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Just Five More

You know how people say “X more sleeps before….” Well, I only have 5 more drives before both of my children are attending the same school in the same city.

We started at our preschool in July, 2007 when my son was six months old. He advanced through all the classrooms, eventually “graduating” from TK (transitional Kindergarten) in August, 2012. At that point, my daughter had been going there for almost two years; she started when she was four months, in October, 2010.

Her first day of school, 2010

Her first day of school, 2010

The preschool is exactly 11.23 miles from my house and 6.8 miles from my work, putting it right in the middle of the two places I spend the majority of my time. It’s an amazing school and because of my firefighter hubby’s schedule, having my kids in a preschool closer to my work made sense. That is, until my son started Kindergarten at the school that’s only .82 miles from my house. I timed it once; it takes 2 minutes and 14 seconds to get from the school to my house.

With getting the kids in and out of the car when we drop off/pick him up, California traffic and having to take side street and hitting all those red lights, it takes me an hour from the time I leave my house to the time I get to work. AN HOUR. Then I get to do it all again on the trip home.

I’m not going to lie. It’s exhausting. Not that I don’t love the talk time she and I share in the car together but a two hour commute every day just kicks my butt. And don’t get me started on the one day a week I work from home…having to drive her to another city, then come back home then go back to her school then come back home…Oh My God.

Needless to say, when she became age eligible for the full day pre-K program at her brother’s school, I jumped at the chance to enroll her. And when I found out that I could start her in June for the full day summer program, and the dates coincided with her current school year ending, before she transitioned to the next age classroom, I was maniacally enthusiastic. Sure, it gave me pause (for a split second) that changing schools with no transition time would be hard on her but rip off the band-aid I shouted! This change will save this mama 40-45 minutes each way!

But with this afternoon’s pick-up marking 5 drives away from this reality, I feel like I might burst into tears. My daughter has only ever known this school. She has many friends, some she’s been friends with since she started at 4 months old. She adores her teachers to the point of wanting to invite them to her birthday party. She knows the routines, every corner of the playgrounds, all the classroom pets, the songs, and chapel experience.

When I first told her she was going to start at her brother’s school, she dug her heels in and adamantly said no, no I’m not. But as we continued to bring it up and discuss it, she’s started to come around and now seems genuinely excited to begin a new adventure. So my trepidation is my own. I’m realizing that this preschool is all I’ve known. I know all the routines, every corner of the playground, all the teachers and parents. This preschool has become part of our family. When my son started Kindergarten, everything was new but it wasn’t preschool. The reality of switching preschools, leaving the one we’ve been attending for seven years and starting anew, is hitting me.

I know we will be fine, both of us. I know she’ll make new friends. I know having my children at the same school will restore and preserve my sanity. And there is the added bonus of the price decrease. And while all of that makes me feel giddy with glee, it is also a little daunting. Change always is.

So I’ll take a lesson from my brave girl, and be brave myself. She and I will look forward to this new adventure together.

It’s only 5 more drives away, after all.

Flynn_2014

gingerbreadmama

Off-the-cuff: this is how I do it

Leave it to Tonya (Letters for Lucas) to tag me about writing. She’s a dear friend, one of my favorite people and seriously the best at subtly (or in this case not so much) inspiring me to get off my ass. I just dropped everything and wrote this blog post because of her (my last post was April 5). I auditioned for LTYM because of her. I shared my adoption story because of her. You know, I even joined Twitter because of her. So you get the idea. She’s really, really, really good at giving you the right nudge at the right time with the right amount of inspiration to make you think “sure, I can do this, why not”…

1. What am I working on?

What am I working on is a trick question. The only answer is everything and nothing. See my response to question #4.

2. How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

Is being a 40ish, married, mom with a career and penchant for high heels a genre? Like everyone else, I’m sure; the obvious answer is it differs because it’s mine. Topics may be similar (read: motherhood) but it’s my take, my humor, my sadness, my irritation…my whatever that spurs me in that moment to write it down.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write what I do because I need to. As stated above, I’m (a tad over) 40, married to a fireman who is only home half the month, a mom to two young children, I work full-time in a fast-paced, mostly stressful but I’m good at it career, and I’m the Queen of complicating things. I’ve mastered multitasking (or not, that’s TBD) and I‘m always on the go. So when I do write, it’s because I HAVE to. I have to say and share whatever it is I need to say and get it out of my head. I find myself and those around me funny (and at times annoying) and often that makes for a good blog post.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’ll be honest. I don’t have a process. I used to be fueled by angst. But then I grew up, fell in love, had kids and am now too happy (read: tired) to remember what it was like to feel angsty.

Writing is something I’ve done my entire life, always. It’s just a part of me. I have a creative writing degree but have been out of college for over 20 years. I stumbled into technical writing soon after graduation and began blogging in 2007. Before my blog, I wrote two columns for the now defunct website Scoopme (a review of the show Alias and a gossip column) and I also wrote a gossip column for Tea With Lemon but couldn’t keep up (or rather interested) in the so-called celebs in the news these days to care enough to write about it.

If I had to describe it, I’d say my process/writing style was off-the-cuff. I have dozens of topics I want to write about in the Notes app on my iPhone and more than a dozen pieces that I’ve started but never finished. But what mostly gets put out there is the everyday funny/irritating stuff that happens in the moment. The Wha? That just happened?! events that make me stop what I’m doing and write about it then and there. I write all day long in my head and sometimes get my shit together long enough to add my hands to the mix and type it out.

Computer, iPad, whatever is handy when the mood strikes me to type it out.

Computer, iPad, whatever is handy when the mood strikes me to type it out.

I should probably be more disciplined with writing and publishing on a consistent basis but factor in family time, work, soccer, ballet, baseball, hockey, homework, dinner, laundry, birthday parties, school events, working out (and everything else I’m forgetting) plus all the freaking driving around that occurs with motherhood and I’m reduced to only having enough energy to post funny facebook statuses (and a truckload of pictures of my kids).

But thanks to Tonya and her pushes me to do stuff superpower, I just wrote something. Off-the-cuff but it’s mine. My style, my process, my words.

Now it’s your turn! California Kara (who got me blogging in the first place and while she doesn’t write much anymore, she should) and Kristin of The Swift Kick (my HS friend, who, thankfully, writes all the time because she’s good at it), I tag you! Tell us about your writing process.

gingerbreadmama

A Rant

Have you ever had a day that is kinda shitty and you feel like crying and you can’t really pinpoint why, because it’s not one thing but maybe a culmination of things and even then you know none of it is that bad but all of it together is bringing you down?

Well, I’m having one of those. I feel like sending a big FU out to the haters, slamming the door and turning some music on really loud.

But I have responsibilities. Shit to do. So instead I’m taking deep breaths, going about my business professionally and with dignity (but don’t think for a second that my inner monologue is profanity free) and focusing on what I know. I’m not letting someone’s skewed perception (which happens to be way off of reality) dictate my day.

So there. Neenerneenerneener.

 

 

gingerbreadmama

Family Resemblance

Last month I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother – OC. My piece was not chosen for the show but I’m happy I auditioned for two reasons. First, I am not comfortable with public speaking and this took me way out of my comfort zone and the challenge felt good. Second, the topic I chose to write about, the story I chose to share…is my beginning. Something I’ve talked about but never actually written about. It’s so personal and so emotional and every time I’ve started to write about it, I stop. But not this time. What I also learned is that this is a two-part story. The circumstances of my beginning are not without their share of drama and so much has transpired since then, and that also deserves to be shared. So I’m working on part two but for now, a piece of me that is close to my heart….

Me, age 2

Me, age 2

Growing up, my parents used to tell me I made them so happy that’s how they got pregnant with my brother. We’re only 13 months apart and are not just close in age, but are also close as siblings.

As the oldest child, I attempted to rule the roost – and you’d think having the knowledge that the happiness I bestowed made me solely responsible for my brother’s birth would have gone to my head but it didn’t. My parents, after struggling to have a child, were honestly so happy to finally have me, that they had stopped trying to get pregnant and voila…baby brother.

Here’s the thing: he’s their biological child, but I’m not.

While my parents adopted me before I was born, I was never addressed as Dennis and Sandra’s adopted daughter Coreen. That label never entered our vocabulary and not because they tried to hide anything from me. Quite the contrary: as far back as I can remember I’ve always known I was adopted.

Physically, it was clear: I looked different from the rest of my family.

And I’d see family resemblances in others all the time. It’s hard not to, when people love to classify things like looks, throwing out “Oh! she has your smile or he really has his daddy’s eyes!” when meeting new children. This meant to me, especially as a child, that a family resemblance was something purely physical.

When my son was born in 2007, I finally had my own family resemblance. Mattias is the perfect blend of me and my husband. Upon first glance, he is his father’s mini-me but look closer and you’ll see that the shape of his eyes, his fair complexion, his body type, his long fingers, are so very much from his mama.

That’s when the fact that I’m adopted hit home: seeing my physical self in the embodiment of my child kicked my where did I come from curiosity into hyper-drive.

So I began to search. Being born in the era of closed adoptions means California law permits me to know very little about my birth mother. And when I say very little, I mean I’m allowed to know she enjoyed “spectator sports and macramé” (it was the 70s). Knowing her hobbies wasn’t much to go on, and I’m no Veronica Mars, but a good challenge never fazed me.

And this would-be detective had a partner, someone who was there every step of the way, from the beginning. My mom and I had a long talk about my desire to find my birth mother, and bless her heart, she had saved every scrap of paper and committed to memory every detail of the phone conversation she had with my birth mother before the adoption was finalized. She knew, in that blessed heart, the day would come when her daughter said the words all adoptive parents wait to hear: “I want to find my birth mother.”

So in addition to knowing my birth mother liked macramé, I also knew what high school she had attended and probably the most important piece…her maiden name.

Armed with this knowledge, I was relentless in my quest. I road-tripped to the public library near her high school and found pictures of her in old yearbooks; I exhausted the people search on ancestor.com. I scoured numerous State birth and death indexes and eventually met a really nice lady who helps pre-1980s adoptees like me, and together we tracked down her married name.

And one day, in May of 2008, Google came through. I knew where she worked and oh my God I had an e-mail address. My husband doesn’t call me Information Super-highway for nothing.

I didn’t contact her immediately. Instead, I freaked out. I began to question why I wanted to find her and wondered if she would even want to meet me.

I knew in my heart and from my own experience that being pregnant, carrying your child, giving birth, is something you do not forget. And I imagined that coupled with making the decision to place a baby up for adoption, and writing the words my birth mother put to paper in the letter my mom saved for me would make it even more impossible to forget. But I couldn’t bring myself to reach out, even though I wanted to say to her, “Thank you for giving me the wonderful life I have.”

It took me over three months to work up the courage before I finally sent her an e-mail. An e-mail that probably made me sound like a lunatic:

“I’m sorry to do this through e-mail, but I don’t have any other way to reach you except show up at your work and that seemed like an even bigger invasion. I’ve thought about this for a long time but have never been able to come up with a non-shocking way to say this, so here it is: I think you are my birth mother.”

She responded the very next day. And I met her for the first time that weekend. Because, as it turned out, we live 33 miles apart.

The moment we first saw each other was overwhelming yet familiar all at the same time. And Just. Like. That. I had another family resemblance… in the color of my eyes, my fair complexion, my body type, my long fingers.

But it was more than just a physical resemblance. I learned we share a dislike for tomatoes, but like peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. We embrace a love of the written word and our chosen professions reflect that. She was faculty adviser for her school newspaper; I wrote for both my high school and college papers. And we both have a penchant for the mystery/suspense/thriller genre in books (probably why my detective work panned out so well).

I also learned that not only did she want to meet me; she really wanted to get to know me.

There were more reunions to be had: my birth father, grandmother, two brothers, three sisters, three nieces, aunt, uncle and cousins.

Meeting my birth family has given me a better sense of who I am because I now know that a family resemblance is more than just physical, more than having your mother’s smile or your daddy’s eyes.

It’s a blend of nurture and nature, shared experiences, people who touch your life. It’s about having a sense of belonging, being comfortable in your own skin and recognizing the unique traits that make you special, something I hope I am teaching to my own children.

2014 marks five years since we’ve been reunited and my heart is filled with gratitude for my birth mother and her selfless choice to give me up for adoption, giving me this wonderful life.

For my husband, without him I would not be mother to our two beautiful children, who I see myself in every day.

And gratitude for my dad and mom, for picking me to be their daughter, always believing in me and supporting me in my search to learn more about what makes me, me.

Family is what you make it, whether you are born into it or not.

gingerbreadmama

Homebound

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. ~Frederick Buechner

I love that my son is so honest and that he talks to me. I don’t always love what he tells me. Like about the two boys who got in trouble at school for “using their middle fingers” at lunch. He also stated that Boy A didn’t know what it meant but he was sure Boy B did.

I almost asked him if he knew what it meant but didn’t because his younger sister was there. I really need to follow up on that.

A few weeks ago we were invited to a party for his friend. His friend that his sister adores. We had a conflict which resulted in me taking him to the party and my husband taking our daughter to the LA Kings hockey game. Little Miss was a wreck. She wanted to go to the party. I told her it was for boys and in between her sobs she said “but you’re a girl”. She wasn’t buying the it’s a mom/boy party. I tried bribing her with the pink Barbie storage case on wheels she wants for her birthday. She said she’d wait until her birthday to get it. In the end, she wailed as Fussypants and I left for the party. Husband gave me stink eye. Of course, she was fine after we left and had great fun with her dad at the hockey game. She also reminded me that I owed her the pink Barbie storage case on wheels.

As we drove away, Fussypants said from the back seat, “I hope she grows up soon and stops crying when she can’t be with you all the time”. Then added, “Because I know it’s hard on you”. I love my boy. My intuitive, sensitive boy.

A little while later he asked me an odd question. “Mommy, why, in the movies, do some people go away to college and move out of their house?”

I answered with “Well, going to college is a big adventure and a privilege and some people choose schools that are farther away so they find new places to live, either on campus or with friends”. He made a sad face so I continued with “part of my job as a mom is to help you be able to be on your own and self-sufficient. Going to college is a new experience and you can meet new people and learn new things”.

Again with the sad face. So I caved and told him that if he wants to go to a school near us and live at home that’s fine. He brightened into a huge smile.

Later that evening I had to break the news to my husband that I may have inadvertently given our son permission to live at home until he’s 40.

MZK_2013

gingerbreadmama

The age of…

The kids had a dentist appointment last week and if making your sister cry a gazillion times in the short drive over was an Olympic sport, my son would win gold. He was unusually hard on her. We’ve entered the age of everything she does bugs him and he never takes the high road. He can’t let anything go. And she can ruin his day merely by repeating the same thing several times (admittedly, I lack patience with this as well). On this particular day, Little Miss, who, for some reason thought she was getting a shot, was more vulnerable than normal so Fussypants decided to mime and mimic her every action, delivering his final blow by drawing a picture of what he thought she looked like.
FPK_by_MZKSeeing this “ugly” picture of herself sent her 3 year old (and already dramatically honed) emotions over the edge. Of course, I was driving so couldn’t do much about it. Ok, I did laugh when he flung the picture up to the front seat but I did it subtly. I had one child manically laughing and one manically crying when we arrived. My head was pounding.

Do I even have to justify why I sent my young children back with the hygienist alone,  to get their teeth cleaned without me? No? I didn’t think so. The serene minutes I had to myself in that pleasant lobby were bliss.

Thankfully Despicable Me 2 was on the TV, which got the kids to sit still and because they were in separate chairs they couldn’t see/touch/talk to each other so it was quiet, gloriously quiet.

When both kids had clean chompers and were locked and loaded in the car with balloons and a toy (my childhood dentist was nice but not the play date kind of nice my kid’s dentist is) we headed home.

Fussypants was quiet on the way home, but I figured he had tapped out his pick on my sister reservoir. Then I noticed him looking at me in the mirror. When my eyes caught his, he said, “Mommy? Can I tell you something?”

He’s my curious child, and the most honest one. He often tells me everything so I wasn’t worried. But it wasn’t what I thought. Apparently my son, my popular at school, all the kids want to play with him son, had his first experience with teasing and being ganged up on during recess. It wasn’t anything terrible and he wasn’t bullied but for him, it wasn’t fun. Four boys, three of which he counts as “best friends”, teased and laughed at him for falling asleep on cute Grace’s shoulder on the bus on the way back from a field trip in Kindergarten. Yes, he was teased about something that happened in October of 2012.

I asked him how he felt, if it upset him, what he said to them. I told him they were just envious because they all have a crush on Grace. He was matter of fact about it and said it didn’t really bother him. He thought it was silly since it happened so long ago. The boy who started it has an older brother, so I’m not surprised. I’ve seen the difference between first grade and third and there is plenty of teasing, I’m better than you, and one-upmanship. What bothered him the most is that the other boys joined in, two of which weren’t even in his Kindergarten class when it happened. I got the feeling he felt betrayed, and had his feelings hurt by that betrayal but he didn’t have the words to really express that’s what he was feeling.

And I found it difficult to know the right words needed to soothe my child because this was such a minor thing. If it were something worse, I would have sprang into action but a couple of kids laughing about a nothing that happened over a year ago? Do you tell them to ignore it? Defend themselves? Tease the boys back? Let him know his friends that went along with it maybe didn’t know better? Or worse, they did and aren’t really good friends? I don’t know what is right in that situation. So I asked him what he did.

He opted to mostly ignore it, telling them that they were silly, it was Kindergarten. He said a teacher overheard the boys laughing and upon learning what they were laughing about, told them the same thing. It was a long time ago, so who cares. I don’t know if that is the right thing to say either but I’m proud of my son for standing up to them in the sense that he didn’t resort to their level and tease them back. He didn’t get angry, he didn’t cry. But I’m sad for him as he loses a little more of the true innocence of being a child. It won’t get easier, as kids get older and their individual personalities develop, so does the peer pressures and cliques, their reactions, interests and the importance of others opinions. I’m also sad for him that the boys he bonds with the most weren’t there for him. In a big picture way, I know they didn’t mean it, but I’ve seen my son around similar situations (but not the one being teased) and he’s never turned on a friend. Now he might, if he thinks it’ll take the spotlight off him.

It makes more sense to me now, the relentless picking he did on his sister on the way to the dentist. Part of it is being the big brother, but part of it was something he could control. He could tease instead of being teased. And maybe I need to be better at looking past some of the noise , to see if there is something else going on.

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

 

 

gingerbreadmama

Pour Your Heart Out: Beyond Salvage

pouryourheart1-e1328022968330This is a difficult subject to write about not only for the subject matter (infidelity in a marriage with children that is now heading for divorce) but also because it’s not really my story to tell, so I have to tell it without too many details. Know that it is not about me, but about people I’m close to and because of this affair, my relationship with all involved with be forever changed.

Someone I love made some very bad choices and did something really stupid and hurt a lot of other people I love. This person knew better. In fact, this person had this done to them a long long time ago so knew deep down what an unforgivable hurt it would cause.

And yet.

They did it anyway. Instead of talking to the multiple someones, myself included,  they should have talked to when things in the marriage were rocky, they instead plunged into an illicit relationship with an outsider.

So maybe that’s what I’m really angry about. I felt blindsided. Why didn’t this person come to me and let me know what was happening before causing irrevocable damage?

When the guilty party called to tell me what was going on, their relationship was already beyond salvage. And I was shocked, then numb, extremely pissed off, sad and pissed off again. Because of my relationship with this person, I have chosen to support them through this mess. I don’t really have a choice, there are just certain things you do for family. But part of me wants to throttle this person. Yell at them. Maybe even throw something. I want to reach out to the other person involved and say I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know, I’m as shocked, pissed and sad as you are. I want to scoop the child in my arms and shelter them from all of it. Kiss it and make it all better. But this other person wants nothing to do with me or my family because of this. I didn’t even know it was going on, but this mistake by another has reverberated far and wide. And that pisses me off too.

I can’t make it better. This didn’t happen directly to me. I’m part of the inner circle but I wasn’t there. I didn’t know until it was too late. And I cannot fix it.

What I can do is listen, be there, offer support and hope that one day my relationship with everyone involved, while forever changed, will somehow mend to the point that we can begin again.

 

 

gingerbreadmama

It’s A Blonde Thing?

My husband had to work yesterday so my dad picked Fussypants up from school and took him to baseball practice (it takes a village, remember) and I ended up arriving at home with Little Miss before they did. In her typical I’m 3 and most days think clothing should be optional unless it’s an accessory fashion sense way, she began to undress as she walked through the door. One shoe there, another…way…over….there…socks, skirt…all discarded haphazardly in her wake.

I saw the socks first. We have a Golden Retriever who thinks all socks should be his. Thus tiny, casually discarded footwear always hits my radar. So I asked her to pick them up. It went something like this…

Me: Honey, dirty socks don’t belong on the dining room floor. Put them in the laundry please.
Little Miss: I can’t find the other one.
Me: You’d better. I don’t want Crusher to eat it.

Thinking she obliged, I went about my business of preparing dinner. Then I noticed she was still hunting around the dining room.

Me: Did you find it?
Little Miss: Nope.

As my dad and son walked in the house, I realized that she hadn’t found it…because she was still wearing it.

FPK_onesock

I don’t know what’s worse. Me not noticing, or her!

 

 

 

gingerbreadmama

Writer’s Workshop: “Nit”-picking

2.) Share one of your “did that really just happen to me” life moments.

I can now say that I have been professionally deloused. Check that off the bucket list.

Parenting is fun, isn’t it? I spent two days, including a Saturday night, washing everything in the house and boiling hairbrushes after my three year old daughter was sent home from school with “nits”.

You are getting itchy just reading this, aren’t you?

Apparently she was the second child to be sent home from school that week. Sadly, lice happens. It’s beyond gross, but you have to deal with it. Or it will just get worse.

So, after treating her with an over the counter remedy at home, I made an appointment at a Lice Salon (so glamorous, my life) on the recommendation of a friend, and I am very happy I did. Because the “combing out” aspect of the process is very important and very tedious, and when you have a child who screams as though a limb is being torn off just upon seeing a hairbrush, having someone else do it is a GODSEND.

A little over 2 hours later, we were all deloused, smelled like the inside of a cedar closet and were equipped with follow-up instructions. I now know more about the lice lifecycle than I care to admit and will be arming myself with a lint roller the next time I get on an airplane or go to the movies.

But the best part of the process? I got to go through it not only with my terrified of the combing process three year old, but also with my mother-in-law, while I was nursing a small hangover. A bonding “did that really just happen to me” moment, to be sure.

Mama Kat

gingerbreadmama

Wanted

“Oh but you were made, by a God who knows your name , He doesn’t make mistakes. For you, you are wanted, you, you are wanted” – Dara MacClean

Little Miss, out of the blue, started asking questions about her birth last night. It went something like this…

LM: Did you buy me from the store?

Me: No, I made you. I grew you inside me and kept you safe until you were born.

LM: God made me.

Me: Yes, He helped. But you were inside me, growing big and strong, until you were ready to come out.

LM: I didn’t like being in there (putting her hand on my tummy).

Me: That’s true. You wanted out early on, that’s why I was on bed rest for eight weeks and then you arrived two weeks early.

LM: Yeah, I remember.

At this point, Fussypants jumped into the conversation to tell his sister (erroneously) that I pooped her out my bum and that’s how she was born. Thankfully, she laughed and isn’t traumatized for life.

fpk_07_13

gingerbreadmama