Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Moms Code Chronicles #2: Mom Misdemeanors

My 13 year-old son was recently cast as a series regular in an upcoming show. He is the third of my four children. The role requires relocation to LA from Honolulu, with almost no notice. We sent him through the entire audition process, knowing this could be a possibility, but never thought through how we would manage if it actually happened. My husband and I are running for our lives trying to get a million things done, including finding an apartment, getting the school situation tamped down, and preparing our family for what will become our new normal. Because my husband, three other kids and two dogs will remain in Honolulu and we will all do a lot of commuting back and forth. Sigh.

It’s almost his last day in his current school, which is a great school. So emotions are running high. I’m determined to focus on the positive during this transition. I’m paying attention to every detail so I leave everything in the best shape possible. The truth is if my four kids knew how many situations I handle on the spot, unplanned, they would have trouble sleeping at night, just like me. Take parent conferences, teacher development days, or the sports meetings for tryouts. I want to remember all these dates, but just like passwords, they somehow they slip my mind. Plus, the kids’ appointments are endless. And, schedules with tutors and coaches are constantly shifting. I handle most of the routine on the fly, and rely on mom interactions as a part of my ‘reminder system’. I put things on the phone calendar, but it only beeps me when the actual event is upon me. 

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Moms need other moms. I can’t write a one-page summary for someone that would keep the hot mess express on track! I have to keep moving fast to handle everything that is thrown in my path. I will have to rely on my Honolulu mom network and then build an LA-based one too.

This morning, I had to turn away as my tween tied his sneakers. My impatience is justifiable. He spends more time tying his shoes than on his entire daily hygiene. He smiles and says, “Mom you’re way too uptight about the whole brushing teeth and using soap thing.” I remind my teen daughter to bring her stuff for the track team tryouts. She tells me, “I’ve decided to skip the tryouts. I don’t want to make the time commitment right now.” I feel a sarcastic remark trying to come out. “Oh? Right now? During junior year, when it counts? Tell me. If you could bring your phone and take Selfies and text while you run, would you tryout?” She’s been training and on the team for years, even went to Nike Running Camp last summer. My mom’s pain is exquisite as I assess how to apply mommy marketing to this scenario.

Before I can start to threaten and cajole, my little girl comes down the stairs in tears. She can’t find her shirt for today’s rehearsal and tonight’s choir performance. I washed and cleaned the choir shirt last night and watched it walk up the stairs, but now she can’t find it. I can’t stand tears on any day, never mind a performance day. I hug her and say, “We need to go but I’ll find it. It’s going to be fine.” She shakes her head. “Miss Leighton said that we need to have a good night’s sleep, our shirt for the 7:30rehearsal, and a good breakfast. I’m going to get in trouble.” My youngest is a gentle soul who has never been in trouble, but deeply dreads the thought of it. Clowns and choir teachers have an amazing ability to instill fear in children.

The morning is totally off kilter. It’s not unusual but it never gets easier. We leave late and a massive ‘cave in’ occurs. I stop at the Burger King drive thru for breakfast. My son is fist pumping the air. “Mom, they have French fries and cheeseburgers all day. Can I get a large fry, two plain cheeseburgers and a Sprite. I love today.” I yell, “No soda!” like it will magically make this breakfast healthier. My little girl doesn’t want to eat because she doesn’t have her shirt. She says, “An Orange Fanta would make me feel better.” 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

My teen daughter says, “This family is so embarrassing! I don’t want to get out of the car with a Burger King bag. Is there a Whole Foods bag somewhere in this car? At least eat a breakfast, not cheeseburgers and fries, people!” She points at her little sister. “Your teeth are going to be orange in your choir performance F.Y.I.!” She continues her astute teen observations. “Fine! I’ll have the ham and cheese croissandwich thing with the mocha drink thingie and some tater tots.” Her brother argues, “tater tots are no better than fries and the Mocha Frappe has more sugar than a Sprite.” I check to see if my ears are bleeding. I mentally push all the chaos to the side. I say to my little girl, “I swear that I will find your shirt and drive it to you. Please eat this ham and cheese croissant. You can have an Orange Fanta.” 

They jump out of the minivan. My son is dancing on air with his BK bag; my two daughters are trudging along as if they are condemned felons.

I skip my work out and go home. As I’m walking in the door, the school nurse calls to tell me that Miss Leighton, the choir teacher, sent my little girl from the choir rehearsal, concerned that she just wasn’t herself. She’s tired, upset about a missing shirt, and has a stomachache. Is it true that she only had Orange Fanta for breakfast? 

Stress breaks over me like an unruly wave. I run upstairs and find her shirt under the stuffed tiger she still sleeps with, grab a lunch box and head to Subway. I get a plain turkey sandwich, which I take out of the packaging and put in a plastic baggie. I get milk as the drink. I run into the supermarket and get prepackaged carrots and some little cuties. I buy a Hershey bar and zipper it into the hidden side pouch. I’m determined to deliver a good mother lunch/snack and give my little girl a surprise treat to cheer her up.

I pick up my teen daughter a half hour late from school. She’s very upset and says, “I have a ton of homework and will be up all night, then I’ll fall asleep in study hall and someone will take a photo of me sleeping and post it up on social media. Then everyone will make fun of me and make comments like RIP. It will be total humiliation.” I’ve been milking a Starbuck Iced latte all day and never seemed to have enough time to finish it. I offer it to her. 

“This is the worst day ever,” she replies.  

I get everyone home and lament I’m headed to the choir performance in the same faded sundress I put on at 6 a.m.. When I get there, I see so many moms that I like. My husband slips in at the last possible second and holds my hand. The kids come out and sing like angels. My little girl searches the crowd and is so happy to see me. In seventh grade, she still wants me around. There is no place I’d rather be. 

We get home to the other three kids fighting. No one has fed the two dogs. The kitchen is a mess. The TV is on and no one is doing homework. I yell, “I committed about five mom misdemeanors today and I’m tired. I have an article due. Please stop fighting over who has the right to enter whose room.” The TV ad talks about the best part of waking up. A mom is standing alone on a boat dock savoring her cup of coffee, looking serene and relaxed. I yell, “This is false advertising! No mom I know ever sits and savors a morning cup of coffee. It takes me all day to finish my cup, as I’m putting out constant fires! Is her house burning down behind her? If not, it’s not real!”

My son says, “Mom go in your room for two minutes. We have a surprise for you.” My teen comes in to find me and says, “Hurry!” All the kids are laughing. My little girl says, “Chewie volunteered to help you with your article! Now do you love today?” I look at my kids, laugh out loud and say honestly, “Yes, I absolutely love today.”

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Moms Code Chronicles #1: Dull Moments?

Written by Eileen Wacker

I had a tough day today. Two of my four kids had no school due to a teacher development day so it should have been a simple and straightforward day. But it never turns out that way.

As my 12 year-old went to exit the car, I noticed the shorts she wore were not within dress code. She said she had extra in her locker. My son said, “Wow only two days left until we go to LA to shoot the series.” I’m not sure what we were thinking letting him audition. We live in Honolulu. My stress level went up and my face flushed red. “Have a great day buddy. Love you both lots.” Off they went with their backpacks and water bottles.

I drove to play tennis, my favorite way to relieve stress and I have a boatload of it. I like the people I play with and we play really early so moms can be back on the clock by 9 AM. The pro said, “Don’t forget to turn your ringers off. Let’s play tennis, not jungle ball.” He’s talking to me. If I don’t silence my phone, it rings off the hook and I get so distracted wondering if there is an issue, I start to hit impossibly wild shots.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

As I exit tennis, I see three missed calls from the school. The nurse tells me via voicemail that my 13 year-old son has been hit in face by a soccer ball and he can’t move his neck. I need to bring him to the doctors to get checked out. No choice but to pick him up in tennis clothes after not answering the calls.

I have a call with an independent school so my son can go to school on set while they are shooting the series. I send an email to push it back an hour. I get a voicemail back expressing concern and wondering if I have told the studio my son is injured. Shoot! I’m such a rookie. I call over the radio in my car and explain that everything is okay. His neck isn’t fractured; he just has whiplash.

I rush him home and pick up my other son. I have to confirm his parent conference time because I was sure I would remember it and never wrote it down. He is a different learner so I never know how things are going to go. There are no fires to put out! He’s proud and I’m proud.

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There are two more pick-ups, a friend drop off, a tennis lesson, a basketball game (we volunteered to tape all the games in a moment of weakness), a running session, an alleged swimmer’s ear and two tests to prepare for tomorrow.

My kids are eating chicken Katsu for dinner. It’s Asian Shake-and-Bake chicken but saying chicken Katsu sounds so much better. I tell them I’m not hungry and watch them eat. The truth is, I’m having wine and ice cream sandwiches for dinner. And my happy hour companion is our puppy. Moms never have a dull moment, ever. I could use a dull moment or two.

Mom's code tenet: save her when she's drowning

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chinese New Year: Tips for Moms in the Monkey Year

Written by Eileen Wacker

February 8th kicks off the Year of the Red Fire Monkey, the first day of Chinese or Lunar New Year.  The Year of the Monkey promises to bring both brag-worthy and cringe-worthy moments for moms. Luckily, there are more peaks! On the plus side, monkeys are the innovators of the zodiac so moms may see some masterful creations from our little treasures. Picture ‘ooh la la’ fashion shows and drawings galore. On the challenging side, monkeys are the mischievous pranksters that can get themselves into trouble. Think of the monkeys at the zoo who love to throw poop at each other and the onlookers. It’s all fun until someone loses an eye, or has a smelly brown stain on their favorite jacket.

Moms should harness the energy of the monkey to bring light heartedness, flexibility, and optimism to their everyday situations. Or else moms will end up feeling exhausted by the commotion and action.

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Two of my four children love to talk. They are extremely inquisitive and chatty. Like 357 questions-a-day-type inquisitive. And, one does not wait for my answer before she fires off her next observation or question.  The other just yells his question or comment louder and louder until he has my full attention. I’m not sure if my other two are quiet or simply unable to get a word in. I’m going to remind myself to treasure these moments because the talkers are going to be exceptionally talkative this year. Thank goodness they’re charming. I’m getting ready to nod, smile, and encourage them even as my ears are bleeding.

Monkeys are okay with taking risks. I love it when my kids try something new or put themselves out there and take a risk. But I’m still a mom. Certain risks, like skiing aggressive black diamond trails all day, make me nervous. Or going out at night, anywhere. Truth be told, I only want them to take the risks that I have outlined because I know these are calculated risks. Like performing in a piano recital, giving a speech at school, or trying out for a school team. I am an expert at calculating risks when it comes to my children. But this year, they may not go along with my plan and I will have to let them be a little more independent than I’m comfortable with.

 Monkeys love to brainstorm and are full of ideas. This is a year to be a fun mom. I’m going to throw a monkey wrench in my own plans once in a while. Be flexible. We might eat dinner out spur of the moment when I have cooked a meal at home. Just because my little girl has an intense craving for Outback’s Mac and Cheese. I’ll say yes to good ideas, even if they are inconvenient.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

This is not a year of collaboration and groupthink. That was last year’s sheep. I won’t tell my children to work as a team to figure it out. Last year, all I got in return from the requested teams were massive arguments, which I had to referee. Or, then there was the new puppy. When kids collaborate, it’s very dangerous for a mom. I’m pushing for innovation and imagination this year. The monkey is compassionate and generous. He/she, once committed, is very loyal and good in relationships. Monkeys believe in second chances as long as there is no hidden agenda. This year, I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to my husband and children, especially around dinnertime when I’m on a diet and starving. When nobody wants to eat the food I cooked, I won’t yell. I’m going to get this monkey off my back and not get the maddest at the people I love the most.

In this year of the Red Monkey, I can handle a little monkey business if I keep my sense of humor. I can’t wait. Great year for fun mom to come out and play.