Sunday, March 19, 2017

Odd Girl Out

I loved having little ones.  Babies. Toddlers. Preschoolers.  I was good at it.  I was good at planning their meals, at picking out their clothes, building train tracks, filling their weekend with play dates, stroller walks, children's theater, story time, and hugs.  

But here is the thing... they got, bigger.  They became children,  boys.  Boys who love baseball, soccer, basketball, Star Wars, video games, rough housing, snowboarding, camping, and... being BOYS.

You don't know me, but I am not a tomboy. Not in any way, shape or form.  Never was.  I was always afraid of getting hurt (and for good reason, heck I broke my ankle jogging), with zero hand-eye coordination I  never enjoyed team sports or video games.  I get cold easily, hate bugs and despise pit toilets, thus camping, and skiing are out of the question.   You see where I am going with this?

The things my boys love the most, the activities that my children seem the most drawn to, are things that do NOT come naturally to me. At. All. Of course I married an all-American suburban boy.  A guy who grew up playing baseball, mowing lawns, getting dirty... you know, being a boy. And thus he shares the love of all of these activities with his sons, as he should.      

Now before you all get up in my face about gender stereotypes, I get it.  I get that there are girls who love baseball, who love wrestling, and being really, really loud.  I understand that there are boys who like to quietly color, play house and enjoy musicals... they just are not my boys.  Nope. And that is okay.  But unfortunately, I feel that I am left on the sidelines of my family.  While Zachary rattles off baseball statistics, and Evan begs his dad to play xbox, I feel like I don't belong, and that I don't have a lot of "fun" to offer my kids.  I begin to see my role as quietly picking up dirty socks off the floor and scolding the boys for not doing their chores.  I see their father signing them up for all the various sports activities and booking our summer out with Rockie's tickets.  And the kids love it. They love it.

Well meaning friends tell me that I should dig in and learn to love what they love.  I try. Sometimes. I take them to practices, go to the Rockies games and sit with them while they watch Star Wars.   I got on a bike for the first time in 20 years so I could ride with them, even though I was desperately afraid of a horrific bike accident that would leave me in a full body cast.  But, at the end of the day, I am still me. And I miss when it came easily.  When I could happily take my toddler to Music Together and sing and dance with my little baby.

I know.  I could try harder.  I could.  I should. I need to. And nobody said this parenting thing was going to be easy.  I just thought, that it would all come a bit more naturally.  I expected to have children more like me.  Children who would want to spontaneously dance to pop music in the kitchen, or organize neat, pretty bedrooms.  I thought that my kids might like what I like, and well, they just don't.  They are people with their own personalities and interest, and  I am the adult, and it's me who needs to adjust, or get.... left out.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Weekend Getaway: A Different View


Weekend Getaway

The Setting: A Marriott Hotel in Colorado Springs, Labor Day weekend
The Characters:
A Young (40-something) Mother (ravishing of course) traveling with her little *princes* ages 9, 7 and 4
The College Student/Server, waiting tables at the Marriot's full service restaurant
"Loraine", retired hotel guest from New Jersey who never leaves the pool
 "Suzy Q" 5 year old hotel guest

Scene One: At The Pool

Young (Ravishing) Mother:

Okay. 45 minutes. I can do this. 45 minutes and the kids will be worn out properly. I will then feel no guilt for allowing them to binge watch the Cartoon Network while I nap. It's been a long ass day. I took them to the zoo, we stayed for four hours. FOUR HOURS. Honestly, I should win mother of the year for that shit. FOUR HOURS pushing my lazy four year old uphill (both ways!) in a stroller while listening to the seven year old beg endlessly for ice cream, juice, soda, cotton candy and souvenir pennies (for the love of God why with the pennies?) Deep breath. Okay. Here we go in the water! Isn't this fun? I'm not cold. I am not cold. I am not cold. Why the hell is the water so cold? Where is the 85 degree sunshine day I fantasized about? Maybe 20 minutes is enough. Oh but look at that smile. Oh you really are having a good time aren't you? That four year old smile. May I never forget it. Yes. I'll let you cannon ball into my arms again my darling sweet baby.


Oh no. Here come the brats.  It was so peaceful two minutes ago. My pina colada would be better with fresh coconut. They always use the cheap mixes at these places. This is nothing like Hawaii. They really should have a children's pool. Why don't they have a children's pool? Well that is just rude! I am sitting right here. Do you not see me? Jumping into the water like you are the only one here? Now I bet I have chlorine in my drink! If I wanted to be wet, I would have gotten in the water, but instead I am sitting on the side of the pool...for a reason.  Oh great. No I don't want your kid to apologize to me. Oh it is so clear he didn't mean it lady.  No. No, it's fine. Really. It's fine. Ha, ha, yes kids.... yes I see you have three on your own, but guess what... that's not my fault!!!

Suzy Q:

Kids! Kids! Kids! I wish they weren't boys! Kids! Kids! Hey do you have Doritos? No fair! My mom packed carrot sticks. You want to play? Knock Knock!! (you say whose there?) Interrupting Cow. (you say interrupting cow who?) MOOOO! Hey can I have a Dorito? Is that your brother. I have a brother actually I have three brothers, no two. Actually one and a sister and a cat. Your mom is sooo pretty (editors note, we are just assuming she thought that, duh.)  Why is that mean lady staring at us?

Four Year Old Boy:

This is the best day in the world! I saw a hippo poop in the water, and I got Doritos. Now it's pool time! Yay!!!  I hope my mom will let me jump into her arms exactly one million and seventy two hundred times!  Oh no. It's a girl. And she wants my Doritos!

Scene Two: Dinner At The Hotel Restaurant:

The College Student/Server:

No, no no! Not my section again. Oh great. Yesterday I had the family of 8 who spilled five glasses of chocolate milk, split three meals and left a disaster of saltine crackers and a $4 tip. Okay. Smile. Game time! You want a bottle of wine for yourself? Um  okay. Did she not feed those kids today? They just ate an entire basket of bread while I was taking the drink order? Wow.  Wait where did the mom go? She seems to be gone every two minutes with another kid. Why doesn't she coordinate their bathroom trips, duh? Why didn't they just go to McDonald's?

Nine Year Old Boy:

I'm dying. I am going to starve to death. Oh my God nobody cares that I am dying of hunger.  The Children's menu, really? Fine! I will order the kid's hamburger but MAKE SURE YOU PUT LETTUCE, TOMATO AND PICKLES ON IT. I am not a baby! This is taking forever. I am seriously going to die a slow painful death of starvation.  Why didn't we just go to McDonald's?

Seven Year Old Boy:

I hate this place they have nothing that I like. No! I do not like pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders, nachos or mac & cheese. No, no, no! Gross Gross Grossy-Gross. Fine. I'll get the pizza but ONLY if you let me order chocolate milk too. And dessert. The cotton candy at the zoo was not dessert, it was a snack!  I want an ice cream sundae from McDonald's!


Not that family again. Good lord. What is that (*ravishing*) woman thinking taking those monsters to an establishment like this. Look at them, they aren't even properly dressed, that little boy looks homeless.  I need to remember to send my grandbaby the new fall collection from Jack & Janie. My granddaughter will be dressed like a little lady, and I am sure she will only speak when spoken to! Had I known there would be children here I would have eaten elsewhere.   That woman needs to take her circus to McDonald's.

Young (Ravishing) Mother

Where the hell is my wine already????

Scene Three: The gift shop

Young (Ravishing) Mother

All I need is a freaking pull up. They have condoms, Band-Aids, Connect-Four, slippers, batteries, dental floss, where are the pull ups? How could I have forgotten the pull ups?  Fine. A swim diaper will have to do. He is four for Christ's sake! When will it end? No. No. I am not buying you more Doritos. Because you don't need them. Because you just had dinner. Which of course you didn't eat because you devoured a bread basket before the meal. Please stop making a scene. Did I mention we could watch a movie if your good? Shhhh. People are staring. FINE. FINE WE CAN GET DORITOS.
I need more wine.

Four Year Old Boy:


Suzy Q:

No fair! Those kids get Doritos again. I want Doritos. Will you share your Doritos? What's wrong with their mom? She looks likes like she has had a lot of birthdays since this afternoon. Funny.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Motherhood: The Next Chapter

When I started GetRealMama so many years ago, I was knee deep in diapers and baby food. My life revolved around playgroups, story time, and Music Together. It was a time of strollers, pack and plays, bounce houses and baby showers. A time when it seemed to take forever to get anywhere and when we took mountains of gear everywhere we went.   I was always surrounded by crawlers, toddlers and nursing mothers. It was an amazing period of my life, one where  I witnessed first steps and saw my young children experience things for the first time. It was also a period of stress, brought on by sleepless nights, ear infections and some really, really boring birthday parties (hello, where are the adult beverages???)

But that was then. Time marched on and I have (almost) left the huggies behind.  I haven't attended a playgroup in years and completely bypass the baby section of Target. My boys are now (almost) 10, 7 and 4.  That means a fourth grader, a second grader and a preschooler. Man have things changed.

A little over a week ago I sat through back-to-school night. During fourth grade orientation I was struck by how old all the parents in the classroom looked. We are talking straight-up- grown ups. Middle aged grown-ups. And I fit right in.  Now of course there are some outliers, parents who have older children in middle or high-school and are now seeing there youngest child through the final stages of elementary, but for the most part, we are no different than the other families. As I saw the grey hairs, and the fine lines etched in the other parent's faces I realized, that's me. (Though, knock on wood, I really haven't turned grey... yet!) And I looked at my son, his feet nearly the size of mine, all muscle, not one trace of baby left and I knew I had truly entered a new chapter in my life.

Even during my youngest child's orientation I could feel the difference. Packed in the preschool classroom were many first-timers. Parents taking their only or their oldest child to preschool for the very first time. Parents who were attending to a younger siblings needs, fixing a bottle, checking for a dirty diaper, while listening intently to the preschool teacher inform them about the four-year old's transition. There child might cry, this is normal. Their child will be exhausted, this is to be expected.  Their child will... I found myself tuning out as the teacher went on, I busied myself filling out the forms and wondering how I would manage to keep track of dates, and assignments.  I already knew that lied ahead. Julian will learn to read, and write, add and subtract and will give up his nap. He will start to lose the rounded toddler belly as he continues to grow. Next year he will make a leprechaun trap in Kindergarten. In first grade he will start having sleepovers and keep a reading log, and it will all go by so fast. So very fast.

As my final child passes through each stage I realize that I am leaving behind my old life and thus, my identity is shifting. In some ways it is refreshing. I am no longer loaded down with a diaper bag and baby food jars, I can enjoy the freedom that comes with more independent children, and I find that my adult conversations no longer focus around diaper rash and sleep training.  But as I drift further and further away from the mommy-and-me demographic, I  feel a profound loss.  For all of the sleepless nights and blouses stained with spit up, it really was a magical time, hazy, not perfect but magical all the same. And
I will miss it. Probably forever.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I am sitting in my office this eve of my middle son's 7th birthday, wrapping his gifts and sipping red wine.  While in the midst of trying to neatly encase odd-shaped packages in "happy birthday" paper my eyes are drawn to the bookshelves.  My office is filled with basically, the shadows of my past. College text books, scrap books, and old photographs, worn novels and nick-nacks.

Perhaps it is the nostalgia I feel with Evan turning seven, or  maybe it is the wine, but for whatever reason I decide to take a closer look.

First the text book.  I was a Child & Family Studies Major. I purchased the book used, so it was already weathered and time has done it no favors. The Fifth Edition Human Development, written by Diane E. Papalia and Sally Wendkos Olds.  As I page through I see the yellow and orange highlights, the scribbles in the margins, the chapter headings: Pieaget's Cognitive Structures, Abraham Maslow: Self Actualization and the Hierarchy of Needs, Stages of  Childbirth, Pschosexual Theory: Sigmund Freud, Development of Social Speech, I can't help but find it humorous that I studied, wrote papers and was tested on these topics, 13 years before I would become a mother. I wonder if I should read the text again, but notice that the book sites studies from the early 80's and conclude that it is now very much outdated.  I try to recall what I took from reading this text at 19 years old. I realize at the time, it was read with the goal of achievement, to memorize the content with little thought of how I could relate to the material.  I have concluded that we finish higher education at much too young an age.

Next I see The Norton Anthology of Poetry. The works of William Butler Yates, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, and more.  Frantic notes in the margins- could mean God? directionless, mourning? And in some unknown's scribe: "I love Kelli"  Trying so hard to make sense of these complex beautifully composed pieces, words that fit together, but the meaning alluded me. Perhaps it was because I had not yet lived enough to grasp the author's intent. One poem in particular grabs me. Highlighted in pink and underlined:
When You Are Old 
William Butler Yeats 

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true, 
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars. 

I am not sure why I am drawn to this poem today. Perhaps it's that I feel my life accelerating forward to the old and gray, and I wonder, what I may see through my own eyes with shadows deep. 

Then I move on to Illusions,: The Adventures of  a Reluctant Messiah, a short self-help sort of book I received just before leaving my home town of Madison, WI, to join my boyfriend in Minneapolis. It was a gift from a male friend who may or may not have had a secret crush on me. The inscription on the inside reads: Oct, 1997 To Rachel, to help guide you on your journeys. Keep it, or pass it on. Love, (we will leave him anonymous)  I read it, and I kept it. And the sad truth is I don't remember one damn part of that book. It was supposed to be life-changing and I have no damn clue what it is about.  But I remember the intent with which it was gifted to me, an adolescent angst and romantic view of the world or "journey" that lied ahead.   It was a sweet gift, and though I have long since lost touch with the person who gave it to me, I will hold on to it, remembering how touched I was to receive it. 

Next a beat up 1996 edition of Let's Go USA. Pre Google, Yelp, Expedia... I had a book. A book now worn and tattered that came with me on every road trip adventure. It was the bible. It guided me through New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California.  There are campgrounds and hotels underlined, check marks next to the hostiles I had contacted. It brings back so many memories, memories that would now be lost to an internet search. 

Then there is a copy of Memories of a Geisha Girl which I read cover to cover in two days on a beach in the Dominican Republic, There is my college diploma, a copy of Margaret Atwood's Surfacing, one of the worst books I was ever forced to write a paper on, a guide to Portugal where I spent my honeymoon, Canine Colorado (purchased when my dog was my only baby), a People Magazine dated September 24, 2001, the smoking Twin Towers on the cover. and a funny stone frog a friend brought me back from a vacation. There are pregnancy books, of course plenty of photo albums, birthday cards from years past, and yes, even my cat's ashes.   

As I sit here, I notice that these bookshelves represent so much of my life, my development who I was, and perhaps a glimpse of who I will someday become. I have some empty shelves left and I wonder what will fill them, and if in twenty years, I will look back at the contents and smile. 

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!