Tuesday, September 12, 2017

XX

I keep delaying posting about this year's event in the hopes that I'll be less exhausted and therefore more positive later, but at this point I feel like I'm going to continue to live in this state of extreme exhaustion for quite some time, so I might as well forge ahead.

The event went well. Everyone was pleased, money was made, people were inspired. No major nor minor calamities other than some very loud construction going on at the hotel and check-in snafus (i.e., nothing having to do with me). We somehow shuffled through thirty performance teams (we usually have ten), almost forty Showcase routines (back in the day we'd have six or seven), hundreds of competitors, and almost 350 more people than we had last year (so we're at double our average capacity). I felt as though I was barely hanging on by my fingernails; I rued the fact that it was so stressful and all business the whole time so I never had even a moment to stop and let it sink in how amazing it all was; I never got to talk to or bond with people. But every year I have the same regrets, and every year I forget that I have those regrets. Every year I feel like it's too much and I can't handle it, and am surprised/disturbed by what a non-functional wreck I am afterwards for weeks. And yet it's always the same. And I always forget.

The week before the event my ancient air conditioning quit right at the start of a major triple digit heat wave - the whole family was subjected too almost 100 degree inside temperatures for several days before we were able to get the system completely replaced (on the day my event started). It was scary and dangerous and made that last week of intense event prep pure hell. 

So much happened it's hard to even keep track. My contest tabulator quit - not out of anger, but out of the understanding that he needed to focus more on his real job at home and that his antiquated computer system was on its last legs. But within days I had an excellent replacement, so no harm done there. 

I had arranged for an overflow hotel next door since my room block sold out early - days before the event I came up a few rooms short and so they charged me $600; then much to my horror the day after the event they charged me $10,000 for all the people who booked rooms and then never showed up. Due to all the screw ups at the main hotel we are trying to negotiate to get that bill lowered - and by "we" I mean the boyfriend, since I do not have the stomach to call up and threaten to break contracts, etc. He offered to make the call for me and I let him, but not without a lot of grumbling and feeling emasculated on my part. Still, I'm smart enough to know that sometimes it's better to use an outside person who is not emotionally or otherwise attached to your business to do your negotiating for you. And so I did. Now we're just waiting to see what they come back with. 

Another stressor was I went into the event under the threat of three lawsuits - one which now seems likely, the other two which are less so. One was from a guy I banned who sent a lame letter in fake legalese threatening to sue for his right to attend my event (there's no such thing); the other is another guy I banned who claims he has a slander suit against me based on screenshots of conversations I had with someone explaining why I banned him (and this girl who gave him those screenshots - I want to punch her in her fucking face). The third, and most likely to actually go to court, is from this crazy old lady in the neighborhood who was doing yard work for me some years ago. She sent me two letters - one mailed, one hand delivered, claiming she fell on my property and was in the hospital for three weeks. No dates, no explanation. She hadn't worked for me for at least two years, so I don't understand why this is coming up now, or what she wants. But I called my insurance company and they told me I have to contact her since she is clearly being advised to put me "on notice" and is plotting something. They will write her a letter asking for more details and then we'll see what we can see. But I think it's clear that she's going to try to shake me down. So, that's going to be fun.

Upon return from the event I immediately had to jump into mom mode, hop out of bed at 6 AM and get kids to school, etc. It's been fucking brutal. The early mornings, the homework, the constant attention these schools demand (not a fucking day goes by when there aren't more forms to sign, checks to write, donations to make, supplies to buy, projects to work on, etc), are taking a huge toll, and right now I'm just exhausted and emotionally drained enough to be pretty resentful about it. I'm sorry, but I didn't know that when my kid started kindergarten that that would become yet another full time job for me. Yet another way our parents had it way easier - show up to the Christmas pageant, sign off on some report cards, and you're done. Works for me. 

For now I have hired the babysitter to look after Theo today because I am sick AF - shaky, chills, sore throat, foggy - and I desperately need to just lie down for five minutes. It will probably be a full month before I feel even remotely human again.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Finding our way

Somehow, we're doing it. We're getting up early, I'm hustling two small children who can't do shit for themselves out of bed at 7:00 AM, cooking them a hot breakfast, wiping their butts, brushing their teeth, shoving shoes on their feet, making lunches, and getting our butts up a long, steep hill to our school in the mountains. I think I can capture the feeling of our lives today by the feel of a cool, misty morning, and the sweet smell of eucalyptus and desert sage that surrounds the school building. 

It's hard to imagine what life will be like when my event no longer occupies 95% of my brain. I have zero room for anything else - I am completely on auto pilot, shuffling through my daily motherly duties. I tried to explain to Bobby today about how different things are going to be once my event is over and "I don't have to work anymore", but of course his young brain can't possibly comprehend the concept of work, mortgages, utility bills, or Lindy Hop competitions. 

Event is a week away today. Still a lot to do. The good news is I may have found a registration system that will free up hundreds of hours of my time next year - freeing me from countless administrative tasks. I'm going to get a demo of it the week after the event in the hopes of using it in 2018. It's going to cost a little more but could be very life changing. Fingers crossed. 

Both boys seem to be making friends at their new schools. It warmed my heart to see Bobby playing tag with some kids before school today, and when I was dropping Theo at his new morning preschool (same rec center where he went to summer camp) a little girl called out, "that's my friend Theo!" I don't know if it's an age thing or a personality thing, but Theo seems to be an easy going, fun loving kid, whereas Bobby is more shy and mercurial, i.e. more like me. But I'm tempted to say often mothers think their older child is more like them just because they bonded with them first. That's the messed up thing about siblings - no matter what, Bobby will always be first, and all of his experiences will be firsts for me, too. Theo gets the benefit of my experience but a certain lack of newness and enthusiasm on my part. I'm a big believer in the importance of birth order in our lives. It really does determine so much who we are.



Friday, August 18, 2017

Screaming into sheet cakes

A friend posted on Facebook a meme asking people to check in with their "strong friends" right about now, because it's usually now that the strong, controlled people who get right to work and soldier on start to break, a few days after a traumatic event, in this case, Charlottesville. I felt that way this week and I know a lot of people did. Overwhelmed, sad, angry, helpless. I found myself randomly crying and obsessively watching the Tina Turner "We Don't Need Another Hero" video and crying some more. The exhaustion, defeat, and sadness of that song just stabbed me in the heart. And for some reason up until now to me it was just another 80s pop song from my youth. Go figure. 

A couple more unpleasant run ins with shitty customers, which appear to be my kryptonite at the moment. I feel like posting on FB "if you feel it's ok to argue with a small, home-run business about how expensive their product is, insist on special privileges and discounts, and think an exception to their policy should be made for you for no other reason than you want it, you're kind of a bad person". 

I had a talk with Bobby tonight about how it hurts my feelings when I ask him things about his day, about school, etc and he says "I'm not going to tell you." He never tells me shit about anything. He also doesn't answer people when they ask him questions or say hello. That shit's got to be nipped in the bud. I explained it hurts people's' feelings when they're trying to be friendly and get ignored - and modeled it for him. I know he's still little and he's painfully shy as I was/am but that he has to start being more friendly and answer people (especially me!) when they ask questions. I hope I got through, just a little bit. All of this is to say - I have no idea how his first week of school was because he refused to tell me anything about it. 

A couple of scary incidents in the last few days. One, I was getting the kids out of the car to get them upstairs to the house and two young guys on bicycles stopped and one looked me over and said, "hi, how's it going?" I said, "hello", and he just leered at me in a very intimidating way. I was holding Theo's hand the whole time. Who does that to a mother with her little kid right there??? Today something even worse happened. I was taking Theo to preschool, and the whole street was blocked off so I couldn't get into the parking lot, so we walked down the street past this homeless outreach place. Some old guy wth a bicycle was coming out so I stopped for him, he said go ahead, and I smiled and walked (again, holding my three year old's hand). He's right behind me and I hear him saying, "oooh, she's got a sweet little ass on her, look at that ass..." with the intention that I would hear it. I turned around, shook my head with a sad face and said, "you know, that really wasn't necessary!" He said, "I wasn't talking to you!" I said, "yeah, right!" and tried to hustle Theo as fast as possible away. I'm sure he muttered something about me being an ugly bitch because guys like that always do stuff like that. I've been in an absolute rage all day. 

I'm. So. Sick. Of. This. Shit.

When I posted about it on Facebook, some guy had to chime in would I have been so upset if he had been young and good looking. Me and my feminist army shut him down pretty damned fast. So I guess harassment, unwanted groping, even rape is ok if the guy is hot, huh? Get back to the 1950's you ignorant mothetfucker. Some stupid older woman posted that one day I would miss being objectified. 

Let me tell you something. The eleven years I lived in New York, I was sexually harassed every goddamned day. Everything from whistles to insults to being grabbed to being chased or knocked down on the street. Leaving there, and leaving that insanely hostile environment behind (by virtue of the fact that you're always in your car in LA and therefore opportunities aren't there to be harassed and assaulted) was the best thing that ever happened to me. I fucking love being ignored on the street. Just being allowed to walk around all willy nilly as if I were...you know...a man. Crazy, huh?

I watched Tina Fey's sheet cake skit on SNL and girl, I know the feeling! I've been screaming into food since November. As much as I'm totally dreading my upcoming event, I think I, and most of the people I know, really, really need a little escapism right now. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

First day of kindergarten

Ah, the moment every parent dreams of! My first child's first day of school. It was a short one - just a big meeting for the parents in which every child was called up to meet their teacher and go visit their classroom for a few minutes. They filled us in on the emphasis on having an "emotionally responsive classroom" and teaching unity and empathy.  The BF went with me and we both kept side-eyeing each other whispering, "this is so not what school was like when I was a kid," as in, people actually give a shit about kids these days. At my most optimistic I can't help but believe all this emphasis on empathy and children's emotional health has got to mean good things for the future. Right??

I did not tear up until I remembered a story about the Ukrainian tradition of the oldest child walking the youngest child into school. I saw this in a documentary and it slayed me, it was just so charming. 

Today was just an introduction, however. Tomorrow is the real deal - needing to be there on time at 8:00 AM, lunch and snack at the ready, and in school until 2:30. I feel like we're on the precipice of a whole new life. Probably because we are. 



After school I dutifully made this lemon meringue pie as promised. Theo was not a fan but Bobby dug it. 



And now...back to work!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Last hurrah

Today we had our last hurrah before school officially starts in LAUSD tomorrow. With summer camp over and no child care available, I opted some time ago to just take us all to the beach for the day. So to the beach we went. We are now all sunburnt, sandy, and tired, but happy. Big improvement on my last post, indeed. Fortunately for me those dark nights of the soul don't last long.





Sunday I dutifully went to Target and bought my child a light up Star Wars back pack with a matching lunch bag (box?) and a huge IKEA bag full of school supplies as requested by his new teacher via letter. His new teacher, Ms. S, sent us a letter last week welcoming Bobby to her class and telling us all about herself. Pretty cool, huh?

As with everything in young Bobby's life, I so hope that he has a better time of it than I did. When I was five, my newly divorced mother, older sister and I had moved to the small community outside of Boston called Squantum, and I remember walking the couple of blocks to their elementary school for kindergarten. My teacher was a paunchy middle aged lady named Mrs. P with a wicked Southie accent who once put bruises on my arm grabbing me away from something and told my mother I was "sneaky". Ah, the seventies. She did not care for me and the feeling was mutual. Something tells me Ms. S is going to be a vast improvement.

I went to a kindergarten mixer at a local park on Sunday which was a bit of a disappointment. We were so late due to driving around for twenty minutes looking for parking that by the time we finally dragged our asses a mile from our remote parking spot all the introductions had been made and everyone was standing around talking in small groups with zero interest in meeting or talking to anyone else. I walked up to a woman I recognized from a Facebook moms group and introduced myself but she very rudely blew me off. So I just sat alone and watched the kids play. Eventually a lady came to talk to me who insisted on pronouncing France "Frahnce" but she was pleasant enough so I was willing to overlook that. She said she and her husband are actors. Ah, LA.

Anyway, tomorrow is just two hours at the school with me there the whole time so it hardly counts as a first day - Wednesday is the real deal, with an early start time (8AM), lunch and snack needed, and a full day. 

I promised to make the kids a lemon meringue pie after school. Hopefully it's the beginning of many after school treats in their future. 

So long, summer!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The only way out is through

Today I sat on the floor and sobbed with my three-year-old.

If this was a movie, it would start with an unsettling scene of a haggard middle aged woman sobbing on the kitchen floor while her small child sits across from her, also sobbing. Then the scene would suddenly start rewinding to how it all started and why they ended up this way. And hopefully by the end the viewer will say, "oh yeah, I can see that now."

It's never one thing, it's always a series. Mainly, I'm stressed out. I desperately want my event to just fucking be over already so I can stop this 24/7 work cycle. But it's like labor - wishing it away won't make it so. The only way out is through. So I have to suffer about three more weeks before I get any relief. The very thought of that alone makes me want to choke on self-pitying sobs. The very weight of this event - the high expectations, the masses of people, the millions of details I have to get just right, the having to be gracious and thankful and feign excitement for weeks - it's all utterly exhausting.

Some guy filed a fraud claim with PayPal when I refused to give him a refund - the way PayPal is set up, since I'm not sending a physical item out that can be tracked through a mail carrier, when someone says they "didn't receive the item" I have no choice but to just give them their money back. So basically he asked for a refund on his purchase of a weekend pass because he won't be able to attend, I told him the refund period was over but he could keep it for next year or transfer it to someone else, he wrote back whining that he didn't want to come next year and didn't know anyone who wanted it and couldn't I just make an exception for him. He emailed yesterday; this morning I find he's filed a fraud claim stating that my refund cut off date is 9/1. It is 7/31. I had no choice but to give him his money back, but sent him a strongly worded email that I didn't appreciate him lying to PayPal about my refund policy and filing a fraud claim when I already told him no, and to please never attend in the future. He then wrote back that he thought that what he had bought was a contest fee (which can be refunded any time), which is total bullshit since why wouldn't he have brought that to my attention first? "Wait, I paid for a contest, it says I can get that refunded any time!" Everything is so clearly worded that he fucking knew he bought a weekend pass - it is called a weekend pass - he was just trying to pull a fast one. I am so sick of these gas lighting, entitled mother fuckers. Between him and the guy I banned calling me playing all dumb like he's never had anyone complain about him when meanwhile he's been banned from practically every event in LA. Do they all think I'm stupid??? Apparently! So that was how my day started.

Then a litany of other frustrations/stressers/fears too numerous to go into. Then I'm finally at the Y trying to squeeze in a desperately needed workout that I'd been looking forward to all week, and ten minutes into it Theo shits his pants in the childcare room, despite the fact that we had just been on the toilet ten minutes before. Have I mentioned that both kids have been continually shitting their pants for weeks? I mentioned that, right?

Well, I just snapped. I grabbed him out of there, cleaned him up for the millionth time, threw us on the car, marched him upstairs, and then took two stars off of his potty chart while he watched helplessly and sobbed. At that point I just lost it and collapsed and sobbed, too.

I want all of it to stop. The shitty, entitled customers, the endless hypervigilance and drudgery of work preparing for this thing while simultaneously dropping every ball and forgetting important details, the kids who don't listen and won't eat anything and crap their pants and whine and complain. I want everything to just fuck right off. 

After the jarring opening to this movie, we see the haggard middle aged mother take her sobbing child onto her lap, tell him she loves him and she's sorry she scared him, and that everything is going to be ok. Then they read books together for a while until the kid is happy and bouncing around like nothing happened. 

I hope he never remembers this horrible day. Unfortunately I don't think I'll be able to forget it anytime soon.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Last week of summer schedule

It's our final week of summer camp. Bobby starts kindergarten next Tuesday. By "starts" I mean goes there for two hours with me present, then the real schedule starts on Wednesday. I also found out that camp ends for Theo but then his morning preschool (that he's not even signed up for yet) doesn't start until the following week. So it's going to be a tricky week all around. No care for anyone next Monday so I am going to take us to the beach as a celebratory "last hurrah", and then just two hours Tuesday with me there, too, so basically with the weekend I have four days of full child care in a row, right when I need to be working the most. Ugh.

I so wish I could expend more mental energy on this huge, emotional transition to kindergarten. I don't feel like I'm giving this moment the weight it deserves. But I'm doing the best I can. I'll be there for him, I promised I'd whip up a lemon meringue pie for him that day, and buy him a new backpack. This is where I suddenly become a working mother. I just can't get a good balance right now. Work has to take precedence. It just does - if we want to keep this roof over our heads. 

A woman in my neighborhood moms Facebook group posted last week that she had toured our summer camp and was horrified by what she saw and "so sad for the kids there" (which included my two kids). Several of us, alarmed, asked for details, which she gave, and which made me go "meh". Let's put it this way - there are two kinds of mothers. There are the protective mothers who think hands-off mothers are horrible, neglectful abusers; then there's hands-off mothers who think the protective mothers are hovering, smothering enablers. I fall mostly into the hands-off category (surprise, surprise); if my kids aren't being actively engaged and included in things, hugged and kissed by minimum wage earning caretakers who have other shit to do, and occasionally barked at for not listening...ummm...I'm kind of ok with that. If my kids were sad or not wanting to go there, I would absolutely listen to them and remove them. But they both say they like it, are sad it's ending, and want to go back next summer. So I really think it's ok. It's not for every style of parent, and that's ok, too. But boy did everyone get all up and defensive in that thread! Hoo boy! I declined to comment. Opinions are very polarized about this place - I can only go with how my kids are doing there. And they are happy. So I'm happy.

Yesterday we had a family beach trip to Malibu. Mostly it was a giant pain in the ass. However, like most pain in the ass outings with small children, everyone had a good time overall and came home exhausted and happy. In a rare moment when the Pacific wasn't freezing cold, I had a lovely swim, thanks to having another adult there to watch the kids. That one swim was enough to make me feel like no matter how stressful this summer has been and will continue to be, it at least has had its moments.