Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sayonara Mama

Being a single mom during the holidays sucks. Especially when you throw Fun Dad and Santa into the mix. They come along with their Elfin' energy and shiny new toys and boring Mama is up Shit's Creek without a paddle.  It isn't fun being the person that holds together a broken family. The pieces are heavy and never will fit back together like they were and yet you can't drop them because broken is so much better than shattered.

I worked like a madwoman this year trying to hold onto my house so the kids have a stable place to live and helping to start up a new school so they have a safe place to learn and thrive. And then the holidays came and pointed out every, single glaring fault of mine. The truth stared me in the face. You cannot have it all.

You can't be the person that stays and still be exciting. Fun Dad gets that role. He shows up to play a few hours a week and everyone loves him. He has no rules, if you don't want to take a bath don't. If you want popcorn for lunch, fine. Don't worry about cleaning your room because Fun Dad is picking you up and taking you out on exciting adventures. Leave your mess, your worries, your responsibilities, your nagging mother and let's have fun. Who can resist that??  I wouldn't be able to. In fact, I am jealous. I would love to leave me and my laundry piles and my nagging and go off to have fun for awhile.

In all fairness, it isn't entirely his fault. Divorce sets it up that way. It just does. The day to day has to be someone's responsibility. And it was mine when we were married. He was always Fun Dad.  Of course it won't change now. He backs up the rules and enforces them, but we all know who sets them.

Even harder than resisting is competing with it.  There is no competition. It was obvious this holiday season. When they came home on the last day of school before Christmas break, they had little handmade treasures to give as gifts. And they gave them all to their Dad. The gifts were not much, but they were all they had to give and each one had his name on them.

They went off with Fun Dad and I stayed home trying to collect myself. I had worked so much that I realized it was 3 days before Christmas Eve and I had not shopped, wrapped or sent out Christmas cards.

I tried to sop up my puddle of snot and tears long enough to pull myself together. But, to no avail. I spent more than a few hours that Saturday crying and mourning the loss of every dream I had ever had for a family and future. I pretty much gave in to every dark thought that had haunted me for the past 18 months that I had been shoving away to a remote part of my brain. But, that day it was obvious. I failed.

And to make matters lovelier Fun Dad moved into a shiny, new apartment during the holiday season. An apartment that is bigger than my house. And according to my kids it is way better than our house because it has 2 bathrooms, robotic blinds, and stairs.  I pointed out that our house has stairs too, but Luccio reminded me that "Daddy's stairs are better because they go up. Our stairs go down."

And so I had to hear about the luxury living that Fun Dad is doing and all about the new furniture getting set up, etc.  I put on my happy face and tried to listen with a loving heart. I know my babies just want to be part of his shiny, new life and it is very important that they are. I listened over and over as they told stories of the awesomeness to me and to everyone we know.

And then the final blow was dealt when Vincenzo told me that he still plans to be an engineer when he is older and buy me a big house to live in. But, he will live with Fun Dad and just visit me.  Luccio was very quick to remind us all that he is also going to live with Fun Dad like he has been saying for the past year.

Vincenzo also very generously offered that if I would like to live in Japan on the other side of the world that would be ok too, he would visit sometimes.  Thanks Buddy.  Japan?? Maybe Italy!

Thankfully, I have my beautiful baby girl. She said she would live with me. Girls with Mama and boys can go with Daddy.  Oh, Darling!! Thank you!!! The one person left on Earth that is still loyal to Mama! Those boys would leave me for a second bathroom and a set of stairs!

I had all these holiday plans and unrealistic images of us making wonderful memories of the glorious season. In the end, the kids ditched me to go sleepover Fun Dad's a couple days before and spent Christmas Eve with him. I thankfully had fun celebrating with my cousins. And I was able to have the kids home for Christmas morning to open gifts. Although that didn't go as planned either. Luccio's big gift from Santa didn't work, another failure for Mama. Our Christmas tree died and smelled like cat pee and we don't even have a cat, so it had to be moved outdoors. So our Christmas morning pics are of a pink, plastic tree Isabella set up for us. The kids were exhausted and cranky from their days of celebrating with Fun Dad. Isabella had a major meltdown and refused to wear her beautiful dress, opting instead for an orange t-shirt and blue leggings. I had a terrible sinus infection and was beyond exhausted, so let her. I even paid her a few bucks to let me brush her hair so she wouldn't look like the Crazy Cat Lady. I tried to put on a happy face, but ended up crying into my coffee.

One benefit of having Fun Dad around, is that he is fun.  And he loves those kids. So he was there on Christmas morning to make belgium waffles, which we all love! He put together all of the toys and helped everyone get set up for the day.  He kept the mood joyful. And the kids were over the moon to have us all in one place for a little while. It is good for them to know that not all traditions die with Divorce.

Later that day, it took every ounce of my being to get the kids to my parents' house. Thankfully, we went. It finally felt like the Christmas I was hoping for. My parents and brother and cousins made the day feel amazing. My parents' house is our stable place. Through the worst of times and in the best of times, my parents have been there to take care of us. The kids know it, I know it. So it feels like home. It also helped that there was a ton of food, gifts and a megaphone!

So all the cards did not get mailed, some gifts did not get bought or wrapped. My kids made new traditions without me.  But, the world didn't end. I survived it, with help from my family and a few glasses of wine.  And Isabella declared it was "the best Christmas ever!"   So I guess it wasn't a complete failure.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Twice Equal

Gender roles and equality seem to be topics of conversation amongst my little ones lately. I overheard Cenzo and Isabella playing.  Bella had just been given a new Barbie Jeep. And Cenzo wanted Ken to drive it. She told him no way was that happening. It's Barbie's car and Barbie drives it.  He said, "well when we opened the box Ken was driving."  She said, "It's my car and Barbie drives. If you want a ride, get in and put on your seatbelt." And he did.

Trying to raise 2 little men and 1 little woman is surely a challenge. I am constantly having to evaluate what I believe about life and men and women and society. To teach someone how to be be themselves is a daunting task. And they soak everything in.  Every action, every word is made note of.

I want my boys to care about taking out the trash, helping with indoor/outdoor chores, fixing all things related to cars, figuring out how to use power tools.  I also want them to know it is important to make time to be a nurturing, loving caretaker. I encourage them to read and learn as much as possible so that every door will be open to them. Education is the key to whatever future they want to have! I want them to believe in themselves and their creativity and pursue their dreams. I want them to believe that they can figure out how to make this world a better place than it is.

 I would like my daughter to know that taking care of herself is top priority. I want her to be independent and confident and know she is amazing and strong and smart and beautiful. I don't want this world to ever be able to knock her down. I want her to know that knowledge is power and she has within her all she needs to be successful. I want her to learn that being self-sufficient does not mean never needing anyone. I want to make sure she has the strength to reach her dreams. I want her to have hope and go after love without fear. But, I don't want her to change herself for anyone or to have the Earth pulled out from under her by a mere mortal.

Each gender definitely has it's own unique set of challenges and gifts. But, I don't want them to be caught up too much on what a man or woman should be. I just want to raise loving, happy people. I don't want them to feel that there is any boundary of any kind that can keep them from their fullest potential. At the end of each day I just pray that I haven't screwed them up too much. And I start all over again at the next dawn.

They take it all in and make their own assumptions and inferences about equality.

One afternoon, Luccio came running and said there was a problem in the playroom and I should get down there immediately to handle it. I reminded him that his father was sitting right there and that I was sure he could handle it just like I could. He said, "but you are twice equal Daddy and I think you need to get there right now." Out of the mouths of babes.

"Twice equal" has come up a few times.  There was another moment during the mad rush getting ready for school this week. It was toothbrushing time and Isabella was arguing that she was strong enough to get the toothpaste down from the cabinet herself. Cenzo dared to tangle with her and insisted he was stronger and taller. That tiny little lady refused to budge. She used the stool to climb up on the sink and reach the toothpaste and had quite the determined attitude as she put the toothpaste on all the brushes and handed them out with satisfaction.  Cenzo conceded that she was as strong as he was or maybe even stronger.

 I added my two cents that we are all equal. Men and women can each do things and we are equally as strong.  Cenzo said, "well that is not actually true. Women are twice equal because men can't have babies."  True my Little Man, so wise!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hope Floats

Once upon a time, I used to believe in happily ever after. And deep, down in my jaded soul I still do. I recently taught a Fairy Tale Unit to my First Graders. We spent four weeks discussing and writing about all of the typical elements including: royalty, evil characters, good vs evil, enchantment, and of course happily ever after.

I tried to get them to think outside of the box a bit. Must every princess be locked in a tower waiting? Maybe the Princess can have her own sword and slay a few dragons on her own? Maybe the Queen Mother comes to the rescue? Maybe the Prince is the one in peril? Maybe the Prince and Princess work together to conquer evil?

They agreed to be open minded and include a few storylines that were off the beaten path. However, one thing they clung to and refused to compromise on was True Love's Kiss.  Story after story ended with The Kiss. It didn't matter if the princess had been turned into a frog, a pig, a rabbit or a statue.  It didn't matter that the Prince was buried under 10 feet of ice. Even if the witch gave up on the spell or the stepmother ran away, or the King slashed everything in his sight with a laser beam - the end of each story ended with "and then they kissed and lived happily ever after."

I didn't have the heart to tell them they have a far greater chance of having a Wicked Stepmother than of finding True Love's Kiss. Because maybe they will.  I was raised on General Hospital and Cinderella. I believe good always wins.  I mean if Robin Scorpio Drake can come back from the dead after that lab explosion, then there is hope that Jason Morgan will find his way back to Port Charles one day. Jason cannot be dead. Romance cannot be dead.

As my students edited and read their stories to each other I realized just how much I influence them.  Many of the happily ever afters included "and then we read together and had Dunkin Donuts coffee." Is that happily ever after? It is damn close.

Hope floats!

It may have taken Edward 100 years to find Bella, but he did eventually find her. A hundred years isn't so long to wait for forever.

And so I encouraged them to believe in their dreams. Maybe as Hodge said, "all the stories are true!"  Maybe they will get their happily ever afters, maybe we all will.
 In the words of  President Snow, the only thing stronger than fear is hope.  
 "May the odds be ever in your favor."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Is that in the curriculum??

Writing curriculum has me reflecting on my own school days. Like the Biology teacher that said if you get into a bad car accident, you'll probably pee and poop your pants.  To this day, when I drive I pray to make it home safely so medics don't have to rescue me with pee and poop all over myself.

While I am sure my teachers put thought into developing quality curriculum,  that is not exactly what sticks out when looking back.

I remember...
-In nursery school ( back in the day before "Pre-K" existed) I would cry every single day for 2 years when my mom would drop me off. I also remember bringing along my 4 foot tall Yosemite Sam doll.
Yep, my mom allowed that. It was before the "no toys allowed at school" rules.  I also brought my imaginary friends until my teacher told me to stop it because the real kids needed space on the playground. She was quite the memorable teacher. She couldn't stand me crying for my mom so she would sit me alone in the church hall connected to the nursery school. When I told her I was going to call my mom, she told me to "go ahead and try."  Some people you just never forget!

-In Kindergarten, I remember washing out paint brushes in the bathroom while my friend Jason was peeing. He kissed me and I thought how disgusting that was because he was the kid that ate his shoes during recess. (Not a lot of supervision happening in that classroom.)

-First Grade my teacher Ms. Sasha had one leg that was shorter than the other and she wore one really high heeled shoe. I loved her and couldn't wait to be a grown up to wear heels like her!

-Second Grade there was a boy named Nicky that would pee his pants EVERY FREAKING day! He sat in front of me and the pee would drain towards me like a river and I had to keep my feet up on the back of his chair.  And some days he would poop his pants and the teacher would spray the room with Lysol. I still get sick when I think of that Lysol/Poop/Pee stench from that year. UGH

-Third Grade I had the best teacher EVER!! Mrs. Harrison influenced my life in so many ways. She encouraged my love of writing! I wrote a 7 page story about my Cabbage Patch doll and she raved about it like it was an award winning novel.  She also encouraged my love of reading and inspired me to become a teacher!

-Third Grade was also the year I met Cheyenne. He used to babysit my Cabbage Patch doll during recess.  We lost touch during middle school.  He became known as a "bad boy." When I heard he died our Junior year of high school, my heart broke. I will always remember his sweet smile. He was an excellent dollsitter too!

-Fourth Grade my teacher was Mrs. Thereaux.  We nicknamed her Thorox the OX. She was a colossal bitch. I don't remember learning anything that year other than being frightened out of my mind that she would call on me. COULD. NOT. STAND. HER!!

Fifth Grade-we went on a field trip to a colonial village. Loved it! Started my obsession with the Revolutionary War days.

6th Grade- I had a weird teacher that I cannot remember the name of. He was older and hated music. I remember liking Top 40 music just to spite him.

7th Grade- Fell in love with Mr. Raz the science teacher. He was adorable! And he taught us to cook hot dogs using aluminum foil and the sun.

8th grade- Mr. A. the History teacher.  He told us when we were adults we would be lucky to count our true friends on one hand.  At the time I thought he was crazy. I had way more than five true friends. Over the years, I have realized he is SO right. Friends are a blessing and if we have 5- we are abundantly blessed!

High School years blend together. But, some moments stand out. Like that crazy Biology teacher and...

-In History I remember Mr. M being my favorite. I learned some stuff about U.S. History, but mostly I remember him hooking me up with my Prom Date!

A lot has changed in the educational system over the past 30 years. Some things remain the same, like students will remember the stuff that makes an impression on them. I am just hoping to inspire my students in a positive way so that some day they don't look back and mention me in a blog post that contains stories about pee and poop.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Graceful Single Mom Moment

A cute, funny guy started chatting with me at the Costco cafe. He was friendly.  SO of course I assumed he must be a psycho. It occurred to me that he could just be chatting with me because he is a maniac that hangs out in public places pretending to buy ice cream for his kids that don't exist because he is really looking to kidnap my adorable, blue eyed baby girl. So I casually reached over to pick up Isabella so she wouldn't be standing so close to him. She didn't want to be picked up so she arched her back and then let her body weight go completely limp. And then...I dropped her.
So that pretty much cleared up any confusion of who the nut is.
End of conversation.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Frog Lady

My students and I have decided to raise frogs as part of our life cycle unit. Instead of doing the easy thing and buying 2 dwarf frogs that stay little and you feed once a week. NO. I thought it would be more fun to order an entire Life Cycle kit from a company called Grow-A-Frog. After a ton of research I realized you cannot just go into a pond and pick out some tadpoles and watch them morph and then throw them back into nature. Apparently that can cause a whole lot of chaos in the frog ecosystem.  So instead Grow-A-Frogs are completely aquatic frogs and never have to be released in nature. You raise them in an aquarium much like fish.

While all that is fine and dandy, I have never been much of a nature girl. In fact, I purposely stay out of lake water because snakes might be there. I avoid nature and amphibians at all costs.  So the thought of raising frogs was actually quite scary to me.  But, I knew my students would love to see the tadpoles morph into froglets.

The Life Cycle kit includes each stage of the metamorphosis. So we received 4 tadpoles (they are clear so you can see their hearts beating, very cool!), 2 tadpoles with hind legs, 2 tadpoles with 4 legs and 2 baby frogs or "froglets."

They happened to arrive on a day that our entire school was on a field trip. Luckily someone in the office signed for them and brought them safely to my classroom. But, when I got back to school I was a little underprepared for what to do with all of these living things.

They came with very specific instructions and the kit included everything we would need to raise them form habitats to food.  But, they can only live in spring water, not tap. Fortunately I had read about that and had 2 gallons of spring water on hand to set up their new homes. Isabella "helped" me get them all set up after school. It took us over an hour! I only made one mistake. I accidentally put a tadpole with only hind legs in with a tadpole with four limbs. This is apparently a no-no. So I recruited a teacher that was still in the building to help me transfer them to the right tanks. I was too nervous to try on my own, fearing it would leap out and die!

Once everyone was set up, I fed them and left.

The next morning there was a buzz of excitement in the room when my students arrived!
They couldn't wait to see the frogs and names them and feed them.  We did a lot of observation. We read books about frogs, we wore about frogs. It is turning out to be a wonderful Unit of study! and so much fun!

It has been over a week now and we are becoming quite attached to the little ones.
They arrived in our classroom 3 days before Memorial Day weekend. I felt concerned to leave them unattended for a long weekend so I packed all 10 up and took them home.
By the end of the weekend, my living room smelled a bit "swampy."  But, my children and I had grown to really care for these frogs.  And 2 tapeless had completed their morph into froglets! So I returned to school with 4 baby frogs instead of 2!

Junie is the one in front, Francesca is the smaller one.
They really are so very cute! My students, my own kids and even ex-Hubby have had a turn naming our little ones.  Our original froglets are Francesca and Junie. They are my favorite. Junie is turning out to be quite a chubby one, love her! She is super active and keeps us entertained with her swimming and jumping. And she loves her food!
The newly morphed ones are Robin and Kermit.  The ones with only hind legs are Cutie Face and Prickles.  Our tadpoles are George and Sweetie.

It is really hard not to love them. The tadpoles are little boring, but the froglets are very entertaining. Although my co-teacher may disagree! She thinks this project is a bit nutty. And she really does not love the fact that you should recycle the dirty frog poop water, so I water  our classroom plants with it! Poor Ms. E, she did not sign up for tending to swamp creatures. Thankfully she is  a very good natured person and she is trying really hard to appreciate this endeavor!

I really can't believe how much I am enjoying this. I thought I would be prettified to touch them. Especially since I am afraid of the 2 fish we have at home and almost never change their water.  But, the frog habitats come with covers so to clean their water is very simple. I just pour it out the holes on top and do not have to lift the frog into separate containers. So simple and alleviates the fear of the frogs jumping out at me.

They require a bit of upkeep.  The tadpoles eat only once per day. But, the froglets need to eat twice a day. And all the tanks need a 1/4  water change every few days. And they get very stinky!
A weekend feels like a long time to leave them alone, especially when it is so hot out. So I brought them home again this weekend. And I spent part of yesterday afternoon at the pet store chatting with a staff member that raises frogs. He started off with a Grow-A-Frog and still has it 5 years later. He said they are fairly easy to raise, but do get pretty big. Apparently very soon, they will need a 10 gallon tank to live in.

I found a video on you tube of a guy feeding his frog and it is huge! It freaked out my kids, now they don't want to me keep the frogs at our house.

 I have read that Grow-A-Frogs, which are actually African Clawed Frogs, can live anywhere from 5-25 years! So you see the dilemma of raising 10 tadpoles, that means eventually we will have 10 frogs.

Well...I had to enlist the help of other teachers in my building.

My daughter's Pre-K class took 2 of the tadpoles, our 2nd Grade took 2 with hind legs and our 3rd Grade will eventually receive 2 froglets.  Fortunately, we have awesome teachers at our school!
They are excited about this project and willing to adopt baby frogs.

Raising anything that lives truly takes a village.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Daddy in the Attic

Vincenzo surprised us all when he announced his latest scheme. He plans to sell his "creations" to finance an addition on the house to build a room for his Daddy.

While he was painting his wooden model train, he pointed out that he is creative and likes to make things. He told us he wants to start peddling his crafts to have extra money.

He has it all figured out.

He said, "Then we can make a room here for Daddy. He can go in your closet to get to his room in the attic."

FYI- our "attic" is actually a teeny, tiny crawl space.

I'm not sure what is more disturbing, the fact that he obviously misses his father and wants him to move back in... or that he thinks it's ok for me to keep my ex-husband in my closet like a pet.

It's moments like this when you have to laugh or you'll cry.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The End. The Beginning...

When we announced our divorce, family and friends were surprised.  Shocked even. One friend said, "But, you two have fucking endless love!" Ummm, apparently not.  On Independence Day 2012, when the realization hit that forever was never, the Earth shook a bit and threw me off balance. But, it quickly realigned and I landed on my feet and found myself in a whole new life.  Thanks to Divine intervention that new life included a job! So I traded in my mishmash of Stay-At-Home Mom clothes that were stained, baggy and had at some point over the years been used by various children as something to wipe their noses on.  I invested in a wardrobe that was appropriate to wear in public and I headed off to my new career as a First Grade Teacher.

Thankfully, I was embraced by my new community and able to take all of my kids with me to the daycare at work for the remainder of the summer.  Once school officially started and the boys went to kindergarten, my Princess was able to remain at school with me in the Pre-K class.   Of all the adjustments that came with the divorce, dropping my baby off at Pre-K for the first time was the most jarring. She was 3 months away from her 3rd birthday and I had yet to leave her for more than a few hours with anyone. The boys stayed overnight at my parents' house or with a sitter when needed. But, my baby girl was the third child and no one takes 3.   I felt physically ill the first time I dropped her off, but her teachers are fantastic and reassured me that she was ok.  And I was only going to be upstairs if she needed me.  I looked out of my classroom window and saw her on the playground with her classmates.  I instantly burst into tears when I saw her just standing there watching the other kids play. She looked so tiny, so fragile and so alone.

But, she wasn't as fragile as I thought. And neither was I.

For the past year I had been watching my Dad battle brain cancer. And he won.  I knew with that kind of strength in my DNA, divorce was not going to break me.

So I embraced my new life.  I started to figure out how to be on my own with a TON of support from my friends and family (and Ex-Hubby who still helps me take out the trash and brings me coffee from D&D.)

 I am so grateful for Bethel and Ms. Meeghan, if they were charging by the hour for therapy I would be broke!  I also have a faithful crew of LOSERS that take me out for wings at the nearest dive bar to get through the rough days! And thanks to my Gurus Tammy and Brian, I am learning how to be a DivorcĂ©e.

With the guidance of an amazing mentor at work and the help of a creative assistant teacher, I am turning out to be a pretty good teacher.  Luckily, I have a classroom full of the world's best students.

It has taken me almost 10 months to stop and breathe long enough to process it all. In that time I have realized that maybe forever IS never; the only endless loves are the Divine love of God and the love that a parent has for their child. Everything else is conditional.

But, in the end Ex-Hubby and I  have some great memories, 3 beautiful babies and a friendship that outlasted our marriage. We are freaking awesome co-parents. So Life is Good!

And as the saying goes, as that chapter of my life closed, another will be interesting to see what comes be continued...

*Read and approved (sort of)  by Ex-Hubby*