Friday, April 26, 2013

Blame the Biebs

I had a thoughtful post in mind. I think think I was going to talk about knowing when to pull the plug, when to walk away, when to just start fresh.

This wasn't going to be about quitting the Service or divorce or anything inherently consequential--so calm down--but only about our day at the gym yesterday, the 8th in a row. Boy has a gym-specific behavior chart. Three checks equals 15 minutes of iPad time after the gym. Twelve checks in a week equals a trip for ice cream (for them, not me). He's held it together most days, but yesterday one of the staff came to retrieve me in my final minutes of personal training. He had hurt three kids and it was time to just take him home. I agreed, upset not simply because it happened (he is often the oldest by far, so the kids he hurts tend to be quite young), but because he is nobody's fool. He'd rather be in the house than ever leave it, and the second he knows he can get me to take him home simply by engaging in some fisticuffs, it's game over. I was stewing on this, my frustration rising, when I decided to just let it go. It had been 8 days in a row. We played outside, both (!) kids took naps, and then we played outside some more. Two meals on the front porch, some up close observation of bees on the dandelions, and other kid-worthy pursuits.

In a moment, it all made sense, the need to step back, restart, recharge, let go, forgive, move on. In that moment, in a larger sense. In parenting, in life.

But then I clicked on a slideshow entitled "Justin Bieber through the Years" (thanks for nothing, HuffPost), and my brain oozed out my ear. I think I've heard one Bieber song ever and I find young celebrity too tragic to make him a punchline. I don't know why I did it. But any sense of larger meaning and human frailty and carpe-ing the diems: poof. Gone.


Sunday, April 21, 2013


Whoops. Disregard previous post.

I've been at this motherhood gig almost 5 years. You'd think I'd know better than to note publicly when things are going well, but alas. I don't. I never have.

I don't know if it's the stress of the arrival of our HHE, or a general loathing of me, or a genuine developmental issue, but it's been a rough few days for Boy and me. My Like-A-Boss-Ness has devolved into tantrums, writing/drawing/smearing inkpads on the wall, and other infractions that would so embarrass Teenage Boy that I won't mention them in a public forum. Girl, for her part, is generally well-behaved but still easily influenced by her big brother, whom she naturally worships, so when we went to Target and both of them took off in opposite directions for a game of Hide and Seek (only I wasn't playing), I thought I was damn near losing my mind.

Today my aunt, uncle, and teenage cousin came over to help with the last of the heavy schlepping. While Uncle R assembled a tool cabinet, I moved empty boxes from Garage 1 to Garage 2 (yes, 1890 sq ft of house and two entire garages...makes total sense). Girl wanted to help, so I asked her to drag a giant, fairly flat box from the garage at the side of the house to the garage at the back of our long yard. I didn't expect she'd make it more than a foot before running off to play T-ball with Boy. I was shocked when I came back in the yard to find her masterfully walking up the steps to Garage 2 backwards, hauling this large cardboard box. She continued on that way, holding one end of more cumbersome boxes while I held the other. I may have done most of the lifting, but certainly not all of it. She wouldn't finish until all the boxes had been moved, and even then, she requested "Moh boskes!"

I found myself caught between lavishly praising Girl and asking Boy to stop swinging the baseball bat at us, or to stop pouring water on the bathroom floor, or to stop sitting on the cat. I was cuddles and compliments with one, pure scolding with the other. I wouldn't want to be scolded all day, and I saw Boy descending deeper into a defiance I'm sure I too would embrace in his situation. I don't write on walls or swing a cat by his head, so that's one difference, but in a four-year-old's perspective I'm sure Mommy the Meanie looms larger than his own transgressions.

He's told me, several times, that I am a mean mommy, and I need to work on being frustrated.

I feel like a mean mommy. I want each moment to be a fresh start, but I turn around to find him engaged in an example of the World's Worst Judgment. I recently outlawed television, except for in the 5 7 a.m. hours (because come on), in hopes that that would force more creative and physical play and, in turn, a more exhausted and contented Boy. We'll see if it works. In the meantime, I find myself crawling into Boy's loft bed, smushed tailbone and all, to whisper love and forgiveness and regret in his sweet little ear. He nods quietly, his eyes too heavy to keep open, absorbing the flaws and missteps of his mother. In the end, I can only hope he remembers me not simply as Mommy the Meanie, but as Mommy the Human.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Like a Boss

Wow. Three weeks, no blogging. This isn't good, but our brand of groundhog day is unlikely to be particularly thrilling reading material, so maybe it's best. If you don't have anything interesting to say, don't say anything at all.*

This post is full of Foreign Service Top Tips. I bet you are super excited.

We've been settling in and we were doing alright--our behavior management plan is making life so much better for Boy and me--until a week ago. We had already received our license-plate-free cars and on Wednesday last we were eagerly anticipating our HHE, scheduled to arrive at our doorstep between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. I received a call from the driver, saying they had another delivery and wouldn't be at our house until noon or so. I asked if there would be sufficient time for a full unpack and in response received the typical, "Oh? You wanted a full unpack?"

NOTE FOR FS NEWBIES: When in America, insist on your full unpack. The companies receive a lot of taxpayer dollars to do it for you, and will often try to wiggle out of it.

So I decide to continue tidying to prepare for the avalanche, hurricane, other weather-disaster-related metaphor of stuff that was about to rain down on us (see what I did there?).  And I promptly fell down the stairs and destroyed my tailbone. I took one car for emissions testing and the garage door wouldn't close and Boy had a huge meltdown at the testing station and my butt really hurt and at one point I might have sat in the driver's seat, slammed my hands repeatedly against the steering wheel and screamed, "I hate my life!" Might have.

Our stuff arrived at....drumroll 4:30 p.m. and was unpacked the next day. Once it was unpacked, it was clear that our 1890 sq. ft. house was not equipped to handle all our crap. I despaired for another day.

The village descended. My stepmom flew in from Washington and her sister and brother-in-law who live just a mile from my house became Team Awesome, sorting and tossing and organizing. There was even a margarita in there. I had to choose between Percocet and the margarita, and I chose the latter. More satisfying. In order to make my life easier, I ordered a storage container from 1-800-Packrat, which is now sitting in my driveway and holding all of the stuff that will go on Craigslist or in a yard sale. Super cheap, totally worth it. Consider this a Foreign Service Downsizing HHE Processing Top Tip.

Monday was the Like a Boss day. Emissions testing, VIN verification, registration of two cars? Driver's license? Nailed it. Taxes? Done. Paid. (If you have household staff, like we did for the first 6 months of 2012, you pay a lot come April 15.) Rental car? Returned. IN THE SNOW. LIKE A BOSS. Computer desk? Assembled.

Only Foreign Service Officers and their families might appreciate the atrociousness of international relocation, but its awfulness cannot be overstated.

Tuesday was also successful, though not as much in the conquering of Bureaucratic Forces Designed to Make Citizens Cry. I made it to the gym and did a good lower body/upper body workout. (No sitting though, so in order do bench presses from the balance ball, I had to flop somewhat fishlike on it. Trainer was amused.) Then I showered (! I know!) and took Girl to an affordable, well-reviewed preschool to secure the remaining spot for September enrollment. It's only for three half-days a week, and she pouted the whole way home because she wanted to go to preschool right then (there were bunnies, so can't blame her), but it's a win. It's two blocks from Boy's future school, which we will tour this morning if I can successfully cover up the fact that he's been up coughing all night long.

I'll cover the impossibility of securing an appointment with a behavioral psychologist in our network (at least a three month wait unless I go to the pediatric psych ER and get him admitted), the near miss for our family in Kandahar, Boston, and all things glum some other time. For now, our life is mundane, but each task conquered is a task conquered, so I'll take it.

Oh, also got a haircut for the first time in six months and a dye job to deal with this gray hair. LIKE A BOSS.

*Never stopped me before.