Pie – A Flaky Crusted Dessert….

“What are you, a fu*%ing retard!?” ~ My Mother

Nearly every homework assignment I brought home….until I wizened up and quit bringing my homework home….ended with my mother morphing into a crazed lunatic.

Mommie-Dearest

Eyes wild and foaming at the mouth, she would rip the pencil from my hand and violently scribble away any incorrect answers, often ripping holes in the paper in the process.

Then, in a fit of hysteria, she would tear the entire document into smithereens and hurl the pieces about the kitchen while ranting and raving like a mad woman.

Pets would cower, various boyfriends and step-dad’s would go into hiding, neighbor’s wouldn’t call the authorities and my dreams of getting to live with my dad, or becoming a ward of the state, wouldn’t come true.

Eventually, I started to hide my schoolwork from her.  I would claim I didn’t have any homework, or that we had been given time to do it at the end of our class period and she rarely questioned it.

In reality, I would often hurriedly do it in my room when I was supposed to be in bed, or while on the bus on the way to, or from, school.

It wasn’t a bad tactic, except with regards to the subjects I struggled in.  I was never particularly good at anything related to science or math, two topics my mother excelled in and it was infuriating for her that I couldn’t immediately grasp the concepts of long division, algebra, geometry, biology and chemistry.

Without anyone who wasn’t on the verge of going bat-shit crazy to look over my homework assignments, I often ended up with poor markings, which led to failed quizzes and tests.

But, by the time I was in fifth grade, I had mastered my mother’s signature, which was handy for signing off on all my failures.  This way, it wasn’t until report card time that I had to take the beatings for failing grades.  I reasoned this was a much smarter approach.

One bad night of screaming, hair pulling, rampaging, “go get me the belt you God-damn dumb ass,” was statistically much better than enduring the same thing on a per bad grade basis.

Plus, since my brother was typically in the same boat, we split her wrath about fifty-fifty.

Tell me I’m not good at math.

When I was in the sixth grade, my last year of elementary school before heading off to middle school, my math teacher was tasked with presenting her students with the extracurricular activities we could choose from in middle school, like sports, band and choir.

In order to be allowed to participate in our first year however, incoming students had to have at least a C average across all subjects.  I did not.

So when it came time to sign up for the programs we wished to join or try-out for, I selected none and made no mention of it to my mother.

Thanks to an invasive school system however, the same information was mailed to our homes.

Mommy Dearest:  “You signed up to tryout for cheerleading, right?  Why didn’t you mention it?”

Me:  “Mrs. C said I couldn’t sign up.”

Mommy Dearest:  “Why?  

Me:  “I don’t know?”

Mommy Dearest:  “Were other girls allowed to sign up?”

Me:  “Yes.”

Cowardly, I know.  But report cards were right around the corner, and if I could just hold her off for another few weeks or so….we could go right on ahead and kill a few birds with one back-hand….I mean, stone.

It would be important for me to note here, that my mother prized cheerleading as much Wanda Holloway….the woman who plotted to have her daughters cheerleading nemesis offed….it’s probably about the only thing my mother would have killed on my behalf for.

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When she was a teenager, she had been the captain of the cheerleading and gymnastics teams at her high school.  She had been the Homecoming Queen and Prom Queen.  She had been popular and adorable and bubbly and everyone had loved her.

Then, at some point in her adulthood, she’d become a raving lunatic, an abusive alcoholic and then an abusive recovering alcoholic.  But she never forgot those glory days.

So, it should have come as no surprise when my mother gave Mrs. C a little ring on the phone the next day.  I knew about it, because Mrs. C  was hysterically crying to Mrs. K during our lunch recess.

During the meltdown, Mrs. K called me over from where I was attempting to remain oblivious and, while consoling a sobbing Mrs. C asked, “Why did you tell your mother you were specifically excluded from next years extracurricular activities?”

Me:  “I didn’t.”

Cowardly, I know, but I had to be a pathological liar in order to survive my childhood….sue me.

I rode the bus home full of dread.  I knew by the time I walked through the door, she would have flushed out all my carefully constructed lies and it would not be good.

I pondered the durability of my teeth, the thickness of my hair and whether or not I had enough to cover any bald spots that might be created….and then, I took it like a champ.

Now, I have a child of my own.  He’s a first grader and every Monday, he get’s a bit of homework he has to complete and return each Friday.  We practice his spelling words, we read and we I, struggle to understand his math.  WTF common core?

I don’t mean to mom brag or anything, but my boy is wicked smaht.   Academics come easily to him, which I have to assume he’s inherited from his father, though he get’s his good looks and snarky attitude from me.

Seriously though, I’m incredibly proud of him.  And also, I’m proud of myself.  I’m raising a kid who is confidant and capable and brave.  Which isn’t the way anyone would have described me at his age.

For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a mother.  Or rather, if I could be a mother.   It seemed impossible that I would know what to do.  I was afraid that I would just fall into the same cycles of abuse I’d known as a kid.  That whatever was wrong with my mother, might be wrong with me too.

A few years before our son was born, my husband and I took a road-trip out west that included several days of hiking in Yellowstone National Park.  At the time, park officials were managing a wildfire that had been started by a lightning strike.  One afternoon, my husband and I hiked up Mount Washburn, which hosts one of the three remaining fire lookout stations in Yellowstone.

At the top, we struck up a conversation about the fires with a park ranger.  I asked if park officials were concerned about the fires destruction and he said, “No.  So long as there is no risk to human life, wildfires are a good thing.”

He explained that wildfires make way for new growth.   They regenerate our forests, renew the soil, and help reset the clock for the ecosystem.

I think the same can be said about life in general.  Life is hard.  Sometimes, it burns in ways that feel as though there can’t possibly be anything left when it’s done.

But in truth, the burning isn’t the end.  It’s just life’s way of giving us a chance to reset.  To reevaluate where we’ve been and where we’re going.  It’s a second chance, or a third chance, or a fourth chance, or more.

There is beauty and strength and grace and opportunity to be found in the ashes….if only we are brave enough to put one foot in front of the other and to try.

boss

 

Valentine’s Day Isn’t For Everyone….

“All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~Charles M. Shulz  

So, my son is now a first grade and I’ve learned that a lot has changed since I made my way through the public school system.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when people didn’t care all that much about your feelings, so this whole, everybody get’s a Valentine thing is new to me.

When I was in elementary school, I loved Valentine’s Day.  I spent days preparing my tacky Valentine’s box with construction paper hearts, feathers, stickers and paper doilies.

On Valentine’s Day, we placed our boxes on our desks and walked around our classroom depositing Valentines and treats into the boxes of our friends and our enemies?  Well, they could go right on ahead and choke on a box of those chalky conversation hearts for all we cared.

Personally,  I never gave a Valentine to a kid named Olin who had a harelip.  Not because of the harelip, but because he cut a chunk out of my hair in Kindergarten and I never let go of a grudge.

I also refused to deposit a Valentine into the box of a kid named Bobby, who used to pick his nose and wipe it on all the girls.  To this day, anyone with the name Bobby makes me want to vomit.

I spent years campaigning to blacklist a girl named Roberta, who beat me up, EVERY DAY, on the playground in second grade.  That is, until I told my gramma, who arrived at the school one afternoon during dismissal and confronted Roberta using a variety of clever obscenities none of us really understood, but delighted in repeating whenever possible.

Example:  “If you ever lay a finger on my granddaughter again you hussy, I will kick your ass so far up around your neck, you’ll have to spread your butt cheeks to sneeze!”

Not only could we exclude our classmates, but because nobody actually looked at the Valentine’s we were passing out, we were free to send hate mail too.

I got a few and I gave a few.

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In middle school, we gave up the Valentine boxes and instead we got to purchase candy heart lollipops for fifty-cents in the cafeteria, to be delivered, with a note, to anyone we chose.

Throughout the week of Valentine’s Day, our classes would be disrupted by a knock at the door and the candy courier would walk in and announce who the lucky recipient was. Which of course made the rest of us feel like ugly, unlovable ducklings.

My friends and I sent candy hearts to one another, but mostly I sent them to myself and claimed they were from a secret admirer. I wanted the candy and I wanted to make the other girls jealous.

I also sent one to my seventh grade science teacher, because he was smokin’ hot for a middle-aged science teacher and I hoped to woo him away from his wife and kids, apparently.

In high school, candy hearts were replaced with single stem roses. The concept played out the same way. The roses were purchased for a dollar and delivered throughout the school day. Tables were set up before school, in the hallways between classes and during lunch, allowing ample opportunity for rose purchases.

Girls with boyfriends ended the school day with a dozen roses by final bell. Girls without boyfriends told everyone it was because those girls put out….because it was really the only way to save face when walking through the dismissal crowd without a single rose.

Honestly, all of it sucked. There were years in elementary school when my friends and I got into huge fights over Barbies and who got to be the teacher when we played school. We teamed up against one another and if Valentine’s Day happened to fall during a rumble, things could get ugly.

“Nobody give a Valentine to Laura….she’s bossy and she’s got a knock off Cabbage Patch.”

In middle school and high school, the number of candy heart lollipops and roses you received were symbols of how popular and well liked you were compared to others. Clearly, there was something wrong with you if NOBODY thought you worthy of fifty-cents or a dollar.

So, I think it’s better that kids these days are expected to spread kindness equally on Valentine’s Day.

They’ll have plenty of time as adults to be biter and cynical when the day ends without a bouquet and takeout for one.

And by then, they can acquire alcohol.

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I Don’t Know What I’m Doing….and Neither Do You.

“Opinions are like butt-holes.  Everybody has one.”
~Unknown, but I wish it was me

As a mother, I’ve grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice.

Just the other day, while in the toothpaste aisle at Target, I was accosted by a woman who approached and said, “You shouldn’t choose a toothpaste that contains aluminum.  Unless you want your kid to have Alzheimers.” 

How do you even respond to that?

When I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with cancer at twenty-two weeks.  Once, while shopping, a woman approached and asked, “Don’t you think you should have been more responsible?”  

Throughout my entire illness, I never had a problem sharing my story with curious strangers.  I spent many minutes in check-out aisles and at my doctor’s appointments, chatting it up with random, but kind, strangers, about my diagnosis and how it all came to be.

But this woman?

No.

She was a twat-waffle.

So, I didn’t feel bad when I suggested that she should hop into her douche canoe and row, row, row the boat far away from me….before I did actually make an irresponsible decision.

After I gave birth, I wasn’t able to breast-feed.  My son was born one week before my last chemo cycle.  Although the medications were unable to cross through the placenta while my son was safe and snug inside my womb, they could pass through my breast milk and that wasn’t safe for him.

In the beginning, I tried to “pump and dump,” which I would need to do for a minimum of six weeks after my last chemo cycle, in order to flush out all the poisons.

I tried.  I really, really did.

I followed every bit of advice from the hospitals lactation consultants.  But nothing worked.

My body had been through a lot and it seemed to draw the line at producing breast milk.    I was never able to produce more than about a teaspoons worth, which, admittedly, made me feel like a horrible mother.

As a last ditch effort, I reached out to a La Leche Group I found online.  Now, I’m sure that if you are a regular woman, who is struggling to breast feed and looking for advice, that these groups are helpful.  In my case, not so much.

I explained my situation and for the most part, I got back the same advice the lactation consultants had given me.  In a few cases, some of the women essentially said, “I’ve got nothing, I’m sorry.”

But then, one woman decided to offer me this piece of sage advice.  “You should stop your treatments so you can breastfeed.  It’s really the most important thing you can do for your baby.”

“Um….like, more important than being alive?  Bitch.”

That’s all said.  I might have added in a GFU.

Ok, I did definitely add it in, because who says that!?

And honestly, my experiences with breast-feeding shame didn’t end there.  I found a super expensive, organic formula that made me feel a little bit better about my inability to feed my baby from my own body and I’m not even kidding, but nine times out of ten, when I was at the store purchasing his food, a woman would tell me that breast milk was best.

And you know what?  I agree!  It is THE BEST.  I get it.

But, we can’t all do it and for some, we don’t all want to do it and that’s OK too.  It really is.  Because you know what’s second best to breast?  Fed.

A few years ago, while my son played at an indoor playground, a man asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that letting your son wear a pink shirt will make him gay?”

He asked, as though being gay was a bad thing.

As if I would be all bent out of shape at the prospect of being the number one woman in my son’s life….forever.

As if a child’s preference in color, is indicative of his sexuality.

But, I suppose when you can still recall the smell of the air from the bough of the Mayflower, you can sort of be forgiven for your ignorance.

I am by no means a perfect parent.  There are days I think I’m nailing it and there are days when I wish that life allowed a control z function, so that I could have a do-over….or five.

I appreciate and even love, all those Parenting Blogs that talk honestly about the trials and tribulations of raising children.  It’s nice to find a community of like-minded parents.  But the second they hop on a sponsored soap box and start using words like “should” and “never.”  They’ve lost me.

Because, I’m sorry, Karen, you don’t know squat….unless you have a PH.D in child-rearing, in which case, what you know is still debatable.  Parenting, like everything else, is constantly evolving.

My generation is the first to raise children in the age of social media.  And I think a byproduct of that, is that we’ve lost a bit of our self-confidence and our willingness to trust our gut and our instincts as parents.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to what other families are doing.  All we have to do, is open up our computers, or our phones and we are immediately transported into the lives of families all over the world, which brings a whole new meaning to the term, “Keeping up with the Joneses.”  

But the truth is, we are all just winging it and hoping we get it right.

Personally, I vaccinate, because Polio seems like a real bitch.

I don’t spank my child, because I got my ass kicked as a kid and from that, I learned only one thing.  That I don’t want to hit my child.

Depending on the circumstances, I’m a helicopter parent.  Other times, I’m that mom, sitting in the corner, reading a book.

Some days, I make homemade, from scratch, wholly organic meals and other days we go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

I allow screen time, almost every day.  Some days, it’s no more than hour.  Other days, whatever.

I am at times, authoritative and strict and other times, weak and super permissive.  Most of the time, I’m weak and super permissive.

I’m a big believer in the importance of self-care; for moms and dads.  And sometimes, I prioritize myself over everyone else.  And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.

My house is obsessively clean and organized.  Because my brain needs it to be that way and I have no problem doing all the work.  In fact, I LIKE it.

I have been a corporate career having mom and a stay-at-home mom.  Both are hard.

Sometimes, I let my son win and other times, I wipe the floor with him.

And I don’t care what kind of mom the internet, or the media tells me I should be.

I can’t force him into a specific parenting philosophy.  I know this, because I have actually tried.  But I don’t think he came out of the womb a blank slate.  He was already a person. Predisposed, I guess, to certain personality traits and needs that would and do influence his interests.

So I only care about being the kind of parent my child needs me to be.  And I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I trust myself to get it mostly right.  Because no one knows him and loves him like I do and nobody ever could.