Evening Walks

Husband and I recently started walking in our neighborhood. My leg is finally, knock wood, to a point where I can start something to get me active again. My leg is still numb on the top of my thigh, and isn’t quite bending right, so my options are limited. We decided walking would be the best, especially since I could go as slow as I needed. Our second week of doing it I bought a new pair of tennis shoes, as my older ones were not giving the support I need, and all was good.

I am really enjoying the walks. We’ve lived in the neighborhood 8.5 years, but I always see it in the car, driving somewhere. Now I get to see it while strolling through it, and I can see what renovations and landscaping has been done. I get to see the different house styles, and what’s been done (or not) with the one acre lots. I’ve said hello to people on other streets I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I’m making friends with several dogs that run along fences, tongues hanging out, excited to see some humans who will talk to them (they all look quite spoiled, none of them are at all neglected).

Being with Husband is the best part of taking these walks. We hold hands as soon as we walk out the door, and keep holding hands until we are back at the front door. We talk about our day, about the kids, about all sorts of things. Because there are no kids around, no TV or music, or paperwork or computers we are focused on each other. It is wonderful. I look forward to taking these daily walks, and feel sad if we miss a day. Saturdays are hard to get the walks in with everything else going on.

We started walking as a way to get more active, but, at least for me, the walks have become so much more. Come summer we won’t be able to walk around the neighborhood because it will be too hot, and I’ll miss seeing the dogs and saying hi to people. We’ll probably have to drive over to the mall, and do our walk there. Where we walk won’t matter though, as long as we are holding hands and talking, and enjoying being with each other.

Auction Unfairness?

Well, the auction was awful, or the best, depending on what child was asked. I try really hard to treat the girls equally and fairly, but life doesn’t always work that way. Just because I make sure holiday gifts all have the same monetary value, and both Bat Mitzvahs were equally done for each girl doesn’t mean that other things happen that way. So there are many times I am trying to congratulate and be happy for one while trying to console the other.

Before I left work Friday I received an email from Little One that she was the lowest bid.  She was sad, embarrassed and upset.  Husband and I were thinking that was going to happen, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. We tried, but this turned out to be one of those things we had to let go. The auction was done by age, so Little One went first as the youngest, and the only cheerleader not in high school. We all know the first person auctioned goes for the lowest, and it turned out that the other cheerleader’s friends had banded together and groups bought the cheerleaders. Except for Little One, because her friends couldn’t participate.

Because Little One was the lowest bid, of course Oldest One was the highest. Really, she was the highest. 11 of the seniors got together and bought Oldest One. She will have a busy day on Monday catering to 11 people. Little One was also bought by a senior (one who pitched in for Oldest One), our neighbor down the street, and he is a great kid. He will be very nice to her, although he did say she had to complete his assignments for the day (this is allowed for one-day assignments). On the drive home when Oldest One tried to talk to and reassure Little One she was shut down, and Little One wouldn’t talk to her…after all, she had gone for the most money. I was able to let Husband know before they got home, but she didn’t want to talk to him either. I got her to perk up by offering ice cream. Yes, that is my answer when nothing else works, ice cream.

I’ve also dealt with the reverse, when it was Oldest One feeling slighted. Two years ago the girls both tried out for a cheer team, and they both made it. For some reason the scores were released right after the teams were announced, instead of just announcing and not giving scores away, which is to me the best way to do it. Oldest One was very excited when she came up to me, telling me she had the second highest score, but she didn’t know who scored above her. Right on cue Little One came running up screaming she had the highest score. Some days you just can’t win.

Barbie Table Memories

It happened on Mother’s Day when Oldest One was about 5 and Little One was about 2.  The Barbie Table had been problematic for several days.  The Barbie Table came about as a way to keep all the wonderful rooms Barbie lives in (and that Mattel realized was a much better way to go then a simple townhouse that took up a corner) along with furniture and clothes in one place and somewhat organized.  It was still messy, but a contained messy.

Oldest One was in a non-sharing mood, and kept getting mad at Little One for wanting to play at the Barbie Table with her.  So, about a half hour before Mother’s Day dinner with my Mom and Dad, Oldest One lost it and yelled at her sister again, at which point Husband was done.  He went into the playroom with two large garbage bags, swept everything on the Barbie Table into the bags, and told Oldest One she had lost the Barbie stuff until she could share.  That caused a meltdown, and Oldest One went into her room to cry, with my Mom following her.

I had no problem with what Husband did, we had taken toys away for not sharing before, it was just the timing.  Right before dinner on Mother’s Day wasn’t the best timing, but really, with kids, is the timing ever good?  Oldest One calmed down, we had a nice dinner, and a few days later the Barbie Table was back.  My Mom had a completely different take on this.

My Mom called me the next day and gave me a lecture about my supporting Husband over the girls.  She informed me that I should never choose Husband over the girls, and the girls were always going to be in the right.  She proudly told me she never sided with my Dad when it came to my brothers and I, and that she always supported our views instead.  That explained a lot about my parents relationship.  She wasn’t happy when I told her that Husband and I always tried to back the other when it came to the girls, and that we felt working together was the best way, and we weren’t going to side against each other.  Harder to do sometimes as the girls have gotten older, but we still strive for that.

Fast forward to today, when my Mom’s Boyfriend (we’ll call him MB) didn’t like me, or Husband, or the girls, and my Mom never tried to defend me.  Apparently I remind him of his deceased daughter who he didn’t get along with.  Pretty hard to overcome that.  And the things my Mom began to tell me about myself, my life and my family weren’t nice.  What she told my brothers about me was awful.  Never once did I hear her say anything good about me, just the bad.  What happened to siding with the child?  Not that I agreed with that, but it would be nice to think that a guy who has known me less than a year would at least get chastised a little bit for being mean, rude, and just not a good person.

My Mom wants to act like none of this happened, but it did, and it really upset and hurt me.  I know she won’t be here forever, and I know at some point this needs to be resolved.  Oldest One is inviting her to the graduation.  Little One isn’t, but after how my Mom treated Little One’s Bat Mitzvah, and then forgot Little One’s birthday, well, it’s understandable.  But when I think of having a conversation with my Mom about all of this I just get so angry at how she treated me, and how it’s okay for MB to think and say bad things without anything being said to him about how he acts.  I also feel childish thinking and feeling this, but at the same time I just can’t get over it.

This is on my mind at some point every day.  I try not to let it be because I do get so upset, but my Mom and I used to talk every day, and she used to do a lot with us, and was a big part of our lives.  We haven’t seen her since September, we don’t talk anymore, and she has missed everything the girls are doing for over a year.  At my Dad’s funeral an old friend of my parents, whose wife had died many years before, was there with his daughter, who is my age.  My Mom later told me that he had remarried, but was divorced, and during his marriage his 2nd wife hadn’t wanted anything to do with his daughters, so he hadn’t seen them during the marriage, two or three years, and was just building a new realtionship with them and his grandchildren.  She thought that was awful of him, and that he should have stood up to his wife and not abandoned his girls.  Yeah, I think that too.

It’s Easier to be Nice

I was a very shy child, and I had a hard time talking to kids my age and adults.  I was also awkward socially.  Shy and awkward, not a winning combination.  Because of this, or in spite of it, I tend to be one of those friendly people willing to talk to you anywhere I am.  Oldest One has commented on how I can have a conversation with a complete stranger in a line, and how she wouldn’t want to.  One day I’ll remind her of those words after she is done talking to the person in line in front of her at the grocery store.

I think the world is a better place when we smile and say hi to each other.  There are plenty of people I don’t know at work, but anyone I see when I’m walking between buildings gets a smile and a “hi”.  I always get the same back.  I’m not known for my anger, or negativity, or for being a difficult person to work with (thankfully).  I’m known for being friendly and smiling a lot, and for sometimes being too chatty.  I’m working on the chatty thing.

My Mom is known for being incredibly rude and nasty to anyone in a customer service position who gets the misfortune of having to deal with her.  She acts like she is better than someone assisting her, and as if they are the scum of the earth well below her notice.  She even gets a pinched look on her angry face.  I’ve pretty much apologized to any service person helping us when I’ve been along.  I know you can’t be responsible for someone else’s behavior, but it can sure be apologized for.  My Mom hates tipping, and doesn’t tip enough.  She also berates people, and complains about everything.

Little One tells the story of my Mom taking her and Oldest One out to breakfast one morning, where Little One ordered pancakes.  When the plate came the pancakes were huge, and Little One couldn’t finish all of them.  My Mom proceeded to yell at the waitress for not specifying how big the pancakes were and allowing a child to order them.  The girls have quite a few stories like this, and so do I.

I don’t care what a person does for a job.  I care about if the person is good on the inside.  Customer service jobs are difficult, and people are mean.  Husband and I always tip well for good service, and are as friendly as we can be.  There is no reason to be mean to others, and if the service is bad we’ll live through it, and not tip as well.  That rarely happens, and we enjoy talking to all the different people we meet.  I’ve been known to get exasperated while on the phone trying to get things done, but I do try hard to tell the person I’m not mad at them, I’m just irritated with the company, and apologize when I should.

Being angry and mean takes a lot out of me.  It’s stressful to hate everything the people around you are doing, and to yell at them for it.  I think your food would get spit in a lot also.  For me smiling and saying hello really does make for a better day, so it is something I’m going to continue to do, and enjoy.

On Edge, But Not Yelling

One of the tactics I use for coping with a teenage daughter who is frustrating me is to remove myself from the situation.  I really, really don’t want to start yelling.  My parents both yelled a lot, and with cuss words, and used name calling and that is a path I don’t ever want to go down with my kids.  Yes, I’ve yelled, but I haven’t called them names, or used cuss words to tell them what I thought of them.  That isn’t the kind of parent I want to be.

Yesterday I took Oldest One to get vaccinations for her trip out of the country this summer, and to get the college vaccination sheet signed saying she had all the required vaccinations.  I was chatting with her in the waiting room – well, trying to – about upcoming activities.  Out of nowhere she gets an attitude, and starts in on something that surprised me, and she wasn’t very nice about it.  I tried to answer nicely, but she set me on edge.  We were sitting in chairs next to each other with our arms touching, and at the point I was getting upset I moved my body away from her in the chair, and moved my arm away from hers.

I moved away without thinking, and what made me realize I had was Oldest One immediately looking at my arm after I moved it and suddenly backtracking on what she was saying.  At that point since I was irritated I think I answered “Okay” and then started reading a book on my Kindle through my phone.  I wasn’t trying to upset her more; I was trying to get myself away from being angry.  About a minute later she was leaning towards me and had her arm on mine.

Later in the evening Oldest One, who was now in a good mood after cheer practice and because she and her friends were going to hang out during the week since it is spring break, asked me for money.  She uses The Bank of Mom & Dad.  I looked at her and half-jokingly/half seriously commented on if she deserved money to go out after being rude and not nice in the waiting room.  I was going to give her the money, I just wanted to see what she said.  She said she was frustrated and apologized, and looked like a deer in the headlights.

When I am fairly calm and tell Oldest One that her behavior is not appreciated, and that she is being rude, not nice, and not showing respect I seem to get through to her.  I’ve only done this a few times, and usually after I’ve had several days of behavior I don’t like.  Recently Oldest One and Husband had a clash, and a few days later her club cheer coach told me Oldest One had told the coaches about it, and they had told her she needed to change her attitude and get a respectful tone and recognize all we do for her.  Go coaches!

I am not a perfect parent, but I try my best to be a good one.  I know Oldest One does love and appreciate all that is done for her, but she gets lost in the teenage world view, which is limited and small, and often shows the opposite.  I can’t always talk to her and get through, but I know that if I keep trying and don’t yell there will be a point where she will want to talk, and I’ll be available, and we will bond over ice cream.

What are Designer’s Thinking?

Prom dress shopping ended without a dress, and with my friend and me wondering who is designing these dresses for teenage girls.  I’m okay with short skirts and short shorts (as long as the rear end is covered when bending over), and I was once known for the short skirts I wore.  As a student employee I had a skirt or two I was asked to not wear to the office again.  But compared to the prom dresses I saw I was dressed for a convent.

The worst ones were two piece outfits; a long skirt, and then a top the size of a sports bra covered in sequins.  It looked terrible on the hanger, and I can’t imagine it actually looked good on anyone.  Not what I want to see any teenage girl wearing at prom.  Then there was the dress Oldest One tried on that was quite deceptive on the hanger.  It was so low in back underwear couldn’t be worn, and the cutouts were so deep the front was compromised.  I’m okay with a low back, but I would like her to be able to wear underwear without it being seen.  And I want her front covered.

Do these designers think us parents want to put our daughter’s in these dresses?  I saw dresses where the material was in strips on the top, so skin showed on the top and there was no back.  Or the dresses that have the see through material on top; it doesn’t look good on a wedding dress and it sure doesn’t look good or appropriate on a prom dress.  I have an idea where the designer’s heads were when they designed these dresses, and it’s too bad that this is what they think a prom dress should look like.

We didn’t see any girls trying the inappropriate dresses on, but we didn’t see anyone without a parent either.  It isn’t like these dresses are affordable, because some of them were in the $300 range, which was well outside of what I was willing to pay for a dress that had all the material.  I understand why many schools ban certain types of prom dresses these days.

I know, I sound really old, but these dresses were just so awful and inappropriate.  I don’t want a picture of my daughter I wouldn’t want to put out because of what she is(n’t) wearing.  Her taste might be different than mine, but last year she chose a very classic and elegant look, which the dresses with low backs and barely there fronts will never have.  I think designers need to quite trying to be cutting edge (or their idea of it) with prom dresses, and keep to the cute and the classic.

Teenage Tears

Lately it seems we don’t have a day without a teenage girl crying in the house.  It’s crazy, but I can’t remember the last cry free day we had.  Little One is at that stage where anything can set her off at any time with no warning.  I think Older One is, as she gets closer to leaving, feeling both the excitement and the scariness of living away from us.

Husband is not fond of the crying.  He wants to figure out the problem, give a solution, and have it done.  Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.  The girls might just be having an emotional minute and no amount of problem solving is going to help.  They could be crying because of us, so we can’t offer a solution (some days saying no is a lot harder than others).  Sometimes they don’t even know why they are crying, they just are.

As a teenager I wasn’t known for crying; I was known for never crying.  Looking back that was just weird.  What teenage girl doesn’t cry when a boy hurts her feelings or her parents yell at her?  Me.  My friends would comment on it, and how I never cried, but also how I was never serious and always joking.  I cried for about three minutes the night we graduated, and that was it.  Obviously it was my way of coping, not crying, and also just shoving things away that might bother me.

I do cry these days, which is probably a lot better for me.  I can also shove things away (like my Mom situation) but I usually try to face and talk about issues.  I can be serious, and am actually too serious sometimes.  I still deflect with jokes, especially at work, but I usually do it in situations where keeping it light is the better way to go.

Little One wants to be hugged when she is upset and crying, and Oldest One just wants to be left alone.  So we do both.  And offer ice cream for the harder situations.  Or French fries.  Or both, because nothing helps with crying like ice cream and French fries.  Sometimes it’s hard to know what will help the girls, but I’ve found giving hugs and letting them know they are loved is never wrong.

Future with an Empty Nest

I had a conversation the other day about what life is like when your kids aren’t at home anymore.  The person I was talking to has a son in college out of state, so it is just her and her husband now.  She was saying it’s nice to know they are good together without a child and the related activities.

Husband and I have had trial runs on that this year.  With all the cheerleading and school activities two or three days a week the girls would leave for school shortly after 7a and not get home until 9a, and they didn’t need us to drive them around.  That left a lot of time for Husband and I to be on our own.  Granted, for the first month I couldn’t get out of bed, but that had its own set of challenges we needed to figure out.

What we’ve found is we still enjoy each other, and spending time together.  Sure, the girls are home at some point, but by the time they get home I’m thinking about getting things ready for the morning and going to bed.  It’s what happens from the time I get home from work until the girls are home again, when we are alone, that is important.

We’ve always been the kind of couple that likes to do everything together.  And we’ve found we still enjoy being together, just us, no kids.  We don’t do anything exciting, go to the grocery store, watch TV, talk about our day, but we are happy to just be together.  I hadn’t given much thought to what we would be like when we finally had time without the girls (and I don’t count time without the girls when I am the chauffer, so have to keep an eye on the clock); I think I just figured we would be fine.  In looking at it though, I’m glad we are fine being alone.

We all know the empty nest is looming, and even if the kids come back to live at home after college it isn’t the same, because they are adults with a life of their own.  Next year we’ll be driving Little One to all of her activities, but only for a year and a half.  Then she gets her driver’s license and we are already talking about taking a dance or cooking class.  I’ve always wanted to take a dance class with Husband, but we haven’t had the time (or money).

Husband and I adore the girls, and know we are going to miss Oldest One when she leaves for college, and don’t even think about Little One getting that old.  At the same time, we have our plans and dreams for when the girls are adults and living their lives.  Sure, we hope the girls and their spouses might want to take a vacation with us once in a while, and we hope they want to celebrate holidays with us, and enjoy doing things with us.  But we also want to enjoy each other, and doing things together, and traveling to all the places I’ve never been.  I think this is one of the hardest stages of parenting…letting the kids go while living the rest of our lives.

I Don’t Like to Shop

I am not into shopping for clothes for myself.  I never really have been.  I find a few things I like, I’m happy, and I wear the heck out of them.  This week a pair of my work pants ripped and can’t be repaired, so I will be forced to go shopping.  I’m not looking forward to it.

I have never had the huge closet of clothes and shoes some people have.  I currently have 2 pairs of shoes for work, a couple pairs of dressy heels I never wear, 2 half boots I love to wear, and my tennis shoes.  I probably have 7 or 8 tops for work, just winter, and then another 7 or 8 for summer.  I have jeans, 3 sweatshirts, a top or two for winter, and a few tops for summer.  That about sums up my wardrobe.

I do enjoy shopping for the girls.  But they are the ones looking through the racks while I follow behind and hold what they want to try on.  I get to sit on a chair while they pull clothes on and off, giving a yes or no when asked.  It’s a lot of standing and walking, but it beats getting in and out of way more pieces of clothing than I want to be messing with.

In my 20’s I would tell myself I would go each paycheck and pick up one nice item, and build a really nice wardrobe that way.  It never happened.  I would go shopping when I needed an outfit, or if friends were going, but it seemed like too much effort to actually build that wardrobe.  I did enjoy trying on wedding dresses when I had a friend go with me.  It was no fun at all to go with my Mom, and she is the only Mom I have ever heard of who fell asleep while shopping for her daughter’s wedding dress.  I guess it was boring.  In the end Husband went with me and helped me pick out my dress.

I also have the problem that while I’ll spend anything on clothes for the girls, I don’t like to spend a lot on myself.  I’ll look at something, think I should try it, look at the price and put it back.  For some reason I can’t justify spending a lot on clothes, even though I keep my clothes for years.  Right now I am wearing a sweater I bought when Oldest One was a baby.  I’ll probably be wearing it when she graduates college and beyond.  So it should be easy for me to spend money when I manage to go buy things, because I’ll be wearing them for the next 20 years.

Hopefully I’ll find something at the first store I go to, and won’t have to be in cramped, hot dressing rooms for too long.  Maybe I’ll take one of the girls, because they like to pick out things for me to try on.  Or maybe I’ll go home and relax, and do it another day.  If there is ever a thing to procrastinate about, this is it for me.

Body Type Shouldn’t Matter

My girls have completely opposite body types.  Oldest One has always been very thin with no extra body fat, and although she was the shortest one in her eighth grade class, as a high school senior she is one of the tallest girls at 5’ 7½“.  Little One has been pretty average in height, and developed a prepubescent tummy, just like I had, but she is now growing taller (from 5’ 3” to 5’ 4½” in just a few months) and starting to lose her baby fat…just like I did at that age.

Husband and I have tried hard to make both girls feel comfortable with how they look.  Competitive cheer is a pretty physically demanding sport, so they have both benefitted from year-round practices several times a week.  When we got them a Wii we only bought games where they had to be active and move.  We felt it was better to keep them active, and try to eat healthier then to put anyone on a diet.  That came from my experience as a child on Weight Watchers, which I hated doing.  I knew Little One would lose her tummy when she hit a certain age, and dieting wouldn’t change it.  Husband and I just needed to keep her active and fit, and eating decently.

For the most part Little One hasn’t been too bothered by her tummy.  She likes it covered, and she knows it is there, but I always made sure to help her pick out clothes that were cute and made her feel good, and more importantly, that fit right for her body type.  I always feel bad for the little girls with a tummy who are stuffed into clothes a size or two smaller than they need.  The hard part now is getting Little One to realize she is picking out clothes in sizes that are too big, and she needs to start wearing a smaller size.

For a female of any age body image is usually a big deal whether it should be or not.  I want my girls to feel confident, and see themselves as beautiful because of who they are and what they have accomplished.  I don’t want them to compare themselves to air brushed images, or feel they have to look a specific way because everyone in magazines does.  I admit I don’t always feel great because I am overweight, but I know there is a lot more to me than that, and I try to not let that one aspect color everything else about who I am.

Oldest One does look good in pretty much any outfit she throws on, and she doesn’t have to worry about what she eats.  It doesn’t mean she didn’t have a hard time suddenly growing taller than everyone, including the boys, and dealing with that.  She has people tell her she is too thin and needs to eat.  The child can put away a lot of food; it is just the way she is made at this point in her life.  She doesn’t like to be told she is too thin any more than Little One likes it if someone tells her she is chubby.  Having kids at total opposite ends of the body spectrum has allowed me to see the good and bad of each end.  We all need to focus less on what a person’s body looks like, and more on the person and their qualities.  I’m not friends with people for how they look, and either are my girls.  We choose our friends for who they are, which will always be more important than what their body is like.