Monday, October 17, 2016


I don't want to jinx it, but things have been going pretty well around here. I kind of love fall with kids. There's lots to do and a lot of excitement - cooking and baking projects, Halloween stuff, school pictures - and for me, since the event is freshly over, lots of planning and budgeting.

My new shed is a day away from completion - and it is a masterpiece. It is not a shed. It is a fully functional living space - if you can forget the fact that you would have to drywall it first, and the fact that I cheaped out and chose to leave it on cinderblocks rather than pour a concrete foundation. But, yeah. Bobby has already claimed it as his teenaged room. Pictures to follow.

I am starting to worry about my tax burden this year. Even though I made a big fat pre-payment, I'm afraid of being slammed come March. So after everything is paid around here I may try to, for the first time in eleven years, make a contribution to my 401K. It probably won't help that much, but I'd rather that money go to my future self than the IRS. I wanted to do a big foundation project (repairs to my 110 year old foundation and house bolting) but that's a lot of dough. Still, with all the talk lately of us being "due for another big one" it's been on my mind. That and replacing my eleven year old emergency kit from the old shed. Lots of work still to do around here. 

Theo is talking up a storm - much like his brother, at 2 1/2 he suddenly started talking, even though a lot of it is hard to understand. Still, just being told "it's too hot" when he won't eat something is such a help. 

They do love each other, but boy are they brothers - there's tons of bossing around on Bobby's part, tons of annoying on Theo's part, and lots of good natured fighting that goes sour and requires me to step in and offer a "family hug" to two crying boys. I feel like I make someone apologize at least four times a day. It is exhausting. 

For the first time in his preschool career, Bobby is getting in trouble at school. Nothing major, but I have been pulled aside by his teachers more than once to ask if I could work on Bobby's listening and "being aware of his body". For some context, this does not mean he is a bad kid. One kid in his class gets an "incident report" written up pretty much every day, and the teachers always tell me that all of the kids were having a hard time listening that day, etc. Still, it bums me out. You want your kid to be so perfect. But in the end they're kids and of course they're going to misbehave. I still have a hard time dealing with this. I have snapped pretty bad a few times and had to apologize to him for yelling or getting mad. I always tell him I love him no matter what. The last thing on earth I ever want them to feel is that my love is conditional. 

In other news, Bobby has asked to play the violin. I don't know if this was just a momentary fancy or what, but I keep asking about it and he keeps wanting it, so I've been looking into it. There are a couple of schools near me that teach kids this little, and thank God allow for rentals of the instrument in case your kid loses interest. I don't have the slightest idea how to keep a four year old interested in practicing an instrument, or when/how to let them quit if they really want to quit. But the idea of little Bobby playing violin positively makes my heart sing. I hope it works out.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

The sandwich generation

So many of my friends are experiencing the deaths or ailing of their parents. One referred to us as the Sandwich Generation - stuck between small children and aging parents, all of whom need lots of care and attention. It's hard.

A couple of weeks ago I dropped everything to attend a friend's mother's memorial service. When her older brother spoke, I was in a flood of tears as this man broke down on the podium and explained that he now understood the significance of "rending your garment" when grieving - he said that you grab your shirt at the neck and pull down, and it makes a visual representation of how you feel inside: a hole in your heart. 

Later I asked The Boyfriend how he felt when his mother died of skin cancer when he was a young man. He said, "you're not going to like this, but...for a long time I felt all alone in the world." This is exactly how I picture it - that even if your mother isn't in your life, even if she rejected and abandoned you, even if you never speak, that somehow from even before birth it is imprinted on us that as long as The Mother is still alive somewhere, we are protected and everything is ok. This is how I feel now. As many of you know, my parents are both out to lunch and we have no contact. Yet, they are alive, in Brazil, and somehow this gives me some bizarre comfort. The Parents are alive so I am ok. It makes no sense, but there it is. 

Both of them have been in poor health and so I worry about getting "the call" at any time. Today I heard my cell phone ringing but I was all sticky from eating a pomegranate with Theo and so ignored it. When I went to check it, it was an oddly formatted number that was identified simply as "Brazil". I immediately called my sister to see if she had gotten a call, but she hadn't, and there was never a voicemail or a call back (yet). I googled the area code and it was from a region of Brazil far away from both of them - but of course this doesn't mean much. 

For all I know the call was merely a coincidence - a wrong number from the one country I have a connection to. But it does make me think about what has been in my mind a lot lately. That one day - maybe today, maybe 20 years from now - my mother and father will die, and I will be left unprotected and all alone in the world. This isn't of course true, but I know it will feel that way. And even worse - one day I will have to leave these boys. And that thought crushes me far more.

I hope whenever the moment comes that I am left parentless - even more than I am now; even more than I have always been - that I allow myself to howl and rend my garment. If I allow myself to really feel it, then maybe I can allow myself to really move on.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pumpkin patch!

This weekend I took advantage of the one free day I had this month to take the kids to the pumpkin patch. I invited the donor siblings (twin three year old girls) and their moms, and a swell time was had by all. It's funny how four adults were barely enough to keep up with four kids. It was a bit like herding cats. Still, I had a much more enjoyable time this year than last. Perhaps a two year old and four year old are, in fact, easier to manage than a one and three year old? 

I bought tons of gourds to make a little display on our front stairs. At the moment it just looks like somebody dropped the groceries. I may move them to the porch in an effort to discourage theft - my neighborhood is still marginal at best. 





Then today, despite having no one to go play dress up with, I went to this annual 1920s event which was a blast. As I was stuffing myself into some shapewear so I could squeeze into this vintage dress, I remarked to Bobby, "why is this so hard to put on??" Without skipping a beat, he said, "because you're 44." I have no idea if he knew what he was saying, but kids do say the darnedest things, don't they?


In other news, The Boyfriend and I had a bit of a kerfuffle over money last week - ie, his never having any - but we seem to have worked it out. As of now, our major issues - his heavy smoking, his financial irresponsibility - have largely been resolved; he has mostly quit smoking (never smokes around us anymore and says he only smokes 1-2 a day at work and sometimes goes days with none at all), he is entirely up to date on his taxes and has a payment plan to pay the back taxes (only a few thousand). He's done everything I've asked of him. Now, he just has to get this business of his off the ground, which for reasons too complicated to go into here has been difficult until now. Do I believe he can do it? Believe me, I want to. Nothing would horrify me more than discovering that he, like my mother and father before him, is just a fantastical dreamer with nothing to show for it, full of empty promises and hot air. But I do know he would never expect me to support him, bankroll his dreams or subsidize his life, and I wouldn't if he asked (and he wouldn't). So, what next? Well, now he buckles down and goes for it the next couple of months, and if all goes well and he starts to make the money he expects to, then he can move in. It's exciting and terrifying all at once. Will we make it? Will anyone other than me and the kids ever live under this roof? Only time will tell!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Last days of summer

The shift from summer to fall is somewhat meaningless in Southern California. By mid-September we still face potentially a month of triple digit temperatures; no rain or chilly air will be felt until Thanksgiving, possibly even Christmas. Not complaining, mind you. It's just an odd fact I have not gotten used to even after 23 years "out here" as I like to call it. I tell Bobby fall is coming as I switch on the air conditioner and make sure they have plenty of ice water to get through the night. Cognitive dissonance at its best.

Last weekend I took the kids for haircuts, bought them used shoes and Halloween costumes (monkey for Theo, skeleton pirate for Bobby), took them to a playground, took them in the hot tub for desultory swimming lessons, and took Bobby to his very first concert, Kraftwerk in 3D at the Hollywood Bowl. He was very well behaved and loved it. The people around us gave him fist bumps and called him "little dude". I'm sure he'll never remember this, but I will.

I am still scrambling to tie up loose ends from my event - pay the hotel bill, follow up on uncashed checks, send an awkward email banning that guy from attending my event again - but I feel a lot more on top of it now than I did a week ago. I am hoping to tear down my old termite-ridden shed and build a new one in the next few weeks so I can finally have some proper storage for my event stuff, which is taking over the house.

I am also hoping to do a bit of refurbishment on myself, too. Maybe it's a mid-life crisis thing, maybe it's a the kids are finally getting older thing, but now that we are out of the high maintenance baby years and I have a sense of what my body will be like for the foreseeable future, I want to overhaul my general look. For a very long time I've been in ethnic hippie mode; as much as I love that stuff, I'm kind of sick of it. Also I feel like being a mom softens me up enough so I feel I'd rather harden up my look a bit. I went to Old Navy today and scored big time - looking for a combination of mod/punk/ska/80s/60s/50s stuff. My inspiration is the kick-ass Teddy girls of Britain in the 1950s. I think their general spirit embodies everything I think I am and still aspire to be:

It's nice to get to the point where you can focus on yourself a little, you know?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I believe this drawing by 4 1/2 year old Bobby sums up my attitude towards parenting right now:

I am still exhausted and fed up from the event, which is not helping, but oh man, is going back to being (nearly) full-time single mommy to two kids under five is fucking brutal. Once again I find myself gritting my teeth through each day with my endless mantra, ihatethisihatethisihatethis running through my head. 

Everything is a fight. Everything is a threat of punishment to get even the most basic things accomplished - putting shoes on, eating, peeing. I love that my kid (Bobby) is so irreverent and questioning of authority. But you know what I've discovered? Behind every awesome, kick-ass adult is an exhausted mother. There are memes going around Facebook of mothers praising their daughters' independence but wishing that independence wasn't asserting itself right now, in this supermarket. Right?

I don't know what the answer to this is. Does parenting ever get easier? More often these days I feel like it's gotten harder, not easier, as we shed the baby years and go full throttle into big kid stuff. And will only continue to get harder as they become less gullible and less easy to please. 

But five years into this game, I definitely still have the Stay at Home Mom Blues. I am considering having Theo at school five days a week instead of three, even if that will cost $300 more a month. I feel guilty even thinking about it. I may never make the call. But I am considering it. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Number nineteen

Well, back to our stupid lives!!!

Number nineteen (my nineteenth event) is in the bag. It went well. I don't even want to look at my bank account until all the checks have been cashed, my $10,000 hotel bill has been paid, and my credit card bill. Only then will I really know how I did. But it was a record year, so I'm not concerned.

The event wasn't without drama. My worst fear - that my bandleader's wife would go into labor two weeks early and leave the entire event rudderless - happened. We had a contingency plan, of course - but it meant a lot of careful guidance on my part; the guy left in charge of the band and contest music was a bit panicked and needed tons of handholding from me, and many disasters were narrowly averted. 

Some of my old friends ended up being real troublemakers. I am faced with the unpleasant task of banning someone who's been to every event since 1998 because apparently he's been preying on women the whole time, unbeknownst to me (oh, hi, Code of Conduct). And one friend attempting a comeback and failing has been railing on Facebook about how my judges suck, I suck, the event sucks, I only care about making money, with resultant sycophants cheering him on.

You know, the usual. 

In the past this kind of stuff would freak me the fuck out. Now? Meh. They'll all settle down. Maybe I'm getting used to handling malignant narcissists.

My tabulator came with his wife who has been battling stage 4 colon cancer. She was thin and frail, but she's here. A shag dancer in our circles who had been battling ovarian cancer died Monday morning. She was 31. 

And my bandleader is a new daddy. Sunrise, sunset. The profundity of this is not lost on me.

For now I'm still scrambling to tie up loose ends, get some rest, and reconnect with the mommy in me that has to be pushed aside for a few weeks each summer. Perhaps later I'll roll around naked in my money. I believe I've earned that.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Some kind of balance

In one week my event begins. I would say that I am a stress ball, but I'm not. There is very little left on my to-do list. Still more than I'd like at this point, but very little in the scheme of things.

The event is still shaping up to be my largest ever, with resultant multiplying issues and problems. We're all a little unprepared for an event of this magnitude. And with next year as my big 20 year celebration, I'm sure we'll have a similar experience. But in 2018 - what then? Still good attendance? A huge crash? These are questions we swing dance entrepreneurs have been asking ourselves since 1998, and yet we're still here. 

I am exhausted from long nights of paperwork and days of compulsive email and social media checking, yet am so hyped up that sitting quietly is kind of impossible, as much as I think I want that.

That is one thing about having a family - you have to be present for them; you have no choice. Right now diapers have to be changed, meals have to be cooked (and, of course, deposited in the garbage disposal untouched), baths administered, laundry done, etc etc. And like it or not, it does drag me out of the all-consuming insanity that the event becomes each summer. Tomorrow is the last weekend pre-event and I have to entertain them all day; I'm taking them to the baby kennel for a little while on Sunday but still have to make breakfast, dinner, etc. There will be no work accomplished for the next two days. And honestly, that is a good thing.