hooked me. Then he seriously won me over with his sweet ode to impending fatherhood, “Growing Up.”

If you’re a Macklemore naysayer, give him a try for these reasons:

At least he’s trying to address issues of racial injustice.

He didn’t just make a song about institutionalized racism; he seems to be honestly delving into the complicated and emotional systemic problem. He and Lewis say they educated themselves and partnered with community organizations like Black Lives Matter.

They released “White Privilege II” with an accompanying website, on which they say they are “committed to a long-term investment of our time, resources, finances and creative capacities towards supporting black-led organizing and anti-racist education & discourse.”

Hate the song, if you want, but at least he’s speaking his mind and trying to make a difference. That’s a lot more than many of us do.

He brings other artists along with him.

I love that it’s always “Macklemore and Ryan Lewis,” even though everyone always just says, “Macklemore.” He makes it clear they are team, that he couldn’t produce his music on his own.

As more proof, Macklemore looks for talent, collaborates with lesser-known artists – and gives them credit.

Part of what made “Thrift Shop” so fun was the deep voice of Wanz singing the catchy hooks, “Only got 20 dollars in my pocket,”  and “I look incredible…” Before Macklemore asked him to sing about popping some tags, Wanz was Michael Wansley, a software engineer who dreamed of a music career. After the overnight success of the song, Macklemore invited Wanz on tour and put him up-front in the video for the song.

He also enlisted the help of unknown Seattle songwriter Mary Lambert, who wrote the tender, beautiful melody and lyrics, “My love, she keeps me warm,” for “Same Love.” She was on stage to perform the song at the 2014 Grammys, and launched a solo career after the song’s success. (Check her out too.)

And what about that epic gay wedding at the Grammy’s? Call it schmaltzy if you want, but I was in tears.

He says no to drugs.

Many interviews have detailed Macklemore’s battle with substance abuse. A Rolling Stone reporter even accompanied him to a 12-step meeting. But he’s not just doing it for press. Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, gave a candid talk at the 20th anniversary of the King County Drug Court.

“I’m Ben. I’m an alcoholic,” he told those in the courtroom.

It hasn’t been an easy road, he said, and he admitted he has had some relapses after his huge success. But he wants more for himself – and others fighting similar demons.

“The thing that is clear, what is evident is that if I do put those things in my body I cannot be a fulfilled happy content person,” he told the rapt audience. “If I put those things in my body I don’t love myself….If I’m going to continue to be successful, I need sobriety in my life.”

That’s an important message, especially for his younger fans.

He has a good heart.

With his big smile, Macklemore seems like a genuinely good guy who wants to give back to his family and his community.  He shows up at Seahawks games and is devoted to our continually disappointing Mariners. He lent his name to raise money for homeless youth and supported kids at an anti-bullying event.

To mark the release of “Mess,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hosted a free show at a Seattle club and signed autographs at a record shop. Fans spent the night on the street hoping to get in.

He filmed an episode on E! TV, in which he arranged for a surprise makeover of his mother-in-law’s house. He thanked her for her support over the years, recalling how he got to know her around her kitchen table in Seattle. Throughout, he also earnestly proclaimed his love for his now-wife Tricia (who is incredibly beautiful and yet seems like one of us.)

A friend of mine – who is both much cooler and way hotter than me – met him a few times through her work. She confirms my sense: he really is a nice guy.

He loves being a dad.

He wrote Growing Up as he awaited the birth of his daughter, Sloane. The advice he offers are things I say to my kids, like read a lot, and tell the truth.  My 9-year-old son and I listened to it repeatedly. (Disclaimer:  my kiddo only listens to the clean versions on the radio. My buddy Macklemore does drop a lot of F bombs.) Some of my favorite lines:

“You put the work in, don’t worry about the praise, my love.
Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love

And do it every day
Do that for the rest of your life
And eventually, the world will change.”

“The quickest way to happiness?
Learning to be selfless.
Ask more questions, talk about your self less.”

Oh, and this: “Every day, give your momma a compliment.”

I probably repeat that line to my son more often than I should, but thanks, Macklemore, for acknowledging us moms.

He goes through the same things we do.  

I haven’t heard much about one of my favorite songs on his new album, the upbeat ditty “Let’s Eat” that humorously looks at the challenges of dieting. He struggles with wanting a donut and bemoans the fact that he hasn’t used him gym membership in four years. And he’s going to change his eating and exercise habits … tomorrow.

I mean, what woman doesn’t relate?

Among the lyrics he raps:

And today man I gotta go big cause it’s my last day
Before I lose that weight, I gotta get one last plate and go big…
I should probably start on Monday instead.”

Oh Ben, you so get me.

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My first post on Ravishly!

ravishlyI am so excited that the cool new site Ravishly has published a new post of mine! Ravishly celebrates “the mess of being human” and offers a diverse array of voices on just about any topic. Please take a look!

10 things I’ve learned being a sudden stay-at-home mom

And here’s the post.

10 things I’ve learned from being a sudden stay-at-home mom

I have always been a working mom. Until I suddenly wasn’t working. Balancing the needs and activities of a young son and a demanding job was always tricky. Some days, I felt like Supermom and others I felt like the smartest woman at work. But usually not both on the same day.

Once I wasn’t commuting and working 50 or so hours a week, I admit I had no idea what to do with myself. But as my family has eased into this new normal and found our rhythm, and I’ve figured out a few things.

Quality time all the time is a fairy tale.

Because my routine had always had to revolve around my career, I had no idea how to schedule these days that didn’t involve work. It was easier in the summer when this was brand new to me and we had free days for outings and kept busy with swim meets and tennis matches and meeting up with other moms also looking for ways to occupy their kids.

Once school and the rainy, dark days began, it was more of a challenge. Where before I had to squeeze homework, dinner, bath, and quality time into a couple of hours, now we have lots of time after school. My son always want to do something or go somewhere. I have to remind him it’s not a nonstop party just because I’m home with him. Sometimes we paint canvases, play games, and head outside, and other times we just need to chill. Sometimes that involves my Kindle and his Xbox.

I am just not a good housekeeper.

I always blamed my dirty floors and cluttered countertops on my crazy busy schedule and the fact that I didn’t want to spend what little family time we had cleaning the house. But I have a lot more time now, and I don’t spend much of it dusting. I really should be scrubbing the toilet right now instead of writing this. I get no joy from making my stainless steel shine, and I don’t see that changing.

This cooking thing is overrated.

When I was working, I was always scrambling to pick my son up 30 seconds before the afterschool program closed, then rushing home to make a healthy dinner everyone would eat as fast as possible (or stopping at Papa Murphy’s) or running to sports practice. We were lucky to be done with dinner by 8.

Now I have time to grocery shop in the morning, plan meals, and experiment with recipes. I impressed my family by making my first-ever apple pie (no I did not make the crust, are you crazy?) but spending hours in the kitchen is not my thing. Plus, when you put time and effort into making homemade chicken tetrazzini and your kid still asks for a hot dog, the thrill is gone.

I understand why SAHMs put their kids to bed so early.

I have friends who routinely put their kids to bed at 7:30 or 8. I always thought it was crazy, because if I did that, I would hardly ever see my son. We’re still kind of a late night gang around here, but I understand the need for a little downtime in the evening after bedtime. I don’t get that time, but I understand it.

I have to get out of the house.

I always dreamed of just one day alone in my house – just one day. Now I am sick of being home with only the dog for company. I enjoy the uninterrupted time to write and focus on my burgeoning freelance and consulting career, but getting out – whether walking the dog, lunching with friends or meeting with clients at coffee shops — keeps me sane.

Beware the dangers of day drinking.

I love being able to meet my friends who don’t work for lunch during the school day, especially when it involves a nice glass of chardonnay. But just because I don’t have to head back to work doesn’t mean the drinks can keep coming, as learned after a couple foggy afternoons. I still have to get home (safely, I must add) and be a mom.

It’s a lot easier to get to know other moms.

When you’re dropping your kid at the curb in front of the school and picking him up at daycare, it’s pretty hard to know parents at school. Now I meet the bus, chat with the other moms outside, and get to volunteer and see what goes on inside those walls. Plus, it’s nice to be the one receiving a text asking me to pick up another kid when her mom is running late instead of always being the one asking for help.

I pay closer attention to our budget.  

When you’re not bringing home the same bacon, you can’t bring home the same bacon.

My kid and I can annoy each other.

Yes, it has been a joy to spend so much time with my son. We have always been close and he consistently cracks me up. But we have also gotten on each other’s nerves like never before. When our time together was limited, I never wanted a cross word. Now I recognize that it’s normal to get a little sick of each other once in a while.

I actually like this.

There is no perfect situation. My friends and I always debate the pros of cons of working. But this formerly ambitious but continually exhausted career woman is pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this situation. I may go back to a full-time job – I might find something perfect or have no choice financially – but I’ll be sure it’s something that fits into my life, rather than fitting my life in around my job.

 

He’s 9, and he’s fine. But what about me?

My 9-year-old son walked to school by himself for the first time today.

He goes to a school that’s a 10-minute drive away, not within walking distance, but he can catch the bus at the school in our neighborhood just a few blocks away from our house. His school has a late start, and he usually wants to have extra time at home in the morning and prefers I drive him to school. My flexible schedule allows me to do that.

Today, he wanted to walk to the bus. Alone. For the first time.

While he typically dawdles through the morning routine, he practically raced through it this morning, preparing himself for the day. I said I would walk him down to the corner. You can literally see the school three blocks away from that corner. He declined my offer.

“I am fine!” he insisted.

I watched him walk away, his heavy backpack not slowing his steps at all.

I know it’s the first of many times I will watch him leave. Soon he’ll be asking for the car keys, and after that, going to college. Realistically, I know there are many years before that, but it also feels like yesterday I was carrying him on my hip. It goes so fast, we all say. Because it simply does. I remember last week — or 10 years ago — when my stepdaughter decided she wanted to ride her scooter to school at about the same age. Now she’s expecting her own child.

As soon as he turned the corner, I got in the car, thinking about driving to meet him. I sat there for a minute. “I am not a helicopter parent,” I told myself. “Don’t I always say my goal is to raise independent, self-sufficient children? He’s a smart, strong kid. He is 9. He is fine.”

But I still started the ignition. I drove the opposite way, and reached the back of the school, where I saw him proudly walking toward the waiting area for the bus. See, I just wanted to congratulate him, to tell him I am proud of how he’s growing up. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the same reason I followed my stepdaughter that day on her scooter.

I gave him a high-five and a big hug, told him to have a great day, and walked back toward the car.

“Sometimes it’s hard to leave them,” another mom kindly said to me.

It sure is.

 

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