Monday, November 30, 2009

The day after Thanksgiving, the four of us pile into our car and take a ride up north to Sebastopol. It has become a family tradition. We search out the perfect Christmas tree farm, and begin the search for the even more perfect Christmas tree. We park the car and head for the hills. Kyle goes for the saw that looks like something from an Ignar Bergman film, and Will pulls the Christmas tree cart. We walk through endless isles of beautiful living Christmas trees and comment on each one.

"Look at the bald spot, that won't do."
"That one's too skinny."
"This one is perfect. Wait. No, it has some dead branches."

And so our search continues.

This year I spotted our tree the first moment of our arrival. But we had to look at all the trees to make sure it was the very best one. It was.

We take turns sawing the tree down. I think Tom does most of the heavy work but we all pretend to help. Kyle and Tom drag the tree to the Christmas tree cart and Will pulls down the country road, past Santa Claus Lane, to the shed near the entrance where a couple of men who look like they know what they are doing, plunk the tree on a long wooden bench and slide it through a contraption that tightly pulls netting around it.

They usually have to recut our trunk because we have normally sawed it improperly. This year it was perfect.

We drove back with our tree tied to the top of the car happily. We knew we had found the very best tree.

Getting the tree inside the house is always a fiasco, especially when the tree is 12 feet tall. But somehow we always manage.

It's not until the next day that we begin to decorate our new addition to the living room. And not before we enjoy Fondue Chinois. Yes, this is another family tradition. We place thinly sliced pieces of tender meat into a broth and wait for it to cook. Then we gobble up the cooked meat with a variety of sauces and condiments. And then finally we decorate.

I think this all got started when Kyle was in pre-school and he was asked to talk about his families holiday traditions. We must have done this once, the year before and he decided he liked it. After he told his little friends and teachers all about our "family tradition" it was created...and so it is...every year...rain or shine.

I am delighted to have a tradition. It grounds me and helps reassure me that we have a set of traditions that tie us together. I am sure the kids will always remember this event as the kick off of the holiday season. I think they will make an effort to come home and be apart of this tradition. I can almost imagine dragging little grandchildren through the Christmas tree farm--almost.

This year, Kyle brought his girlfriend with us. I thought it was wonderful that he wanted her to share this with us. He wanted her to be a part of our family tradition.

She was with us when we ate fondue Chinois and decorated the tree. It is wonderful to think that this simple tradition can unite us together and yet leave plenty of room for friends and lovers. I am delighted to be part of something so meaningful to the three men in my life.

Now, I have to make sure the tree is watered and well decorated. And I have to make sure we are not all too busy to enjoy its splendor. I sit on the couch and look at its lofty but peaceful presence and can't help but smile. I am thankful for my family!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I asked Kyle to read the beginning of my book this afternoon. He did so happily and then proceeded to plant his face in his computer. He gave me my 15 minutes, told me he liked my story, and quickly fell back into his own world.

I tried to ask him to elaborate but all I got was, "It's good, Mom. What more do you want?"

I think about the endless hours I have spent helping him study for tests, write papers, organize his schedule. And now I feel like I am intruding on him by asking him his opinion on a few pages of my manuscript.

He has so little free time that I was reluctant to ask him to read anything other than his schoolwork. But I did so because I value his opinion. I got precious little from him.

The door bell rang and his SAT tutor was here to begin math prep.

It took me hours to research the right tutors and set up his schedule. He does the heavy lifting, but so do I. Do I have the right to feel short changed? Is it my job to help him without asking for anything in return? I don't know the answer to this question. I really don't.

I seems that he should want to help me. But I understand that he has so many other people and activities vying for his attention. I know I am not at the top of the list. I probably am not on the list at all. And that is probably how it is suppose to be--so then why do I feel so empty?

Is this feeling of emptiness preparation for the future? Am I suppose to finally wake up and say to myself, "Get a life?"

I'm trying. And I tried to include him. Wrong time. Wrong place.

For now, I'll take a deep breath, check my ego at the door and go back into my hole and continue to write. Maybe one day he'll read my book because he wants to--when I don't expect anything from him at all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Let me just say that for whatever reason I am stunned that there is indeed a generation gap between myself and my children. I don't know why this surprises me, but I think I was naive enough to believe that this would never happen.

I really thought I would stay relevant for a much longer period of time.

I guess things really do change that much in the course of twenty-five years. Think about our world now compared to our world at when we were 16-years-old. The differences are startling. But I somehow thought that I could transcend these differences and understand my children's world. I have fooled myself.

There is nothing specific that I can call upon, just an overall feeling that as much as I can pretend to understand my kids life, I really don't know what is like to be a teen-ager in 2009.

And this really bugs me. Sometime I think that is why our children have such great relationships with our parents. They don't pretend to understand what their grandchildren are living through. They accept generational differences and embrace their grandchildren with unconditional love.

I am still trying to build a bridge between the gap and cross it at will. This does not work.

It's like me having a facebook page. Even me Blogging is a bit odd. These are things best left to another generation. I thought I found the fountain of youth. Stay current and relevant and you will stay young. I can only use facebook as a 51-year-old uses facebook. I have no idea nor any desire to use it like Kyle uses it or how Will communicates with it.

There is something magical about new generations of kids taking hold of a world and leaving their mark on it. There is something poetic about us allowing them to do this.

It again comes down to balance. I seem to fall off my metaphoric tightrope way too often. But I will dust myself off and place one foot in front of the other as I make my way across the great generational divide.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Does everybody dislike Monday mornings as much as I do? I remember when I was going through puberty I used to hate Sundays. Sundays were melancholy days, days of rest with the anticipation of a long week of school ahead. I didn't like Sundays. They felt depressing. Now it's Mondays that has become my least favorite day.

The house feels so quiet on this still Monday morning. Even though Will is still home from school, I can't help but anticipate the madness of the week ahead. But in some strange way, I enjoy the madness of the week--it keeps me from thinking. Monday mornings are for thinking.

Monday mornings are for putting the air back into my flat tires. It takes a little work, but I have to do it! Once I am re-inflated I will glide through the week. Well, that's not entirely true. I will bump and grind my way through the week. But at lease there will be air in my tires. I might need an oil change or some extra gasoline--but I am inflated and ready to react.

This week I hope Will will be back to feeling himself. I have meetings and stories to write. I have parent conferences to attend and Communication night to participate in. This helps my life feel somewhat normal. But those still Monday mornings make me feel so darn alone. Each Monday morning I wake up and wonder if this is what my life will feel like every day when the kids are no longer at home.

I think I fear that the Monday morning blues will turn into Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday sadness. I think I worry that when my kids leave home I will become depressed.

I often think that the chaos of our lives is what propels us forward. We, as parents, have to be alert and attentive, communicative and diligent, loving and supportive. In fact we want to be all those things--but is it easier to be those things to our kids than ourselves. And what happens when the very heart of our existence changes? Can we adapt and change too? Or are we too old to change?

I know for myself that change is possible, just more difficult these days. Just sleeping in another bed is more difficult now than it was when I was young. I can't sleep the first night at a hotel or at a friend's home--it feels different and it takes me a little while to get used to the change. If a stupid bed is difficult to change, how does one change the entire way they look at their life?

I am struggling to discover the first day of the rest of my life and I can't even change beds. In fact, the more I think about it I realize that I have owned my bed for at least 16 years. It is probably time to invest in a new mattress. And even this thought terrifies me. It just won't feel the same!

If anybody had told me I would feel this way fifteen years ago I would have laughed in their face. No way that will ever be me! I am as easy going as they come. Crash! Slam on the brakes! I guess I'm really not. And isn't this the reality that awaits me. I am going to have to change in order to propel myself forward on my nicely inflated tires. You all know that I am full of hot air, but the real question remains can this hot air work for me instead of against me?

Hot air is full of passion and pathos, crazy rantings of menopausal women, laughter and a little bull----! Maybe I will try and remember that I have plenty of hot air with which to inflate my empty tires--and this might just be what I need to allow myself the delicious anticipation of change. It is change that will keep me safe from depression, change that gives me hope and a reason to not hate Monday mornings. Change that will keep me young.

What can I do to change one thing in my life today? That's the problem I can't thing of anything I am ready to change today. But I will leave the possibility open for tomorrow!

Friday, November 13, 2009

When Kyle was in second grade, he had to take his very first standardized test--the STAR test. He was a little anxious about this new experience. The teachers told the kids to get a good night sleep and told us parents to give our children healthy snacks. Kyle could feel that something important was happening.

Before he went to sleep, I told him to not worry about the silly old test and suggested he make pretty patterns on the score card instead. This served him well. He never was nervous again taking the yearly standardized test.

Now, as he embarks on his road toward college, I wish I could offer the same advice. Instead I have hired an SAT tutor that begins today.

I have actually thought about this quite a bit since Kyle's second grade experience. In fairness, I think part of my trepidation stems from the fact that I remember how much I hated taking these impossible tests that evaluate you based on a sheet of paper with tiny black pencil marks.
It seems so impersonal and calculating. The test was so long and so boring and you always had this awful fear that you missed a line and as a result all your answers would be wrong.

In the olden days just breaking a thousand was considered good. Do you remember that? Now kids receive perfect scores on parts of the test. And the test has become even longer. Universities look at your scores to see if you are worthy to walk their halls. Hard work, ambition, creativity don't seem to mean much if you don't score well on your standardized test.

It's all so ridiculous. But for the Stanley Kaplan's, IvyWests, Compasses, Revolution's of the world we are talking big business. Out of fear of not having options, kids spend endless hours with private tutors in hopes that their bubbles will be the right bubbles.

Today, at 4:00 PM Kyle begins his bubble filling journey. He will try and learn the little tricks that make you score higher on the almighty SAT! Then after he puts in hours of prep time, he will sit in a room with hundred of other kids early one saturday morning, and begin to fill in the bubbles on his score card. It seems so impossibly arcane.

I wish I could tell him just to make pretty patterns again. It was so much simpler then. And everything made much more sense.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

104.6 degree fever for poor Will last night. And I totally lost it. We tried everything to get the fever down. I was a mess. The fever kept inching higher and higher and he had taken advil two hours before. I made him take a tepid bath. But the fever still kept rising.

I felt so helpless. I could do nothing but watch a hideous virus create havoc in poor Will's body.

I don't think I have ever washed my hands so much. I don't think Will will ever forgive me for taking his temperature so many times.

Dear Tom woke up almost every hour checking on Will. We fought over who should sleep and who would watch Will. I became irrational which makes Tom go into his condescending frustration stage. It was all just so pleasant.

I, of course, couldn't sleep.

I tossed and turned and paced outside Will's room.

At 3 am he heard me and said those magical words. "Mom I'm all sweaty!" Oh joy! The fever was finally down.

At 5:45 am it was back up to 101 degrees. All day I sat in worry. I anticipated an uncontrollable high fever-- a fever with a vengeance. I sit here and write this post wondering what the night might bring.

I am so tired. Will is so strong.

I hope sleep brings Will renewal of health and pleasant, restful dreams.

Monday, November 9, 2009

God I hate it when my kids are sick! And Will is home with a high fever, chills, and body aches. His neck is sore so the nurse at the doctor's office wanted me to see if, while standing, he could put his chin on his chest and then lying down, if he could raise his right leg without any pain. I think they were checking for Meningitis. You can't imagine how much dread and fear gets inside my head. He passed the test with flying colors.

Now, I just have to help manage his fever. 104 degrees this morning from a kid who normally doesn't get high fevers.

If I get this thing, H1N1 or whatever flu this is, I am shit out of luck.

But Will is such a trouper. He doesn't complain at all. He is in his room watching TV and resting.

Poor kid. I think I have already taken his temperature 20 times. I have washed my hands just as many times.

What happens when they are off at college and get sick? Who will take of them? Will I fly to wherever they are and make sure they are drinking enough fluids? Or will I sit at home calling every five minutes checking in on their physical status.

How does a parent let go?

A mother said to me this weekend that the parent-kid relationship is the only relationship where you nuture someone you love in preparation for them to leave you. It's true.

If I do my job correctly, then Kyle and Will will seperate from me easily and happily.

This weekend I watched Kyle with all his friends. Little by little he is already seperating and I'm not happy about it at all. We are developing a new relationship and I am the one having the problem accepting this. I am the 2-year-old, stomping my feet willing things to be like they were. But they never will be.

The pains and joys of watching your children grow takes my breath away. But at times I need a brown paper bag to blow into. This is one of those days.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Wide Eyed Boy with the Blond Curls

Kyle had his directorial debut last night! And his one act was impressive. I am a proud Mommy today and delighted that he feels successful. His actors gave impressive performances as Kyle mouthed each word they said. It was funny for me to see him sharing an artistic endeaver with an audience. This process has been so much a part of my life--and a struggle at that. But last night was his night and I got to see him sweat. It is so difficult to put something creative out into the world and watch an audience react. He felt the pressure, but he didn't crack.

The only awkard moment in the whole evening was when his girlfriend, who lovingly came from College, and I sat next to each other in the lobby waiting for the show to begin. We comfortably sat together talking about all sorts of things until Kyle made his way to us.

He saw us both sitting there yacking and stopped for a moment. He didn't know who to kiss first. He looked at me and then at his girlfriend and then back at me.

I stepped in, "Give your girlfriend a kiss," I told him.

She, in her grace said, "You kiss your Mother first!"

How funny. Kyle trapped between two women. How pathetic, one of them is his Mother.

But last night, I saw my son as a successful leader, a compassionate director, a loving boyfriend, and a wonderful son. He is definitely growing up. How I fit into his world is still unclear to me.

In just a few months, everything has changed. I used to be the last person to talk to him before he went to sleep. Now, most nights, he talks with his girlfriend. And this is what is supposed to happen. It just happened so quickly.

I am fully aware that I need to step back and begin to allow him to live his own life. I just need to figure out how. There is a whole new relationship to navigate and I don't want to screw it up by being the overbearing mother I have a tendency to be.

But he is still my little boy with the big eyes and curly blond hair, who always smiled, loving life. It is so hard to reconcile that image with the 6'3'' man with the big eyes and cropped brown hair who is charming and witty surrounded by friends and a girlfriend.

I couldn't be happier or more proud.

But the happiness is bittersweet. It is not that I am losing him, it is that our relationship is changing.

I know that I am the grown-up and he is just the 16-year-old and that means that I have to be the more mature of the two and allow our relationship to change instead of making what existed fit into an already outdated mold.

I know how much Kyle loves me. I know he would do almost anything to make me happy. I know what we had before was wonderful.

But... I refuse to become one more stress in his life. I will not allow myself to become a burden to him already. I want, with all my heart, for him to know I am there for him always but that it is alright for him to begin his "own" journey.

I would love him to include me on this journey but I must allow him to choose to do this on his own.

I hope I have the willpower and patience. I most definitely have the love.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Y's of my Life

The hard drive on my computer looks like it is toast which means I have potentially lost everything.

I sat at the Apple store with box of tissue and actually cried. Then I remembered it wasn't an awful health diagnosis we were talking about and I pulled myself together.

Right now my computer is at the Apple Care store and they are trying to retrieve any data from the the little chips that make up my life.

So, again I have taken over my son's computer with the sticking y key. I literally have to hit the y key three times before it works. Perhaps for the rest of this post I will just leave out all the y's.

Tomorrow is parent/counselor/student night at K le's high school. The counselors are there to act as a buffer between the parents and the kids. I can't help but wonder what has happened in the past that are poor kids need buffers.

But I think I can use this time for some helpful and healthy dialogue between myself and K le. I am having such a difficult time trying to help him balance all the things in his life. I feel like I have become just one more stress for him. But at the same time, he seems to need (and sometimes) want me there to help him make difficult decisions.

Some smart Mom once told me that you don't want your junior to have a girlfriend. Well, I'm actually (it's too hard to skip at the y's in my life) delighted he has met someone he really likes. But, it is a delicate balancing act he is preforming. And at an moment he seems like he is about to fall.

I, like a good helicopter Mom, am there to catch him.

Has the time finally come to let him fall.

Tom seems to think so, until he hears Kyle bitch about a bad test grade. He doesn't just shake it off and say whatever college he gets into is just fine. That's what he has been telling me to do the last year. Now, he thinks Kyle might need some guidance. Because, finally he realizes that Kyle cares about having choices in his college selection process.

The problem for us is that Kyle really works hard (most of the time) and he has done so well. He tries so hard to be a good student, a thoughtful friend, a good son, a good brother, a good peer resource.

Does he still want us to help him? Sometimes he says he does. And sometimes he says, "Back off."

This has confused me but now Tom is confused too. I don't expect Tom to be confused and it really pisses me off.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Yesterday I had the luxury of time. I decided to check out some other BLOGS. It was frickin' amazing. There are so many unbelievable voices out there it stunned me. I had no idea that so many people are writing such amazing pieces, everyday.

I feel like such a newbie, naive to this whole world of blogging. It is an impressive forum that is dripping over with talent. But like so much else out there today, I can't help but wonder if these voices are being heard by enough people.

S_ _ _ _!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My computer just CRASHED. The screen went dead--no life in sight. I have an appointment at the Apple Store in a few hours but in the meantime I borrowed Kyle's computer to finish this BLOG.

This posting takes on a whole new demented twist. Yes I do want to share some of the wonderful postings I have had the pleasure to read...but now--I have a dilemma!

I didn't think Kyle's computer was at home, but instead with him at school. But I found it lying next to his bed. And like an untrusting girlfriend I find myself in the compromising position to snoop.

Is that crossing any moral lines? Am I supposed to allow him privacy?. I think not. I am his parent and I should snoop. It is my job to snoop.

But do I really want to? What might I find if I look at his history or find a way onto his facebook page?

Can you imagine your parent listening into your most private conversations when you were 16?

The temptation is so great. But what if he reads this post and I have to come clean? Should I have kept this to myself and not blabbed about it for the whole world to see?

What fun is that?

I am just staring at his computer like it is the Cabinet of Wonders. I just don't think I can dare to peak inside.

But maybe just a little peak. I will never tell.

What would you do?

Monday, November 2, 2009

El Dia de los Muertos

I remember a time that was not that long ago, when a friend of mine, with older kids, would tell me about her two high school son's adventures. I remember listening intently, secretly reveling in the thought that years would pass before I would be in "her" situation and that if I parented correctly than I could avoid some of the uncomfortable situations that I had no idea would inevitably arise.

Last night I sat with friends with younger kids who listened to me speak about life with my 16-year-old son. They listened patiently but I could tell that like me, a few years back, they didn't quite believe in the inevitable.

Yes, their kid will learn to drive. Yes, they will take the car and forget to check in with you. Yes, they would miss curfew. Yes, they will go to parties and be exposed to alcohol and drugs. Yes, they may even indulge in a drink or two. Yes, they would do things against your better judgment. Yes, they would shock you with something you were not prepared to do deal with at that particular moment. And let me tell you, this time comes way too quickly.

It is just so odd to be on the other side of this great divide. It is so strange to be the parent going through this wild ride.

I haven't come out the other side so I don't know where all this wild ride will lead. And I think this is the scariest part for a control freak like me. It's just so darn difficult to let them fail! My husband assures me, the kids have to fail in order to grow. I just can't watch. I feel like I am in a horror film, my eyes closed tight, hoping the creepy music will soon come an abrupt stop.

It's a ride I have to take. But you may hear me screaming, down the lonely corridors of parenting hell.