“Lost and Found” by Anna P.

When my boys managed to survive to school age we moved to Shelburbia. Shelburne is a white (even for Vermont), semi-rural, absolutely picturesque town of 7,000.

VermontWe have apples and crisp fall leaves, snowmen, and Ohlmstead designed farmlands, mountains, lakes, ponds, and rivers. Idyllic.

The thing about idyllic? Its not real. We still need to live each day and each detail. And those details are disorienting.

Farmshare pick up, soccer practice, minivan oil changes, dentist appointments, drop in crafts activities. All tracked on my iphone.

I was an only child to two workaholic parents. Other than music lessons all extra curricular activities were for my parents. I was dragged to museums or left to spread out blue towel on the upstairs landing to pretend it was a pool for my one Barbie doll.

Despite its lack of diversity, we picked our town for its school, which has a 10 rating on Great schools, and is charmingly pre K-8. I knew the school was for me (I mean my kids) when I saw the lost and found. Every item was hung neatly and arranged in chromatic order. It was everything I pretended I wanted and knew I could not create at home. So I would outsource order.

It’s hard to be counter culture in Shelburbia. I mean, I could wear brands OTHER than lululemon. I could bring soda to the soccer game. NEVER. I would never. I could choose not to compost. Such acts of rebellion.

We moved here so the kids could be independent. Walk to school, pop by neighborhood houses, build forts in the woods. It happened. The neighbors are all decorating for Halloween, tastefully of course with straw men, pumpkin piles, and handmade bats drifting in the trees. Other people will drive into our neighborhood to trick or treat. We will have full sized candy bars, instant celebrity for our kids.

This ideal childhood is really just the side effect of my laziness, the real incentive to relocate was to make it easier to parent. This suburb allows me to wave good bye to my kids in my pajamas as they run to the bus at the foot of our driveway. I have not had to arrange a playdate in months. The troops arrive and depart on an hourly basis. My only job is to make sure I have pants on. I manage that a lot of the time.

Our right now house, new version farm house with wide plank pine floors, a wood burning fire place in the Viking equipped kitchen in a tidy neighborhood bordering 130 acres of woods and the river is the house of most mom’s dreams. Its general appeal is its problem. The house is a microcosm of everything I have given up to become Mama.

I prefer quirky. Vintage. Character driven. I used to watch independent movies. Now I watch teen witch TV shows. I used to write short stories. Now I write blog posts about parenting. I used to complete the Sunday crossword puzzle, now I crush candy while pretending to care about Minecraft.

When I view it from the monthly calendar setting I love our life. Our family meetings, weekends away, Thursday night dates. Day view is a lot harder, laundry, meetings and battles about leaving the house, disgusting dinners, and all other inequities of daily life.

The trick I’ve found is to focus on even smaller units, laugh at each fart songs, sort through rock collections, notice the bright spots.

Just like Shelburbia. The 10,000 foot view is all gorgeous landscape, a little closer you see the keeping up with the Jones’, and if you focus in tightly it is us. A moment of laughter with friends. A fire in the backyard. Exclaiming that this is the best art class ever!

That is my trick. A smaller life with a smaller focus. And Shelburbia is the perfect setting. Our story is still character driven, just by our characters. I might have lost the independent version of myself, but I have found our family life. It is the right sized for right now.

Note: Anna writes the blog, Shelburbia.  You can read her latest post HERE!

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The Long and Winding Road to Kindergarten by Jennifer S.

While other moms cried rivers about their babies growing up and starting kindergarten, all I could do is think about poor me.

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The pressure is on. We haven’t had a routine in five years. It’s been sleep when you want, get up when you want, and do whatever the hell you want. I’m not good with schedules. I’ve been fired three times from corporate America and my high school record shows that over four years I was late 77 times and absent 53. I’m getting panic attacks. I can’t sleep or eat. I can’t think straight. We don’t qualify for bus service since we live 3/4 mile from school. I have to go back and forth to the school 180 days—twice each day—or 360 times, not including all the times we have to go back for forgotten snow pants or whatever.

The night before, I do four practice runs to the school: one on foot, one on bike, one on scooter, and one by car. We choose the scooter and go to bed three hours earlier than usual.

I toss and turn all night obsessively checking the weather. At 4 a.m., I get her snack ready, put a love note in her bag, and pace the house waiting for the sun to come up. Pancake breakfast, new dress, new socks, new shoes, new headband, new everything. We are doing this! We head out to grab her scooter from the garage and off we go. One block into her scooting and me speed walking, my husband drives past us and asks if we want to catch a ride with him on his way to work. This is not part of the plan but I take the offer and hitch the ride anyway. I throw the scooter in the trunk and as we blow past our neighbors video-taping their kids walking to school and the crossing guard greeting everybody for the new school year, I duck my head down in shame and tell my daughter not to look at anybody or wave.

We get dropped off at the front doors and squeeze into the building with the swarms of parents and kids. I suddenly feel sick. The smell of the school, the frenzy, it’s all coming back to me. We elbow our way to her cubby, drop off her gear, and sign in. Red marker for A group, red back-and-forth folder into the file, sign-up sheet for PTO, sign-off sheet for pick-up, extra set of clothes on the top shelve of hallway cubby, sensible snack in the snack cubby next to the rest of the brown rice cakes, raisins, and camel-back water bottles. Hugs, air kiss, and goodbye.

I walk home in a September heat wave with a scooter over my shoulder and helmet in my hand, exhausted and sweating, and have just enough time to do two loads of laundry and then turn around and pick her up. Lunch, piano, playdate, dinner, bath, books, brush teeth, bed. This continues on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I think I might make it through the first week, but on Thursday night we cheat and have takeout.

That night, instead of giving her a bath, I wash her down with baby wipes. Instead of making her brush her teeth, I give her a mint.

By Friday I have forgotten her sneakers for PE twice. I forgot to return her library books. We blew off the parent potluck dinner (takeout night) and RSVP’d no to her first birthday invite even though we are around that weekend. The scooter that we usually parked neatly against the stone wall got tossed haphazardly against the side entrance, and when I left out the front entrance I forgot to take it home with me. When I realized, I thought, f**k it, there is not way I am going back.

The sensible snack turned into chocolate pudding, Nilla cookies, and Fanta in a water bottle hopefully passing as OJ. I’m drinking Grande Frappuccinos like they are going out of style. I can’t keep up. The school emails, Shutterfly photos, potluck picnics, flu vaccine release, PTO meetings, parent open house night, paper towel duty, it’s all piling up. On Friday when I drop her off, she asks me to stay and help her draw the solar system. I am fried, but one of the moms is watching me clumsily draw lines around the sun.

“Mom, how many planets are in the solar system?”

Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 3.52.38 PM“I don’t know. 12? 8? 10? Didn’t they just get rid of one? You can Google it when you get home. Can’t you just draw a rainbow or a slice of pizza like the other kids?”

The mom gives me a sharp look and says, “Does she really Google at home? Can you imagine if your kindergartner had an iPad? That would be outrageous!”

My kindergartener has an iPod, iPhone, a PC, and a laptop.

I have mommy guilt.

And I don’t even know why.

I feel claustrophobic. I hate institutions. School is an institution. I spent my entire life clawing my way out and now I am back again. Handcuffed for the next 13 years only this time, with a 5-year-old and a scooter. I begin to sweat. I just want to get home. I can’t remember this mom’s name to say excuse me so I can get around her and leave. I can’t remember the teacher’s names, the kid’s names, and my daughter’s new friend-who-has-two-moms moms’ names (because they look the same).

Back home, I sit on my couch for the duration of a kindergarten day and stare at the wall. I walk back for pickup, get halfway there, and realize I am barefoot. I decide then that we are not having dinner tonight. It’s Friday; the kid can have ice cream and the adults can have wine. The week is over; we semi-survived. And we’re snuggling.

“Mom? I’m the only one at school who gets juice.”

“Really? The only one? What is everybody drinking?”

“Water.”

“Okay, well do you want me to give you water?”

“Yes, because it is making my new best friend jealous. So I told her how to get her mom to give her juice. Say, ‘Mom? I am going to cut my head off if you don’t give me juice.’”

I jump out of bed. “You said what?! You can get expelled for that! That is like a crime! You can get arrested!”

“Arrested?”

“Jesus Christ, did you say that to anybody else?”

“What’s the big deal?  You told me you got your head chopped off in a horror movie and you’re still alive.”

“Oh my God, did you tell people I make horror movies?”

“Well… don’t you?”

“Yes and no. No, I was in a few. It wasn’t real. Forget I ever told you that. Listen, you can never talk about chopping heads off at school, okay?”

I haven’t made any mom friends yet, and I can already tell I am losing them. I don’t want to go to school on Monday; this girl’s mom is going to tell on me. I’m not cut out for this. I should be living on a farm selling medical marijuana in Colorado or something.

“Mom? Is it okay with you if I pledge allegiance to the flag at school?”

“Mmm. Sure.”

“Do they have online kindergarten?”

I sit up, picturing mornings of sleeping in, back to our carefree ways.

But I realize I have a job to do. And I also realize I hate this job and am probably going to suck at this job. But unlike my other jobs, I can’t get fired and I can’t quit. You can’t quit your kid. I have no choice but to take the journey.

Frappuccino up, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride, my little friend.

Note: Jennifer writes the blog, MomComs.  You can read her latest post HERE!

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Redefining my Identity by Thien-Kim

When one door closes, another door opens. 

One Door Opens copyHow many times have you heard that saying? Usually it sounds cliche and trite. It’s what people tell their friends after they’ve lost a job or someone been dumped by the love of their life. Right now, especially right after my weekend at Blogalicious conference,  the door metaphor fits.

It seems appropriate that I’m writing this post on my 35th birthday.  Birthdays are milestones by which many of us gauge how successful we are in life. I celebrate my birthdays more for my family than for me. It’s just a number. I try to gauge my successes by how happy I am about my current path.

Last week, I let go of a major part of my life: Passion Parties. While I didn’t talk about the business very often on this blog, I lived and breathed my business for 12 years. The past 7 years, I dutifully did 8-10 parties a month so that I could bring in my share of our household income and still stay home to take care of my children. I loved my job, my business.

In my heart, I had already let go of my Passion Parties career many months ago. My mind, my inner self desperately clung to my title:

Passion Parties Independent Consultant.

AKA The Sex Toy Lady.

AKA The Innocently Looking Girl Who Wasn’t. (I’m not sure why people think I look so innocent. I’m nowhere near innocence.)

Over the past year, I’ve slowly let my business slip away from me as this blog grew. Another foothold loosened as my virtual book club bloomed under my care. I basically let my business wither from lack of attention and desire. Yet I couldn’t bear to just quit. I let it quit me. And it did. On September 30, 2013, I let my business go.

I didn’t shed any tears. I wasn’t filled with regret. I felt lighter than I had in a year. I felt happy. Relieved even. Still, I wasn’t sure why I held on for so long when my  heart knew this part of my life was finished.

After hanging out with some fabulous women this weekend at Blogalicious, we started to talk about identity. My fellow Book Smarts panelist and author Tracy Beckerman talked about how when mothers quit their jobs to stay home with their children, they suddenly feel lost because their identity was tied to their job.

Just like that it hit me. BAM! The realization hit me hard:

liked telling other people that I sold sex toys for a living.

I liked telling others that I helped women discover their sexual selves. It shocked people. I enjoyed the attention it gave me. It’s also a helluva conversation starter.

Thien-Kim Selfie copySo, over the weekend, I mentally closed the door to my past 12 years as a sex/relationship educator and sex toy peddler. I love everything  I gained and learned from being a business owner. I learned how to motivate myself, which is always a struggle when one is one’s own boss. I learned how to overcome my introverted self so that I could talk to strangers (about sex toys!). I learned that I was capable of much, much more than I ever thought. I learned that I was strong.

I’ve been slowly redefining who I am and what I do. My identity is ever evolving. I know now that I’m not meant to do one thing for the rest of my life. None of us are. Our lives have different chapters. Some are short. Some seem never ending. Sometimes they overlap.

Thanks to those 12 years, I learned how to dream big. To trust myself and my instincts so I can take the giant leap into a new door.

I took a big for me leap last month and entered my first ever fiction writing contest. Guess what? I won.

Note: Thien-Kim writes the blog, I’m Not the Nanny. You can read her latest post HERE!

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The First Step by Estelle E.

As a midlife mom I was in a unique position.

1402625_19862838Most of my peers had kids that were much older, and my other friend who had just had a baby lived a city away-which might as well have been another country as mobile as I felt in those days of early motherhood.

I felt desperate for companionship. Luckily, I had some editing work from a publishing house to keep me intellectually stimulated while my baby napped, but I needed other mom friends. Ones who lived nearby.

One day I was taking my by now three month old daughter out to a postnatal yoga class (that is so not me, but I had to get out of the house), and a man got into the elevator with us. “How old is she,”? he asked me. “Three months old,” I replied. “My little girl is four months old,” he said.

Suddenly, I felt a rush of energy rousing me from my yoga-induced stupor.

“Do you live here? I need to meet your wife? My name is Estelle, what’s her name,” I questioned him in a frenzy of excitement.

He laughed. “My wife, Lauren will want to meet you, too,” he said. “Her parents live in this building, and we live a block away.” He held the elevator as I got out on my floor, and quickly wrote his wife’s name and phone number on a scrap of paper I found in my overflowing diaper bag.

“I’m totally going to call her,” I told him.

I waited two weeks and then I picked up the phone.

Lauren had been waiting for my call; We got together the next day and I met her beautiful daughter Nadia. Most importantly, I now had a local mommy friend as anxious for my company as I was for hers. A few months later I joined the national nonprofit organization, Mothers & More.

My daughter is four and a half years old today, and she still calls Nadia her best friend. Even though Nadia and her family now lives in Egypt and we only see them when they come home to visit their grandparents each summer.

And I still remember with gratitude how reaching out for a new unknown friendship gave me the support I needed to take the first step toward finding a like-minded community of mothers.

Note: Estelle is the President of the organization, Mothers & More and writes the blog Musings on Motherhood and Midlife.  You can read her latest post HERE!

 

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“Fear Factor is Having a Newborn with Teenagers” by Kim G.

Kim G photoSix long years. SIX YEARS I waited for him to join our family due to a struggle with secondary infertility.

When he finally did make his arrival, he joined two teenage sisters who were sixteen and fourteen.

My daughter was our oldest, my step-daughter became our middle, and the baby we finally managed to make together will definitely remain that; the baby. Some of our scariest moments, biggest challenges and greatest rewards Lost [and sleepless] in Suburbia, definitely involved having teenagers and an infant in the house at the same time.

Not that I was sorry, I certainly wasn’t. He was all that I’d hoped for, and so very much more. I was delighted to have the privilege to experience a boy after having almost raised two daughters. There were moments I wondered, however, about the Universe’s planning—and obvious sense of humor—because of course, as anyone with teenagers knows, you’re not remotely finished and raising them right isn’t remotely easy, especially with a blended family.

We had an inkling of how challenging it might prove to be almost immediately. Let this be fair warning to those of you considering parenthood again with teenagers already in your house.

Teenagers will drive themselves to the hospital to meet their baby brother after having only had their license for two full months when, naturally, there will be an early April snowstorm: Great. I’d had a cesarean that included a perforated bladder and such a drug hangover that I couldn’t even hold my son up to nurse. (He remains not the most enthusiastic self-starter.) My husband had to help me with the breast pump to get the flow started, and then position him on a pillow and hover so I wouldn’t pass out and drop him. The teenager made it to the hospital and back home in one piece, and if there were any calamities along the way, they’re lost in baby fog.

Teenage friends come and go at all hours, with loud voices, squeaking storm and slamming doors, right downstairs from the baby’s room: It didn’t matter that it was after 9pm, that the drugs hadn’t fully worn off yet, that a catheter and bag conspicuously filled my sweatpants, or that my nipples were so raw, even the soft cotton fabric of the nightgown I’d been sporting for at least thirty-two hours felt like a cat’s tongue on a fresh burn. My daughter busted in the front door with friends following shortly behind. I woke with a start, and checked to make sure I hadn’t dropped my son.

“Mom! Put your boob away! My friends are coming over to see the baby!”

Yep. That happened. Proud moment.

On the rare occasion my husband and I both had the energy to enjoy an evening out: The good news is, we had two generally willing big sister babysitters somewhat at our disposal, and plenty of good tools for extortion at the ready if more pressure were necessary, though it usually wasn’t. My girls adore their baby brother, and he’s never lacked for female admiration from their friends either. Hopefully that will serve him well when he starts dating. I can tell you there will be no infant in the house! Maybe I’ll be ready for a puppy by then.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 8.45.28 AMAnd speaking of dating, don’t forget, with teenage girls come teenage boyfriends: And they hang around. A LOT. You can typically hear their music booming in cacophonous harmony with their insufficient muffler when they start their car in the next neighborhood half a mile across field and wood. I didn’t have to worry too much about feeding them because we pretty much only had PB&J, mac & cheese and otherwise gluten-free food in the house (I’ll save the post-vasectomy testicle beans story for another time). But I did always wish I had the energy to foray into the basement to see what was going on down there. Sleep deprivation is a bitch, and I’m sure the teenagers counted on it. As it turns out, however….

Newborn baby brothers are excellent birth control: My girls are twenty-six and twenty-four, both married (the oldest to that same owner of the legendary sound system who we basically watched grow up), with nary a grandchild in sight.

Thank goodness, because I’m WAY too young for that! Though I’ll gratefully embrace the role whenever they live close enough for Grandma to babysit, and they feel the time is right. Hopefully it’s before their baby brother becomes a teenager. I know one thing for sure; whenever it’s meant to be, he will make a great little uncle. Paybacks could be a bugger if he is a teenager, however, and I bribe him to blast his sound-system as he pulls into their neighborhoods.

What do you think? Should I call ahead and warn them to put their boobs away?

Note: Kim writes the blog West Coast Posse. You can read her latest post HERE!

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“Lost: My Mind. Reward if Found” by Jennifer M.

To hear me tell it, my son is a math genius and my daughter is an artistic prodigy.

coffee cupHow did my elementary school-age children get so amazingly brilliant? By draining me of every useful brain cell.
Really, I’m pretty sure I have two brain cells left to rub together, and they’re only serviceable for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cleaning mystery drips off the floor before my dog licks them.

In my Life B.C. (a.k.a. life before children) I’d like to think I could put together the occasional rational thought. I had topics of conversation delved from time to think and reflect – opinions on politics, dissections of popular movies I’d seen, first-hand perspectives on new trendy restaurants.

Now, just making a pot of coffee in the morning is a feat of mental gymnastics. I mean, how can I be expected to remember the order of filter, coffee grounds, water, “on” button when I’m also combing beautifully-curly-but-forever-knotted-hair, quibbling over available breakfast choices and begging my children to put their shoes on (and on the correct feet!) for school? I need a cup of coffee to manage this information and yet I can’t seem to make that magical brown sustenance appear. Drip, damn you, drip!

My only hope is to teach my brilliant offspring how to make coffee and hope they’ll take mercy on their poor, batty mother.
I thought once both my children were in public school (take that preschool tuition!) five days a week, I would have many glorious hours to sit down at my laptop and really get to work. Write the great American novel! Write personal essays that stir the soul! Delve into meaty journalistic assignments that would put to shame the soft features I wrote while my kids were younger!

And yet when faced with a blank screen and a blinking cursor… nothing. The dirty dishes call out from the sink. The stack of school forms that still need to be completed teeter next to my computer. The emails from busy PTA moms looking for more volunteers blare in my inbox.

My “Words with Friends” games aren’t going to play themselves!

How am I supposed to tune out this static? No really. I’m asking for a friend.

Life P.C. (a.k.a. life post-children) is one where I wonder what I did with all that time Life B.C. Why did I not write the great American novel when I had the time to stay up late and sleep in? When weekends weren’t laden with soccer games and children’s birthday parties? How and why did I waste my precious relative youth?

These questions are too much for me to process. I might need another cup of coffee.

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From One Mother to Another – Am I Normal?!? by Jodi C.

Motherhood has a way of making you feel not “Normal”.

jodi_ciampa__am_i_normal copyEven if you don’t develop signs of pre or post partum depression, you may still have negative thoughts during and after pregnancy, and this is totally normal. During my first pregnancy, I remember feeling if I woke and my belly was gone, it wouldn’t bother me or if someone told me my delivery was a dream, I wouldn’t care. It was such a surreal time in my life. With my second child, even after it was confirmed by my obstetrician; I took six pregnancy tests because I just didn’t believe it was true. Well, if you’ve ever felt this way, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!!!

It is normal to not feel an immediate bond with your child. It is normal when the novelty of having a newborn wears off and you are so sleep deprived that you feel as if you don’t want it anymore. It is normal to feel neglected and cry because you feel out of control for no reason what so ever. It is normal to not like your kids or not want to play with them because there are a million other things that need to be done. It is normal to get angry and blow up once in a while. Believe it or not, sometimes they deserve it. It is normal to feel lonely because you have “no one” to talk to. It is normal to clean your house in pieces. It is normal to have no time to take a shower or let alone brush your teeth. It is normal to feel disoriented and forget what you are doing even before you do it. It is normal to not want to have sex with your husband; although, he won’t think so. And it is normal to feel resentment towards him because it seems as if the weight of the world is on you.

Don’t beat yourself up over it. My friend’s mother told me, “You make all your mistakes with your first.” and a father of six said, “You are the best parent with your last.” Accept it, learn from it and move on. Nothing can be perfect all the time and believe me when I tell you IT DOES GET EASIER. When you get acclimated to having a baby and your children begin to become little people, life will find a “new” NORMAL.

In the meantime, help yourself feel normal again. Don’t be a martyr. Ask for assistance. Whether it’s from your husband, mother, father, sister, brother or friend – it doesn’t make you incapable; it makes you human. With my son, I wanted to do it all and definitely thought I could but because of that attitude, I ended up having to. Then I became bitter and angry because I did nothing for myself, which caused me and my husband to argue about that on top of the “new parenting” disagreements as well.

I made my husband the enemy because I felt his life hadn’t changed a bit. Once our daughter was born, I realized I couldn’t do it all and trying wasn’t fair to me, my husband or my children so I began asking for help. I now leave the children at home, if possible, and put myself first once in a while. (A small while, but it does make a difference.) I still feel as if the scale is tipped a bit (and probably always will), but I know I can get help when I really need it.

Another way to feel normal is to find someone you can share your feelings with. Your husband could and should be a sounding board, but he cannot be completely sympathetic because he cannot relate. If you are a working mom, whether it is part time or full, talk with women who have children. If you are a stay at home mom, join a support group, gym, social network or just go to dinner with friends. Get involved and connected with someone or something you enjoy. I joined a group called “After Baby Comes”, “ABC” for short, when my first was 17 months old. The original motive was to get my son exposed to playing with other children but the bonus was I met many women, some from my own town, whose children were around the same age as mine. From there, I learned a lot about myself especially; that I was not alone in the way I was feeling and I finally realized I WAS NORMAL.

So don’t sit back and suffer thinking you are wrong or alone in the way you feel. Reach out. Only YOU can make a difference in your life. My friend used to tell me how much better she liked her family after a little “break.” You’ll be a healthier person and a more effective mother for it. You’d be surprised how many other mothers have similar or the same feelings as you and, they too, are totally NORMAL.

Note:  Jodi is the Founder and CEO of From One Mother to Another Magazine. You can visit her site HERE!

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