Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Still Here, You Are Welcome

A rainy spring
I haven't written in so long I don't know where to start.  Life has been busy, duh. You know. Two working parents and three kids. When I do have time to myself I often find myself... napping. Sleep that elusive beast. Put aside my ongoing insomnia and my new bouts of age induced night sweats, we have a nine year old who can't make it through the night... That's right. It's been like having a newborn. Zachary comes into our room by midnight every night, scared. He hears noises. Someone must be in the house. He can't sleep. He wet his bed.  (He is going to kill me for writing this someday.) For a couple months we fought it. We sent him back to his room. We tried breathing techniques, punishments and rewards and ultimately, for better or worse, we gave in. Now in the middle of the night he comes into our room and makes up his little bed on the floor.  I take comfort in the fact that most 16 year olds do not sleep in their parents bedrooms.....

Damn Straight Mom ROCKS!! :) 

Our weekends have been taken over with soccer. Two boys, and... too many games. I feel like a crap mom when I say this... but I am not loving spending so much time watching soccer. Yes, I love my kids, and yes I enjoy watching them do things that they enjoy....but does it have to take up so much of my precious weekend? The worst part is... I know it is only going to get worse. Right now it is only the two older boys playing, we haven't yet added the Julian factor to the mix. I am really hoping he will take up creative writing, knitting or meditation, but seeing as he already has a pair of pint-sized shin guards, I think we are in for the triple whammy!  I tell myself that watching will get more entertaining when Evan evolves beyond staring at the ball rolling past him while sucking on his tee-shirt.

We have also hit birthday party planning season at Casa Kargas. Evan turns seven June 12, and my baby, my sweet baby Julian will be four years old on May 31st. (How the hell did that happen??? Four!!.) I am taking the "easy" way out and throwing the joint party I said I never would.  I have always thought it was so...wrong. Each child is special, they each deserve their special party. Except that Julian isn't in school and he really has no friends to speak of, and Mama is growing lazy in her old age.  So we are having a dual themed party. PAW Patrol for the little guy, Dinosaurs for the bigger guy. Yup. 2 cakes. 2 pinatas. One party. Bam. Done. Maybe I won't even clean for this one.

The husband has been traveling loads, leaving me with plenty of single mama shifts. Believe it or not it used to be easier when they were younger. No homework, soccer practice, school meetings or conflicting events. When they were younger, I owned the schedule... now the schedule owns me.  And damn does it own me.
Spring Break

We have found time for fun. Life isn't all work. We had spring break in Florida, which the kids ADORED, and mostly involved swimming and lots of ice cream consumption. I made it out to San Francisco for work and actually squeezed in visits with some of my besties. I had a very nice mother's day complete with one of those get drunk while you paint classes. (Guess which part I liked best??) and I have played many, many, many games of Spot-It with the littlest Kargas.
Favorite Florida Activity 

Sarasota Beach
I have had some blogging inspirations here and there, like the punk redneck who criticized my parenting while I was waiting in line at a local gift shop.  I was ready to go all People I Want To Punch In The Face on that jack-ass. Long story short, the tactless busy body took it upon himself to inform me that my four year old was beating the crap out of my seven year old.  When I looked over at the boys I saw them lightly wrestling and laughing.- yeah maybe a little rowdy for a public space, but damn it, it had been raining all day and I was doing the single mom thing so as long as they weren't a)breaking valuables 2) screaming profanity 3) publicly disrobing  or 4) actually beating the crap out of each other, I am just fine. But Punk Redneck was not fine and pressed the issue, until I told him that I didn't need his parenting advice thank you very much. No. It didn't shut him up.
Me & The Lovely Hannah!
But honestly I haven't had the time, energy or true inspiration to write. So here we are in May and you are essentially getting a boring update of a day in the life of a typical mom.

You are welcome.

I missed you Erica!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Favorite(s)

Do you have a favorite?

It's a question that we parents hate being asked. How could you answer that when you would give your life for any one of your children? When you would take down any little brat that laid a finger on your precious baby, or any bully who hurt their tender feelings?

A favorite? If I answered that question and a "less" favorite child some how learned of my "preferences" would it not be emotionally damaging at best?

I once read a book that advised parents when presented with the question by one of their children to say "I love you all differently."  And this is true. I do.

My boys are ages 9, almost 7 and almost 4.  I relate to each one of them differently.  I am going to be honest, it is easier to feel in love with my baby, my Julian.  He is still innocent enough that he doesn't know the power of words ("Mommy I hate you" can be followed up with "You are the best Mommy ever!" only minutes later.) He is still willing and ready to give hugs and kisses freely.  He is still at the age where my attention is more important than that of any other human's on the planet.  He learns new skills every day and is so proud to inform me "that is the letter J!" or "mommy, I went in the potty!" Even when covered in a nasty collage of dirt, chocolate and snot he manages to look adorable. God. He is easy to love.

And then there is my eldest son Zachary. There is no trace of baby left in him, rather I see the outline of the teenager he will soon become.  He has piercing blue eyes and an incredibly toned, muscular body for boy his age. He is moody, sensitive and has a mean temper that is shared only with those whom he is closest with. His anger is mostly turned inwards, a perfectionist, like his mother, he can fly into a rage when he feels he has failed, even if that "failure" is a lost game of Uno. As a parent his behavior can be maddening, for the LOVE OF GOD child, it's a card game why are you freaking out like a meth addict on a deserted island without his fix? But he is smart. Damn that kid is smart. Not only in his understanding of academics, but in his dealings with others.  He knows when you are stifling a laugh at his epic meltdown over a missing lego piece. He knows if there is any hint of disapproval in his choice of language, outfit or his school performance. He knows if someone is feeling left out and hurt. He knows when someone needs a hug. So my Zachary can be "difficult" to love when he is in the throngs of a near puberty, door slamming, eye rolling, profanity infused temper-tantrum, but he is raw, and real and honestly, an open book that I cannot help but identify with and adore.

And finally the Middle Child. Evan. Does he get lost somewhere between his genius older brother and his adorable younger sibling? He isn't the first to achieve anything, or the little one we look at, teary eyed and sighing "the baby"  Nope. But Evan couldn't possibly be anymore lovable. He has the best smile and the saddest face when he cries, the quivering fat bottom lip that makes the mama heart melt. He is less serious than my eldest son, less innocent than my youngest, a lovely blend of sweet, smart and goofy.  Evan was the baby I thought I wouldn't get. After nine plus months of fertility treatments, a false positive pregnancy test, and many hormone induced rages I finally got knocked up, only to give birth to the most challenging newborn in all of my experience.  Yet, here he is. Creative, thoughtful, caring, kind and NAUGHTY. The kind of naughty that is so easy to forgive, because, damn it, look at that face!

So... do I have a favorite? I have a favorite sweet baby, a favorite crazy-smart, sensitive pre-teen, and a favorite goof-ball,

Sure depending on the year, the month, the week or the day each one of my children can be easier to relate to, to empathize with or to have fun with. But do I have a favorite? I don't know do I have a favorite ice cream flavor? Cookie Dough, Salted Oreo, Double Fudge Brownie? I love them all in different ways, and while at any given day I might be "feeling" one kiddo a little more than the others, I can honestly say that I don't have one favorite, no, I have three :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Somebody's Daughter

I spend a lot of time writing teary pieces about my babies growing up. I know I often sound like a broken record as I describe my experiences weeping softly while I pass by the infant section of Target, knowing it holds nothing that I will ever need again.

Today I will take a different approach. This isn't about my kids growing up and away from me, but about me, savoring the fact that I am still somebody's little girl. My mother and stepfather are visiting for the week and nobody cares for me like they do. Nobody. My folks are interested in absolutely everything about me, in a way that nobody else in their right mind would be. I could blab for 30 minutes about my laundry and they would listen intently. God bless them.

Yes, it's true there are times when the (often wise) advice my mother doles out about skin care or how long chicken keeps wears on my nerves (mom, I'm a grown woman, I know) but who else cares enough to lose sleep over the state of my smoke detectors? Who else is actually interested in every single picture that I post of my children? Who else can look at me and remember the little girl that I once was?

It struck me yesterday when my mother accompanied me to the salon while I spent two hours getting highlights and a trim. She sat in the chair next to me, knitting and occasionally making conversation. She was happy enough just to be spending time with me, any time at all.  After my hair was done we went into the boutique next door and I tried on a little black dress that I just couldn't live without. I am of course more than capable of buying my own clothing these days, but as I was hemming and hawing about the expense my mother took the dress from me and whipped out her credit card, in that moment I realized that I am still her little girl, and that felt great.

After my grandfather passed away at 94, I remember my mom telling me with tears in her eyes those very same things.  That even though there was a role reversal in the recent years, and she was doing the care taking, her father still made her feel a way that nobody else could.  She grieved that loss, that she was now no longer somebody's daughter.  Would anyone ever want to just sit with her in the living room in silence again and just watch her knit? She not only lost her parent, but she lost her place in life as as someone's child.  

I think of that when I am with my parents. How special the time is. How much I like being their daughter. I am lucky to have parents who love and care for me the way that they do.  I want to cherish my time with them because I know someday, I won't be anyone's little girl anymore.

Thank you mom, for making making me feel like a treasured child again.  And thank you for making me look like your sister in my new little black dress!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cindy Crawford: The untouched photos that touched so many.

There are just some words you don't want to hear on a Monday morning after a workout;  but you can't stop people from opening their mouths.

I was leaning with my belly pressed up against  the counter at the local rec center trying to check out some equipment from the late twenty-something behind the counter.  She looked at me and asked "Are you expecting?" I instantly felt my face grow warm.

 "No I am not." I muttered, trying to keep my composure.  
"Oh" she responded, "it must be your pants."
"Yes" I said with faux confidence. And for whatever reason I felt the need to prove it to her, stepping back from the counter and lifting my t-shirt to reveal the worn-out, high wasted yoga pants, adding the extra girth responsible for my "fetus."
"Sorry" she said, with little sincerity. "I didn't mean to offend you."

But of course I was offended, if only briefly, and I know why. I know why those careless words stung the way they did. Because I had heard them before. 

I have never been happy with my middle, always wishing for a washboard stomach, always sucking in for photographs, passing by a cute dresses that clung too closely to my shameful middle section.  The truth is, for most of my life my stomach was just fine, but it never lived up to what I wanted... "perfection."  

Around 15 years old, I experienced what many teenage girls do. Weight gain. Our bodies developed and changed and in those awkward phases they didn't always change in the way that we wanted them to. At 15 I wasn't blessed with beautiful C-cups, and a flat tummy, No, my "extra" weight went right to my tummy, and I was well aware of it. Baby doll dresses were in fashion at the time.  (They resembled todays maternity style, if you are not familiar.)  I was sporting the latest style, and will never forget a day in history class  when our star basketball player (who went on to become prom king a month or two later) sneered, asking the girl next to me in a very audible "whisper" "Is that girl pregnant?" Already aware of my "flawed" body I felt my eyes sting and the tears come. I was so ashamed. So very ashamed.  I was 15 years old, nearly 5'4 and probably 115 pounds.  I hated my body.  

Although my body evened out over time, I never did achieve the abs of my dreams, however, looking back, I should never have feared a bikini or felt the need to cover my "problem area."  I wasted so much time worrying about that damn tummy.

Today, at forty, and after three C-sections, my belly is far from ideal.  I have loose skin, a deep indentation where the scar is, and it is still my body's favorite place to carry any extra weight. It is so easy for me to feel shame. Shame that my body isn't perfect. Shame that I look nothing like the airbrushed beauties in Sports Illustrated's "Swimsuit Edition"  or even the thirty year old women I see on Facebook.  Shame that will rush full force in self-inflicted rage when an nit-wit girl at the rec center inquires "are you pregnant?" It's why I felt the urge to prove that I wasn't actually "fat." It was really just my clothes.

Luckily within moments of today's incident at the gym, I was able to calm the old feelings of self-loathing. I was able to rationalize that it was a really stupid thing for an ignorant young woman to say. (Note: unless she is wearing a "baby onboard" t-shirt,, holding a copy of What to Expect When Your Expecting and loudly discussing her due date, you do not ask. You. Do. Not. Ask.) And while those words could of ( and actually previously have) spun me up into a frenzy of self-hatred, it didn't this time. Perhaps because I am older. Perhaps because I know that my body made three kiddos.  Perhaps because I was there, at the gym, doing what I can to stay healthy and in shape. Perhaps because I have heard my friends talk about their own imperfections. 

I would be lying if I didn't add that Cindy Crawford's "leaked" untouched photo that recently hit the internet didn't give a little bit of additional confidence.  If you have missed it, this picture is unlike any picture you have ever seen of any super model, ever.  It's Cindy in her late forties in a bra and panties set bearing a middle that is far from the airbrushed "ideal." There are wrinkles, sags, and discolorations. She looks.... normal. She looks like women I know. She looks like me.  And I wish. I wish at 15 I had seen more of this. More bodies that look like mine. Diversity of form. Less airbrushed "perfection."  It makes me mad. It makes me angry what media has done to us, evening out  skin, shaving off inches, erasing lines, scars, freckles and wrinkles.  Making us feel less than for being human. For not being the manipulated fantasy of technology. 

And I am not overstating this. It has ruined lives, and days of lives. Every day a woman sits wrapped up in a towel on the beach not wanting to feel the waves, because she is ashamed of her body. Every night a girl sits at home instead of going to a party because her skin isn't perfect, or her thighs are "too fat" for skinny jeans. Every mother who avoids the camera because of "flabby" arms. Every dollar that is spent by those of us aging, trying to disguise the evidence.  

I'm a victim to it, I will not play holier than thou.  I fall into the trap more often than I would like to admit.  Only recently I dropped $500 on "filler" to try and erase my well earned laugh lines. (By the way,  $500 later, I noticed zero difference.)  But today. Today in the gym when I heard those trigger words "are you pregnant?" I was stronger than I once was. I did not break at those words. I credit in part the wisdom that has come with age, in part the experience of motherhood,  and yes in part that beautiful Cindy Crawford photo, uncovering not only the lies we have been told about the female form, but also the beauty that lies underneath the lights and photoshop. The beauty that is you, me and humanity. 

I'm learning. The media can help. The media can help by being truthful about aging, beauty, and the human form.  Please. Let's see more of these untouched photos, it could in fact, touch so many, it could change lives.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wish You Were Here

It was my first concert. I'll never forget the easy coolness of a late spring evening. May, 1988. We walked to Camp Randall stadium a group of four giggling girls at sixteen, trying way too hard to look older, edgier, cooler.

I had the cassette tape, Momentary Lapse Of Reason, which I listened to over and over again, memorizing and analyzing lyrics. How many times had I sang along to "Learning To Fly" while crouched in front of my full length mirror, curling iron in hand, practicing a pout of a much older girl? Too many to count.

The first thing I did upon entering the stadium was pick out an overpriced, oversized t-shirt.  I think I still have it to this day, packed away. Black with laser beams shining this way and that. How psychedelic.

We found our seats, four girls in concert t-shirts and jean jackets, in front of a group of what I assume were young college kids. They groaned at the sight of us. We were babies. But I didn't care. That feeling, the night air, the music which I felt defined me, made me feel alive.

Dogs of war and men of hate
With no cause, we don't discriminate
Discovery is to be disowned
Our currency is flesh and bone
Hell opened up and put on sale
Gather 'round and haggle
For hard cash, we will lie and deceive
Even our masters don't know the web we weave
One world, it's a battleground
One world, and we will smash it down
At 16, bobbing my head up and down, not questioning what drove a man to write such hardened lyrics, it spoke to my teenage angst. Singing along with thousands of Pink Floyd enthusiasts I felt a part of something.
There was smell in the air I was not yet familiar with, pot, one of my more savvy girlfriends informed me with a wink. Could we find some? We could not. We were too straight laced and obedient. We may have been the only stone-cold concert goers there, but it didn't matter.  I was literally high off the experience. The experience of being young, but on the cusp of something. The new found freedom of being allowed to go to a concert sans parents, the air so crisp, full of stars and promise.
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here
When they moved into Wish You Were Here,  my eyes welled up with tears.  A song so hopeless, left me feeling so full of hope. Such happy anticipation for the years ahead.

And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
No, I thought. No! I would not. I was going to do great things. I was going to be something. No walk on parts for this girl. That night. That fabulous, beautiful night, I felt like the world was mine. Screw the college kids behind us poking fun,  screw the fact we couldn't buy beer or find weed, we were there. We were free. We were just beginning.
Wish you were here. Sometimes I wish I was there. Back in 1988, that teenage girl full of magical anticipation, my whole life still unwritten.  Here and there I experience moments that take me back. Whether it's hearing a song on the radio, meeting someone new, watching my children or awakening from a sweet dream. 
I suppose that was one of those coming of age moments. One that I will treasure, and take out every time I am in a bar or my car and a Pink Floyd tune comes on, taking me back to that magical moment in time.

LinkedIn: What's not to like? I'll tell you!

How many recruiters out there remember what it was like to recruit pre-LinkedIn era? What it was like to scour the World Wide Web to find a mid level sales person in a fortune 500 company? To pick up the phone and put on your most official and authoritative voice and ask the gate keeper if you could  please speak with a sales manager who handles B2B sales for small to mid-sized companies?

If you are raising your hand and saying "I do! I do!" then, like me you have the utmost respect for all the glory that is LinkedIn. As recruiters our livlihood depends on it.  If the site goes down for even a few minutes our heart rate spikes and we develop the shakes.  And while I rely on LinkedIn like it's oxygen, it has it's strengths and weaknesses.

So as a professional venting session I'm going to list a few things that I don't like about LinkedIn. Please let me know what I have missed in comments!

  1. Endorsements. Useless endorsements. Hi perfect stranger, thank you so much for endorsing my skills in employee relations!  Unfortunately, I have no skills in employee relations because I am a recruiter not an HR Generalist.  No perfect stranger, I'm sorry but I will not return the favor and "endorse" you for your java coding skills, since I know nothing about java except that I enjoy a nice steaming cup of it now and then.  
  2. People who mistake LinkedIn as a dating site.  LinkedIn is not the next Match, Ok Cupid or Tinder.  It is a professional networking site. And anyways you live in Thailand and I live in Denver so go away. 
  3. Greeting Cards. I have never met you. I get enough spam. I honestly don't care if you wish me a happy solstice. Just. Stop. 
  4. Declines. Okay. I understand if you aren't interested in my FANTASTIC job opportunity, but do you really have to "decline" me? Perhaps something a bit more gentle? A nice "thanks, let's keep in touch" is always appropriate. It's all about who you know. Connect with me. You never know where life may take you.
  5.  This last one is honestly my own fault. Some time ago I put my personal contact information on my profile, including my cell-phone number. Don't ask me why. It was a bad idea. It doesn't happen often but every now and then I will get a call at 8:30 on Saturday night. I pick up. (Yes, yes, this is all my fault!) and it is an applicant inquiring about a job posting in Miami. Which means its actually 10:30 Eastern Time. On Saturday. Yeah. You aren't getting the job. And yes. I am removing my phone number from my profile!

I am sure there are many other quirks I have missed. And while I complain, I do admit that LinkedIn is my life blood and I don't know what on earth I would do without it. But I complain. It's what I do. :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Transition: Moving From Mommy To Mom

Sometimes I wonder if I am just not cut out for this mom of elementary age school kids thing.  I mean, I kind of had it figured out when they were toddler and preschool aged.  I liked what they liked. Story time. Sing-a-longs, park play dates with fellow mommies (and wine) on a sunny day.  I knew that giving a meal a special name ("sunshine carrots" "pizza cupcakes" ") or cutting sandwiches into dinosaur shapes could fool them into eating healthy foods. I knew that the promise of a sticker or a balloon could make a trip to Target, Safeway or the liquor store tolerable for everyone. Bedtime was at 7:30. They liked the bath. They let me dress them. I knew what the hell I was doing.

Kindergarten wasn't too bad.  Homework consisted of reading and an occasional worksheet. The after school activities were of our choosing and we picked based on convenience.

But shit started getting real once we entered first, second and now third grade and I just don't know if I can keep up.  My kids are no longer as easily bribed, or motivated by the dollar bin at Target. They have opinions about how they want their hair cut. They have hours of homework, fierce tempers, and so very many interests. Soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming-  I know this is practically sacrilegious to say but I don't want to spend my Friday night in a run down gym watching my six year old running basketball drills, or my Saturdays in back to back soccer games. It's a full time job trying to keep track of their social, school and extracurricular activities. How am I really supposed to remember that the third Saturday of the month is Evan's snack day for basketball (and one kid has a gluten allergy,) and Zack's snack day is the following Tuesday-no nuts!!  When they were younger, the kids did what we wanted for the most part, with a few easy adaptations, now however... we aren't running the show.

I guess I'm a little selfish.  But that isn't the only hurdle of parenting school-aged kids I have encountered.  There are others. I mentioned homework earlier.  Oh the damn homework.  It was one thing when we were doing simple addition flash cards and practicing writing the alphabet, but long division, who does long division anymore? Third graders that's who.  And it is embarrassing when I have to reach for me phone to find the answer to 463 divided by 18. And it's too much. The homework is too damn much. At the end of a long day the last thing the kids and I want to do after dinner is more work, and yet it needs to be done, often times with kicking and screaming.

Even Christmas and other gift-giving holidays have become harder.  The kids who were once overjoyed by a stuffy, a small set of legos or some Hot Wheels now had Iphones, Ipads, gaming systems, laptops and large sums of money on their wish list. Nothing shuts down the romance of Santa than getting NOTHING on your list. (Sorry son, the elves in the North Pole don't make I-anything!)

Finally, there is a whole new world to navigate.  A world where they meet kids at school who watch R-rated movies. A world where my nine year old has his own email account and knows how to navigate the dangerous world of the worldwide web. A world where I find my children joking about vaginas and talking about kissing. A world where they know how to turn on the TV and stumble on an episode of The Family Guy.  A world where one kid has more friends than the other. A world where my kids can actually do real damage to each other in a battle over a Nerf gun. A world where the boys start asking questions about drugs and the wine we are drinking.

A world when those babies are growing into people, people with their own ideas, desires, personality quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  It really is an amazing, and sometimes scary thing to watch. Once I held my baby in my womb, then later at my breast. The first few years that followed, those kids held my hand and looked to me for everything, and yet now I see them separating, a little more each day. And each day as I give them more room to be independent, I feel myself letting go of something. It isn't love or attachment, but it's something.  I'm not a Mommy anymore. I'm turning into Mom. Mom who administers homework and cheers from the sidelines. Mom who gets an occasional eye-roll and a smart mouth.  Mom who is no longer called upon to plan birthday parties with goody bags, but to book the event and stay out of site.  And in my head I know. I know that this is right and good.   But sometimes my heart aches a little as I see my youngest, my three year old, and I know that he is the last little hand I will hold to cross the street, the last little guy I will watch PBS with, the last one to ever utter the word "mommy" in my presence.

I remember being nervous and a little afraid as I awaited the birth of my first born son.  Would I be able to nurse him? Would I drop him in the bath? What if he got sick?  Yet I mastered that. I figured it out with time, and now as we enter a whole new phase of parenthood, I have to trust that I will figure this out as well. We will get through the homework, and the crazy schedules.  We will guide our children into adolescence the same way that we navigated sleepless nights and potty training. Sure, there will be mistakes and there are things we will wish we would have done differently. But we will get through it, and I have a feeling that someday I will be sitting at a keyboard writing a similar post about sending my boys off to college. Perhaps I will write about missing their big shoes and their  sweaty gym socks cluttering the living room floor.  I am guessing that I will feel nostalgia for the back-to-school nights and a basement full of noisy little men.

There is one thing I am certain of, one constant that will stand the test of time:  I won't always be a mommy, but those boys, they will always, always be my babies.