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Because Some Of Us Can, And Some Of Us Can’t

Back in my smoking days, a long time ago, over twenty years ago, my best friend from high school got married.  At the rehearsal dinner, one of her bridesmaids had quit smoking fairly recently. Like within the past year.

She was one of those holier than thou, Oh My God, get away from me, smoking is so disgusting, how can you still be doing that to your body kind of people.

That’s not me.

I mean, I can’t imagine being a smoker now. Having to leave the room, sneak around, trying to hide it from people and the kids. Carrying gum, mouthwash and perfume wherever I go. Determining my participation in anything based on whether or not I’d be able to smoke or how long I’d have to go without a cigarette. Not having enough money to buy a pack of smokes and dumping $6.00 in change (mostly pennies) on the counter of the Mobil station.

I still love the smell of cigarettes.  When I walk past someone who is smoking, I take a big, deep breath. Or three. I think it will always smell good to me.

But that’s enough for me now.

In the last thirteen years, I have smoked about five cigarettes.

The anticipation of them was always incredible.

But then the actual smoking of them was such a let down. They were gross. Completely unenjoyable. Nothing like what I remembered back when I was in the thick of it.

So I’m happy to have arrived at that place where, when given the choice, I wouldn’t even think of smoking a cigarette anymore.

It feels good to have gotten to that point.

Because I never thought I’d be able to quit. I used to be a heavy smoker.

Like close to two packs a day when I was in my early thirties.

Smoking was a part of me. It was part of my identity. If I hadn’t gotten pregnant five times in seven years, I dont think I would have been able to quit. Giving it up was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

But I was never like that reformed smoking bridesmaid.

Yesterday I shared this blog post on the Facebook page, and some people didn’t really like it. They found it to be negative and judgmental.

I get it. Not everyone agrees on everything.

I identified with many parts of it, which is why I shared it.

But just as with the smoking, I’m also not one of those I-quit-drinking-and-now-I -think-everyone-should-quit-drinking-kind of people, either.

I just hope I can maybe help people who are struggling, too. And let them know they aren’t alone. That’s why I share my stories/struggles/experiences. I also know I’m gonna need a whole lot of support if I’m going to succeed.

It’s also largely cathartic.

Plus, before I started writing yesterday’s blog post, I was like I’m not sure I really have a problem, and then after I was done writing it and I read it I was like HOLY SHIT WOMAN, what took you so damn long???

So every time I write a blog post I end up learning a little more about myself.

Anyway, I’m not here to judge anyone.

I wish I could handle alcohol.

But the truth is, I can’t.

I don’t care if you drink. I don’t think it’s bad.

I mean, unless you are a raging, booze guzzling, suicidal psycho who is putting other people (namely my kids or my family) in danger.

That’s bad.

But I’m not trying to convince the world to live a life of sobriety.

I’m just choosing to share this newest part of my story, and maybe help a couple people along the way.

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For Those Of You Struggling With The Transition Into Summer

This first day of summer has snuck up on me.

I’m not prepared. I’m not organized.

It’s kind of like when Christmas seems so far away, and you know you have plenty of time. And then all of a sudden, BAM. It’s Christmas Eve Day and you haven’t wrapped a single present. You haven’t even finished your shopping.

And you freak out.

I am freaking out a little bit.

Swim practice times have changed. My coaching hours are completely different. Summer swim team is starting. I started teaching swim lessons here at home yesterday. I am also close to launching a new and improved website and I have kind of a massive amount of work to do for that. From home.

And all the kids are here now. Every day. All. Day. Long.

Oh yeah. And it’s Number 3’s birthday today.

I feel so overwhelmed that I’m kind of paralyzed. I’m having trouble knowing or deciding where to start.

This paralysis leads to avoidance, where, inevitably, I end up on Facebook.

And Facebook is flooded with last day of school pictures/celebrations/whatever.

Ugh.

I managed to take a first day of school picture for some of the kids back in August..

But there was no last day of school pic.

Apparently the thing to do these days is have your kids wear the same outfit on the first and last day of school. And then document both days.

At least if you really have your shit together.

I don’t have my shit together.

I didn’t decorate the driveway with chalk or buy sparklers or make a cake with a custom message or go out for celebratory ice cream yesterday.

And today I didn’t start Number 3’s birthday off with a special birthday breakfast. In fact, I’ve planned nothing for him.

For me, right now, the goal is no blood, no fire, and no death.

Seriously.

And the no blood goal is pretty lofty.

I am functioning on the basics. Keep everyone alive.

That’s it.

Today I am just going to tread water. It is only about keeping my head above water.

I’m not worrying about forward progress. There will be no pressure to check anything off a to-do list. The kids may eat Frosted Mini Wheats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

They will survive. If I keep it simple for today, we all will.

Tomorrow, I’ll make a small list, and start to pick away at it.

I love summer. I really do. It is BY FAR my favorite season.

But this year the transition into it has not been smooth. At all.

When Number 6 first started preschool, he had a very hard time transitioning from one activity to another. Any time he had to stop one thing and start another, he would be inconsolable.

At the time I was frustrated by this. I couldn’t relate.

But today, I can.

100%.

If I were four years old, I’d be hysterical right now.

So if you, like me, feel like you are one of the only people on the planet who is overwhelmed by this change in routine, who is struggling with it a little bit (or a lot), and who is not even close to 100% excited that the school year has ended, you are absolutely not the only one.

And it’s okay to give yourself some time. Take the day. Take a week (or a month) if you need to!

Let the kids watch too much TV. Let them eat crap for a day.

Just keep everyone alive. And survive.

You can start to sort things out tomorrow. Or next week.

You’ll get your shit mostly or sort of or maybe just marginally together eventually.

Until then, just breathe. Take comfort in knowing that at least one other person out there gets it. And you are definitely not alone.

 

 

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Your Middle Schooler Doesn’t Need A Cell Phone

This morning I received an email from the middle school principal where Number 3 and 4 go to school.

In the email, the principal was asking for parents’ help in a number of areas. One was with fidget spinners.  They’ve become quite a distraction at school.

I’ll admit I contributed to this problem. Number 3 and 4  both have (fucking) fidget spinners. I sincerely regret getting them for the kids, especially since they don’t use them for the purpose they were originally intended. They don’t need them. At all.

And if I hate them, I can only imagine how teachers are feeling right now.

So the fidget spinners have been relegated to home. And we have already completely lost one. Thank God.

The next thing the principal was looking for help with was cell phones:

Our goal is to minimize distractions during the day. To do this, we ask students not to be actively on or looking at cell phones during the day unless they are in the cafeteria or a classroom where teachers allow it. We also ask that you refrain from texting your child during the school day.

These have also become a distraction at school.

Okay. I’m just gonna come right out and say two things.

First, middle schoolers should not be allowed to have cell phones in school. There is absolutely no reason for them. None.

They still have those “old fashioned” phones there. You know, the ones with cords attached to them? I can attest that they work. My kids use them to communicate successfully with me all the time.

Second, your middle schooler doesn’t need a phone not just in school.

Your middle schooler doesn’t need a phone at all. Period.

Yeah.

I said it.

Your ten/eleven/twelve/thirteen/ and YES, EVEN fourteen-year-old kid doesn’t need a cell phone.

But I’m divorced and my ex is an asshole and I need to be able to get in touch with my kid.

Perhaps in some cases, this is true. There may be some situations where you must be able to get in touch with your child on a cell phone because your ex prevents any and all communication otherwise.

If that’s the case, then sure. Get your kid a cell phone.

But not a smart phone.

YOUR CHILD DOES NOT NEED A SMARTPHONE.

In fact, nobody NEEDS a smartphone.

 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stay on top of my kids as it is. Once I put a smartphone in their hands, I’ve got a multitude of new responsibilities.

I’ve now got all sorts of shit I need to monitor in addition to the non-smartphoney stuff.

There’s You Tube. Google. Those are bad enough.

Then there are a billion apps.

There are the ones I know about. Like, say, Snapchat.

Your kids are supposed to be 13 to open up a Snapchat account. But your kids aren’t stupid. They can lie, make up an age, and open an account very easily. They know this.

I know because my kids have done it. On an iPod.

But then there are the apps I’ve never even heard of.

Did you know there’s an app called Private Photos (also called Calculator%)? I just learned about this one today. Here’s the description:

Private Photo (Calculator%) app is private photos and videos hidden behind calculator. Anyone who starts this application looks at a calculator but if you put in passcode it will open up private area. All files are securely stored in the App and remain completely private and confidential.

That’s fucking scary.

I also learned about a new challenge circulating around social media now called the Blue Whale Challenge. This challenge is basically a list of fifty dares encouraging kids to do participate in risky behaviors (like sitting on the edge of a roof) with  the final item on the list asking participants to kill themselves.

This is a real thing.

A real fucking scary thing.

If you are putting a smartphone in the hands of your children, then you are opening up Pandora’s Box. And if you aren’t prepared to deal with the shit that’s gonna come flying out of that box, then don’t put your kids in a position to be exposed to it. Because once your kids finds out about it, she’s gonna tell my kid about it.

And I don’t want my kid finding out about stuff he or she has no business knowing about because you don’t want to say no to your kids.

I know it sucks to say no. I know kids are relentless.

Trust me, I know it’s no fun to hear But I’m the ONLY ONE in the WHOLE SCHOOL who doesn’t have a cell phone/Instagram-Facebook-Twitter-Musicly account.

I guarantee you are not the only whose middle schoolers don’t have cell phones.

I guarantee that because my kids don’t have them. And they won’t have them until they are mature enough and responsible enough to own them.

When will they be mature enough and responsible enough to own them?

When they can pay for them.

If my kids are not responsible enough to earn the money to buy their own phone and pay the monthly bill, then they are not responsible enough to deal with the contents of Pandora’s Box.

We so easily confuse wants and needs with our children.

Your child may want a cell phone.

But your child does not need access to Google twenty-four hours a day.

Your child does not need to be able to text her friends constantly.

Your child does not need  Snapchat or Musicly or Instagram.

In fact, your child does not need any apps at all.

What does your child need?

Your child needs human interaction.

Your child needs to learn how to hold a conversation.

Your child needs to learn how to make eye contact.

Your child needs to learn how to communicate with their friends and people in general the old fashioned way.

In person.

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What I Learned Over Spring Break

Last week was our spring break. It was the first spring break in about five years that we haven’t had major money problems.

Where we weren’t in danger of losing our house, where the Man from CL&P wasn’t coming to knock on our door on an almost monthly basis, where we weren’t on food stamps, where we didn’t have to return cans and bottles or hold a tag sale in order to pay for groceries.

We aren’t anywhere near rolling around in bags of money. We aren’t in the position to do whatever we want whenever we want. We are nowhere near that. We still have to be frugal and cut the fat wherever we can.

But we aren’t destitute.

Being in a terrible financial black hole for years had put me into the mindset that I couldn’t relax. That I had to spend just about every second of every day working or trying to find ways to make money. And so for the past four of five spring breaks and Christmas vacations and summer vacations, I have basically ignored the kids.

Going away anywhere was clearly not an option. But I had also convinced myself that taking time to do just about anything with them wasn’t possible. Or allowed.

It’s hard to get out of that mindset.

For me, anyway.

So this spring break, I made the conscious decision to be much more available to the kids.

I did this for a number of reasons.

First, Number 7 is five years old.

Five years old!!!

How did that happen so fast?

There are phases of life that have passed us for good.

We are done with diapers and highchairs and strollers and carrying kids. I find myself feeling nostalgic for some of these things that are long gone sometimes.

Although I appreciate where we are now. I am enjoying the kids having more independence. I am enjoying relating to them on a different level.

But damn is it going by fast!!!

I definitely have regrets. And I’ll see an occasional video show up on Facebook from five years ago and it’s scary how quickly I forget. I forget what the kids looked like and what they smelled like and what they sounded like. I know that happens.  But has it happened more for me because I’ve been letting so many opportunities with the kids pass me by?

I spend a lot of time with my kids. I mean, I’m the one who is usually home with them.

But I feel like I’ve been absent for a lot of that time.

I’m in the same place as them, but I’m not really present.

You know, like the stereotypical husband sitting across the table from the wife, reading the newspaper, and not listening to a thing she ways and just uh-huh-ing her without even looking up from the paper or actually listening to a word she says.

So there was that realization.

Then there is the fact that some of the kids are having issues with behavior. They happen to be the kids I spend the least amount of time with.

Maybe it’s just coincidental, but I don’t think so.

I am certain there is a direct correlation between kids behavior and the amount of or quality of interaction between them and their parents.

My kids need my attention. My focused, undivided attention. They don’t necessarily need hours and hours of it.

But they sure as shit need more than they’ve been getting.

So for the first time in years, I made the conscious decision to spend a significant amount of quality time with my kids while they were home last week.

And something ironic happened.

I didn’t get sick of them. I didn’t find myself getting pissed and annoyed and short on patience.

Don’t get me wrong. They did stupid and infuriating stuff. They still tried to annoy the shit out of each other and me. The are kids. That’s what they do sometimes.

But they started doing it less and less.

I spent more quality time with the kids than I have in a long, long time. And instead of me getting to the end of our vacation and feeling exhausted and exasperated and desperate for a break, I felt kind of sad that the break was over. I could have used a couple more days.

What the fuck?

I have never, ever felt that way.

I have spent every vacation for the last couple years desperate for the kids to go back to school so I could have a break.

And the kids (who are usually at least a little bit excited to go back to school and see their friends) were bummed, too.

Number 4 had no desire to go back to school. That’s never happened before.

At least ten times last week, she just looked at me — not in response to going on one of our adventures or in an effort to get something but just out of the blue — and she said, I love you, Mom.

Whoa.

I guess I am having one of Oprah’s proverbial light bulb moments.

I’m not going to stop working, drop everything I want to do, start homeschooling and construct a huge family bed.

But it’s clear that my priorities need to shift. Or at least the way I structure my time does.

Last week the kids and I had one of the best weeks we’ve ever had together. Possibly, the best week we’ve ever had.

I know we did some fun things. But it wasn’t really the fun things that made the break so great.

It was the fact that we did them together.

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