Friday, September 26, 2014

Learning to Lean on Each Other

On Sunday my phone lit up with one of my favorite names: Julia Bootcamp.  Her name is Julia, and I met her at Bootcamp a few seasons ago.  I never knew that you could still meet a friend like her at 39. Cheerful, cheeky, the best hostess ever:  Julia just knows how to make you feel good.

If too many days go by, I send her a text: "I miss you.  I need some Julia!"

So naturally I answered with great delight, "Hello!"

Her cheerful voice was filled with something I had never heard from my friend.

"Roberto's been knocked off his bike.  I've gotten a call from the gendarmerie to come down and see them.  I don't know what to do--should I take the girls?"

Now, in this moment, my biggest downfall perhaps became my greatest strength.  I'm a worrier, and I often fear the worst.  Julia has two daughters the same ages as ours.

"Take the girls," I said.

And that was it.  The minutes ticked by and eventually a text.

"The worst has happened.  Pls don't call".

The rest of this story is one that happened in quiet and rending moments.  In deep places you fear to go, but are pulled in without warning, and without hesitation when it means going there to help someone.

I can't tell you that story, because in that place you take an oath to take someone else's pain and keep it somewhere safe, away from the world to see.

 My words are hidden somewhere and I don't think they are coming out this time, so while my friend is leaning on me through these unjust days that no wife should live, I will lean on someone else's words to make sense of this senseless moment.

Roberto and Julia Migliaccio

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some *Other* Things to Know about Motherhood

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It seems like lately I have been seeing articles or blog posts pop up on my Facebook page or on Pinterest or other places my eyes happen to be looking around on the internet, talking about Motherhood.  Titles like 18 Things to Know About Motherhood , Five Incredible Things Motherhood has Taught Me and one of my favorite series from Joanna Goddard, where she interviews mothers from around the world.

The curious thing about all of these articles and hundreds more are talking about a very specific kind of mothering:  One that seems to apply to people with children 8 years old and younger.  Perhaps these years offer the most inspiring moments, snap-worthy memories and tired-to the bone days filled with adorable antecdotes and messes to match.  Aaaah, those were the days.

I've had many of these incredible mothering moments, I've learned 18 or more things about motherhood since I started the job.  And I'm currently a mother living away from my motherland and culture and have seen some interesting differences about what Motherhood means to a lot of people.

Right now I am a mother of a 16 year old girl, a 13 year old girl, a 12 year old boy and an 8.5 year old boy.  Most days I get plenty of sleep, unless I decide to stay out late with my friends or up reading.  I sleep in on the weekends and if my kids wake up before me, they stumble downstairs and make themselves some breakfast.  In the summer I let them stay up until 2 am and sleep until whenever, and when they turn down an offer to go to the beach, my husband and I go without them.  These are some of the perks of surviving the days when bottles of milk would curdle in the crib or a diaper explosion would have me buying a clean onesie at Target instead of trying to save the one covered from crotch to neck in yellow poo.

But there are still things many to know, to learn, about motherhood after these younger years.  Because reaching age 8 just means they probably won't accidentally kill themselves by doing something stupid and you have taken most of the precious pictures that will show up on their wedding video by then, because once puberty hits-well-those photos might not be so cute.

So here is my list of things to add to all those others out there:

1.  HYGIENE.  Teenagers stink.  Literally.  One day they seem to decide that bathing is no longer a requirement, along with brushing their teeth, or wearing clean clothes.  You may repeatedly find yourself asking the question, "When was the last time you showered?!"  If the answer isn't "yesterday"- it's time.  And have you smelled their feet?!  Or their breath?!

2.  MENTAL EXHAUSTION.  Mothering teenagers can be exhausting.  Especially girl ones.  You think you have good advice, helpful tips to help them navigate these confusing times.  Get over yourself--teenagers don't care what you have to say.  You're the devil.  *Cue teenage eye-rolling and comments muttered under their breath.  I firmly believe this is why some mothers watch hours of ridiculous television and bake a lot of dessert recipes from Pinterest.  Avoidance behavior must be deployed in times of severe weirdness, like having a conversation with a teenager while they look at themselves coyingly in the mirror behind you.

3.  HUNGER. Children over 8 eat A LOT of food.  A handful of Goldfish crackers hasn't fooled these kids for years.  They are HUNGRY ALL THE TIME.  And a bowl of cereal won't cut it, either.  And they hate chicken.  And anything that resembles soup.  Did you think motherhood was all about love and kissing boo-boos?  I personally missed the chapter about how motherhood was mostly about being a cook.

4.  DRAMA.  A scrape on the knee?  Bee-sting? Fight over a toy? Toilet paper unrolled all over the house?  How about some of these scenarios:  years-long bouts with lice, a hypochondriac who needs to see the doctor about once a week for things like "my toe hurts" to "my stomach feels like it will explode".  Real tears shed when MineCraft gets turned off, texts saying "I can't be your friend anymore because so-and-so told me you sent him a naked picture of me" . . .  comments like "I wish I could just die."  Oh, you didn't get a degree in psychology?  or medicine? or teenage social media war?

5.   EDUCATION.  Maybe you live in a place where you love your schools and there are many options for children of all learning abilities and systems and functions in place to help those children develop to their fullest potential in a loving, respectful environment.  Or maybe you have one child that absolutely despises her learning environment, one that doesn't fit in to the prescribed learning environment and a couple of them that seem just fine (thank goodness)!  Maybe there are bullies at school or cliques that make your kids feel weird or schedules that drive everyone insane.  Buckle up, because if you can't change the bull you're on, it's going to be a neck-wrenching ride where you will most likely end up on the ground with a lot of bumps and bruises.   Don't worry, just tell your "authentic self" to stay strong!

6.  CONTROL.  You will steadily lose control of your child as all of the lessons you have taught them over the years start to kick in and they no longer believe that you know all things or have the power to frighten them or cajole them into pretty much anything.  You might want to start practicing a response now for the day they pull out "that doesn't work for me" or "don't try to guilt-trip me", or a personal favorite: "It's MY LIFE!"  Indeed, my child, it is YOUR life.  That's the hardest one for us mothers to remember because this is our job, our calling, our destiny.  But in the end, no, it is not our life.  Despite it being your life,  we know "it" is all our fault - you have made that abundantly clear.

I can most certainly assure you that unlike most sweet and inspiring lists about motherhood running around the internet - Motherhood continues after age 8, and it's a whole different ball game.  I could write a list 100 points long and probably wouldn't even touch things like "what to do when your child won't visit you at the nursing home".  The lessons don't stop, and it doesn't get easier, and the stories get more bizarre and YOU CAN NEVER LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.  Ever.  Because children are growing, dynamic beings.  YOU are a growing, dynamic being, and your role as a mother will shift and morph so many times that by the time you're 68 and your 40 year old daughter calls you crying about something, you might shrug your shoulders and whisper to yourself "A Mother's work is never done."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

La Rentrée 2014

la rentrée . . . back to school. 

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not the most overly emotional, sentimental, melancholy person in the entire world.  Or the most prone to hyperbole.  

But as the kids head back to school now, things feel different.  Maybe it's because this girl ran away to Arizona.
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Abby with her cousins on their first day of school

It's like a weird preview of what's it's like to send a child off to college.  She got on an airplane one day in August and that was it.  School registration done and Allez, hop - She's an american teenager in an american high school going to the Sadie Hawkins dance.  Dave and I have turned into grovelers...but we get barely more than a text or a "yeah, everything's fine".  *Sigh*  At least we have Aunt Janae to give us the behind the scenes details.  

Meanwhile, on the Cote d'Azur .  .  .   photo IMG_0635_zpsf6adf1ff.jpg

Sophie and Sam started 5eme today (that's 7th grade).  And Carter started CM1 (4th grade).  I took this picture this morning before we all went our separate ways and when I now I'm loading it here - tears welled up in my eyes because these people are mine for a little while in life, and today I got to straighten some hair, put some gel in some other hair, find the right shirt for someone who was a little cold - and then step back and look at all those smiles and capture this small, happy moment in our small, happy life.  

Happy School Year.


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