Musical Mid-Life Crisis… Help Needed

Arrow pierced ego
Now wounded… looking to heal.
Need cool doctor, stat.
I did a very parent thing this weekend. I have been enjoying the ‘free’ Sirius radio in my new car… and have pre-selected the following stations: 70’s on 7, 80’s on 8, 90’s on 9, Hits 1 and 20 on 20. These last two are my vain (and I do mean vain) attempt to get myself remotely up to speed on current popular music. It’s been funny to switch between decades and listen to what are screamingly different musical styles and markers. What strikes me most about current pop music is the persistent thump thump of the deep bass… Up until recently I thought that every young person listening to the radio was just playing their music overly loud given I could hear them coming 1/4 mile away. But now I realize that is simply the nature of today’s music.

So I was out with the kids running errands , scanning between stations. I settled on something by the Eagles on the 70s on 7 station and began to sing along… and my 10 year daughter, AP, started sighing loudly. Could you please get off this station mom? I turned it up. Mom, anything in this decade please? I turned it up again. You do realize this is music grandma listened to when she was in her 30’s?  Huh, what??? And then I understood it. My daughter went for the low blow… she translated “old music” into the most abhorrent comparison that could possibly be made at that time. While I was sitting there thinking “why I listened to this when I was your age, dear, and how cool that I still know the words” she reached back  a generation to remind me that my mother (who although not “old” in spirit or frame, has started her journey into her 70’s) listened to this when she was younger than I am today.

Ouch. That hurt, I must admit.  (No offence mom… I know you understand.) I responded as maturely as I could at the time. I turned it up again and told her as long as she complained she wasn’t getting anything close to current music. But it has gotten me thinking that I really do need to update my music library on iTunes. I have no illusion that I will be either mother of the year or the coolest mom in the class, but I want to be interestingly eclectic and fun to be around while still maintaining that mystery known as “she’s a mom… who knows what she’ll do”. That requires me to invest a little.

This is all part of my current foray into a modest mid-life crisis. It started with a weekend away in the fall, alone.  It approached its peak on my 45th birthday in February. It continued with the purchase of a car that I thought made me cooler than I am – a combination of  unusual yet practical (a fire engine red Ford Flex with the Eco Boost engine…this last feature allows me to blow away thumping teenagers at stop lights. Yes, that matters to me; see earlier reference to mid-life crisis).  And it may be topping out with recent purchases of a bucket load of clothes at J Jill and the desire to revamp my iPod playlists. At least I hope it has peaked… I’m going broke.

Here’s the problem. I have no idea what music to buy. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to ask AP for her thoughts. I refuse to show weakness. I just want to slip in a few new songs in the tired playlists I have set up for family listening.

Can you help me? What are some current artists (last 5 years) you recommend I spend time and money getting to know? Really appreciate it.

I’m Cheating on My Husband (Honey, Don’t Read This)

Well… paybacks are hell;
And I deserve to suffer;
But it’s so worth it.

He is traveling… My mind wanders. A sly smile crosses my face as I picture possibilities.

What to do, what to do…

And like Phineas, a voice in my head shouts: “Maureen, I know what we’re going to do today! Make pancakes for dinner so the kids will like you more than dad.”

And with that, I cheat on Frank. I use his “out of town-ness” as a means to ingratiate myself to the children. Pancakes for dinner are just the start. There’s an indoor picnic (my 21st Century name for eating on the floor in front of the TV). There’s dessert and skipping brushing teeth. There a 3D movie in my bed, lights off, just like the movies.  There’s staying up just a little extra and no book reading.

I am evil. Bwah hah hah. Any chance I get to establish myself as the cool mommy, I take it. Even if it means cheating on Frank and doing with the kids something I would normally discourage in an otherwise normal school night.  You see, I don’t volunteer in the classroom; it’s taken me the whole year to schedule a “reading” session with my son’s class; the babysitter makes a better sandwich than I do and I’m pretty sure the girl scout troop is scared of me. So I’m going to take any advantage I can.

Mind you, I’m not good at hiding my cheating ways. Thirty seconds after this posts, his email will tweedle its arrival. He will read it (at least he claims he does), so I do this with full knowledge that he is now fully aware and I’m stone cold busted.

But he’s traveling right now and can’t do a damn thing about it.   Heh heh heh…

Reflections on Insanity, Opus 2

Victory is mine!
Not yet Mission Accomplished
But well on our way…

It was only a few short months ago when I shared a disastrous family outing, when in a fit of “culture” I made my kids come with me to the Lollipops Concert by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Not a single thing went right, and I lamented that I had purchased a subscription to the series.

The second performance was yesterday.

I decided to prime the pump by telling the kids earlier in the week of our plans.

“Do you know where the ballroom is this time?” asked my 10-year-old daughter, head cocked, eyebrows raised. Last time it was my fault we missed all the kids activities, located in the ballroom, which set up the domino effect of tears, pouting and misery for the morning.

Don’t you dare cop that teenage attitude with me little miss I-just-turned-10-and-got-my-ears-pierced…

“Yes, sweetie. I know where to go this time.” I smiled, but it was that ‘…and your little dog too’ kind of witch smile.

Then I approached my 6-year-old boy. He struggled to remember the event from the last time. Finally, he said “Was that where we sang “Old McMaestro Had a Farm?”

“Yes! That’s it!”

“I LOVED that, I’m so excited!” he blurted.

Why you lying sack of sh…

“I’m so glad you are looking forward to it. The theme this time is space. I think it will be really cool.” You could still hear the echo from my jaw hitting the floor as I left the room. You gotta love the revisionist history skills of children.

Approaching the big event, I stacked the deck a little in my favor. My daughter had a friend staying the night before, and I got another ticket so she could come with us. That way, my girl had someone other than me to pout to, and my son would get more of my undivided attention. It was a good plan, a solid plan. Until…

It snowed. Several inches. And in Cincinnati, a few inches of snow is like 10 feet in Buffalo. People can’t drive, the city seems to lose the keys to all but one plow and it is inexplicably out of salt. What seemed like “plenty of time to get there” became a long, slow commute, plagued by people with 4WD who refused to test their vehicle’s limits. Almost from the moment we got in the car, I started re-setting expectations.

“This snow is slowing us down a lot. I’m a little worried we won’t make it there with a lot of extra time to do the kids’ activities…”

Grumble, grumble was the reply…

And then for some reason, the last concert we attended came up… I think AP was telling her friend how I messed things up. So Frank and I recounted what a horrible experience it was – one of our family’s worst — laughing about what all went wrong, but with that little laugh-flutter that means you aren’t entirely amused. It was all done in jest… but the kids got quiet for a minute… I wondered if they were recalling how they acted, perhaps feeling some remorse, pre-considering how they might behave today.

As we pulled in the parking garage at Music Hall, with very little time to spare before we needed to find our seats, the second obstacle presented itself. “I don’t have my wallet,” Frank said. “My ticket was in there.” The plan had been for him to meet us there because he had an early morning errand to run, but the timing all worked out and he came with us. But somewhere in there, he misplaced his wallet.

We are never going to make it to the kids’ activities… I felt like Odysseus.

And.. we didn’t make it to the kids activities. As I collected a new copy of the missing ticket, Frank dashed to the ballroom only to find out they stopped doing the kids’ stuff at 10:15.  Freakin, fracking, gal-darn it, not again. But full marks for the kids… they rebounded this time much better. I’m sure it wasn’t the brownies I purchased for each of them with the last $3 to my name.

Thus the concert began (“much better seats this time, mom”) and we settled into the quiet yet unsettled murmur that is a classical musical concert aimed at children.  The music was great. I once again proved I am the dorkiest mom out there, crying at the wonderful music — Strauss’s ode that blesses 2001 A Space Odyssey; forty kids playing a 10 minute, multi-tempo’d version of Twinkle Twinkle on violins;  John William’s Star Wars theme which never fails to take me back to when I was 9 and thought that movie was the best thing I had ever seen. They showed images of the moon landing, footage of Jupiter enhanced by Mozart (wow!) and what the rovers were up to on Mars.  Everyone on stage was having fun.

So was I — I had a great time. The kids didn’t cry or pout much at all, so I’m going out on a limb here and saying they had a good enough time.  I’m not looking for mother of the year. But I do hope that when I talk about the third and final concert in a few months, my boy will recall how mesmerized he was with the videos of the moon and AP will ask if she can bring a friend again.  Success comes in small moments. 

Reflections on Insanity

I understand why
Some animals eat their young.
But it’s too late now…
I took part in something extraordinary yesterday. A room full of masochists. I was one of them. Viewed from the outside we surely looked insane. From the inside, well, the view was about the same.

Where was I? A Cincinnati Pops Concert for Children – Barnyard Serenade.

What in the ***k was I thinking? What were the other parents thinking? What made us think that our kids even remotely wanted to attend the concert… I’ll tell you what: delusion. I can personally attest to thinking the following: Wow, my kids like music. They like kid-themed events. They know I like classical music… And Music Hall is a cool, old building. Plus, and this is important, they will “get something out of it” and likely someday become symphony loving patrons who disdain popular music, have 20 more IQ points than their friends, and will be able to describe why a tambourine is both a membranophone and an idiophone.  So, all those things add together to equal complete and total insanity on my part.

It started well enough. They did indeed think the building was cool. But it pretty much went to shit from there. I mistakenly thought the kids activities were in the wrong place, so we only got to look at a few instruments; no crafts or kids’ stuff like I promised. This caused my son to fall to the floor crying.  We made our way to our seats, which I thought were really good. My daughter, however, thought they were the worst in the house and began what had to be the longest sustained pout in her nearly 10 years. I tried to engage them — look there, the harp! The piano! Aren’t the kettle drums cool? Nuthin’.  Once the music started, my son asked me every 5 minutes or so “Is that the last thing?”  At one point, my daughter managed to start a good cry, silently weeping while Haydn’s Chicken Symphony was playing. She totally ignored me when I tried to point out how the violins sounded like chickens and the flutes like little chicks.

It was at this point, at a point of total desperation and shame at what a horrible parent I really was, I started to listen to what was happening around me. And I noticed that although in the audience participation parts there seemed to be interest from a lot of kids, between shouting out farm animals pretty much every kid there hated their parents for making them come.  I’m fairly sure that by the end, the young boy behind me was duck taped to his dad. The two kids in front of me engaged in a silent but wicked tickle fight before their mom nearly came of our her skin to get them to stop.  When the Old McMaestro bit happened toward the end, it really was only adults doing the sing along… the kids had all but departed the building.

The only shimmer of hope I kept alive at this point was that the concert was mercilessly short – less than an hour. And surely my children’s joy at the end’s arrival would bring them out of their uber-negative state. How very wrong I was. Once my son realized that we weren’t now going to try to find the kids area, he began to wail. And pump his fists and shake his little body.   I was actually proud of him — I am perfectly ok if he gets mad, he just has to behave appropriately (i.e. don’t hit anyone). His outburst was completely reflective of his state and involved only himself. Well, himself and 1500 other departing parents whose own children had morphed into grateful, well-behaved angels now chattering excitedly about what they had just witnessed.  I could see their IQ points ticking up as we walked to the parking lot. I could feel the other parents’ eyes on me, judging…

During the walk to the car I resolved to be more mature than my kids in my reaction. I really wanted to grab them by the shoulders, tell them how disappointed I was at the immaturity of their behavior and that their lack of gratitude was going to cost them dearly.  The problem was that in each version I dreamed up, I looked more and more like a deranged lunatic. There was no way to claw them back to happy, no way they would ever change their mind about the last hour of their lives.

So I put them in the car and stood outside of it for a good 10 minutes. Frank joined me. We talked about how to deal with this and decided we would pursue the “We are the grown ups here and should probably act like it” route. (I did agree to use this, at the right time, as a teaching moment with our nearly 10-year-old daughter… she is old enough to know how to behave or at least fake it…) Several meditative minutes later, we got into the car, informed them we were going to Costco (“this is not open to input,” Frank smartly added) and proceeded to try to drive faster than our moods could follow us.

I am happy to announce that my decent, well-behaved and generally fun children returned shortly after we plied them with hot dogs and pizza at Costco. Shopping was a joy. They were funny. They helped find things and load the cart. They acted like hyenas the exact right amount given then ages. Our family was reborn.

So what to do now… there are two more concerts in the series, and the tickets are already purchased. I have 80% decided we will go again… I will NOT be defeated by two who cannot yet master the can opener. But I sure as hell will figure out where the kids activities are taking place and get there in time to enjoy them. The rest is a total crap shoot…

Camping Out… What Was I Thinking?

There’s no place like home:
A warm Aga, my house smell,
Bedding that missed me.


I could have stopped at the title, right? You all know what this piece is going to contain: tales of insects the size of your palm; the stickiness of sweat that never evaporates; sentient rocks that migrate to the perfect position under your sleeping bag at the exact moment you finally drop off; a forgotten item that sends a child into fits of despair.

But wait… there’s more. We camped out at the zoo, which happens to be located more or less in the city.

Do you know what animals do at night? Well, it seems very few of them sleep. I didn’t realize that the peacock was nocturnal, but he sure as hell felt compelled to announce his presence several times during the night. Asshole.

And there is an insect, native to the zoo apparently, that makes the most peculiar noise. To replicate it, do the following. Go find a kids balloon, un-inflated. Put it in your mouth (warning: do this when the kids are asleep). Now chew with your mouth closed and your fingers plugging your ears. That eek-a-eek-a-eek-a noise? That is exactly what they sound like. But they do it, thankfully (?) at a slow, waltz-like pace… eeeek-a….. eeeeek-a….. over and effing over again. I kept praying the damn peacock would eat them. No such luck.

When the animals weren’t doing that they do in the middle of the night at a zoo, then the city filled in with its own orchestrations. The Cincinnati Zoo is right next to several hospitals. It was Saturday night. What happens on Saturday nights at hospitals? Ambulances like to visit. A lot. The occasional helicopter flew over, at times seeming indecisive about which roof top to land on, instead rather content to just hover for many looooong minutes. I know there were ill people aboard, so I didn’t curse them – I was grateful I was on the ground and not in the air. Rather, I cursed myself.

What the hell was I thinking? I was the one who found this event. I paid for it. I talked my hubby into it. I shared it gleefully with the kids, as I wanted to get them to quit asking “to camp out”. I figured the zoo camp out was an easy way to tick that box until next summer.

[Note: except for the sleeping (or more accurately the not sleeping), this was an exceptional event. Small group. Nighttime walk around the zoo. Animal visits. Behind the scenes tour. Really, a not-to-be-missed opportunity that I recommend to anyone near Cincinnati.]

It is simply that my body is soft. It has no clue how to deal with sleeping on the ground. As it is, I’ve reached the age where I can hurt myself when I sleep in a normal bed. Imagine my body’s reaction to a sleeping bag on summer-dry dirt. My god. The next day I felt like someone had beat me with a stick. In really strange places. With a sense of just the right angle to maximize joint pain and hamper mobility. It took me 40 minutes to make sandwiches for the kids. Later on, for some reason, I decided to bake, and try as I could, I just couldn’t get all the ingredients assembled in less than 30 minutes. My body was screaming; my brain a garbled mess from the total lack of good sleep. It took a strong cup of coffee at 2pm to finally shake me out of my stupor and get me somewhat productive the rest of the day, although I was in a coma (in my nice, comfy water-bed thankyouverymuch) by 9:15pm.

Here is the funny part. Did I say funny? I meant masochistic part. I would do it again. The kids loved it. It was relatively easy. There were toilets near by. We didn’t have to drive far. But next time, I won’t talk my husband out of the blow up mattresses (“they’ll be a hassle” I insanely told him hours earlier); and I’ll pack an adult beverage or two to ease the transition to dreams. Perhaps with some assistance, those nighttime animal calls will morph into some bizarre dream that will be worth it for the retelling.

[I must thank The Embiggens Project/Face like a frying pan for this post. It tickled me tremendously earlier in the day, and at one point during a sleepless interlude, I started thinking about it… and I started to giggle… which turned into silent body earthquakes as I tried not to wake anyone else. Tears were streaming down my face into my ears… I couldn’t stop. And since I couldn’t make any noise, it made the whole thing that much funnier. It was a welcome respite during the otherwise tortured audio events of the evening.]

Nothing like passing on your fears (more tales from the beach )

The warmth of the sun,
The ocean’s rhythmic wooshing…
My soul is happy.

I love the ocean. See the picture below from our hotel room for this Florida vacation.


I can hear the ocean rise and fall from our balcony. If you sit at the table in the kitchenette and look outside, you can only see the water, no sand –it is like you are on a cruise. (Cruise = heaven on earth for me)

I have rented two loungers and an umbrella for the week. They are about 30 feet from the water. Glorious view over the top of my book, past my sandy toes, toward the pretty blue hues.

Here’s the problem. I am perfectly happy to stay 30 feet from the water. I don’t mind walking around in the foamy bits, wading out a foot or so and letting my feet get sucked into the sand. That’s fun too. But I’m really totally fine going no further into the water.

Call me a victim of the 70’s and the movie Jaws. I know the chances of me getting eaten by a shark are more remote than my chances of winning the lottery (I didn’t look that up, I’m just hoping this is true; if you tell me otherwise, I’ll delete your comment). But I don’t care. I can’t see through it and there are no boundaries… that’s enough for me to stay at the edge.

My far-braver husband has no such worries. He takes both kids out 40 feet from shore (it is still quite shallow) and paddles around. All the time I’m completely panicked, watching from my umbrella shaded oasis. I motion them back closer to shore out of simple fear, always scanning the water for tell-tale bad omens. I am such a wimp.

Nevertheless I felt a little bad yesterday when my daughter got spooked. While way out with Frank, she saw a jelly fish. It wasn’t so close as to sting her, but enough to make her swim a hasty retreat back to the shore, where she remained for the rest of our beach time. Why did I feel bad? Because I was so happy. Happy that she was close in and happy to let my irrational fears take a nap for a while since she was not out to sea.  Let’s be clear – I don’t  scare my kids with death-tales-of-the-deep; but my actions (staying close to shore; asking them to not swim out so far) likely speak for themselves.

Today she once again didn’t want to venture out far… my happiness was tainted with a little regret that her innocent naiveté about the ocean has been burst, but not so much that I encouraged her to go out. Instead, I set up the sand toys and the pop up tent right next to me, a safe 30 feet away from the sharks, jelly fish and vicious rip tides.

Mother of the year – clearly lost it again.

Brotherly & Sisterly Love

Oh, the happy sounds —
siblings playing, enjoying
the too brief cease-fire.
My 9-year-old girl, AP, recently returned from a week of sleep-away camp. Given I am prone to extreme bouts of separation anxiety, I did remarkably well. She, of course, was entirely nonplussed by the whole affair… with perhaps one surprising exception: I think she really, really missed her 5-year-old brother.  When we all arrived to get her, she hugged him first, picking him up and holding tight. He hugged right back, also clearly having missed her. He continued to get hugs, while I’m not sure she even looked me in the eye.

On the 45 minute drive back home, the two shared camp stories (sleep away versus zoo) and every once in a while, she would tell him that she loved him… and a few minutes later, unprompted, he would do the same.

It was really lovely. You often wonder if your kids like each other, let alone love each other. They seem to rally at critical moments (thunderstorms, injuries), but the day-to-day usually seems to lack attachment. So as we were driving home and I was hearing this delightful sharing of fun, this obvious connection to each other by two beings who will ultimately know each other longer than they will know me and Frank, I couldn’t help crying. (Yes, I cry at everything…but this was really sweet.)

And then, later that afternoon, I felt like Marlin, Nemo’s dad, who after happily following the bright light in the darkest depths of the ocean, finally sees that the light is connected to rather a lot of teeth:  “Good feeling’s gone.” The love between brother and sister morphed back into  the usual picking and poking and bothering within a remarkably brief period of time.

Oh well. At least I know the affection is there. That’s enough for now, I suppose.

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