Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Made It

Husband D was in Asia for 2 weeks. 2 long weeks. 2 very long weeks. 2 weeks in which Wisconsin had lots and lots of snow. But he returned a few days ago, and we all appear to be in one piece.

I'm trying not to whine, because in this economy we are so very grateful to both be employed in fun, flexible, interesting jobs that manage to pay for all of our expenses.

But just between you and me: 2 weeks of single parenting? So not my cup-of-tea.

In some ways, I'm glad it is so hard. At his last job, I would talk to other wives and complain about our husbands' trips overseas. Many, many times, I received the reply, "Actually, it's easier when he's gone. One less person to clean up after."

I don't have that experience. NOTHING is easier when he is gone. Me thinks that having a tremendously wonderful husband who helps with cleaning, child-rearing and other household duties ...and who also travels a bit...is loads better than having a husband who doesn't do any of those things.

The scary part, for me, is how much the kids step up when he is gone. They become little adults. My daughter manages things that no 9 year old should be responsible for. Seriously, one of these trips, she is going to turn to me and say, "mom, don't worry - I just logged onto the on-line bank account and paid the mortgage for you."

Once he's back, they revert right back to their childlike ways. But I can clearly see how so many children of single mothers become such over-achievers. Exhibit A: Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Barack Obama. It's a very strange thing to watch as your children start to parent you. And it really does happen in a short 2-week period.

I'm sure that in some way the experience of desperately missing your husband with every cell in your brain and body is a good thing...especially after 14+ years of marriage. It's so easy to start taking each other for granted in the regular old day-to-day life we lead. A short absence makes you painfully aware of all the wonderful reasons you married the amazing guy in the first place.

At least that is what I'm telling myself....because he is headed back to Asia next month.

And I just looked at the calendar - funny, it appears that Christmas is next week. So funny. Next week. Really? If I write in my Christmas cards that I was a single mother for half of December...will people understand why they are getting them in February????

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Please impeach me

Can a PTA President be impeached? If so, I heartily submit my nomination for the process.

I'm the PTA President at my kids' school.

I realize all the stereotypes that go along with this admission. Yes, I've heard the "Type-A Overachiever mother who doesn't have a real job" label. And, yes, I've heard the "Helicopter Parent who is over-involved with her children" label. When you tell people you are the PTA President, they jump to both of these conclusions, immediately.

That's not me and that's not our school. Almost 70% of the kids at our school are poor. And not in the "live in a small house and don't go out to eat much" way. We're talking the "get our groceries from the food pantry" kind of poor.

I have a feeling that at other schools, the PTA is doing a lot of extra stuff - more books for the library, teacher appreciation events - that kind of stuff. At our school, the PTA is making sure the kids have enough to eat. Our biggest budget line-items are paying for classroom snacks and field trips. There would be no field trips if the PTA couldn't pay for them.

So, you can imagine my delight when the State PTA group rejected my by-laws for the fourth time. (Yes, fourth time) The first three times, they rejected them because I took out their mention of "place of worship" in the list of places where our PTA "promotes children's welfare." I'm all for religion and go to church regularly. But I didn't think that was appropriate for a school group by-laws. After 3 rejections, I gave up and put it back in. (I cave easily.)

This time, they rejected them because I used the term "bi-monthly" in reference to our meetings. Someone there thought the term meant "twice a month." I sent them back the bitchiest email I've sent in a while with all the links I could find with the correct definition of "bi-monthly" (which does, in fact, mean "every other month.")

We are trying to be more inclusive with our meetings, which means getting translators for two different languages, serving a full meal to all attendees, and providing free babysitting for all the kids. It's not easy to do all of that. It's been a hell of a lot of work. I was almost shouting in my email, as I explained to our state PTA that we had finally successfully managed to get the non-English speaking, poor families to come to our meetings. Finally, our meetings are representative of our school population. Finally, we are building a real community - not just the same 10 parents who attend, over and over again. To me, this is an incredible success story for our school. It's taken three years to get here.

So, to get the by-laws rejected because of the term "bi-monthly" really was the knife of bureaucracy, turning in my heart.

See, I'm not the PTA President because I have unfulfilled career ambitions or am living my life through my children.

I'm the PTA President because when I asked my "Little Sister" today what she wanted for Christmas, she turned to me and answered quietly, "mittens, please." I looked at her closely, and saw that her hands, which had been tucked inside her jacket all afternoon, surely enough, did not have mittens on them.

I hadn't noticed.

It's 7 degrees here.

How did I not notice? Really, how in God's world did I not notice that she was walking around Wisconsin in December without mittens? But I didn't.

We turned the car around and went to Target immediately and I'm pleased to report that she is now completely decked out in hats, mittens and boots.

70% of my own children's school are of the same economic demographic as my "Little Sister." I certainly can't buy all of them mittens, but I can do my small part in other ways through everyone's favorite group....the dreaded PTA.

With or without operating by-laws....

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

..and so the Lion fell in love with the Lamb...

You may remember my rant against the Kindle.

When, oh when, will I learn that the equation:

"Granddaughter wants it" plus "Mother says no"

will ALWAYS equal:

"Grandmother steps in to delight granddaughter"

So, yes, we are now the proud owners of a Kindle. (Ha! See how I already say "we.") I suppose you can already see where this is going.....I fell madly in love with my daughter's Kindle.

Yes, after many arguments against it (see "it's too expensive" or "she's too young" or "it's a fad" or "it's not a real book" or "what a waste of money"), I am now its biggest fan.

At first, I only used it after daughter D. went to bed. It was her birthday gift, after all. On a lark, I decided to buy the #1 selling title for the Kindle: some book called "Twilight" that I had never heard of before.

I read it in one sitting.

I couldn't put it down. I stayed up way past my bedtime and finished the book. This is NOT great literature. It's young adult fiction with more than one grammatical error. But I read the whole book in one sitting. I haven't done that since high school. I have no idea what the appeal was - vampires? young love? who knows. I was mesmerized.

Normally, I'm a bit of a literary snob. When it is my turn to host my bookclub, I invariably choose something like "Anna Karenina" or "The Great Gatsby" - classics. Books with teeth. But something about this Twilight series sucked me in. I proceeded to buy the next three books and read them in the next three days. Yes, I stole my daughters birthday present, lay on the couch in front of the fire and said to my family, "make your own damn dinner - I'm reading." And I did. I shut out the entire world and read.

I'm not proud.

Luckily, Daughter D is good at sharing and my Twilight obsession only lasted a few days. (These are skim-able books, and I was able to polish them off very quickly.) So, she has her device back now and I only poach it after she has gone to bed.

But it felt so good to have that obsessive-reading feeling again. That "nothing is more important than finishing this book" feeling. I'm a bit embarrassed that it came back for a book that really isn't all that good (in a literary masterpiece sense.) But it came back. For just a few moments, I was 12 again. I had no responsibilities, no job, no meals to cook. I could just read, read, and read some more.

Thank you, Kindle.