Change The Channel

There was a time when I used to type up a list every season of all the shows we watched so we can easily DVR them. And then as our queue filled up and our TiVo began to inch closer and closer to 100% capacity we would sift through the long list and begin deleting the ones we didn’t care to watch.

Our evenings became all about making sure our TiVo wasn’t getting too full and obsessing over the percentage of shows we had left to watch.

Night after night, season after season.

Then suddenly we decided maybe we should just cancel cable. (gasp!) More and more people I talked to all no longer subscribed the suck-you-dry that is Cable Television. The final nail on the coffin for us was when they notified us of additional charges for digital converters for all our older analog televisions. And we had a few of those (that were only about 8-10 years old, sadly).

That was when we decided to cut ties with good ole cable.

I don’t think there was a time in our married lives that we didn’t have cable television. Hell, I can hardly remember a time in my life without cable television (don’t get me wrong, I grew up for many years without cable and even when we did get it we subscribed to the “Z Channel” and that was only for movies. Anyway).

We talked to my brother and sister-in-law who cut the cable months prior. We researched options. We informed the kids.

And then we jumped off the cliff.

We subscribed to Hulu and Netflix. We already belonged to Amazon Prime. And we bought a decent size (and not very expensive AT ALL) antenna (Gawd, remember those?!) and thankfully I have a handy husband who (with my brother) climbed into the attic and installed it one Saturday morning.

Voila. Done.

Easy.

Sweartogawd we were addicted to television. We stressed for awhile over how we would manage without recording our shows or pausing live television or seeing what is playing from this minute until next month with a push of a button (and sometimes we still joke about “pause this!” and then we just laugh and laugh and laugh).

And now I can hardly remember any of it. And I can honestly say I don’t know why we waited so long to ditch cable!!! Dammit, all the money we could have been saving!

I don’t even think about television shows anymore. It’s as if we took back the cable boxes to the cable company and with it our passion for television shows. Instead, I have found myself reading a lot more in the evening instead of watching television. We also get more done because we don’t sit down quite as early to “start watching and clearing our TiVo”.

I worried the most about my husband. He was more addicted to television than I am/was. (Shhh, don’t tell him I told you that.) But even he doesn’t miss any of it anymore either.

We seem to watch a few old television shows (West Wing, anyone?) and we catch a new show now and again on Hulu. Sometimes we watch old reruns of Seinfeld or we start a series we had always wanted to watch like Veep. Otherwise, we watch local free antenna shows on PBS or our local news. Last night I was flipping trying to find the debates (couldn’t. Okay, a slight downside) and stumbled onto HSN and did find a cute pair of jeans I want to order instead….

Anyway.

Our bill went to about one hundred sixty – to under fifty for only the internet.

And I just about want to dance around the house jumping up and down for joy naked if I didn’t fear it would scare the neighbors.

Gone and Gone

Remember the movie, “Cocoon” with Wilford Brimley and Jessica Tandy where they think they discover the fountain of youth in a swimming pool?

These days I feel like I can relate.

I was flipping through a college pamphlet that came in the mail for my son. Inside, young people surrounded by brick buildings and trees turning yellow in autumn were walking happily to class. They looked ready for what life awaits them around the corner.

As I made my way through the campus of my future school (less than three weeks, but who’s counting?!) I came across a dining room filled with what looked like high school cheerleading squads. I remember being a cheerleader in high school and attending USC and Pepperdine University with my squads and thinking how much fun it was to stay the week in dorms. And I watched as these young cheerleaders cried in the hallway on their phones…and boy do I remember THOSE days too. One word: Drama.

Yesterday I went into Walgreens for a few things after getting my haircut. The salesperson checking me out asked, gingerly, if I had any discounts. “Huh?” I responded. “You know, like AARP.” She says.

Oh.

“No.”

Her response: “Well, um, do you qualify for AARP because if you do I can still give you a discount.”

Fuck the discount.

I ask her, “What age do you have to be to get an AARP card?”

“Fifty-Five, I think.” Is her reply.

Fuck. Fuck. And Shit.

I kindly tell her I am many, more than a few several (SEVERAL!!) years away from a stupid AARP card.

A few days ago I am on PinCrackTrest and I stumble onto site after site of mommy ideas. Fun things to do with toddlers. How to get your kids to bed at a decent hour. Cute classroom ideas for kindergarten. Fun kids lunch ideas. Mommy support groups. Images of young mommy’s walking with their strollers.

And I realized I am no longer that mom to really young kids anymore.

I’ve got two teenagers and one twenty year old.

Dammit.

Why does it feel sometimes that youth is just – gone in a split second? Wasn’t I just that cheerleader trying to make my squad get along despite 16 year-old drama? Wasn’t I just that mom of a kindergartener, a toddler, and a newborn struggling with clever ideas for potty training and creating ant logs out of raisins and celery?

I feel sometimes like I am stuck in the middle somewhere. Not a young adult heading to college anymore and not a young mother of young children anymore.

And I think back to that fountain of youth and you bet your sweet ass I would jump right in and splash until I could be young again…

How Was That Done Again?

I think I’m forgetting how we used to do things. I feel like the little girl who is staring at her grandmother and asking, “How did you wash clothes again? Outside on a – what?!?” And, “You didn’t have a refrigerator? Seriously? How in the world did you keep your food cold?”

How is it possible that I have accepted our world of technology so thoroughly that I have totally forgotten how we used to do things?

Like checking books out of the library.

A couple of days ago I was in my local library. These days I don’t even need to talk to anyone – I check my own books out on their machines and I can even pay fines right there at the counter (not that I am ever late or anything). The day I was in there trying to check out my books and pay my fines and their computer system crashed and no one could check out books without having a librarian assisting through some back-up system that didn’t print out a handy-dandy reminder slip of when the books are due.

I tried to remember how in the world we checked out books before computers? Stop laughing, I’m serious. How did the library keep track of who checked out the books? I mean, I remember the little slips inside the books they would stamp with the due date before handing back the book but how did they keep track that it was me checking out that book? Honest to gawd, I don’t remember.

Then, the following day we took the kids bowling and the computer screens did all the work keeping track of our scores, strikes, and showing us how many pins we had knocked down with pretty little graphics. I sat back and asked my husband, “How did we keep score before?” He looked at me as if I had just been swallowed up by aliens and when I said I truly don’t remember he said, “We wrote everything down on a score sheet.”

The little girl came out again as if my grandmother was standing at my side, “We had to manually keep track of every strike, spare, and pins knocked down? Seriously?” (Ugh, how bothersome and time consuming!)

I can picture my grandkids one day inspecting a key and asking, “What in the world were these things used for?” Hopefully I’ll remember.

That Pesky Elf

My kids were already too old by the time this whole Elf on a Shelf phenomenon began. I’m not gonna lie: I’m glad this kooky trend came to be when my kids were already in at least middle school. 

My newsfeed on Facebook is inundated with the antics of this little stuffed Elf who apparently does everything else BUT sit on a shelf.

Maybe I don’t get it. What is the point of the elf again? Is he there to keep watch of the young kids and report back to Santa whether they’ve been good or bad? And the one rule is you can’t touch the elf?

For starters, the elves I’ve seen have been mighty naughty themselves. Who is reporting back to Santa on THEIR awful behavior? Leaving peppermint poop in the toilet and getting into the flour and making a fucking mess? I wonder if there is some hair-pulling-talking-back ten year-old out there who is lying in bed one night thinking, “Wait a minute….”

And why can’t kids touch the elf? Oh no, there is nothing frightening about THAT.

Is it just me or does this seem like a future psychiatrist’s dream in about twenty years? (You see doctor, my parents had this elf visit from the North Pole…)Hello little children, welcome to CrazyTown where stuffed Elves get into trouble and then sit in judgment night after night watching YOU!

I can’t even imagine keeping up with this silly elf for the entire month of December. Oh dear gawd, someone hold me. I had a hell of a time remembering to play Tooth Fairy once in a while. If I had to do this every single night I would have either a) strangled the stupid dim-witted elf a few days into December; b) failed terribly causing me to come up with some excuse why the silly elf is still knee deep in toilet papering the house or spelling out words with mini-marshmallows to find more chaos to create (or the always handy ‘the elf/tooth fairy doesn’t work on the weekends’ which was my go to); c) thrown the elf against a wall until the stuffing came out of his arse. (Mother of the Year, that’s me.)

Why do parents (moms) put themselves through MORE craziness during the holidays and the month of December? Isn’t shopping, cooking, baking, crafting, school plays, holiday photos, sending Christmas cards (after you’ve taken the perfect, everyone matches photo), entertaining relatives, wrapping, decorating the house, going to holiday parties, and visiting Santa at the mall – ENOUGH to do?

Need Me Some New Blogs

There used to be a time when I wrote on three different blogs every single day, including weekends. Then, I ditched two of them and wrote only on the one, every single day. Then, I stopped posting on weekends. Then I began a new blog over here at the Wordsmithery and I most certainly don’t update everyday but I certainly try and update as often as I can. My folder of idea clips is overflowing and had to be moved into the filing cabinet. And all those ideas are great and all but they do nothing just sitting there patiently waiting…

I also enjoy reading blogs (I certainly hope you do too) but recently I noticed a terrible trend among the blogs I read: NO ONE UPDATES REGULARLY.

Or, even kinda regularly.

Hell, one blog’s last update was back in April. Another in August. Yet another in February. And that is just a sampling of three. Many I have given up on completely and have deleted altogether.

Some went to the dark side of parenting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a parent and there are plenty of times I blog about my kids but something happens to a blogger who becomes a parent for the first time.

And then when the realities of writing sets in the rest of the bloggers give up feeling like all this writing was just Too. Much. Work.

So now I am on a mission to find me some new blogs to read.

Do you have a blog? What are some of your favorites?

Low Moments II – The Police Saga

The same thing happened to me two years in a row on exactly the same day. September 19. Day before my birthday.

My firstborn was a screamer. (He is 19 and he kinda still can be.) He was loud and rambunctious and to say he was full of energy is like saying the moon comes out at night.

After putting both boys to bed a couple of hours earlier, I went upstairs to check on them. It had been an exhausting day and I just wanted to marvel at their sweet little faces as they slept.

That’s when I noticed the flashing lights outside our home from the upstairs window. Then the pounding on the door.

Two police officers stood at our door and demanded they come in because there had been a complaint by a neighbor about neglect.

Neglect? Are you kidding me?

They were not kidding.

They walked upstairs to my firstborn while he slept and inspected his body with a flashlight. It was horrifying. Then, they went to the baby’s room and inspected him in his crib. It was equally as horrifying.

Satisfied that they didn’t have any signs of neglect, we went downstairs to chat.

I tried to explain what happened that day.

My oldest had a tantrum. This was not new. He often had tantrums. And I had read in a parenting magazine about keeping the inside of your house as a “scream and tantrum free” zone and if the child wants to partake in that kind of unsavory behavior they must do so outside.

So, I sent my son outside.

Now, in hindsight putting in the backyard might have been a better idea.

But I watched him through the living room window and he just sat on the grass in the front yard. But he was technically unattended. We also lived on a quiet street in the middle of a subdivision and nowhere near downtown or a busy road. Regardless, a neighbor saw him and didn’t see me and apparently called the cops.

The next time happened when I was napping during the day. And again on September 19.

I woke up to two things happening at once. The pounding on the door and the baby crying. I stood, in a still-sleepy haze, for a half second in the hallway wondering who I should go to first, the front door or the baby. When I looked out the peephole, I had my answer. The police were behind my door.

They walked in, stepping over the piles of laundry I had in the hallway because in Oceanside we didn’t have a laundry room – only the washer and dryer in a hallway closet thing. They said they received a call from a neighbor (my neighbors were just dandy in that neighborhood) complaining that the baby had been crying for a long time.

I explained that I had been asleep, tired from, well, motherhood.

They needed to see the baby.

Okie dokie.

Thankfully I was in the habit of making my bed every day because the baby was in the bassinet in my bedroom. One police officer stood at the door and the other walked with me to the bassinet. I immediately picked up the baby, who promptly stopped crying.

At that moment I felt as if I had been given the Worst Mom on the Planet award.

The police walked over and looked at the baby, checking arms and legs. All was well. They were very nice and I explained (again) that I had been tired and fell asleep and didn’t hear him crying.

These two incidents made me a nervous, panicked, depressed wreck. It made me doubt my abilities as a mother. And it caused my own mother to worry about me and my children on the heels of the Susan Smith’s of the world that had been in the headlines at the time.

I lived in a stressful, depressing place for many years back then. When your entire job as a mother brings police to the door with flashlights inspecting your kid’s legs and arms, you begin to doubt the job you thought would be the best one ever – especially when you get calls from your mother, who seemed to have the same doubts.

I remember years later when we were trying to potty train our middle son and he refused to use the toilet to do his business and we would have to bathe him each and every time he pooed. His bottom was as red as a tomato and so we used a rash cream following the bath. It was a nightmare. Despite the uncomfortable pain he must have been in that stubborn child of mine still didn’t officially potty train until he was almost four.

As my husband was putting rash cream on his bottom the sounds from the bathroom sounded like this, “Daddy, stop! Daddy, that hurts!” I kept telling them both to shut up or this will be something else I will have to explain to the police. I went around slamming windows every time the kid pooed in his pants (which was several times a day, mind you, but that is a totally different story).

To this day, on September 19 every year I think about those bleak days back in San Diego and the heartbreak that happened to my little world. It changed me. I doubted myself. I felt always watched and judged. I struggled with depression.

When I think back to mothering two small boys, the events that happened were low moments in my life, for sure. And something I doubt I will ever completely shake.

I am thankful that these days, I have a house full of teenagers who are all potty-trained and no longer throw temper tantrums.

Low Moments

I was sitting outside one day recently, enjoying a cup of coffee and my mind drifted to some less than stellar moments in my life so far. Oh sure, I should be thinking positive things, counting my blessings, and making sure the glass is half full – blah, blah, blah. Of course.

But.

There are times when life just kinda sucked.

Life didn’t stay in SuckLand for long, thank god, but shit happens to all of us from time to time.

Here’s the FIRST of my Top Three Low Moments:

It was the summer of 1996. My husband had graduated college the year before and spent time on and off looking for a new job in a new career – while working full time and dealing with a toddler at home.

We decided to make a drastic change.

He quit his job so he could focus on job searching full time and I (newly home from a lengthy banking career to be a stay-at-home mom) went searching for an underwriting job at a local bank.

I managed to land one nearby and while the men there did not welcome me nor my underwriting decisions, I plugged on and made fast friends with my (female) boss. Meanwhile, I got another call for a credit union job that I could do from home. They wanted to try something new and wanted me to find customers (that fit the requirement of the credit union, no less) AND make real estate loan applications AND underwrite them. Despite my doubts, I agreed to the job and went to work.

Mind you, this is 1996 and the so-called digital age was only a wee baby. There was no Facebook to advertise, Twitter, or blogs. All we had was boring ole email. Yawn.

I worked in the mornings trying to drum up business for the credit union and then in the afternoons I went to the bank…underwriting mainly auto loans because the guys that were also underwriters held seniority over me and my newbie/temp status (while I certainly had experience underwriting all types of loans my experience was more in real estate loans). I would come home, put on my mommy hat for a few hours, and then worked on writing resumes for a small business I started the year before to make a few bucks while staying home with my son.

Meanwhile, my husband had gone on many interviews but we hadn’t heard from any of them yet.

We managed okay but the bills were slowly piling up since my one (temp) job at the bank wasn’t paying very much and the credit union job was a commission job. We were calling the utility companies to set up payment plans and telling the auto loan folks that money would be coming soon – pinky swear.

And all that with a toddler and diapers and temper tantrums.

It was stressful to say the least and friends and family looked at us and the decision we had made as if we were officially off our rocker.

Maybe we were.

Enter September.

We had been at this routine for almost three months.

My boss at the bank called me into her office on September 19th. She said she hated to do this to me on the day before my birthday but she said that business was just too slow to keep me on the payroll and she had to let me go.

Ouch.

But I understood.

Later that afternoon I had an appointment with the manager at the credit union. To date I hadn’t brought in one loan. He wanted to know why. I told him I was not given any resources whatsoever and I was trying my best.

However, it wasn’t good enough and they let me go too.

On the way home, crying, I tried to figure out what the hell we were going to do now. I had, in one day, lost both my jobs and the last bit of income and we had a mortgage, cars, student loans, and a pricey cost of living in San Diego.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Since the following day was my 30th birthday my husband had booked the three of us at a hotel in downtown San Diego with a trip to the zoo. Crying in our bedroom I kept saying, maybe we should cancel the trip. No, he said, we need to get away and a day at the zoo isn’t going to make our situation any worse.

Fine.

The next morning, my birthday, and the phone rang at an ungodly early hour (like 8:30. Okay, maybe not technically an ungodly hour especially since we had a toddler but our phone seldom rang so early in the morning).

I hear my husband on the phone talking to someone. I hear the word ‘salary’ and ‘I can start Monday!’

I feel my stomach twist and my hands begin to shake.

He was offered a job.

I don’t know if it was luck, prayer, fate – or a combination of all three – that made all that work out the way it did exactly one day after I lost both my jobs and our only source of income. But, this event will always be etched into my mind and is something the husband and I talk about often because there have been times since then that I want to feel THAT lucky again.

P.S. Five days later my husband received a call from the district manager of the company saying (oops!) that his direct manager wanted to interview him. My husband was pissed but reluctantly went in to meet with his boss (who had been out on vacation when he interviewed the first time with the district manager). Needless to say, the Luck Gods were still in our favor and the two hit it off. He worked at that company for a couple of years before the same boss left for another company. Within months he brought my husband over to this new company with a better position, more money, and learning new things. Every summer we met with his boss and his family for an afternoon at Mission Bay. We no longer live in San Diego but we still keep in touch with his first boss via Christmas cards.

Stay tuned for Low Moment Number Two…