“The List”

My son’s elementary school has a tradition that I really won’t miss next year as he enters middle school. Each year they set aside one day in the summer where they post class lists. “The list” says who their teacher is and who is in their class. Children and parents rush to the school, run down the steps to the gym and crowd around the back wall elbowing their way through so they can see “the list.”

Parents, including me, take pictures of “the list” so they can remember who is in their child’s class and talk to all of the other parents about it later. Many of the kids don’t even ask who their teacher is; they just want to know who is and isn’t in class with them. The kids even check to see where other kids ended up.

“The list” was posted on Monday at 6 p.m. There were easily 150 people in the gym by 6:03. Later that evening, I headed to the dog park. A fifth grade girl was at the park. I mentioned that I noticed she was going to be in class with Joey this year. She nodded in agreement and then said “but I was so sad that C (we aren’t going to use her full name) and Joey aren’t going to be together.” It took me a minute to figure out what she was saying. And then it hit me… last year’s drama. Joey and C apparently were boyfriend and girlfriend but they eventually broke up. C continued to have a crush on him. Joey definitely liked her as a friend but wasn’t sure about that girlfriend stuff. He hadn’t seen C since the last day of school. And here a classmate, not even C, sees me after seeing “the list” and her concern is that C and Joey aren’t in class together. Huh? Am I that out of touch that I just don’t get why this was the concern?

So back to “the list”… Within an hour of it being posted, I received several texts, emails and Facebook messages telling me that our kids are or are not in class together. I’ve received messages saying “can you believe X in class with my son. This is going to be a horrible year.” And “How did J and G end up together again? Everyone knows they are drama together.” And “thank goodness B and K are together.” By the way, I am completely making these letters up, and exaggerating the comments. .. a little. I’m also guilty of messaging people.

I have to tell you when my daughter was at this school, “the list” day was very important to me. In fact, I would stress for a few days prior to it being posted. I didn’t want her to be in class with the “mean girls” (you know the ones… they are the girls who call themselves popular but really they are just mean and everyone is afraid of them).  She is also very sensitive so I would hope and pray for the teacher of my choice. I know Andi would worry as well. She has always had a good group of friends but mean girls are mean!

It’s different now though. I don’t give much thought to Joey’s “list” going up. Yes, I’d like him to have a friend or two in his class but I don’t worry about who else is in or not in the class. Although I have a preference, I don’t  worry about who his teacher is going to be. He is attending one of the best schools in the state so it seems like it would be hard to get a bad teacher. He is definitely curious about who is in his class and will miss a few who aren’t but he is much more relaxed about it than his sister ever was.

It also hit him last night, as he met the new principal, that he is a FIFTH GRADER, the top of the school, the ones who set the example, the ones who… wait for it… GET TO PUT THE FLAG UP OUTSIDE EACH MORNING! This is going to be an exciting year no matter what “the list” says.

My Crazy Life With Two Kids

Literally pulling my hair out.

I realized this morning that I am completely overbooked and as the writer of People I want to Punch in the Throat would say, I am an Over Achiever Mom (OAM). However, this OAM is just not cutting it. I have good intentions, I really do but I’m learning that I just can’t balance it all.

This single mom is the Girl Scout Leader, helps with Boy Scouts when I can, is the parent administrator for the soccer team, sits on several committees for work, volunteers at school and local nonprofits, has an adorable but very demanding puppy, constantly has the kids friends over, works full-time, and wants to be the best mom ever. I also am responsible to take them to all orthodontist and doctor appointments, school concerts, practices, etc. And I VERY RARELY miss a game and never miss a school program.

Girl Scout Trip at Natural Bridge

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Last week, the day before Dr. Seuss’ birthday, I thought it would be a good idea to make “hat” treats for the kids’ classes. At 8 a.m. that morning, before my day really started, it did sound like an awesome idea. But by 5 p.m., when I was leaving work and still had to go to the store to get $30 worth of items, it didn’t sound so fun anymore. I came home to discover my almost 13-year-old and her friend had decided to make 2 dozen no-bake cookies. Wow! I wish they were no-mess cookies. There is a child in my son’s class with a nut-free allergy so the kitchen had to be scrubbed top to bottom before we could start making the hats (totally worth it though so that she could enjoy the treat). Luckily A decided to jump in and make most of the hats out of Oreos, icing and red Gummy Savers. Seventy hats later, I was ready to pack them up for school.

That morning, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, I’m already in my car leaving for work when my daughter calls and says she forgot her treats at home. “Are you kidding me?” All that work and her hats are sitting in the kitchen. Of course I turn around because I can’t imagine wasting them. I run them up to school and finally head off to work.

Waiting out the tornado.

Then the weekend came. Friday night: J tells me he can’t find his black pants that are required for his Odyssey competition the next day. Rehearsal is in 30 minutes. So right before the tornadoes are supposed to hit (yes, I live in NKY), we run to Target. The cashier is dumb enough to say in front of my 10-year-old, “you better hurry, the tornado is coming and is going to destroy us.” Really buddy? Was that necessary? I rush J to school for practice, knowing that the basement at school is probably the safest place he could be if we had a tornado. I then rush home to be with my daughter and puppy during the storm. We bunker down in our half bath in the basement. The tornado doesn’t hit us but did hit nearby towns. The next hour is spent checking on friends. After cutting veggies and making dip, A and I leave to pick up J from school and then head to a family fish fry at my cousin’s home. We finally get home at 10 p.m. when a friend calls me for an emergency ride 40 minutes away… I finally get to bed at midnight.

Between tournament games

Scout playing with Buddy at the dog park.

Saturday: Get my daughter out the door at 7:20 a.m. for her soccer game and leave shortly after with J for the Odyssey Competition (he took second place!). We were there until 2 p.m. After we headed to Graeters Ice cream to celebrate as a team and got home about 3:30. I then headed to the park with our puppy to let her run off some energy. I decided we were staying in the rest of the night and that we would not have friends over or go anywhere. I needed a break.

Sunday: A wakes up not feeling well and has a low-grade fever. The puppy is puking. Awesome day ahead! I cleaned up the house and finally watched Judy Moody (very good). I ran to Target to buy items for a friend impacted by the tornado and the local Animal Shelter that was housing the animals until they could be reunited with their families. We then headed to my mom’s to celebrate her birthday.

Monday comes and back to work. I have a lot of paperwork to do for the soccer team that I still haven’t finished, a to do list at work that is a mile long, puppy training Monday night, a school concert Tuesday night, soccer practice tonight, a very messy house and I could go on and on. So today, I am finally in my car and start to head to work when my Droid beeps. I tend to ignore this when I’m driving but luckily looked before getting on the highway. I see that I am supposed to be at my son’s school in 5 minutes to participate in gym class with him. I know he’s expecting me. CRUD! I turn around and head to school making it with about 30 seconds to spare. I call work on my way in and tell them of my delay. I get into gym class to bowl as the email invite said. Apparently we are doing exercise bowling. If you miss three pins the entire team has to do three star jumps. If you miss one pin, everyone has to do a crazy dance. If you miss five, you have to do five pushups. Wow, I wasn’t expecting a workout but I guess it was a good way to start the day. Then we started “CRAZY” bowling. We had a disco light and had to roll the dice to see which way you rolled the ball. I found myself having to do the old between the legs and J had to lie on his belly to throw the ball.

Parent/Child Bowling in Gym Class

It was a lot of fun but I almost missed it! He would have been so devastated. I almost missed it because I’m way overbooked and can’t keep things straight. I can’t imagine giving up any of it though… well maybe work but that’s not really an option. I feel like my house suffers more than anything. Notice that none of this included “me” or “dating” time, which I have completely given up on. So how do all you other parents do it? How do you stay on top of everything? How do you balance it all and not lose your mind?

Puppy Obsession

I am obsessed. I have become one of those people I used to make fun of and couldn’t begin to understand. I am completely in love with my puppy and miss her dearly when I’m at work, out with friends or doing stuff outside of the house with the kids. I think about her all day and can’t wait to get home to her.

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When I am home, I spend a lot of time with her. We go for walks, go to the park, play fetch, work on tricks and snuggle on the couch together. We attend puppy play dates and puppy training. I truly try to plan my schedule around her. Part of that is because I’m obsessed but also because I feel so bad that she is locked in a crate when we are gone.

I ask all potential “dates” how they feel about dogs because I figure if they don’t like them, there is no sense in even going out once.  I did discover that this is not that abnormal. According to  http://www.livescience.com/18519-women-dogs-happy-relationships.html a woman is more satisfied in her relationship when her partner feels the same about her pet as she does. If she’s close to her dog, he’d better be, too. If she’s more aloof, it’s better if he doesn’t get too snuggly with Fido. For men, on the other hand, a woman’s closeness to his pet doesn’t affect his relationship satisfaction at all, according to study researcher Kristen Capuozzo, a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston.

But my kids are even jealous of my relationship with our cute little puppy. They realize Scout will come to me before them, that she listens better to me and that I love to cuddle with her. It’s not that I love the puppy more by any means or even that I want to spend more time with her than them. But you know, the puppy is not a 10-year-old boy who lives in his own world and ignores me until he wants something or an almost 13-year-old girl who thinks I’m stupid and never know what’s going on. The puppy doesn’t talk back, she will still kiss me in public and cuddle on the couch, she doesn’t complain about what I’m watching on TV, she doesn’t kick me if I let her nap with me, doesn’t bicker with her siblings (A &J) and doesn’t expect me to make her a special meal because she decided that day she doesn’t like dog food (or grilled cheese in the case of the kids).

My puppy loves and likes me unconditionally. I can even get mad at her and she doesn’t care. It’s actually a pretty great relationship. My friends make fun of me and have told me jokingly that they are a little concerned (or maybe they aren’t joking) but I think Scout has truly been good for me.

I grew up with lots of animals (dogs, a monkey, a goat, birds, hamsters, ducks – yes, I said a monkey) but I haven’t had a pet in 12 years. My children have never had a pet so this is their first experience and they love her too but aren’t nearly as obsessed as I am.

Do you think there is something wrong with me? Be honest! LOL Do you think a pet owner can be too obsessed with their animal? Or do you think it’s healthy? Share your thoughts and your pet stories!

 

What’s Acceptable?

My daughter A will be 13 in May and is in the seventh grade. My son J is 10 and is in the fourth grade. Lately, I’ve been struggling with what’s appropriate when it comes to movies and books.

I work at a Library so normally it’s pretty easy for me to decide if a book is age-appropriate or not. I have access to the best librarians in the state. Both of my children are advanced readers but just because my fourth grader can read at a eighth grade level doesn’t mean I necessarily want him reading eighth grade material. So it’s very convenient to be able to ask a co-worker if the content is appropriate or not. However, both of my children also read very quickly. I didn’t realize my 10-year-old was reading “Hunger Games” until the third day when he was already halfway through the book. This is not a book I would have said yes to. Maybe he knew that… Don’t get me wrong. It’s an excellent book and I definitely suggest it for sixth grade and older. It’s just that it’s a little dark and I wasn’t sure he could handle it. He definitely proved me wrong. He LOVED it, he understood it and he got that it wouldn’t really happen.

So that brings us to the movie, starring one of his favorite actors – Josh Hutcherson, that is going to be released in March… Do I let him see it? I really don’t know what I will do.

Thanks to Victorious on Nickelodeon, my children now want to see “Breakfast Club.” Victorious did a spoof called “Breakfast Bunch.” Honestly, my kids were very confused because they had never seen the rated R movie. I, however, knew immediately what this show for TWEENS was making fun of. Why would a tween show do a spoof on a rated R movie? Now if you are wondering why the “Breakfast Club” is Rated R, let me remind you that it has sexual and drug content and says the F word at least two dozen times.  I do not plan on letting the kids see this movie yet but thanks Nickelodeon for the argument!

Now they also want to see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off due to the new commercial. It’s rated PG13 due to foul language and sexual content. My daughter is almost 13… do I let her watch it and not my son? Honestly though, the 10-year-old, who can be very immature in certain aspects, is very mature when it comes to movies. He gets it’s pretend but he also gets most of the content. Do I let either one watch it?

What makes it harder is I know I saw some of these movies at their age. What were my parents thinking? Ha Ha.

I know some of you are laughing at me. I’m aware that some of A’s friends (and probably J’s) have seen Hangover, Pulp Fiction, Role Models and Hall Pass. There is no way I would let my children see any of these movies!! It’s your choice to let your children watch these but my children are not allowed. Does that make me a prude? Am I sheltering my kids? Maybe, but I don’t care. I don’t want them going around quoting Hangover. I would die of embarrassment (yes, I’ve heard 12-year-olds do this).

So how do you decide what movies and books are appropriate for your children?

 

Dating With Tweens Can Be Rough

It’s so easy to talk about my kids and the silly things they do. It’s easy to write about crazy things other parents do or the stuff my ex-husband does without asking me. It’s not nearly as easy to write about myself or what is going on in my personal life as a single mom. So I’m going to take a stab at it….

I was engaged last year to a guy with kids and was scheduled to get married in July. I met B by chance while out with mutual friends. In fact, earlier that night, I had been on a disappointing blind date. B was pretty over the top romantic from the beginning. He would feed me mushy lines, want to talk on the phone for hours, and after only two weeks told me that he knew we were going to fall in love and get married. He managed to drop the L word after only six weeks and honestly it scared me a little. He would tell me how I was his perfect girl and that he knew we were meant to be together all the time. In fact, being so open with his feelings pushed me away some in the beginning. My best friends will tell you they didn’t think the relationship would make it three months because I was the girl who typically ran. I thought either fairytales really do happen, or he’s a stalker and they are going to find me in a basement someday. Haha.

I was extremely careful when it came to my kids. They originally met him as my friend. We took all the kids out as a chance for them to meet and get to know each other. I didn’t allow B to stay the night while my kids were home until probably 8 months into the relationship. I didn’t want to send them the wrong message or allow them to get too attached.

After about a year, we started discussing merging our families, living together and getting married. All of the kids had mixed feelings about this but we both said we would make it work. Although B constantly ensured me he couldn’t wait to merge our homes, he was a little sad about selling the house he worked so hard for. We worked diligently on the house for months preparing it for sale. Once listed, no one was interested. B paid way too much for the house with 40 steps to the front and severely slanted floors. This caused so much stress in our relationship. Our wedding date was quickly approaching and we hadn’t sold the house. To top it off, B was working ALL the time and I constantly had the kids by myself. B’s oldest was becoming very resentful. He wanted his time with his dad and wasn’t too crazy about me in the first place. When I didn’t have the kids, I was attending events with B for his job. I also had a busy life between my work, soccer with A and my son’s activities.

In addition to stress caused by four kids who weren’t siblings, B never seemed satisfied with the amount of time I was able to give him. There were times when I felt it probably wasn’t going to work but then he would do something over the top romantic like write me a song or give me a love note and I’d be sucked back in.

B had borrowed money from me often (I KNOW – big red flag) but I had no idea how bad things really were. A few weeks before breaking up, I found a notice from the Sherriff’s office. Although B wasn’t ready to be honest, within a few days I discovered his house was about to be foreclosed on. I knew that I was the only one who could qualify for the loan (other red flag) but I was okay with that because he was supposed to provide the down payment.  (Note: he did save the house, which I’m glad he was able to do for the sake of his kids.)

Communicating became very difficult. I knew that it was time to end things but all I could think about is how not having him as a part of my life would impact my children and how much I would miss his children. I also kept holding on to the person he was in the beginning. After a few weeks of arguments, avoiding each other, etc… we finally broke up. It was extremely difficult. I was a mess for a while. Although I knew that he was not a good man to have in my life (I do realize I was not perfect), my life was changing. Some for the good; No more work events on evenings and weekends, no more loaning out money, no more stressing over how the kids will get along… No more dealing with someone who is so unorganized that they can barely make it to work on time or take care of simple household necessities. My kids were devastated. I felt like a horrible mother.

Two months later my kids were finally starting to feel normal again. We went to a huge festival that my family organizes. My entire family attends every year and we are treated as VIPs. Not being considerate of mine or my kids’ feelings, B, who has no association with the festival, showed up with a date. My children were angry and I was shocked since he knew we would be there.

Because we live in such a small town, we hear everything. He and the girl from the festival moved in together only a few months later and got engaged over Christmas. As one of my closest friends said: “Some people like to come home and drink a six pack each night, some like to tailgate in the fast lane and others like to get engaged a couple times a year.”  You have to love friends!

I told my kids about the engagement so they wouldn’t hear from someone else. You could tell they were surprised but they both asked if I was okay (I was) and made a few jokes about him being engaged again so soon and dropped it.

The hardest part of all of this was being there for my crushed kids, while I was also hurting. I will always bounce back but seeing my kids hurt was crushing. I haven’t dated much since the breakup. Not because I’m not over it – I am – but because I can’t imagine putting my kids through something like this again. A friend recently told me that dating with kids isn’t hard if it’s the right person but you know, it takes a while to figure out if they are or not. This friend also has two children and remarried. However, she married someone without kids. I think that makes a difference.

I know it has taken me a lot of words to get to the point here but hey all you single parents: how do you date and protect your kids? Do you bother dating? Do you think it’s easier for those with kids to date someone without kids?  I’m sure married people have some great advice too. Give it to me!

P.S. Please do not say “it sounds like you are better off” or “you dodged a bullet” or anything else like that. I am aware of that! J This is not to focus on him but more to tell my experience with relationships. I want to talk about how to have a successful dating life with kids. 🙂

P.S.S. This is really hard for me to actually post. I’m putting a lot of my inner thoughts and emotions on the table. However, I am always open to feedback and look forward to receiving constructive input.

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Tweens on the Bus Go Yap, Yap, Yap

I volunteered to go to A’s Speech and Drama competition on Saturday. Twelve sixth, seventh and eighth graders – 10 girls, 2 boys. Oh the drama! We loaded the bus at 6 a.m. I thought they would be exhausted or nervous so they would be quiet and calm. NO! That was not the case. They were loud, excited and goofy as can be. The assistant coach and I were the only adults on the bus.  I just closed my eyes and stayed awake enough to ensure no nonsense was going on. The 1-1/2 hour ride there honestly wasn’t that bad.

Speech and Drama is a girl heavy activity so although there were hundreds of kids, there were only about 20 boys. Those boys managed to make their way around to all the girls. One boy, who was maybe 13, was seen early in the day walking down the hall holding a girl’s hand. By lunch, this boy with his flat billed ball cap on sideways and his pants hanging way too low, was hitting on two of my daughter’s teammates. And of course…. The girls were flattered. I was constantly reminding them we weren’t there to meet boys from other schools but rather to compete. I was constantly calling for the girls to come with our team and leave the boy behind.

The boys weren’t the only ones being a little forward. A girl from another school made a point to give her number to one of our two male competitors – N. This made the bus ride home more drama than I could handle.

We loaded the bus around 6 p.m. to head home. “Where is S?,” which seemed to be the question of the day. The sixth grader was mingling with the “gangster” boy again!

The girl from the competition immediately starting texting N. She even asked him out. He told her he had a girlfriend and she asked to see a picture. He was going to take a picture of one of the girls on our team and text it to her. I quickly yelled “You cannot email, text or do anything to send a picture of one of our girls to a stranger!” All of the girls were helping him come up with what to say to her. The messages got ugly quick and I had to remind them that they would see this girl and all of her teammates again at the next competition. They then apologized to her for previous messages.

The boy with the ball cap was texting one of our girls. She seemed very irritated and wasn’t as vocal about the messages. I encouraged everyone to stop texting people they don’t really know.

In the meantime, the other male on the team was discussing his life-long plans, including his business plan, with me. I was in shock. This seventh grader was talking about things I didn’t even understand and was giving me advice on my own career. This extremely intelligent kid has already scored a 22 on the ACT. I am sure he will be a future Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

Unfortunately, our conversation kept getting interrupted as I told the other kids their conversations were inappropriate, that they couldn’t send pictures to random strangers or make up rumors about teachers dating. Honestly, these kids were just having fun and completely joking but it’s amazing the things they do without thinking. Once I pointed out why it wasn’t appropriate they seemed to understand and respect that.

I will say this…. You will never catch me on the bus to a tournament again! I’ll drive separate next time and leave the monitoring to the coaches. J

How do you think your kids behave when adult supervision is limited? Do you worry about what they might do with their cell phones or as a group?

Setting the Example

I have had a very busy, but enjoyable week. I have been having dinner with the same four or five girls every month for the last five years. We all have children (ranging between ages 2 and 15) and just truly enjoy each other’s company. Each person makes a dish so it’s not extra hard on the host. This month’s dinner was at my house.  We never seem to know where the conversation will take us but this month we were primarily focused on the worry we have for our children. You constantly hear horror stories of girls getting beat up on the bus or a boy being jumped by a large group. This week I actually heard of a seventh grade girl beating up on a seventh grade boy with special needs. We worry about our kids choosing the wrong friends or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One of my girlfriends started to ask if these kids who act like this are from broken homes. She stopped herself quickly remembering that I’m divorced. I kind of laughed. I think most of the kids who are out running all over town with no supervision, getting into fights, being suspended from school, threatening other kids, being sexually active at a young age, etc. are from broken homes. However, I don’t think every divorced home is a broken home. My ex-husband and I get along very well for being divorced parents. Neither one of us would ever let our 12-year-old daughter just run all over town every day without knowing where she is. We both monitor her texting and Facebook so we don’t have to worry too much about cyber bullying. There is always a parent around at night to make dinner, tuck them in and be there in general. My ex and I always back each other up on parenting decisions and try to discuss those decisions before talking to the kids. He also will come to our house in a second if we feel that we both need to address and issue. We have luckily learned how to co-parent well.

The children I see running all over town, getting in fights, etc… are kids whose dad (or mom) is never around. The parents work second or third shift and the child is home alone. The family moves often from town to town or even from apartment to apartment in the same city. Now note, I lived in three apartments in the same city in a 7 year period. However, I never moved because I was skipping on rent.

The daughter of one of our friends is extremely close to a girl most parents consider trouble. The poor girl needs some positive influences in her life but do we want one of our girls to be influenced by her? Her language is terrible, she constantly has different boyfriends (she’s 12) and she runs all over town. So the thought was, how do we keep the daughter of our friend from being “pulled down” by this girl. We know if she’s told they can’t hang out that she will just sneak. How would you handle this?

I’ve spoken to a lot of different women this week between work, shopping, dinner at my house, dinner out for my birthday, etc… Another thought I had (as I heard an eighth grader at our school is pregnant) is that we moms, whether we are single or married, need to be setting the example for our daughters. If we are dressing in skimpy clothes (wow, you should have seen some of the dresses the seventh graders wore to their holiday dance – I couldn’t believe parents would buy such a thing), going on numerous dates that are children know about, having boyfriends or “hookups” over when our kids are there, using foul language, balancing several guys, talking about fights like they are cool, gossiping about other parents, etc… then our daughters are going to think that’s okay. Even if we think we are hiding the behavior…. These teens and tweens are not stupid. They hear things. We have to set the example for our girls. I want all of the women reading this blog to stop a minute and think…. Would you want your daughter having relationships like you have, behaving the way you do, dressing like you do, and talking like you do when she is your age? Seriously? And to those of you who let your kids run all over town all hours of the day and aren’t home with your kids much… is this really what is best for them?

I know we all do our best and I am not being judgmental. I just think that sometimes we need a reality check. J

I know this is getting a little long but I wanted to mention we also talked about the boys. All the moms in our dinner group tend to have boys who don’t really play sports, have huge imaginations, love chess and technology and are extremely creative. This makes the moms worry that their boys might be bullied someday. Although I think all kids get teased for one reason or another, my hope is that there are so many more boys like this nowadays that it won’t be an issue. What do you think?

I can’t wait to hear your input! Have a great holiday!

P.S. These photos are taken from Google Images.