Category Archives: Life

Battling the baby bulge (excerpt)

I’m getting close to finishing my first round of edits on my WineCountryMom eBook.  It’s been kind of cool to read through those old entries and see where we’ve traveled from – all the things I struggled through and overcame, and how much the kids have grown since then.  It’s also pretty eye-opening to see the things I struggled with then – and still struggle with now.

Weight issues being one of them.

Granted, I’m not fat.  I’d like to get a little slimmer and a bit more firm, of course.  But we’re only talking 15 pounds, not 150 pounds.  However, I think weight will always be my issue, whether I’m big or small.

The one thing I’ve discovered differently over the years, though, is how important it is to love yourself no matter what size you are.  Our bodies are just our shells.  Whether we’re fat or thin, who we are on the inside doesn’t change.  You can lose all that weight on the outside, and still be that fat girl on the inside.  If you can’t love yourself with a few extra pounds, you won’t magically love yourself when they’re gone.

I’m working on my next article for the newspaper, and think I’ll touch on this. But for now, here’s an excerpted peek into retro WineCountryMom, and one of the chapters of the upcoming blog eBook.

BATTLING THE BABY BULGE

babybulgeI’ve been fighting the baby bulge. No, not the kind that you have when you are newly pregnant and possess a cute little bump that later turns into an adorable basketball on your tiny frame (uh, yeah, unless you’re me and even your ankles get a baby bump). I’m talking about the baby bulge you battle once the baby is already out. To be fair, I did just have a baby (eight years ago), so I can’t claim a Heidi Klum body anymore (stop laughing). But for the past year I have been trying different diets and exercises to lose the weight once and for all. And in one year I have lost (drumroll please)…..

Ten pounds.

Yes, that’s right. Only ten pounds. And do you know why? Because of yo-yo dieting. It’s getting ridiculous. I have pretty much lost and gained the same ten pounds more times that I can keep track of…

End of excerpt. Read the rest in the eBook “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows“.

 

This is why.

“I want to come home.”

These are the words my daughter, DQ, spoke to me a month after she moved out of my house to live with her father. They were the words I had hoped to hear from her every day since she left, and yet, they felt so sad as she said them out loud. As her mother, I wanted to scoop her up and tell her of course she could come home. But both of us knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.  After all, I still had to convince her dad this was a good idea.

“I feel like I’m giving in too soon,” she confided in me, citing the rule both her father and I had come up with that dictated she would have to live in her dad’s house until the end of the school year, at least. But after she described the drastic differences her life over there had been from her life in my home, I told her it was okay and we would figure this out.

A whole other lifetime ago, life was very different in our family. We didn’t have a lot of money, and things were really tight. When money is tight, so is patience, as well as everyday common decency. DQ’s father and I thought nothing of our verbal sparring matches we held way back then. There were some nights when we screamed at each other through to the early hours of the morning. Eventually, those screaming fights escalated into something more physical.

Abuse was not something that just popped up out of the blue back then. It had first appeared many years before, when we were first dating. The first time it happened, a guy I knew had looked at me suggestively when we were at a party. The guy had obviously been drinking too much, and likely wasn’t even seeing straight. But that one look sent the Ex over the edge, and he challenged him to a fight. Naturally, we were told to leave the party. But when I defended my friend to the Ex, he reached his hand up and came down hard on my leg next to him. He immediately apologized at his action, breaking into tears as he repeated, “I’m sorry,” over and over. I was so shocked over the action that I didn’t know what to do. And I was disgusted in myself as I reassured him that it was okay, placing all sympathy on him over what he had “accidentally” done to me, forgetting that I was the one who had been wronged. The next day, where he had hit me developed into the blackest bruise I had ever seen, taking up my entire thigh.

I often look back at that moment and wonder how things would have been different had I done what many women swear they would do – LEAVE AFTER THE FIRST HIT. It’s so easy to say. But trust me, the grooming from an abuser begins long before that first strike. First, the abuser chooses a girl who lacks self-esteem. In the beginning of that relationship, he puts her on a pedestal – telling her how pretty she is, how much of a better man he is with her, and spoils her with affection. Sometimes, the guy will come to her damaged, and let her help put the pieces together. For the Ex, he came to me only days after I met him to tell me that one of his friends had been killed. He was devastated, sharing real tears as I comforted him in his sadness.

“I’ve never met anyone who cares as much as you do,” he told me.

An abuser will also look for anything they can use to hold over their girlfriend, further chaining her to him. This opportunity didn’t take long to arise. When the Ex and I first started dating, I was also seeing someone else. The Ex wasn’t my boyfriend, and neither was this other guy. So I didn’t think anything of it on Valentine’s Day of that year when the Ex presented me with a rose earlier that afternoon, and I went on a date with the other guy that evening. Yet, at the same time, I knew it wouldn’t go over well with the Ex. Sure enough, the Ex found out and spent the next day screaming at me over the phone. As I tried to plead my case and apologize to him, he wouldn’t hear anything of it. I found myself on the defensive with him, trying to earn his forgiveness.

While the first hit was the beginning of the physical abuse, this should have been my first and last red flag that something was wrong. I had known the Ex for less than a week, and was trying to hold onto him over this mistake. But I felt horrible for hurting him. I had added to his pain so soon after his friend had died. I had betrayed him. I owed him.

He had his hooks in me.

Over the next couple years, I stopped attending many regular teen functions so I could be with him. I stopped hanging being around my friends because they couldn’t stand my boyfriend. I skipped my Senior Project Grad party because he told me he was going to go out and get drunk if I went. And the day after I graduated high school, I moved into a tiny one-bedroom apartment with him. He was homeless at the time, so I felt like I had to just so he had a roof over his head.

We lived in this apartment for one year. That year was the worst year of my entire life. I have actually blocked out so much of that time. Every now and then, pieces of that year will come back to me in flashes, surprising me out of the blue. Abuse does that – it creates holes in your memory. I heard that this happens with young children when there is abuse in the home, affecting their growing brains in those first 5 years of life so that they develop issues later in life. I often wonder if this is why the Taz is the way he is, if it’s because he spent those first several years of his life tuning out his dad beating up his mom.

In that hellish year, I gave up college in favor of working full time. He worked sporadically, usually losing his job because he was stealing from the register or he mouthed off to the boss. I faithfully kept my job, handing my paycheck over to him so that he could pay the bills. We had no car, and never had money to pay for even a simple bus ride. So I walked three miles to work, and three miles back. We also had no money for food. I lived on a Top Raman diet and got down to 98 pounds.

He, on the other hand, was living high on the hog. Somehow he made friends with money. He would come home with new clothes his friends would apparently buy him (as he told me). Sometimes he’d be gone for several days at a time, and I’d have no idea where he was because he’d ignore me when I paged him (those were the days of pagers). When he came back, he’d always have some excuse as to why he was gone – he was helping a friend in need, he was trying to secure a job, he was stranded and couldn’t make it home.

We would get into awful fights over everything. He would choke me, hit me, use his body to push me against a wall. He would lunge at me, and I would instinctively fight back before he even threw the first hit, giving him the open to beat the shit out of me. One time he hit me in the nose causing me to cry out in pain next to an open window. That time, the cops were called. I lied to them, saying it was nothing. They knew I was lying. But in those days, they couldn’t do anything unless the victim pressed charges. Now it’s better because the police can press charges even when the victim doesn’t. But if I pressed charges, two things would happen – he would come back and hurt me, and even scarier to me, he would break up with me.

One of these instances of abuse caused me to hold an empty beer bottle above my head as if I were going to bash it against his head. He had just finished saying something so incredibly mean to me, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. He took the bottle, threw me on the ground, and proceeded to kick me all over my body. Then he left, and I was left alone to cry in the middle of my living room floor. The bruises remained on my body for a week, and I covered them with turtlenecks and long sleeves. But when I involuntarily winced upon being hugged by my sister, my family knew something was up.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to leave. Or rather, we were being kicked out because the rent wasn’t being paid. But I moved out and was back in my parents’ home knowing that I would soon be breaking up with the Ex.

That’s when I discovered I was pregnant.

Long story long, we stayed together, and the abuse stopped – for a while. But once we were married and had a couple of kids, it all started back up again. I don’t know what started it – the stress over lacking funds, the fact that we had just lost our third child to stillbirth, the needs of the kids we did have, the depression that was threatening both of us… All I know is that soon we were screaming at each other, he was drinking more, I was being accused of cheating on him, and the hitting began again. Another year of that, and I finally said enough was enough and moved out – for good.

So when DQ asked to move in with her father, the past was the biggest memory that made me want to say no. What if she made him angry? Would he hit her?  If he could hit someone he claimed to love romantically, what would stop him from hitting his own daughter?

This was also on the memories of all those closest to us. When I decided to let DQ go, I had to answer to multiple people who thought I had gone off my rocker. But something told me that I needed to let her go. He was her dad. In all the years she had visited him, nothing had ever gone awry. I needed to trust that it would be okay.

I mention all of the abuse and our past life together because it’s relevant. I have slowly moved past this reality. It took some time, but I am no longer that girl who feels responsible for picking up the pieces. Being a punching bag is no longer normal. Even being called a mean name is not normal.

But I don’t believe the Ex has moved past this reality. I have spent the past couple of years being nice about him, not talking about the abuse – especially here – because he or the kids might read it. I pretend to the public that we had a normal divorce and get along now for the benefit for the kids. And truthfully, we do get along for the kids’ sake. I have forgiven him for all those years of torture, and even own my own part of the puzzle for the times I messed up, as well as when I allowed the abuse to continue by not walking away. But I have also forgiven myself for not walking away, because abuse is so much darker than the black and white of it. Walking away sometimes just doesn’t feel like an option.

In case you were wondering, he never did hit her. He never abused her. They hardly even fought. But life in his home was very different. The depression was still very thick in the air there. Her dad was suffering from it, and spent all his time either working or in his room watching TV. DQ was left to her own devices 90% of the time. There was no food, and she relied on the free breakfast and lunch program at school. In the evenings, she would have to make her own dinner. Often it was frozen pizza or the like.

But more than that, the Ex and his girlfriend were continuing the cycle of screaming matches at night that would last well into the early morning. DQ would lie awake at night as they screamed at each other. And there’s reason to believe that her father was still abusive.

There were other reasons, too, why DQ needed to leave. But those were the biggest. And somehow we needed to convince her father that she needed to move home. We blamed her depression, which was true, and how she was homesick, also true. We failed to mention that we knew anything about the abuse. And last weekend DQ came home with me.

“What happened? “ the counselor asked DQ when we re-enrolled her into school the following Monday. Neither of us wanted to talk about it. DQ looked at me for help, and I stepped in.

“It just wasn’t what she expected,” I explained.

“Not much greener on the other side,” the counselor chuckled.

She has no idea.

I am trying to figure out how to write an article for the newspaper on the fact that DQ came home, and why. I want to give hope to parents who have children that want to try moving out – that they may just come back when they’ve discovered the “grass isn’t greener on the other side”. I still don’t know what to write. I can’t write all this. But I needed to include the truth somewhere. So here it is.

This is why.

Confession: I hate school projects

This post will publish in the Press Democrat on Friday, Feb. 22.

I hate school projects. There. I’ve said it. I’ve often felt like it was more homework for the parents than it is for the kids. Yes, I understand that school projects are meant to be for the kids. But please tell that to the students who bring in the projects they worked on all by themselves only to be shown up by the child whose architect father built an exact replica of the Golden Gate Bridge out of toothpicks.

True story.

At any rate, I am not a parent who does my child’s project for them. But I do have to sit and hold my child’s hand from start to finish on these projects just to get them done, feeding him ideas because he just can’t come up with them on his own. I suppose these projects are meant to help kids learn in a more fun way. However, forcing a child to sit for hours during the weekend as I suffer through glue gun burns while talking him off the ledge is anything but fun.

Recently my son, Taz, brought home a packet of papers detailing the upcoming science fair. He had a choice to either do homework during this time or create an elaborate project. Of course, he chose the project because it’s “more fun” than homework. In the meantime, I suffered flashbacks of every project we’d done in his 12 years of life.

One year, Taz had to create a report on different leaves he found. He was to collect about twenty leaves, dry them, and then tell a story about where he found them. Sounds like a sweet project, doesn’t it? Wrong. Between his tears and whining and my threats that he’d never see the light of day again until this project was done, I don’t think either one of us wanted to see a leaf ever again. Even now I shudder a little when autumn comes around.

In 4th grade, Taz was given the infamous Mission project. For kids with parents who know how to build, this must have been a blast. For me, it was a really bad joke. The book he brought home from the library with the instructions on how to build a California Mission from scratch was totally wrong in all the measurements. I had to stretch my brain to capacity to figure out what the measurements were supposed to be so that the building would actually stay intact. Then I used way too much hot glue, both on my fingers and on the house, because I just couldn’t trust him with the tool.

mission

This year, my son was given a month of lead-time before the project was due. Taz had chosen an experiment that compared the growth of sugar and salt crystals, which he assured me was very quick and promised we had plenty of time to finish it. Since he is now in sixth grade, I took him at his word.

A week passed by, and then another. The science fair project was pushed to the back of my mind as it slipped off my radar. But when I received the teacher’s reminder that the project was due in five days, I began to hyperventilate. She happily noted that we were probably already done with the experiment, and just needed to finish the poster over the weekend. But we hadn’t even started. Even worse, through research we learned that sugar and salt crystals take 7-10 days to properly grow.

We were so in trouble.

Actually, the Taz was the one who was in trouble. But as his parent, I couldn’t help feeling responsible that I hadn’t pushed harder for him to get this done much sooner. I dragged him to the store to gather up all the materials he needed to finish the project and make a beautiful poster to go with it. Then the two of us went to work setting up jars of water, one with salt and one with sugar, and a stick for them to grow on in each.

The first day, the salt one began to crystallize on the stick while the sugar one did nothing. The second day, the salt one grew a tiny bit more. The sugar one did nothing. The third day, the salt one was still slowly growing while the sugar one was asleep at the wheel.

The science fair was two days away and the experiment had failed. There wasn’t enough time to start over. We were forced to make a choice – keep going and hope that something would happen in the nick of time, or scrap the whole experiment and do something completely different.

That was how we discovered which household item cleans pennies the best.

The completed poster
The completed poster

Have I mentioned how much I hate school projects?

How to make the first move

I went out to lunch with a coworker today. She’s someone I have known for years, and have always thought she was just a wonderful person. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been bubbly and upbeat, cheering others on around her in their endeavors, and just an inspiration on how to be a decent person. But being a natural introvert, I’ve never been one to make the first move to get to know her better – or anyone at work, for that matter. I’ve always left it up to others to try and get to know me better because it’s just easier that way, you know? There’s less risk involved. Naturally that must mean I have tons of friends, right?

You’d think, huh.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t work that way. But regardless, this coworker and I connected recently and came to the mutual decision that we should really have lunch. We ended up having over an hour of fantastic conversation as we discussed everything from our kids to our faith, and everything in between. When we got back to our desks, she emailed me the kindest note. In it, she mentioned that while it might not seem like it, she’s actually a very shy person.

“I’m not one to socialize much,” she wrote, “but you make it very easy. Let’s do it again!”

When it’s hard to make friends, maybe we just need a reminder we’re not the only ones who are shy. Somewhere out there is another human being who is longing for a friend and not sure how to go about it. It’s not just us who are afraid to make the first move. Others are too. But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

This truth is currently being illustrated by my stepson, Frizz, as he agonizes how to ask out the girl he has liked for the better part of the school year. As a senior, he is closing in on the end of his high school years. He is also closing in on the last chance he has to even talk to the girl he likes – let alone ask her out on a date, and perhaps even ask her to be his girlfriend. But just making that first step is terrifying enough, let alone any of the steps that follow after that.

Not sure how to advise my stepson, I asked my daughter, DQ, how she has been asked out in the past. She shared her most recent experience with me. The boy got to know her by asking a lot of questions about her, keeping his attention focused on her. The attraction proved to be mutual, and both of them dropped hints about their interest in each other. And when this boy was able to see that DQ was into him, he asked her to be his girlfriend.

“I guess what Frizz should do is just really try to get to know this girl better, then get her number, and when the moment seems right, tell her how he feels and see if she feels the same way,” DQ advised. “If he does it right, he might even know that she likes him back when he gets to that point.”

Of course, she makes it sound so easy. And truthfully, if you put your nerves aside, it really is that easy. But for someone as shy as Frizz, as shy as my coworker, as shy as ME, taking that first step can feel like preparing to jump off a cliff.

But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

I guess this could be a lesson in anything. We never know what will happen unless we make that first move – whether it be making a new friend, expressing a feeling of adoration, publishing a book, taking a stand for yourself, risking it all…. If we live a life so full of caution that it keeps us from living life to the fullest, we can’t claim we know the bad that will happen. We also will never know the good that will happen.

Being social for an introvert might feel totally unnatural. But while painful at first, barreling through that shyness isn’t lethal. It might seem that way, but taking that first step won’t strike you down dead. The worst that can happen is that you might get turned down. Sucky, sure. But you’ll be able to move beyond it rather than getting stuck in the unknown. And the best that can happen? You’ll get exactly what you wanted in the first place. A new friend. That special someone who likes you just as much as you like her. Or a published book (only a few more weeks left until A Symphony of Cicadas is officially published).

We’ll never know until we’ve made the first move.

Battling trolls

It’s a constant battle about whether I am going to keep my newspaper parenting column or not. It’s not that it’s in jeopardy. It’s not. But I question myself over and over whether I really want to keep writing it.

I don’t really know how I feel about this space I have in the newspaper. Every other week, I get to write 800 words about anything I want as long as it pertains to families. When it comes to writing for the paper, that’s freedom. You see columnists in our paper, like Chris Smith, Chris Coursey, and my personal favorite, Susan Swartz, and they get that kind of freedom. I’ve looked up to all of them for years because of it. And while mine isn’t a regular feature of the newspaper, it’s a space that is all mine that I get to write anything in it. Not many people have this privilege. So to give it up, I’d have to be crazy.

But the difference is, they write about other people who want to be interviewed. But my column? Often it is about my own experiences as a parent, and how I have dealt with the normal day-to-day issues with kids. Most of the time, it’s upbeat – like when I got to write about going from a single mom to getting married. And sometimes it’s about an experience we’re grappling with, like when we’re dealing with bad sports in soccer or baseball, learning how to deal as a stepfamily, or when my daughter is leaving to live with her dad.

I reach a lot of people through this column. Some weeks I hear nothing. But other weeks I manage to touch something inside a reader or two, and they send me a note to tell me their own story. This past week, I received a half dozen notes from parents with kids who have moved in with their other parent, or who have gone through it themselves as a kid. They were able to relate to the story I told about DQ moving away.  One mom even wanted to start a support group, with my help, for parents going through this. I was warmed by each of these personal letters sent to me, and received it as an affirmation that I am doing the right thing by sharing little pockets of my life.

And that’s what they are – little pockets. In my public column, I do not mention the parts that hurt too much to write. I will not write something that will hurt someone’s feelings if they read it. I keep the dirty laundry airing to a minimum, only speaking about things that are okay to share with the public by all that are involved. In fact, that’s why I moved THIS blog over here, away from the public eye. The blog and columns I write there keep my private life PRIVATE, but allow me to still share the outer details that will hopefully help other parents battling the same issues or experiencing the same triumphs.

But then I receive a comment like this: “Often when reading your column, I cringe a bit over certain details you have included and wonder ‘oh my, wonder what her kids think about this being in the paper?'”

And it’s surrounded by other such accusations about my column and what I am writing – how I slam my ex, mention my messy marriage, and air my dirty laundry in such a public way.

Truth is, he isn’t even being a troll with what he said to me in my comments.  He merely gave an opinion that isn’t in line with what I believe.  And he doesn’t have all the facts, either, since I (surprisingly) leave so much of my private life off of all my public spaces of the internet.

But still, it hurts.

I could receive a million comments that thank me for what I write, telling me how much they appreciate my openness and how they can relate, and other such niceties that I have received over the years I have written my column. But when I receive a comment like the one I just received today, it makes me question everything I believe, and makes me wonder if it really is time to end the column and just call it a day. It makes me question if I really am sharing too much of my personal life with the public in my column. It even makes me question whether I need to hang this blog up too, to just close the open door policy I’ve held to many of the details of my life and go back to living life privately.

I mean, what is a blog, anyway, but a very public diary?

I probably won’t give any of it up. At least not now. But man, these kind of comments sure do sting a lot.  And I obviously have a very fragile ego.

1000 paper cranes

My 17-year-old stepson, Frizz, is intent on folding 1,000 paper cranes.  This means there are paper cranes of all sizes showing up all around the house, increasing in numbers day by day.  The first day was cute.  He carefully placed a large crane on our dinner table, followed by cranes decreasing in size – like a little paper crane train.  Then a few more appeared in the living room, folded in bright construction paper.  Soon the little train on the table grew to include their extended family.

Every day Frizz has continued his folding adventure at his desk in his room.  And I wonder two things – what the heck are we going to do with 1,000 paper cranes, and when is the kid going to get a girlfriend?

Hanging with my son

The Taz and I at a Giants game over the summer.
The Taz and I at a Giants game over the summer.

The Taz has been a different kid this week.  This would be the very first week he’s been home without his sister here.  They both left for their dad’s house two weeks ago, but Taz was the only one who came back.  DQ has been adjusting up in Grass Valley, going to a new school and meeting new friends.  We’ve all been adjusting to life here with one less person in the house, cautiously paying attention to what that feels like.

When I had brought Taz home last weekend, I asked him what he thought about his sister not being here.  He admitted to feeling a little jealous that she got to stay and he didn’t.  But he also said that it might be good if his sister was gone.

“You guys were always hanging out,” he told me.  “Maybe now we’ll be able to hang out more too.”

And it’s true.  DQ and I had a lot in common.  Hanging out with her was easy.  We like the same shows, liked doing the same things, and could easily chat about anything.  Taz, on the other hand, had two interests – playing video games, and talking about video games.  I have no interest in either one of those, just like he has no interest in any of the things I like to do.  Sometimes I’ll come in his room and sit on his bed while he plays, and I’ll let him teach me about the game.  But honestly, for the most part he would lock himself in his room and we’d hardly see each other at all.

One of the things I decided upon when the decision was made for DQ to move was that I was going to change all that with Taz.  Rather than dive into being sad about my oldest leaving the house, I was going to take advantage of being one kid down and focus on the Taz a lot more.  At first it wasn’t easy.  Taz and I are notorious for not seeing eye to eye, and many times this turns into a huge fight.  He has an excuse for everything.  I want things done a certain way.  He just wants to have fun.  I can’t understand why he doesn’t just do what he’s told and get it out of the way.

The first two days together were a disaster.

Then the Taz decided to play videogames at 4am.  Mr. W caught him and told him to turn them off, and we’d deal with it in the morning.  I was fuming mad, but managed to get back to sleep.  Time has a funny way of making things a bit more calm, however.  Rather than flying off the handle in the morning, I calmly asked him what happened the night before.  When he told me, I asked him what he thought his punishment should be.

“Take away my videogames for a day?” he asked meekly.

“I want to take them away for a week,” I told him.  He hung his head in defeat, and didn’t argue with me.  “But I’ll just take them away for two days,” I conceded.

We spent the next two days together.  We played countless games of Apples to Apples, just the two of us (even though it’s really a 4 or more player game).  We watched shows together, including The Biggest Loser, and did exercises at commercials.  And we just hung out.  When he got his videogames back, he was smarter about his time with them.  He finished up his chores and homework early so he could play.  And most evenings they were turned off after dinner so he could spend time with us before bed.

And there’s more. I’ve been making his breakfast and lunch every day, something I used to just leave for him to do.  He used to pack lazy lunches and skip breakfast, ending up way too hungry after school and snacking on everything in sight.  Now he’s getting enough to eat, and has been laying off the snacks.  He’s more willing to work at eating better, and doesn’t argue when I tell him he can’t have seconds at dinner.

He calls me every day after school, and shares with me what happened that day.  Instead of talking about how school sucks or that he has no friends, he’ll tell me the exciting stuff that happened – how he saw a lizard that looked like a snake, how his essay was chosen to be read in front of the whole school, how his teacher loved the artifact he made for his report on ancient Greece, how he really loved his sandwich that day…

He’s a happier kid.  I don’t think it’s because his sister isn’t here (though he did tell me he’s glad she’s not here to tell him he’s not funny when he makes a joke).  But I think it’s because he suddenly has the spotlight.  He’s been in the seat of the second child for all his life, moving into the seat of the third child when he gained an older stepbrother.  Being the youngest, it’s easy to be left out.  Now, he has a chance to be noticed.  And I’m making sure to give him that.  It’s only been a week, and the difference in him is noticeable.

Why I let my teen move out

I know I already wrote about this.  In fact, she has already moved.  But after much thought, I decided to also write a newspaper article about what’s going on in our home.  I figure plenty of divorced families are going through the same thing as their child decides which parent to live with full time.  So I am sharing my own personal story.

Note: I am doing ok.  DQ is too.  It’s still a transition, and a lot to get used to.  But so far, everything seems to be going smoothly.

This article will print on January 11, 2013 in the Press Democrat.

LETTING GO

My 14-year-old daughter, DQ, is moving out.

It’s weird, I never thought I’d type these words before she turned 18. But here I am, standing by as she packs up her bags and prepares to leave the nest. My nest. The one I have padded with protection and comfort since the day she was born, through a messy divorce, during financially tight times, and in her tumultuous teen years. She is flying the coop with my assistance when I drive her a full three hours away to live with her father.

And this might just be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

For 14 years, I have been her primary caregiver, the one who is responsible for every aspect of her life. I am the one who has filled out her school forms, checked her homework (till her homework got too smart for me), packed her lunches, and made her doctor’s appointments. I was the parent she told about her first love, and the parent who picked up the pieces when her heart was broken a few weeks later. I am her chauffeur, her personal chef, her nurse, her cheerleader, her everything she needed me to be so she can be a happy kid. I’ve gone to every one of her soccer games. I volunteer at the camp she attends every year. And I have done all this on my own. So to hand over the reins to her dad, allowing her to move three hours away and out of my realm of parenting, was way beyond my comfort level.

My first impulse was to say no, absolutely not. But she asked me to at least think about it. So I agreed to mull it over before I ultimately said no.

I was at war with what was the right thing to do in this situation. Of her two parents, I had proven to be the more responsible. Our two children, DQ and Taz, live with me full time, and I have fit my whole entire life within their schedule and comfort. Their father, who moved several counties away a few years ago, has never had the privilege of moving heaven and earth to make it to a parent-teacher conference at the same time as a mandatory meeting at work. I’ve been the parent while he’s been the one they visit occasionally. I’ve accepted that this is what works for raising the kids, and hold no bitterness over this. It’s just the way it is. But to give up my place as my daughter’s primary parent was rocking a boat I didn’t want rocked.

During the time when I was to be thinking this over (even though my mind was still set on NO), DQ took the time to patiently discuss all the perks of her living with her father. She talked about her new baby brother over there, how she would get a chance to know him and help take care of him. She took me on a virtual tour of her new town through Google Maps, pointing the cursor towards all of her favorite hangouts a few blocks from her home. She told me about the friends she had there, helping me to get to know them though her description. She handled the whole situation like she was the adult and I was the child. She was patient and kind, helping me with a hard transition. I was stubborn and tearful, refusing to budge.

Then a funny thing happened – my eyes were suddenly opened.

It didn’t happen on my own, but through a lot of help. I talked with my husband at great lengths about the whole decision. I discussed it with a counselor. And eventually, I called my ex-husband himself and talked about the possibility of our daughter moving in with him. After much deliberation and thought, I realized I had much less reasons to say no, and many more reasons to say yes.

So I let her go.

DQI know in my heart that I’ve made the best decision I could for her. DQ gets a chance to get to know her other side of her family, the part that makes up the other half of her. I, in turn, get to feel what it’s like on the other side of the coin – the one where I merely get to visit her instead of seeing her every single day. This still feels like a bad dream. I keep waiting for DQ to tell me she’s changed her mind. Of course, she hasn’t and likely won’t.

But I’ve realized something. Loving a child isn’t just about holding on to them and protecting them. It isn’t just about being there every step of the way.

Sometimes love is knowing when to let go.

Empty nest blissfulness

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This week has been blissfully free of children.  Blissful, I tell you.  We’ve hardly done anything special.  In fact, most of it has been spent on the couch watching TV, or sitting side by side as we read our separate books, or even just doing nothing with no noise whatsoever.  I think that’s our favorite.  No TV.  No videogames.  No bickering or demands, or miscellaneous messes to clean up.  Just the two of us in our house that is suddenly ridiculously easy to keep clean.  Even meals are wonderful, cooking for two with very little clean up.

It’s just plain blissful.

Camping next to the creek at our favorite place in the world.
Camping next to the creek at our favorite place in the world – complete with tarps in case of rain.

We started the week at our favorite little spa/camping spot in the world, braving the frosty weather in the hills to be able to soak in hot springs during the day and snuggle underneath a mountain of blankets at night.  It was the same place that Shawn proposed to me, and we hadn’t been there since we got married.  So it was a bit nostalgic to hike on the same trail we walked over a year before, pausing in the spot where he knelt on one knee pretending to tie his shoe, only to offer me a ring and a promise.  🙂

This camping trip was the perfect way to start our kidless week.  I was feeling a little down, having said goodbye to DQ the night before.  I had fought a few moments of tears, and I know I’m guilty of snipping at Shawn a couple of times for no good reason except he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  A trip into the hills and away from everything else helped to center the both of us, melting away the stress, negativity, and any lingering sadness so that when we drove back, we were actually ready.

New Years Eve was naturally kidless as well.  But rather than do anything special like go out in the freezing cold all dressed up to spend way too much money, we stayed home in our PJs and ate a delicious steak and potato dinner.  He drank his glass of non-alcoholic champagne.  I drank a delicious chocolate martini.  He was totally sober all night long.  I got a bit too tipsy off my one drink.  He slept like a baby all night long.  I threw up all night long.

Oops.

The rest of the week has been pretty tame.  We got to spend some kidless time with some good friends of ours.  We’ve resumed our normal working hours.  And we’ve enjoyed our home time totally unplugged from parenting.  It’s been a nice little break.

When I pick up the Taz on Saturday, I know it will be bittersweet.  It will be nice to have him back.  But his sister’s absence won’t go unnoticed.  It’s when life without DQ here will actually hit.  So to remedy that first day of transition, I am spoiling Taz with a trip to Six Flags – just the two of us – for a day of fun before we actually head home and go back to regular life in its altered state.

But in the meantime, I am really, really enjoying the empty nest state of things right now.

“I could get used to this,” I joked to Shawn.

“No you couldn’t,” he told me.  “You’d miss the kids if they actually moved out.”

Maybe so.  But this quiet week sure has been great.

Goodbye wonderful 2012

end of 2012

Despite the past couple of days, this has been the best year of my life.  We’ll start with the obvious – I got to marry my best friend!  I look back at those days of planning a wedding, and all the hair pulling I did over that one day, and I want to laugh.  Some of the things I stressed over were not worthy of that much thought.  And kind friends tried to tell me that very thing.  But I didn’t understand until my own wedding just what they meant. When it’s all said and done, I am now married to the man of my dreams, and that’s the only detail I really care about.

But still, it really was a beautiful wedding.

And a beautiful honeymoon!

But first things first, let’s do the obligatory recap of a year well lived through some of my favorite posts I wrote in the last 12 months.

January – The wicked stepmother It’s amazing how time changes things.  In January I was having issues being a step-parent.  I felt like me and Frizz were never going to see eye-to-eye.  He was so distant and contrary to the rest of the family, I didn’t know how to relate, we mostly just moved around each other.  It’s so different now!  But reading back at this post, I want to wince at how uncomfortable those days were!

February – Don’t FREAK Out: Oh, my little daughter.  DQ told me about a year ago that there was no way she would ever turn into a sullen teenager.  The very next day, she turned into one.  That girl is both my sunshine and my stormy days.  I love her so fiercely, but man she is such a pain in the ass!  At this time, she was hanging out with this boy who was so NOT good news, and who totally freaked me out.  It reminded me of a time when I did the same thing.  My parents reaction was to, naturally, freak out.  My reaction?  To get pregnant.  So when DQ fell into the arms of some bad news boy, my mantra became DON’T FREAK OUT.

March – Defending my no good EX: It isn’t often that I write about the Ex.  Partly because it’s bad form to slam someone in a place on the internet where they can read it.  Partly because he is my kids’ father, and I wouldn’t want them to read something bad that I had said to all my closest strangers.  But mainly because I no longer have anger or animosity about him regarding the past, and I try to have understanding about his shortcomings in the present.  Plus, in the times when I am angry, I want the freedom to say things I wouldn’t regret pasting on the internet.  But in March, the Ex was arrested.  And admittedly, I was pissed.  But I managed to get over it for his mother’s sake in a phone conversation we had way back then in the spring.

HomeRunApril – A full month of blogging: This month was full of blog posts that hold a lot of meaning for me.  First, it was when the son of a friend of ours was murdered by his mother.  This was a shocking turn of events, something we never would have seen coming.  It’s hard to believe that little children can die in such a way, by the hands of the very person they trust the most.  Second, my son became the homerun king at baseball!  The kid hit his very first homerun, and then he was drafted up from the Minors to the Majors.  I couldn’t have been more proud.  Third, we tried out family meetings for the first time, and could claim success.  In fact, I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the turning point for me and Frizz’s difficult relationship. While we have only held a handful of meetings since then, and none as orderly as this one, it was this specific meeting that began to help us blend as a family, and understand each other a little more – something that is so vital when trying to solve relational problems!

aballoon15May – Up, Up, and Away!: My job sent me on assignment to fly in a hot air balloon over Sonoma County.  That’s right.  I was paid to ride up in a balloon over the wine country, and was treated to champagne and brunch afterwards.  How cool is my job?  Plus, I got some pretty awesome photography from way up there in the sky.

June – Wasting Time: Just a little food for thought about the reality of paid writing vs. the every day job.  I especially love this post as we head into the new year, and I have aspirations about where my writing is going to take me.  😀

July – Beautiful nightmares make the best novels: You guys, this is where my novel was born!  This post is a bit cryptic, and doesn’t give away the plot at all.  But it’s where I first dreamed up the storyline that is now my almost completely edited novel that is coming out in 2013.  Eeeee!  If you want more info on the novel, visit my author page at CrissiLangwell.com.

August – Showering the bride: My sister gave me the most beautiful bridal shower ever.  This is my 2nd marriage, but my very first (and last!) bridal shower.  She went over and beyond in every detail, right down to the handmade drink umbrellas to sit in our watermelon margaritas.  The photos were amazing, thanks to how sweet the afternoon was.

September – 10 years ago today: It was 10 years ago that I suffered a loss I never thought possible – the loss of my son just a few months before he was supposed to be born.  In past years, September 23rd has been one of the most difficult days to get through.  But on the 10 year anniversary of his birth to heaven, the kids and I made a day dedicated to family.  It was truly special.

weddingOctober – Did something happen this month?:  I swear I can remember…  Oh yeah.  I got MARRIED!  It seems like just months ago I was lamenting the fact that I was never, ever going to get married to Shawn, my Mr. W.  And then, October 13, 2012 came and he put a ring on my finger and gave me his last name.  The very next day, we left for a week-long honeymoon to Costa Rica, which I blogged about daily with lots of photos to your enjoyment (or total dismay).  What a wonderful month this was!

nano-fireworksNovember – Finishing the novel Besides getting married, the other huge thing this year was finishing my novel!  This is the third novel I have ever written, but the first one I have stuck with to get it fully edited and well on its way to being published.  I’m more than a little excited about it, and I hope each and every one of you (all 3 of you) buy my book and make me a famous author.

December – Letting her go:  This wasn’t exactly my choice for how I wanted the year to end – saying goodbye to my daughter when she moved to live with her father three hours away.  She moved on Friday.  And I was sad, still am.  But the good news is that I’m not falling apart.  I survived.  And it’s all going to be ok.  Who knows how things will turn out – if she decides she loves it and wants to stay forever, or she hates it after two weeks and wants to move home.  All I can do is take it one day at a time, and understand that even though she can’t be here every day, she is still just a phone call away (or a three hour drive).

But of course, this New Year is going to be so, so, so great.  I’ve already started a mental list of the things I want to accomplish – my book being #1.  🙂

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of making 2012 as wonderful as it has been – my friends, my family, YOU.   2012 is one I’ll remember as a really, really great year.  And I’m so excited about the upcoming year, I can hardly stand it!

Happy New Year!